Sunday, September 07, 2008

Luckiest Person in the world (me)

No, I didn't win the lottery.

But I had a full weekend, ministry-wise. Finally, I am in my bed, in my PJs, with my BFF Ms. Laptop. When I close my eyes, a mad swirl of images blows through. Some I want to hang on to; others trouble and distress me:

I see the smile on a Bride's face as she recites her vow and a tear runs down her groom's face. I feel the soft skin of a three week old baby, his tiny heft cradled in my arms. I see the bright colors of a dressing gown worn by a member who has been diagnosed with and is bravely fighting pancreatic cancer. I haven't seen her, and she's lost fifty pounds. A beautiful, stylish woman, she is shrunken into the African print gown. I hear the jumble of childish voices as a big group of toddlers gather for cake at our new emerging congregation. I see smiles. I feel hugs and handshakes. I wipe away the tear of a woman far from her homeland.

I feel so inadequate. Who am I that people turn to me with these rare and precious moments? How did I deserve the smiles, the hugs, the words of encouragement and hope?

I will never know, but I do know I am blessed! Good Night! Sleep Well.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

EXCUSE ME... but has anyone mentioned BREASTFEEDING?

Friends, in matters of religion, and most matters of politics, I am as liberal as they come! I have sometimes described myself as a socialist, and have even considered anarchy (of sorts) a viable philosophy.

But when it comes to ethics, there are some areas where I am plain old-fashioned. Call me a conservative. I don't find that word, in its pure form, as offensive as the "right" seems to find the word liberal. I taught history. I love old things. I admire old people. I think the past has much to teach us. I think my Kentucky neighbor and acquaintance Wendell Berry is a prophet.

And, I can NOT understand how the mother of a FOUR month-old could run for Vice President and care for her infant. Forget about the pregnant daughter! ...that could happen to any parent. Was the woman supposed to follow her daughter around every minute, or install a chastity belt? The fact that her daughter is pregnant does not cause me to question her parenting. But her failure to breastfeed her child(ren) does!

I guess this is where I part company with feminism, as it has come to be understood. I really believe that babies need mothers. That's because only mothers can breastfeed, and for me, there is almost no excuse for not breastfeeding. I realize that this is a very conservative position. I hear the indignation when people ask why is it OK for Obama to run when he has 2 young daughters, and yet questionable for Palin. But, to me, feminism is about claiming, owning and celebrating all aspects of womanhood. I don't understand how it came to be defined as the mandate for women for to be successful and powerful in the traditional ways men have been.

Maybe it would be an ideal world if women could work and breastfeed, but you would have to prove that to me. I think women, because they produce breastmilk, and because it is far and away the optimal nutritional and emotional and developmental substance for all infants (in fact, special needs children like those with Down's need breastfeeding as much or more than healthy children) should be given the space and time to care for their infants. Yes, it's true: for some women, especially in today's economy, it seems virtually impossible to stay home and to stay afloat. In that case, the best situation for infants is to have one primary caregiver who is always available to that child. Anything less will be detrimental to children.

Now, all of that said, one can breastfeed, stay home, be perfectly loving and nurturing, and still have their children face problems.. addictions, mental illness, and yes, unplanned pregnancy. I am the first to attest to that! But what I will never have to do is wonder whether, had I stayed home, or had I breastfed, or had my children had consistent nurturing, things would be different. And, even through my own kids' challenges, I see the core of self and of humanity that I believe their early years instilled.

So... there you have it! I am conservative. I think some women who believe, as I do, in unrestricted breastfeeding, co-sleeping, responsive mothering, and child-led weaning, are seen as liberal, even radical kooks. But, in truth, that is the most ancient way, the one that brought all of human evolution to this point. Extended, exclusive breastfeeding is not unnatural, it is un-culutural.

A few minutes ago, my son asked me: so what do you think about Palin... to which I answered (because I am writing this) "I think she should be breastfeeding her infant." He replied, "OK, but what about how she would govern the country?" .... to which I replied, She scares me!

The same son who asked me that question was my infant 26 years ago. It was then I realized how incredibly important, almost more important than anything humans can do for future generations, breastfeeding and natural parenting is.

I have never changed my mind... not for a second. Am I the only one who has THAT reaction to Sarah Palin?