October 8, 2016 3:02 pm

Sexism

In case you have been living under a rock, or are not in the US, one of our presidential candidates was caught on tape describing sexually assaulting women as though it were nothing out of the ordinary.

Trump said:

“I just start kissing them… Just kiss. I don’t even wait,’ Trump said. “And when you’re a star they let you do it.”

“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

After this came out, writer Kelly Oxford shared her experiences with sexual abuse using the hashtag #NotOkay and invited other women to join in. She was receiving an average of two stories per second after her request.

Here are mine.

Age 13, at sleep-away church camp: An older boy – who I was previously on friendly terms with – somehow got one of my roommates to loan him their room key, and then used it to sneak into our room late at night. I woke up to the sound of the door opening. He crept over to my bunk and whispered to me that he needed to borrow something – a book, maybe, that we had talked about earlier – and while I opened the wardrobe to retrieve it for him, he pressed himself against me in a side-hug I couldn’t escape from. I stood there and let him hug me inappropriately in the middle of the night until he felt he had hugged me enough and then I hurriedly ushered him out of the room. My roommates slept through the whole thing.

Upon returning home, still feeling like I had been violated and taken advantage of, I confessed the situation to my boyfriend, who blamed me and then accused me of cheating on him. I cried, trying to explain that I DID NOT INVITE THAT HUG and I DID NOT WANT HIM TO BE DOING THAT and IT WAS REALLY SCARY and he was mostly upset that I didn’t let the older boy know I was taken or tell him “no.” I think some part of me had been expecting an “Oh my gosh, are you okay? That sounds really scary. Have you told anyone?” but we were thirteen and despite a rando thinking it was okay to sneak into my room at night at church camp and sexually assault me, it was “my fault” because I didn’t say “no.”

I never told anyone else. The perpetrator was clearly unpredictable (I had been SLEEPING!) so I was partly thankful that it hadn’t escalated further, we were at church camp so any boys-in-girls-rooms-at-night was strictly forbidden and I was afraid of getting in trouble because he had our room key and how was I going to explain that away, and it was “just a hug” so I didn’t think people would take me seriously.

Age 14: my then-boyfriend (different guy from above) was very jealous and possessive. He didn’t like if I talked with my guy friends in the halls between classes or gave them hugs, and asked me to stop being friends with them. He told me what he wished I wore. His favorite color was yellow; I should wear more yellow. Did I wear thongs? (No. I thought they were gross.) He thought they were sexy; I should wear them. Why wasn’t I wearing them?

We went to a movie together and at first I was excited when he put his hand on my knee affectionately. I was less excited when he kept moving his hand up my leg. I repeatedly pushed it back down to my knee and I remember writing in my diary that by the end, I practically “threw his hand” and was satisfied when he finally kept it at my knee after that.

On my 15th birthday, I was at my Driver’s Education class about to get into the car for my lesson. He arrived on his bike, handed me a gift bag with an embarrassed look on his face and told me to open it when I was by myself. I snuck a peek so I could be prepared if any of my classmates or my instructor asked questions about the gift.

He had given me a yellow thong for my birthday.

I played it off to my classmates and instructor that I was going to wait until I was home to open it, knowing there was no way I could explain it away. He knew I didn’t wear thongs. He knew I didn’t like yellow clothing. I was barely fifteen. This was not a birthday gift for me. His intent was for me to be a gift for him.

I found out later that he had the sister of one of his friends purchased the thong on his behalf because he was too embarrassed to do it himself. (Not too embarrassed to give it to me in public though!)

After we broke up, I was in Health class during a segment on abusive relationships and realized in hindsight that he ticked something like nine of the ten boxes that were presented to us.

Age 18, first day in a new city: A scraggly, possibly drunk middle-aged man stumbled toward my roommate and I hollering “HEY GIRLS! SEXY! COME GIVE ME A BLOW JOB!” We escaped by running down an unfamiliar alley. He laughed as we ran.

Age 18, coming home from a late class at school: I walked through the park blocks and saw a man inside the kids’ play area. I intially thought it was funny he was playing on the toys. I realized belatedly that he was masturbating.

Age 18, on my way to school: Walking across a bridge (so there were literally no alternate routes I could take), I saw a man facing the railing. I realized as I approached that he was actually urinating off the bridge. I was too close to do anything but keep on walking, so I kept walking.

Age 19, while manning the copy center at college: I received a MySpace message from a new (male) hire that said:

“oh my god, you will never know how eternally joyful that i am to be
able to say the following sentence:

“hello my coworker”

omg, i sense a heart attack heading my way”

I brushed it off, thinking it was funny/strange but ultimately harmless. That was until I received another message that included an image of an imaginary album cover he had made (filename: “meggancoldblood.JPG”), using a photo he had lifted from my MySpace page complete with song titles he had made up based on topics he saw on my personal website.

meggancoldblood

I was incredibly freaked out and sent an email to my manager, who, as far as I can remember, handled it admirably. He made it clear that yes, this was not okay and thanked me for bringing it to his attention. The new hire apologized to me in person.

He kept his job. I tried to avoid him at all costs, especially night shifts.

Age 20, while manning the copy center at college: an instructor was leaning over the counter to write her copy instructions on our order sheet. A male student saw her and backed up, took out his phone, and snapped a photo of her butt. He was so quick that it was too late to say anything by the time I had realized what happened – all I managed to do was make eye contact with him as he walked away, and he stared right back, as though saying, “I dare you to do anything about it.” It didn’t seem like it would have helped the situation to tell the instructor what had just happened, so I told my manager instead.

The incident got escalated appropriately and I ended up speaking with the president of the school about it. He was very concerned and made it clear that the behavior I witnessed was not acceptable. I ran into the student on a couple of different occasions after that and it gave me a panicky jolt of adrenaline every time. Unfortunately, because I didn’t know the student’s name or any other identifying information about him, he was never identified nor punished.

______________

This is not where these incidents end. I would wager that nearly every woman has similar stories she could tell.

I don’t want my daughter to grow up with these kinds of stories to tell. I don’t want my son growing up thinking it’s okay to behave like this.

imwithher

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August 15, 2016 12:01 pm

PTSD

The biggest thing I haven’t yet mentioned here is that I was diagnosed with PTSD stemming from events surrounding my births.

After struggling with symptoms by myself for over five years, I finally chose to seek help because I felt like I couldn’t turn my brain off. If I woke up at night, or if I was sitting quietly by myself, or trying to fall asleep, or anything that involved some downtime for my brain, I couldn’t stop replaying and obsessing over details of my births. This symptom is called intrusive thoughts (or persistent re-experiencing) and I was tired of it. I wanted my brain back.

I was treated using EMDR therapy and I found it really, really effective. We mostly did “tones” (listening to beep-boop sounds that alternate left and right) instead of the eye movements and she also tapped my knees left and right.

After working through a bunch of situations, I began to notice a pattern of behavior from my care providers that directly contributed to my issues. I wrote about several incidents here as they happened, but I minimized my feelings or explained their actions away even though some of them really hurt me. When I was gaining weight like mad and they simply told me to “lay off the fast food and soda” without even asking me what I ate in a typical day? HUGE, STARK CONTRAST to my midwife with Thora’s birth, who preemptively had me keep a food journal for a week so we could identify things to work on and we had a discussion about nutrition and based on my journal, I was advised to up my protein intake and then continue my food journal for another week to see how I felt.

Or telling me I was supposed to do the glucose test at 16 weeks (normally it’s not until 28ish weeks) without explaining why they were having me complete it twice or revealing that I had the right to refuse the extra test.

Or calling me a month before I was due to tell me I could “have a baby tonight if I wanted” and then laughing, as though they didn’t care I may have a premature baby and it was all a big joke.

Or brushing off my concerns that I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction and merely telling me it would only get worse. They didn’t recommend a specific support belt, or physiotherapy, or suggest chiropractic care, or exercises I could do to lessen the pain. They didn’t offer ANYTHING except to tell me that it would only get worse and made it seem like a support belt might not help.

Good care providers recognize that you are a human capable of rational thought with the capacity to consent to or deny various procedures, and they inform you of the risks and benefits of those procedures ahead of time. Bad care providers take everything as a given and don’t bother with your input – they inform you they will be performing a vaginal exam instead of asking if you would like one performed. They shove consent forms in your face while you sob and people are streaming into the room to start the procedure you are “consenting” to. You are coerced; you feel like you can’t say no. Or maybe you do say no, and they ignore it and continue anyway – like the time during my labor with Wesley when someone roughly checked my cervix during a vaginal exam while I cried and protested. They didn’t stop. Then they said my cervix was “high and difficult to find” and made it seem as though the rough exam was my fault.

It wasn’t.

It’s hard to not beat yourself up over choosing sub-par care, or not recognizing red flags for what they are, but I just have to keep reminding myself that I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. Hindsight is 20/20 and all.

After several months of treatment, those intrusive thoughts? They almost never happen anymore and I am so thankful. I can sleep! I can talk about Wesley’s birth without feeling “triggered” – I can just do my little elevator speech and not feel panicked or like I need to explain all my life choices that led to the circumstances I found myself in. I can talk about how much more empowered I felt with Thora’s birth while recognizing I was grieving the loss of my homebirth at the same time.

I still get sad about things sometimes; just today I was marveling over the fact that I am the only person I know who has attempted a VBAC but didn’t achieve one. Everyone else I know who has attempted a VBAC has been successful, which is AWESOME for them but still gives me pangs of jealousy when I think about it.

On the whole though, I am feeling so much better. I even wrote to the clinic I went to in Portland describing my care and how it resulted in a mental health diagnosis for me, and they called me to apologize and tell me that they took my story very seriously and would be referencing it in an upcoming patient care meeting to improve patient outcomes. They also assured me that they’ve put several policies in place (in the intervening six years) to prevent the sort of “care” I received. For instance, they now give moms a moment alone with their support person after handing them the cesarean consent forms. It doesn’t change anything for the hospital, but it could really influence how a mom feels about her birth ending in surgery. I know I would have felt much more involved in the decision with that process vs the surgery being treated as a fait accompli. I’m also considering posting the text of that letter here, since I felt I articulated my issues well.

Mental health is a complicated topic and I’ve told only a few people in person that I received treatment, but I am truly, deeply grateful for the lovely lady helping me work through my trauma and I wish I had done it sooner. In that vein, I’m happy to answer any questions about my treatment, as I think helping demystify the therapeutic process is important and might have encouraged me to seek help sooner.

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August 13, 2016 6:52 pm

Mundane

· It seems like every time it rains or snows, our internet sucks for like three days. I don’t know why this happens because it’s supposedly cable, not satellite, but it’s irritating. 

Theoretically Ting high-speed fiber internet is coming to my tiny town and I signed up to get it once it’s here, but I have no idea how long it’s supposed to take to get here. 

· Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is one of the best kept secrets on Netflix. Highly recommended. 

· After having lived through my first summer vacation as a parent, I see now why parents are excited for school to start. It is exhausting to have them home all day! 

· It’s looking like we might not make our annual fall Portland trip this year which is kind of bumming me out. We just didn’t really plan for it during summer vacation and I don’t feel like we can do it during the school year. I’m hoping we can sneak down for a long weekend or something. 

· I want to do more writing here but it’s all on pretty heavy topics. It feels weird to jump right into that, but maybe that’s what I need to do in order to feel okay posting about fluffy stuff. 

· We passed our one year homeownership anniversary! It’s still great to have our own place and right now I’m slowly but surely painting our bathroom white. I tried to find the perfect shade of aqua-bluey-green but the bathroom is some kind of color Bermuda Triangle and everything I tried looked either baby blue or dumpy gray or electric green and I finally gave up and painted it Benjamin Moore White Dove and am very pleased. I also spray painted the already-painted-green light fixture matte black as that was easier and cheaper than finding a new matte black fixture. My Indoor Decor Pinterest board is chock full of pretty, high-contrast bathrooms and I’m inching closer to that look where I can. 

· I am still killing succulents left and right. The death toll went down once I bought some specific cactus soil to pot them in, and it went down again once I realized I was smothering them with attention and they probably all rotted from overwatering, but I still can’t keep the ones in the bathroom alive! Maybe not enough direct sunlight? They’re my favorite kind of houseplant but MAN am I terrible at caring for them. 

· Thora chose to potty train herself last month and she’s mostly great but then she goes through phases where she’ll have three accidents in 30 minutes. Like, you’re two! How can you even produce that much pee?! And I won’t even begin to describe the events that led me to borrow a carpet shampooer so I could attempt to salvage her bedroom carpet but it was BAD and I hope I never have to do that again. 

· I keep buying clothes for Wesley that are way too big. I keep telling myself I’m buying ahead and I am, but I apparently think he’s a lot bigger than he actually is. I just got a winter coat for him in a size 7/8 because he’s six going on seven and lanky and I want the coat to fit for more than one winter, but it’s, uh, pretty big. 

Related: I can’t get enough of this app called Kidizen. It’s like Craigslist but for nice kids clothes. You have to hunt for stuff, but I’ve gotten super good deals on Mini Boden and Hanna Andersson stuff that I would never pay full price for but would love to have. I’m also noticing that (for us anyway) the best deals are in shoes and coats since they grow out of those slower. 

· I started rewatching Buffy and I didn’t remember Xander being such an embodiment of #masculinitysofragile the first time. Yikes. He says some pretty terrible stuff in seasons one and two. 

I also still don’t understand what Buffy sees in Angel. I feel like you don’t really get to know Angel (versus Angelus) until he ends up with his own show and you see what he’s like outside of the Scoobies. 

· I couldn’t sleep last night and accidentally stayed up past 2am catching up on Orange is the New Black and decided that Piper is kind of a terrible person. So, SO many bad, unnecessary decisions. 

(Is it weird if I just talk about TV a lot here? Haha.)

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