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Monthly Archives: November 2011

So Very Cool: The Versatile Blogger Award

It is with humbleness and happiness that I acknowledge my nomination for the “Versatile Blogger Award”, especially considering it came from Barking In The Dark.

I did not know what the “Versatile Blogger Award” was until wordsfallfrommyeyes (a blog I am just now beginning to read and know I will love) commented on one of my posts that Mr. Bark had nominated me for one.  (He’s so sneaky that guy).  See, I’m fairly new to the blogging world and all of its nuances.  The VBA is an honor that a fellow blogger bestows upon you when they think that maybe your blog is worth reading because they kind of like it.  It’s a really nice way to acknowledge things other people produce, and then you pay it forward.

There are some rules to accepting this award.  They are:

  1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pass this award along to between 5-15 recently discovered blogs you enjoy reading.
  4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Thank you so much Bark, for liking what I write enough to say so publicly.    I love Barking In The Dark.  I stumbled upon Bark’s (we’re on a first-word-of-blog-title-basis now.  Jealous?) blog by surfing and hoping to find something interesting to read.  I hit pay dirt.  It is sleek, exceedingly witty and creative, funny as all HELL, beyond clever and razor-sharp with just a hint of hippielibness.  So you know, I’m a die-hard fan.  I implore you to read it.

On to the other rules:

7 Things About Myself:

  1. I wanted to be an actor since…I can remember.  And I was for a long while.  But somewhere around 13 years old I toyed with the idea of going into archeology, because I found it fascinating and still do.  What’s weird is that when I became a college Theatre major, the Theatre Building (as it was referred to) also housed the very tiny campus Archeology department.  Not exactly natural bedfellows, eh?
  2. I love National Geographic.  When it comes in the mail I get very excited and anxiously await reading it that night in bed.  I have been a National Geographic member since 1993, and carry their crazy little ID card in my wallet.  It has yet to get me into any hip, awesome nightclubs or anything, but I kind of like that it’s in there.
  3. I believe in UFO’s and ghosts.  I believe with all of my heart I’ve seen both.
  4. I truly think that love makes the world go ’round.
  5. It really bugs me when people other than me say trite shit like #4.
  6. I like to swear.  I think curse words are underrated.  One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten was from a very good, well-respected actor I admired when he said:  “Damn, you really swear well.  You do.  It doesn’t sound dirty coming from you, and you still sound intelligent when you do it.”  Fuckin’-A.
  7. I love Taco Bell.

Nominate Between 5-15 Blogs You Enjoy Reading:

  1. A Face From The Crowd:  Great blog by someone I’ve known for a very long time.  He’s funny and charming and he basically let me and all of our friends live rent-free in his basement apartment in college even though we had our own places to live.  He’s a very insightful, heartfelt writer and his blog is always a good read about life, with some sports thrown in.  I forgive him for not only being a Chicago White Sox fan but also working for them.  Cubs, baby…wait til next year!
  2. Whine & Roses:  If you like highly intellectual snark and thinly veiled sarcasm, poignant story telling and HUMOR, and aren’t quite sure you think Gwyneth Paltrow is, or deserves to be, the archetypal woman in today’s world… please read Jen’s blog.
  3. Doodlemum:  Ohhhhh I just ADORE this blog.  Beautiful, humorous, whimsically endearing sketches of the daily life surrounding one mother.  She captures motherhood and childhood so perfectly.  I wish I could do what she does, but it couldn’t be better than how she does it.
  4. Stilettos and Sneakers:  An oh-so powerful blog by one woman who has lived a life worthy of a major motion-picture.  She’s an actor, AIDS activist, hilariously fucking funny, and wise to the world in ways that most of us will never know.  Please read.
  5. Kimberly’s Page: A Black Girl’s Poetry for the World:  Loving the written word all of my life, I have never been an exceedingly avid fan of poetry in the strict sense of the word.  But I find Kim’s poetry haunting.  It moves me in its simple, but never simplistic, style.  She conveys raw emotion with such grace and eloquence.  I never fail to read her new posts.
  6. Little Fish in a Big Pond:  Very good predominantly political, liberally focused blog by a college student.  She’s fantastic and just waaaay more on top of things than I was at her age.  She’s going places.  Check her out.
  7. Partisan Dawn:  I think this blog has my favorite tag line, which is:  “Because There’s No Such Thing as a Moderate Republican”.  Great writing and commentary supporting the Liberal in all of us.  Okay, some of us.  Really good.
  8. The Hack Novelist:  Great insight into the progression, frustration and excitement of one writer as he attempts to write and publish his first novel.  Very good, very interesting.
  9. dadcope:  A truly heartrending blog by a newly divorced dad trying to cope and thrive in his new life.  He hasn’t posted in a while and I wish he’d come back.  The peek into his life and the manner in which he conveys it is often funny, sometimes heartbreaking and always leaves you wanting to hear more.
  10. She’s Got a Mouth on Her:  Wonderful blog by a woman who just wants the world to be a better place.  She conveys so well her thoughts and ideas about how to do that without coming off as preachy, which I love.  Very well-written and sometimes edgy.  She’s my kind of girl.
  11. Inner Workings of My Mind:  Fascinating blog written by a Muslim woman.  She has a huge following, and I just happened to come across it one day…to this post in particular.  She’s so open and forthright and gives deep insight into the life of a woman living in a world so many in this country are afraid to acknowledge at all, except through fear.  Wonderful humanity.
  12. forum decorum:  Decidedly male point-of-view on life, and women.  His expression on the female form can be a little jarring – from a chick’s perspective – but I definitely appreciate his candor.  Some funny stuff.  Some interesting takes on the female of the species.  I enjoy reading it.
  13. Under the Lobsterscope:  Retired gentleman (who was once a Broadway producer, which I dig) who clearly isn’t retired from wanting to be part of the conversation.  Very intelligent, well-thought out commentary on politics and life in general.
  14. The Unknowledge Tree:  Very funny blog about the miscellaneous in life.  Very well done, visually stimulating and it makes me laugh.  I love to laugh.

There are more.  I wish I had time in the day to thoroughly read all the interesting blogs I come across.  What a world we live in that we each get our own voice in this way if we want it.

Cool, very cool.

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The Indignity Between 6 and 8.

Ahhh, the Marigold.  It was an awesome, completely townie, dive-bar-bowling alley on the corner of Grace & Broadway on the North Side of Chicago, just East of the heart of Wrigleyville.

It was dingy.  It smelled.  It was most likely last renovated in the 60’s, and that’s being generous.  It was open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.  It catered to a distinctly non-yuppie crowd considering its location, and it had the best karaoke bar ever in the entire world, where it was standing-room-only by Midnight.  They tore it down in 2004.  I believe outrageously priced condos now stand in its place.  Fucking gentrification.

It was the late 90’s, and big groups of us would go to the Marigold and bowl, get drunk, sing karaoke – not well, of course – and then walk across the street to the IHOP for pancakes at 3 a.m.  I really loved that place.  Those were some great times.

I’m a pretty good bowler, actually.  Even sauced.  I was pretty competitive when I bowled, so I was, hmmm, a stickler about scoring.  One friend thought it was cool to “round-up” each score to keep it easy.  Um, no.  And there were no fancy, George Jetson-y computerized scoring machines at this place.  There were barely cup-holders.

I liked to win.  But I didn’t like to keep score.  I’d do everything I could to avoid keeping score myself.  When it was my turn to score, I’d go to the bathroom.  Or walk away.  Or suddenly “see” someone from across the lanes who wasn’t really there.

“Where are you going?  It’s your turn to keep score!” someone would yell to me.

Me, thinking furiously,  “Uh, yeah…I see Ja..m..mer over there.  I have to go say Hi”.

“Did she just say she’s going to say hi to Jammer?  Is she making that up?”

I don’t know why I never just said George Glass.  Whatever.  I’d check it over later.  When I had some time.  I usually took the score sheets home.

Still there were those times when I couldn’t get out of it.

When I couldn’t get out of it, there I’d sit.  Nasty little stub of a pencil in my right hand with Neanderthalic bite marks cracking through the heavy, blue, most assuredly lead-laden paint, hoping to God whoever was up would gutter ball.  And not just because I wanted to win.

I’d start tapping my fingers on the table.  Start shaking my legs back and forth nervously. I’d pretend I was engaged in the laughing and conversations going on.  I’d crack jokes.  I don’t think anyone ever noticed what was happening to me physically.  This was just a fun night out.  And it was, until I had to sit there.

I’d look at the score sheet and pray there weren’t spares or strikes in the previous frames.  And damn it all to hell if there were.

They’d throw their ball and wait to throw it again, all the while I was getting more and more anxious.  Irritated.

After the second ball, they’d walk back to me and look over my shoulder waiting for their frame total.  I’d distract them.  “Hey, look over there!  Is…is…. that JAMMER??”

“Who the hell…is she kidding with this Jammer person?”  More laughing.  It was just me being funny.  I was always being funny.  Anything to buy time.

When I scored, those sheets would look like a 1st grader’s homework, and not in a good/cute way.  It’s not that other people didn’t add things up on the sheet.  They occasionally would.  But not like I did.

It’s not that I can’t add.  I certainly can.

It’s just that something happens to me, has always happened to me, when I am under any sort of pressure – imaginary or real – to deal with numbers.  It goes beyond fear.  It’s more like phobic.  Paranoia.

I don’t embarrass easily.  I’m a pretty confident person.  Ballsy even.  No one takes the piss out of me more than I do myself, but I was internally embarrassed of my phobia and tried never to let on that I panicked at the thought of someone watching me add up a basic bowling score.  But I absolutely did.

Numbers…MATH.

Mathematics.  The most universally linear and logical of applications, unwavering in its stringent adherence to its own principles…1 + 1 always, always = 2.  Yuck.  I don’t think I have a truly linear-thinking bone in my body.  I think abstractly.  I live abstractly.  Math…has always caused me to sweat, my heart rate to increase and head to throb…my whole. damn. life.

Fucking math.

My earliest memory of this physical and mental reaction to math is from 3rd grade.  I do not remember having any thought either way about math prior to that.  In 3rd grade I very clearly remember taking a math test.  The first one I ever remember taking. For any test the teacher put the test sheets upside down on our desks and we had to gently lay our pencils down on top of them and fold our hands in our laps.  We had to wait for her signal, at which time we could turn our sheets over and begin.

But this time before she said we could start, she reached into her drawer and pulled out a timer.  A big, shiny, metal egg timer.  We all kind of ooohed and ahhhed over it.

The teacher explained that she would set the timer and when it went off we were to immediately stop writing and put our pencils down and fold our hands in our laps again.

I sat two desks down from my teacher.  I was a great student.  I loved school.  And I really liked her.  She liked me too.  Teachers liked me.  It made me proud that I got to sit so close to her.

So I got a clear shot of the timer.  I thought it was neat, and I was excited to start.

She wound it and told us to begin.  You could hear the rustling of papers, chairs skidding slightly as we all pulled them in closer to our desks in anticipation, the inevitable dropping of a pencil and some kid laughing at the other kid who dropped it and the “shhhhh” from the teacher serving to aim our focus.

Once wound, she placed the timer on the front, left corner of her gargantuan, wooden desk.

I remember I was wearing a dress that day.  I could feel the coldness of the metal seat on my legs.  I picked up my pencil and started the test.  I remember that it seemed pretty easy.  I was not having a difficult time with the equations.

About half way through is when I started to run into trouble.  I’m not sure if it was an actual problem with an equation, or my mind was simply wandering.  I don’t know.  But what I do know, is that all I could suddenly hear was the ticking of the timer.

Tick tick tick tick tick.  I suddenly zeroed in on this sound, like when you’re in your house and there’s noise all around you but the only thing you can hear, what your mind picks out, is the dripping of a faucet.

Like some sort of torture this ticking mesmerized me.   I’m not sure, but I might have been hypnotized.  I lost complete track of time, which is ironic since a timer inherently exists to remind you of time.  I didn’t catch the irony then because, come on, I was a stupid 3rd grader.

The next thing I remember was the teacher saying, “One minute, class.” which apparently snapped me out of my wide-eyed, vacant stare.  I then distinctly remember looking down at my paper and thinking some age-appropriate variation  of “Holy SHIT”.  I’d hardly finished any of the problems.  I looked around and noticed that most of the kids’ papers were upside down with pencils on top as they struggled to keep their hands in their laps.  They were done.

I worked furiously to finish my test, but it was too late.

“BRRRRRRRRLLLLLLAAAAAAAANNNNNNNGGGGGGG”, went the timer.

“FFFFUUUUCCCCCKKKK MEEEEEEEEE”, went my mind.  You know, or some age-appropriate variation thereof.

To this day when I hear an egg-timer go off, I pee myself.

***********************

Okay, that’s not true.  But I do know from that time forward I never looked at numbers on a sheet of paper with glee or anticipation again.

***********************

I clearly do not have a natural predisposition for comprehending higher math.  I SUCK at it.  SUCKITY-SUCK-SUCK.  Just ask my poor, beleaguered parents, especially my Dad on whose shoulders it fell to tutor me night after night throughout High School.

Now I’m not being cutesy here when I say this, but is Algebra a bunch of sick, twisted shit or WHAT?

Give my Dad a medal, because damn if he didn’t try to help me to the best of his ability.  Both of my parents are far better than average I would say, in their math comprehension skills.  Why I fell off that genetic apple tree I’ll never know.  Not only did I fall off, I careened down a hill, got ran over by a truck and stepped on by the bully ten year old down the street.

I can so clearly remember my father putting his head in his hands, eyes wide, glazed over and unblinking – very “A Clockwork Orange” – and muttering to himself something like “You’ve got to be kidding me”, at the fortified wall that was my brain when dealing with Algebra.  At some point he’d hit the table with his hands, walk to the sink and splash cold water on his face and then take a swig of something, very likely alcoholic.  At least I hope it was.  I recognized and understood his frustration.  I’d sometimes sit back in my chair and laugh at myself which only pissed him off.  I didn’t mean to laugh.  But what else could I do.  I just didn’t get it and I didn’t see the point in getting it.  “You’re smart!  Why can’t you get this?  Arghhh!!”  And he’d leave the room to take a well-deserved break.

He was right, I was smart.  When it came to the Humanities I was a bit of a rock star, in my own mind anyway.  I’ve been a writer since I was a little girl.  I’ve won many writing awards for both fiction and non-fiction.  I’ve been chosen to read essays I’ve written on national radio.  I’ve won Language Arts awards.  I never got anything but straight A’s in English, mostly the same in History, Social Science, and even Science-Science (Biology/Health classes…notice I’m excluding Chemistry).   When I was in 5th grade I was tutoring 8th graders in Reading, Writing and Language Comprehension.  In those areas I was in advanced placement classes all of my school years.  I have a decently high IQ.

But you put me in front of numbers where I’m required to do anything but add/subtract/multiply or divide the simplest of equations…where I actually have to use X’s and Y’s, tangents and cosines…Algebra, Trigonometry, Calculus – it’s like one of those annoying black-and-white cartoons from the 30’s starts playing in that part of my brain on a relentless loop – you know the one, with the rudimentary-drawn animal singing some folksy “blahblahblah” song complete with scratched-record sounds crackling through – proving an extremely effective barrier to any sort of understanding…at all.

***********************

Long story longer….it’s High School and it’s time to take either the SAT or ACT, or both.  I’m not sure why I didn’t take the SAT to be honest, no recollection.  But I did take the ACT.  I was excited to take it actually.  I enjoyed taking tests for the most part, and while I’d basically scraped by or cheated my way through math for years in a desperate effort just to get through it with passing grades, I wasn’t worried about the ACT.  I’d kick-ass on everything else, which would negate the probable 15-17 out of 36 I’d get in math.  No problemo.

We took the test in the school cafeteria.  I remember it like it was yesterday; the subdued atmosphere tense with anticipation.  Everyone nervous but ready to get on with it.  This was it, the culmination of 12 years of education which would have a major impact on your future, right there encapsulated in those little ovals you had to fill in with the graphite of a No. 2 pencil.

I flew through most of it, finishing well before they’d tell us to put our pencils down.  I felt really good.

But the dread, oh the dreaddddd.  I don’t remember when the math part came in the sequence of the day.  I was as ready for it as I’d ever be.  When I started it, I was truly sick to my stomach.   I wanted to vomit.  God, I just wanted it over with.  I had studied enough, my ass off actually, to get through some of the basic Algebra questions with apparent ease.  But then, it became more advanced.  Much more.

I distinctly recall resting my head in my left hand realizing the time was ticking down, hearing that fucking egg-timer in my head, and panicking.  I looked around and it was me and maybe five other freaks who weren’t done yet…100 other people already done for an hour just watching the rest of us from the adjacent room as if we were zoo exhibits.  I just knew I had to finish all the questions.  I did my best.  I did.  I tried to reason out the answers with the basics I knew.  It didn’t help.  I finished with a few minutes to spare.  And by finished, I mean filled in the ovals on a wing and a prayer: the wing belonging to a buzzard circling over the carcass of my dignity, and the prayer being only to avoid puking all over the lunch table.

It was done.  It was done.  I was done.  Let the chips fall where they may.  If I could have cheated my way through it I would have.  I’m not proud of that fact, but I’m nothing if not self-aware.  I didn’t though.  The proof of that would come some weeks later.

***********************

I don’t know where I had been when I got home one afternoon and my Mom was holding the test results in her hand.  She was excited and kind of waved it at me.  I was excited too.  There’s nothing like having the single most determining factor in where you’ll be allowed to attend college typed out on a little sheet of paper.  Weeee!

I was nervous though.  Really nervous.  I opened it, looking at the overall total score first. I deflated like a balloon and closed my eyes.  It wasn’t good.  It wasn’t the worst ever, but it wasn’t what I wanted at all.  And I fucking knew why.

Deep, deep breath.

7.

Math.  7.

Out of a possible 36.

7.

Holy fuck.  What the FUCK!?

“What?!” my Mom said as she noticed my face turn varying shades of green.

I couldn’t even say it.  I just handed it to her.

I don’t even remember what my Mom said about it other than something like…it’s okay, everything else is great, it’s okay.  God bless her.

I think I laid on my bed in the fetal position wanting to die for the next few hours until my Dad came home.  Come home he did.  I didn’t have the heart to show it to him, my Mom did.  He knocked on my door and asked me to come into the kitchen.  I felt so bad for him.  That’s really what it was.  I had hoped that maybe I’d come through like one of those kids they’d do “60 Minutes” specials on; who triumph over a lifetime of poor expectations.  I really did.  But worse, I knew he did too.  I wanted him to feel like his countless hours of attempting to knock through the cement-blockade I had put up against math had worked, at least a little.  It didn’t.

My Dad has been an educator his whole life.  He knew the power of positive reinforcement, coupled with the power of my mother warning him to be nice to me, and when I walked into the kitchen he smiled at me holding that piece of paper.

“Hi honey.  It’s okay.  It’s good, it is.  It’s okay.  But…what happened here?”

I smiled weakly, trying not to cry.

“Gee, I don’t know Dad.  It could have been worse.”  I said with thinly veiled sarcasm.

He laughed warmly, took a step toward me and said quietly over the top of his glasses…

“A monkey could have done better, pointing randomly, with its eyes closed.”

It made us bust out laughing, and started my tears in full force.  I put my head in my hands, leaned back against the kitchen sink and sobbed a decade’s worth of frustration and futility.  He hugged me.  My Mom hugged me.  They knew how I felt.  It was an indelible moment.

***********************

My father later determined that regardless of my obvious mental incapacity in the area of mathematics, there was no way I could have gotten that low a score.  I must have somehow, somewhere screwed up the sequencing of the problems/answer ovals and answered out-of-order for a good part of the test.  Yes, that had to be at least part of it.  He wanted me to take it again.  Good GOD. But maybe he was right.

So I did.  I took the entire motherfucking exam over again.

I scored even higher in one of my already high areas.

Math?

Wait for it…………………………………………..7.

***********************

I don’t know, I think in some ways it’s pretty awesome that I literally scored lower than the expected score of a person, or simian, randomly guessing at the answers blindfolded.  If you’re gonna fail, fail big I say.  It took me a long time to admit to people what my score was.  And I’ve never told a single person who didn’t say “No, come on.  Seriously.  What did you really get?”  That’s the truth.

I suppose I wear it as some sort of pathetic badge of honor now.  Like saying, “Hey…do you have any idea how much more room I have in my brain for the pursuit and absorption of random knowledge while yours is bogged down with number montages like Russell Crowe’s from that scene in “A Beautiful Mind”?

I’m kidding.  It sucks.  And it’s embarrassing.  I’m highly intelligent and math is my Achilles Heel.  So be it.  I’ve taken a lot of lessons away from this lifelong scourge; acceptance of what I am and am not capable of, how to deal with defeat despite my best efforts, and never judge people based on a singular aspect of their intelligence.  There’s almost always more to it than meets the eye.

Oh also…never, ever go bowling without computerized score sheets.

It makes for a much more relaxed evening.

Pandora’s Big, Fat, Sanctimonious Box.

Posted on

“Personhood” Amendments:  Ambiguous and broadly-worded citizen-led measures that aim to legally define human life as starting at “the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof.” 

The measures, if passed in any State, will have far-reaching, dire consequences for the cause of women’s rights, a woman’s personal autonomy, her right to make personal decisions about her healthcare,  and the legal system in general.

These measures, being proposed in most states in one form or another, would even restrict certain birth control methods, IVF (in-vitro fertilization) treatment, and would ban all abortions, under all circumstances.


Love and Death: Terminal Pregnancies

You find the love of your life.  You’ve found the person you want to share everything in your life with until the end of time.  You see your unborn children in each other’s eyes.  The love you share leads you to the desire to have a baby, a combination of both of you, a baby who is proof of what you feel for one another, the ultimate gift to one another.  And so you, the woman, become pregnant.

It’s a magical time.  The realization of what will happen in mere months is exhilarating.  You and your adoring husband are anxious, maybe even scared, but you’ve never been happier. You tell friends and family the exciting news.  Life is good.

Six weeks into the pregnancy you begin spotting blood.  Not a lot, but enough to cause concern and you call your doctor.  “It’s very common”, the OB says, “Keep an eye on it and let me know if it gets worse.  Don’t worry”.  By seven weeks into the pregnancy you are cramping, having substantial pain.  More bleeding.  Something clearly is not right.  You make an appointment with your doctor for the next day.  You are scared, you do not want to lose this most wanted of babies.

Before you can make it to your appointment the next day the pain in your abdomen intensifies.  You now have pain in your shoulders, throughout your back, your belly is distended.  You are light-headed.  You’re grocery shopping and lean onto a counter to hold yourself up.  You double over and try to stay conscious, but fail.  You pass out.

You come-to in the emergency room on a stretcher with an oxygen mask over your face.  Your husband is there now.  You do not really know what is going on, but know you will lose this baby.  Your husband tells you with tears in his eyes that you have an ectopic, “tubal”, pregnancy, that your baby developed in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus, that it grew normally in an abnormal place, and now was big enough to start rupturing your tube and you are bleeding internally.  He tells you as he strokes your hair that if you do not have surgery right now…right now… to remove the fetus – which is still alive – you will die.  You will die.

Under a passed “personhood” measure it would be a criminal act to remove a still living fetus from this woman’s fallopian tube, despite the fact that it cannot survive much beyond its current gestational age.  Despite the fact that allowing the fetus to remain inside of the mother…will kill her, and quickly, unless surgical intervention happens immediately to terminate the fetus’ life and repair the damage it has inadvertently caused.

  • Will any doctor perform this surgery knowing it could implicate them for murder of the fetus?
  • If a physician does perform this surgery to save the life of the mother, what are the legal implications for the doctor? Murder charges?
  • If a doctor is willing to perform this surgery to save the life of the mother upon her or her husband’s request, what are the legal implications for that mother/father?  Murder charges?
  • If this type of measure passes, it virtually ensures that the life of any woman confronted with an ectopic pregnancy will  either die as her doctor and her loved ones stand and watch, or risk being charged with a criminal act in the “murder” of her fetus in an effort to save her own life.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is currently the leading cause of pregnancy-related death during the first trimester in the United States, accounting for 9% of all pregnancy-related deaths. In addition to the immediate morbidity caused by ectopic pregnancy, the woman’s future ability to reproduce may be adversely affected as well.

********************

Rape:

Your beautiful, baby girl…the literal light of your life since her birth, is going away to college.  You can’t believe time has passed so quickly.  How can it be?  You’re so proud of her.  She is everything you’d hoped she would be: beautiful, intelligent, caring, courageous, determined.  You have such profound love for her, and the promise of an infinitely bright future for her causes tears to well up in your eyes as you wave goodbye to each other and she begins her adult life.  You are worried for her safety, of course.  There are bad people in the world.  You’ve seen them and dealt with them, but she’s only heard of them.  You’re her father and you’ve tried to teach her well, to give her all that she needs to make good choices.  Now all you can do is trust that with luck and her intrinsic values firmly in place she will flourish.

Months later you receive a call from the college campus police in the middle of the night.  It’s your worst fear come to light.  As you and your wife sit up in bed you audibly pray that she is still alive.  She is.  She’s alive.  But she’s been raped.

You drive the few hours to the hospital in her college town, hearts screaming all the way.  Screaming for what she has just endured.  It is impossible to comprehend the violation of your daughter that has taken place.  Anger seethes from both of you between wrenching sobs.

You finally arrive.  You run through the hospital corridors until you reach your daughter’s room.  She is there, lying on a bed in a hospital robe.  She is motionless until she sees both of you, and then she silently begins crying and reaches for you.

She is too embarrassed and in shock to recount for you what happened, so the police officer does it for you: It was a fairly common scenario, the officer said.  She had been to a party with some newly made friends.  It was a fun night.  She met a guy, and they talked for a long time.  She was drinking, right along with everyone else.  She was drunk, but did not black out or pass out.  She liked this guy, and he seemed to like her.  He asked her to leave with him so they could go someplace and be alone to talk in private.  She felt fine about this, because this guy was a friend of one of her new friends…she trusted him because of this.  So she said yes.

He took her to his dorm room.  She did not feel threatened.  Yet.  They kissed some, and then she told him she needed to leave but hoped he would call her soon.  He said he didn’t want her to leave, that she should stay.  She smiled and said no.  He kissed her and asked her again to stay.  She smiled and said no, again.  He then became aggressive, holding her down on the couch, telling her how much he liked her, kissing her.  She was scared now, and tried pushing him off telling him no, but she was no physical match for him.

He did not listen.  He forcibly laid on top of her, kissing her and covering her mouth so she couldn’t scream for help.  He pulled her pants off, and raped her.

Under a passed “personhood” measure it would be a criminal act for your daughter to take RU486 (mifepristone + a prostaglandin 48 hours later), the so-called “abortion pill” or “morning after pill” – should she become pregnant as a result of her rape.  These drugs are no picnic.  In extremely simple terms if it works correctly, these pills taken before 9 weeks of gestation, block the production of progesterone, and progesterone is needed to keep a pregnancy viable.    In most cases, it causes moderate to severe cramping and the eventual expulsion of all products of conception within several hours to a few days.  Bleeding can last from 8-10 days.   Because this measure deems a fertilized egg a “person” under the law, with all the rights and protections of the mother herself, this drug would not be an option to her to terminate a pregnancy, even before a pregnancy were medically detectable…which is roughly at around two-weeks post-conception.

Under this “personhood” measure, your daughter, should she become pregnant from this non-consensual violation, from this rape, would be forced to carry the baby to term.  That would be her only legal option.


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IVF:  “Test-Tube” Babies

You are a woman who has met the man of your dreams.  He is wonderful in every way, except maybe a few ways, and you can overlook those things because in a very short amount of time you come to realize you cannot live without him. And as destiny would have it, he feels the same way about you.  You’re in love with each other, spend every waking minute with each other, tell each other your hopes and dreams and without even needing to say it out loud, you know you’re going to get married and spend the rest of your lives together.  He asks you to marry him on bended knee…like something out of a fairy tale, and you can’t say yes fast enough.   You’re in love, and you marry each other.  You’re in love, and soon after you decide that you want to have a baby.

You’re so eager to begin this process because, well, making babies is a lot of fun.  You’re in love and so the making-the-baby part comes easily to you, naturally…and often.  It is wonderful and romantic and exciting…because you’ll be pregnant soon with a baby that is the proof of the love the two of you share.

Only now, slam on the breaks…hard...until you come to a screeching, grinding halt with the smoke of burned rubber all around you, choking you.

Because for the two of you this will not work.  Weeks and months and months go by…a year, more than a year… and you are not pregnant.  Something is very wrong.  The way nature intended for you to become pregnant is not working.

Kill the romantic music.  Kill the scented candles enhancing the mood.  Just…stop.

**********

Cue instead stirrups, and speculums and blood tests and ultrasounds and more blood tests and questions about the most intimate aspects of your life, and mood/body-altering injectable drugs, and painful testing and shame and feelings of inadequacy and jealousy, and timed intercourse (down to the hour) or doctor ordered abstinence, and surgeries and procedures…and if at the end of that you are still not pregnant, take a very deep breath and start it all…over…again…next month.

This is ART:  Assisted Reproductive Technology.  But most people lump all ART into the more recognizable acronym, IVF: In-Vitro Fertilization.

This topic is intensely personal for me.   I had eight miscarriages in six years.  I went through three IVF procedures to achieve two of those pregnancies, both of which ended in missed abortions – otherwise known as miscarriages.  (I will not go in-depth into my personal situation here because I write about it in some detail in this post regarding why I’m pro-choice.)

In short, IVF procedures begin with the woman giving herself injectable hormones to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs from each of them.  During normal, unaided ovulation a woman produces one mature egg from one ovary.  Sometimes one from each ovary, which can result in twins… rarely three or four or more.  With IVF and injectable hormones, a woman can produce 5, 6, 10, 15, 20 mature eggs in a single cycle.

When the RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) determines that the majority of the eggs are fully matured, you’re scheduled for egg retrieval.  You are put-under, and all the mature eggs are surgically removed.  The eggs are immediately put into petri-dishes (not test-tubes), and the man’s sperm are added to the mix so that fertilization can take place.  For the next several days technicians monitor the progress of fertilization.

Let’s say in our couple above, 15 eggs are retrieved from the woman but only 10 fertilize.  They will now monitor those fertilized eggs for quality and they are “graded” on their development.

There is a fairly standard rate at which cells divide in fertilized eggs.  By Day 3, the average number of cells in the embryo is 8.  8 cells. The first report the woman will get is usually on Day 3 post egg retrieval/fertilization, and most transfers of the embryo back into the uterus happen on Day 3, sometimes Day 5 (by Day 5 they are now called blastocysts with too many individual cells to count…trying not to get too technical here), but usually on Day 3.

All the while the woman must continue injecting hormones into her body to keep her uterus receptive for implantation of the embryos.  It is an arduous, painful, and emotionally taxing process.

Believe me.

So let’s say of the 10 embryos which fertilized, only 4 were graded as developing very well and are the appropriate number of cells for their maturation.  It is now go-time, and at a moment’s notice.  Depending on the age of the woman and a host of other very personal factors, the woman must decide upon the number of embryos to be transferred back into her uterus for hopeful implantation and a successful pregnancy.

The goal is NOT an Octo-Mom situation.  The goal is never multiples.  The goal is always to have one successful implantation with a live, singleton birth.  But again depending on age (which aids in determining the overall quality of her eggs to begin with) and the visual quality of the embryos, it is sometimes decided that multiple embryos be transferred to the uterus because:  usually not all embryos implant.  The idea being that of the four good-quality embryos, you’re often very, very lucky if just one “takes”.  Sometimes, however, all of them do (Hello, Octo-Mom!  Another discussion for another day).

However in this scenario, let’s assume the woman decides only two embryos should be transferred to avoid the very precarious scenario of high-order multiples (triplets or more), with the hope that at least one of them implants and pregnancy ensues.

Now stay with me here… she will transfer the 2 high-quality embryos to her uterus, has 2 other high-quality embryos which she is not transferring, and 6 poorer-quality embryos which will not be transferred at all.  That leaves a total of 8 embryos with no uterus to call home.

These are human embryos.  Most people do not dispute this fact.  They aren’t goats or monkeys, they’re human.  They are humans at their most elemental and basic of forms – literally.  8 cells seen under a microscope.  This embryo has no human shape, no recognizable features, no tell-tale humanness about it at all.  8 cells.  However, and I do not disagree with the pro-life movement on this point, they are no less “human”.  We all start out this way.

I ask you: what should the woman above who so desperately longs for a child, do with the 8 human embryos that she is not going to transfer?

If “personhood” amendments pass – anywhere –  the consequences for those seeking infertility treatments is profound.

The “personhood amendment” is seeking to assign the same constitutional rights to the 8-celled embryo as you and I have.  Its passage would mean that women/couples enduring the arduous, horribly expensive (and not covered under most insurance plans) procedures aimed at ultimately helping them to have a child, would have to decide upon the following choices for their 8 remaining 8-celled embryos:

  • Transfer all of them at one time: risking the extreme of high-order multiples, which involves immediate and prolonged risk to the health and well-being of the mother and all babies.
  • Indefinitely cryo-freeze the remaining 8 embryos so they can be transferred to the woman at a later date, whether the woman want more children or not, and which involves significant cost and legality.
  • What happens if you cryo-freeze the embryos but you and your husband die?  What happens to those embryos?  Who retains custody of them?  Do you have any say whether or not those embryos can be used to create a pregnancy ten, twenty, 100 years from now?
  • Donate the remaining embryos to couples who are unable to produce embryos of their own, even using all forms of ART.  Essentially – mandating you put your embryos up for adoption.
  • Go through lengthy, emotionally and physically painful processes over and over and over again, but creating only one embryo to be transferred, putting the collective odds at a woman’s successful pregnancy at nearly “none”.
  • The option to discard embryos not transferred or determined to be of poor quality and thus unlikely to result in a healthy pregnancy is…not an option.  To do so would be criminal…murder.

Now most pro-life supporters, and supporters of proposed amendments like these everywhere in the country will say, “So.  So what?  That 8-celled embryo is a PERSON.  If you discard it, or refuse to freeze it indefinitely, or refuse to give it up for adoption and instead let it “die”, it is MURDER.

To them, if you let any of the 8-celled embryos die, it is the same as killing any person you see before you every day.

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These are just THREE of the hundreds of intensely complicated and personal scenarios the “personhood” amendments are trying to encompass in one neat, tidy and disgustingly invasive movement.

Here are a few more:

  • If a newly fertilized, two-celled embryo is a “person” with every constitutional right that you and I have, can you claim them on your taxes as dependents?  If you file your taxes while pregnant, but before you KNOW you’re pregnant, can you petition the government to re-file taxes to claim that unborn dependent?
  • If you go through IVF treatments and produced multiple embryos that you will not use, and to avoid murder charges you opt to freeze them indefinitely, and the cryo-freezing storage facility loses power and all embryos die…can the proprietors of that facility be penalized and charged with murder?
  • This movement also seeks to govern and in some instances make some forms of birth control illegal.  What if you’re on The Pill to avoid pregnancy, but you become pregnant anyway…only you don’t know it.  You continue to take The Pill, and that continuation actually facilitates a miscarriage.  Can you be penalized for murder in that scenario?  Can the manufacturer of The Pill be penalized?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It is here where I must take a long……… deep………….. slow……………… breath.

It is hard to wrap my head around the staggering audacity of the proponents of this “personhood” movement.

Who are these people who so callously and with faux-Godliness dictate the terms and actions and decisions of a woman’s life – all in the name of their religious beliefs?  Who ARE these people?

If you’re one of them…who are YOU?   Who exactly do you think you ARE??

What if it was you or your daughter or sister who would die unless her pregnancy was terminated?

What if it was you or your daughter who was raped and became pregnant and was forced to bear that child?

What if it was you or your daughter who wanted so desperately to have a child but could not move forward with infertility treatments for fear of being prosecuted for the murder of her embryos?

What the pro-life/personhood movement will never, ever, ever understand or accept…is that their religious beliefs do not transcend mine, and therefore they should never be allowed to impose their will on a single, solitary woman who is not willing to subjugate themselves to it.  They will never see the woman as separate from the embryo, fetus, baby.  They will never do that.

They espouse their goal as singular;  to save an unborn life at any cost.

However, I suspect their collective goal is much more far-reaching than that.  I believe in their eyes they are taking on the role of prophets, saviors, God’s army.  And they want something in return for it.

For their sanctimonious avenging in the name of the unborn they hope to save, I believe they want no less than total absolution from God himself.  And from where I sit, knowing as much about God’s determining factors for absolution as they do – which is nothing – I don’t think they’ll get it.

These people don’t fool me.  And they don’t fool the majority of women, or men, in this country.

They want to take women and make them instruments of their ideology, ignoring the fact that life is imperfect and complicated.

The push-back to the “personhood” movement is growing stronger every day.

If just one of these measures passes, anywhere, push-back will be an understatement.

The majority of women in this country, aided by their doctors and friends and family and clergy, are perfectly willing and capable of making the best decisions possible with regards to their own bodies and what grows from them.

We as women make these intensely personal decisions of our own free-will.  We are good people who may find ourselves in extremely difficult circumstances, trying to make the best choices we can considering all factors involved.

And I’ll bet you with everything I’ve got – that any version of any God – is well aware of that.

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