Monday, February 27, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming : Chapter One - Part One

"Before You Meet Prince Charming" by Sarah Mally has a few interesting points in its favor.

  • Sarah Mally has reached the level of writing competence found among high school graduates!  She understands and uses the conventions of the English language fluently; After "Preparing to Be A Helpmeet" and "It's (Not) That Complicated", I am grateful to read a book without feeling a compulsion to pull out a red pen and fix the mistakes.
  • Ms. Mally starts each chapter of the book with an allegorical tale involving a teen-age princess living in a kingdom.  Writing this was more complicated than the common "exhortation and advice" style of religious self-help books that I've previously reviewed.
The allegory has five main characters introduced in the first chapters:
  • The Princess is the archetype of Christian Patriarchy unmarried daughters who want to do "what is right" in the words of the author which means "follow the rules of CP without questioning if possible".
  • The King is the archetype of the Christian Patriarchy father.  His wisdom is deep and unfailing; his goal with his daughter is to keep her completely unaware of the emotional entanglements and "vices" of the world.
  • The Queen is the archetype of the Christian Patriarchy mother.  She is present in a few vignettes, but seems to have given all of the duties of instructing her daughter over to her husband.
  • The Villagers  or the People stand for everyone outside of Christian Patriarchy.  None of them understand why the Princess is kept as sheltered as she is.  Most of them want the Princess to "experience life".  Their main purpose is to serve as a counter-point of how horrible life is for people who "experience life".  Their secondary purpose is to be enlightened by the sheltered Princess' life.
  • The Alligator is the urge every CP unmarried daughter has to break free and experience life.  This is why the Alligator is the main antagonist of the book.
Synopsis of the "Desiring the Very Best Marriage" allegory:
  • The Princess rides home from visiting her aunt and uncle some distance away.  
  • As she rides home, an elderly couple and their grandson see her.  The grandparents explain that she's a princess both by birth and by conduct.  
  • The unseen, omniscient narrator lets us know that the Princess is still young because she sometimes forgets to obey her parents, occasionally questions their ways and finds people who disagree with her parents rationale understandable.  
  • During this ride, the Princess wonders why her father is concerned about the People's behaviors and opinions as well as what her future holds. 
  • She's met by a sentinel sent by her father in case she was delayed.   The two chat and part ways.  
  • The narrator returns to let us know that she's riding unaccompanied because the King wants her to serve people - but that the King protects her from unspecified dangerous activities that were seen as harmless by the People.  The narrator returns to the theme that the Princess can't possibly appreciate all her parents do for her because of her youth - even when she obeys them without question.  Likewise, the Princess has hopes and dreams about doing good works - but she really, really would like to meet the right Prince for her and get married.  She's 16.  
  • As the Princess stops to stare into space and daydream think of all the major works she's going to accomplish, the Alligator swims up in the moat.  The Alligator tells her that she's unduly sheltered and lacks the skills she needs to fulfill her unspecified dreams.  The Princess responds each time by saying that the King knows what's best for her.  The Alligator tells her to be ready to make her own choices when it becomes necessary. 
Response to the allegory:
  • When writing fiction, a good author shows the reader instead of telling the reader.  In this section, every piece of information about the royal family is explicitly told.  Even the feelings of the People towards the Princess is expressed through a canned conversation between the elderly Grandparents and their Grandson.
  • I'm already finding the Princess's world stilted.  
    • She's royalty - but her father wants her to help her people - but she's not supposed to pick up any of the People's unspecified bad habits.  
    • I will admit, however, that this is an excellent allegory for Christian Patriarchy families.  The family is better than the average person due to their rigorous lifestyle  and should be helping the world around them without accidentally contaminating their lifestyle with any of the worldly views of the people they are helping. 
  • Children may not have the moral or cognitive depth to explain their beliefs to outsiders, but a 16-year-old girl needs stronger rhetoric  than a slightly more polished version of "Dad said it's wrong and I shouldn't do it."  
  • The sum total of good works done by the Princess in this first section is "picking up vegetables that an old woman dropped".  That is NOT a ringing endorsement of the King's plan to have her serve her people.  
  • The Alligator makes two good points.  
    • First, what skills does the Princess have that can help her people?  Based on what I've read, she can pick up veggies and ride a horse.  Even with that limited skill set, she's not done anything particularly note-worthy like bringing food to the elderly or ill.  
    • Second, the Princess will have to make decisions on her own some day.  Neither her parents nor her future husband will be available every second of every day for the rest of her life.  It's not possible for either of those two authority sources to list out in great detail what to do in every situation that could occur.
    • If you need further proof of the Princess' helplessness, she can't even break of the conversation with the Alligator; the beginning of the the storm does that.
The next post will look at the "exhortation and advice" section of the chapter.  Methinks I will not enjoy that more.....

Friday, February 24, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: The Beginning

We have a new first!  This book inspired me to write the first blog post on the cover, the cover quotes and the author's note.

The Cover
The cover is a bit terrifying, honestly.  There is a back-lit guy on a horse holding a lance...or a mace...perhaps a broadsword.  My husband wanted to know if Prince Charming was a euphemism for the Angel of Death in Christian Patriarchy after seeing the cover.  Judge for yourself:

Has he come to marry you or steal your soul? (added snark from Mel :-P )

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Not That Complicated: Wrap-up

I've spent more time thinking quietly in the last three months than I have in years.   Truthfully, I didn't think about the Botkin Sisters or CP/QF until late last week.  Taking an unplanned break has brought a painful truth home:

By following the rules of Christian Patriarchy, the Botkin Sisters have missed life.  

Life means seeing people as fellow humans made in the image and likeness of God:
  • My husband and I were waiting for an elevator at my son's hospital when a Mennonite couple exited a down elevator.  We waved at their robustly healthy son who looked to be about 2.  The mom saw my bag of breast milk (which means I'm headed to the NICU) and said quietly to me, "Our son and his twin sister who is upstairs (e,g. is in the hospital) were born very early here, too.  I promise it will get better soon."  I teared up and thanked her.  I replied, "My twin sister and I were born very early.  I got better right away but it took my sister longer.  She was in and out of the hospital when we were toddlers - but now she's wonderfully healthy.  It will get better for you, too."
  • My son's biggest cheerleader is a Somali cleaning woman who gives us an update of how well he was doing when she was cleaning his area.  Understandably, the election of Trump terrified her especially when he closed the borders to Somalis.  I hope that my explanations of her rights as a permanent resident of the United States and how the Judicial Branch can block the Executive Branch from acting against the Constitution gives her as much comfort as she gives me every time she tells me my son is a "big, big, healthy, boy!"
  • Has the Botkin Sisters book prepared any of their readers for interacting with all people as befits an understanding of people created in the image and likeness of God?  No, this book has given explicit examples of treating people who fail to conform to upper-middle class standards of respectability in the US as fallen scum.
Life means giving pieces of your heart away:
  • I am grateful for my husband's ex-girlfriend in Ireland.  He clearly loved her and she loved him - but he couldn't move to Ireland and she couldn't leave her younger siblings at least one of who would be too young to remember her well.  Under Emo-Pure (emotional purity) rules, I should hate her and be anguished at the loss of a chunk of my husband's heart.  Instead, I am grateful for the time they had together, happy that my husband and I have created a life together and hopeful that she's formed the wonderful family she deserves.
  • Emo-Pure implies - and occasionally states - that reserving your heart for your husband will keep you safe from heartbreak.  In truth, all things this side of heaven will end. 
    •  I saw the terror in my husband's eyes as he realized our son might die due to a severe premature birth.  He didn't tell me until months later that he was terrified because he realized that I might die during the c-section if the doctors couldn't control the bleeding because my platelets were so low.  
    • I started sobbing just before being taken for the c-section because because the doctors were going to have to do medical procedures on my son that would cause him pain to keep him alive - placing IVs, placing an ventilator tube - and there was nothing any of us could do because the other option was both he and I dying.
  • This book has failed to prepare their readers for the messy, painful realities of being a loving human and offers instead a sterile, crushing form of self-protection that will crush and destroy the hearts of the people who practice it.
Life means working with the talents God gave you:
  • The OB and NICU units of our local hospital - which is a regional center - are staffed mostly by women.  My OB is a woman. Of the team of 8 medical staff who ran my C-section, only the anesthesiologist was a man.  The neonatologist who lead the team who stabilized my son is a woman as were the NICU staff members who helped her.  All of the neonatal nurse practitioners are women.  There are over 200 RNs in the NICU; less than 10 are men.  
    • Now, according to the Botkin Sisters, these are women who traded off marriage and a family for a career.  The doctors underwent 8 years of post-secondary education and a three year residency; the nurse practitioners did 6-7 years of post-secondary education with at least one year of nursing full-time in between college and their graduate degree.  The nurses have a four-year nursing degree.  Clearly, that's completely incompatible with being a wife and mother.
    • Alas, no one remembered to tell the women this - the majority of the women are married and have children.  
  • There are plenty of options for people who don't want to do a full 4 year degree.  A two-year degree leads to a LPN, a physical therapy assistant or a respiratory therapist.    Shorter training programs exist for phlebotomists and surgery technicians.
  • Heck, there are tons of options for people who don't want any post-secondary training.  The Botkin family is emblematic of Christian Patriarchy's disdain for people who work as employees rather than owners of their own business.  Yet, a cashier who who is pleasant, cheerful and capable can make his or her many customers in a day feel a bit better about life.  
    • There is one particular cashier at the cafe at my son's hospital that I'm thinking of right now.  She's fast and very, very pleasant.  Our interactions are short - but the relief I've gotten from knowing that I can pay for my lunch without any complications or delays while also seeing a smiling face has been a ray of hope and comfort during times where both seemed to have disappeared behind clouds.  (I only wish that more people had told her how much her work means to parents at the hospital.)
  • This book fails miserably at showing readers how to live as a follower of Christ.  There is no emphasis on feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned or any of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  Instead, a self-important and self-centered form of Christianity where personal and family image is idolized to the detriment of God is celebrated.

    I'm glad to be done with this book.  Sharing my home with the glassy, brittle images of the Botkin Sisters was unpleasant.  Next on my reading list is "Before You Meet Prince Charming" by Sarah Mally.  

    Side note: Is writing a book about living as a CP unmarried daughter the kiss of death for getting married?  Sarah Mally is older than I am by a few years and unmarried.  I'm starting to see a theme.....

Thursday, February 16, 2017

It's Not That Complicated: Chapter 12-Part Three

Oh, Botkin Sisters. I haven't missed you at all. But we do have to finish this book before I ceremonially burn my copy, so here we go.

Most CP/QF female bloggers stick to a healthy dose of slut-shaming to justify picking on the looks of other women.   For Anna Sofia and Elizabeth, however, that's too one-dimensional.

Join me as we venture into their shallow and petty logic.

"We were still in our hooded sweatshirt and baggy-jeans days when we first discovered this facet of biblical femininity, and it was (as you can imagine) revolutionary to us. We were clothing ourselves to communicate what we wanted to be (invisible, and totally above thinking about clothes). We didn't realize that a woman's appearance, countenance, speech, and attitude don't just communicate who she is - it says something to the world about who her husband or father is. Whether intentionally or not, we don't just communicate our identity - we communicate theirs too." (pg. 220)

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Update from the Disappearing Blogger :-)

Enjoying finally looking pregnant during the first week of November
Looking at my old post dates, I'm having a hard time believing that I haven't posted since early November which seems like yesterday....but a lifetime ago, too.

I guess I should just jump in.  Figuring out where to start is the hard part, though.

On November 18, 2017, my husband's family had a small party for Thanksgiving.  I had a blast.  Since the food at holiday parties is richer than I'm used to and I was 25 weeks pregnant, I was annoyed, but not surprised that I started having gas pains after the meal.  That night was miserable, but I adjusted my diet, got more exercise, and took some pregnancy safe anti-gas medications.  I was still much more gassy than usual, but that's pregnancy for you.

On November 23, 2017, I was working on a blog post when I smelled rust.  While I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, blood started gushing out of my nose.  I ran to the bathroom, grabbed a ton of toilet paper and applied tons of pressure.  The bleeding stopped within a few minutes.  Honestly, it took longer to clean up the blood on my face, hands, shirt and the drips I lost control of when rushing through the house than it did to stop the bleeding.    I told my mom about the bleeding - it reminded me of the one time I broke my nose - and she asked if I had had elevated blood pressure at all during the pregnancy.   I hadn't had any elevated blood pressure.  In fact, my blood pressure had been 110/70 at my last OB check up about 10 days before.

Thanksgiving came!  My mom and brother were going to meet my husband and I for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.  Nico had to work on the farm so it was just Mom, Mike and I for dinner.  The restaurant was closed so we went to IHOP.  I haven't been there in years and was thrilled to have Red Velvet Pancakes.  My stomach was acting up a bit from time to time, but a heavy starch sounded amazing.  My super-kind mom left a huge tip for the waitress since the restaurant was slow.  The waitress was touched and we all chatted for a bit.  I made some kind of joke about the fact it was completely dark at 6pm at night; did I mention winters in Michigan suck?

That night, my stomach was still gassy, but around midnight I started having sharp pains by my belly button.  The pain was keeping me from sleeping.  I wondered if I was having Braxton-Hicks contractions, but it didn't feel like my entire uterus was tightening, just the uppermost part.  I spent an hour trying various remedies that my OB had sent home with me - walk, rest, drink water- and realized around 2am that I was still awake, miserable, and - oh, yeah - the pains seem to have a rhythm to them.   I dug out the emergency number for my OB's practice and called.  One of her partners strongly recommended that I go to the hospital to get checked out since premature labor needs rapid treatment.

I went to the hospital.  I wasn't having contractions - just some disordered Braxton-Hicks.

The nurses took my blood pressure.  It was 206/115.  I had developed severe pre-ecclampsia in 10 days.  

I was attached to an IV, had blood drawn, the works.  The nurses had a hard time getting my blood pressure to drop;  turns out I inherited paternal family's ability to ignore beta-blockers.   Eventually, my blood pressure went down to "higher than ideal, but not dangerous" and I was sent up to L and D for a few hours of monitoring and then they would send me home.

That was the plan, anyways.  There was one piece of information missing: my blood work hadn't come back.  When it did, everything changed.

The blood work showed that my liver enzymes were extremely high while my platelets were dangerously low.  Not only did I have severe pre-ecclampsia, but I had developed an extremely rare syndrome that can occur with pre-ecclampsia known as HELLP.   My liver was becoming extremely overactive.  This causes it to start digesting itself while destroying red blood cells and platelets.

I knew what HELLP was.  HELLP kills women when left untreated from seizures, strokes and uncontrolled bleeding from liver ruptures.  HELLP kills babies by having the placenta detach before birth and leads to torrential bleeding.

I had walked into the hospital critically ill. If I hadn't gone to the hospital, Jack and I would have been dead in hours to days.

There is one cure for help: immediate delivery of the baby.  The problem was that I was 26 weeks, 1 day pregnant.

The doctors and nurses worked a miracle.  They were able to stabilize me long enough that I received two doses of betamethasone to speed my son's lung, skin and intestine development.  I delivered Jack by emergency CS 28 hours after I got the first dose of betamethasone.  That's 32 hours after I called my doctor or 40 hours after we left IHOP.
Jack's baptism at 4 days old. He weighs 1 pound. 5oz.

Jack weighed 1 pound 12 oz and was a whopping 12 inches long.  The neonatologist held Jack next to me for a few minutes so that I could give him a kiss and tell him how much I loved him, how glad I was that he was safe and that he was totally worth all of the pain of the last 28 hours.

I can't really describe the last 11 weeks.  Maybe someday, but not now.

Jack's done well.  His lungs were still very, very underdeveloped.  He spent a month on a ventilator followed by two weeks on NIPPV and three weeks on CPAP.

The pictures are easier to focus on and I do like showing off my handsome son.
Holding Jack for the first time.  He's a week old and weighed about 1.5 pounds. That was the day after I went home from the hospital.
The smaller the baby, the more people needed for basic care.  Notice the arm waving free in spite of my husband and my best efforts.......

"Feisty" is good; Having a 2 pound baby who tries to lift his head and pull his ventilator tube out....not so good.  Hence the hand I have clamped on

Doing "containment" to help Jack feel secure.  He always likes having hands on his feet because he could kick at them.
Jack's around 3 weeks old or 29 weeks gestation in the picture.  He's on a ventilator still.  

Jack's first Christmas as Santa's newest elf.

Jack dressed as a vampire in honor of his fourth blood transfusion.

Jack's sharing some bonding time with my husband.

Jack's on NIPPV or CPAP in this pic.  He started regulating his body temp at a very young age so he'd overheat during skin-to-skin if we put a real blanket on him.  Hence the bandanna.
The most "Jackian" photo we have so far!  Dude does not like having his arms contained and will break free of any swaddle known to man...

Actually, this might be the most "Jackian".  Notice the hand shoved free of the swaddle and a leg held at a 45 degree angle.  When your kid is attached to monitors, you can use a weighted beanbag to make him feel safe....and keep his pacifier in place.

You really do get used to all the tubes and cords attached to your kid.  When I look at this picture, what I remember isn't the medical things but starting to cry when I came in Jack's nursery because Jack was in a real crib.
We dressed him for the first time at 35 weeks gestation (or 9 weeks after he was born).  It took me 20 minutes mainly because I'd never done a kimono style onesie before
When Jack was switched to a nasal cannula for oxygen, I felt like we had a changeling baby; I had gotten so used to the hat and mask for the NIPPV and CPAP that seeing his whole face and head was startling and wonderful.
Reading a book aloud on sustainability for my Master's.  The neonatologists were always telling us how good it was that we read to Jack; I've never had the heart to tell them that I read aloud because staring at a monitor while Jack was asleep was very, very boring.
Being able to pick up and hold my son without needing medical backup has been amazing!  Holding him when he was on a ventilator required at least 1 respiratory therapist and two nurses to safely transfer him to and from the isolette.  When he switched to NIPPV/CPAP, we only needed one nurse.  Now, I can pick him up whenever we want to or whenever he needs some cuddles.
Jack's Mafia enforcer face  :-)
"No, really, Dad.  The nurses said I can stay up all night.  Don't you believe me?"  I think we'll be seeing that face a lot :-P

Jack's sleeping in his dinosaur position in his dino jammies!