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This past weekend I had a fabulous time out with the girls.  We were celebrating the birthday of one of us and Birthday Girl decided that we would all go line dancing.  Line. Dancing.  We are Chicagoans.  Not Southerners.  Alas, there is a new line dancing bar (saloon?) so very very close to us.  So that’s where we went.  And you know what?  It ended up being a rip-roarin’, boot-stompin’ good time.

The best thing about this new place?  WE were the youngins.  Really.  There were a lot of older country music lovers there who obviously wanted to do nothing more with their Saturday night(s) than stand in a line and do the exact same moves as 75 other people.  When we first arrived, one of the ladies in our group said, “Wow!  I love this place!  I feel…really sexy and young!”.  It was pretty fantastic.

So we did what most people arriving at a new place do; we scoped out a spot in order to survey the situation.  Not THE Situation.  Man, that would have been cool if he were there.  I don’t think there’s fist pumping in line dancing though.  Or lifting of shirts to show off one’s abs.  But anyway……

We had so much fun and many laughs as we frantically tried to keep up with the rest of the group out on the dance floor.  I’m pretty sure there are at least 20-30 people who are there regularly, probably chomping at the bit all day, hardly able to contain their excitement knowing they will soon be kicking and turning and shaking some more, in a line no less, ALL in sync!  I could do without the country music, but we had a fabulous time.

My issue is with the way I saw several women interacting with one extremely inappropriate cowboy – all because I’m sure they didn’t want to “be mean”. 

Here we introduce “Creepy Cowboy”.  CC was approximately in his late 40’s, early 5o’s.  He was wearing the required Wranglers and cowboy hat.  Here’s the problem.  This dude was standing on the outskirts of the dance floor, watching women.  Really watching.  At one point, while my friends and I were out on the floor, I noticed he was watching some of them.  I was facing him, and he was watching those who had their back to him.  So you know what he was checking out.  The part that really bothered me, was when his hands started coming up in front of him in a way that looked like he wanted to squeeze one of these ladies.  Soon after, he turned his attention to Birthday Girl.  Now, this is one of my best girls, Beth, who is also the same woman who is training me and helping to get me all sorts of skinny and healthy.  She was my college roommate, we’ve shared a lot of stuff, good and bad, and we’ve come through it with a very strong friendship.  So you do. not. mess. with. her.  Especially in front of me.  NO.

I stepped in between CC and Beth, turned to face him, and gave him a “Oh NO you don’t icky man” look.  So at least for a while, CC backed off.  But as our party continued, I couldn’t help but notice that he simply moved on to stalk watch other women.  He asked a lot of these women to dance.  And though I could clearly see on their faces that they, too, thought he was indeed quite creepy, they agreed to dance with him. 

But it didn’t stop there.  CC was no gentleman.  He got all sorts of gropey.  The first girl I saw who had buckled under the pressure to accept his dance offer, experienced his hands all over her stomach and hips.  But she endured.  She didn’t say or do anything.  The next girl he asked was one of the ladies in my group.  This woman is smart, witty, and comes off as a confident person.  She turned down CC, but she tried her best to be polite, despite knowing he was uber creepy.  The next girl, he never really asked.  He approached her on the dance floor as she was dancing with her friends.  He put his dirty stinking hands on her hips without asking.  What did she say?  What did she do?  She nervously laughed and just went along with it.  Their dance of horrors ended with him grabbing her legs and wrapping them around his waist.  I literally could not believe what I was seeing. 

So what’s the problem here?  I think as women, despite being “liberated”, we still have this message running through our heads of “be polite” and “don’t be mean”, and avoid the label of b**ch at all costs.  But I have a message to all womankind:

There is no need to be polite when a dude is all up in your business and you do not want him to be.

Here’s what should have happened.  First girl should have said, “No thanks” and walked away.  The woman in my group should have said, “I don’t think my husband would be too cool with that”, and if he still persisted, she should have said, “I said no, dude, BACK. OFF.”  Firm.  Totally to the point.  Did she owe him anything?  Nope.  The last girl, should have turned around and slapped CC when he first put his hand on her hips.  Slapped him HARD.

Not to be too preachy, but ladies:  Your body is YOURS.  If you don’t want to do something with a guy, don’t do it.  If some creepy dude approaches you at a bar, YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO BE POLITE.  For that matter, if an old friend wants you to do something you don’t want to do, YOU ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO BE POLITE.

We need to teach girls how to say no.  If they do not know how to say no with confidence, they will find themselves in situations where someone like Creepy Cowboy will be very domineering and pushy and they will find themselves doing what they do not want to do.  And they will think it’s their own problem, and not Creepy Cowboy’s. 

But I get it, no one wants to have that “B” label.  We all so much want to be liked, don’t we?  But let’s think, how important is it to have someone like CC like us?  Is it so imperative that he doesn’t walk away thinking, “Wow, she’s a Class A jerk.  I’ll go and tell all my friends about what a jerk she is”.  Do you really care?  I mean, REALLY?

Be confident in who you are.  Think about the people who are important to you, who love you unconditionally.  Isn’t the opinion of those people what really matters?  Remind yourself of that love and acceptance, and you will realize that you CAN confidently say, “Listen, cowboy, you need to back off and leave me/us alone.  Don’t make me say it again”. 

I’m ranting.  I know it.  I don’t care.  Maybe I need to re-think and re-write this idea more eloquently, but I wanted to get it out of my head first. 

Be well, friends.  Be confident in the love between you and those you love the most.

I know quite a few people who are either pregnant or have just recently birthed a sweet little cherub and reading their facebook statuses has gotten me thinking about my own experiences with pregnancy and newborns.  I think I can sum it up by saying that while it was an amazing experience that I treasure, I would also like to avoid going down that road ever ever again. 

Now I sound like a cold-hearted woman.  But before you mumble any judgements – or worse, condemnations – under your breath, let me explain:

My eldest was part of our plan.  Meaning, we wanted to try to get pregnant.  I went off my birth control.  I started the process of charting and tracking my temperature.  Oh yes.  I remember talking with my OB/GYN and she asked to see my chart.  She smirked a bit and made a comment about how the, errr, “frequency” of our , errrr, “joining”, was not necessary.  I just smiled broadly whilst my darling husband crawled under the table in unadulterated mortification.  Yes, we knew that as long as we were charting, we knew when my fertile days were so every day wasn’t necessary.  It was nice though.  [A heartfelt apology to my parents and to my in-laws, who I know read this and may now be crawling under their own tables in horror]

But yes, our firstborn was “planned”, as much as you can plan a miracle, that is.  I mean, do you realize how many factors have to be aligned for fertilization to occur?  Factors that you have absolutely NO control over?  It’s a lot.  And that’s my humble scientific analysis.  A lot.

When our precious firstborn arrived, it was wonderful.  He was so tiny, sweet, and delicate.  I was terrified to even change his diaper, fearing I would break off one of his legs in the process.  Thank goodness my darling husband was up to the task.  But we were blissfully happy as we gazed upon this little life that God had created through us.  And then we left the hospital. 

The first night we were home, as we laid him in his crib that we had painstakingly chosen, I sobbed uncontrollably.  It was ugly.  I just knew the moment I stepped out of eyesight and earshot, he would stop breathing.  I was panicked and wondered if I could call the hospital and hire a nurse to sit by his crib to make sure he was still alive while I slept soundly, unencumbered by sheer terror.  Alas, that was not going to happen. 

The first two months of his life were a blur.  I survived on a few hours of sleep at a time, and for a lover of sleep, this was a very difficult transition.  More than difficult.  I was like a surly drunk, completely irrational, bleary-eyed, hormonal, and felt like I had been hit by a truck for most of my waking moments.  And oh yes, did I mention I was recovering from a C-seciton?  Not only is that major surgery, major ABDOMINAL surgery (one of the worst kinds!), but you’re also required to care for a newborn while you recover.  It’s lunacy.  I remember one delightful night, round about 2am, when my sweet cherub had awakened to request a light meal.  I obliged, how could I not?  I shuffled in, picked him up, sat in my rocking chair and settled in.  He took three sucks and fell asleep.  Oh no my friend.  Mommy is UP.  You WILL eat because if you do not, I know I will be back in here in about 15 minutes.  I smooshed his cheeks.  Still asleep.  I tickled his legs.  Nothing.  I flicked the bottom of his feet.  Nada. I stripped him down to his diaper.  Okay, his eyes fluttered open.  Perfect.  Let’s do this.  Five sucks.  Asleep again.  This dance went on for a while until I sat there sobbing and shrieking, “WHAT?  What do you WANT??  Do you want to sleep or eat because you’re KILLING me here!!”  As I sat sobbing like crazy woman, by the grace of God, my husband heard, and swooped in to rescue me.  This was not the first, nor was it the last, midnight loss of sanity as a new mom. 

Our second born, Little Miss Diva Thang, was NOT in our plans.  Let’s compare the experiences of both pregnancy tests shall we?  For our eldest, we rejoiced over that second blue line.  We hooted and hollered.  We danced about.  We made out.  It was awesome.  For our darling daughter, I took a test procured from a backwoods New York pharmacy and general store, and it was officially taken at a New York state rest stop bathroom.  Fancy.  The normally required three minute wait was cut short to about three seconds when the stick practically screamed at me, “Hey lady, you’re PREGNANT!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!”.  As I exited said rest stop bathroom, clutching that stick and trying to stifle my sobs, I received many an awkward glance from passersby.  My adorable, and apparently extremely fertile, husband was waiting for me with our 7 month old.  I chucked that little white stick at him and demanded, “Well, what are we going to do now??”.  It was magical.

Let me tell you, caring for an infant while pregnant is oodles of fun.  I actually had to call my brother to come over on his lunch break so he could feed Cole.  The smell of his baby food was making me puke.  Again, magical.  It was fun to plan a 1st birthday party with a swollen stomach too.  I look at pictures from that day and think, “How in the world….?!?!”

After Caroline’s birth, the proverbial fecal matter hit the fan.  I had a toddler demanding my attention during the day, attempting to balance feeding Caroline 8 million times and Cole’s need for me as well, then a newborn’s demands all through the night.  This is where life got really ugly.  I recall another night, probably around that same time in those wee morning hours, where Caroline had been fed, but wouldn’t settle back down to sleep.  I was so exhausted, could barely stay upright, and she just. kept. crying.  I melted into a puddle on the floor of her room, laying her on blanket in front of me.  And I sobbed.  This sobbing is turning out to be a theme of my mothering, isn’t it?  That night was so horrible, so hopeless and dark.  Caroline was about 4 weeks old and I was at my wit’s end.  I was so far into a dark place, that all I could do was think that if I can physically hurt myself, at least this awful feeling might go away.  I dug my nails into my face, and scraped down the sides of my face, trying to break the skin.  I didn’t even know what I was doing at the time, I just wanted some relief from what I was feeling.  Here’s where I went wrong – and this is to new moms and soon-to-be-moms – I did NOT tell anyone how bad things were for me.  It was as if telling people would be an admission of my failure as a mother.  It was too shameful. 

There were nights when I fantasized about going down into the kitchen, getting a knife, and cutting my arms.  There were nights when I thought about hurting Caroline.  Because she wouldn’t stop crying and I didn’t know what else to do for her.

So at my six week checkup, I made the smartest decision of my life.  When my doctor asked how things were going, I told my her that life was horrible.  And no, my sweet darling girl brought me little to no joy.  And she should have.  And that made me feel like the lowest of the low.  But I admitted it.  And you know what?  My OB didn’t pass judgement as I broke down in the exam room.  She didn’t say, “But why aren’t you happy to have this beautiful baby?  What’s wrong with you?”.  Nope.  She hugged me as I cried.  She offered understanding.  She made me answer some questions from a postpartum analysis sheet.  I answered “yes” to everything.  So we knew something had to be done.  I was given anti-depressants, and “ordered” to go to counseling.  Friends, again, it was the best decision of my life. 

Because when you’re in that deep, dark place, where you cannot see any light, where even fun plans bring you no joy or anticipation, asking for help is the best thing to do.  It’s the smartest thing to do.  And it doesn’t mean you’re weak, or a failure.  It means you’re smart enough to know you can’t do it by yourself and you need help.  And that, is the definition of strength.

I can now look back on those days with the realization that though it was a difficult period in my life, it served to grow my character, my spirit, and my faith.  That was the beginning of some major growing up.  Since then, I have found myself always reflecting on who I am, where I am, and what’s important.  What are my goals?  Am I truly happy?  What can I do to improve my weaknesses and nurture my strengths?  If you’re not willing to look at yourself honestly, you will become stagnant.  And that means stinky, people.  And others around will know it.  Because you will stink.  In a metaphorical way.  But stink just the same.  So don’t be stinky.  Once you realize that you are always a student of life, that you’re never done learning and growing, and that you indeed do NOT know everything, THEN, you can truly be free and grow. 

But seriously, can you blame me that I’m pretty much done with babies?  Thank you.  For now, I will love on the mommies of newborns, and I will love on the babies…..and then I will give them back.  But I never want to forget those days of darkness, because I know I am not the first, nor will I be the last to experience them.  And I want women to know that they’re not alone, and I want to help in whatever way I can.  And Iwant to remember that mothers of newborns are a HUGE population that NEEDS to be ministered to.  Do you hear me, sisters in faith?  Let us always remember those days and reach out to the newbies.  I wish I had someone who did that for me.