Posts Tagged ‘school’

Boobies Are Complicated

October 10, 2010

At the request of my very best friend, The Roaming Naturalist, I am writing an update about my lactation studies. It has been more challenging than I expected in two ways: first, the lessons themselves are dense and difficult for someone who does not have a medical background, and secondly – it’s hard as hell to find time to study with a toddler running around the house!

I take a lot of notes, and I prefer to devote a solid 3 hours towards a lesson, because only finishing one halfway and then picking it up later only leaves me more confused. I have never – EVER! – had three hours of time to myself since Eve’s birth, unless you count the time I spend at work (and I sure as hell don’t). I have attempted to study while she is in the room, but it’s hard to concentrate and listen to the lecture when she’s climbing into my lap to nurse for boredom, funsies, or attention about once every ten minutes. And when she’s kicking the keyboard. And pulling all of the DVDs off of the shelf. And…well, you get the idea.

That being said, human breasts are nothing short of FASCINATING. It kinda makes me want to wear a t-shirt that says MAMMALIAN PRIDE. And honestly, I may just screenprint just such a shirt for myself…if I can find the time.

In addition to the usual studies, I’ve also found myself chairing the marketing/promotions committee of my local breastfeeding advocacy group. It pretty literally fell into my lap, and while I haven’t been able to exactly DO anything yet (I’m still waiting to receive the contact information of the rest of the committee members), I have big, big plans and a list of ideas a mile long.

How has everyone else been faring?

Before There Was Slavery

September 21, 2010

The title of this post is not addressing the time before humanity ever began enslaving one another (if there even is such a time), nor is it referring to the time before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. What I’ve been thinking about lately is the time before a Black American child is ever told about slavery, about Jim Crow, about the lynching parties, about the experiments on black bodies, about the complete annihilation of the cultural identities and inheritances that should have been ours by birthright.

Personally, I can’t remember a Before. By the time we discussed slavery in school, I already knew about it. I have to assume that my family told me, but I don’t even know that for sure. My education regarding slavery in school was pretty much along the lines of: “There were slaves, and then Lincoln freed the slaves because he was so kind towards black folks, and then there was Jim Crow, and then white people saw the error of their ways and ended that out of the goodness of their hearts (oh, and MLK wrote one speech, which was helpful), and now everyone is equal, yaaay!” As I mentioned in Raising a Woman of Color, Part III: History, the stuff that we DIDN’T learn about greatly outweighed the amount that we actually did learn about.

I’m thinking about Eve, and I wonder how I’m going to tell her. I don’t want her to learn the pathetic, watered-down, can’t-really-blame-nobody version that I learned in school. Leaving it up the the schools is simply not an option. But, like most parents, I also don’t want to hurt her. And how can I possibly tell her the truth without hurting her?

When it comes to sex ed, I feel very confident. There will be no singular “sex talk” with Eve; we will be talking consistently and comprehensively about her sexuality and how to keep it healthy for her entire life. I’ll introduce certain topics in a way that is appropriate for her level of understanding; I hate to call it “age-appropriate” because children vary so wildly in their development, and what is appropriate for one 7-year-old may not be for another 7-year-old. I guess the discussion will be more Eve-appropriate, since her own mental, emotional, and physical development is what will help guide us in educating her about her sexuality.

But when it comes to this, I feel a lot less confident. I want to do the same thing, to make race and racism and our cultural heritage a lifelong conversation, but I am at a loss when it comes to deciding what is Eve-appropriate and when to introduce it. Is there ever a good time to tell a child that hir foremothers were raped, beaten, mutilated, and murdered for fun and profit? That this country was built on our backs and that the whites in charge will never admit it and will never pay us for that labor? That every time someone refers to America as “a nation of immigrants” they are lying through their teeth?

I don’t know. I don’t know if Eve should hear that at age 7, when she may still be very much be focused on learning through play (and how do you learn slavery through play? On second thought, don’t answer that.). Or at 12 when she’s just starting her period for the first time and dealing with the changes that come with menarche. Or even at age 17 when she’s struggling through that eternally long in-between stage of childhood and womanhood.

I know that I said earlier that I can’t remember Before. That was true, in that I don’t remember ever being unaware that once upon a time, a long time ago, black people were forced to work for white people, which according to some whites “wasn’t that bad.” But I do remember Before I learned the full extent of the horrors that were visited upon us, Before I read about Emmett Till, Before I discovered Mississippi appendectomies, Before I learned how IQ tests were weaponized against us.

I didn’t learn about all of that until well into adulthood; and rather than feeling grateful for having been spared the knowledge as a child or teenager, I was angry. I AM angry. I spent so much of my life being so completely ignorant of what really happened, and I think of that former self – of the me that was Before – and I don’t think too kindly of her or the way that she regurgitated the racist memes that she internalized. Whether or not that’s fair is a topic for another day.

I just can’t help but feel that there is no age-appropriate or Eve-appropriate way to tell a child what has happened to us. I can’t help but feel that whether she is five or fifteen or fifty, she won’t help but feel wounded, as I did at first, and then angry, as I do now. The fact is that as a mother of color, I owe it to my child of color to educate her about her oppression and to arm her against her oppressors.

The truth will hurt her, but I owe her that pain. It belongs to her in the same way that it belongs to me.

That is our cultural inheritance now. That is our birthright. That is the mark (one of many) that slavery has left on us.

After.

Precious, Precious Freebies!

August 4, 2010

I found out that the Lactation Education Resource is offering one free online class in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. The class, entitled “Initiation of Breastfeeding: A Biological Perspective,” is normally $25. This is a fun deal for anyone interested in lactation consultation (like me) or just wants to learn something new about boobies and why babies like them. It’s only good until the 7th, so check it out while you still can!

I’ll put up a real entry later today (hopefully). We go on vacation next week, so this week at work is pretty demanding.

First Quiz

June 11, 2010

I took my first quiz for Sociology 101 last night. I didn’t learn about the quiz until Tuesday, so I spent the 48 hours between the two classes studying my ass off, trying to get the vocabulary down and remember the accomplishments of the dozen or so sociologists that were mentioned in Chapter 1. I depended on the textbook entirely since I had no notes, as we hadn’t actually had a lecture on sociology yet; all we went over in the first class was the syllabus. I was nervous, naturally, and yesterday I couldn’t wait to just get it over with. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried, because I studied so hard, and I breezed right through the 25 multiple choice questions with no problem.

Just kidding. I needn’t have worried, and I shouldn’t have stressed myself studying so hard, because I had no chance of passing that quiz anyway.

We took our quizzes online, in the computer lab. When she gave us the go-ahead, I braced myself and opened up the quiz session.

The first question stumped me. It didn’t have any resemblance to anything that I had read in Chapter 1. I breathed deeply and immediately skipped it, deciding to go back later.

The second question stumped me. It named people that I had not heard of and referenced studies that I had not read about. I looked around the room quickly, glancing at my classmate’s faces. Everyone looked calm, no one seemed to be as taken aback as I was. I started to wonder if I had the wrong edition of the textbook or if I had studied the wrong chapter.

And so the quiz went. Out of 25 questions, I only truly knew the answers to less than 5 of them. The rest were educated guesses based on my powers of deduction and completely wild eeny-meeny-miney-mo guesses.

The man to my right finished his quiz in less than ten minutes. The woman to my left finished a minute later. I took almost twenty minutes to complete mine, struggling to deduce the best possible answers for all of the questions that I didn’t know. I was one of the last to finish, and I wondered if my classmates had done theirs so quickly because they knew all the answers (but how? why didn’t I know the answers??), or because they’d given up.

Shortly before we were told to go back to the classroom, I made eye contact with the woman next to me and mouthed, What the fuck? Her eyes widened and she shook her head slightly. I don’t know.

A couple of students took another ten or so minutes to finish up, so the rest of my classmates and I spent that time in the classroom (the professor was in the lab with the other students) wondering aloud what the fuck had just happened. As it turns out, everyone had finished so quickly because they just gave up and guessed randomly at each question.

When Professor G returned to the classroom, she started to set up the projector, which happened to be right in front of my desk. With her back to me, she asked the class, “Can anyone tell me what sociology is?”

With my head in my hand and without missing a beat, I said (in the most dejected deadpan voice ever), “The systematic study of the relationship between the individual and society and the consequences of difference.”

Professor G asked, “Did you just read that out of the book?” as she turned around to face me. When she saw that, no, I actually had memorized the definition since it was the first vocabulary word in the first chapter of the text (and the title of the fucking class), she looked pleasantly surprised, applauded me a little, and told me, “Good job!”

“Yeah, that wasn’t on the quiz,” I quipped. The class laughed. The professor  went back to her projector and her slideshow, oblivious.

Nobody said anything to Professor G about the quiz, at least not during class. I emailed her this morning asking her what exactly I should be studying and how I can better prepare for the next quiz. I mentioned that the majority of the questions on the quiz were not in the text (at least, not in Chapter 1). She hasn’t responded yet but I hope that she does.

If every quiz and test is going to be like this, I am not going to pass this class. And failing a 101 level Sociology class is really not how I wanted to start my new scholastic career. Hopefully, after grading and realizing that everyone failed horribly, she’ll be more clear in the future about what her expectations are and what materials we should be focusing on.

Short and Sweet

June 9, 2010

Today’s entry is going to be super short because I have to STUDY.

I had my first Soc 101 class last night and we have our first quiz tomorrow. Over the next 8 weeks we are going to have to complete 15 quizzes, 3 exams, 5 papers, and a couple of PowerPoint presentations (I don’t fucking have Powerpoint, so yay!). This professor is heavy on Blackboard use, which sucks because we don’t have Internet access at home.  So…yeah. Gotta study. Quiz tomorrow.

Bye!

New School Jitters

June 4, 2010

School is starting next Tuesday and I’m starting to get a little (more) anxious. Yesterday I spent a few hours on the campus: I paid for my summer class (Sociology 101, 3 credits), registered for my fall classes (Statistics, 3 credits and Principles of Biology, 4 credits), and picked up my parking pass and student ID. (I hate the picture on my ID; I always forget how much my body has changed since having Eve until I see a recent photo of myself. It’s not that I don’t like my body anymore, it’s just that it’s…so different. I’ve lost 20 pounds since having her and I’m still 20 pounds heavier than I was before getting pregnant.)

You could say that I’m a little overly eager to start the semester; I downloaded a flashcard app (check it out here, it’s actually pretty effin awesome) to my phone last night and created flashcards for all the vocabulary in the first two chapters of my sociology textbook. It’s not that I’m an overachiever (honestly); it’s that I’m a control freak. I want to know that I’m going to get into the nursing program when I apply. I don’t want to spend several weeks wondering “Did I make it? Am I in? Can I quit* my job now?” And since admission is based solely on GPA, the only way for me to guarantee my admission is to get the highest GPA one can possibly earn. My goal, every semester, is to score an A in every class. So I’m studying now, four days before my first class even begins, because I intend to ace Sociology 101.

This is all kind of unreal. On May 17th, when we had that disappointing encounter with Eve’s pediatrician, this whole school thing was not in The Plan. I had no idea a month ago that I’d be enrolled in a school and turning our entire lives upside down (not necessarily in a bad way, but as I’ve mentioned before, this requires some pretty big changes) in order to support my ability to see this through.

And scoring As in all my prereqs and general reqs is just the beginning. After that I still have two more years of nursing practice, then I have to pass the NCLEX-RN exam, then I have to find a job, accrue 1000 hours working with lactating mothers, take lactation classes, sit for the IBCLE exam (which only comes once a year), find a job as a lactation consultant, and start and somehow fund a nonprofit… I’m trying not to hyperventilate just fuckin thinking about it! Thank goodness I’m young, because this is going to take a while.

I’m nervous, but confident, that I can do this. At this point I’m just chomping at the bit to get started.

—-

*With the way that the nursing program is scheduled with corequisites and such, it would be impossible for me to enter the program and still work at my current company. I will have to quit and Marcus would be the primary breadwinner for the next two years. I might get a part-time job (or maybe even work as a La Leche League Leader) at the same time but may opt to just be a full-time student if we can swing it.

Raising a Woman of Color, Part III: History

June 1, 2010

Lately all I’ve been able to think about is school. Scheduling, classes, homework, papers. I’m nervous about how I might do, even though I’ve always been a pretty good student. As a child, my strength was English; I loved it, and I always got As. My weakness? History.     

I loathed history (or social studies). I just could not understand the point of it. It felt so irrelevant to me, memorizing these dates and names and places that happened so long ago. And I could not get any higher than a C in history, and I struggled so badly to even maintain that. I spent hours studying (and I was not a child that studied for classes; history was the only subject I bothered with), doing flash cards with my mom, and still barely passed. There were a couple of semesters in all my years of grade and high school when I managed to get my history grade up to a B, but my math grade then lowered to a C. I never did manage to hold at least a B in both math and history at the same time, not until college when I got As in both.     

Today, I love history. Specifically, I love learning the truth about history. I had heard of the saying “History is written by the winners,” but I didn’t truly understand its implications until I was an adult. What started my newfound respect for history was, oddly enough, a homework assignment in a college Astronomy class. The question that my professor asked was, “Why didn’t the people of Christopher Columbus’ time want him to sail westward?”     

Now, if you got the history lessons that I did as a child, you would think that the answer was obvious. Columbus got opposition because the people of his time believed that the world was flat, and that he would sail right off the edge of the planet. Of course, they were wrong and he was right and everyone in America all lived happily ever after (Native slaughter? What native slaughter?).     

I did the research even though I was positive that I already knew the answer, and what I found shocked me. The people of Columbus’ time did not believe that the world was flat; they knew better. The disagreement between Columbus and his country folks came from exactly how large the world was; he believed that the world was much smaller than it actually is, and they were convinced that he and his crew would starve to death before reaching his destination. It was his pure luck to come across the western continents; otherwise they all would have died.     

It was at that point that the saying “History is written by the winners” really started to make sense to me.     

 

 [Description: An elderly black man wearing a Confederate uniform is sitting on a chair and looking thoughtfully at the canteen in his hands. A Confederate battle flag is draped in the background.]      

So what does all of this have to do with parenting a black child? Because of who the winners are. The winners, the people holding the power in this society, are overwhelmingly white, male, able-bodied, cis, and wealthy. The history that I learned in school was white male able-bodied cis history; everyone else was either erased from the books entirely, or had their stories twisted to conform to the view of history that made the winners look the best.     

New York, 1880

 

 [Description: A black woman poses in a sepia-toned full-length portrait wearing an elegant dress. She has a huge afro.]     

I don’t know where my family came from or how we came to live in this city. I don’t know the country, the tribe, the language, the faith, or the names that my ancestors had. I don’t know who owned us, and I don’t really have the stomach to sit down and scroll through the cattle lists to find out who bought us and where the marketplace they bought us from is located – the knowledge that my foremothers were livestock for breeding, raping, and working to death makes me nauseous, and I’m not ready to look that truth in the face just yet. All of that African history was taken from us, forcefully, so all that remains is the history of our people living within this country, the American half of our history. And that history as it is taught today is tainted, twisted.     

The Tuskegee Airmen

 

 [Description: Eight black airmen pose in front of a plane.]     

When people have their history stripped from them, they lose a kind of power. They don’t have the ability to learn from their mistakes. Groups that have been harmful to them in the past can more easily earn their trust and complicity when it is not deserved. People who don’t learn about those who came before them and did great things have trouble recognizing within themselves the ability to do great things.     

A young boy touches the president's hair to see if it is really like his own.

 

  [Description: In the Oval Office, President Obama leans over so that a small black boy can touch his head.]     

We didn’t learn about Mississippi appendectomies in my history class. We didn’t learn about the Tuskegee experiments. We didn’t learn about Emmet Till. Blockbusting. Audre Lorde. Malcolm X. Juneteenth. Madame CJ Walker. Kwanzaa. Redlining. HBCUs. Black Confederate soldiers. Henrietta Lacks. La Amistad. Drapetomania. We didn’t learn shit about the people, the places, and the dates that are important to the American descendants of slaves. We didn’t learn our history.     

Young Emmett Till was tortured and lynched in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman

 

 [Description: A black-and-white picture of Emmett Till, a black teenaged boy, from the shoulders up. He is smiling gently and wearing a straw hat.]     

You know what else we didn’t learn? Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was originally observed by former slaves who were freed after the Civil War. I just learned this today, the day after my 27th Memorial Day. I should have already known; the truth of that history should have already been taught to me, but it wasn’t. Black contributions have been hidden or obscured and black achievements have been discarded or co-opted.     

I’m sure you’ve heard about what’s happening in Texas, with the rewriting of history books to conform to a more conservative view of things. Among other things, they attempted to rename the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the Atlantic Triangular Trade, but relented in light of the backlash. This is part of a calculated effort to control people, to make them easier to win over, by distorting their histories. A person that doesn’t know where they came from or how they got here is just so much easier to control than one who does know. Knowledge of self is power. Knowledge of history is power.     

 

 [Description: A black-and-white photo of two older black women in a booth. The booth has a sign saying “Vote Yes on Women Suffrage Oct 19” across the top of the booth and one saying “Votes for Women” across the bottom.]     

I intend to arm my daughter with that same power, so she will have the tools she needs to fight those who attempt rewrite her origins for their own purposes. Our history is worth knowing, worth learning from, and worth sharing with others. I will not let anyone lie to her about what her people have accomplished and the reasons we’ve made it this far. I will not let anyone take that power away from her.

School Daze

May 28, 2010

Yesterday I picked up my high school and college transcripts and went to do fun things at my new school. I did an exceptionally good job wasting my own time by taking the Accuplacer test for reading and writing, which I didn’t realize I could have skipped entirely because of my SAT scores from high school until it was already done. I also forgot to mention to my academic advisor that I shouldn’t have to take English 101 because of my Advanced Placement score from high school (okay, to be entirely honest, I’d completely forgotten that I’d ever taken AP English until later). I would like to sign up for the African American Lit class for the summer session (which starts in the second week of June), but I need that stupid English credit first.

I also was reminded strongly of how very very young I look. Most of the people I interacted with did not speak to me like a woman who works full time, is married and raising a child, and is approaching thirty; they spoke to me like a doe-eyed college freshman. Only a couple of people were downright rude (both of them were the Accuplacer proctors), but even the ones who weren’t rude grated on me. I’d forgotten what it was like to be treated that way, and it made me feel very insecure despite the fact that I am generally not an insecure person.

I did a bit of poking around, exploring textbook prices, and what I found pretty much made me want to curl up into a ball and die. I’d known that it was bad, but what I remembered from my year in college was having to spend at the most $150-200 on books for a single class. Some of my nursing classes require $500 of textbooks, and those classes are also 8 credits which makes them super expensive to begin with!

I’m also very nervous about the classes themselves and how well I can do. It’s just been so long since I’ve had to take notes or write papers, and I’m feeling pretty rusty. I feel pressured to get as close to a 4.0 as I possibly can because that will guarantee my acceptance into the nursing program. I just don’t know if I can do it.

I woke up at 3 this morning because the baby was coughing. I started thinking about school and just couldn’t get back to sleep again. I just have so much on my mind. Marcus and I have been talking and in order for me to see this through, we have to make some very huge changes in next two years.

And we won’t be having another baby any time soon, and that’s what’s been weighing the heaviest on my mind. I really wanted to give Eve a sibling no further than 3 years apart. My brother and I are 2 and a half years apart and we’re very close to each other; Marcus and his sister are almost 5 years apart and they barely even talk to each other. I know intellectually that there is no magic number to guarantee a close relationship between siblings, but I still feel like there’s a window in which to give her the opportunity to grow up with another child and that by choosing to pursue a degree right now, I am choosing to miss that window. She’s going to be an only child for a while, which was never in The Plan, and I can’t help but be sad about it.

At least she has her cousin, who is only a month younger than she is; and hopefully she will have more cousins closer to her in age when my friends start having children. It’s still not the same though, and I feel like I’m letting her down, as silly as that may sound.

This is the Start of Something Beautiful

May 26, 2010

Yesterday I mailed in an application to a local community college.

I’ve been doing some reading, some thinking, and some more reading about school. I’ve been saying for years that I want to be a nurse, and that I want to work with mothers and babies. But I could never figure out in what capacity. I wasn’t really interested in Labor & Delivery, nor the NICU, nor Obstetrics. I saw myself doing any one of those things, but not forever, not as an endpoint, not as a goal. I’m a person that does not act without motivation. If I don’t have sufficient motivation to do something, I just will not do it.

So I never went to school for nursing, because I’ve been an unmotivated student before (twice, actually) and it never worked out. I’ve been a psychology major (fascinated by psych but I didn’t want to do clinical and was lukewarm on R&D and teaching), an English major (I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, I’ve just always loved literature), and a business major (I had NO interest whatsoever in business, it was just the major I picked that I knew my job would pay for). I got As in every class but one (I got a B in Statistics; it was an 8am class that I skipped a little too frequently) regardless of my major.

But I didn’t follow through on any of my attempts at higher education because I just didn’t care enough to follow through. I had no specific goals and no motivation. So even though I figured out three years ago that I wanted a nursing degree and that I wanted to work with mothers and babies, I still didn’t make a move even though I hate my job and I want out. It was too vague a goal, and I didn’t like the options in front of me, and I knew I’d do poorly or even just quit if I got started. I know myself pretty well.

But lately I’ve been thinking, and reading, and thinking some more about lactation consultation. I want to be an IBCLC – an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s not an easy certification to achieve, and the bar just keeps getting raised every year. You don’t have to be an RN to be an IBCLC, but that is one path that you can take. I don’t just want to be an IBCLC, I want to be the BEST damn IBCLC that I can possibly be, and I believe that for me, going the nursing route will help me achieve that.

The carrot on my stick is not nursing, which is more of a means to my ends, or even to be an IBCLC working for a hospital, but to provide services for those who are most in need of help to establish and maintain healthy nursing relationships with their children. I would like to someday start a nonprofit that will provide breastfeeding resources and guidance targeted towards teens, families living in poverty, minorities, folks with disabilities, queer families, and trans people. These are the populations that have the least support financially and/or socially to nurse their children, many of whom stand to gain even more from breastfeeding than their privileged peers would, and I want to help fill the gap.

And I’m not just talking about counseling or support groups (though I intend to provide that as well), but providing pumping equipment at reduced or no cost to those who need them, advocating for laws that protect and encourage the nursing relationship, building awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding amongst at-risk and general populations both, and negotiating mentorships for other aspiring IBCLCs. I just want to do so much, and it will probably take me twenty years to get there, but I feel that it’s a goal well worth the time and effort.

The first step is school. I hope to have my associates degree before I’m 31, and I hope to be an IBCLC before I’m 35. I hope to found my nonprofit before I’m 45. Tall order, I know, but it feels damned good to finally have something to work towards.