book reviews, celebrities, healthcare, mental health

Repost: My review of Brooke Shields’ Down Came the Rain…

One last repost before I hang up my blogging efforts for the day. This is a book review I wrote for Epinions.com in October 2006. I am posting it as/is.

Having come of age in the 1980s, I have always been very familiar with Brooke Shields’ work as an actress. Brooke Shields has always appeared to be a woman who has it all… looks, brains, money, a successful and apparently fulfilling career, and at last, just a few years ago, she seemed to have found love in her second husband, Chris Henchy. The one thing that was missing was a baby.

Shields was having trouble getting pregnant. She had once had cervical surgery to remove precancerous cells and the surgery had left her cervix shortened and scarred. As a result, in order to have a child of their own, Shields and her husband had to undergo in vitro fertilization. Shields got pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage that was so emotionally painful that she almost decided to give up on her dream of being a mother.

But Brooke Shields found that she couldn’t forget about having a baby. She underwent IVF again and got pregnant, and this time it stuck. Nine months later in May 2003, Brooke Shields and her husband, Chris Henchy, became the proud parents of Rowan Francis. And then, Brooke Shields found herself holding a ticket into the hell of postpartum depression. That hell is what prompted her to write her 2004 book, Down Came The Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression.

I read this book partly because my husband, Bill, and I have been trying to have a baby. Like Brooke Shields and her husband, we have some issues that may prevent us from conceiving naturally. I also have a strong biological history of major depression, so I may be at risk of postpartum depression if I do have a baby. Also, I found this book used and dirt cheap at Fort Belvoir’s thrift shop. I doubt I would have thought to buy this book at its full price or even borrow it at a library, but I am glad I read it. It turns out Brooke Shields is a pretty good writer and her topic is both timely and relevant to a lot of new parents.

Down Came The Rain is not an autobiography of Brooke Shields’ life, although it does include some information about her family. The information is personal, but it also has something to do with Shields’ state of mind and stress level as she embarked on her quest to become a mother. First off, Shields and her first husband, Andre Agassi, were divorced after two years of marriage. Shields doesn’t write much about their time together, except to explain that they had both wanted children, but the opportunity had never presented itself. Not long after the split with Agassi, Shields met and subsequently married Chris Henchy. Then, Shields’ father became very ill with prostate cancer. He died just three weeks before Rowan Francis was born. All the while, Shields was also dealing with insecurity about her future in show business. She had taken time off for her pregnancy and Rowan’s birth.  

Divorce, remarriage, fertility issues, childbirth, career issues, and the loss of a parent are all extremely stressful events on their own. With all of those issues combined together, it must have been almost impossible for Brooke Shields to function. Shields also had serious medical trouble during the birth of her daughter. The child had to be delivered by Cesarean section; the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. Shields’ uterus had herniated and she almost had to have a hysterectomy. Somehow, Shields and her baby survived the birthing process intact. Shields was left to recover from major surgery as she became acquainted with her baby daughter and the huge role of being a parent.

To be sure, I could empathize a bit with Brooke Shields. She’s a human being and certainly not immune to human problems like postpartum depression. Shields initially didn’t want to go on Paxil, the antidepressant that helped her get through her ordeal with postpartum depression. She didn’t like the connotations that she needed a drug to help her with her moods. I can identify with that sentiment. When I had depression, I didn’t want to take a drug to feel better, either. I liked to think I could will myself to feel normal. Once I found the right antidepressant, it became enormously clear to me that clinical depression is a very real biological problem that affects the whole body. Brooke Shields also came to that conclusion. She started to feel better and was able to function with the help of antidepressants. Like me, she became a believer in the drugs’ efficacy, despite her very famous public feud with Tom Cruise about their usefulness.  

I applaud Brooke Shields for writing this book about her very personal and painful experiences with the hell of depression and her success using antidepressants. I think it’s always helpful when people talk about personal experiences with mental illness because it helps reduce the lingering stigma. I also like the fact that Shields apparently no longer feels ashamed of her use of antidepressants. Too many people don’t seek medical help for depression because they fear becoming “hooked on happy pills”. As someone who has experienced depression and has taken antidepressants, I can affirm that the pills never made me feel “happy”. Indeed, they made me feel normal, which was a huge improvement over feeling hopeless and suicidal. 

On the other hand, as I was reading Down Came The Rain, it was very clear to me that Brooke Shields has advantages that most women don’t have. For one thing, she hired a baby nurse to help her as she was getting over her postpartum depression. Although Shields makes it clear that the nurse was temporary and she had no intention of handing over the job of raising Rowan to hired help, most women don’t have the financial resources to hire baby nurses when they suffer from postpartum depression. In fact, far too many women can’t even afford to take the antidepressants that Shields took as she suffered with postpartum depression. And it also occurred to me that some who read this book may even feel somewhat bitter about the fact that Shields was able to afford several rounds of IVF, too. That’s a procedure that is well beyond the budgets of many Americans.  

Clearly, with her financial resources, Brooke Shields can afford solutions that are well above the grasp of many women. I don’t mean to imply that Brooke Shields wasn’t right to use whatever means necessary to get past her postpartum depression; I just think that some women might resent the fact that they don’t have access to the resources that Shields does. Shields explains what she did to get over the depression, but she doesn’t offer solutions for ordinary women who can’t afford to hire baby nurses or seek out sophisticated medical help.  

Also, it’s important to know that Down Came The Rain is not the story of Brooke Shields’ life. This is strictly an account of her experiences with postpartum depression. She explains what the depression felt like, how it affected the people around her, and what she did to get over it, but that’s about it. If you’re looking for a whole lot of insight about Brooke Shields’ life outside of her experiences with postpartum depression, you might be left disappointed. There is no photo section, although there is a small picture of Brooke Shields and Rowan on the inside of the book cover.  

All in all, I think Down Came The Rain is a good personal account of the phenomenon of postpartum depression. And if after reading this book you’re left wanting to learn more about postpartum depression, Shields includes a reading list and addresses to reputable Web sites that offer information about the disorder. I think Brooke Shields has written a valuable book that will help a lot of people who are caught in the throes of postpartum depression, whether they be new mothers or the people who love them. What’s more, Shields’ story ultimately has a happy ending, since she has gone on to become a mother again. On April 18, 2006, Shields and Henchy became parents again to daughter, Grier Hammond… ironically, on the very same day, and in the same hospital, where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had their baby girl, Suri.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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controversies, ethics, healthcare, law, sex, sexism, slut shamers

The vast majority of “pro-life males” make me want to hurl!

Ah abortion… yet another topic I am tired of thinking and writing about these days. And yet, it’s a topic I can’t escape, because so many people are posting and talking about the abortion issue, since the Supreme Court is considering overturning Roe v Wade. There have been so many articles written about this subject. If one pays attention to the Internet, as I do on a daily basis, it’s impossible to ignore the headlines. I suppose I could practice some self-control and not read some of this stuff, in the interest of controlling my blood pressure. But anyone who reads my blog, knows that self-control isn’t always one of my fortes.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past few weeks, is that when I read the comment sections on anything having to do with abortion, I inevitably run into the stereotypical “pro-life male” commenter. That’s a man who feels compelled to self-righteously “mansplain” to women why they think women should be forced to maintain an unintended pregnancy. They usually use loaded words and phrases like “murder”, “sanctity of life”, and “kill”, and they whine about hypothetical taxpayer funded abortions, which is NOT a thing. The Hyde Amendment of 1976– that’s 46 years ago, folks– makes public funding of abortions against federal law. But I still see comments from dumbassed “pro-life males” about how they don’t want to pay for abortions with their tax dollars.

“Pro-life males” usually take on an air of disgust, as they sanctimoniously preach about “protecting the most vulnerable”, shaming anyone who dares to question whether or not a gestating human has the right to privacy, autonomy, or self-determination. They loftily opine about how “irresponsible” and “cruel” pro-choice people are. How can a “decent” person not want to “protect the most vulnerable”? “A developing fetus can’t defend itself”, they reason; therefore, it’s up to these high and mighty males to be the white knight for these unknown beings!

I would like to know, where are these guys when those babies are born? I never see these “white knights” talking about continuing their valiant fights, “protecting the most vulnerable and innocent” by offering to pay for their care or, supporting their mothers, or even babysitting them! I’d like to ask some of them how many special needs children they’ve adopted. Hell, I’d like to ask them how many dirty diapers they’ve changed… and how many times they’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to breastfeed a crying infant. I’d like to ask them if they’ve experienced any permanent changes to their bodies and bank accounts after a baby has been born. I think we all know the answer to those questions, don’t we?

I often get queasy when I stumble across “pro-life males'” holier-than-thou screeds, which NEVER address anything more than “protecting” a developing embryo’s or fetus’s “right to life”. They never want to talk about anything other than that barest of minimums of “protecting babies”… maintaining the precious embryonic heartbeat. They don’t address whether or not the pregnant person should be granted some assistance of any kind. To read their words or hear them speak, it’s always the woman’s fault for being “slutty” and “getting herself pregnant”. I can’t remember ever reading any comments from these guys concerning providing women and children access to affordable and high quality healthcare, housing, food and medicine, child care, or education. I never see them mentioning anything about the responsibility society has toward the so-called “vulnerable and innocent” babies whose mothers were forced to give birth to them. Usually, these guys just want to lament about the “irresponsible” women and how much people who need welfare disgust them for being “lazy”.

From what I’ve seen, most “pro-life” guys just smugly want to focus on maintaining, at all costs, the heartbeat of the developing embryo, the pregnant woman’s circumstances be damned! And then, when that embryo eventually turns into, hopefully, a healthy baby, they no longer give a shit about the baby’s welfare. They never cared about the woman’s welfare, so now there are two people who are left to figure out how to get through life with so much stacked against them.

Pro-life males never seem interested in contributing money to make sure the developing fetuses are getting the best chance at starting off life on the right path. They have nothing to say about how “cruel” it is for a developing embryo or fetus to be growing inside a pregnant woman who can’t or won’t take care of her health. I never see them concerned about pregnant women’s access to competent medical care, making sure that those developing fetuses don’t suffer because their mothers aren’t healthy. In fact, most of these guys seem to lack any charitable thoughts whatsoever toward anyone but the voiceless potential babies being carried by perfect strangers. They only have negative words for them. And they usually get decidedly pissy when women tell them they shouldn’t get a say about forcing someone else to be pregnant.

God forbid anyone encourage them to do their parts in preventing unplanned pregnancies, either. They bristle at being advised to use condoms, get vasectomies, or– perish the thought— simply keeping their dicks in their pants! To hear them speak, or read their comments, one comes away with the idea that preventing pregnancy is solely up to the females. They are almost always solely focused on the so-called “trampy females” who lack self-control and have extramarital sex for “fun”. Never mind that it’s usually the men who are demanding sex or, in some sad cases, forcing women to engage in it. Never mind that sometimes, women seek abortions for reasons that are very personal or even tragic. Their narrative is that women who consider abortions are always irresponsible, selfish, and out of control.

Below are a few examples of the so-called “pro-life male”. Notice the underlying hostility, misogyny, and disgust… Poor guys. You’d think that a woman’s right to choose is a personal affront to them! “Josh” had several comments on this subject. It really seems to cause him serious butthurt that women still have the option to choose… at least for now.

Having a penis doesn’t mean you don’t get to voice your opinion. Must have missed that in the constitution, the right to murder the most vulnerable.

Abortion is the killing of another person for convenience.

A woman pointed out to “Josh” that murder is not the right term for abortion. “Josh” then proceeds to whine some more.

Anyone who wants to kill babies and let “facilities” profit from selling their organs is sick. You’d think a bunch of veterans (who were lucky enough to not be aborted) would stick up for the ones who cannot defend themselves. Men need to have a say in it, to protect the babies, especially the ones responsible for the baby.

I don’t need a uterus to be a woman these days. That being said, abortion is murder.

I could probably spend all day finding more puke-inducing shaming comments like these, almost unilaterally from males who refuse to understand why a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy is none of their goddamned business. So often, I’m tempted to respond to these guys, but I know it’s a lost cause. Because they just don’t want to get it. They can’t see how having children permanently changes a woman’s life.

Yes, there are MANY women who are delighted to become mothers. But becoming a mother comes with huge costs… and so few of these “pro-life males” seem to care about that. I never see them offering to support women who are pregnant and need help. They very rarely express compassion, empathy, or kindness. It’s all about how the woman who has an abortion is a “murderer”. And then, they seem to think she should be sent to rot in prison. Gee… that’s good for society, isn’t it? Taking a woman out of the workforce to waste her life sitting behind bars. Especially if the woman has other children who need her. Those other kids are better off in foster care, right? /sarcasm

I have never cheered for abortion. I certainly don’t think it’s the ideal solution. I would prefer that people who don’t want to be pregnant simply avoid getting pregnant. However, I also don’t think I have the right to dictate to someone else what they should or should not be doing with their bodies. Of course I would prefer that unintended pregnancies due to “irresponsible behavior” didn’t happen. I would also prefer that women were never raped, have severe health issues, abandoned by the men who impregnated them, or experienced any of the other negative situations that would lead them to consider abortion.

I determined long ago that the circumstances surrounding how and why someone gets pregnant, and why they might want to terminate a pregnancy, is none of my business. Abortion is healthcare, and it should be private. I don’t need to know why “Josh” in the above comment might need to have his prostate removed someday, even if it means he can no longer pleasure the hypothetical woman (or man) in his life. What’s important is that he might need to have his prostate removed for health reasons that are not my business. The same thing goes for an already born woman who decides that she needs to have an abortion. It’s her health on the line. Her health and well-being should always come before that of a potential human’s taking up residence in her womb. After all, if she’s not healthy, neither will be the developing fetus.

I know that I have no right to tell someone abortion is only okay under certain circumstances. It’s true that developing fetuses have nothing to do with the circumstances of how or why they exist. They are “innocent”. But if abortion is truly “murder”, then how can there ever be a situation in which murder is “okay”? I would say abortion is less murder than “self-defense”. The woman is defending herself against negative outcomes of being pregnant, which can include everything from financial difficulties, to poorer health, to being forced to maintain a relationship with an abuser, to death itself. I never see these insufferable “pro-life males”, who lecture everyone about the “sanctity of life”, offering any solutions for the women who find themselves in difficult or impossible situations caused by pregnancy. Instead, they want to dehumanize the women by labeling them, criticizing their choices, and refusing to offer any help to them whatsoever. They can’t even spare a kind word of encouragement or understanding. It’s just non-stop slut shaming and willful ignorance about the conditions would drive someone to terminate a pregnancy.

I don’t think most of the “pro-life males” give a rat’s patootie about “saving babies”. The vast majority of them, from what I can tell, vote Republican. Besides forcing women to birth, they are also for gun rights and cutting welfare benefits. They don’t agree with healthcare for everyone. They don’t want to pay higher taxes so that vulnerable people can get a better quality of life. I never hear these guys talk about helping babies and children with special needs, who may or may not grow up to be adults with special needs. There’s nary a peep about making sure that the babies, born to the women who aren’t prepared to be mothers, are loved and cared for, so that they can get the best start in their lives. Nope. It’s all about blaming the woman– the woman, who CAN’T get pregnant without the man’s input, and will have to deal with just about everything that comes with making babies.

“Pro-life males” don’t seem to consider that their part of literal babymaking only lasts for a couple of minutes. Instead, they whine about having to pay child support or not getting a say as to whether or not a pregnancy continues. Or they equate paying a couple hundred bucks a month in child support to a 50/50 contribution. I wonder if those guys would take a job gestating a baby, especially since at this writing, the other parent isn’t legally compelled to offer any support to the pregnant woman. I wonder if, after the baby is born, those “pro-life males” would take a couple hundred bucks a month to raise the baby… if raising a child was just about dollars and cents, that is. My guess is that most of them would not be happy with that pay scale, especially since it also potentially means fewer job opportunities and promotions.

How is it that in 2022, we still have so many clueless, sexist, mansplaining, slut shaming, men in the world who have no concept of why so many women see abortion as a human right? Why do so many men not realize that there’s a huge price to be paid for making women gestate babies they don’t want? How come so many of them forget that every woman was once a developing fetus– something that they claim they want to “protect” at all costs? Why don’t they care more about people who have already been born and are struggling? Why are they so focused on everyone but the person doing the actual work?

I have never met anyone who is “pro-abortion”. Almost every case I’ve heard of involving abortion has been about someone making a very difficult decision. It’s a decision that doesn’t require mean comments from guys like “Josh”, who will NEVER be in that situation himself. What Josh and his ilk should do, is take a moment to muster some empathy. Any man who labels women as “murderers” for looking out for themselves– just as most men do– should never request sexual gratification from a woman. I hope Josh is a virgin. I hope he STAYS a virgin. Clearly, he’s not mature enough to handle the realities of what can happen when people have sex.

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healthcare, law, politics, poor judgment

Roe v. Wade may soon be a thing of the past…

It may come as a surprise to a lot of people who take the time to read my blog posts, but in the wake of the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade, I find myself strangely numb. I’ve been writing about my thoughts and opinions about the importance of abortion rights for ages, and some of my posts on the subject have been pretty impassioned. I don’t have much to add to my opinions on abortion at this point. All I can do now is offer some observations.

Even though I’ve been on vacation, and we’re headed home today, I have been paying attention to comments made on overturning Roe v. Wade. I think many of the pro-life crowd are shortsighted, at best. Many of them are appallingly ill informed about women’s reproductive systems. Too many people are fixated on the financial aspects of child raising. For instance, I’ve seen a lot of people commenting about how much fairer it will be when women aren’t allowed to choose abortion. One woman poster wrote about how “unfair” it is that a woman can either choose to continue a pregnancy and force men to pay child support, or have an abortion, and deny the man a chance to be a father. Once again, all I can do is shake my head at the idiocy… Does this woman really think that pregnancy is a 50/50 deal?

And I’ve seen a lot of comments from men about “beautiful babies” being slaughtered by irresponsible women who “let themselves get pregnant”. As if they had NOTHING to do with her condition, whatsoever! And so many of them seem to think that women, alone, should be dealing with contraception. I don’t know about other women, but it’s been my observation that more often than not, men are the ones who want to have sex. Many women enjoy sex, but some of them merely tolerate it. And some people, myself included, would be fine with never having sex again.

It would really serve some of these “rights denying” men right if women decided to have a sex strike. I mean, those of us who don’t care about having sex that much. Why not just stop obliging the men? They are so concerned about the sanctity of life, the fairness of child support, the plight of developing fetuses, no matter the condition of the already born mother whose body has been taken up residence in… Why not do the responsible thing and just stop having sex with them? It would serve some of these assholes right, in my opinion.

But it will probably never happen…

I am so grateful that the women before me fought for my right to choose. I have never been pregnant myself, and I doubt I would have chosen to have an abortion if I had gotten pregnant. However, I can’t say that for sure. I’m glad that women before me were brave enough to push for my right to have an abortion if it suited me. And now that it looks like Roe v. Wade could soon be history… I will do what I can for the women coming after my generation. At the same time, I am very relieved that I never had children of my own, even though I always wanted them. The world is becoming too fucked up to believe. And I am glad that I will be 50 in a few weeks, which means that I won’t be caught in the crossfire of this horrendous decision that will likely be made by our Supreme Court this summer.

I keep seeing comments, mostly from men, about the “brutality” of abortion. Funny how they have so little to say when I bring up how very unprepared for pregnancy and motherhood a 12 or 13 year old girl is, after she’s been raped or molested. Funny how they are silent when I tell them I’m a lot more concerned about the already born six year olds whose bodies are torn apart by bullets as they sit in classrooms and churches. Yes, abortion is brutal, but at least developing embryos never know what hit them. They aren’t spending their last seconds of life in terror as some gun toting nut blows them away when all they’re trying to do is learn the alphabet.

Now… with that being said, I guess it’s time to pack up and head back to Germany. We’ve had a great vacation, and I’m ready to write about it… and maybe that will give someone a distraction from the scary news that generates daily. I know a lot of ignorant people think that banning abortion is a great thing. But this decision will cause a lot of people to die. Women will get abortions if they want or need them. All banning abortion does is make the procedure less safe and, maybe, fill up our prison system even more.

But arguing about it, crying over it, or worrying seems to be pointless, now. There’s nothing much more I can do, other than continue to write my opinions… and my opinions seem to match those of most of the American population… the ones who aren’t hamstrung by backwards religious beliefs and power-hungry and racist political ideals that are more about control and money grabbing than anything else.

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complaints, healthcare, politicians, politics, rants

News flash! 100 percent of unintended pregnancies are caused by men…

Hello again, folks. Bill and I are now on our third day in Florence. Tonight, our wine tour begins, which I suspect is going to be quite the adventure. It runs from dinner tonight, through tomorrow in Cortona, and then most of Sunday. We’ll come back to Florence for one more night, then head to Vaduz, Liechtenstein, for two nights to relax until it’s time to go home to Germany. I’m already annoyed today, though, because my backup bank’s stupid two party authorization system is worthless and ineffective, and I’m going to have to call them AGAIN later to get it straightened out. I can’t log in to my account, because they don’t want to send a text to my German phone number, and for some reason, my fingerprint and/or email don’t suffice. As much bitching as I’ve recently done about USAA, at least they will email me a code so I can access my money. Americans abroad really need a decent bank that will work with us. Local banks don’t want to deal with Americans because of our tax laws.

Anyway, enough about off topic subjects. I came here to vent, once again, about certain men who want to take on Democratic politicians like Amy Klobuchar, who are dedicated to preserving women’s rights to privacy and healthcare by fighting against draconian rules intended to force them to birth when they don’t want to. Yesterday, Ms. Klobuchar posted a couple of statuses about her work in blocking Republicans from abolishing access to abortion. Below are two posts she made about this subject that is near and dear to my heart… and uterus.

Naturally, there were many comments from men about this, as well as a few from anti-choice females who want to “slut shame” and harass people who would like the government to stay out of our uteri. It always amazes me when I see comments from men who think that the prospect of making humans is a 50/50 proposition. It’s really not. I mean, do men really think that their part in making babies is equal? A man’s part in fertilizing an egg takes a couple of minutes. The woman’s part takes nine months. Moreover, a man can go out and get a different woman pregnant every day, if the opportunity arises and it’s something he wants to do. A woman, once she’s pregnant, is going to literally be “occupied” until the developing fetus turns into a baby. But based on the comments on Amy Klobuchar’s Facebook page, some men have either not considered the “heavy lifting” aspect of babymaking, or they are choosing to ignore it. So I’m here to remind the willfully ignorant, once again… 100 percent of unintended pregnancies are caused by men.

Face the facts. No matter how “loose” and “trampy” a woman is– not that I like to use those terms myself– she CAN’T get pregnant without a man’s literal input. And it doesn’t actually matter if she “wanted it”, or the input was forced upon her. If a man’s sperm fertilizes a ripe egg at the right time of the month, the woman will get pregnant. If not, then the woman won’t get pregnant. It’s as simple as that. But, even though pregnancy is not possible without a man’s input, his part of babymaking is pretty small. After he does his part, his body will stay the same. He won’t suffer health problems, be inconvenienced or uncomfortable, or be forced out of work. And, quite often, after the baby is born, he won’t be the one who does the primary caregiving. He certainly won’t be breastfeeding, unless he’s trans.

Even though these are facts, though, some men just can’t help themselves and feel the need to respond with outrage about abortion. And for some of them, it’s not even because they are “outraged” over the loss of potential human life that comes with abortion. They are upset because the woman gets to make a choice “denied” to them. In other words, they resent having to pay child support if the woman decides to maintain an unintended pregnancy. And they also resent that a woman can choose to terminate a pregnancy without the man’s consent.

To those men, I would like to say… you and your ilk can make plenty of choices that will help you avoid this scenario. You can use a condom when you have sex with a woman with whom you don’t want to make a baby. Condoms are pretty damned effective at preventing pregnancies. If you don’t want children at all, you can get a vasectomy. Personally, I’m not a fan of vasectomies, but I understand that they are a great option for men who want them. Or– here’s a novel idea– you can opt to keep your dick in your pants! You can use a blow up doll or “rosey” to satisfy your sexual needs. A blow up doll can’t get pregnant, so you don’t have to worry about child support. Ditto to using your hairy palms. 😉

Listen to Sting and his mates in The Police. They can offer some great tips on how to make your life complete without those pesky unintended pregnancies caused by that thing hanging between your legs…

Another guy made a snarky comment that read “If only there was a way to stop unplanned pregnancies”. It was accompanied by a picture of three blind mice. Indeed… guys like him can easily do their part to stop abortions. They can opt not to have unprotected sex with a woman with whom they don’t want to make a baby. They can decide not to sexually assault or rape women. They can realize that they have choices before the pregnancy begins. Once the pregnancy begins, sorry guys, but it’s not your body, health, or livelihood on the line. And no, you should NOT get a say in whether or not a pregnancy continues. Especially when the pregnant person is a total stranger.

I really don’t understand why some men feel like having to pay child support, for a child that originated from a pregnancy they caused, is a huge imposition. Women don’t get pregnant by themselves. I think if men got pregnant or had to deal with periods, PMS, or menopause, they would have abortion clinics on every corner, coupled with sports bars and shooting ranges. Having to pay money every month to a woman who put her life, health, and livelihood on the line to bring their baby into the world is the least they can do.

Now… I do think that fathers should have equal say when the baby is outside of the womb. At that point, fathers can and should contribute equally to raising their children. But until that baby is born, it’s part of a woman’s body. The mother is the one who feels the baby dancing on her bladder at night. The woman is the one throwing up due to morning sickness, developing cankles, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids, putting herself at risk of pre-eclampsia, diabetes, and post-partum depression, abstaining from smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, and eating “risky” foods, and dealing with the trauma of having her nether regions or abdomen permanently changed after birth. It’s also the woman’s name on the medical bills, and the woman who has to deal with intrusive questions, unsolicited advice, and scrutiny from perfect strangers. Until that baby is born, the man’s contribution is a few minutes of fun… and if he’s a decent guy, maybe financial.

So, given all of that, I think it’s high time that more men trust women to do what’s right for their own bodies and healthcare. And I think that men, once again, should respect women’s rights to their own autonomy. Above all, men who don’t like abortions and don’t want to pay child support should stop having sex with women who can get pregnant or use effective birth control. Problem solved.

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healthcare, law

When a miscarriage during pregnancy leads to a miscarriage of justice…

Last night, as the evening was winding down, I noticed an op-ed in The New York Times about a young woman from Oklahoma named Brittney Poolaw. I have gifted the op-ed in the above link, so if you don’t have a subscription to the paper, you should be able to read it for free.

So who is Brittney Poolaw, and why should anyone care about her? According to Michelle Goldberg, author of the op-ed, Brittney Poolaw is a woman who is sitting in prison because she miscarried during her seventeenth week of pregnancy. At the time of her miscarriage, Poolaw was just 19 years old. She was at home when the miscarriage happened, and had presented herself for medical attention at Comanche County Memorial Hospital.

A police detective interviewed Ms. Poolaw after she admitted to hospital staff that she had used methamphetamines and marijuana during her pregnancy. The medical examiner who examined Brittney Poolaw’s fetus cited her drug use as contributing factors in the miscarriage. Also cited were a congenital abnormality and placental abruption.

Poolaw was arrested on a charge of first degree manslaughter. She didn’t have the money for the $20,000 bond, so she spent a year and a half in jail, awaiting her trial. The trial finally occurred this month, and jurors spent less than three hours deciding Brittney Poolaw’s fate. She was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison, even though an expert witness explained that Poolaw’s drug use might not have been the direct cause of the miscarriage.

I recently mentioned that I’ve been watching a lot of videos by Jessica Kent, a YouTube personality who has a lot of experience with being in jail and prison. Jessica has done time in several states, mainly because she is a recovering drug addict. She also had the unfortunate experience of giving birth while incarcerated. I have been studying prison reform independently for years, but Jessica Kent’s videos have really opened my eyes to just how unjust and inhumane the U.S. prison system is, particularly for people with drug addictions.

Jessica Kent was pregnant in prison. She’s also a recovering drug addict.
One of Jessica Kent’s videos about her experiences with pregnancy…

I know a lot of people would say that the answer is simple; just don’t do drugs. And I think that advice is easy to follow if you are fortunate enough to come from a supportive family, live in an area where there are many opportunities for work and socializing, have access and the ability to pay for healthcare, and have the will and the drive not to succumb to temptation or peer pressure.

In Poolaw’s case, simply being able to get to a doctor and, perhaps, having an abortion available to her might have prevented her from being imprisoned. According to Goldberg’s opinion piece, Poolaw told the detective that “when she found out she was pregnant she didn’t know if she wanted the baby or not. She said she wasn’t familiar with how or where to get an abortion.” Seems to me that it would have been kinder and better if Brittney could have either had an abortion, or had access to a physician and, perhaps, a social worker or other advocate while she was pregnant.

When I was studying social work, I did part of my internship with what was then called Healthy Families South Carolina. It was a program that was affiliated with Prevent Child Abuse America, and it was designed to help people like Brittney Poolaw maintain healthy pregnancies and get very young children off to a healthier start. Those who were enrolled in the program got home visit services from workers who would help them access healthcare and teach them about making safe and healthy decisions for their babies. These families got coaching from trained parent educators and, in fact, that made a noticeable difference in the outcomes for a lot of the clients. That was something I noted in the massive paper I wrote and presented for my MPH/MSW degrees. Wow… it just occurred to me that the babies I saw when I was finishing my degree are now adults! Time really flies!

Why didn’t someone direct Brittney Poolaw to a program like that? My guess is because she couldn’t access the healthcare system and never got a referral. What would have happened if she could have gotten to a doctor early in her pregnancy? Maybe she would have chosen to have an abortion, or maybe she would have had her baby. And maybe she would have been able to access support from people who are trained to work with young people with big problems. I know nothing about Brittney Poolaw or her past, but experience tells me that a lot of people who end up in her situation have had some pretty terrible traumas in their lives and experienced abuse.

I know a lot of people think that Brittney Poolaw deserves to be in prison for taking drugs while she was pregnant. But having worked with young people who are poor, disenfranchised, and lacking meaningful mentorship, I can understand why she turned to drugs. It happens to so many people. And I think instead of prison, Brittney Poolaw should have gotten compassionate medical attention and real help from someone who might have shown her that she has worth. Having watched so many of Jessica Kent’s videos, I realize that Brittney Poolaw is probably facing even more abuse and degradation on a daily basis now. I don’t think that’s going to help her turn away from drugs when she is finally released from prison.

But, aside from the fact that I think Poolaw’s community really failed her, I also think that other women have much to fear from this ruling. It really is a slippery slope when pregnant women wind up in legal trouble for things they do while pregnant that lead to a loss of the pregnancy. In Poolaw’s case, the actions that contributed to her miscarriage were illegal, but what if she’d had one too many glasses or wine, or something? What if she’d been in a car without a seatbelt or was wearing it incorrectly? What if she tripped and fell down some stairs?

I think it’s very scary that any woman who gets pregnant might find herself being scrutinized by law enforcement after a miscarriage. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, but it also may cause women like Poolaw to avoid seeking medical care. That might be especially true if she’s doing something like drinking alcohol or using drugs. I know a lot of physicians would prefer not to have to deal with drug using pregnant women, but they are precisely the women who need the most attention from someone who has medical expertise. Moreover, it really is chilling to think that the developing fetuses in already born people are superseding the already born people’s civil rights.

The pro-life/anti-abortion movement has been working tirelessly to change laws so that developing embryos and fetuses are seen as “babies” and “children”. But if you take a close look at what happens during pregnancy, it actually takes a pretty long while before the developing embryos and fetuses turn into anything viable outside of the womb. Until then, they really are part of the mother, and it really does seem wrong to me that we should put pregnant women in a different class–with different rules and civil rights– than people who aren’t pregnant. It’s beyond creepy that some judges, particularly in the South, are using situations like Brittney Poolaw’s to chip away at Roe v. Wade and promote the whole “sanctity of life” movement. It seems to me that life is only sacred to these types of folks when it involves the unborn. Once a person has been born, they’re on their own… and God help them stay out of prison.

Should Brittney Poolaw have had an abortion? I suppose she should have, especially since she clearly wasn’t ready to be a mother and had no resources to help her maintain a healthy pregnancy. I’m not sure how open she would have been to receiving help from a social worker or someone else who works with at risk parents and children. But I do think she should have had the option presented to her. It sounds to me like she didn’t have anyone to go to for help when she got pregnant. Instead, she turned to drugs.

I admittedly haven’t looked at Oklahoma’s social welfare programs and I don’t what is available for young people like Brittney Poolaw, but my guess is that even if they are widely available, Poolaw didn’t know how to access them. That’s not really something that is taught in school, at least in my experience. In my first year of my MSW program, I did my internship at a multi-disciplinary rural physician’s practice associated with the University of South Carolina. My clients were referred to me by a family doctor in a rural community. But it sounds like Brittney didn’t have a doctor, and it looks like she was no longer in school… so where would she have gotten a referral to someone like I was when I was in graduate school?

Perhaps the police could have referred her, instead of arresting her and putting her in prison… Or… the medical staff, who should have advocated for her and helped her with her medical problems could have assisted her in finding someone to help her with her problems. Sadly, it sounds like instead of getting the help she obviously needs, Brittney Poolaw will be wasting four years in a prison cell… along with so many other Americans. I hope someday the United States gets over its obsession with incarcerating people. We’ve got to do better than this.

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