nat’l pregnancy & infant loss remembrance day

“A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.”

- Barbara Kingsolver

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and this is my story of loss. My hope is that if you’ve had a miscarriage, it reminds you that you’re not alone, and that if you haven’t, it reminds you that whether or not you’re aware of it, there are women in your life who have, and who carry that loss with them every day.

On February 3rd, forty-three days before I found out I was pregnant with Baby Pihl, I got a positive test for what would have been our first baby. I was thrilled, exhilarated, and filled with huge, uncontainable dreams for my sesame seed-sized fetus. Five short days later, I watched all of my dreams crumble and fall away in the emergency room when a doctor confirmed that the bleeding was, indeed, coming from my uterus and that my pregnancy had come to an end.

I remember three things very clearly from that night. I remember the doctor laying his hand on my knee, looking me in the eye, and saying “I am so, so sorry this is happening to you;” I remember the way Jordan and I sat in silence under the bright fluorescent lights, without words strong enough to fill the space within us; and I remember the nurse who sat beside me on my tissue-paper covered cot and shared the story of her three consecutive losses, followed by the birth of her healthy son.

Once the miscarriage was established, it wasn’t long before I was sent home with a shot to aid my body in clearing out all foreign substances, and details on what was going to happen, physically, over the next few days. What no one could prepare me for was the barrage of emotions that would crash over me, like the breaking of a dam.

First, there was the guilt that my body had betrayed me and rejected the very thing it had created, that I had made something less than perfect, and that my body was forced to flush it out. Then, helplessness that there was nothing I could do to turn back the clock, to remedy the loss, no way to make everything okay again. Finally, there was a debilitating sense of grief.

Here is the difference between sadness and grief: Sadness is a heaviness in your heart, a great weight on your shoulders, and tears that flow like rivers. Grief is an explosion wherein every shard slices through your heart and brings you to your knees, tears exchanged for physical pain that leaves you lying in bed, broken.

I hoped that sharing my loss with family would help ease my pain, that it would lighten the load I was carrying, and at times it did. Laying out all of my hurt for someone to see was cathartic; it was soothing to call my mom multiple days in a row with nothing new to say, to cry on someone’s shoulder, to mourn with a friend, but sharing was two-sided. As much as it helped to explain how I felt, the minute someone told me they “understood,” I wanted to shout “No, you don’t!” I wanted to scream and cry and stomp my feet that this was my loss, my grief. This was not something we went through together; in fact, no one, not even Jordan, felt what I felt because no one, not even Jordan, carried that fetus for 6 weeks before it was gone. I was tired of hearing that “everything happens for a reason,” that this was “God’s plan,” and that I “could always try again.” None of that was comforting. In fact, most of it was incredibly hurtful. Soon, I began to feel like sharing my grief cheapened it, like it minimized the value of what I lost.

So I stayed inside, I cancelled plans, I made excuses, I forgot to get out of bed. And within a few days, a few weeks, it felt like people forgot what I lost. They invited me out, and I said no, and they shrugged and went on. I couldn’t tell them that I was still crying in bed, because a few weeks had passed and my loss was no longer on their minds. Their lives went on, and I was left behind, lying in bed, remembering.

There is no way to win. Either you grieve and grieve and people whisper that “shouldn’t she be over it by now,” or you draw yourself up and laugh and smile and pretend you are as you always were and they never know that you are still breaking, still falling apart, still waking up with tears dried on your face. Whatever you do, there is no winning in grief. There is only surviving, maintaining, existing.

Eventually, I became pregnant again, and that makes me one of the lucky ones. I’m now 34 weeks into a viable pregnancy that came only a month after my loss. I’ve heard a strong heartbeat, I’ve watched my baby suck his fist in ultrasounds. I know that I am lucky. Unfortunately, joy doesn’t erase pain; they aren’t two sides of the same coin. Rather, they lay side-by-side in our hearts: the joy smoothing out pain’s jagged edges and the pain casting shadows on the joy. The shadow this loss cast will hover over the remainder of my pregnancy: with every flutter, twitch, and cramp, there’s a tangible fear that wasn’t there before. I know what it is to lose a pregnancy, and I can’t unknow it. All I can do is keep moving forward.

Ten weeks into my current pregnancy, when my grandfather died, my mom reminded me that this is all part of the circle of life; that lives begin and end in their own time, whether or not we’re ready for them. Some circles are the size of a sesame seed, and some grow bigger every day. Some are joyful, and some are tempered with grief before they ever begin. But in the end, all we can do is hope that our circles mean something to somebody, that we live our lives with kindness, compassion, and love.

And, Baby Pihl, we’ve got love for you in spades.

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it’s that time…

Time for my annual birthday list!

Here’s 26 reasons I’m happy right now:

1. Jordan’s taking me to the zoo on Saturday!

2. We own our own house!

3. Sora’s belly isn’t bald anymore!

4. I work from home and love it!

5. I’m only 9 years (and a few millions dollars) away from being able to run for president!

6. I’m 25 weeks pregnant!

7. Sisko only wakes me up once a night for snacks now! (It used to be three times!)

8. We finally finished the library downstairs and it’s the most relaxing room ever!

9. There’s a creek in the woods lining our backyard!

10. I’m going to get to share all my favorite children’s books with Cletus!

11. My best friend is visiting me in two weeks!

12. And we’re going to Build A Bear to build Cletus a bear!

13. Jordan’s commute is only 10 minutes so he gets home earlier than before and I get to see more of him!

14. I’m almost done reading Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets aloud to Cletus!

15. Someday I’ll get to take Cletus to the Harry Potter theme park at Universal!

16. J and I have an anniversary coming up next week!

17. It’s watermelon season!

18. And soon it will be pumpkin latte season!

19. We’ll be able to have a live tree this Christmas!

20. I got good news about my blood work last week!

21. Cletus celebrated by kicking me all day long (and has been doing so for the past 8 weeks)!

22. Sisko is a great catch-and-release mouser!

23. There’s a bunny that likes to eat the grass next to my car and we hang out on the regular!

24. We’ve settled on a name for Cletus!

25. I have a really great family (nuclear, extended, and in-laws included!)

26. It’s my birthday!!

 

I’ve Opened an Etsy Shop! For Charity!

Hey, friends!

Just a quick heads up that my cousin and I are the proud owners of an Etsy store, featuring (for the time being) winter scarves and accessories! We are donating all profits to two charities (One Girl & Heifer International) so we hope you check us out and spread the word!

Our store is called HandmaidInMA and can be found right here.

From our profile:

“HandmaidInMA is the work of two cousins in Massachusetts who want to use their crafty skills to help girls in developing countries. All profits go to either One Girl (www.onegirl.org) or Heifer International (www.heifer.org), two organizations devoted to helping girls thrive. One Girl is “a non-profit organization that gives women and girls access to education” because when it comes to education, girls are, too often, drawing the short straw. Likewise, Heifer International’s “Empower Women” mission aims to give girls a better shot at life by fighting hunger and poverty. “Women produce 80 percent of the developing world’s food while owning only two percent of the land. [Heifer International] aim[s] to change that.”

Help us help others by supporting HandmaidInMA!”

Thanks!

kbp

christmas part two

All my homemade gifts have been received now, so here’s the two remaining crafts! (Part one is here.)

This is a set of scrabble magnets I made for Emilee featuring our favorite Harry Potter spell. (“It’s wingardium leviOsa, not wingardium levioSA!”) I also made sets for my parents and my in-laws featuring their last names.

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And last but not least, I made five bracelets. I used blank pendants and diamond glaze to make the charms, and then assembled the chains and clasps to finish it off. As I told everyone who got one, these had a secret feminist twist to them: the clasps I chose are the ring/toggle type that can be easily hooked using one hand. Because no woman should have to depend on a man to help her put on her jewelry. :D

image-7Merry Christmas and happy crafting!

christmas part one

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Here’s a quick round-up of the gifts I made this Christmas! (There will be a part 2 since some of the gifts I made haven’t been received yet and I don’t want to ruin the surprise!)

The first gift I made this year was a pencil/paintbrush roll-up for Hani. (I was so pleased with it, I made another one for Lee later!)

ImageNext, I made two hollowed-out books for Hani and Nathan. (Nathan later told me he’d been wanting one since he saw The Matrix; win!)

ImageAfter that, I busted out my paintbrush and wood glue and made these dinosaur bookends (also for Nathan.)

ImageFinally, I made a big batch of candles for my parents, friends, and coworkers. I’d never made candles before but it was really fun! These are made with beeswax pellets melted in a double burner, scented with brown sugar oil, and poured into teacups to set. I went to the thrift store (four or five times!) with a list of people I’d be making candles for and picked out teacups that reminded me of them; it was really fun! (The first set of pictures is the process, the second is a few of the finished products.)

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ImageA few more gifts with follow shortly! Hope everyone had a great year!

kbp

christmas in…september?

Hi, friends! It’s time for good news, bad news!

Good news: my sewing machine is finally set up and ready for crafts. In fact, I even did a craft today!

Bad news: most of my upcoming crafts (including the one from today) are Christmas gifts so they won’t actually hit the blog until late December. (Which isn’t as far away as you’d think!! So for everyone who’s silently making fun of me for starting so early, you can shove it. :P )

Anyway, I just wanted to poke my head out and say, “Yes, I will return to crafting!” Hopefully with non-Christmas crafts, too. :)

25 Reasons This Year Will Be The Best Year Ever

I’m 25 today! This year is going to be the best ever because…

1. I get to wear jeans and t-shirts to work every day.

2. My cats greet me at the door when I get home.

3. I live in an apartment with hardwood floors.

4. Even though I moved away from some of my best friends, we talk so much that it barely seems like I’ve gone anywhere.

5. We live, like, 10 minutes away from Lee so I get to have coffee dates with her whenever I want. :)

6. Jordan is taking me to Salem to see the witch museum this Saturday!

7. I’m seeing Fall Out Boy live in concert. And I freaking love them. #guiltypleasuremusic #sorrynotsorry

8. My rent is lower than it’s ever been!

9. Dunkin’ Donuts are everywhere up here and I can drink a huge iced caramel latte for $2.65.

10. My half-sleeve is finished as of yesterday. And it looks AWESOME.

11. I get to mold young minds everyday. (And send them home to their parents at 6 o’clock.)

12. I can rent a car if I want to.

13. For the first time in a while, we won’t have to drive/fly anywhere for Thanksgiving.

14. I still look adorable in overalls and not all 25 year olds can say that. :P

15. The enflamed nerve in my foot seems to be slowly healing itself after over a year of hurting every day. (Bodies are weird.)

16. The next movie in the Hunger Games trilogy comes out at Thanksgiving.

17. We live above a dog who makes some of the funniest noises I’ve ever heard. (“Arooooooo?”)

18. Plan B is finally available for women of all ages. (Women’s rights! Aw yeah!)

19. My car is 10 years old and still runs great.

20. Every day, I get a little more comfortable in my own skin.

21. I get to hang out with Jordan, like, all the time.

22. There are bunnies living in our yard.

23. My kids at work call me Miss Kitty Cat. (Does it get better than that?)

24. I haven’t peaked yet; I just keep getting more fabulous. (I’m getting more modest, too.) :P

25. I have the best family I could hope for. Thanks, guys, especially my mom and dad, for putting up with my nonsense and loving me as much as you do. I love you!

Now, bring on the birthday cake!

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femicrafting

My good friend, the fabulous Jen, is coming to town next week, so I thought I should do a craft in her honor! Jen is one of my femtors (feminist mentors, obvi) so I wanted to do something to celebrate that. I settled on a stenciled t-shirt because t-shirts are the best and because I’d never stenciled before!

I originally had the idea to do a “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt for Jordan, but then I thought about how long that would take to stencil all those letters and abandoned the idea. Then, when I thought of Jen, I mulled over the idea again, but this time decided to do a symbol instead. (Spoiler alert: I made 3: one for Jen, one for J, and one for me. Triplets!)

The symbol I chose is the always-popular raised fist inside the Venus symbol, which I can never see without also remembering this beautiful photo of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes:

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Be still, my heart. =P

Anyway, I cut out my stencil and laid it down, centered horizontally, on the t-shirt. I also covered the surrounding area with paper towels because I was using a fabric spray paint and didn’t want any splatters outside the stencil. (In this picture, I’ve already done Jen’s which is why the stencil already has black paint on it, haha!)Image

Next, I evenly (and thoroughly) sprayed the stenciled area.

ImageThen, when I was satisfied with the paint coverage, I carefully peeled away the stencil and paper towels.

ImageTada! Here’s a group shot!

ImageHow rad is that?! Like my own feminist t-shirt army. =P I’m really pleased with how they turned out, though! Stenciling is fun!

Now I’m ready to tackle dying some eggs! Hope everybody has a blessed Easter!

 

si, se puede

Women’s rights are under attack! What do we do?

STAND UP, FIGHT BACK.

For those of you not in the know, J and I just got back from Washington, DC (Pentagon City, baby!) where we participated in the 2013 National Young Feminist Leadership Convention. We listened to panels made up of women from some of today’s most influential organizations for women’s rights and it was very humbling, eye-opening, and all-around phenomenal. (J actually sat next to Dolores Huerta on a bus stop bench and had a casual conversation with her about immigration reform.)

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Left to right that’s Eleanor Smeal (Feminist Majority Foundation President,) Katherine Spillar (Ms. Magazine Executive Director,) Dolores Huerta (co-founder of United Farm Workers,) and Tina Tchen (Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls AND Chief of Staff for Michelle Obama.)

J attended workshops including “The Global Struggle for Women’s Health and Rights,” “Policies That Contribute to the Growing Prison Population,” and “Advancing Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” and I sat in on “Stand Up Fight Back! Standing In Solidarity with Women Workers,” “The Gendered Impact of Climate Change: Eco-Feminism,” and “Causes in Common: LGBT and Reproductive Rights.” We both attended the Town Hall meeting with Tina Tchen, which was also phenomenal and informative.

I could write pages and pages of what we learned (I took 14 pages of notes) but instead, I’ll just give a brief sampling of statistics we picked up:

  • 2/3 of minimum wage workers in the US are women
  • On average, white women make $.77, black women $.70, and Hispanic women $.61 for every $1.00 earned by a white male in the same position, even though the Equal Pay Act was passed 50 years ago
  • 52% of all Walmart employees are women, but they make up only 15% of all manager positions, and, on average, female Walmart employees make $5,200/year less than their male counterparts
  • 80% of all sweatshop workers are women
  • The US constitutes 5% of the world’s population, but contains 25% of the world’s incarcerated persons, and when comparing equal crimes, women spend more time in prison than men.
  • On college campuses, 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence
  • Due in part to lack of substantial sexual education, the US has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world
  • 220 million married women have unmet reproductive needs

Like I said, I could go on and on, but I thought that that was enough to remind us all that we do not yet live in an equal world, and that we are fighting for things that matter. Which brings me to my next point…

The other day, someone told me that he didn’t understand why J and I would attend this conference, likening feminism to an “obsession” and saying that our generation had already “achieved gender equality.” This absolutely broke my heart (and, to be honest, pissed me the hell off.) First, because that’s a view born out of ignorance, and second, because a white man felt like it was reasonable to tell me that, because he didn’t see it, there must not be any inequality. Sure, he’s never been a woman, a minority, or a homosexual, but if he doesn’t see any discrimination, it must not be there.

So, this is to clarify for anyone else who might hold those (misguided) views: feminism is not an obsession and our world is not equal. (Re-read those statistics above if you’re still unconvinced.)

So what is feminism? It’s a struggle for equality. We are fighting for an end to racism, sexism, systematic poverty, unfair labor practices, marriage inequality, climate change, ecological non-sustainability, and domestic violence. We are fighting because equality is equality: there is no halfway point, and there is no acceptable compromise. I am a feminist for myself, for my sisters, for Malala Yousufzai, for my Uncle Brad, for my future children, for Nirbhaya, for all of us, and I believe that feminism can change the world.

Am I obsessed? No. Am I passionate? You bet your ass. And I invite you to be passionate about feminism, too!

Armed with all these fairly depressing realities, it’s easy to feel bummed out about the state of the world rather than feeling empowered, but there is hope! Knowledge is power, remember? The more knowledge you have, the better equipped you are to stand up and fight back! And feminism? Well, that’s something worth fighting for. So, if you haven’t already, go out and educate yourself on an aspect of feminism you’ve never thought about before. What you learn might surprise you. (And feel free to leave me a comment on what you learned!)

ImageEllie Smeal and me, fighting the good fight

international women’s day

International Women’s Day was this past Friday, so J and I took the opportunity to drive to Seneca Falls to celebrate. We visited the women’s history museum, sat in on a discussion about “women in science, art, religion, politics, and in achieving women’s equality,” stayed at the Van Cleef Homestead Bed and Breakfast, and wandered around downtown Seneca Falls. It was glorious.

ImageIn this picture, I’m so proud I thought I would burst.

It was incredible to be there. I felt like I was standing in a sacred place, because, to me, the movement that the Seneca Falls Convention set into motion IS sacred. (All weekend, I kept telling J, “It’s like coming home!” =P )

Without Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and many, many more, I would never live the life I lead now. Life would be suffocating without the voice I am accustomed to having, the voice I have a right to use. How grateful I am to these women! Sometimes it seems that these names become simply text in history books, no more than a blurb in the margins, and we forget that they were living, breathing women who changed America. They were jeered at, and scorned, and mobbed, but they persisted because they knew that no woman is inferior to any man. Equality is a given.

Even today, however, women are treated far from equally. There are nations where women are still property, where women are “minors” and cannot travel nor work without a man’s consent. Sex-trafficking is an unfathomable problem that affects far more women than men. Domestic abuse is rampant (yes, even in America). Lesbians are still being denied rights.

Some days, this inequality is crushing, but today, I am feeling unstoppable. I stood where my heroines stood, and, today, that is enough for me.

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A note: Today, feminism encompasses all marginalized peoples: minorities, women, homosexuals, etc. We are striving for equality across the board, because that’s what equality is. If one of us is persecuted, none of us are equal.

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