Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is God Playing Favorites in Leviticus 27:1-8? Part I

(A note to my email subscribers- this is Part I, if you received Part II in your inbox please delete it as I mistakenly hit "send post" rather than "save post." It was a rough draft version. I will post Part II in a few days. Thank you for your patience with my mistake.)

After a Ruby Slippers Retreat, one female leader wrote me with this provocative email:

I have a question: stumbled upon Leviticus 27 tonight and I am troubled by the Lord's disparity between the monetary value of male vs. female. It bothers me that God, when talking to the Israelites, knowing how they valued money, said consistently that the life of a dedicated male had more financial value than that of a female. It doesn’t seem consistent with what we know of Him and his value of us.

Why didn’t God buck the cultural norms and say we’re of equal value? He did lots of other times. It uses the term ‘equivalent values’. That really chides me. The ages of the people change the value, too, though, and we know God’s soul-level opinion of us doesn’t change as we age, and I suppose that is another cultural value he’s confirming. But I don’t like it, either.

What are your thoughts?

In poring over this passage and reading up on it, I figured this passage deserved some public attention.

Leviticus 27 (TNIV)

Redeeming What Is the LORD 's
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate a person to the LORD by giving the equivalent value, 3 set the value of a male between the ages of 20 and 60 at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; 4 for a female, set her value at thirty shekels; 5 for a person between the ages of 5 and 20, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels; 6 for a person between 1 month and 5 years, set the value of a male at five shekels of silver and that of a female at three shekels of silver; 7 for a person 60 years old or more, set the value of a male at fifteen shekels and of a female at ten shekels. 8 If anyone making the vow is too poor to pay the specified amount, the person being dedicated is to be presented to the priest, who will set the value according to what the one making the vow can afford.
So dear readers, I ask you, "Why would God seem to value people differently based on gender? or even age? What is your understanding of this passage?" I will post my thoughts next time. But I'd like to heard from you first.

Monday, January 21, 2008

An Inkling for Jane Austen-Part II

I caught up with Lori Smith to talk with her about life, Jane Austen and her own journey. Here's more of our conversation.

You described yourself as a “somewhat conflicted feminist” (p 15) and as I’ve grappled with an appropriate term for myself in my own writings, I’d love it if you could share some of the semi-feminist view of Jane Austen.

Austen is so interesting to me in that regard. She wasn’t really fighting against the strictures of the day (although some critics see that in her writing), but she believed wholeheartedly in the value of women and the value of a woman’s intelligence. She believed that a woman could be foolish or wise and competent, whether she had little education or much, and that a man with a wife who could converse with him or even challenge him (as with Elizabeth and Darcy) would be richer for it. She taught that women were worth more than their financial status may suggest.

I loved your sections on physical beauty, how you felt that even though you are thin you will always be a “fat little skinny girl” in a bikini. I appreciated your insight and honesty into the betrayal (of ourselves, of our bodies, of our opportunities) when we succumb to cosmetic plastic surgery. In owning the body you have, how have you learned to be, like Jane Austen, content with not being the “prettiest girl in the room”?

I think (at thirty-something) I’m beginning to cherish the me that I am, instead of always berating it. I wrote that section somewhat tongue-in-cheek, knowing it’s so ridiculous, the amount of emphasis we put on our bodies and making them perfect. But every woman today struggles with that, right? The images we see are flawless, and unattainable. For me, writing is a kind of therapy, and it really helped me to write that section—and laugh about it—and move on. (Though I haven’t entirely given up worrying about my stomach.)


In the introduction you share about your first romance, “the kind of simple crush perhaps that can strike only an evangelical college girl at twenty when she has yet to be kissed” (p 2). I loved this phrase because I totally identified with it. It made me think of several things, the cult of romance and virginity that has, unfortunately been entwined with Western, Christian ideas of femininity. In reading your book, I saw that your journey to know Jane Austen gave you strength of character, new insights into romance and in the end womanhood. After this journey, how have you come to re-understand your femininity? I know it’s not the trophy husband, the flock of children (I love how you wrote that women after delivery seem to glow “as if they’ve just fulfilled their earthly mission . . . how could you ever ask anything of them again?” p. 180—as a childless wife myself I’m learning that there always seems to be a next bar to prove your womanhood) or the American dream home. So, what is it that women can bring the world as God’s female image bearers?

I think I need to read Ruby Slippers before I answer that! I’ve not thought about that question—or my experience with Austen, really, through that lens. But I’d love to chat with you about that over tea. I’m going to be pondering that..

Of all the Jane Austen characters, tell us, which do you most identify with and which would you most like to emulate?

I would like Anne’s quiet goodness (from Persuasion), and Elizabeth’s wit (from Pride and Prejudice). And perhaps that explains me, because those two elements really don’t fit in the same person!

To read more from Lori Smith, check out her book, A Walk with Jane Austen.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Inkling for Jane Austen- Part I

I've always been partial to "Jane", the name is the title for some stunning female heroines. There's Jane Eyre that petite passionate woman who could hold a man like Rochester at bay. And of course the "nine days queen", Lady Jane Grey, that stalwart Queen of England, beheaded at the tender age of 18, one of "the finest female minds of the century." Then, there's Jane Austen, who gives us all manner of intelligent female minds, including another Jane, Jane Bennet.

I mean, what's not to like about Jane?!

I told Dale I'd like to save "Jane" for a daughter, a suggestion that made him baulk. So we compromised and used the title on our sweet Welsh Corgi, "Lady Jane." I get a little happy tingle when I hear her name (even when it's shouted at the top of our lungs, "Lady Jane, NO BARKING!")

I'm not the only one who is partial to Jane, particularly Jane Austen. There's been a quiet, steady resurgence of all things Austenian. As the New York Times has asked, "Will the clock on Jane Austen obsession ever run out?" Heavens and Earth, let us hope not!

For now we can watch all the Austen books, "The Complete Jane Austen" remade (or re-released) on Masterpiece Theater these next few months, every Sunday evening. Be still my foolish heart! And of course Lady Jane will be joining me for these evening premiers. Last weeks rendition of Persuasion was just lovely.

It so happens that this Jane Austen obsession is something that drew me to one female author, Lori Smith, a woman so captivated with this 18th century female mind that she decided to re-trace the path of Jane Austen's life, using up months of her life to step into Jane's footprints, blogging her experiences which later took the form of A Walk With Jane Austen (2007) a blook (a blog turned into a book) that recounts the intersection of Smith and Austen's lives.

I caught up with Lori Smith, a woman familiar with depression, victories, honesty and grace, a woman who keeps up with daily postings at her Jane Austen Quote of the Day, a woman I was pleased to get to know better through this interview I'd like to share with you.


Hi, Lori. I’m so glad you agreed to let me ask you a few questions! Your book A Walk with Jane Austen gave me a chance to get to know you better, your honesty and humility made it a refreshing read. There were several parts where I felt we were kindred spirits, enjoying the same things in Austen, frustrated about the same issues with life and the church.

In chapter One, "Crossing Oceans" you write, “It had been years since I’d felt at home in the church” (p 14) that sentence stuck with me throughout your book. It is something I've noticed in many women in the church. Could you share what that means to you? In what ways did you feel homeless?

I don’t know if I can explain it, but church had stopped feeling good. I was forcing myself to go on Sundays, and not feeling kinship there, and feeling out of place—being single, being sick (and struggling with depression, though I didn’t realize it at the time). Actually, saying it didn’t feel good is an understatement—I was at church in tears from time to time, and terribly sad about the whole thing. The church I grew up in was like family—and still is. I was looking for a different form of expression, but felt the great loss of the home that I had always known.

I feel that it helps to know that women like you are publicly sharing your disillusionment for the church, your frustration that church and depression are not permitted together, at least not on Sunday morning when we're wearing our "best" (read best faces, best clothes, best attitudes, best performances). In your chapter, “Sensibility and Self-Expression” you made such a helpful observation,

There is a strain of evangelicalism, particularly among women I think, in which anything that isn’t happy is viewed as dangerous . . . I cannot be a part of a religion that doesn’t understand lament.

I value your willingness to see that unhappy things are part of the tapestry of real womanhood and therefore if they are dangerous they are like Aslan who is also dangerous (not safe), but good.

I know that you live with the daily labor of living with Lyme’s disease alongside the work of continuing your writing and daily blog. How have you learned to embrace lament and honest painful expression within the often stifling milieu of sunshin-ey, smiley Christianity? As a woman what gives you courage to be a woman of lament?

Living with Lyme disease, which means I deal with constant exhaustion, pushed me to depths I didn’t know existed. I could no longer pretend to be okay, I simply wasn’t. It took living through that experience for me to begin to understand lament, and I still think I have a lot to learn about how to process it and how it should be experienced. I’m comforted by the fact that there’s a long tradition of lament in Christianity, that David and the prophets felt no need to be smiley. I was struggling the other day, wavering between accusing God and trusting him, and I thought, “I wonder if that qualifies me to be a psalmist?”

More from Lori Smith to come.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Can Women do Men's Work?

A sociologist once found two very different tribes existing close to one another. In one tribe, the Bauskota, she discovered the women spending most of their time out in the fields, farming, while the men stayed around camp and wove baskets. How unusual! she thought.

In the neighboring tribe, the Colere, she found the opposite. Women were in camp weaving baskets while the men labored in the fields. Noting these differences this sociologist began interviewing the members of each tribe.

Though the work of Colere women differed from Bauskota women, what remained the same was the belief that the men's work was more valuable, it ranked higher on the social status. The Bauskota's economy depended rather heavily on their ability to weave and then trade baskets for staple goods. The men has assigned this work for themselves, leaving the less significant work, farming, to the females.

Among the Colere, food gained through their rich farm lands, formed the backbone of their economy. Therefore, the men were farmers while the women stayed home to weave baskets, and tend to their young. Regardless of the work, women's work was considered "that which is lower."

While the names have been invented, the example is true to life in West Africa, as observed and reported by Christian sociologist Mary Stewart Van Leeuwan, Gender and Grace: Love Work and Parenting in a Changing World (p. 113-114)

What happens when the most significant task in each tribe is reserved for the men? What do women learn of their value, of their contribution to society, the body of Christ and to their families?

We do not, unfortunately, need to journey to West Africa to find more examples of men's work and women's work. The same dibbying out of work happens today. The most skilled, most revered, most important work is reserved for male humans (and that is evident by merely looking at the gender of what I like to call the 3 "P's" priests, pastors, presidents). But when a woman tries to worm into these she is judged quite harshly as either unqualified, or even worse, unfeminine.

The New York Times featured an article, "The Feminine Critique" by Lisa Belkin on how women are in a pickle in the working world. Even 30 years after women entered the workplace in dominating numbers females cannot fully embrace their "feminine" side while at the same time be "taken seriously." Why is that?

When employees are asked to name the top quality in their ideal leader, regardless of this quality, (Switzerland said "problem-solving skills", United States and England said "their ability to inspire others", others said "team builder") women don't have it, at least not as much as men.

It's like the ancient Bauskota and Colere tribes, where the significant work can only done by the men, regardless of giftings or passions, if you are a female you're not going to be able to do it as well as a man. Why? Because it's "men's work." End of story.

Some women just act as they are expected to act, as feminine, which often means focusing “on work relationships” and expressing “concern for other people’s perspectives." But when a woman acts feminine she is considered less competent. But what is her alternative? As the New York Times journalist, Belkin points out, when women "act in ways that are seen as more “male” — like “act assertively, focus on work task, display ambition” — they are seen as “too tough” and “unfeminine.” Women can’t win."

Women must choose between being respected but not liked, or liked but not respected.

So, I wondered if this was just a New York Times thing, what about regular, small town life? What about my female friends at work? Did they experience this, too?

When my brilliant horticulturist friend sacrificed her career as a Veterinarian and began landscaping for the family Nursery, she was regularly disappointed by the way men and women (she claimed the latter were even worse) would brush her aside demanding, "Where are one of those Japanese men? I want to talk to one of them." Though she knew twice as much as her Japanese father, grandfather, and uncles about their question, her gender prevented them from seeing her as a proficient expert on plants.

It seems to me that the problem is our perception of women, including our perception of ourselves, that woman staring back at us in our reflections. What do we expect to find when we look at a woman in Home Depot apron? or a female giving advice on landscaping? or mascara on the lashes of our doctor before surgery? Do we expect an adept, skilled, professional, or do we doubt their proficiency simply because she is a woman?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- Part II- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Written January 14, 2008
Five of Five

For me, there is some shame associated with the very word, "miscarriage." The word implies someone missed, messed, mistakenly carried the child. And the only person carrying this child was me.

Miscarriage sounds like I mis-carried our child, like I dropped or crushed them, that somehow my body was not a safe place for them, that my womb was inhospitable to life. It feels like there is a failure in me. I KNOW there isn't failure in me, but I FEEL like there was. And the dictionary backs me up on this one.

“Miscarriage” in Skeat’s Etymological Dictionary of the English Language means

- “to be unsuccessful, to fail, to bring forth prematurely”

“Mis”

- “a misdeed, includes a sense of ‘wrong’, to send away, the verb 'to miss', other forms mis-take, mis-become, mis-give, mis-lay, mis-lead, mis-like, mis-name, mis-shape, mis-time, mis-understand, mis-apply, mis-apprehend, mis-appropriate, mis-call, mis-hap, mi-take.”

“Carry”

- to convey on a car, cart

I think we need a new word, and somehow the new PC "spontaneous abortion" does not work. The process is neither fun or lighthearted as “spontaneous” conveys nor is it wise to associate the loss of life with a word that is often used when we intend to end life, as "abortion" does. Perhaps “incomplete pregnancy” or “truncated pregnancy” or “premature fetal death” . . .

It’s strange how something as brief as 1 month and 2 weeks of my life, something like this premature baby’s death would give me the credentials to be more respected. All of a sudden, I'm a mother. I can never say, “I’ve never had a child”, now. It’s baffling and incommensurate to me how a surprise pregnancy, out of which I can claim no pre-mediation or planning and then 6 weeks after that another surprise event of losing the child endows me with credentials, how could it make me “more of a woman”? I suppose I’m such a firm believer in our will to choose the shaping of our souls that when an event such as this is thrust on me, I feel I can claim no credit.

Yet it is these unforeseen, unchosen events that do change us—the death of a beloved friend, the death of a child, the death of a parent, always thrust on us most unwillingly.

I know more this side of my first pregnancy, I see more clearly what "life and death", "life-bearing" and "miscarriage" mean, how pregnancy is interwoven with joy and pain, and what woman and man can and cannot share. And I see the stark need for women to share more of their experiences as we develop a bigger, more vulnerable theology of our bodies.

Yes, in a way, a miscarriage feels shameful, but it's more, too. Next to the shame is a more substantial feeling. I feel privileged to be able to live this step of life and death, to have had a chance to have a child. Perhaps I can take Christ’s life as a model in this, too, "the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame." (Heb. 12:2).

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- Part II- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Written December 30 in retrospect of this last week and ½
Four of Five (to read the entire story from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

I like being back home in Colorado with plenty of space to think and be still, plenty of clean, pure snow around falling, protecting, cleansing, blanketing me close and safe inside.

I’m sitting across from some boxes labeled “Baby Stuff.” I had moved them into the library because I thought I'd need to begin planning a nursery. And the planning was both strange, inconvenient and wonderful.

Now the baby is gone. I won’t feel shaky anymore when I ski four runs in a row because I need more food. I won’t get dizzy or nauseous in the afternoons. I won’t crave oranges all day long.

For now I get to travel, speak, paint rooms, lift furniture, ski all day without any interruptions from another life. But that interruption would have been awfully cool.

I got the book Being a Dad for Dale. It was supposed to be his Christmas present. It’s still in its shipping box.

I'm disappointed and sad, but not aching from this loss (at least not yet). I feel an overwhelming trust that God still is watching our backs, that we're still on the same team. I wish I could have met our first child, the first baby that we created. That is a loss to me.

It's hard to think of how the baby's remains were sucked out of me and then, just, thrown away. I don't like that--it feels harsh, inhumane, and cold.

There is something very hidden about the pain of a miscarriage. You can't tell people the process, the symptoms without breaching the codes of tact and decorum. It's not like more visible suffering, like cancer, where you can share the stages, the diagnosis, and surgery. The hair-loss and nausea, the side-effects are becoming more permissive information to share, even from a church pulpit, even between the sexes. But a miscarriage carries shame with it, perhaps because it happens in an area of the woman's body that is most private and hidden.

I didn't want to feel embarrassed, but I did. It's just so mortifying to have death in you, you feel shame as hope and life flow out of you. Even the Psalmist David got that. Of the two mentions of miscarriage in the Bible both are used as curses, as evil things upon those who have turned from God. David writes in Ps 58:6-8 "O God shatter their teeth in their mouths . . . let them flow away as water that melts off, let them be . . . like the miscarriages of a woman which never see the sun." (NASB) "like a stillborn child that never sees the sun" (TNIV).

When you cramp and labor alone in the bathroom, knowing you were the only human to know this life intimately, you see how David must have known from his wives, from his mother or his sisters (did any of them share with him?). He must have learned and realized how apt a curse this would be for his enemy.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- Part II- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Four of Five (to read the entire story from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

It’s been two weeks since I went in for a D & C. Now with time to contemplate, I’m glad I did, not because I simply want to “get on with my life." My sister-in law, Roxanne, also a nurse as well as another family-friend and nurse, recommended the D & C. After hearing their thoughts and advice, I saw it like this. The D & C gave me a chance to have my body cleaned out of the death inside.

But, I don't want to treat my body without noting the history of it's experiences. I want to think about what this means for me. First I want to take stock of the experience.

With a week's distance from it all, I see the hospital stay as a chance to see what surgery, anesthesia, doctors in masks, operating rooms, gurneys, paperwork, recovery, post-op appointment and wheelchair service to my car was like. A sort of dress rehearsal. And it was all very, very smooth, a good experience (in spite of it all).

That morning, arriving very early, my nurse friend Lisa joined Dale and me for the 3 hours of waiting beforehand (you can read more about this lovely friend of mine on pg. 128 of Ruby Slippers). She gave me some of those practical, make-or-break-your-stay nurse tips and advice. She helped make everything more dignified and enjoyable.

There were several ways God provided for both Dale and I:

  • Lisa’s friendly, at ease spirit (I mean the hospital is her home away from home)
  • A cheerful spirit while I sat in that barley sack of a hospital gown on a bed lined with plastic, waiting, waiting, waiting.
  • Only a slight sting of tears as I kissed Dale good-bye before some guy wearing a UCLA cap, clearly not standard hospital issue, wheeled me to surgery.
  • An Anesthesiologist, Dr. Huan, who didn’t put my IV in until I was all gurneyed up and AWAY from Dale, who doesn’t do well with IV’s. The last thing I remembered was telling him, “Merry Christmas” then I slept.
  • The most enthusiastic wake-up I could have expected, within 45 minutes of the 10 min procedure, feeling chatty and very sarcastic with the post-op staff. I remember constantly asking them why I had tubes in my nose and why my throat felt scratchy. Well, I could take the tubes out in a few moments and they told me I had had a tube in my throat during surgery. Ewwww, I didn’t like to think about that.
  • The nurse who had monitored me before and afterwards brought me a Apple Danish, NOT from the hospital kitchen, but from a Pasadena Bakery run. She saved it, warmed it and served it up with a cup of tea for my post-op hungry stomach. It tasted like the bread of the gods.
  • My mother’s quick visit to give me an earlier Christmas present and see how I was doing. It was nice to have her support
  • An earlier release, when I got to talk to Beva, an elderly Hispanic woman who wheeled me out and in that time I learned: that she loved how Dale and I interacted, how she felt far from God, that she knew she should marry the man she was living with, that she felt afraid that God was mad, that she wanted my advice if marrying him before her next surgery would provoke God’s wrath for such a shotgun wedding. Craning my head to listen to her, sitting in my wheelchair, slightly woozy, I told her, “I think God’s love for you is greater than that. Let Jesus love you Beva, he wants to.” Then Dale pulled up, I gave her a hug and climbed slowly into the car.

I felt God's love that day, it seemed only right to spread it around.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- Part II- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Written December 20, 2007
Three of Five (to read the entire story from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

Watching the screen, hoping for the instant sound of a heartbeat, for the picture of the fetal pole to be intact, looking for that little limabean, we waited. The ultrasound screen got bright with light and then a black sea of murkiness. There was no order, no light, no differentiation, just blackness, waves of darkness. All hopes for this baby were gone, the baby was gone, this was just a mess inside.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

“This is a bad pregnancy,” Dr. Roca said. I kind of wished he hadn’t used that adjective. He recommended a D & C (Dilation and Curettage) and told me he could schedule me for Friday. Two days away, I thought.

We began to ask him the hard questions. Why this and not natural miscarriage?

Then I learned how natural miscarriage isn’t always successful, how some women don’t or can’t pass the placenta mainly because they’ve never experienced the birth pangs and don’t know how to push, how I could get infected anyways and still have to come in for an emergency D & C.

With Christmas 6 days away, I was again afraid of what this situation would do to my family and their plans for Christmas. I didn’t want to inconvenience and I didn’t want to be in the hospital over Christmas. That’s when I asked the question I was most worried about.

“What about scarring?” Dr. Roca told us that since I wasn’t very far along, probably 6 weeks, the tool he would use is softer plastic, rather than a metal, larger suction to clean out my womb.

He told me, “I've done 3-4 D & C’s each week for 20 years,” to which I shuddered wondering if they were abortions (since then I have learned that Dr. Roca is a devout Catholic practitioner). “In that time I’ve only had one case where the patient had scarring.”

Then Dale asked him, “If this was your daughter, what would you recommend?” Dr. Roca answered, “Six days before Christmas, I’d say do a D & C, that way you can get on with your life.”

I told him we needed to think about it.

And equipped with that hard, fast evidence we drove 20 minutes to my old home, finally able to unpack from our speaking engagement and take stock of what we needed to do. I felt calm, very calm...

That evening I began breaking the news to my family. And that’s when I began to feel the prayers of those around me. I never once broke down. I felt so strong, so calm, so capable of going through this. I felt God near, very near, even though we knew now, for certain, that we were not going to be meeting this child in 8 months.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- Part II- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Written December 19, 2007
Two of Five (to read the entire story from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

That night was hard, more so because I didn’t know what to expect or what would be a sign I needed to get to the hospital. Mercifully, I had wireless internet, so I began a flurried set of emails to my friend Shae, who had lost several children before they got to live outside her womb. She was my lifeline that night. She explained that what I felt coming out of me was a blod clot, not a baby, that the cramps would be getting worse, that she was praying, that I shouldn’t worry unless my temperature soared or my body began to feel incredibly achy. She was one of the tremendous friends who gives you everything you need, even if it’s just via email.

During the night I couldn’t shake the feeling that my body had changed from a place of life, a little micro-climate of nourishment and provision for our baby into a coffin. My body was holding death inside and I was bleeding with the pain of it. I had experienced the whole cycle of the life and death within a month.

I slept little, spent a lot of time in the bathroom and tried to not wake Dale who still had to finish up the final talk the next morning. The teens the next morning were full of concern that I "did not feel well." Several I had spoke with one-on-one the night before gathered around me, held my hands and prayed for me. They just buoyed me up.

We left that morning with intentions to keep watch, to bear the miscarriage naturally and to rest. Stopping in Laguna Beach for some Wahoo Taco’s we talked over how to tell my family, if to tell them, how to tell them and who to tell first. I felt like I needed a Public Relations specialist. We decided my mom would be the best, first person to tell , she could share the news with others and she could advise me of a good doctor in the area, if needed. It was not without a little fear of her response that I called. I guess I was afraid that I would be blamed, or that she wouldn’t know how to respond and not be able to comfort me, or that she wouldn’t believe me.

My mom was full of questions, telling me that she had had some of the same symptoms with my brother (who was born early), that it might be better for me to be on bed-rest, not tramping around Laguna Beach, and how did I know I was miscarrying? I felt be-fuddled.

I hung up feeling that I had been plummeting on a roller coaster and finally adjusting to the fact that this baby was no longer alive, then my mother's comments had kicked us into a hyper-drive, climb again.

So maybe this baby was fine? I didn’t dare hope, but I just had to, had to, had to know. Somehow I managed to swallow a few more bites of my fish taco. I called Shae and she told me, “You need to know, Jonalyn, call a doctor and demand an appointment today.” But I have an appointment scheduled for Friday, I told her.

“You need to get in now!" Shae said.

With Shae’s strength behind me I called and sat on hold and told and re-told my story. Yes, I live in Colorado, No, I haven’t passed a placenta. Yes, I lived in Whittier before moving. No, I don’t want to wait.

From Laguna Beach we drove straight to the doctor’s office in Whittier. Ironically, this doctor, Dr. Roca, had delivered my little sister 19 years ago to the week I saw him. I was so relieved to finally be a place where we could verify. Was this life alive or dead? We waited three hours before getting in for my second ultrasound.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Week of Miscarriage (in five installments)

Written December 19th
One of Five (to read the entire story from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

I took an hour out of my time teaching and talking with teens to write this (please read it as the raw feelings and observations from the days before my miscarriage).

“I don't mean to be ungrateful, but I have to say that this little room that I have been given to minister out of is sort of a but a banal picture of suffering, with bare white walls, iridescent lights, Thomas Kinkade puzzles offered as the only crooked art hung on the wall and blaring fans in every room. Whenever I try to clean or relieve myself there is air blowing from God knows where down on my naked body.

And this is the small bathroom room where I may leave what is left of our first child. I hate that it must be in a bathroom.

On the drive here, when we had 2 hours to go and 2 ½ hours to get there I began to bleed, not alarming bleeding, but dull, brown spotting, enough to whip out the GPS and get us to Albertsons to buy the puffiest, thickest maxi pads with wings that I could find. And that alone got us to the Spiritual Retreat late, so we missed the orientation. And how do you explain your tardiness? “Well, my wife was possibly about to miscarry so we stopped by the store to pick up some mega maxi pads.” You cannot share that with teens, nor with the male chapel leader, Kirk, who booked us for this event.

Oh, how do I be human and honest and tactful and modest? What a puzzle! We did tell Kirk last night what is really going on. I just had to, he had to know if or why I suddenly disappear this week. He was full of compassion and a bit of bewilderment. He is not familiar with miscarriage. I did not feel eager to disabuse him of his ignorance. I just told him I was fine, for now.

I’ve been praying that God would hold of the miscarriage until my last talk (the 4th) on Tuesday night. Then, I told God, you can put me through misery, you can take my baby from me, but please let me wait until then, so I can finish out ministering to these teens of this school whose souls are hurting.

And they are. Tonight I’ve spoken with girls who’ve felt betrayed by friends, confused about boyfriends, one girl who was nearly kidnapped, then abused by her parents, used by guys and now shunned by the Christian girls of this school for the simple reason that her looks, her beautiful looks make her a target for their suspicion. I cried and prayed with them and then dashed off to finish our last talk “Am I Valuable?”

What a subject to be targeting....I’m glad I finished, I’m glad I gave it all I had, because soon after I had to run to the restroom. Then I began to feel what I’ve been dreading… cramps, hard, long cramps. It was the beginning of the end of our first pregnancy.

So now I sit in this blowy, stark, ugly bathroom, waiting for whatever happens next. And yet, I’m so glad to be here, working with teens, so many thirsty for the living water.

I hope this won’t be as painful as I’ve heard it can be.

God help me bear this."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Month of Pregnancy (in five installments)

Written December 18, 2007
Five of Five (to read from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

It would not be an exaggeration to say the next 3 days were agonizingly worrisome. I couldn’t easily stop those pinpricks of fear. What if I miscarry while I’m speaking? What if the baby’s death creates an emergency situation and the Spiritual Retreat for these high-schoolers gets all messed up because of me? Where will I be hospitalized? Will I be able to miscarry naturally or will I have to have a D & C? I told Dale, “I’m more upset about inconveniencing this camp than I am about this baby.”

To which Dale told me, “You don't need to focus there. The loss of this baby’s life is much more important than missing a speaking event.” That gave me the freedom to put most of my worries to rest. I stopped feeling anxious about how I'd be messing up our event.

I didn’t have time to journal those days, but I realized that I was not angry or disgusted or anxious, I was merely wondering, all day long and whenever I woke up in the night. I called a few close friends and asked them to pray for me. I realized that telling someone you are pregnant but that you might lose the baby all in the same breath is NOT FUN, not fun at all.

One friend asked me what my intuition was, “I feel this baby is just fine, I said. I think God is allowing this so we both get really invested in this child from day one.” To which she encouraged me that often the mother’s intuitions are spot on.

I still wondered.

On Sunday, three days after my appointment, Dale and I began the long drive from Steamboat, CO to San Diego. We finished it up Monday morning. That afternoon 1 hour before we were to arrive, I began to bleed, not heavy, but enough that my spirit drooped… and I told God. "Come on, couldn't you have held this of for a few more days!"

We were on the road, Dale was on a phone call, but I just announced, “We need to head to a grocery store, now.” I needed some supplies before I headed into camp. I adjusted the GPS.

We pulled into an Albertson’s parking lot in Temecula, only 1 hour before we were "on" at camp.
What with that short shopping trip and our general befuddled feelings we managed to miss our exit and miss orientation (our first talk with the teens). I felt awash in failure.

According to Dr. Mary, spotting wasn’t the sign of miscarriage, but heavy, bright red bleeding. I wore the pillow-sized pads I had bought and waited.

We pulled into camp, unable to really explain the reasons for our tardiness and began to mix and mingle with the 100 kids. As I saw them I thought, “Lord, this is a chance to mother… even if you’ve allowed our child to die, these teens are alive and needy. Help me love them."

With that I dipped deep into the living water and began to work.

Monday, January 7, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Month of Pregnancy (in five installments)

Written December 14, 2007
Four of Five (to read from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

Well, we’ve just had our first appointment with Dr. Mary Bowman and she was everything I would want in a delivery room doctor. I almost bounded into the crowded waiting room and announced to the staff that I could barely fill out the new patient paperwork because I was so excited. They grinned a tolerate, indulgent smile at me.

I waited so happy, I wanted everyone to feel this delighted. Dale was reading these words of fallen soldiers in Iraq, a Newsweek special highlighting the letters written to family and beloved friends should these sons and daughters die in battle. He wanted to read them out loud to me. "Can you not do that?!" I asked him impatiently. "I want to focus on this experience." I checked off a bit proudly that this was my first pregnancy and that I had no health problems (as if that was something I could take total credit for).

Well we finally got into a room and then we saw the baby, a perfect lima bean in a lovely clean yoke in my placenta. But there was no heartbeat… which was disappointing.

Dr. Mary Bowman said the baby was rather small, not too small if I ovulated later than the 28th day (which is totally possible, I thought), but still small. The heartbeat didn't concern her for a fetus this small, it was normal. She asked me again when I took the pregnancy test and when I told her, she made the smallest of facial movements that alerted me. Something was wrong.

“This might be a miscarriage, but we don’t know yet. I’d like to see you next week.” My heart skipped a beat, and I glanced towards Dale. I felt an enormous calm fall over me, a calm I knew all too well, it was numb fear.

"Well, THAT won’t work," I told her. "We’re going to be in San Diego next week speaking to high-schoolers at a camp, then we spend Christmas with my family in Whittier." For the next five days, I doubted we’d even be close to a hospital or cell phone reception. My heart was fluttering in shock and worry. Was Soulation already getting in the way of this baby's health and life? Was it a mistake to think we could manage a child and this work?

"Tell me," I said, what to expect if I do miscarry. " She began to chronicle what my body would feel like. I could expect bleeding, heavy and red and also that I would begin to cramp really badly. She recommended a D & C, which immediately put me on guard. It sounded like the procedure I had first learned about when I volunteered for the Whittier Pregnancy Care Clinic (I've since learned the abortion procedure has some similar processes, but the abortion is called D & E, Dilation and Evacuation). I did not want to do that, I did not want some foreign instruments put inside me, scrapping the side of my uterus, potential for scarring and infertility. No, no no! While I didn't voice any of this, I knew I'd prefer to do this process naturally.

Mary said the hormones in my body would remain for awhile even if my baby was dead. "So you would not be able to tell unless you begin to bleed, heavier than any period you've ever had." That sounded incompatible with speaking in front of 100 high schoolers.

It bothered and annoyed me that I might feel nauseous and dizzy and hungry and tired. It bothered me that my body was not making a good environment for this child. And it annoyed me as immensely inconvenient that I just had to wait to start bleeding or not (which Mary told me was not necessarily a sign all was well either). This was not what I expected, feeling pregnant without any of the goodies of being hopeful that this was a living being.

Then Mary asked me, “Were you trying to get pregnant?” I realized in a flash that she meant was this pregnancy wanted, was this baby something I could dismiss with a natural abortion without substantial heartache. I shot this right back,

“We weren’t trying, but the baby is welcome in our lives.” I asked a few more questions and then Mary looked in my eyes. “I’m so sorry you have to face this uncertainty.”

“Well, there’s nothing to be done,” I said attempting to be brave. “I’ll just have to turn this over go God.” And as soon as I brought Him up, my eyes began to flow. Mary gave me a big hug which turned my silent tears into loud hiccups and sobs. I sat down and grabbed Dale’s hand. I was already dialogging with my God,

“Look Lord, you know that we weren’t trying to have a baby, but you gave us this delightfully unexpected answer to our questions of "if?" and "when?" If you mess this up, we might never have another child. Just wanted you to know that.”

With that foolish retort of a prayer, I walked out of the clinic holding Dale’s hand, feeling weaker than when I walked in. I could barely maneuver the icy walk, holding the weight of discouragement and worry along with a pang of hunger (and for what? I asked myself, this baby might not even be alive!) And 10 days stretching out in front of me including Christmas and New Years as I waited to come back and have a follow-up appointment, that is if, this child made it.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Month of Pregnancy (in five installments) Three of Five

Written Dec 3rd
(to read from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

I cannot ski without lots of powerbars stuffed in my pockets. If I do anything for 2 hours without a snack, or my lifeline of tangerines, I get shaky. The afternoons are the worst, but not impossible. I sit on my red chaise, covered in corgis and their fluffy hair and type away for emails and an article I’m working on about Love and Respect, entitled "Are Women Natural Lovers" for Marriage Partnerships Magazine.

I feel content and delighted that I still want to write, that I care deeply about traveling and how this pregnancy will affect Soulation. My only fear is that this child will come squalling into our lives and put a dead end to our partnership together. I fear this when I go down the worst-case scenario road. I fear this when Dale tells me all the things that some women feel as he read his “Expecting Father” book, half of the things I roll my eyes at and vow never to do. Am I starry-eyed or stupid to assume I will still care about my work with him?

Concern for Dale keeps me watching and wondering if he’s getting ignored by me. He has only commented negatively of one thing, “I can see how men feel sort of left out,” he said, “all the fun stuff is going on in your body.” I’ve noticed that I get so shaky and hungry that I just scrounge around for food for me (forgetting lunch or breakfast for both of us), to get the strength up to not feel dizzy and drained. So I’m empowering Dale with lots of suggestions of all the good things to eat in our fridge, things that he can warm up quite well, on his own. He is doing a good job being interested in what I’m feeling, curious about my body and any changes I feel. We have our first appointment in a week, Dec 13, with Dr. Mary Bowman at the Yampa Valley Women’s Clinic. I cannot wait. Then I will know for reals, and begin to plot about how to tell my family for Christmas. What a fun surprise that will be. I think I’ll have my grandma knit a baby hat, letting her in on the surprise ahead of time, and then have her give it to my parents. Ohhh, what a surprise they’ll get!

In the meanwhile I’ve stocked up on some natural prenatal vitamins. Perhaps they’re just a placebo, but I feel less shaky during the day. In the early mornings I wake up unnaturally alert at 5 or 6 am. That’s strange, because I’m usually the last to get up. Dale’s been wondering where I am to snuggle with at 7 in the morning. I’m down stairs, checking email, eating a cold tangerine and letting the Corgis jump on me.

So far, pregnancy suits me just fine.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Month of Pregnancy (in five installments)- Two of Five

Written November 27th
(to read from the beginning scroll down to January 4)

I told Dale I was pregnant by designing a little card. I printed off a picture of a motor home and wrote in large, loopy script below, “We might be needing one of these in August.” We had brainstormed a motor home as the best way to keep traveling and raising a child. He opened it up at our lunch over crab cakes. He looked up befuddled and asked,

“You found out you’re pregnant??” And he was all questions, wonderings, interested amazement.

Two days later we went skiing with Jules and Rob, two adventure-seeking friends. I had already noticed an increase in my appetite. I wasn’t nauseous, just hungry and nothing looked as good as the tangerines, small, luscious, cold slices of heaven. I packed four for our skiing outing at Copper Mountain and shared one.

As we soared down the thin layer of late November snow, I thought how compact this baby was. Though there was another person with me as I wove lines in the snow, Rob and Jules never knew. I sat the last run out, feeling tired, more tired than normal, while they enjoyed one more round. I waited, basking in the sun with my ski boots strapped on my feet, warmed by the feeling of this buried secret inside me.

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Theology of Female Embodiment- One Month of Pregnancy-(in five installments) One of Five

It’s been over a month since I discovered I was pregnant. The test I took made a big plus sign, a large positive mark on my life. On that day, November 26th, 2007, I wrote these words

“I am pregnant. I can’t believe it, and yet I see God’s hand in this. An incredible welcome surprise, an answer to our wonderings, ‘Should we have children? Could we have children and continue to work and speak and write? Will we be able to have children?’

And now this, this chance to parent together.

I just walked from the kitchen to the office to grab my laptop and thought, “I am two people right now… there are two people when I walk.” And I started crying.

I’m crying and I don’t know what to say. I’m just so excited. What is Dale going to say?

I still cannot believe it. I feel all jittery and a bit afraid, now. I feel lightheaded. My stomach feels like butterflies have moved in. I feel completely jumpy, like even typing takes so much focus. AAAAAAAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! How should I tell Dale?”