Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Second Class

Folks, I'm pissed. I'm so pissed, that I have just sat down to write a quickie little blog about it right here. I'm so pissed, that I pushed my lunch aside so that I can type this out. And it's a good lunch - steak and onions. It'll wait.

I just read an article that I found from Momma Trauma about a young mother, a teenager in high school, named Jaielyn Belong. Jaielyn gave birth to a baby boy and would like to return to high school to finish her education and graduate. She is currently enrolled at Lake Forest High School, which is located in Felton, Delaware. Jaielyn is breastfeeding her son and would like to be able to pump at some point during her school day between classes. The school is denying her request, stating that the pump would be too noisy and that there is no where to store the milk. According to the nurse, the fridge is only for medicine. Hello, ass, breastmilk IS medicine. School employees told her that she'd have to nurse before school and then wait until she got home to feed him again. No pumping at school. According to the article, they won't even budge if Jaielyn brings in a doctor's note.

Please read the full article on the Momma Trauma website:

Delaware Teen Mom Denied Breastfeeding Accomodations

I personally believe that teenage mothers are a class of people that our society feels is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against. Teen mothers are treated as subhumans from the conception of their children to the birth and then beyond. They are treated as if they are stupid, classless, useless, slutty, immoral whores who are nothing but parasites and black marks on our society. I don't give two fucks what your religion says or what your morals dictate, teen mothers are still human beings and should be treated as such. This situation here is a prime example of why we have far to go in our treatment of teen mothers.

We all know that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby. We are aware of the mountain of health benefits that come with breastfeeding, both for the mother and the child. We all know there are risks to not breastfeeding. But did you know that teenage mothers are more unlikely to breastfeed than there adult counterparts? Only about half of teenage mothers will attempt to breastfeed their babies at birth, but that number drops to 19% by 6 months post partum. There are several reasons for this such as the lack of support, lack of breastfeeding education, social stigmas and - what's that? - the return to school. There has been a desire among health officials and breastfeeding professionals and advocates in this country to increase the numbers of teen mothers who breastfeed. And here we have a mother who is perfectly willing to do so, yet her school is standing in her way.

You know, one of my very first experiences as a "breastfeeding counselor" came when I was a teenager - assisting and counseling a teen mother who wanted to breastfeed. I know quite a few women who became mothers as teens and who specifically like to work with teenage moms to provide them with the education and support to successfully breastfeed their children.

Out of all the girls who will drop out of high school, one third of them do so because they become pregnant. Only 40% of teenage mothers continue on and graduate from high school. These are dismal statistics. Unacceptable. Work must be done - and is being done - to ensure that these young women can have the resources to continue their educations and graduate from high school. And, and look here, we have a young mother who wants to do just that, yet her school is setting up road blocks.

We know what Jaielyn will go through if her school succeeds in bullying her into leaving the pump at home. It means she will go 8 hours without nursing or pumping. It means she will be at an increased risk for developing plugged ducts or mastitis. By the way, a good case of mastitis can knock her off her ass and leave her sick at home - missing school! It means her milk production is at risk of dropping. Would she have to supplement? Supplement can lead to even more of a supply drop. Why should her baby miss out? We also know that babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop illness, including ear infections or colds. Yes, we all have anecdotal evidence of a formula fed baby who never gets sick or a breastfed baby who gets repeat ear infections. However, the evidence is clear that breastfed babies are less likely to become sick. So, if we increase her baby's chances of getting sick, it means Jaielyn will have to stay home to tend to her baby and make doctor visits. More missed school. How is that fair to Jaielyn? How is that fair to her little boy?

The school says she might get bullied or teased if allowed to pump. Are you out of your goddamned mind? Newsflash: you are supposed to protect the bullied, not the bully. How about not tolerating bullying in your school? How about teaching your students that crap like that will not be allowed? Way to blame the victim. Perhaps we should send them some information on anti-bullying school policies and bring them up to 2013. 

This is discrimination. This is a civil rights issue. This is a human rights issue. Jaielyn has rights and so does her baby. Just because she is a teen mom doesn't mean she is any less capable of making the best decisions she can for her child. It doesn't mean she should be treated like she is the inconvenience. Her school should be thrilled that she wants to return. Maybe there is a tax break in it for them. :::eyeroll::: As for the pumps beinig disturbing to her peers. Please, as if there isn't a location anywhere in the school where she can pump in relative privacy. And, have you been to a high school? There is plenty of noise to be had. A mother pumping for her child should be among the least of their concerns.

She should not have to wait a year to return to school. She should not have to find a new school. She should not have to be homeschooled. This mother has chosen to return to her school and the school needs to buck up and let her pump. I promise them, it won't ruin the precious young psyches of the other students. If anything, it'll show them what responsibility looks like. 

If you'd like to take action, please visit the Momma Trauma blog linked above and stay updated on the situation. Pass that link around to everyone. Facebook it. Tweet it. You can call the school and leave messages. You can also email the school.

School nurse:
Dean of Students:
Assistant Principal: and

Lake Forest High School

 Supposedly, the high school had a Facebook page that has now been taken down. I guess thy couldn't handle to comments. 

If you are planning to contact the school, I urge you to remain respectful. If we get nasty, sarcastic and rude with them it will just push them away. This is a frustrating situation from every angle, but we have to remain calm in reasonable when in contact with these folks. Otherwise, they will brush us off as "crazy hippies" and progress won't be made. There is a chance to make some positive change here, let's not ruin it with anger. I'm pissed about this, you're pissed about this and lots of other people on the internetz are pissed about this. That is more than understandable and it's fine to vent on our pages, twitter and Facebook. It's so frustrating that we are still fighting these fights in 2013. However, any contact with representatives of the school should be courteous and respectful. 

UPDATE: The Superintendent wrote his own blog post regarding this situation, which you can find here. He states that students may pump at school, though there are no specific accommodations (such as a designated room) and that students are responsible for their own cooler and storage. He also notes that the district has an alternative school where teen parents may bring their children and breastfeed or pump there. He notes that a teen mother who chooses to leave the alternative school and return to Lake Forest, "
also chooses to leave behind a certain level of support." While I am happy to see that there is a possibility she can pump at school, that last comment about choosing to leave behind a level of support is a bit harsh. It shows that they really aren't interested in being helpful to this new mother. As I said earlier in the blog, there are alternatives to this school. She can do online charter, homeschooling or she can attend this alternative school. Personally, I would rather attend a school where I can bring my baby and remain all attached and in contact. That would be my choice. It's not up to me to make the choice for Jaielyn, however. It is up to no one but Jaielyn herself - and she has chosen to return to the regular high school. She should be supported in that choice and they shouldn't being throwing down roadblocks that would make it more difficult for her. 

My sources for teen breastfeeding rates and teen mother drop out rates: 

Written while nursing my sleepy little girl....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Will The Real Real Woman Please Stand Up?

Real woman? Sure. Classy Lady? Definitely.
What does a real woman look like? Is she tall and thin, like a supermodel, with small perky breasts and a small waist? Is she short and curvy with plenty of flesh, including ample breasts and hips? Is she in between? Maybe she is about 5'4" with some muscle, some fluff, a little boobage and enough butt to fill out her jeans. Maybe she is all of those. Or none of those. Or some of those.

Our society and media values a woman who is a bit on the tall side, quite a bit on the slender side and big-boobed. You can't throw a  Weight Watchers point without it landing on some article, blog or show dedicated to the problem of women working too hard to become too perfect.

The Golden Globe Awards were held a few nights ago. I missed them this time, but I tried to keep up with them online. I haven't seen a real move in the theaters in quite some time and I haven't a clue about most people, movies or shows nominated, but I sure do love me some super fancy dresses. I just love the glitz and glamor. Of course the internetz were abuzz with news of who won, who lost, who wore what and all of that juicy Hollywood bullcrap. I perused online to see pictures of all of the lovely ladies in their gorgeous (J-Lo!) and what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking (Helena) gowns and the dowdy pantsuit (Amy - wtf?). Twitter, Facebook, blogs, fashion sites were full of comments from us little people judging and praising all of the fashion. One thing stood out the most because it seemed to be mentioned the most at the time was the comparison of two new moms - Claire Danes and Adele. Both have recently had babies. Both have different bodies.

Claire Danes, who I will never forgive for quitting "My So-Called Life" and taking away my favorite show (and Jordan Catalano), looks very slender and trim. She looks pretty much as she always does, though her dress had this geometric panel on the front that can hide her figure a bit. My first thought was, "oooooh, that's a glamorous nursing panel."

Adele, who I adore, looked like Adele. She's curvy and full as always. Personally, her dress wasn't my favorite, but she looked beautiful in it.

Many comments praised Claire Danes for losing all that baby weight so quickly. Many comments condemned Claire Danes for losing all that baby weight so quickly. We are a fickle society and the different comments showed that. The same went for Adele, though I saw more comments that "she still looks pregnant" as if that's a bad thing when you just had a baby quite recently. All of these comments were what I expected. We have a society and media who praise women for being perfectly thin and supposedly fit immediately after giving birth. We adore the celebrities who make an appearance a week after giving birth looking like they never had been pregnant. Bonus points if they didn't even get a stretch mark. We are inundated with these images day after day. So, is it a surprise that women rip each other apart based on body types? No, it shouldn't be. This is what the media wants. They want us to be constantly competing and constantly striving for perfection - it's what keeps us buying their magazines, their Spanx, their creams (made with baby foreskins - yum!), their make-up, their clothes, their diet foods, etc. Women yearning to look like today's it girl spend a lot of money and are a prime marketing target.

So, with that in mind, I was hardly surprised to see women scoring Adele vs Claire based on how they looked. I was mad, though. Pissed that we fall into this trap of competing all of the time. We're products of our environment - this being told that we're not good enough since we're girls so we must always work hard to prove ourselves - but there has to be a point when we wise up and stop this shit. What truly pissed me off was one comment I saw under Claire Danes' photo, "She's not a real woman." That comment was followed up with a lot of agreement that Claire is not a real woman because she is skinny and lacks curves. "Adele, now that is what a real woman looks like. She has curves. Real women have curves and breasts and hips." There was the obvious evolution of the discussion where it has been decided by many that Claire obviously crash dieted and worked out to near death in order to look the way she did at the awards. The talk was that "real women" never - the word never was used quite a few times - look like that a month after birth. Obviously, she is a bad mom because she didn't spend enough time with her baby because she was too busy working out and counting calories. For what it's worth, she discussed breastfeeding when being interviewed on the red carpet. Doesn't sound like she is neglecting him too much.

Women should not feel like they need to look a certain way after birth. They should not feel pressured to slim down immediately. I personally know women who begin to worry about their post baby figures as soon as the pee hits the stick. It's so sad that women feel this way about themselves. That being said, there are women - and not an insubstantial amount - who slim down immediately after birth naturally. I come from a long line of women who do this. Many of the women on my mom's side of the family are tall (like 6 feet) and thin. They barely require maternity clothes when pregnant and they all walk out of the hospital looking like they have never given birth. Are they not women? Where do I fit in? I'm slender, but I have curves. I still have a little belly pooch due to diastasis. Am I a real woman now? Will I lose my real woman status if I go back to having a flat tummy? What if my boobs shrink? I love every curve on my body and you know I love my stretch marks. Should I love myself less since I have curves and stretch marks? Or should I love myself less if any of those marks fade or those curves get a bit smaller. At what point will my Real Woman Card expire?

It's so tiring listening to women shame other women based on their bodies. It's like you're damned either way. Adele sucks because she didn't lose baby weight fast enough. Claire Danes sucks because she lost weight too quick. Skinny women aren't real women because they lack curves. Fluffy women aren't real women because they don't take care of their bodies. It's not "normal" to look like Claire Danes after you give birth. It's not "normal" to look like Adele after we give birth. Being a woman, in whatever shape you are in is apparently just not normal. We can't give birth correctly. We can't feed our children correctly. We can't lose or retain weight post partum correctly. Can we just shut the fuck up with this nonsense already? Why must we always pick one another apart? I get that skinny isn't always healthy and being overweight isn't always healthy, but do we truly think we are encouraging other women to better themselves by telling them how much they suck? I mean, I can't even post a brief body positive message on my page without someone piping up with," yeah, we should accept each other, just remember that fat people will die from all the twinkies." Come on!

I'm not pushing anyone to be unhealthy, but I realize that humans come in a variety of shapes and sizes and the sooner we accept that the healthier and happier we will be. If we are constantly telling women to be ashamed of their bodies, whatever form they take, they will not seek to take care of themselves. Even in 2013, it seems like women have so much to work against. When we fail to unite with one another it makes it easier for all of us to fail. We need to work on accepting one another in all of our various sizes. We need to encourage one another to be healthy, realizing that healthy is not one single size or shape.

What does a real woman look like? The answer isn't in chromosomes or body parts. It's not found in the amount of flesh around our hips or in our breasts. It's not found in our ability or lack of ability to produce children. It's not found in our housekeeping practices. It's not found in our clothes, our hairstyles or our cosmetics. It's not in our names or our societal roles. If you feel you are a woman, then you are a woman. No uniform required.
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