Convenient Lives Matter

Last night, the winter finale of the ABC show “Scandal” aired. Twitter is abuzz over the episode, which centered around the filibuster of a bill that would have cut funding to Planned Parenthood. The show’s creator, Shonda Rhimes, frequently takes on hot-button topics in the show’s provocative script, but defending Planned Parenthood (which tweeted out its giddy gratitude over Rhimes’s support) wasn’t the most ostensibly sickening content of the script.

The main character had an on-screen abortion.

Accompanied by strains of “Silent Night.”

And a soliloquy by the character’s father saying, “Family doesn’t complete you…it destroys you.”

And fans of the show practically fell all over themselves swooning in its aftermath.

Just hours ago, many of the same people were sputtering about the possibility of the United States halting resettlement of Syrian refugees within our borders. Indignant Facebookers were slamming the “un-Christian” view of the world this kind of closed-minded hatred obviously exposed. “What would Jesus do?!” they cried. “Their innocent lives matter!”


Enough of this disgusting double standard that has seized American society.

Enough of the twisting of Scripture. The bending of morality. The marginalizing of right and wrong.

Why do the lives of Syrian refugees matter but the lives of unborn babies don’t?

Why does the politically charged plight of a war-torn nation and the glorifying of a taxpayer supported baby-killing organization launch throngs of righteous armchair quarterbacks onto an unchallengeable soapbox of moral and religious authority?

I read a commentary on last night’s episode of “Scandal” today that might be the single most morally depraved essay ever written. The author spoke of how thrilled she was to see the show cast abortion in a positive light. How finally—finally!—the small screen had gotten it right. How the character had seized her feminist right and terminated the unwanted annoyance inside her without the ridiculous pretense of an agonizing decision, or an ounce of guilt or shame afterward. How brilliant she was to skip the painful discussion with the fetus’s father about whether or not to be bothered with birthing the thing. How she was empowering women everywhere to take matters into their own entitled hands—ethics and conscience be damned.

But perhaps most disturbing, this writer wished this simplistic portrayal of ending a life had been the prevailing message years earlier when she agonized over and eventually had her own abortion—an act that sent her spiraling into admitted anguish. If only this episode had aired back then, she reasoned, she would have been spared the bother of that nagging voice crying out for life. She was just a kid in college, after all, unfit to raise a child.

Of course, that child was never given the chance to find itself a mother who was fit for the job.

Where is the voice for the millions of unborn babies dismissed as pesky, ill-timed parasites? Where is the morality and religious authority so quickly invoked in public discourse over Syrian refugees?

Where is our humanity?

Its absence exposes a gaping black hole of wickedness masked by slick television scenes and flowery Facebook statuses, and one dirty little secret those same people will never admit: all lives don’t matter.

Convenient lives matter. Socially wronged lives matter. The lives they want to matter, matter.

And it is completely indefensible.


In Search of Grace

The debate over Syrian refugees is reaching a boiling point in the United States—at least judging by social media activity in recent hours.

With more than two dozen US governors now refusing to accept refugees within their borders over concerns of adequate background checking abilities and news that one of the Paris attackers may have entered France as a refugee, a bitter divide is beginning to emerge.

If social media is to be believed, there are two positions on the issue:

  1. We must accept all Syrian refugees because it’s a humanitarian issue, and the only Christian thing to do; or
  2. If we deny Syrian refugees, we’re denying the teachings of Christ and exposing ourselves as heartless, isolationists.

People of the Internet: can we all take a collective chill pill?

Are we really living in a society where you’re either on one side of an issue or you’re venomously dismissed? Are we really living in a time when opinions—and, more importantly,  the people who hold them—are immediately categorized as good or evil? Are we really living in a country where free and open discussion is squashed by judgment in complete and quickly-leveled fashion?

Today, it feels like it.

Granted, I’m no theologian and I’m no national security expert, but I am this: human. A sinner. An American. Imperfect, and in constant need of grace.

There is room for Christian values, for love, and for humanitarianism, in conjunction with prudence, discernment, and due diligence. I’d argue that Christ calls us to do all of these things; they do not exist in a vacuum.

So, while the debate rages on across angry Facebook statuses and biting tweets, as friends un-friend friends and indignantly denounce dissidents as racist or radicals or worse, I’ll be over here trying to cling to grace.

I’ll be over here trying to be respectful of others, but unashamed of my own convictions.

I’ll be over here trying to reflect that while world events can pit our primal need for security against our desire to love as Christ loves—they should not pit us neighbor against neighbor in some bitter battle for righteousness.

They ought to drive us to our knees. It’s where the only hope, the only answer is to be found.

Deep breath, my friends. Deep breath.

Sharing Scary News With Our Children

This week, my daughter’s elementary school went into “soft lockdown” after a domestic shooting nearby appeared to have a link to a child attending the school. Administration decided to err on the side of caution and implement additional security measures. The school’s front doors were locked and manned, window shades were drawn, and children were kept off the playground.

When I picked my first grader up after school, she mentioned that the janitor told them they had to keep their classroom door locked, and that they’d watched a movie instead of going outside for recess that day.

“Do you know why?” I asked her.

“Dunno,” She shrugged. “I guess maybe it’s too cold to be outside.”

A perfectly logical explanation—we live in perpetually cold, windy, recess-stealing North Dakota—but something about the incompleteness of her explanation left me feeling slightly unsettled.

It begs the question: how do we balance our desire to shield our children from scary situations with our responsibility to tell them the truth?

Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 7.30.10 PM

Yesterday’s horrific terrorist attacks are a sobering reminder of the state of the world. Most of my peers were teenagers on 9-11—not yet grown, but no longer children—and those attacks transformed the way we viewed the world dramatically. In an instant, everything was bigger, scarier, and infinitely more dangerous than it was just moments before.

Today, we’re parents of elementary school students. I’m admittedly no psychologist, but I suspect 9-11 left my generation feeling a nagging pressure to fiercely protect the innocence we consciously lost that Tuesday in September. When I look at my seven-year-old, I see her inherent trust in the goodness of the world, and I want to preserve it for her. She doesn’t yet understand evils like ISIS, or suicide bombers, or mass murders.

At age seven, she shouldn’t.

And yet, I feel an obligation to be truthful with her. To help her understand that where there is evil, there is also good. That where there is terror, there is also justice. That where there is fear, there is also hope.

But . . . how?

In the case of my daughter’s school lockdown, I decided it was better for her to hear from me why things were operating a little outside of the norm. As simply as I could, I explained the situation. She listened with rapt attention. She asked questions and I answered as honestly as possible. I reiterated how committed the teachers, staff, and police were to keeping her and her classmates safe at school, how locking the doors and keeping them inside were just part of that right now.

After taking it all in, she frowned and gave a tight-lipped, curt nod. “Okay,” she said.


No panic. No fear. No apprehension.

Just acceptance.

I realized then this child—this generation—is growing up with a view of the world we parents can scarcely understand. Phrases like “lockdown” and “additional security” are part of her vocabulary—more alarming to her mother than they are to her.

She’s more mature than I give her credit for.

She can handle unsettling truth when it’s shared gently, with love.

I can’t shield her from everything.

. . . But I’ll never stop wishing I could.


Overcoming Postpartum Anxiety and Depression

My heart was pounding somewhere in my throat, every muscle tense as I dialed the number. My paper thin resolve wavered as the first ring sounded in my ear. If I hung up now, no one would know. I could go on as if everything was fine, even though I knew it wasn’t.

I never imagined I would become this woman.

It happened to other people, people with problems, issues, insecurities. Not to me. Not now.

A voice on the other end of the line answered up and I took a deep breath. I was about to admit to a perfect stranger what I’d been trying for weeks to talk myself out of: I was suffering from postpartum anxiety and depression.


Never did I think the words “depression” and “anxiety” would be in my vocabulary after the birth of my first baby. I was the kind of child who adored playing with dolls; a girl who, at age six, thought my brand new baby brother belonged more to me than to the woman who’d given birth to him. I never doubted that one day, I would be a mother myself.

My daughter Meredith’s delivery was traumatic, the birthing room a flurry of activity, her first hours spent apart from me in the NICU. But when I finally cradled her in my arms for the first time several hours later, I knew for certain this was the singular purpose of my life. This tiny creature miraculously grew inside my body, had her daddy’s nose, and my mother’s eyes. Her entrance into the world had stopped my own and set it spinning on an entirely different axis—and I was so happy.

For ten months, happy was exactly what we were. Meredith was a dream baby; she slept well and often, nursed with no problems, and hit every milestone right on schedule. I transitioned into my role as a mother with relative ease, too, feeling capable, confident, and fulfilled.

But at ten months, Meredith decided she was done breastfeeding, and self-weaned in quick and decisive fashion. Logically, my previously absent monthly cycles returned, and soon after, I began to notice an uneasiness creeping over me. I wrote it off. What woman hasn’t felt off balance at some point in her life, especially with the added fuel of shifting postpartum hormones? I assured myself it was normal, it was nothing.

But it wasn’t long before that mild annoyance became something much more crippling. I remember with such clarity sitting in the living room of our tiny apartment, my husband kissing the baby and me goodbye as he left for work, and bursting into tears the moment the door closed behind him. I felt nauseous, panic rising in my chest, irrational fear washing over me.

I was alone with the baby I’d always dreamed of having, and suddenly, it terrified me.

I told myself that in a few days, or a week, maybe a month, I’d snap out of it, wake up one morning without the familiar heavy feeling of dread crushing my lungs. I avoided being alone with the baby to an almost obsessive degree—not because I feared I would harm her or myself, but because suddenly, I felt wholly and inexplicably incapable of being her mother. I stopped doing the things I used to love, like sewing and reading. When Meredith napped, I’d crawl into bed and turn on the TV, counting down the minutes until my husband would return home from work, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach instantly subsiding as he walked through the door. Often, I’d pack up the baby and drive us across town to the sanctuary of my mom and dad’s house, for no other reason than to fill the hours with company that didn’t flinch at my red-rimmed eyes and downcast spirit.


There was only one thing I was absolutely sure of: I was never going to feel like myself again. How often did I choke out those words through despondent tears in the arms of my tender but perplexed husband? It became my greatest fear, this idea that my formerly happy, confident, feeling good self had been jettisoned out of my reach, replaced by this pitiful creature strangled by the fear of inadequacy.

It was a horrifying prospect. But eventually, it and the support of my family is what led me to pick up the phone and place that call to my doctor.

When the receptionist picked up the phone and cheerfully asked what I needed to be seen for, I faltered. I told her I’d had a baby a year ago, that she was great but I was feeling…

“…you’re just not feeling like yourself,” she finished for me gently. I breathed again as she assured me it was nothing to be ashamed of, how she took at least one of these calls every day from mothers just like me. “You’ll feel better,” she reassured me.

For the first time, I started to believe it.

It took a visit to my doctor, a good cry in her exam room, and a prescription for an antidepressant, but slowly, I did start to feel better and find my footing as a mother again. I started feeling like myself again, and stopped feeling panicked when I was alone with my daughter.

I wonder now why I waited as long as I did to seek help. I felt awful for at least two months before I made that call. In my case, the delayed onset of symptoms probably contributed to my reluctance to call it what it was (although much less publicized, postpartum depression and anxiety can present months after delivery, or as a result of weaning and the accompanying hormone shift), but the larger, more concerning reason, was that I thought I might be judged as weak or a bad mother if I did.

But that notion couldn’t be more wrong. CDC statistics show one in seven mothers will be affected by postpartum depression within the first year of giving birth—with the caveat that those numbers are based on women who self-report symptoms; presumably there are thousands more affected to some degree who are suffering in silence.

It also all but guarantees you know a woman who has or will have a perinatal mood disorder—you just might not recognize it. She’s leaning on the cart behind you at Target, wearily going through the motions of buying cereal and shoes. She’s the friend you meet for coffee who spent the morning dreading this public outing for fear of being paralyzed by anxiety over what to order. She could be part of your family, quietly struggling to convince herself there’s nothing wrong as she cries alone in the bathroom while the baby sleeps peacefully.

She might even be you.

Often, these are women you would never suspect are dealing with depression or anxiety. They’re successful. Happily married. Outwardly confident. But many are expert concealers of their inner struggle, too ashamed to admit what they worry would label them as “bad” mothers. What those women need to hear—what I, gratefully, received—is acceptance and support, from others and, almost more vitally, from themselves.

There’s no shame in seeking help. Admitting you have a problem doesn’t make you a terrible mother—it makes you normal, human. You love your baby, but recognize you can’t do it alone. There’s no shame in it. Seeking help in the form of therapy, connecting with other mothers who’ve been there, taking medication, or some combination of them all is OK. You are OK. You will get better. You will feel like yourself again. You may not believe that’s possible now; cling to it anyway.

It takes time. It takes action. It takes bravery.

Make the call anyway. You are worth it.

Postpartum anxiety/depression resources:

Postpartum Progress (START HERE!)

Centers for Disease Control

Dr. Sears on Postpartum Depression

Video worth every second spent watching: We are the faces of postpartum depression (courtesy of Baby Rabies)

The Fear of Letting Go

Fear of letting go

The baby didn’t sleep last night. Again. She’s really not a baby anymore, I suppose, at 16 months, cutting three molars (at once…delightful), learning to count, and running faster than her little legs can carry her towards anything resembling danger.

And yet, I still see her as my baby in so many ways. She’s quick to fall into my arms in moments of uncertainty, when the big, exciting world grows too big and exciting. She’ll nestle her head into my neck like a fuzzy kitten, stilling for brief moments her busy business of growing up. She’s relies on me, still, for so much, even though she’s constantly pushing the boundaries of her independence and self-awareness.

In my head, I know she’s no longer a baby, but how can I allow myself to see her as a child?

Who do I become

I wonder if it’s because she’s our third. Three children. We’ve reached that point where people generally assume there’ll be no more additions to our family. Three kids? How nice! Four kids? How…nice? It’s an interesting thing, this raised eyebrow reaction bubbling below the surface when families reach a certain size. We’re not even there yet (and who knows if we ever will be), and still I sense it.

Cultural influences aside, I think what’s really making it harder to accept this one running headlong into childhood is my own insecurity. What if she is my last baby? It’s a mildly terrifying thought. Do I know how to be anything other than the mother of young children? How do I transition from changing diapers, wiping noses, and rocking sleepless babies in the middle of the night into…what? Who do I become when there’s no longer a baby in my arms?

Motherhood truly is a mystery of constant evolution. These precious moments with our babies are fleeting, but leave powerful imprints on our very beings. Selfishly, we wish they’d stay babies forever, depend on us just a bit longer; but oh, how our hearts swell with pride as they spread their wings and fly, secure in the love we so fully gave. Somehow, seamlessly, we have to learn to embrace both ends of the spectrum.

And you know what? It’s really hard.

So forgive me if for now, I go on grumbling about a baby who doesn’t sleep—while secretly loving it for the echoes of “my baby” it allows. And one day, when she’s grown, sleeping soundly in her bed all night as her big brother and sister do, I’ll look back on these nights and smile.

And no matter who I become, however my identity as “Mom” looks in years to come, I’ll treasure these moments in my heart forever.

Baby mine

(Originally published 6/14/15 at

10 Steps to Becoming an Actual Grown-up

1. Wear lipstick. Is lipstick still a thing? I remember breaking out my mom’s tubes of pretty pinks and red and playing with them when I was, oh, 6. Don’t think I’ve touched the stuff since. But I should??

2. Stop thinking of yourself as perpetually 16. (Not to be confused with dressing like I’m still 16; that body ship sailed somewhere around delivery of kid number 1, a fact of which I’m well aware.) Turning 30 felt oddly similar to turning 16. I feel like I’m still the same person inside, but somehow I have a husband, three kids, a house, and a minivan. What?!

3. Use anti-wrinkle cream. The dermatologist gave me samples of this along with the cheery suggestion that I start using it, and I almost fainted on the spot. How is it possible I need to use something that’s only for OLD people (see no.2 above)?

4. Let the 90s go. The 1990s were two full decades ago. TWENTY years. I’ve been in silent denial of this fact, but there it is. It seems impossible we were watching Boy Meets World and blasting Ace of Base on the radio that long ago, but the calendar can’t lie. And it stings a little.

5. Start shopping in grown-up clothing stores. First there were catalogs (Delia’s anyone?), then trips to the mall with friends to stores like American Eagle and Maurices. But now? I’m stuck in some clothing limbo where the only solution is Target, and that’s only because I’m already there 12 times a week for diapers and dog food.

6. Make a will. File this one under “always mean to do it but never quite do.” Once you get past the mortality of it all, it really is a good long-term planning idea.

7. Toss all remaining clothes from high school. Why do I hang on to that 9th grade basketball T-shirt? Or those jeans I haven’t worn since senior year? There is no good answer, and it’s becoming mildly embarrassing.

8. Accept that other (actual) grown-ups can be younger than I am. You make an appointment to see, say, a doctor. Doc walks in, and is most definitely younger than you—maybe even a younger classmate you recognize from school. Are they giving MDs to middle schoolers now? Or you tune into “The Bachelor” and realize most of the contestants are at least 5 years your junior. Suddenly, other people are just as likely to be younger than you than they are to be older—and that’s a tough one to swallow.

9. Floss. Other than the day I go to the dentist, and the three other times I think of it, I mean. Don’t tell me I’m still the only one?!

10. Go to bed before midnight. This one I blame on the kids. How am I supposed to find any “me time” if it’s not at 11pm when no tiny humans are vying for my constant attention? My grandpa used to say every hour of sleep after midnight only counts as half. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I’m apparently now in need of anti-wrinkle cream.

(Originally published 6/7/15 at