On Being Pro-Life

What does it mean to be pro-life? So often, the term is used only to denote being anti-abortion, but I think it goes beyond that. I cringe a bit when I see candidates touted as being pro-life, yet those same candidates are pro-death penalty and against social programs.

If we were truly pro-life, I feel we would seek to end abortion (obviously), and also support families through longer, paid maternity leave, better access to affordable health care (that is actually good), and expand other social programs. Can we be truly pro-life if we ensure a child isn’t killed in utero, but don’t help the mother and child after that?

And the death penalty. I fail to see why it is needed in most cases, if the person can be safely incarcerated and kept from harming others. There’s also the fact that some on death row are innocent, and the death penalty is often used disproportionately against minorities and the poor. I was just reading how the time for appeals has been reduced, and some have lost their right to appeal by being only a day late in submitting the paperwork. At least some of these people rely on public defenders. Even if they are guilty, life is sacred, and so I will argue on their behalf as well.

I also include the stance on immigration in being pro-life. Sometimes when I listen to arguments about it, it seems some forget that we’re talking about people. Just because they aren’t from our country doesn’t mean they don’t deserve dignity. Many have come here out of desperation to leave bad situations in their home countries, and so have traveled a dangerous road to a land with a different language, living in fear lest they be discovered and deported. Many come to try to provide a better life for their children. I would want the opportunity to do the same for my own family. Does this mean we just open our borders completely? No, but I do think immigration, by and large, is good, and I also think the people coming over need to be treated with respect.

I know many in the US think of themselves as more pro-life than, say, Europe, but I have to say that, with all the social programs, good healthcare, and no death penalty, the UK seems more pro-life than the US to me. Many European countries also have those things.

If I have to choose just one of these to support, it’s ending abortion, since there’s no getting around the sad statistic of approximately 125,000 abortions per day worldwide. But I don’t think this needs to be an either/or situation. I don’t think we should settle for that, but should take the both/and approach: work to end abortion and work to support families, including immigrants, and end the death penalty. Let’s be truly pro-life, supporting life from conception to natural death.

Art and Nudity

For whatever reason, it seems that, at least here, all nudity is considered inappropriate, at best, or even pornographic. An art museum nearby has a new photographic exhibit, and one of the photos is of a woman who is heavily pregnant, and nude. It is a very tasteful photograph, and I find it rather refreshing in an era when the only image of female beauty that is consistently portrayed is of a completely toned nulliparous woman. Many of us have struggled with body image in pregnancy, so I think this photo is important in showing the beauty of a woman’s body.

A city councilman disagrees with this assessment, however, and is objecting to the piece as being pornographic. The model is not shown in an erotic pose, and the photograph is not intended to objectify her or incite lust, as would be the case with pornography.┬áIf the photograph being displayed were actually pornographic, I’d object as well. But to conflate all depictions of a nude figure as pornographic is to forget that the nude figure can also show the splendour of God’s creation and beauty. Pornography would be a misuse of the human figure, nude or otherwise. But a nude figure in an of itself is not pornographic, can can indeed be a depiction of great beauty.

It reminds me of another city in the same State. There’s a replica of Michelangelo’s David there, but it is surrounded by a tall hedge because of the fact that David is nude and the city wanted to “prevent public discomfort.”

The whole discussion begs the question of the role of nudity in art. The assumption made on the part of the city councilman, and the council members of the other city, is that any nudity is pornographic and therefore inappropriate for the public. The councilman objected on the basis of children seeing the photograph. However, nudity has been shown in art for millennia. Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art showed nude figures, both in erotic scenes and in everyday life. Renaissance art often employed nude figures, yet there is certainly nothing inappropriate about, say, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Why is there this knee-jerk reaction to any nude image? I suppose it is in part a reaction against the hypersexualization of women’s bodies in the media, perhaps. I also blame the Puritans, for their influence is still felt in things like this, I think. I would like to think, though, that we can view art without demanding fig leaves for all the nude figures. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic.

The Magic of the Slow Cooker

I love using a slow cooker. I use it in summer so I don’t have to heat up the kitchen too much, and I use it on days when I’m not going to have time in the late afternoon or evening to cook. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before, but lately when I make my whole chicken (which I only make when I need stock, it seems), I cook it in the crock pot, then throw the bones back in and cook stock overnight. The stock cooks all night, and so is nice and rich in the morning. The only problem with this plan is that I wake in the night absolutely ravenous because of the delicious smell of fresh chicken stock.

So what’s your fave slow cooker meal?

Thankful for Tandem Feeding

Before having Kieran, I never imagined breastfeeding past the age of 1, let alone nursing during a pregnancy and then tandem feeding a newborn and toddler. It ended up feeling like the most natural thing in the world, though, and now I have an additional reason to be glad for it: tongue tie.

When I was pregnant with Leo, Charlotte stopped nursing, and it was rather traumatic for both of us. By the time he was born, Charlotte had forgotten how to nurse, so I did not get to tandem feed that time. It didn’t take me long to realise that Leo was tongue-tied, and more than once I’ve wished I’d been able to tandem nurse again so I wouldn’t have had so many supply issues.

Today, I realised just how much tandem feeding would have helped, and has helped. I was trying to see if something was caused by the tie, or was just a normal thing, so I asked Charlotte to open her mouth and touch her tongue to the top of her mouth at the same time. She couldn’t do it, so I looked closer. This is what I saw:

See the tongue tie?

See the tongue tie?

I’d never noticed before that she has the same kind of tie Leo had! It never hurt to nurse her, really. She’d had some digestive issues, but I’d chalked that up to dairy intolerance; she did have a slight dairy issue, but I don’t think that was all of the problem now. She’d frequently chomp at the breast, but I still didn’t make the connection. She was growing and gaining, so I didn’t worry. I did notice that I didn’t have the same overabundance of milk I’d had with Kieran, but I figured it was just that my body had adjusted to this milk-making gig, so I again thought nothing of it. She fed for very short bursts of time, very often, but I assumed that was her style. Her speech has always been clear, and she’s spoken in paragraphs from about 2 years old.

Having the experience I have with Leo, though, makes me wonder what would’ve happened had I not been tandem feeding. Kieran reverted to nursing a lot once Charlotte was born, so he kept my milk supply up. She’d often nurse from the same side as he did, right after him, so she got that hindmilk instead of just getting foremilk. I’m amazed she nursed as long as she did (just over 2 years) considering everything. I’m also amazed she’s never seemed to have other problems. I do suspect slight reflux, but all my kids have that, and Kieran isn’t tongue-tied, as far as I can tell. We will be going in for an evaluation soon to see what Leo’s ENT thinks, though we don’t have plans to revise the ties yet if there isn’t a discernible problem. I’m just glad I tandem fed so that she got to nurse as long as she did.

On veiling and breastfeeding

I had an interesting conversation the other day. Apparently, the fact that I breastfeed without a cover and sit near the front at Mass is still causing a “problem” with some people (please note that I really don’t bear any animosity towards whoever commented, though it does make me sad). I also wear a mantilla, scarf, veil, snood, whatever head covering I feel like and find that morning as I’m rushing out, and I think that confuses people.

See, a comment was made that they know I’m modest, after all, I cover my head at Mass, yet I openly breastfeed (what I mean by that is that I don’t use a cover or wear special nursing clothes, but I’m not flashing anyone). I hadn’t thought of such a connection, so this was puzzling to me on two levels. One, I don’t cover my head out of modesty. I do so because of the Scriptural and historical tradition, and because it serves as a reminder of where I am. It serves as a way to humble myself before my Lord. But I wouldn’t say I do it out of modesty per se.

Then there’s the idea that openly breastfeeding is somehow immodest. Leaving aside how such a thing would mean that depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding are then immodest, let’s talk about breastfeeding and whether it is immodest.

What is breastfeeding? It’s simply feeding and/or comforting a child at the breast, in the way we were designed to do. If bottles and dummies did not exist, there wouldn’t even be an option. Feeding and receiving comfort from one’s mother are not immodest activities that necessitate being covered or going elsewhere, and I’m certain no one would object if my child had a bottle or dummy and sat in the front. Therefore, there should be nothing wrong with breastfeeding, and since I wouldn’t expect a child with a bottle or dummy to be covered up, neither should I expect a breastfeeding child to be covered. Besides, it’s hot and uncomfortable, and many children dislike being covered (not to mention that nothing announces you’re about to breastfeed like throwing a blanket over your shoulder).

I suppose in one way breastfeeding is related to modesty, but not in the way many think. It seems that, as society trends towards revealing more and more, breastfeeding openly is less and less accepted. I was looking at historic images of breastfeeding and noticed that even in the 1870s, when women definitely were expected to cover their bodies, a woman was openly breastfeeding her child in the front row of her church. My kind of woman. Far from showing how openly breastfeeding is immodest, those photos show just the opposite – that it is a perfectly modest and normal part of everyday life. I hope to see a day when it is again accepted as a normal part of everyday life, and mothers can breastfeed whenever, wherever, with or without a cover (whichever makes her more comfortable), without anyone thinking anything of it.