Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prayers for Haiti

This may come a bit late, but I just wanted offer this post in prayers for Haiti. The destruction they faced was unimaginable and my heart goes out to all the lives lost. Every day, I've been following the news and each story is uniquely tragic. From the woman who lost her goddaughter to families seeking treatment or burial for loved ones to Haitians in America worried about family back home to American families waiting on news of their adopted Haitian children, there is so much suffering.

Suffering is never meaningless. It has the potential to fortify our souls and help us appreciate beauty (look at the stories of any Catholic saint or any other great hero, of any faith or no faith). Suffering also stands as a test: How far will we go to help our fellow man? Will we aim to see through each other or to see each other through? Let's pray and hope that it is the latter.

Finally, I just want to offer thanks. Thank you, President Obama for your speedy response. Thank you to all those working to ease the burdens and rebuild the nation. And thank you to God, because, despite this, God is good. Hopefully, we'll emulate that.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cool Organization

I am a reader of the blog Feministing, a blogging community with six editors, two columnists, and countless posters, members, etc. They take an egalitarian, progressive stances over a whole range of issues. They not only focus on issues regarding sexism, but on how sexism relates to ageism, classism, racism, ableism, and other issues regarding inequality and unfair treatment in society. I love this community because, while I find myself dissenting on a few issues (as an ardent Catholic who subscribes to a pro-life philosophy, there are a few), there are many issues I do agree with and feel I can find common ground on. So, when I saw this website for the National Advocates of Pregnant Women,, I couldn't help but take a look.

Though I take a strong anti-abortion stance, I like how NAPW (an organization that claims to want to "end the war on abortion") handles it in one of their statements, pointing out that, while women all over the U.S. disagree (sometimes vehemently) over the subject, there are other issues that we, as mothers or future mothers, will face in society. For example, the U.S. is one of very few developed nations that does not offer paid maternity leave (or parental leave, if a father or other guardian wishes to step in) when a child is born. Regardless of whether the job is high-paying or not, this means women often make the sacrifice between needed income and time to bond with their children. This dilemma also leads to infrequency of breastfeeding, a vital component to nourishment and bonding that already is neglected by greater society. In addition, women face job discrimination for pregnancy, lack of access to affordable daycare (a huge problem for single, low-income mothers), lack of access to health care and sick days, and social stigmas regarding pregnancy, especially if she is a single parent.

One problem I find with the greater pro-life movement (and I've probably repeated myself in numerous blog posts) is that it negates a lot of these issues. While organizations like Feminists for Life are at least willing to acknowledge some of these, many others seem afraid of alienating a conservative audience (which sees some possible policies as "creating a nanny State") who otherwise supports them. To compound this, many of these organizations are also Christian (whether Catholic or evangelical) and are afraid of seeming to condone behaviors such as engaging in premarital sex or degrading the family (because it will be "easier" to be a single parent, rather than get married). Because of this, many will only provide Band-Aid type solutions such as diapers, formula, a stroller, and directions to the nearest WIC office.

I'm not saying we should avoid direct service, nor am I advocating people going back on their missions. I am asking them to consider some questions: 1) What about when the baby's born? In addition to herself, a mother now has a little one to feed, clothe, take care of, and provide for, one that requires a bit more expense than a pack of diapers. 2) What about quality of life? Birth isn't enough. What about opportunities for education, job training, housing, health care? What about the choices to birth in a setting that's healthiest for both? 3) Finally, pro-lifers claim their fight is for equality of life. What about the inequality pregnant women face? What about the unfair treatment they face in their jobs, their families, incarceration, etc? By extension, what do their children face, once they are in this world?

A truly pro-life philosophy includes one of equality, one where women and men are treated no differently from the rest, due to their race, class, gender, or status as a parent in society. This does not mean "becoming soft" or "condoning bad behavior". It does mean we come together to build a stronger society, one where EVERYONE'S needs are met. Therefore, I applaud the work of organizations like NAPW, like Feministing, and like Moms Rising (an organization focusing on issues faced by working mothers) for bringing this all to light.

Finally, to all the doulas, nurses, midwives, doctors, lawyers, advocates, activists, and to mothers themselves working for equality, regardless of the diversity of all of our views, I drink to you. Keep up the good work!

Winds of Change

It seems like yesterday I was first starting college. Bright-eyed and pony-tailed, I was ready to take on the District by storm. I had entered with the intent of majoring in Spanish and minoring in biochemistry, hoping to become a doctor and spread pro-life, woman-friendly (not an oxymoron, at least not how I saw it and still see it) health care throughout the world. I was going to take the world by storm.

This past weekend, while celebrating New Year's in NYC (like any young person who grew up in the NY Metropolitan area) and bidding bon voyage to a dear friend bound for Africa, I realized how much has changed since then.

I have many older friends, so I feel I learn about life by watching them live theirs. Since entering college, I've seen countless friends graduate and prepare for: the military, stints abroad, marriage, grad school, jobs, medical school, law school, the convent, seminary (Protestant and Catholic) and other diverse paths. I've seen friends have children and others bury their parents. I've learned how to see people for who they were. For some, I ended up loving them more and for others, I had to decide it was best for them not to be involved with my life.

Even in my own life, I've changed. I've gone from the naive little girl who never held down a job to a working woman with her own apartment. I burned out of my first program, only to find a second that I was meant for anyway. I've interned, networked, participated in activism, organized movements, questioned my faith, nearly lost it (only to find it and renew it), made stupid mistakes (suffice it to say that I am young), discovered my romantic side, and learned my talents for turning scraps into soup. My appearance also underwent a drastic change. Nearly ten inches of hair were sacrificed for the purpose of reinvention and I traded in my sloppy look for one a bit more upscale yet edgy at the same time.

No longer the girl hovering between two worlds, I've started making a home for myself in the city I love so much. I have a job, a place, a parish, friends, connections, and a social life (both day and night) that I wouldn't trade for the world. No longer the one who needed constant support, I am learning to stand on my own. I'm excited. Learning to stand gives me hope that I can one day fly.

I never step in the same city twice, for my cities have changed and so have I. For that, I am content.