Tag Archives: Choices

A Little Ditty About Domestic Violence…

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abuseIt’s Domestic Violence Awareness month so allow me to Aware you. So many people think of DV as some scummy dude beating the crap out of his girlfriend in some shack. When they think of a woman who “allows” herself to be in that sort of relationship they think of a weak, unwashed, poor, overwhelmed, ignorant woman who was probably born into poverty. I’m here to tell you that those perceptions couldn’t be farther from the truth.  DV is NOT just about being hit. It encompasses emotional. mental, sexual and financial abuse. Abuse is about control. One person wants to control another. When they can’t control, they get very angry. They take their anger out on the victim. It’s not right, it is not the way “normal” people go about having their needs met, but an abuser is not “normal”.

Abusers are not just men and they are not just “bad boys”. Most abusers appear to the rest of society as normal, upstanding citizens. It can’t be said enough, abuse is about control (or the illusion of control). The abuser wants TOTAL control over their partner. It stems from a personality disorder which may or may not be connected to a mental illness or an addiction. It has some to do with their upbringing, possibly a trauma, possibly their environment, but definitely a “screw up” in the wiring of their brain. As far as the person who becomes involved with an abuser, sometimes it is a person who’s own upbringing, environment or personal mental health/addiction issues make being with an abuser feel comfortable and familiar. It is a complicated issue. And not one easily remedied.

Statistics show that an abuser, with professional help, has about a 5% chance of changing and those that DO show signs of change actually only change abuse tactics. They might go from being overt to covert, they might stop physical abuse but switch to emotional abuse, or stop sexually abusing their partner only to financially abuse their partner. Most of the abusers I know ARE “nice guys”. Young people need to be taught, both boys AND girls, how to treat others. They need to see it modeled by ALL the adults in their life. Their parents, school officials, church, coaches, medical professionals, every single adult. Controlling another human being is basically impossible. We all have choices. Sometimes we need help to make the best choice for ourselves. Support and education are going to help…but not just for the person in the abusive relationship, for ALL of society.

I have heard recently that I don’t look like someone who would have been in an abusive relationship. That I don’t seem like the type who would have “allowed” that. Yes, well, I’m not sure how to take that. I know it is meant as a compliment or because the person telling me that sees me as “strong” or not that “type”. This is further evidence that there is no “type” of person who becomes a victim of an abuser. It can and does happen to anyone. There are only two outcomes to being in an abusive relationship : freedom or death. We always have a choice. Always. The choice might be between life or death, it may be between homelessness or warmth, it may be between poverty or comfortability. I’m not saying they are easy choices by any means. That is where we, as a society, can step up and help and support. We can ease the transitions, we can support the choices that will lead to lives being free from abuse.

The most dangerous time for a person in an abusive relationship is when they are trying to leave. On average, it takes a person 8 attempts before they finally break free. That might look like the victim leaving, demanding change from their partner, seeing some change, going back, having the abuse start again, leaving, demanding change, seeing change, going back, having the abuse start again…it looks like insanity to the rest of us. But make no mistake, a person involved with an abuser is invested in the relationship. The abuser truly is a powerful person in the life of the person they are abusing. No victim wants to be abused. They don’t. They don’t ask for it. They want what we all want. To be respected, loved, treated with kindness, trusted. An abuser knows that. And an abuser uses that to their advantage to stay in control of the relationship and ultimately the victim. 70% of DV murders occur when the victim is leaving or has left the relationship. Many of those murders are committed by a partner who had NO history of physical violence against the victim. He may never have hit her, but as soon as he knows he has lost all control over her, he has nothing left to lose.

Some people leave after the first punch. Some people leave after the first rage. Some people leave after hearing rumors. Those people are not better than those who stay. They are just less invested. They are not stronger or smarter than those who stay. They just have a different path. I hope that those people who have had a brush with DV would be able to be compassionate and kind rather than condescending and that they would use their experience to really look inside themselves and find a way to help those who need it. Never underestimate the power of isolation. But never underestimate the power of support. We are only as sick as our secrets. DV is a dangerous thing. For the victim, the family, the friends and for all of society. We can change. We do have the power, it lies within our choices. We are not weak, we are not helpless, we are brave and we can do this, together.

For Those About To Nurse…We Salute YOU!

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The little bundle who changed my life

I never hold my children as they are. When I wrap my arms around them, they are, in my mind and in my arms, the little babies I gave birth to. They are the still the little bodies  I held when they cried and nursed to sleep. When I look into my 15 year old’s eyes I still see the innocent little soul she was the first time I looked. But they are not those little babies. They are children. They have grown and changed more than I ever expected. Without any effort on my part. I couldn’t stop them but I didn’t want to try either.

I nurtured them inside my body for nine months (ok, technically 10 months and my first two were actually 10 and a half months) and then I nursed them for the first year of their lives. With my first, it was beyond difficult. And painful. Yes, it hurt. Just one of the many, many pains that became bearable as motherhood progressed.  I wanted to quit, but I just couldn’t. There was such an intense feeling of pride within me that I had produced a human being  and now I had the natural ability to continue to sustain this life. All on my own!!! My body was incredible!!

I was so excited to be a mom. I read every book in our library about child birth, breastfeeding and child rearing. I watched every single tv show, I talked to every mom I knew and many I didn’t. No one was safe from me. If they had a baby, I was asking questions. I was accosting parents in stores, in restaurants, in public restrooms. I wanted to get all the information I could, lots of different opinions and points of view and then I could make up my mind what was going to be best for me and my family.

Nursing was my choice. In 1994, in a pretty conservative town, and being young, I was not well supported by my local society. Thank God for the nursing nazis. I remember a couple of nurses who supported me in all of my decisions. They were there after I had her, when we couldn’t quite get the hang of it and when I didn’t want her taken to the nursery. Everyone thought I was insane for wanting to keep her in the room with me. A couple of nurses thought she HAD to have a bottle of water and that I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about because I was young. One even came in and told me I would get over this nursing thing in short order when I realized that it was going to tie me down. Tie me down? It was like she was speaking a foreign language. How could this baby, this sweet innocent tiny (well, 9 pounds…not that tiny) baby be looked upon already as a burden? I didn’t understand.

I still don’t. Babies don’t manipulate. They don’t lie around in their crib thinking of ways to piss off their mothers like crying every 20 minute or pooping out of their diaper. They cry because it is the only way they can communicate. If they could calmly lean over to their baby monitor and say “excuse me mother would you mind feeding me now as I am a bit hungry. Thanks ever so much” don’t you think they would? What a pain it would be to not have words to express ourselves AND to have to rely completely and totally on bigger humans to supply your every need. That would be terrifying!

The LaLeche League was my religion. I read the book and called the hotline. I educated myself on all of the specifics. How it works, why it works and why it is the best thing for baby and mother. I became a nursing nazi. I had total support from my family. Well, my mother was not on board at first. She just didn’t believe anyone, anywhere on earth could possibly exclusively nurse. She firmly believed that at some point formula was necessary. I firmly disagreed with her. She was actually the one who bought me the LaLeche League book. She became my biggest supporter. So much so that she became a nursing nazi herself and would promote nursing to her friend’s kids who were having babies. She used me as an example of how easy and right it was. She became a convert!!

Everyone I knew at the time was a nursing mother. I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t. In my world at that time, it was just the way it was. And then I made a friend who didn’t nurse. To be honest, it confused me. I hadn’t known anyone who didn’t at least attempt to nurse and then make some excuse and switch to bottle feeding. But this friend had never tried and didn’t desire to nurse her children. I was dumbfounded. She was totally confident in her choice to bottle feed and AND she didn’t feel the least bit threatened by my choice to breast feed! Like I said, my friends who had given up were always defending their choice. Not this friend. She knew herself and she had no guilt. Incredible!

She wasn’t the last of my friends to chose not to nurse. And it was mind expanding to have women in my life who make their own decisions. As good as I felt about my decisions when it came to child birth and child rearing, these women felt jut as good about theirs. I had to open my narrow mind to include the probability that some women may have a different view, a different idea of what it means to parent. And they are incredible moms. And they have incredible kids. Their boobs didn’t fall off and their kids didn’t get leukemia.

I am happy and confident in my choice of feeding my babies. I am content with their babyhood. I am no longer a nursing nazi (but I can still quote facts and figures). I have respect for moms who chose not to nurse. It is a personal decision. It is, because we live in a land and in a time where it can be a personal decision. I am completely for any and all women’s rights. And breast or bottle is a womans choice as clearly as any that we, as women, face. What was right for me and my babies may not be right for another. Situations vary and I can no longer be so arrogant as to think I know what is best for another when it comes to their child.

How I fed my babies wasn’t what changed my life. My babies are what changed my life. I have three happy, healthy, smart kids who would be totally grossed out to hear this story. But someday they will appreciate this. Nursing isn’t easy in the beginning, but neither is motherhood. Breastfeeding doesn’t make a mother. For that matter, birth doesn’t make a mother. Love, time, commitment, trust, attention….so many ingredients to making a mother. Whatever our choices, respect.