Maybe I caused it. Maybe I didn’t. Here’s why that doesn’t matter.

October means it’s Spina Bifida awareness month, so that means everyone and their mom is up in arms about prevention. If you follow any Spina Bifida-affiliated organization, then you’re totally gonna get an earful this month about folic acid and how SB is totes preventable if you JUST TAKE FOLIC ACID FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST. (Sara from Ernie Bufflo does an excellent job of explaining why that isn’t always the case, and how SB prevention often gets in the way of serving the people who are already here.)

I don’t talk much about prevention on this blog, because it’s totally irrelevant to us and a majority of the people who read this. Like Sara said, we’ve got SB, and it’s not going anywhere. It’s part of who Henry is, and no amount of folic acid is going to change that. It’s not really something I talk about, because it’s not really something that affects us now. But I’ll talk about it today.

One thing that saddens me greatly during October (and, to be honest, every other month. But particularly October because the push for “awareness” and “prevention” is so high) is the scores of mothers on our SB support groups who admit to feeling haunted: “Could I have prevented this?” They ask. “Was it my fault because I waited to take prenatals once I found out I was pregnant, instead of before?” My friend Mary Evelyn echoes this, and she wrote a post this morning about folic acid and guilt that ought to be mandatory reading for every newly-diagnosed parent.

 

 

My heart goes out to these women completely, because I’m among their ranks — Did I cause this? Did I not take enough folic acid? Truthfully, I don’t think about it often, but I do think about it some. And I’ll admit that while most of the time it’s not something I concern myself with, during my worst moments (and we all have those, right? Those wow-I-suck-I’m-a-terrible-mother-and-human-being-moments?) I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m the one who caused his defect:

We waited only a year between pregnancies, and I was breastfeeding June when we conceived. (Who knows — maybe she sucked all the nutrition out of me?)

I’m chronically anemic (I have been my entire life), which goes hand in hand with folate deficiency (which I didn’t know at the time).

I ate pretty much nothing but baked potatoes and Panera soup during my first trimester (but I’m gonna go ahead and blame the baby on this one. If he wanted me to eat tons of folate-rich spinach, he shouldn’t have made me throw up every time I ate anything.)

– Here’s something that really haunts me — something I’ve come to accept and make my peace with, though it still lashes out at me in my worst moments. The minute I found out I was pregnant with Henry, I remembered how agonized I was after June’s delivery. During the pushing stage, I think I pulled just about every muscle in my body trying to get her out, and I was so woefully out of shape it took me weeks to recover from childbirth. So right after my positive pregnancy test, I went out every morning with June and took her for a walk in the stroller. In mid-July. In ninety degree weather. It was hot as balls, but I thought I was getting healthy for him. I knew vaguely that high body temperatures (hyperthermia) increases your risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida, but I took that to mean no hot showers or electric blankets, which I stayed away from religiously. I didn’t think that meant I couldn’t exercise. I thought I was doing a good thing.

Does that cover it? The millions of ways I could have given my son spina bifida? I took prenatals, by the way. I even took a folic acid supplement — more than the standard recommended dose. And another thing I loved to eat when I was pregnant was Total cereal — which is fortified with folate and has 100 percent of the recommended dose. So who knows — maybe it wasn’t folate deficiency. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough between pregnancies — a known reason that Latina women are in a high risk category for neural tube defects (Latina women tend to have more babies and space them closer than any other population). Maybe it was the fact that my dumb ass went out every single morning during my first trimester and sweated my balls off, determined to get in shape for his delivery, raising my body temperature to potentially unsafe levels.

Maybe I caused it. Maybe it was my fault. Maybe. I’ll never know.

Now let me tell you why none of that matters.

Being a mother has always been of utmost importance to me. We waited about five seconds after we were married to start trying to get pregnant, and four months later we were pregnant with June. When June was just a year old, we both got a strong urge to try again for another. We were in a good place financially — paying off our debts, saving a good amount. Lou had a steady job. June was an incredibly easy baby, who we thought could benefit from having a sibling. There was nothing stopping us. So we tried again, for Henry.

The funny thing about trying for Henry was that I knew I would be having Henry. Henry was the only baby name we could agree on, boy or girl, and I strongly suspected that when we got pregnant, we’d be having a boy (boys run in the family, on both sides). Right after June’s birthday (at the end of June), I heard a small voice in my ear. You’re fertile now, it said. If you want to get pregnant this month, you’re running out of time to try. So we tried.

(Only one other time have I ever heard this small nagging voice in my ear. In college, Lou and I were spending a lot of time together, getting to know each other, but not yet dating. I remember sitting in a Political Science class one day and hearing, out of the blue, someone telling me that if you date this person, he’ll be the last person you ever date. Writing that seems creepy, though, like he was going to murder me or something.)

I tell you, the minute he was conceived, I knew we were pregnant. I knew it “took,” on the very first try. And for weeks afterward, I took pregnancy test after pregnancy test, knowing we had conceived him, but not getting a positive result. Finally, on July 17th, we got one. Pregnant. On the first try. With Henry. Bam. Henry, whose namesake we now know, is the patron saint of disabled people.

My point is this: I was always meant to have this child. He was always Henry, and he was always mine, which takes the sting out a little bit when I think of maybe how I could have caused his defect. Whether I “caused” it or whether it was just a totally random happenstance, it doesn’t really matter to me any more. Because he was always Henry. He’s always had a special purpose. He was always mine, from before he was conceived, and I think the significance of his namesake points to the fact that he was always going to be disabled, and that he would use that disability for the glory of God. To help other people, somehow, in some way, that were disabled like him.

Maybe it was my fault. I don’t care anymore. He’s here. He was always supposed to be here. He gives my life purpose and joy, and that overrides the guilt I have any day of the week. If I gave him spina bifida because I took long walks in the heat for my first trimester, then that lands me among the ranks of parents who totally screwed up their kids by trying to do good by them. And I can live with that.

Like Mary Evelyn said so poetically, I’m moving on. I’m letting go. I’m thanking God for the gift that is my child.

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And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from his birth. His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9: 1-3

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Things that make me cry now that my antidepressants have changed: A seriously random list

Oh, antidepressants. Where would I be without you? No, seriously. I’m asking. I’m a bona fide mess on antidepressants, still wading through some untreated PTSD and agoraphobia issues, watching shit like Monsters Inside Me and Googling all the different kinds of parasites in my drinking water. Waking my husband up in the middle of the night and going, LOU. I’ve been Googling, and I think I have MRSA. IN MY NOSE.

(I was right about that one, by the way. Henry and I have both had MRSA infections this month, and they’ve sucked. So sometimes my anxiety is actually founded. Suck on that!)

My anxiety came to a head a couple months ago when the combination of a hormone plunge and Henry’s constant, hawk-like screeching conspired to give me a sobbing panic attack. For the past few months, Henry’s been making this awful noise. I can’t even really convey how horrible and ear-piercing this noise is because the depth of human language doesn’t even skim the surface of how absolutely nightmarish it is. The closest approximation I can give you is this video of a screeching falcon — when I played it for Lou, he said, “God, yes, that sounds exactly like Henry. Now, TURN IT OFF before I throw myself out the window.” So if you want to know how my days have been going, turn your volume up to eleven, play that youtube video, and loop it for TWO MONTHS STRAIGHT, ALL THE FUCKING DAY LONG. That’s how it feels to live with Henry right now, who doesn’t have the words to express what he wants and just shrieks until we bend to his will. Last month, finally, I snapped: I left him downstairs with his dad, went upstairs to bed, and just flat-out refused to deal with him for the rest of the day. When he woke up the next morning — screeching — I woke up my husband and cried. “I can’t,” I said. “I can’t anymore. My skin hurts from listening to that screech. Every time I hear it my heart starts pounding. I can’t be around him anymore. I won’t.”

So I took a xanax and went back to bed — for the entire day. Lou took off work and dealt with the screaming. Later, when I dragged myself out of bed, I called the doctor and made an appointment to discuss my anxiety meds. It looked like I was going to need something a little more hardcore, if I was going to function like a normal human being — because who knows how long Henry’s going to be doing this screeching thing? (As of this writing, he’s still doing it. We have an appointment booked with the speech therapist soon — for my sanity. I mean, for his language skills. Yeah. That.)

All day long, mom. Because fuck you, is why.

I’m not saying this to get sympathy, believe me. But you know what’s funny? When I get on the right medication and my anxiety is under control, I get cocky. I think I’ve conquered my PTSD or outgrown my agoraphobia and I start tapering off my medicine, thinking that I’ve got this thing beat. And three days later, inevitably, I’m having some small body-related freakout thinking about all the ways I could have possibly died had I been born in the seventeenth century (this is something I legitimately think about, and obsess over. People just died of NOTHING back then. Typhoid. Or infected cuts. Or rat-bites. Or boils, for God’s sake. BOILS).

My point is that situations change. Anxiety levels change. Anxiety tolerance changes. It’s not something you can just cure (apparently). It’s an ongoing, ever-lasting, ever-changing battle.

So here’s what I’m battling with right now.

1. Any gospel song. Have you ever noticed, in tons of predominantly African-American movies, that a popular trope is to have a huge come-to-Jesus at the end of the film, at a Church, set to a moving gospel song? I can think of six just off the top of my head. This one. This one. This one. Sort of this one. Oh, and this too, which makes me cry whether I’m in a hormonal upswing or not. When Lou and I are watching a Tyler Perry movie and there’s a church scene, I lean over to him and go “Someone’s gonna come to Jesus by the end of this song,” with an astonishing rate of accuracy.

Oh, and definitely this. Yup, instant tears:

Shug Avery singing “God is Trying to Tell You Something” in the Color Purple. Will NEVER NOT make me cry, I don’t care how much medicine I’m taking.

2. This stupid dance from Dance Moms. Stupid, stupid, stupid dance with stupid lyrics that remind me of my stupid daughter whom I love more than anything in the entire world. I caught some of it on TV the other night and cried so hard I couldn’t eat my huge bowl of ice cream (that’s a lie).

 

“You don’t know what a song you sing, you don’t know how much joy you bring…” Screw you forever, Dance Moms.

3. Stupid kids books with an emotional appeal. Especially this book by Neil Gaiman, which is basically a little sing-songy prayer that he wrote for a lady-friend who was about to give birth to a daughter (literally tearing up as I type this). And. It’s. JUST. SO. BEAUTIFUL.

 

 

GOD FUCKING DAMMIT.

4. This Beyonce video, which I legit cried over because it’s just. so. inspiring.

“Women are so awesome, and powerful, and I’m just so darn proud to be one….sniff…LOOK AWAY!!!”

So basically, until I get adjusted to this dose, I’m going to be a living, breathing mess of epic proportions.

And did I mention that the month of October (starting tomorrow) contains my birthday, my favorite saint‘s feast day, most of my family’s birthdays, Spina Bifida Awareness month, AND my favorite holiday of all time (Halloween)?! Hopefully these meds kick in real soon, because I will be so happy, busy and just plain emotional I might just die.

Reader beware.

Actually, Ken Jennings, wheelchairs are awesome.

Wow. The wheelchair haters are really coming out in full force lately.

First, there was Kanye. At a concert in Melbourne, he demanded that all his fans stand up as he was about to start one of his songs. Apparently, he stopped the entire concert to single out one person who wasn’t standing — because he was in a wheelchair. Only after someone waved his prosthetic leg in the air and the entire venue knew that this guy was disabled did Kanye continue with the concert. Unbelievable.

(And, okay, I guess that’s not wheelchair hating, per se, but it’s certainly insensitive and totally objectifying: “HEY EVERYBODY — CHECK OUT CRIPPLED McNOLEGS OVER HERE! He’s in a wheelchair! He’s literally the only person not standing! He can’t use his legs like KANYE!! I AM A GODDDDDD!!!!”)

No, really … he said that.

Barely a week later, another high-profile celebrity made an insensitive, ableist comment. Ken Jennings, of Jeopardy fame, tweeted that there’s “nothing sadder than a hot person in a wheelchair.” And, um, I can certainly think of a few. What about a person who’s home-bound because he needs a wheelchair and doesn’t have one? Or how about a self-proclaimed genius who’s too blind to see past conventional standards of beauty, whining on twitter about how a life-changing mode of mobility shrinks his boner? Because that is pretty sad.

“I’ll take ‘Dumbass Things To Say’ for 200, Alex.”

Ken and Kanye’s wheelchair remarks were markedly different, in two completely separate contexts, but they both solidified what our culture, in some ways, has always said: People in wheelchairs are Other. Less desirable. Deserving, somehow, to be lumped together, singled out, pointed at, objectified, and ridiculed. (And by the way, it’s not rude to laugh at someone’s disability — it’s hilarious. It’s edgy.)

Just. So. Edgy. Like this best-selling shirt from T-Shirt Hell. Takes a lot of balls to ridicule someone whose legs work differently than yours.

The consensus in our culture, I guess, is that wheelchairs are sad and people in wheelchairs should be pitied. Or singled out. Or mocked. Or all three. Which makes no sense to me now.

But at a time it did.

Before I had a kid with spina bifida, I didn’t give much thought to wheelchairs at all. But I know for a fact that I did feel bad for people who were resigned to them. Man, I thought, what a pain in the ass it would be to have to use a wheelchair. You’d always be at butt-level with everybody else. You’d have to depend on that chair for everything, and what a pain it would be to transfer over to the toilet or into bed. Ugh. I’m so glad that isn’t me.

I didn’t need a wheelchair. But my child probably will. And when he was born, it changed everything I thought I knew about disability.

He has to use a nasal cannula and a feeding tube in the NICU? Thank God. Now his body can grow and heal without having to use all his energy for eating or breathing.

He has to have a shunt? Thank you, Jesus! A hundred years ago, and even today in some poorer countries, hydrocephalus is a death sentence. But we get a reprieve — just a thin, plastic tube that reroutes his cerebral-spinal fluid to another part of his body, and the hydro is virtually not a problem at all.

We have to catheterize him? AWESOME. Without catheters, Henry’s kidneys and bladders could get seriously messed up or infected.

He might have to use a wheelchair someday? Simply fantastic. Because this little guy might need one. Since his legs and feet don’t work like yours and mine, he’ll need special assistance to get him where he needs to go: On the bus for Kindergarten, out of the house for park and zoo trips, the possibilities are endless. With a wheelchair, we won’t have to worry about him being excluded from things because his legs work differently. He won’t have to be left out or homebound. Wheelchairs are freedom! Wheelchairs are opportunity!

And quite frankly, Ken Jennings, wheelchairs aren’t “sad.” They’re awesome.

Bonding with the babies, in spite of myself

Four in the afternoon is what I like to call white-knuckling time. Right around four is when both children get really tired (that’ll happen when you wake up at 5:00 AM and refuse to take a nap — go figure) and one of two things happen. One, they either get inexplicably hyper and run/crawl back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, demanding graham crackers, or they get crying-angry. Crangry. Everything upsets them — they want peanut butter toast instead of the delicious organic dinner and probiotic-laced chocolate milk I prepared for them. Henry wants to take the knives out of the dishwasher and crawl around with them. June wants to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood but NOT THAT EPISODE YOU DUMB BITCH, and cue the screeching, art-supply-throwing meltdown in the middle of the living room floor. From about 4:00 onward Lou and I start white-knuckling it and counting down the minutes until we can throw them in bed and enjoy some motherfucking SILENCE, REAL TALK.

I have this horrible habit of staying up long after I should have gone to bed (like ten thirty, you guys) because I love the feeling of not being hounded by two demanding little tyrants. I’m really tired every morning but oh, the freedom of eating peanut butter toast and watching Netflix for hours and hours is the only thing that keeps me going some days. So immediately after we put them down for bed, I head straight to loft with my laptop and a bag full of those honey-mustard pretzels and nobody is allowed to talk to me or ask me to do anything for the rest of the night. My husband joins me in the loft eventually and sits in his reclining chair and draws awesome comics while he watches old episodes of 30 Rock. And that is romance, y’all. That is why we’re happily married and have been best friends for seven years now. Deep conversations? Candle-lit dinners? Take that noise somewhere else. After a full day of toddler tantrums, I just want to be left alone to eat pretzels and scroll mindlessly through a bunch of hilarious gifs.

Inevitably, every single night, I end up on facebook scrolling mindlessly through pictures of my own children, because I am addicted to them like crack. I cannot get away from them. The first hour or two after they fall asleep I’m like, yes, I am going to stay right here with my netflix and pretzels and I’m not getting out of bed unless there’s a fire, and even then probably not. After a couple hours, though, I pull the earbuds out of my ears and start telling Lou about the hilarious things June said during the day. “Oh! I forgot to tell you what Henry did!” is how most of my sentences start after 8:00. By 8:30 I’m wandering in their room “just to check” on them, hovering over them like a crazy ex-girlfriend, because they are just so breathtakingly beautiful with such pillowy cheeks. You can’t not kiss them. And then maybe you kiss the baby and he wakes up and starts whimpering because he wants to nurse but that’s okay because you missed him anyway.

Ewwww! Creeper, no creeping! But yeah I’ve totally done this to my children.

Maybe it’s because I have a panic disorder but I have this weird anxiety that I’m not “bonded enough” with either of them. I don’t know how much more love it’s possible to feel for these people, but I always have this nagging fear that if I’m not constantly enjoying them, it means I haven’t bonded with them enough and they’re going to develop Reactive Attachment Disorder and turn out to be stabbers.

God knows I didn’t get to hold either one of them right after they were born. Not that I’m bitter — it was a decision borne out of choice and necessity, and with both of them I remember feeling very zen about it at the time, and even now. I have years and years of getting-to-know them ahead of me, I thought, as the nurses wrapped up June and brought her over to my husband. But then a few weeks later, in the hormonal, sweaty hell that was post-partum anxiety, I cried as I wiped off my back-sweat with a towel: What if I hadn’t bonded with her enough?! What if I didn’t really love her?!

June’s birth was relatively easy, as births go. Not even a day of labor, just a few hours of really hard labor (mitigated by the epidural, thank you Jesus), less than an hour of pushing, and she was here. Afterward, however, was when it all fell apart — already anemic, I retained my placenta and hemorrhaged everywhere. Two hours later I woke up — weak from blood loss, loopy from the drugs, exhausted from the delivery. I was still half-awake when my husband handed me the baby — swaddled and sleeping, not the screaming newborn I had pictured squirming naked on my chest post-birth. I didn’t feel a rush of love — relief, maybe, that we had survived. Contentedness, knowing that the hard part was over and I was free to enjoy my baby. But mostly I just felt like going back to sleep. I had been awake for 36 hours at that point and was on the verge of needing a blood transfusion; sue me.

Three days later, we were home and I still felt like I had been run over by a truck — shaky, aching, and overwhelmed with that new-mom exhaustion you can feel all the way down to the marrow of your bones. At one point, my mom scooped the baby out of my arms and shooed me into my room to take a nap. Wide-awake but nauseous with exhaustion, I burrowed under the covers, closed my eyes — and nothing. I waited — ten minutes, fifteen, twenty — on the verge of sleep but unable to fall all the way under. My heart started to race. Dear God, I thought, if I don’t sleep now, June will wake up and need to eat, and I won’t have another chance to nap for who knows how long. Until night-time, at least. Oh wait, she doesn’t sleep then, either. Go to sleep, dummy! Sleep NOW! Amazingly, this didn’t help me sleep. I pulled a sleep mask over my eyes. Put headphones in my ears. Waited, waited. Nothing. My heart started beating faster. I started whimpering, then full-out sobbing. I was never going to sleep again. I started dreading the baby, fearing the baby. I never wanted to see the baby again. I just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep. Oh God, I begged, please don’t let her walk in here with the baby.

Right on cue, Mom walked in with the baby. I was crying so hard I could barely see them through my tears. And then I did see them — my baby — and my heart soared. “Hiiiiii!” I screeched, probably too loud, suddenly feeling the weirdest mixture of miserable and elated. My baby! She was here! I was still tired, terrified, and every muscle in my body ached, but now, as a consolation prize, I got to hold my precious, pink little baby girl and smell her fuzzy head as she nursed. I was the poster child for post-partum anxiety — sweating, unable to sleep, overwhelmed — and sick with love for my little baby. Yay! I thought, holding out my arms and making gimme-gimme-gimme hands at her feverishly. The baby’s here, the baby’s here!

At some point in the first few days, completely unbeknownst to me, June had gone from a mewling stranger that I tolerated nervously to a snuggly, precious little creature whom I loved — genuinely loved, conventional “bonding” be damned. We didn’t do skin-to-skin with either of them right after birth — the hemorrhage got in the way of that for June, obviously, and Henry had to be whisked off for his myelomeningocele surgery — so that fabled rush of post-birth oxytocin is something we all missed out on. But we bonded. I started loving her. I don’t know when it happened, but it did. It felt like crazy, hungry, desperate fear for her safety until I got my antidepressants straightened out, but it was love, it was attachment, whatever you want to call it, and it was there.

I still feel it at four in the morning, when Henry wakes and shrieks like a falcon until I stumble over to his crib and thrust a sippy-cup under his nose. God I’m so tired please go back to sleep oh hiiiiii sweet baby boy, look at those precious little lips! When I crawl back in bed there’s a lump taking up most of the space on my pillow, and I remember that June crawled into bed with me last night at midnight. I yuv you my snuggly girl she tells me, so I let her climb up into my bed, but just this once (yeah right.) And I think, They’re here, they’re here, my babies, they’re here.

Can we just relax about casual sexism?

There’s a lot of stuff about gender trending on social media this week, like this video. In my twitter feed, I saw no less than THREE WOMEN saying that they had watched this commercial and “cried out of guilt.” Apparently, according to the video’s description on the Huffington Post, parents give their girls an array of subtle social cues that “push girls away from math and science in their earliest childhood years.” These messages can also, according to the description, “ultimately discourage girls from pursuing traditionally male-dominated STEM subjects in school.”

Wow, I thought. What exactly are parents SAYING to these poor girls?! Are they literally burning their daughter’s chemistry books right in front of her? Curious, I clicked on the ad, fully expecting some seriously messed up shit.

This was the first example. Um. I scratched my head. That’s supposed to deter a girl from math and science? …Is the parent off-camera holding a chemistry set right out of her reach? Is that what she’s grabbing for? What am I missing?

Hmm. I guess I see how this could send some bad signals — telling your girl forego exploring for fear of getting “dirty” or “messy”. That’s no good. But maybe this mom just doesn’t want to do another god damn load of laundry? Lord knows between a baby who can’t use utensils yet and a potty-training toddler we do at least two loads PER DAY around here, and you can often hear me yelling, “Can you PLEASE eat your spaghetti OVER your plate so you don’t ruin your new shirt?! Can you PLEASE sit on the potty when you pee, so you don’t spray urine all over your clothes?!” Who knew I was setting her up to hate the hard sciences?

Sheesh. I told June not to pet a dead bird at the park last week … was I really deterring her from scientific inquiry?

At the end of the ad, Sammy, now in highschool, removes a science fair poster from a glass board and applies lipstick, using the glass as a mirror. BOOM. There you go, you sexist parents — you just set little Sammy up for a lifetime of waitressing at Hooters. Sammy could have graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biology, but you had to compliment her DRESS, didn’t you, you science-hating monsters?! Our words can have a huge impact, the ad warns. Apparently. Apparently even the most innocuous comment can have a permanent, life-altering impact. When you tell your daughter she’s pretty, what she’s really hearing is that she’s a vapid princess who’s too dumb to do math, and it will alter the course of her life forever.

Can we all just calm down about this sexism thing? Can we just relax about parenthood in general? 

Sexism is real. It’s subtle and it’s damaging. And I do agree with the (poorly-conveyed) message of this video: If we treat our daughters like they’re adorable morons, persistently and insistently, they’ll probably grow up thinking exactly that. But people, I am so sick of fear-based parenting. 

When June was a newborn, I was constantly terrified. Sure, some of that had to do with my anxiety disorder. But I also labored under the new-parent delusion that every single decision I made was a life-altering one: If I fed her once from a bottle, my milk would dry up. If I gave her a pacifier, she would immediately get nipple confusion, and our breastfeeding relationship would never recover. Once, in a particularly harrowing episode of cluster feeding — she must have been three or four days old at the time, and she had been nursing and crying every forty-five minutes around the clock — my husband started burping her, their noses about six inches apart, his face totally sullen and lined with sleeplessness. I thought, panicked, oh, God! The first formative memory of her father will be him glaring at her and willing her to sleep! It will imprint in her brain and she’ll grow up thinking that he hates her! “HONEY SMILE AT HER,” I shrieked, bolting upright in bed, “YOU HAVE TO SMILE AT HER!”

This article brings me back there, to those high-stakes newborn days. Let’s realize that sexism is real, and it plays itself out in a thousand different ways, sometimes very subtly. And it’s wrong. But holy hell, we parents are going to make mistakes, okay? We’re going to slip up, say the wrong thing, send the wrong message. Big mistakes, subtle mistakes — we just have to accept that we’re going to screw up in some way or another. Let’s own that and maybe calm down about all the million ways we can irreparably damage our children. It would break my heart to see a new parent watch this commercial and stop telling her daughter that she’s beautiful, agonizing over all the ways it would potentially damage her in the future.

Let’s have confidence that our children are not as fragile as we’re making them out to be. Examine yourself, examine your blind spots like racism or sexism, but please let’s not make the mistake of thinking that any slight rebuke or comment is going to scar them forever.

Words have meaning; our actions have meaning; but they don’t set our futures in stone.

 

This post was later picked up by the folks at the Huffington Post! Hop on over and leave a comment, won’t you?