Monday, September 1, 2008
Blood And Water, Toil and Breastmilk
You'd think that by the age of fifty-four, a woman would be sure about how she feels concerning certain things, but as I age, I realize, as did Bob Dylan a long time ago, that the concept of life being black and white is a lie.
Sometimes it is not clear whether a thing is good or bad and sometimes that isn't the point anyway.
And what has me muddling about in the word-pond here today is something I am sort of obsessively thinking about, which is this whole Sarah Palin thing. I do not think, no matter what anyone says, that she is by any stretch of the imagination the most qualified candidate for vice president John McCain could have found.
I'm imagining he and his cronies sat around with a computer, putting in data like, "Must be female, must be right-leaning, must be Christian, must be...hot!" and the name Sarah Palin came out.
"Boys! I think we've found our gal!" they said when her picture showed up on the screen.
"Yeah," I can hear McCain saying. "I think I met her once. Smart little filly! She'll be great!"
I'm hearing Republicans trying to rationalize the decision to choose her by saying things like, she's media savvy (well, so is Paris Hilton), she's real (and all the rest of us are imaginary?), she's had executive experience (so has the president of any business) and they really like the fact that she's such a strong pro-family supporter and right-to-lifer who not only talked-the-talk, but walked-the-walk when she decided not to abort her Down's syndrome baby.
And this is what's really shaking me up and making me wonder what I really do believe.
Because I have always truly believed that a women are as capable as men in almost any situation. We're hopeless when it comes to sperm donation and personally, when there's a dead or injured animal in the house I want a man around to deal with it, but that's because of my own personal weakness and not really a gender issue.
I even wrote a post last December saying I thought it would be a good thing to let the midwives of the world take charge and try to figure out the problems plaguing humanity here in the twenty-first century. And I meant it. I wasn't being facetious or sarcastic, I truly meant it.
So what's my problem with watching Sarah Palin running for vice-president?
It's the fact that she has a four-month old baby.
Does that make me incredibly politically incorrect?
I think it does and I shudder at the thought.
But dammit! She does. She has a four-month old baby and any woman who has given birth, whether she goes back to work or stays home with that child, can tell you that having a baby of that age (not to mention one with special needs) is a full time job. Throw in four other kids and the job of running the state of Alaska and frankly, I don't know how she does it.
And NOW she's on the campaign trail, 24/7?
I've read that she doesn't sleep much and I am sure that's true, whether she's wired not to need as much sleep as the rest of us or not.
But the woman is forty-four years old, which is young for a vice-presidential candidate but old for a mother. I had my first child at the age of 21 and the fourth at the age of 34 and let me tell you- there was a huge difference in the amount of time it took me to get my energy back, my mind together enough to get the laundry done and the kids all where they needed to be and dinner on the table.
Of course, I did it all by myself, which is what most women have to do. I suppose that if you have round-the-clock child care, which Ms. Palin ABSOLUTELY must have, then it's not quite as difficult to get back into the power suit and run the world.
But this is my point- it's so damn easy to be pro-family and pro-life (Ms. Palin doesn't even believe in abortion when the pregnancy is the product of rape or incest) when you have health insurance, child care, and someone else to run the house. Obviously, you can give birth, jump up, ignore the post-partum bleeding and breast milk leaks and get your ass back to work in three days. I suppose.
But if you're a single woman trying to support the kids you already have with a low-paying job that doesn't offer paid maternity care, or a very young woman with no ability to support yourself and your baby, it's a completely different situation when it comes to an unplanned pregnancy.
And, this is the part that's hard for me to admit, but I think that every baby deserves his or her mother's attention and care for at least a year. Even if the mother has to go back to work, she can be there at night for the child. She can be there on weekends. The child can be in childcare or home with Dad or a relative while Mom's at work, but a baby needs a mom and her love and her time and her attention.
I'm sorry. That's just how I see it.
And I know I feel this way because I was perhaps obsessively attached to my babies. When they were four months old, I never even went to the grocery store without them. I just could not let them out of my sight. When they were four months old, I was still nursing them approximately eighteen times a day. And six times a night. I was bleary-eyed, exhausted, still extremely chunky around the middle and my ass was as big as it was tired. But it was okay because I wanted those babies desperately and I loved being around them and I wanted to be the very best mother for them that I could be.
Bonded? You could not have separated me and one of my babies with a stick of dynamite.
Which is extreme. But not abnormal.
I think it is, however, abnormal to give birth to a baby and then go off to campaign for a job that you're not in any way, shape, or form, qualified for.
And maybe this isn't my business. I'm sure it isn't. But it strikes me as being...weird.
Just as it strikes me as weird that after Ms. Palin's amniotic fluid began to leak in her thirty-fifth week of pregnancy, she remained in Texas where she was, gave a speech, flew eight hours back to Alaska, and then drove fifty miles to the small hospital in her hometown to give birth when it would have been far more appropriate to give birth in a hospital more prepared for a premature delivery with the risk of infection from a ruptured amniotic sac.
Something is just not right about all of this.
And you can damn well believe that if Obama had chosen a female running mate with a four-month old baby the Republican Christian All-About-The-Family-Right would have been slicing into her with every knife at their disposal.
Instead, they're shaking their heads in private and in public are saying things like, "She's just like me!"
As if I, or even you, is qualified to run the country.
I know I'm not. And being a mother didn't make me one. Being a mother made me qualified to be...a mother.
One who did not leave her infant in the care of others, who made huge sacrifices in order not to do that, and whose family supported her in making that decision and making it possible.
I know that not every mother wants to be a stay-at-home mother. I understand that. And it's okay and not always even remotely possible anyway. But every mother worth her salt wants to do the very best for the children she's chosen to bring into the world.
But how in the world is it possible to do that AND run for the office of vice-president?
I don't know. Maybe I'm completely off base here.
Call me out if you want. Maybe I need educating on this point.
I, like Bob Dylan, have a pathway ruled by confusion boats.
Especially when it comes to mothering.
Tell me what you think.
Because maybe it would be insane for Ms. Palin to give up the chance to be vice president of the United States simply because she has an infant at home. That seems mighty unfair.
To her, yes.
But to the baby?
I don't know.
I just do not know.