Sarah Butters’ story and treatment first by the three men who sexually assaulted her and distributed widely a cameraphone video of the assault, and then by the university who issued an incomprehensible sanction against those three men have rippled through the JMU alumni community. JMU is where I spent five years, first transferring in to earn a BA, and then staying to earn a MEd. Harrisonburg and JMU hold special places in my heart. Years after I graduated from JMU, every time I encounter a JMU alumni we always reminisce about our times on the quad, the special sort of spell that JMU has over its students. It is JMU. It is magic.
So as an alumna of JMU it broke my heart to read this story yesterday morning. As a former student affairs professional (trained at JMU), having worked at a few universities across the country, I am well aware of sexual assault, rape culture, and how sexism is practiced every single day in our world. I am not surprised that women are sexually assaulted and that institutions of authority (in this case, JMU) sometimes (most of the time?) do not do the right thing. I am also keenly aware that we are not aware of everything that went on inside the judicial director’s office, or the discussions the appeals boards had.
The thing that’s breaking my heart the most is not only that a student at my beloved alma mater was hurt, badly, by her community members, but the reverberation of this hurt across JMU, other universities, as well as its alumni and prospective students. I know from experience that some of the most loving and amazing professionals work at JMU – I worked with them and know that they are there, day and night, putting in hours upon hours of overtime for which they’ll never see a red cent. The university let them down too, and that is just not okay.
A few of us wanted to do something – anything – to reclaim that JMU magic we all felt and maybe still feel whenever we see exit 245. Let’s channel our anger and outrage into showing solidarity with Sarah. Contribute to her educational fund and let’s help a sister get back to school and back down to business.
In Chinese, the word for father or dad is “baba” and that’s what we’ve chosen to use in our family. When Matthew started talking, he didn’t call Josh “Baba” until Lindsey was old enough to start talking and she called him “Baba”.
All the same, he is Baba. Happy Father’s Day to my partner in crime. When we first met, having children was the furthest thing on my mind, but in hindsight, I would not have picked someone else who was more supportive and awesome with our kiddos.
A few weeks ago, Leslee and I were talking about ways to support a mom who’s facing a NICU stay for her newborn(s). Here is my take on how you can manage your NICU experience. This is obviously from my perspective and the NICU where Will was housed in – your hospital experience can and will vary widely! Quick background – Will was born at 32 weeks gestation and spent almost 8 weeks (7 weeks and 6 days, the day before his due date, the stinker!) in Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
So, this post is split into two parts: first, breastfeeding the NICU baby; and second, being a mom to a NICU baby. Both for me are intertwined, yet deserve their own attention and focus.
First, breastfeeding the NICU baby.
The question of whether to breastfeed. As you probably guessed from all of my blathering on, I am pro-breastfeeding. It is a natural mammalian function. However, it is not always the easiest thing in the world, and beyond being pro-breastfeeding, I am pro-woman and I firmly believe in choice of what you do with your body. As natural as breastmilk is for most women, when you’re faced with a NICU situation, you’ve likely had a crappy pregnancy that has been medicalized all up the wazoo, so it may be harder than it already is.
So, if you are wavering – think about it this way: your body knows that you gave birth to a premature baby and is making milk designed to feed that tiny, tender little baby. Whatever you can make will be beneficial to your baby. So here we go.
TIPS ON BREASTFEEDING A PREMATURE BABY
Second, parenting in the NICU is a whole new ball of wax that you don’t ever imagine you’d be doing. But here you are.
I know I’ve probably forgotten something or you may have had a different experience – so share in the comments!
(side note, I promise life on my blog is not all boob, all the time!)
A year ago, I nursed Will for the first time. He turned one on May 10th, born two months early. It wasn’t until he was 18 days old that we nursed for the first time. With Matthew and Lindsey, they were nursing pretty much minutes after they were born, but for Will, 18 days passed. The prevailing standard of practice at Will’s NICU was that babies born younger than 34 weeks gestation were not strong enough to coordinate the three main reflexes needed to eat from a bottle or breast well – the suck, swallow, and breathe reflexes. So we waited until he was 34 weeks, over a weekend so we could use the NICU lactation consultant to help out. And he nursed for the first time.
I cried. After a difficult pregnancy, culminating in Will’s premature birth, to know I could do something that I’ve done successfully twice before was such a relief. Of course, when this particular photo happened, I had no idea what was in store in terms of our breastfeeding relationship. Tongue ties? Lip ties? What? But I am so grateful they worked themselves out. We have had an amazing experience thus far and I am happy that I have this as a part of my parenting arsenal.
One whole year. I am blessed.
First of all, I am stunned and energized by the response to our experience. Thank you for the hundreds of messages of support, not only for me, but for all breastfeeding moms. I am touched and grateful.
I spoke just now with Susanna Curtis, the Executive Assistant to the CEO, Richard H. Anderson. As I mentioned in my previous post, my interactions with her have been very pleasant, and I feel badly she’s in the position to clean up the mess these flight attendants have undergone. She told me just now that the leadership team met this morning and within the next few days, all flight attendants will be undergoing mandatory training on this specific policy (Delta’s version: Delta fully supports a woman’s right to breast-feed on board Delta and Delta Connection aircraft and in Delta facilities.) and how flight attendants are to enforce this – so if someone complains about another passenger breastfeeding, the flight attendant is to offer any other available seat to the complaining customer – and NOT ask the mom to cover up. Flight attendants will be mandated to read the policy, sign an acknowledgement that they’ve read the policy/procedures.
I offered Ms. Curtis the collective brain of all of the folks who have been commenting here and on Facebook and via Twitter, and if you’d like to participate, feel free via comments. As a nursing mom (or even a pumping mom, let’s get crazy ), how would you want to be treated by a service professional?
Ms. Curtis said that she would be happy to forward these suggestions onto the in-flight operations team for consideration, but that all of the official training that occurs needs to be FAA approved. So let’s take them on next. But regardless, I think this is a good start.
Regarding the flight attendants with whom I had these unfortunate interactions, I will be documenting my experience with them and forwarding them to Ms. Curtis and Mr. Anderson for their disciplinary processes. As someone who has supervised others in a professional capacity, I understand and appreciate the need for privacy with regards to personnel. My hope is that they learn from these experiences, and realize that as employees who are in charge of in-flight operations, they do in fact wield a certain amount of power, and using that power, combined with their inherited privilege, to intimidate others is never okay.
And for all moms out there, if you’re nursing or not – you are awesome. If something like this happens to you, and I sincerely hope it does not, but you know how fallible all of us humans can be, you have power yourself: stand up and be assertive and do not let anyone tell you how to parent your child or how to feed your child. Document everything. Kick ass and take names. You are awesome.
PS – for the very few of you who have said that I should have not made a big deal about this and just covered up, that no one wanted to see my tits anyway, that I was just being dramatic about this, I salute you with both birds flying high. I worked DAMN HARD to nurse this baby. This is the way I nurse:
Even if I wanted to fling my shirt off and nurse barechested, I would be within my rights to do so. This is the way I want to nurse. If you have a problem with it, stop staring at my chest. And if you STILL have a problem with me talking about it on the blog I’ve installed and on the hosting I’ve purchased, you are kindly invited to go fuck yourself on another blog.