Nov 06 2013

Disability does not define us

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I love the beautiful, philosophical consistency of the pro-life position.  It really is a position of true reverence for all human life.  We don’t discriminate on any basis, and are often the only ones that see value in a human life, when the rest of the world scoffs, dismisses and discards.

Babies born with anencephaly is just one example.  Though their lives would appear meaningless, because they do not have a significant portion of the human brain, namely the cerebral cortex, the pro-life position is such that we would never advocate the killing of these babies as some kind of solution.  Rather, we uphold their dignity in the same manner as we would any other human being.  Most of these babies will not survive long after birth, but their short lives, when they are not aborted, are marked with profound meaning and incredible love.

I have known two couples who gave birth to babies with anencephaly.  Both couples bravely accepted their children’s fate and were dramatically changed by the experience of meeting their children, holding them and loving them for the short weeks or days that were given them.

This article, by Dr. Peter Saunders, makes that argument, that indeed, the disability does not define these babies.  Rather, it is their humanity that does.

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Feb 06 2013

Porn: Our children are victims

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A disturbing read.

Kamal, a boy in the same year, says: “Say I got a girlfriend, I would ask her to write my name on her breast and then send it to me and then I would upload it on to Facebook or Bebo or something like that.” The profile picture on his phone, seen by everyone to whom he sends messages, is an image of his girlfriend’s cleavage. Some of the boys at his school have explicit images of up to 30 different girls on their phone. They swap them like we used to swap football cards. If they fancy a girl, they send her a picture of their genitals. As one teenage girl said after the report came out, sending pictures of your body parts is “the new flirting”. [...]

What is the cause of all this? We need more research, the experts say. But to a dismayed parent, it seems like the horrific result of a massive experiment. Thanks to the internet, our boys and girls are the first children to grow up with free, round-the-clock access to hardcore pornography. Porn has become part of the adult mainstream, colouring everything from advertising to best-selling books like Fifty Shades of Grey. Of course our children are affected. [...]

As for his sisters, I shudder. I don’t want them to live in a world in which romance means boy meets girl, boy sends a picture of his genitals. Lily and Rose are not their real names, by the way. I’m that afraid of their being drawn in. We clearly need to talk, awkward as it may be.

I’m all for research…but really? How much more do we need? How about some common sense?

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Jan 25 2013

On parents who share too much online

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The author of this Globe article argues that parents need to be far more thoughtful when they blog about their children. With the efficiency of archiving sites like the WayBackMachine, some things will never, ever disappear from the web.

Recently, The Atlantic ran an article by Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the plague of “parental overshare”: the reams of articles and blog posts by parents whose favourite, if not sole, subject is their kids. She cites a New York Times blog post by Beth Boyle Machlan about her daughter’s obsessive compulsive disorder in which she describes intimate details of a therapy session, and the recent controversy over “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” a post-Newtown piece by a blogger named Liza Long who pegs her own troubled 13-year-old son as a potential mass murderer, illustrated by his photo. […]

Without question, Weiss’s writing – her daughter’s body and eating habits are unpacked in agonizing detail – invades her kid’s privacy in a way that would be libellous if children had any rights. Bovy argues that charting a child’s issues, be they as banal as bedwetting or as serious as threatening one’s mother with a knife, also makes them susceptible to negative outcomes later on. A vivid description of a knife-wielding incident in adolescence forges an electronic footprint that can’t be scrubbed away. These tales of youthful indiscretions might pop up during a job interview or a college application. In giving away our kids’ present lives in public, we may be sabotaging their private futures.

I am so thankful that my mother, a writer, was not an “over-sharing” mommy blogger. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have details about my potty training, my teenage angst and that awkward incident with my first boyfriend posted online for all to see. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.

And sure, one could argue that these are rites of passage that everyone lives through and therefore there’s no need for concern. But when people are spending big money to create online personae and branding to promote messages or products that they believe are important, it’s hard to breezily dismiss the impact of an unwanted online biography.

Imagine if someone were to Google your name to then be faced with the opportunity to learn about either your perspective on tax law or your very awkward first kiss. I’d like to think that people are more interested in the exchange of ideas, but the tabloid industry reveals a very different side of our human nature. We really do need to careful when we post about ourselves and others.

(I think I might call my mother and thank her for choosing to write fiction rather than about me and my brother.)

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Jan 09 2013

New Year’s resolution: stop complaining, be more grateful

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I will admit, finding out I was pregnant with our third child was initially less than thrilling for me (though I’m now celebrating and eagerly awaiting the birth of our third daughter). With my older children starting school, I daydreamed about all the free time I would have to write and work and finally get our house organized. As I started to show, another parent at the morning bus stop half in jest remarked, “What were you thinking? You were almost free!” With comments like that, it becomes easy to set the table for one in the pity party you’re about to throw yourself. In the midst of the party, I had almost forgotten how incredibly lucky I am to be able to conceive without any issues, even though both of my sisters have suffered infertility and ectopic pregnancy. They’re too couth, even though they’re fully entitled, to scream that I stop complaining when I’m whining on the phone about weight gain, itchy skin and a baby kicking me in the ribs. Too busy selfishly mourning the loss of my imagined “me time,” I had almost forgotten that 16% of heterosexual couples experience infertility. And when you think about that number compared to the number of women having their children aborted, the frustration and pain those couples feel becomes even more heartbreaking. You can read in full here a great, and very personal, piece by Kristen Walker Hatten, vice president of New Wave Feminists, about just that.

I have a disorder called PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I’ll spare you the juicy details, but it basically means I don’t ovulate, and if you don’t ovulate, if there is no egg to fertilize that will become a zygote-embryo-fetus, you obviously can’t get pregnant. [...]

I’ve seen it as the world’s most terrible tragedy for about six years now, but never before has it packed the personal punch it does now. In the United States alone, there are millions of women like me, spending at least some of their waking life in an agony of anxiety and longing and hope and prayer and grief, trying everything from herbal supplements to special lubricants to expensive pills to having holes drilled in their ovaries to get pregnant. They obsessively pee on sticks to the point that it becomes a literal addiction, and many of them suffer repeated, heart-wrenching miscarriages.

Meanwhile, every day, 125,000 women a day pay a doctor to murder the miracle we would literally give our right arms for.

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Andrea adds: This is partially why I posted the “missing tile” post of yesterday. It seems the human condition is to be chronically obsessed with what is missing, rather than being happy with what we have. Sigh. Thanks for this reminder, Jennifer. PS. Some of us are childless aspiring writers who never find the time to get the book started, anyway!

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Apr 08 2012

Happy Easter!

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Happy Easter!

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Mar 31 2012

About Danielle Smith

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When you blog about life and work at a marriage institute and you’re childless and unmarried, uncharitable, callous and plain ole’ mean folks come out of the woodwork. I’ll reference here this blog post, pertaining to moi.

And then I’ll link to this story in Alberta, whereby a Redford staffer tweeted this about Danielle Smith:

If @ElectDanielle likes young and growing families so much, why doesn’t she have children of her own?  #wrp family pack = insincere

Look, I am practicing what I preach. I preach young women following their dreams/the calling on their lives, such that they might contribute to the world even as they are fulfilled. I simultaneously preach that not everyone needs to have a “cookie cutter” life, ie. married at the national average, two kids, a dog. Finally, I preach that some things are not a choice, aka, the great women’s “choice” to abort is one of the strangest, most extreme ideas ever foisted on women and society, compelling them to live cookie cutter lives that may actually run contrary to their callings.

Back to Danielle Smith: I think she need not have gone as far as she did in her response to this uncharitable tweet. She is doing a great and arduous task, contributing much. I happen to have met her when I lived in Alberta and she’s lovely. We don’t need to know why she does or does not have children. Full stop.

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Feb 22 2012

Babies in the House of Commons

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As a working mother — aren’t we all? Ok, let me try this again… As a mother who happens to work outside the home in exchange for a pay cheque albeit not nearly as hard as I work inside the home for no pay and a lot more stress… I feel like I owe the universe a post on the baby-in-the House-of-Commons kerfuffle. Then Andrea sent me this link and asked if I would be interested in sharing my opinion on the topic… Well, since you asked!

The issue has been handled in the media as one of mothers in the workplace, and rightfully so, although there is the narrower issue of whether babies belong in the House of Commons. I am not only an employed mother, I am incidentally employed by the House of Commons. For more on my somewhat-less-than-glamourous political career, you can read this post (in French): Je travaille pour un député à la Chambre des communes.

Do babies belong in the House of Commons? Frankly, I don’t see why not. For all the hand-wringing about proper decorum I must ask two questions: “What decorum?” and “Is a baby a worst offense to proper House decorum than, say, Justin Trudeau’s “piece of shit” and Vic Toews’ “You’re either with us or with the child pornographers” quips? If you yearn for proper House decorum, why not start with Question Period and questioners who don’t ask real questions? (a Liberal specialty: “Is the Minister lying or simply too stupid to see what’s going on?” You expect the Minister to answer that?) or with members of government reading from prepared statements instead of answering genuine questions about policy or governance?

You must see the House as it really is, with people coming and going, thumbing their berries, writing greeting cards, excusing themselves to the lobby for a quick bite or a meeting with staff. The House is a happenin’ place. Throw in a baby during a vote; it would have been a regular day at the office if it weren’t for MPs taking pictures and causing a commotion.

To the question do babies belong in the House of Commons my answer is “Why not?” I agree with the Globe’s editorial:

Mr. Scheer’s ruling is a clear demonstration that, even in the most august settings, mothers must always be able to bring their babies to work with them when emergencies arise. It is not a legal precedent, but it is certainly a moral one.

Which leads us to the wider issue of women in the workplace and whether or not giving them leeway to manage their family obligations while working is indeed a moral precedent. Naomi Lakritz from the Calgary Herald certainly thinks it is not:

Ladies, the world isn’t going to hand itself to you on a silver platter. It may offer you some things and may make some concessions to your status as mothers, but you’ve got to rise to meet the world halfway. You’ve got to do the rest. And you’ve got to understand and respect the idea that there are some places where babies simply don’t belong.

According to Lakritz (read the entire piece here), by asking for accommodations working mothers are acting like whiny wusses. This is a widespread view among some women. A few years ago I wrote a post for ProWomanProLife where I lamented the absence of creative thinking when it came to accommodating working mothers. A reader wrote back something along the lines of “I never thought of you as whiny and high maintenance…” Others believe that women “want it all on Thursday”: for everything there is a season and you can have it all but not on the same day. And let’s not forget the childless — by choice or otherwise — who wonder why, for the same pay, they have to pick-up the slack from  their procreative peers. And all the other mothers who were not given any breaks and wonder — almost jealously — why others should get one.

All this to me is almost irrelevant. As are the reasons why women work, whether they are seeking parity with men, self-fulfillment or a pay cheque. Do we have a societal obligation to make it easier for women, as Naomi Lakritz suggests? I don’t know. But what I do know is that if we don’t owe anything to Sana Hassaini, we owe the world to her son Skander-Jack. We fail children when we look at women in the workplace in isolation. We should be encouraging parents to develop strong bonds with their infants. And in our government-supported healthcare system, we should be pulling all the stops to make sure that infants are breastfed and spend the least amount of time in institutionalized daycare. (If you think I’m making too much out of the common cold go ask any healthcare provider at the Children Hospital of Eastern Ontario how their month of February has been so far.) And maybe your point is that mothers of young infants — and possibly mothers writ large — shouldn’t be working. But I would answer that this horse has left the barn some time ago. And while you are chasing it, may I ask what you suggest we do about the children?

Skander-Jack’s place is with his mother, regardless of where his mother thinks her place is. I’m glad that Skander-Jack was with his mom in the House rather than a nanny in Verchere-Petite-Patrie. What are we supposed to tell him, all 3-month-old cutie? Suck it up, it’s not our problem that your mom wanted to change the world during your formative years? I work for a MP and I can guarantee you that his mom will miss plenty of his most important milestones over the next 4 years. Why don’t we let him this one?

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Feb 16 2012

“What contraception has wrought”

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Is it just me, or is it a little bit ironic that there’s a column in today’s post by Father de Souza called “What contraception has wrought” and then just a few pages before, an article about rising infertility in Canada?

It’s somewhat sad that the situation we face is one where girls are told to pop pills for years, only to discover at said magical moment when they want to have children that it is too late.

Contraception has wrought infertility, in no small part. And many other things, of course, but no need to go on about those here. I suppose my point with this post is for women in particular and society in general to draw a connection between those contraception and infertility. Infertility may be a sad burden for many women to bear, but it will only continue and increase if we don’t acknowledge the conditions that create it.

(I’m aware that this is counter-intuitive for many and so I link to the Pill discussion PWPL did some while back.)

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Jan 19 2012

Sex selection: We’ve known about it, and we don’t care

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That’s Father Raymond de Souza’s view. I tend to agree. I’ve been asked multiple times over the past days what the solutions are to eradicating sex selection abortion. The fact is that in a permissive abortion regime, there are none. And the people who could end the permissive abortion regime don’t want to, ergo, they really don’t care about missing women.

My favourite line:

Is all of [the missing women] due to abortion of girls in utero? No. In 1990, much of it was due to female infanticide. But the arrival of inexpensive ultrasound technology in rural Asia in the 1990s meant that the killing became easier to do before birth rather than after.

On a radio show yesterday I struggled to find the right words, to be less aggressive, more amenable with the general public. How to discuss these “missing women?” I struggled but landed on “killing” too. There just isn’t another word. And while I don’t want to be harsh, I have vowed to not use euphemisms in discussing abortion, either.

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Jan 18 2012

“Don’t carpe diem”

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This post is so well written and worth reading for everyone, but especially young mothers. The whole thing. Here’s a taste:

I think parenting young children (and old ones, I’ve heard) is a little like climbing Mount Everest. Brave, adventurous souls try it because they’ve heard there’s magic in the climb. They try because they believe that finishing, or even attempting the climb are impressive accomplishments. They try because during the climb, if they allow themselves to pause and lift their eyes and minds from the pain and drudgery, the views are breathtaking. They try because even though it hurts and it’s hard, there are moments that make it worth the hard. These moments are so intense and unique that many people who reach the top start planning, almost immediately, to climb again. Even though any climber will tell you that most of the climb is treacherous, exhausting, killer. That they literally cried most of the way up.

And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers — “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” — those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.

But what really spoke to me is her description of time at the end: chronos versus Kairos. It almost seems to me that you can’t have the Kairos moments without the chronos. If time stood still in a Kairos kind of way all the time, we’d be frozen and would never achieve anything. Anyway, read the post, and you’ll see what I mean.  And hats off to those warrior women, raising their children well.

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Jennifer adds: I quickly realized when I got home from the hospital, and in my sleep deprived haze began eating three day old mushy peas from the fridge with tortilla chips thinking they were guacamole, that motherhood wasn’t going to be easy. It’s a tough job, parenting, and let’s not pretend otherwise. In pretending, parents can feel like isolated nut-jobs if they’re not out there savoring the moment. So I really liked this article. One of my favourite parts:

I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. [...] And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:

“It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add – “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up — I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”

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