Friday, March 4, 2011

Love in the Midst of Meltdown Hell

I have been reading "The Explosive Child" over the past week and with each page turned, I become more excited to start using the methods. I've already started trying to ignore and "let go" of certain behaviors like name-calling and screaming. Old habits die hard and I'm not getting it right every time yet. But I'm getting better. Especially now that I got past the part in the book that tells me what I CAN respond to and how best to do it.

This past week has been terrible for melt-downs. It's like he's getting worse. But I have to acknowledge that his life must seem pretty out of control for him right now. He has a newborn sister who is sick. His dad has been feeding him food with gluten in it and I think that may be contributing since we do have medical lab results saying he is gluten intolerant.

And I haven't been totally sticking to his diet either. Last weekend I gave him strawberries, during the week, an orange. Also I've been giving him a new multi-vitamin and making a new bun mix. Any of these things could be contributing.

His father isn't helping matters. Yesterday when our son was getting frustrated, he began to verbally attack his dad.

Dad (who I personally believe is the adult version of an inflexible-explosive child who never developed the skills I'm attempting to teach my son) responded with a meltdown of his own. He reached over to our son's lego house that he's been working on for the past week and said that when our son talks to him like that it makes him want to break his lego house. When this response only made our son more verbally abusive, Dad pushed the lego house off the edge of the table letting it smash to pieces on the floor.

As you might predict (and I'm sure ANY child would do the same), Our son screamed in horror at the top of his lungs. He came running upstairs to tell me what happened. I was lying on my bed nursing my one-month-old.

I was unbelieving. Although it's true that Dad has behaved very childishly in the past, I still found it incredible that he would do such a thing. My son assured me that he did. I said, "Maybe he was just cleaning up." But my son said: "No, I was looking at his face when he did it and he had a mad face." I asked my son, "Why was Dad mad at you?" And he responded crying loudly: "I can't remember!"

A few moments later, Dad came into the bedroom scolding our son for whatever he'd said to Dad, and informing us that he was leaving. Then he followed our son downstairs and continued to scream at him about what an awful child he is.

I broke free from my nursing newborn and attempted to intervene because I can't stand to see my son being punished for behavior he has no control over. That's when Dad turned on me and blamed me as our son's "primary caregiver" for not raising a son who knows how to respect his elders. Meanwhile, baby sister too has started crying. Our son is falling apart about his lego house. And I'm in shock wondering how my house went from quiet and peaceful to psycho-ward material in a matter of minutes.

Needless to say, I was happy to see my ex-husband leave.

This had been a long day of difficulties for my son. Earlier I'd asked my dad to come over and drive me to the hospital because my youngest daughter is sick with a terrible sounding cough, congested nose, and vomiting. She's only a month old, so this can be serious stuff. My son was playing in the snow when my dad arrived.

Thinking to help me, my dad asked my son several times to come and get into the car because we're going to the hospital. My son wasn't ready to leave the snow yet and didn't budge. My dad decided a heavy hand was needed (and he'd seen me do the same many times in the past so he probably didn't think it was wrong) and he picked my son up and carried him kicking and screaming to the door of our house.

"The Explosive Child" warns about physical contact during meltdown phase...

My dad dumped my screaming son in the door. All the while he was kicking, screaming, and telling my dad what a stupid idiot he is and how much he hates him. My dad, feeling very upset and offended got in the last barb before walking out the door to wait in the car and called my son "a spoiled little brat."

I can't blame him. I've done a lot worse than that in my attempts to punish my son for his behavior (like hitting him back, telling him maybe he should go live with his dad, feeling almost hatred towards him in darker moments of his disability). Before I understood that he couldn't help it, I was determined to "teach him a lesson."

Now my son was adamant that he was not getting into a car with Papa.

It took about 15 minutes for me to calm him down. I used the Collaborative Problem Solving technique described in the book. I told him we needed to compromise. He didn't want to go in the car but I needed him to go in the car because we had to take his baby sister to the hospital. He was too far gone to consider a compromise himself, so I suggested one. I suggested he comes in the car but he doesn't talk to Papa. After a few minutes, and I'll admit I cried in front my son while attempting this negotiation, he agreed to the compromise. (It had been a stressful few days with my sick newborn and out of control son.)

Once we were in the car, (thankfully) my dad acted as if nothing happened and suggested taking my son for fries while baby sister and Mommy went to emergency. My son came around pretty fast. It was actually kind of surprising.

I've also had a few other surprises. Although my son seems to be melting down every few minutes over any little thing (he dropped his pencil, he leaned on his button getting out of bed, his older sister's singing is "annoying" him, etc), I am ignoring all his outbursts. And what is surprising is that after several of his outbursts, he walked over, gave me a hug and told me how much he loves me.

This morning it went basically like this:


Me: (cleaning kitchen and completely not responding)

My son (comes over to me two minutes later and wraps his arms around my legs): I love you so much, Mom! You're the best.

Normally I would calmly remind my son that he should not talk to me like that and then he'd respond with something about how he hates me or how I must not care about him. Then I'd reassure him that I still love him even when he treats me like this. But this was an interesting development. Ignoring him completely - acting as if it didn't even happen - worked better faster. (And I have to tell you that short outbursts are much preferred to prolonged screaming fits.)

If I hadn't read the book and I'd tried the ignoring completely thing, I'd think he's manic-depressive. But I now know he's "incoherent" when he's frustrated. His reaction to this incoherence is to yell every bad thing he can think of and sometimes hit or kick.

Getting mad at him makes him more incoherent and his reaction becomes even more out of control. Not reacting to him gives him a chance to calm down, gain back his coherence and in the aftermath, he wants to make up to me, so he tells me he loves me.

I can't tell you how much this warms my heart. For the first time in a long time I feel like my son actually does love me. Often it felt like he only loves me when he gets what he wants or things are going his way. But the truth is, he's loved me all along. He just can't cope normally with heightened emotion. He is emotionally developmentally delayed.

(And I've punished him for it incessantly!)

My oldest daughter has a learning disability math disorder. I wouldn't get mad at her for not learning math. So I shouldn't get mad at my son for not learning emotional control. That is *his* learning disability. And as their mother, it's my job to do what works. Not what others expect me to do.

My son is not a "spoiled little brat." He is doing the best he can with the skills he possesses. And if you take away the meltdowns, he is a loving, intelligent, funny, creative, beautiful person. So as the book instructs, my first priority is to REDUCE MELTDOWNS.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Teacher Who "Doesn't Do Rude"

From September till December, my daughter LOVED school. She hated to miss a day. She had a fantastic, nurturing teacher at her alternative school. Staff changes that parents were not warned of in any way occurred over the holidays, and when my daughter returned, she suddenly had two teachers - neither of them very nurturing and quite the opposite of fantastic.

On my daughter's first day back after Christmas holidays, she bounded happily up to her new teacher's desk. "Can you open my banana?" she asked sweetly. (It's how my daughter talks when she doesn't know someone very well - sweetly.)

Her teacher looked down her nose at my daughter with a scowl on her face and said "Excuse me but I won't help you do anything until you use your manners." My daughter came home crying over that one. She stressed all night about it. "But I was so nice when I asked, Mom!"

I agreed that it was a bit harsh, but told my daughter she needs to remember her manners and I encouraged her to have a positive attitude about the next day.

The next day was no better than the first. The kids I carpool from my daughter's class concurred. The new female teacher is mean and the new male teacher is not much better. My daughter is beginning to have serious anxiety about school. "What if they don't let me use a calculator, Mom? What if they ask me questions in class?!"

I had moved heaven and earth to find the right school for my daughter where her learning disability would not impair her confidence and where the philosophy was one of nurturing and caring. As far as I was concerned, the evil anxiety needed to be nipped in the bud.

Day three of my daughter being back from holidays I descended on the school with her Psych. Ed. Assessment in hand. I spoke briefly with the male teacher and had an office visit with the female teacher. I could immediately tell that she was an ass-kisser and a fake. But she promised to let my daughter use a calculator and not fire questions at her (which she doesn't do anyway, she said).

I shared some of the transition our family has experienced over the past year and hoped that our talk would encourage the teacher to be gentle with my daughter. She requires a delicate approach, I emphasized.

Holy backfire on my ass, Batman! Over the next week, my daughter was perpetually being punished for one thing or another. This information was all served up to me with the "sincere understanding" that my daughter has been through a lot lately and with the new baby coming any day now, it's probably that she's just transitioning. She used my sharing of our family's hardships as an excuse to punish my daughter for her "behavior."

Let me stop here to say that never in all of my daughter's educational career has any teacher had problems with her "behavior." What I hear from teachers and other parents is "your daughter is such a pleasure"; "she has such a big heart"; "I love having her in my class / over at my house"; and even "she's my favourite."

The female teacher only teaches two full days a week but she is also the vice principal, so she is at the school every day. My daughter attended her classes with the male teacher in between with only minor trepidation, but she dreaded Tuesday when once again, she would spend the day in this woman's class.

The following Tuesday arrives and I pep talk my daughter in the morning. Behave your best, no talking in class, listen to everything the teacher tells you to do...just be yourself, Angel. I can't imagine my daughter misbehaving so terribly that any teacher wouldn't like her.

Later that day I get a strange message on my phone from my daughter. She sounds like she's distracted by other people in the school office and she tells me "Mom, I have something important to tell you after school." I admit my first instinct was to jump in the car and go straight to the school. I sensed something was wrong. But was working from home on a deadline and the message had seemed innocent enough. Plus school was almost out.

When I arrived at the end of the day to pick up the kids, my son had left something behind in his class so we didn't see his sister right away. Actually, the bitch teacher came up to me before I saw my daughter and proceeded, very ingratiatingly, to tell me that my daughter had had "yet another bad day." Then she offered her reassurances that it was probably because of the transition to two new teachers, and the impending birth of her new little sister.

I had a distinct feeling like she was trying to put out some kind of fire and I wondered what had happened during the day. I was already sick of her and responded quite frankly that she was the first teacher who had ever had a bad thing to say about my daughter, then I walked away from her when she was in mid-sentence.

On the drive home, my daughter burst into sobs and told me about how her teacher had swatted her across the nose. The story goes that the teacher had asked the children to close their eyes because they were going to use their imaginations. My daughter didn't close her eyes and Mrs. Fucking Bitch leaned in her face, said menacingly "CLOSE YOUR EYES," and swatted her hand in front of my daughter's face, clipping (inadvertently, I like to believe) my daughter's nose.

My girl was inconsolable. I wanted to turn around and drive directly back to the school but she begged me not to. I have been a victim of assault and I have been a support worker for many years. I recognized the signs of trauma and of course, I did not turn around and go back. She stayed home the next day while I tried to decide how I was going to handle this new development. Rage seethed in my veins.

On Thursday, I called the school and requested to have a meeting with my daughter's teacher, who is also the vice principal, let's not forget. (In fact, due to low numbers and as part of the staff changeover during Christmas break, our school had the "principal" position taken away and given to the principal of a nearby school who was rarely on the property. I hadn't even met her yet.) I was given a meeting time for Friday morning.

I also took my daughter back to school on that day because the male teacher was in class. Over the course of the day, my daughter shared with some of her friends what her female teacher had done and how her mom (that's me) considers it assault. A couple of the children ran up on lunch and told another teacher about it.

If you can believe this, that teacher confronted my daughter about it! Oooh, I just tremble with rage to think of it. Another teacher at the school who has absolutely nothing to do with the situation, hears about a possible assault by a teacher on a student, and instead of phoning me or talking to a teacher my daughter knows and trusts, or arranging a meeting with me or anything that would be more appropriate if a child is abused by an adult, went to directly confront my daughter about it.

My girl started crying and said it was only a rumour. Then she went to the office and phoned me. I had told her that she should phone me for any reason, and I had let the secretary in the office know this too. She told me what had happened and I was outraged.

I spoke to the secretary and said that I wanted to know how some teacher felt she could approach my child in this way. She apologized and assured me that the vice-principal (yes, the self-same bitch who assaulted my daughter) had heard about the "rumour" and instructed all the teachers to not approach my daughter without me present.

I was also told that our meeting would need to be postponed to Monday morning because the vice-principal was busy all Friday in the library (another one of the places where my children must interact with her).

By Friday, my daughter is feeling the cold looks and disapproving attitudes directed at her from some of the teachers. Fortunately there are two teachers who treat her kindly and make her feel safe - one is the aboriginal outreach worker and she's only in a couple times a week and the other is a teacher who previous to now had always terrified my daughter. He is an imposing man, with a strong personality, and a take no prisoners attitude. Certainly not what I'd call "nurturing" but a welcome replacement for Mrs. Swat-Your-Face any day. That day I went on a tour of another elementary school near my house - just to check out our options.

Monday morning, we had our meeting. "What do you think she'll say, Mama?" my daughter asks on the way to school. She has stressed and cried all weekend. "I think she'll deny it," I told her honestly. "Then what will you say?" she asked. "I'll tell her that my daughter doesn't lie," I assured her.

My daughter had already decided that if there was any way to salvage this relationship with her teacher, she wanted to stay at the school where she had developed some very close friendships and where she had previously loved being a student. I had no idea how I was going to manage to express my outrage and also smooth things out for my daughter, but I did my best during that meeting. I really did.

She denied it as I knew she would. And I told her that my daughter doesn't lie, as I said I would. I gave her an out, however. I conceded that it may have been unintentional and that we'd like to find a way for my daughter to feel comfortable in school again and that we didn't want to pull her out.

The teacher promised she would try her best to win over my daughter (fucking liar) and I offered several suggestions ranging from "using a different, more nurturing approach" to "stop telling the class how much better than them her last class had been." (Of course, she denied that she'd ever done this either although many students and parents had informed me this was a daily occurrence.)

Let me just say that by this point, two other parents had shared similar bullying experiences of this teacher towards their children where the teacher squeezed their shoulders very hard digging her nails in. I did not bring this point up as I felt it was the responsibility of the other parents to address it. I did say, however, that I did not think that ANY physical contact between a teacher and a grade five student was necessary and she said perhaps I was right. (She's an ass-kissing, two-faced bitch.)

That day, my daughter was punished by yet another teacher for asking a question in class about imaginary friends. Already fuming in general, I let that one go. But I did approach the teacher the next morning to introduce myself (and subtly let her know that I was aware of her now and she was on my radar). Punishing a child for asking a question. This was going too far. And this is a child care worker!

Tuesday marked the third week back at school with the offending teacher. We pep talked, we visualized positive energy, we mentally prepared and when the whole day went by without a phone call home, I was optimistic. I showed up a few minutes early for dismissal, however, and was quickly pulled aside by the secretary.

She told me that my daughter had been "misbehaving again" and had been "sent to backup again." (Previously to now, Sophia had only once ever been sent to backup - the preferred punishment method of the school - and she'd been devastated because she so rarely got in trouble.)

Apparently, she continued to misbehave in backup and when she was sent back to her classroom, she had come to the office asking to phone me. Instead of letting her phone me, like I had requested the week before, the secretary told her "I will take care of you," took her back to her classroom and left her there to be reprimanded by the dragon lady for going to the office without permission.

At this point, my daughter broke down and told her teacher that she hated her.

Upon hearing all this, I was trembling with anger. I did not care if my daughter WAS misbehaving, this was bullshit. Last week the woman assaults her, and this week she's not allowed to phone home when she's feeling alone and vulnerable?

I spoke quite firmly with the secretary that I thought my daughter should have been allowed to phone me because of the assault and that my daughter had never had "behaviour problems" with her former teacher. The secretary responded that the previous teacher had no control over the class and that our kids needed to learn some respect. She also told me that she didn't believe my daughter about the assault because the teacher had denied it.

"My daughter doesn't lie," I told her. I'm ready to tear this school apart at this point. But I haven't heard my daughter's side of the story yet and I need to know what else happened and how everything had come to this point.

Meanwhile, the teacher is supplicating to me that she is trying so hard with my daughter but nothing is working. She's letting so many things go and making such an effort..."But I don't do rude," she finished. She's indicating that it is my child who is rude.

Another night of listening to my daughter's concerns and I laid sleepless for four hours. How could I send my daughter to school to be the target of so many adults, rallying together to protect another adult? Who was protecting my daughter?

That was two days ago. Yesterday, unable to send my daughter into the lion's den unaccompanied, I asked to sit in on the class and volunteer or observe. I was told no. So I sat outside the classroom all day. It was the first day that my daughter had with this teacher that didn't disintegrate into disaster. I guess evening out the odds (of adults taking sides, that is - and I am equal to as many adults as they can muster against my child) made the difference. I also called the principal and asked for a meeting.

She said she can't organize her schedule around the fact that I'm due to go into labour any moment, but she'd get back to me this week as to when we could all meet for an appointment. She also made the suggestion that I let my daughter talk to me about her feelings. Wow, eh? Sounds like she's really going to help us solve these problems. (dripping with sarcasm)

After school, I got to witness Mrs. Bad-Actress-I-Can-See-Right-Thru-You in her glory. A boy who is known at the school for having some issues and needing extra support, ran up to her with a big smile on his face. I didn't hear what he said, but I heard her loud and clear. She turned to him, looked down her nose, and said in a condescending voice "Excuse me, but I am having a conversation right now and it is rude to interrupt."

He seemed confused at first. He continued to smile waiting for her next comment, but she turned from him to the parent, effectively dismissing him. His smile faltered, he walked away, and she never did get to hear whatever his good news was.

Now you tell me who's rude?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vaccination Epiphany

I have been reading a book about childhood vaccinations. The amount of information that is held back from parents is astonishing. I have changed my entire outlook on vaccinations.

After seeing how much a small amount of artificial colour or flavour (gumball from machine) can do to my son, I am sickened to think of the amount of toxic chemicals I let the "medical establishment" inject into both my children when they were only months old.

I remember when my son was about five months old (and shortly after he had his 4 month vaccinations), he suddenly stopped going to sleep easily in his crib or bassinet. What followed was years of having to sleep with my son, lie down with him at night, get up with him through the night, etc. I wonder now if it was the vaccine that caused it.

The author of the book I'm reading accurately points out that we are injecting our children with massive amounts of toxins as well as a virus or five when their immune systems are only 2, 4, and 6 months old! What was I thinking? I did it with both my children!

Now I am pregnant with my third and my experiences with a medical establishment I've grown to distrust completely, prompted me to research vaccines. I don't give my kids anything anymore without researching it thoroughly.

The author also shows studies that demonstrate a clear correlation with a sudden and huge increase in learning disabilities, children with various disorders on the autism spectrum, and autoimmune diseases with the advent of more and more new vaccines.

Can you imagine if the government and the medical establishment admitted to the mass harm of children through mandatory vaccinations? It will never happen in my lifetime. Maybe when most of the people who pushed it through are dead and they can blame it on the ignorance of our ancestors.

In the meantime, due to overwhelming evidence, they had to allow parents the choice of whether to vaccinate or not. (And I will vaccinate, just not in the first year and then it will depend on the vaccination being offered - whether the illness is deadly if contracted, what the odds are of my child contracting that virus, whether the vaccine contains mercury or other identified toxic material that has been scientifically proven to harm the human body, whether the vaccine has been reported to increase the likelihood of a child developing autoimmune disorders, and so on.)

You know how they say "the personal is political"? Well, this is one of those times. Vaccine manufacturers are in the pockets of the politicians and the decision-makers. Mandatory or mass promotion of mass vaccinations makes them A LOT OF MONEY. More than most of us can ever imagine. Poisoning our children is big business. They are poisoned using vaccines, food additives, pesticides and more.

And we just blindly believe in our government to protect us. We blindly believe in the medical establishment to cure us. We blindly believe that it is a good thing to inject massive amounts of toxins and viruses into newborn babies - because we've been told to do it by those we blindly believe in.

Well, I'm not blind anymore.

And if you can believe this one. I had an even more profound epiphany as I read the section in the book about the Hepatitis B vaccination.

You see, shortly before I became disabled by chronic illness, I had two rounds of the combined Hep A and B vaccination. It was in preparation for my upcoming honeymoon. We didn't end up going on a tropical vacation, but I really wanted to, so I got prepared hoping that that was what we would do. (It was also a recommended vaccine to get in my line of work doing support in a transition house for women with substance abuse issues.)

Shortly after the first shot, I started to get chronic diarrhea that lasted about 5 or 6 weeks leading up to my wedding. I asked my doctor if it could be a side effect of the vaccine and he assured me that it definitely could not. (At that time I was still "blind" so I accepted his response and didn't think of it again.)

He didn't find any problems with my stool sample, so he called it "irritable bowel syndrome" and sent me on my way. I continued to have stomach problems all through the following weeks and into my honeymoon.

Within two weeks of my wedding, I became so ill, I could not function. Doctors couldn't figure out what was causing my heart-racing, dizziness, and fainting.

Well guess what. Hepatitis B has been associated with causing an autoimmune response where the body starts attacking itself. Gluten intolerance can also become an autoimmune disorder. They say it is usually an illness or shock that will trigger autoimmune disorders. In my case, I have no doubt now that it was the vaccination that caused me to become disabled.

You see, it's been shown that people with compromised immune systems should not get the Hep B vaccination. I didn't know it at the time, but I had been suffering with an inability to tolerate gluten my whole life. My immune system was working at full tilt just to deal with the foods I ate every day. Getting that shot fucked everything up! My immune system could not handle it!

I am torn on how I feel about it now. It was an excruciating year and a half that leaves me traumatized. I would never wish it on anyone. But so much good has come of it.

If I had not gotten the Hep B shot, I may have gone on for another decade or more being bloated and tired and burnt out and thinking this is how every one feels. I wouldn't have found the gluten intolerance issue. I wouldn't be eating so healthy now. I wouldn't have known to look for a food cause for my son's behavior problems (which also led to a solution). I would have gone on blindly believing in the medical establishment - exposing my children to harmful chemicals.

So much good has come of me getting sick. As the full picture begins to emerge - and this new understanding of why my illness took such a sudden and drastic turn for the worse - I actually feel a little less traumatized.

I could look back at my ignorance of the harms and the secrets that are being hidden by the government and the medical establishment about vaccinations and be angry at them. I could be angry at how they stole a year and a half of my life. I could be outraged that many organizations like the one I work for now actually REQUIRE Hep A and B vaccinations to work there. I could cry with relief to now know how this all happened to me.

But I do none of these things.

Instead I feel grateful. It was a year and a half of pure hell. But the benefits to myself and my children now are immeasurable and they will impact us for the rest of our lives. I now think it may have been worth the sacrifice.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Warm Zone, Drop In for Women, Abbotsford BC

As I ascended the stairs into "The Warm Zone," I immediately began to feel relaxed and at home. It is a drop-in centre for women and every room is open. The women who access the centre walk around like they own it. Making themselves coffee in the kitchen, stepping out onto the patio for a smoke. You probably aren't surprised when I say the place is spotless.

The best room in the place is the meeting room. A long table surrounded by chairs fills it. You can see every person in the room and fit about 15 comfortably. I held a focus group there for a project I'm working on and I met some of the most incredible women. They were like family. It made me want to move to smaller community.

I would say that "The Warm Zone" is the most comfortable, welcoming, friendly drop-in centre I have ever been to. The women who run the program are down-to-earth, committed to their work, and clearly they are spectacular support workers. I was reluctant to leave when the session was over. It's a place I hope to visit again. xo

Friday, November 19, 2010

Why Pregnancy is Better When You're Single

I've experienced pregnancy with two different partners and I've spent the last seven months pregnant and single. So I have had three experiences of pregnancy. And I can tell you in all honesty, that being pregnant and single has been the best experience of the three by far. Let me tell you why...

  1. One less person to clean up after. During the first and third trimesters, we are often very tired. Having less laundry and less dishes is a godsend. You also don't feel any resentment because you're not cleaning up after another grown adult.
  2. If you are feeling too tired to do the housework - no problem! There is no one there to ask you what you've been doing all day or why the kitchen is a mess. So you can put it off until you have more energy and not feel bad about it.
  3. Less stress. We are inundated by professionals and loved ones telling us that stress is bad for a pregnancy. Well, if there's no one there to argue with, there is a lot less stress. I choose the temperature in my house. I choose the channel on my TV. I make all the little decisions and don't have to defend my decisions to anyone so I have less stress being single and pregnant than I did in my other pregnancies.
  4. You don't have to watch another person do all the things you cannot do because you're pregnant. For instance, no one is drinking beer in front of you on a regular basis or going out to parties you're too tired to attend. (There is the side benefit of not having to *smell* a person who is drinking beer and going to parties, as the pregnancy nose is very sensitive and offended easily.)
  5. Need to fart but worried it will smell like rotten eggs as pregnancy farts often do? No worries! Fart away! There is no one there that you need to save from the flatulence that is out of your control. Well, maybe your kids. But you changed their diapers, so they can just deal with it.
  6. Hello pillows! You have the whole bed to yourself! Sleeping during pregnancy is difficult at the best of times. But if you're single, you can pile up pillows for every body part making what sleep you do get as comfortable as possible. You also will not have your insomnia worsened by a snoring partner (with beer breath - even worse!). And you do not have to worry about weird noises you make due to the baby putting pressure on your diaphragm keeping your partner awake either.
  7. Sex during pregnancy can be uncomfortable and less enjoyable than un-pregnant sex. But self-obtained orgasms aren't uncomfortable at all! Since your sex drive is high, being single when pregnant is ideal because you can masturbate more often (due to your increased privacy) and you don't have to have sex with your massive, uncooperative pregnant body. So break out the vibrator! You deserve it!
  8. No dream guilt. You know all those hot dreams about a variety of men that you have when you're pregnant? Why do they often involve your partner's friends or your ex-lovers? Or your partner's friends' ex-lovers? Well, no need to feel guilty about it if you're single. You can dream about anyone your subconscious desires and use it later for fantasy masturbation material.
  9. No one to witness your emotional outbursts. Your pregnancy can be truly smooth and wonderful, but you will not escape the occasional irrational, emotional outburst. Fluctuating hormones are to blame, but it's still embarrassing when it happens. However, if you're single, the only ones who see your outbursts are your kids. Tell them it's just because you're pregnant and they write it off happily. Kids also have uncontrollable emotional outbursts due to their emotional immaturity. So they can relate and don't hold it against you.
  10. And last but not least - when you're single, you can send the kids to their dad's on the weekends! When you're in a relationship, there is no "night alone" or "time to yourself" during pregnancy. Even if you do manage to send the kids off to a family member or friend for the weekend, you still have to be with your partner. Having nights or weekends to myself has been a wonderful perk of separating from my children's dads. I am able to recoup, rest up, and be a better mother when they come home to me. This is a luxury I never had while living with the fathers of my children.
So there you have it. Pregnancy is better when you're single. I would say the only disadvantage to being pregnant and single is financial, as it's difficult to work and care for a brood of children all on your own at the best of times. Getting a job is even more difficult pregnant. And social assistance does not cover the expenses of taking care of a family.

I am fortunate because I have work until the baby is here, and I'm getting into subsidized housing so my rent will be manageable very soon.

Life couldn't be better!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Parking Ticket Outside the Foodbank

I've been involved in advocacy and activism all my life but for the past ten years, it's been my passion and my focus outside of mothering. I've been a spokesperson on the rights of exotic dancers and other adult entertainers. I've worked in transition houses for women (as well as men and youth) fleeing violence, coping with addictions, struggling with homelessness, and suffering from mental health conditions. Many of whom fit the criteria of "all of the above."

I've also been involved in health and safety work, political lobbying, ethical research of marginalized populations and more. I have a keen eye for injustice. And when something happens that just isn't right, I see it. I feel it. And I want to do something about it.

But until recently, much of that "stuff" wasn't really happening to me. I'd had enough of the "above mentioned" experiences to relate and understand. But until I was so sick that I couldn't speak for myself or defend myself, I did not know what it was like to be so silenced. Until I was so poor that I was contemplating every possible source of money to feed my children, I did not know what it was like to be so desperate.

It is a whole other thing to speak for yourself than to speak for another. When we defend others, we know that what we are saying cannot be disputed. We know that we are unequivocally correct in our assessment of injustice. But I have found, that at least for me, when I speak for myself, I am uncertain, ashamed, and intimidated. It is very hard to speak for myself.

I've got to do it when I'm really mad and outraged. Because once that anger wears off, I become complacent. I am much more likely to accept abuse than to fight it when the abuse is occurring to me.

Having said all this, there *was* a day recently when I was mad and outraged enough to speak for myself. That was the day I got a parking ticket outside the food bank.

It was my own fault. The previous week had been my first week using the services of the Foodbank. As I'd pulled up, I saw that the parking lot was full and most of the parking on the street was also full. There was one side of the street that was conspicuously open. Looking closer, I saw that it was pay parking, so I turned around and parked down the street outside a strip mall for free.

This week, I pulled up to the foodbank with my head full of who-knows-what and the two kids fighting in the back seat. I looked up and saw the green circle around the "P" on the sign and thought we were good to go. I pulled in, got the kids out and went to stand in line. The lineup was very long and we had to walk to the back of the parking lot to stand at the end. We did not see the parking police give us a ticket while we waited for close to an hour to get our food.

After picking up the few groceries we could use on our restricted, gluten-free diet, we went back to the car and just as we pulled out, I noticed the ticket on my window.

I was instantly upset. I had maybe $15 worth of groceries from the food bank. I also had a $35 parking ticket. I couldn't hold it in. I may have cursed out loud in front of my kids, I don't remember. But I do remember that I screeched, ranted, then cried my eyes out in front of my kids. And they sat there noiselessly, not knowing what to say.

It was my own fault. The previous week and the parking sign came back into my mind. The fact that I was the only car parked on that side of the street should have given me a clue. But what was so much worse was that I was using the foodbank because I was so broke. The last thing I needed was a parking ticket. This ticket essentially negated the groceries I had come for. I could have gone to the store and bought the things I preferred rather than wasting an hour of my day for a handful of items I might not have picked if I'd had a choice.

Underneath all my self-reproof and frustration was anger. How could they be ticketing people outside the foodbank. And not just any old foodbank day, but this was the day for pregnant mothers and mothers of children under one year old. We are the poorest families in our community.

My home only being a short distance from the foodbank, I was still wiping away tears and taking deep breaths by the time I walked in the door. Before I even put away the groceries, I walked over to the computer and googled the City of Surrey. I found a very convenient link that allows Surrey citizens to send emails to the mayor and all the city councilors at once.

This is the letter I sent:

To: Mayor and Council
Subject: Parking ticket outside of food bank
Message: Hi there,

I am recently new to using the food bank. A single mom, with two kids and pregnant, I have been unable since separating from my husband in November to secure a consistent paycheque.

I have to say that I am extremely disturbed and disappointed that I received a parking ticket outside of the food bank today. Because my children and I are gluten intolerant, we can barely use any of the food offered to us as it is.

I realize it was my mistake. When I read the sign, I only read the times for parking and did not realize it was pay parking. There are no parking meters and the sign has a green circle, which I interpreted as available parking.

My mistake has cost me $35 and basically negates having stood in a long line up for very few groceries.

I wonder how can a bylaw officer and the city of surrey live with themselves after ticketing people who are standing in a food bank line up. Our income is checked, we are clearly low income people.

I went on a particular day - Wednesday - which is for pregnant mothers and mothers with children under 1 year of age. So, essentially, your bylaw officers are preying on the lowest income mothers of our community.

I accept that I should have read the sign better and I will most definitely not make that mistake in the future. But I am truly disgusted that in a community that I am usually proud to live, bylaw officers are ticketing the poorest community members.

My children had to see me break down because of it. You don't know what it's like to lose $35 because of an honest mistake. You don't know what it's like to stand in a food bank line up. You don't know what it's like to not know how you will pay your rent this month, nevermind pay a ticket you got while standing in a foodbank line up.

Admittedly, I was a little melodramatic in the last paragraph. But I’d worked myself up by that point in the letter writing. (lol) I spent the next few days in regret for sending the letter, thinking how it had been my mistake and I quickly sent off a cheque for the lesser amount if paid within 7 days.

Saturday morning, however, I received a phone call from one of the city councilors. Gosh I wish I remembered her name! She said she'd been reading my email over breakfast and she agreed with me. Then she said she would try to get my ticket absolved.

True to her word, I received a call that week from the Bylaw people. They didn't apologize. They didn't admit wrongdoing. But they sent me back my cheque. I thought that was very nice of them.

Hopefully they will refrain from ticketing outside the foodbank - especially on "pregnancy-brain" day when the expecting mothers congregate for food for their families.

It just goes to show that we need to speak for ourselves. We need to stand up for the rights of not only others, but ourselves! Most of the time no one else is going to do it for us. It's up to us. And if we're lucky, we may even benefit from it, like I did with my parking ticket. You just never know. xo

Options Community Services Society, Surrey, BC

Despite my generally negative opinion of Sage Midwifery, I must thank one of the midwives there, Janine, from the bottom of my heart for connecting me with Options Community Services Society.

From the first phone call I received, I have had nothing but a wonderful and beneficial experience with them. The program that I am involved with is called "Healthiest Babies Possible" and it is offered to pregnant moms until their newborns are six months old.

Here are some of the reasons I highly recommend this organization (or at least this particular program within the organization):

  • They have a dietician on staff who makes house calls! This was a Goddess-send for me and my gluten intolerant family. I was particularly concerned about becoming pregnant only 6 months into my recovery from severe and debilitating gluten intolerance symptoms. The dietician came to my home and offered lots of advice - telling what I was doing right, what I could be doing better, and generally putting my concerns to rest. (Incidentally, the dietician who handled my file is also gluten intolerant, as is the woman who phoned me in the first place to ask what kinds of services I would be interested in. How convenient is that?!)
  • They provide free lunches in different locations throughout each month. During the free lunches, there is also a themed educational component and discussion period before lunch is actually served. Present at the lunches are dieticians, counsellors, nutritionists, and other worthwhile support people for pregnant mothers. The lunch is also very child friendly. I have been to one lunch so far. My over-active son was not once scolded by any participants or facilitators - much to my relief and enjoyment. My gluten intolerance was taken into consideration and an individual plate made for each my son and I that did not include items with gluten in them. Because we stayed until the end, we also got to take home leftovers -which for that particular week really saved my family. We were out of money and low on food. It couldn't have come at a better time. They also gave out $10 grocery cards - another much appreciated gift for my family during this time of struggle. The lunches also offer free baby clothes on site which I plan to take advantage of in the future, now that I know the sex of my unborn child. :)
  • I was assigned a "counsellor" who also makes house calls! This whole "house-call" thing is amazing for a busy single mom who has no gas in her car and is saving would-be bus fare for groceries. My counsellor (her name is Jill) is incredibly awesome. I didn't think I would need her for emotional support, but lo and behold, during a conversation about housing I became very emotional and poured my heart out to her. She was very understanding and helpful and she is doing all that she can to support my search for affordable housing. I love you, Jill!
  • Each home visit I've had, I was presented with informative pamphlets on subjects of interest to me pertaining to pregnancy. I've received forms for housing that I didn't know existed. And I have also been given...yes, another $10 grocery card. Because I am working now, I am saving up my gift cards for after the baby is born and finances are much scarcer. I cannot express the degree of gratitude I feel for this small but significant gesture. I go to the food bank but they do not have very much to offer that is gluten-free, so having the extra grocery money to accommodate my family's restricted diet is literally life-saving.
  • They call you to remind you of the lunches! I expressed that I would most likely attend the lunches that are closest to my house. Every two weeks, the day before that lunch is offered, I get a phone call from the organization reminding me. I think that is just such a wonderful and proactive service and I commend the organization for doing it.
  • They give me free prenatal vitamins and with a doctor's note about the low iron, I can also receive free iron supplements. If you have to buy iron supplements and you're low income, you'll know why I think this is so incredibly awesome. Iron is EXPENSIVE!
I'm sure I will think of more things to add to this review, but the general gist of it is - OPTIONS ROCKS! I have worked for many non-profit organizations and accessed many services through others, but never have I had the pleasure of participating in such a well-run, well-thought-out, compassionate, and truly beneficial program as this one. Kudos to the program creators. Your karma is secure. ;) xoxo