How Society Tricks Women Into Shaming Each Other

Rules for a modern woman:

Be sexy but not too sexy. Cover up but not too much. Be educated but don’t make men feel inadequate or stupid. Work like you don’t have children and raise your children like you don’t work. Be proud of your postpartum body, just make sure you cover up those stretch marks and extra weight. Breastfeed your children exclusively but do so only in private so that you won’t offend anyone. Don’t be a prude but don’t sleep with too many men. Have opinions but don’t offer them unless asked.

The list goes on and on. These are impossible to follow. They are misogynistic, contradicting, oppressive, and hateful. Yes, these standards are held by men, but they are dutifully enforced by other women. We refer to this today as “shaming”, or the humiliation and judgment of other women and the choices they make.

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How Almost Dying Made Me Give Up Meat

No one ever wakes up thinking that they might not live to see another morning.

One of my favorite movies, The Wood, was playing in the background when a terrible wave of abdominal cramps ripped through my lower right side. My immediate gut reaction was to blame it on PMS. I started shifting on the couch to try to get into a more comfortable position — I couldn’t. Was it the cheesy nachos I had eaten earlier at The Montage? Within seconds, another flash of white hot pain cut through me. I ran to the bathroom.

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The Hardest Part About Being a Parent (so far)

Before I had kids, hell, before I even WANTED kids, I imagined that the diapers, sleep deprivation, lack of “me” and romantic time, and the overall 24/7 responsibility of caring for another person would be nearly impossible.

Surprisingly, those ended up being the easier parts. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I could use a moment to comb my hair and get out of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing for 4 days straight. But these incredibly exhausting things are bearable — for me at least.

No one warned me about what would truly be the hardest part about parenthood:

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If I Died Tomorrow: A Message to My People

I’ve always known that life was fragile.

When I was seven-years-old, I attempted to draft my first will. “My beanie babies went to my mom. My hot wheel collection went to my grandpa. Oh and please play the Pocahontas song at my funeral — you know, the obvious requests.”

I wasn’t sad about it. I just knew that death was a part of life. It scared me, yes, but I knew there was no escaping it. As I got older, I noticed that no one liked to discuss, let alone acknowledge, this inevitable end. In our American culture, we are obsessed with avoiding old age and death. We nip and tuck every wrinkle. We drain life savings on months of life support for those who’d rather be on the other side already. We shun our elderly and deem them useless. We’ve had it all wrong.

I want to acknowledge, out loud, that today could be my last day on Earth. I’d be lucky to someday have smile wrinkles and a sagging bosom. I’d be blessed to have achy joints and sun spots. Those are the evidence of having made it. Of having lived. Not everyone lives long enough to see a wrinkly face smiling back at them in the mirror.

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25 Things I’ve Learned at 25

1. Family isn’t always blood – blood isn’t always family.

2. Micro-expressions >

3. A firm handshake goes a long way.

4. 99% of the time, it isn’t personal.

5. Relationships are bank accounts: you must deposit to withdrawal.

6. Love isn’t all you need.

7. The gift of life is the greatest gift of all.

8. You’ve only one set of teeth: take care of them.

9. Tomorrow isn’t promised.

10. Good nutrition doesn’t require killing animals.

11. Your parents are human, too.

12. No one has it figured out.

13. Nature is the best form of entertainment.

14. It’s not about what happens, it’s about how you react.

15. Being in control is an illusion.

16. There is no such thing as “too dry” when it comes to wine.

17. Kindness has no ulterior motive.

18. Retail therapy is never worth it.

19. People are generally good.

20. Love languages.

21. How you treat people that you don’t have to treat well is a true testament to your character.

22. Listening > giving advice.

23. We are all the same all over the world.

24. Intelligence is knowing you know nothing.

25. Happiness is a choice.

Why I Don’t Post Content of My Baby on Social Media

I am the last generation whose baby pictures exist in an old dusty photo album sitting on a bookshelf. Every blue moon, my mom whips out the album so she and my other relatives or friends can coo (or point and laugh) at a much smaller and shyer version of myself. I like it like this. Although embarrassing, it’s intimate and perhaps even — special.

25 years later, children are plastered all over social media. Monthly updates, baby’s “firsts”, and even delivery room pictures are shared instantly. Babies I don’t personally know fill my feed as mini IG models in “sponsored posts” for clothes, diapers, and carriers. Mothers today can build social media empires off of family-centric posts and heartfelt instagram captions. Admittedly, my favorite YouTube channel is about a vegan mom living in Maui with her three beautiful babies. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without the inspiration of these mothers. However, I can’t help but feel like I am intruding on their personal lives. Why should I, stranger from the internet, know their child’s full name or what their first words were?

When my son was born, I started thinking deeply about privacy. It was no longer my life, but ours. Would he want to have his childhood on public display? Would he want my random old classmate from high school to know what his first words were? When he took his first steps? Or even, his name? Maybe the answer will be yes. But he isn’t even aware that he’s a human being yet, let alone what social media is. He can’t give me consent. He can’t give his say.

Knowing that what goes on the internet stays on the internet, I can’t justify sharing his baby pictures with the world. If my son someday chooses online anonymity, I want to grant him that. No amount of “likes”, comments, or convenience could allow me to take that option away from him. His identity on the internet is his to foster, not mine.

As the online world becomes ever increasingly its own social behemoth, I practice caution with what I divulge. I know can’t protect my son from everything. Chances are he won’t care that I did or didn’t post about him. Maybe he will even be disappointed that there’s not an archive to look back on later in his life. I simply hope that he will understand that I wanted him to choose. That this is my personal choice as the person who speaks on his behalf. A choice that’s understandably not for everyone. A choice that’s met with the occasional eye roll or “ok Jamakea, you’ve gone off the deep end” look. But that’s okay. Part of being a mom is accepting that you’ll look crazy sometimes. That what you think is best will be met with speculation and eye rolls. It’s part of the package.

I already have thousands of pictures of my son. Our camera rolls are bursting at the seams. I message a photo of him to someone at least daily. I mail prints to faraway aunties and grandparents. Our walls are covered with his happy little face. 25 years from now, he may not have a Facebook album to look back on but at least I will be able to embarrass him by whipping out that old dusty photo album.

Breastfeeding: How I Went From Formula to EBF

IMHO, breastfeeding is more challenging than pregnancy and labor combined. I know a lot of mamas share this same experience. Every culture and nation has its own breastfeeding culture. African countries, at present, seem to hold the torch for highest rates of breastfeeding while western nations, like France, seem to be less “pro-breast”. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends babies be breastfed for up to two years. During the first 2 months of breastfeeding, the thought of even doing it for six months was daunting, if not terrifying.

After the first 4-5 days of colostrum, my son was fed formula for two weeks. I had developed Cellulitis from delivery complications as well as Mastitis and was placed on narcotics and antibiotics. Both of these medications, although cleared as “safe” by my PCP, were not acceptable as being transferred through my breastmilk to my son. I had made the difficult decision to risk losing my milk supply so that he could remain medication free. There were a lot of tears and mom guilt involved.

To prevent losing my milk supply, I manually expressed milk every 3-4 hours for two weeks. 

After I stopped taking medications, I began to breastfeed my son once in the morning. During the next 1-2 weeks, I slowly added feeding sessions as my milk supply increased. I understand that many women in the same situation would not have been able to maintain and build back their milk supply. I feel very fortunate. That’s not to say that I didn’t experience many challenges along the way: cracked, bleeding, and sore nipples, nipple bleps, anxiety about my son’s weight gain, etc.

My son still feeds every 1.5-2 hours for up to 50 minutes at a time. It’s completely exhausting and some days I shudder at the thought of breastfeeding for the months, or weeks, ahead. My solution for this anxiety? One simple mantra: one feeding session at a time.

Despite all the challenges, I deeply enjoying breastfeeding my son. It is a bonding experience unlike any other. It amazes me that I can nourish my baby and provide him with antibodies, vitamins, and minerals that help him thrive. I sympathize with women who are not able to breastfeed their babies. I also understand why women choose not to. It’s hard and it’s not for everyone. I personally am just grateful that I get to nourish my baby in the way that I choose.

TLDR; Breastfeeding isn’t easy. I wasn’t able to breastfeed for the first weeks. Luckily, I was able to rebuild my milk supply slowly. I am blessed.