Saturday, October 29, 2011

Update on miscarriage

Two weeks ago my lovely wife and I had a miscarriage. At the time, I thought I was fine with it, that it wouldn't affect me much if at all, etc.

I should have known better. One of the things I've noticed about myself in the past is that somehow these things gradually catch up with me, and affect me in big ways, but that it can take a bit. Maybe it's emotional stupidity. =) Like my emotions just take longer to get it.

So the thing I've noticed more than anything else over the past 2 weeks has been a rather steep decline in mental function. It's like my brain got switched over to half speed. I read papers--the whole paper, and as I'm reading I have this sense that the words and the sentences and the paragraphs make sense. But then when I'm done reading, I have NO idea what I've read.

I used to be able to complete a 1500 words essay in maybe 8 hours. Now it takes more like 20.

It's weird. Is this what all those undergrad students who got lower grades than me and seemed to be struggling while everything seemed so easy for me had to deal with?

It's weird just NOT being good at something I've always been good at. I've realized that I leaned on the fact that I had that particular sort of intelligence. I felt good about it--I felt good about myself because of it, plus it made a lot of things easier.

Maybe this is a brilliant experience for me. Maybe it will help me be gracious to people who are struggling. I hope so--it would be a nice benefit to counter the frustration I'm experiencing.

Memories of Grace Seattle

From the age of ~8 until the age of ~31, I generally went to Sunday Morning Church® gatherings every single week, at least 45 weeks per year. The very last church I was ever involved with in this manner was Grace Seattle. Grace was the place where I nearly finished my journey out of Christianity and into Pastafarianism. I was thinking of Grace today. Here's a couple memories I have:

There was a truly charismatic and delightful fellow by the name of Dave Sellers who was interim pastor at Grace when we started attending there. They had lost their founding pastor due to some scandal about which no one would talk. Dave had been the associate pastor at the time of the scandal, and had stepped in as interim pastor while the pastoral search committee looked for someone new. He had also applied for the position, but the committee didn't choose to hire him. His response to my and Megs' perhaps-not-always-so-gentle negativity towards what we saw as bullshit was delightfully non-defensive and open and inviting. He told us that he was really glad we were at Grace because he felt the church had a lot to learn from us. I'm glad for his sake that the church decided not to hire him as permanent senior pastor.

My memory of the pastor they did end up hiring, John Haralson, revolves around two episodes. The first was one Sunday morning in the foyer of the church. John was clearly angry at me because I would write perhaps-not-always-completely-gentle-and-politically-correct notes on the response cards which everyone was invited to fill out. One Sunday morning I guess he'd had enough, because he came into the foyer, noticed my response card in the basket of response cards, picked it up, walked swiftly over to me, standing very much inside my personal bubble (perhaps within 6 inches), and in a perhaps-not-entirely-soft-and-gentle-voice demanded to know why I continued to write such things despite previous warnings. It's kind of funny, looking back, 'cause I was SO frightened of him, and he was clearly at least somewhat frightened of me. Sigh. Frightened leaders and frightened parishioners do not the most brilliant combination make.

My other memory of him is a conversation I had with him when I had decided to no longer be involved with the church. He was, again, quite frightened for my future prospects--not so much about leaving Grace, but more about the fact that I was deciding not to be involved in church at all anymore. He was fearful for the temporal and eternal consequences of that decision and the accompanying deconversion with which he rightly understood it to correlate. He tried to warn me off. I guess he was doing his duty as watcher on the walls, so he didn't end up with blood on his hands (there's a little Biblical language for you, with apologies to the uninitiated).

One other memory sticks out for me. When we were looking to get involved with a small group at Grace, early on, we had rather a lot of trouble. The first group we investigated said their group was closed for a while because some members were having some sort of intense difficulty. The second group we investigated shared with us that the group didn't have any other small children, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable with Megan breastfeeding our infant daughter in the group, although they'd be glad to set up a separate room in the house where she could take her daughter to breastfed her in private. Sigh. So very American, that. All hail our Puritan fathers.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ABA, spanking, gender identity, and suicide

Came across this rather fascinating story today.

Ole Ivar Lovaas was a Norwegian born psychologist and researcher who was arguably the father and chief early proponent of Applied Behavior Analysis (hereafter ABA). ABA is at the time of this writing considered to be the only evidence based treatment for children with autism, and is by far the most extensively used and best funded treatment protocol for helping children with autism.

In 1974, Lovaas, along with his colleague George Rekers, published a paper in the journal of Applied Behavior Analysis in which they describe their experimental and apparently highly successful treatment of a 5 year old boy in California named "Kraig". Kraig's parents, specifically his mother, were concerned about Kraig's excessively feminine gender-identity and behavior--things like playing with dolls, preferring to play with girls rather than boys, and exhibiting "mother-like nurture" rather than "male aggression". In cooperation with his parents, Lovaas and Rekers designed and carried out an ABA intervention which involved reinforcing Kraig's "masculine" play and attributes, while punishing his "feminine" play and attributes. Kraig was beaten by his father for "feminine" behavior as part of this intervention. The result of the intervention was that Kraig became a typical boy's boy, indistinguishable from other little boys in terms of gender-identity and gender-related behaviors at 26 months post treatment.

In 2003, the person who had been given the pseudonym "Kraig", Kirk Murphy, then 38 years of age, committed suicide.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Miscarriage

Over the weekend, my lovely partner, lover, and spouse was hospitalized with excruciating abdominal pain. Urine test suggested pregnancy, which we did not know about. She's been bleeding for a week or so, and we thought it was her period. Ultrasound found no signs of pregnancy. bHCG blood levels confirmed pregnancy, and bHCG levels 24 hours later confirmed loss of pregnancy.

Megs asked all of us for names, and so we named the fetus Ronan Elrond Samwise Isabella Pippen Ady =). Me thinks perhaps we would never saddle a living child with such a name =).

Fascinatingly, Saturday (October 15th) was Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. There's a lovely International Wave of Light in which folks light a candle on that day at 7PM in their own time zone in remembrance of lost pregnancies or lost infants. I think it shall be lovely in future years to participate in this in memory of Samwise =)

I've been reading and pondering a bit on what it all means. Following are some notes on things I've learned.

Apparently upwards of 20% of known-about pregnancies and up to 50% of all conceptions end in early spontaneous abortion (i.e. miscarriage). Apparently calling spontaneous abortion by that name is odious to some because the term is associate with induced abortion, about which lots of people have judgments.

The concensus reality seems to indicate that sadness an/or psychological distress is called for. The NIH says "many mothers and their partners feel very sad. Seemingly helpful advice like “you can try again,” or “it was for the best” can make it harder for mothers and fathers to recover because their sadness has been denied."

Here's a fascinating paper from the Journal of Clinical Nursing entitled "The experience of early miscarriage from a male perspective." The author says "there is a taboo in Western cultures surrounding sex, reproduction and death. Miscarriage embraces all three of these areas and is potentially a very dif´Čücult issue to research."

I've decided to believe that the miscarriage is perfect. I love babies and children, and I would be super delighted for Megs to be pregnant and for us to have another baby. And this recent miscarriage is exactly the perfect thing for us right now, a gift from a benevolent universe. I feel completely awesome about it.

Having said that, I don't want to invalidate the experience of Megs, nor of any of you, lovely readers. In fact, I'd love to hear about your experiences of miscarriage, if any. Whatever your emotional experience, I believe that it is or was exactly the right emotional experience for you, and I'd love to hear about it if you're willing to share.

I'm especially curious to hear about the experiences of other men whose partner has experienced miscarriage. The literature seems to suggest that some men feel both grief and confusion about their role, as well as possibly a need to deny their own grief so they can 'be strong' in helping their grieving partner. Not that this necessarily matches any particular person's experience. What was yours?