Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nobody Wins

I'll preface this post with the statement that while OF COURSE any allegation of child neglect or abuse must be investigated, it is obviously too much to ask that such investigations be done with even an iota of common sense, much less responsibility to the legal rights of the children involved, not to mention anyone else.

I had an experience the other day I hope NEVER to repeat. I suppose it could be considered "enlightening" if that word can even be used when talking about the mindless, heartless monster that is "social services" (to be fair, I should say "social services in my state" since maybe its better elsewhere? Right next to that bridge for sale....). I have a friend, I've known her for years. She's a smart woman, loves her kids and has had a really hard time for awhile now. She's not perfect (I've yet to meet that person) but she's sure as heck not stupid or lazy or criminal....she's just a mom struggling to keep a roof over her kids' heads and food on the table.

So one day, CPS shows up at her door, demanding to be allowed into her house. A complaint has been filed. The nature of the complaint pretty much proves that it has to be a malicious in nature. Sadly, my friend knows that there are several people who could and would do such a thing. So, she does what she is legally entitled to do -- she refused to allow the CPS agent into her house and instead required them to follow the formalities. Perhaps this particular agent had never before dealt with an educated parent, willing to advocate for herself and her kids....because she sure acted like someone had just pissed on her would be amusing if it hadn't ended up causing a lot of distress to my friend and her kids and costing ME, the taxpayer, a bunch of money that could be better spent, oh, finding kids that are actually being abused? Or perhaps, if that's too much to ask, funding schools, since my state is pretty much bankrupt at this point, with no relief in sight and the schools are taking the brunt of the budget cuts.

So this whole farce drags out....and earlier this week, I found myself sitting in the lobby of the local Welfare office (oh, there's some nice sounding name they call it now -- I can't for the life of me remember what it is -- Family Assistance something? Health and Human Services? Bend Over and Smile? I was the welfare office.) I got there early so I had a chance to sit and watch. I'm not sure I've ever before been in a place that so sucked any life, any dignity, any hope out of a person. People coming in, with varying degrees of frustration or futility in their eyes. People who I would bet are just trying to make ends meet. Yeah, I'm sure some of them are there because they made stupid decisions but as is said, there but by the grace of God go I.....fluorescent lights, humming just below hearing, cheap plastic chairs that look like they came from a bus station 15 years ago (you know the kind, they sorta but not really are formed to fit your butt -- which means they really don't fit anything), broken toys over in a corner for the kids to play with, clerks who are more robot than anything, unless you don't stand in the right line or fill out the right form or sign the right sheet....anyway, there I sit, waiting to wait with my friend while CPS interviews her kids, which supposedly will be the end of this unless they find something (which they won't). Again, my friend knows her legal rights (and more importantly, her children's legal rights) and so she has a lawyer present, to sit in on the interviews. Oh my goodness, if the agent's hydrant got pissed on before, this was chest thumping I'd expect from chimpanzees, not government employees.

I think it took almost an HOUR for CPS to figure out that they weren't going to find a copy of the law stating that they didn't have to allow the lawyer to be present (since it didn't exist) but they did get to say "the prosecutor" a lot (which is amusing in a sick way -- if they actually DO get the prosecutor involved, then the presence of a lawyer is more than guarenteed!). They did try to get the lawyer excluded on the grounds that they are allowed to interview a child without the suspected abuser present. I realize that lawyers are generally unpopular but this was not at all fair to the very nice woman who was representing the children as I must say I didn't see anything about her interactions with the children I'd consider abusive.

Finally someone figured out that if they weren't willing to just say "oops we were wrong, we're so sorry for wasting your time, have a nice day" then they needed to come up with an alternative. (In the meantime I'm getting creative in the "visitation room" with its own collection of broken toys, keeping a bunch of kids occupied as best I can -- imagine what it would have been like if they'd actually refused to let me in, the way they first wanted!) So, it turns out if they do a different sort of interview THEN the lawyer can be present (in the process of this compromise they got to say prosecutor a few more times) that's what they did. Including trying to interview the barely verbal baby who's in that special separation anxiety stage....I'm sure there was some box on some form that had to get checked off and heck, the kid got a piece of gum (bribery) out of the deal.

So finally, oh, about 2 hours later, we all traipse out to a chorus of "thank-you-so-much-we'll-be-in-touch-have-a-nice-day (if they just could have said that, oh, about 2 hours earlier it might have been a nice day) and run the gauntlet of the hopeless to get the heck out of there.

So now I get why hospitals like to threaten difficult parents with CPS -- they've sprung from the loins of the same cursed mother! And I suppose, ACOG's members would be their multi-headed evil triplet. I know the answer to this institutionalized paternalistic bullying with its implicit misogyny IS knowing one's rights and standing firm (at least the immediate short-term answer, I'm at a complete loss as to the long term solution). I can also now very clearly see the conflict -- you know you need to do what's right but in doing that, your kids have to suffer to some degree or another -- be it something as (hopefully) slight as spending the morning in a decidely unpleasant place with decidedly unpleasant people who want to separate you from your parent (though I'm sure it didn't seem slight to the younger kids) to something as horrifying as the fear that your children could end up in foster care while the whole thing is "sorted out" -- the temptation to just do what they want and get it over would be overwhelming. Principles only get you so far.

And you know, I'd say that the people (mostly women) who work for the system are ultimately victims too -- because I believe that the majority of these people go into the job really wanting to make a difference, really wanting to save abused children, or help struggling families....and somehow they too get the passion, the fire, the life sucked out of them. So what is it? Is it Western culture? Human nature? What is it that makes it impossible to know when to sit still, when to reach out to assist and when to rescue? Sounds an awful lot like obstetrics, doesn't it? Humans just don't do institutional compassion very well, do we....

Monday, November 26, 2007

Howling At an Uncaring Moon (ADULT language follows)

Here's the obligatory warning. I'm gonna drop a number of F-bombs and equivalent offensivenesses so if that's a problem, stop reading now.

I'm so FUCKING sick and tired.

I FUCKING tired of people being surprised at my hurt. I'm FUCKING tired of being nice, political, detached, dispassionate, reasonable.

Today I had someone (who I like and respect) express surprise that I would call a midwife (who answered a query in a public forum) on the fact that she thinks women who express their birth trauma in terms of rape are just crazy, basically. Oh, she phrased it in terms of prior experience, bad expectations blah blah blah. Its bullshit. Unadulterated BULLSHIT.

You know what? My cesarean felt just like a rape. Because I've BEEN raped, I can pretty accurately make the comparison. But you know what? I don't think a prior experience of sexual assault is necessary for a woman to KNOW she's been raped. Of course, the fact that something like 1 in 3 women in the U.S. have experienced a non-consensual sexual contact before the age of 18 means that there's a whole bunch of women who DO know what they are comparing to. So pretty much all I have to say to those who aren't happy with my comparison of my "good" cesarean with my rape is FUCK YOU. How dare you. How fucking dare you.

My cesarean was 9 1/2 years ago. It wasn't even a "bad" one compared to the horrors that most women endure. And I CRIED tonight on the way home about it. THAT'S what happens when I let myself think about it. Me -- controlled, professional, even-tempered, fair-minded, appropriately detached, 2 VBACs later, well on the way to being healed ME. Also the me who since the cesarean has had to deal with anxiety disorder, depression and substance abuse...oh, the cesarean certainly isn't the only "reason" for these problems but it sure as hell didn't help, now did it?

And you know what? I'm FUCKING tired of the Business of Being Born (Ricki Lake's movie). Why? Because everyone who cares is all about how wonderful it is and how profound it is and blah blah isn't going to make one stinking bit of difference. Because the women who NEED to see it wouldn't GET it even if they did see it. They are so fucking brainwashed that the very thought that their precious OB might not have the same dreams they do is impossible for them to fathom. I'm also really really sick and tired of the fucking choir. I'm tired of midwives carrying on about how important they are. Oh I get how they have to protect their living, their licences, etc. I get that, really I do -- the prosecutions (persecutions) against midwives are nothing less than immoral and maliciously hateful to boot....but frankly, most of them are so fucking full of what a great job they are doing that they won't see the slaughter and if they do, they have to blame it on the women who run so willingly to it. And ok, I can't be that mad at them, after all, part of the reason I'm ranting here is because the slaughter is so damn depressing and overwhelming.

And I'm really really tired of women not getting it. Who do I blame for that? What the hell has happened that women are OK with getting their genitals mutilated for no good reason? What the hell has happened that women ARE abused during birth, more often than not, and they don't care? It pisses me off that women don't care. It pisses me off that somehow, they've been so manipulated from the time of their own births that they think it really is ok to be sexually abused (in all sorts of ways, having a baby only being part of it). Because that's exactly what it is, sexual abuse (aka rape -- oh, I can't believe she said that! whatever). Except part of me KNOWS that every single woman does KNOW that what happened to her was wrong. Most of the time, she just shuts up, stuffs it and acts like the good little girl that she's supposed to be, to the degree that she'll rip you a new asshole if you DARE imply that she might have reason to be hurt....whatever. I'm fucking tired of that woman too. Fighting with each other when really, we are the only hope we have. Why is it ok for a virtual stranger(s) to stick his (her?) hands up your vagina for no good reason on any number of occasions and then require you to submit to conditions that are pretty much the same as bondage/torture leading to nasty drugs, deliberate cutting of your vagina (and anus, if you are really lucky), or your stomach, muscles and uterus, putting you at risk of serious and life threatening complications for THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Oh, and did I mention the fact that IT ISN'T GOOD FOR YOUR BABY EITHER????? Your Obstetrician LIED to you. Gasp.

Oh wait. I'm just an angry woman, probably unstable, certainly hysterical, projecting my own mental illness on poor innocent you. Well, that's ok, I'm well acquainted with the finer points of denial so I get it.

Catch me as I fall
Say you're here and it's all over now
Speaking to the atmosphere
No one's here and I fall into myself
This truth drives me
Into madness
I know I can stop the pain
If I will it all away
Don't turn away
(Don't give in to the pain)
Don't try to hide
(Though they're screaming your name)
Don't close your eyes
(God knows what lies behind them)
Don't turn out the light
(Never sleep never die)
I'm frightened by what I see
But somehow I know
That there's much more to come
Immobilized by my fear
And soon to be
Blinded by tears
I can stop the pain
If I will it all away
Don't turn away
(Don't give in to the pain)
Don't try to hide
(Though they're screaming your name)
Don't close your eyes
(God knows what lies behind them)
Don't turn out the light
(Never sleep never die)
Fallen angels at my feet
Whispered voices at my ear
Death before my eyes
Lying next to me I fear
She beckons me
Shall I give in
Upon my end shall I begin
Forsaking all I've fallen for
I rise to meet the end
"whisper" -- amy lee and ben moody

right now, that song describes what it feels like to me to get cut open and then told it doesn't matter. yeah, even 9 1/2 years later....I wish more women didn't close their eyes.....

Ok, so I'm winding down now. I really don't even know exactly what to do with all this....I'll gather myself together and keep plugging away, at least for the sake of my kids, if not for any real change now.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ramblings of a bored Veterinarian

Funny the things I can figure out when its actually not the middle of the night (which is usually when I have time to even contemplate writing). I figured out how to make the screens smaller with the embedded youtube videos. Yay! So I now have 2 videos prominently displayed on my sidebar....and links to several others that I hope you will check out.

I also added a bunch of blogs and websites to my lists...there's a lot of action right now. We'll see if it lasts. Everyone is all excited about Ricki Lake's movie...I haven't seen it yet, though I'd like to. But many women are actually going to see it? Who aren't at least halfway in our choir anyway? And how many women are actually going to make the jump OUT of the, they'll just persist in believing that a good birth plan and a doula will guarantee the birth they want...and sadly, in many (most?) cases, hospital staff are very good at getting around both those things.

I try really hard not to get too depressed about the state of things. I think I must be in a "down" phase right seems like its the same old thing over and over and over....I want to have a VBAC hospital banned OB won't do husband doesn't want me to....there are no midwives in my area....we can't afford a homebirth....or....I planned a VBAC OB told me it isn't as safe as we thought....the baby looked big and they wouldn't induce me....I went to 42 weeks and the baby had to come out.....the ultrasound showed my placenta was getting fluid getting low....I didn't want another cesarean but.....

Which leads to a fairly controversial topic, I suppose. The "godly submissive wife". I don't know enough about other faiths to know for sure if this bit of doctrine exists elsewhere -- I suspect it does in some form or another in both Islam and Judaism but I'm familiar with it as an expression of Christian belief. It is a wildly debated topic, since the Bible actually doesn't define it very well....and certainly doesn't define it in terms of modern society and culture. First, the disclosure -- I am an evangelical Christian (by a more traditional and non-political definition -- you can't call me fundamentalist or right wing) and I do believe that a wife should be properly "submitted" to her husband (of course, all believers are to be submitted to each other, too. And, it always pays to remember that the same scripture that urges wives to submit to their husbands instructs husbands to *die* for their wives. Personally, I think I got the better end of that deal). Anyway, the rub is "properly". There are some groups that believe this means the wife has to get her husband's permission for any decision of import. There are some groups that mean this gives a husband complete veto power over any choice his wife might make. There are some groups that believe this means a wife has to do anything her husband demands of her. And I suppose, if a husband were also properly laying his life down for his wife, all the potential abuses inherent in this sort of extreme interpretation probably wouldn't be an issue. But, guess what....humans pretty much will screw anything up. And so, we screw this one up. I have heard too many times "I'm a (Godly/Biblically) submissive wife and my husband doesn't want me to have a VBAC. (or home birth. or midwife. or something of that sort) Unless God changes his mind, I have to have another cesarean because I'm submitted to him." My response to that is "if your husband said any of the following, would you do it? 'I want you to watch porn with me.' 'I think car seats aren't that important and I'm not going to pay for one, you can drive without one.' 'I want you to sign this tax form, even though I haven't been honest on it.' 'I want you to tell your mother we are busy this Thanksgiving.' 'I don't want you talking to your sister, I think she's a bad influence on you.' 'I don't want you going to that Bible study, you need to be home.' 'I want you to have a boob job/tummy tuck/other elective surgery so that you are more sexually attractive to me.'" The fact is, the Bible *never* provides justification for immoral behavior. Lying, cheating, sexual sin, withholding oneself from the body of Christ, endangering children, frivolously endangering oneself....there's never a good reason for any of those things. It doesn't matter if the husband "thinks" any of those things are ok. If I know that what my husband is demanding of me is contrary to God's plan and purpose...I'm not obligated to do it. I'd say I'm obligated to NOT do it, rather the issue is my attitude toward my husband as I choose to obey God. What does this have to do with birth? Well....if a woman truly believes that a given choice is the safest one for her baby, then I'd argue is it immoral to then choose to do otherwise. The fact that the overall risk of something bad happening to mom or the baby is small regardless of the actual choice doesn't matter. The fact that most people might disagree with the conclusion a woman comes to doesn't matter (after all, most people would probably disagree with the overbearing interpretation of submission but she chooses to live that way). A husband has no right to demand immoral behavior from his wife, even if it is "his child too". But, you say, its different. Is it? Is how our children enter this world not that important? If that's what you truly believe, then why are you bemoaning the fact that your husband says you have to have a repeat cesarean. If it isn't important then it really shouldn't matter. (For the record, in my marriage, wifely submission means that in a situation where we disagree on the path we should take, as long as both choices are morally acceptable choices, he gets to choose. IF we absolutely can not come to an agreement. We never rush to this conclusion. This has happened exactly 2 times in over 16 years.)

I'll end with another potentially hot opinion. All of the excuses for why a woman can't have a VBAC or home birth or whatever are just that -- excuses. Women hide behind "my husband would never agree to it" or "we just don't have the money" or "neither of the hospitals in my town allow it" or "there aren't any midwives in my city" or "it's my husband's baby too" or "I don't want to ruin my marriage fighting about this" when in fact, the issue is that while they think they *should* plan a VBAC or home birth or whatever, they actually don't want to. Not really. I know this will be unpopular....but too often I've seen that where there is a will, a way is found, too often I've seen it to believe that a woman can't get what she wants for her baby if she really wants it.

I suppose I sound rather cynical right now. In some ways, I suppose I am. It just seems like we are going round and round and round in the very same circle while most women quietly run toward slaughter and then spend the rest of their lives telling themselves its ok.