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Walking Identity Crisis Posts

White Boys

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Yesterday I accidentally started scrolling through Ed’s Facebook feed. I happened to light on a post that pissed me off. Not because of the post itself, but because of the commentary.

Black woman: Shared a video about what happens at work when black women talk to white women about her hair. Captioned with: “This happens to me”

White man: This is dumb and racist. White people don’t talk to black people like that.

This man then proceeded to argue that the video portrayed white people as looking stupid and ignorant. The black folks on the thread continued to share their authentic experiences, and this man continued to silence them.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this. I’m not a black woman, so I cannot speak for them. I can amplify them and hear them. And I keep thinking about how I’ve seen women and people of color silenced every day. In social media, in real life. Every time I hear a white dude start speaking with the words “Actually,” I cringe.

Don’t try with the “not all men” tactic – we all know that there are plenty of warm, generous, and humble men in this world. I’m talking about a systemic problem. Read Rebecca Solnit. Mansplaining is a thing. I’m getting really tired of being told to smile when it isn’t necessary. Yes, I smile at the customer service desk, and I expect my staff to do the same – when patrons approach us. If I’m sitting there working on something, you better believe it’s my natural RBF. I’m not in a show choir.

Now I’m a big fan of being real. Read Brene Brown. I know that my experiences don’t speak for everyone in this world. I’m a white woman with a generous amount of privilege. I was lucky to be born with a high IQ and a lot of resources. Hear me out, and if you don’t like my theory, I’ll happily admit I’m wrong. Because that’s what people should do.

I get the sense that many white men have a tendency not to admit when they’re wrong. They’re not supposed to be wrong. Because they’re also not supposed to admit that they have emotions. They silence others because if they don’t, they have to acknowledge their shame. This is also a systemic problem.

So I’m trying to raise two white boys who acknowledge other people’s differences, hear other people’s experiences, are self-aware, and have emotional intelligence. Boys who aren’t afraid to share and who aren’t afraid to feel hurt when they make mistakes. Who show affection in public and say they’re sorry. Men who say, when a black woman talks about her experience, “Hey, that sucks! I had no idea you go through that at work. What can I do to help you?”

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Not Your Body

One of my friends is nearing her first baby’s due date. She’s a public librarian, like me. She’s been sharing the things people say to her. Recently, a barista gave her the side-eye because she ordered a half-caf coffee. Half-caf.

I was never judged openly for my coffee choices. But my friend’s posts are bringing back all sorts of memories. When you are pregnant, and you work with the public, you are a magnet. I felt like I had a glowing neon sign around my neck all day. I wanted to hide in my office and never come out. Both times coming back from maternity leave, I reveled in the anonymity of a flat (well, flat-ish) belly. I was able to fade into the background again.

Here is a selection of things people said to me:

“Damn, you’re huge!” With Oliver. This patron shouted this to the entire computer lab.

“Are you having twins?” Seven times at the ALA conference in San Francisco. I was four months with Oliver.

“There must be quadruplets in there!” Four months with Henry. I was really mad at this guy, but then I felt bad because he suffered a heart attack a few weeks later.

“When’s your due date?” Every freaking day in the last trimester. Both kids.

“Are you coming back to work after? I don’t think it’s proper for a mother to work.” With Henry. I didn’t know what to say.

“I thought you might be pregnant. You look bigger.” I was 12 weeks with Oliver.

“You’re not, like, a fat pregnant woman. Most pregnant women just look bad. You look cute.” Me: ….

I wonder why people don’t see anything wrong with any of these comments. But to get to a finer point – my body is not your business.

I am lucky that I am not an attractive woman. I’m pretty generic-looking. I’m not ugly, but I’m not stunning. I’m easy to hide in a crowd. The handful of times men have said things to me at work, I have felt icky and gross. I can’t even imagine how attractive women feel. What gives men the right to say whatever they want? Besides years of power and oppression…

But it’s not just men. Most of these comments came from women. Sometimes I thought women were trying to identify with me, if they were remembering their own pregnancies, but I never understood why they had to mention my size. In the case of my friend, what did that barista have to gain by saying something to her about her drink’s caffeine content? Did she think my friend was going to turn around and say, “Oh, you’re right, barista! I’m now going to limit my caffeine, and my baby’s growth will not be stunted! You are a life-saver! Here is a medal!”

I’m not pregnant or nursing anymore, but if I’m going to have a conversation with a woman about either one of those topics, it’s going to be because she brought it up first and she might be asking for my advice. I don’t know how to stop the rest of it, but as I do with most things, I’ll start by being kind.

Colic: A Very Scary Word

Guest post by Jamie Stevenson

I’m pretty sure my mom was the first one to say it out loud. “I mean, what could it be? Do you think it could be colic?” That feeling at the bottom on my gut started to bubble up, as it usually does when I’m annoyed by a question because I know something about a topic, but not enough to adequately describe it. (It’s an impatience thing – I’m working on it.)

I’d been researching all about this daunting term for many days at this point. My son was just a couple weeks old. From day 1, he had the ability to cut out our hearing with the intensity of his cries. He was “inconsolable,” which is as good a definition of colic as any one person has been able to provide. There was nothing that we could do to calm him. Bedtime was always the hardest. We did a LOT of bouncing. We are officially expert baby bouncers. And we took turns alternating between bouncing our screaming child and burying our heads in pillows.

Bringing it up in conversation made it real, and I knew I was going to have to deal with it. What I told my mom was that to my knowledge, “colic” doesn’t really mean anything. Not anything useful anyway. It’s a very generic term, allowing us to put a label on something that is undefined. The actual dictionary definition narrows it down to pain, specifically in the abdomen, but still not much help. What would that mean for my baby?

It must have been about our 4 week visit when our doctor used the word. We had been desperately trying to communicate our experience at home and describe the symptoms in a way that would trigger some kind of light bulb. “Yes, this sounds like it must be colic. This is very emotionally taxing situation for parents to go through. I hope you have a lot of support at home?” As thoughtful as these questions were, it was incredibly frustrating to again hear this generic term which in no way linked us to any viable solutions. And the kicker: most babies don’t get better for 3-6 months.

When you’re a new parent, you’re at the mercy of others in many respects to help guide you. You’re so incredibly exhausted that you don’t have the extra energy to logic things out as well as you might have otherwise. Three months seemed like an eternity. We had no idea how we would survive it. We pushed our doctor for more help and explanation. He decided that we should first try eliminating milk (lactose) from my diet. I had been breastfeeding, and he said this is always a good first step because many babies are allergic to lactose. If his symptoms got better after I eliminated it, then we could stay the course and slowly try to introduce lactose back into his diet after his digestive system matured. We were also sent home with a prescription for gas drops. As I understand it, this is another “go to” remedy. If he wasn’t digesting properly, then the gas could be causing the pain.

Neither of these actions produced any viable results. I can’t remember exactly when or at what week we decided to ditch the drops and make another appointment. My mother-in-law lives close by, and she offered to come with me. As we sat there, and I tried to answer all of the follow up questions that the doctor was throwing my way, Karen nailed it on the head. She used the word “distressed.” Yes, that’s it. My son is in distress – HELP!

This seemed to get the doctor’s attention. The other thing that got his attention was the fact that my son’s cry began with the flip of a light switch (as usual), and this was the first time that the doctor was able to see what we were seeing at home. “Is it always like this?” he asked. “And does he ever arch his back and pull up his feet at the same time?”

That was the lightbulb I wanted.

When we emphatically answered, yes, we had our diagnosis: silent reflux.  There is a valve at the top of the esophagus that often doesn’t get fully developed in newborns. If it doesn’t open and close itself normally, then the acid is able to travel up and cause the reflux and heartburn. This causes a lot of pain, and the baby doesn’t know what to make of it. We weren’t alerted to this sooner because he hadn’t been spitting up that much. Silent reflux – it’s a thing. The doctor said he wanted to start us on a PPI (Protein Pump Inhibitor) right away, and the more aggressive kind, which is basically the equivalent of Prilosec. This medication should help with the pain.

IT DID. But, obtaining this medication was another endeavor entirely.

In a nutshell, these liquid compound drugs for infants are nearly impossible to get covered under insurance unless you’re willing to work for it. At least, this was my experience. I went through two different insurance groups because my company happened to be changing insurance during this mess, and it was the same story with both. Luckily, the second company had amazing customer service, and they were able to work it out. The medication is $65 at cost, and we were going through at least 1 bottle per month. Not a huge impact in the grand scheme, but for us and our tight budget – it stung. We were more than willing to buy it to help our baby get through the worst of his pain – make no mistake about that. However, I was determined to get some relief from our insurance.

The loophole was there, in the dosage of the powder/pill. If you can get a script for the powder in a low enough dosage, then you can get the pharmacy to do the compounding. Not every pharmacy will do this, so we had to be directed to the one in our town that would. Finally, a phone call had to be made from the insurance company to the pharmacy to instruct them how to bill it.

Today, we have a happy, healthy 7-month old boy who loves to laugh and get himself into trouble by climbing the couch or chasing the dog. He is full of life and energy. Most importantly, he is no longer “distressed.” He still has trouble falling asleep at night, but it’s not because he is in pain. He’s just a little stubborn. 😉 He’s a “normal” baby, and I am soaking up every ounce of it.

So, what was the final verdict? Did my son actually have “colic?” Coming back to Google’s definition: “Severe, often fluctuating pain in the abdomen caused by intestinal gas or obstruction in the intestines and suffered especially by babies.” Yes, I know he had pain. But honestly, I still do not feel 100% confident as to how or exactly why. Did the PPI work? Not 100% sure about that either. True, it did seem to relieve his symptoms, but he was also growing and getting older and adjusting to life on earth. There were a couple of occasions when we forgot to give him his medicine, and that was followed by a really rough night of crying. So we continued the meds. But, maybe he just had a rough night? It is SO incredibly difficult to understand the cries of an infant. We’re not mind readers.

The important thing here, is this… we did something. There was a while there where we felt incredibly helpless. As a new parent it was an awful guilt-ridden feeling. The day we decided this wasn’t some supreme mystery and that we could take action in spite of doubt… that was a game changer.

Parents out there, the best advice that I can possibly give you is this: Do not feel like you’re overreacting when you seek help for your child. You’re not. Speak up! Follow the course and make a plan. And secondly, don’t feel guilty when you can’t fix it or when it just isn’t working. During this process over and over I would hear “do what works for your baby.” This is great advice! It’s intended to mean, “hey, what works for my baby may not be what works for yours.” That’s true and important to keep in mind. But, sometimes when I would hear this I would get discouraged and think – and what about when nothing works? Am I a bad mom? NO. You just keep moving forward. You put one foot in front of the other and eventually, you will see it through. And THAT is what makes you an amazing mom — or parent (I can’t stress this enough – my husband has been through every step of this, and we have been anchors for each other along the way).

Colic is a very scary word. You might find that people clam up when they hear it or try to change the subject. This might be because they had a similar experience and don’t want to be reminded about it. Others might confide in you about what happened to them, but will only do it privately. Don’t let this “taboo-ness” discourage you. I’m telling my story, because more than anything I don’t want anyone to feel the way I did in the beginning. Having a colicky baby doesn’t make you a bad parent. It’s not a bad mark or pox upon you and your little one. More than likely, in the end it will make you stronger and a better parent. It causes you to pour out your heart right there in the beginning – no holding back. It’s an ungodly demanding task, and it’s absolutely worth it.

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