Category Archives: Story Time

Be Kind or Be Quiet

I am writing this to record my thoughts on how our country has gone mad over the last several years. I intend this as nothing more than my personal opinions on various matters, hoping to look back in ten, twenty years or more and think (hopefully) “We’ve come a long way since then.”

About eight years ago now, I had the distinct displeasure to know that the man I did NOT vote for, for President, won. While everyone who did vote for him will say that my ire has all to do with the man’s race, I assure you it did not. Of course, who will believe that these days?  No, my concern was that he was a “no one” on the world’s stage. I may not know everyone in politics – who does? – but Barrack Hussein Obama is not a name you’d forget if you’d heard of him prior to his candidacy. I was not alone in being concerned that he was unqualified to become President of the United States.

I won’t digress into naming every tiny thing he did that I disapproved of as it has all been said so many times before, heard only by those of my peers who shared my concerns (the left-leaning folks of this country saw nothing but a Golden Child who could do no wrong). Suffice it to say that he did many  things wrong and few things right.

One thing that came out of this tenure was this bizarre exacerbation of “political correctness.” It was already starting before Mr. Obama took office, but it snowballed until there was an avalanche of outrage for using simple descriptive terms that one would have never thought could be offensive. “Micro-aggression” became a “thing” and people everywhere have to censure what comes out of there mouths lest they trigger some unforeseen affront to others, many of whom the disparaging word did not pertain to in the slightest.

The media fostered the outrage by asserting condemnations in every headline whenever anyone disagreed with something Mr. Obama said or did. Even in the media’s eyes, our 44th President could do no wrong.

They had eight years to shift their obligations from reporting all the news fairly, without bias, to reporting only the stories that built Mr. Obama up, and none that would tear him down lest they be castigated as “racist” against him. Few media outlets dared to report about his mistakes, about his failures, about dangerous actions he took that had the potential to – and sometimes did – hurt our country. Those media outlets were demonized by the rest, and oftentimes dismissed by the President himself, not caring to give more than a handful of interviews with those journalists over the course of his tenure.

By the time Mr. Obama’s second term was coming to an end, the media clung to all things liberal and continued showing their bias as they favored the same woman that Mr. Obama bested for the Democratic party candidacy eight years earlier. Never mind that Mrs. Clinton had some shady dealings and scandals in her past, she, too, could do no wrong in the liberal-leaning media’s mind. Her own sense of entitlement and self-importance lead, in part, to her being defeated in 2016. What was astonishing was that the man who won had no political experience prior to his candidacy, though he was, at least, a known figure to many Americans. While I did vote for Mr. Trump, he was not my first choice during the primaries. I don’t know if he’s the type of person I’d get along with if I met him outside on the street. I do appreciate the way he has treated many people over the years, news of which most of the media choose to forget as they try to cast him as the next Hitler, or the anti-Christ. I’m not fond of braggarts or boorish people, so he could bail me out of a crisis and, while I would be forever grateful to him, I probably wouldn’t invite him to dinner with my family. I’d send him a yearly Christmas card, though.

That said, I at least feel like he’s making some changes that need to be made, and he’s been in office less than two weeks as I write this. I completely agree with his temporary ban on immigration and accepting of refugees. I can’t understand the hostility he is facing all over the world when he is doing exactly what at least three Democratic presidents have done before him. Give our immigration agencies time to properly vet all persons wanting entry into the states so we can be more assured that fewer “bad apples” will sneak in with the good. Why is that so hard to swallow?

Many of his other initial orders come with a “wait and see” disclaimer. It’s too early to tell how pulling out of various trade agreements will go, or how quickly – and how well – the government comes up with a suitable replacement for Obamacare. In terms of cutting foreign aid to non-governmental organizations who use our money to fund abortions in other countries, well, we’ve already seen where the Dutch are ponying up money to compensate for that. I have always, personally, sat on the fence when it comes to abortion rights…suffice it to say I believe it should be kept legal, but have my own opinions on various limitations that I won’t bother voicing here. The point is, why should so many millions – perhaps billions – of U.S. taxpayer dollars go to so many foreign countries, not just for abortion, but for anything? There are plenty of wealthy nations out there who give far less for the same causes, who could afford to give so much more, yet for some unfathomable reason, “everyone” expects the U.S. to spend the most.

We have so many people in our own country in need, that much of that money should be being spent here rather than sending it oversees. Yes, it’s tremendously sad that kids in Africa don’t get the immunizations or other health care they need, that children all over the globe are starving. But kids right here in America are starving, too. If we spent our money right, we wouldn’t have homeless people in any city. We’d have proper mental health care for those who cannot cope with everyday life. Our Veterans would have all the health care – including mental health – that they need, and all the support they require to return from their deployments to live engaged and satisfying lives.

I know my younger son has fears about how Trump’s administration is going to deal with LGBT issues. I urge him – and others – to take a deep breath, let it out, and calmly look at exactly what is being done – or not done – from a legal perspective to any laws passed during Obama’s administration. So far, a web page focused on LGBT issues on the White site has been taken down. So, what does that actually mean? Could mean nothing. Could mean Trump feels LGBT issues should be managed at a state level and that the federal government should stay out of them.

Spanish translation of the White House web site has also been removed. There hasn’t been any law enacting the removal of Spanish language from any U.S. based web site, so no one has had any “rights” taken away from them. Perhaps Trump feels that American citizens, no matter where they are from, should learn to read, write, and speak English? I know, that’s terrible!! How dare he??  Really, folks. My mom was an immigrant and she was very intent on learning English and becoming American. She is proud to be American and get’s offended if you call her by her nationality of origin. How is it wrong to ask those who want to be U.S. citizens to hold similar sentiment?

So what can we do?

Well, for a start, how about letting Mr. Trump at least try to make some changes without getting your collective panties in a knot? Yes, he’s had some business failures in his lifetime, but he’s had far more successes. He may not get everything he puts his mind – and pen – to right, but he may get more things right than you give him credit for. Have some of his business dealings been shady. Sure. But how many shady deals has our government dealt in the past? Fast and Furious. Iran. Halliburton/Blackwater. Whitewater. Lewinsky. The list could go on forever.

The media needs to do some serious soul-searching and decide to go back to truly unbiased reporting. Yes, Mr. Trump will continue to give you all the titillating headlines that you love to bash him with, so how about you also honestly report on the positive things he’s doing? Or at least stop exaggerating things with the sole purpose of making him look dastardly. Really – there is no “Muslim” ban. Report the Executive Order correctly as you know there is no language in it that has anything to do with banning people of a specific religion, especially when three past Democratic presidents have all executed the same type of ban at some point in their administrations.

And people….get a grip! Quit looking for the bad in your President. Yes, he is your President so long as you hold citizenship here. You tell everyone to be kind or be quiet. You say “love trumps hate”. You want us all to see the good in others – those others being refugees, immigrants, LGBT people, people of color,  and women – but you refuse to see the good in Mr. Trump. You refuse to see the good in “old white men” or women who are anti-abortion. You refuse to see the good in black republicans – any republican or conservative person, really.

You totally fail to see how your hate, your intolerance, your divisiveness is tearing the country apart. Trump isn’t doing it. “It” was already happening before he came along, he’s just the latest “scapegoat” for you to target. It’s time to start practicing what you preach.

Be kind or be quiet.


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Who Are You?


Are you a child? A parent? A sibling or spouse?

Are you a student? A professional? A butcher, or baker, or candlestick maker?

Are you an artist, or author, or musician, or athlete?

When you get up in the morning, what’s on your mind? Do you think:

I have a term paper due today.

I have to pack the kids’ lunches.


Mmmmm…an omelet sounds delish!

Where are my running shoes? I have to put in five miles today.

What a beautiful sunrise! Where’s my camera or my paintbrush?

Ugh…I’ve got that conference call at work today.


I’m guessing not too many people wake up and think:

I’m black today.

I’m gay today.

I’m a woman today.


(Well, if you’re pregnant, menopausal, or on your period, you might think, “Damnit, why do I have to be a woman today?”)


Lately, our society wants everyone to focus on “diversity.” Everyone has got to BE something more than just “being.” But what society forgets is that there’s more to being diverse than the color of your skin, your religion, your gender, or your sexual preference. If you look up “diversity” in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, the first thing you see is this: diversity

Note that the first definition is “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc.” Race and culture come after “differing elements.”


Who got to decide that, in our nation, diversity must only refer to your race, gender, religion, or sexual preference? Each and every one of us is a diverse individual. We all have different forms, ideas, interests, skills. We are all made up of more than the color of our skin, or our gender.


Now, I understand that some individuals have suffered more discrimination and oppression more than others based on some aspect of their character, and I agree that MOST of that discrimination and oppression is absolutely wrong. What I disagree with is the notion that ONLY certain races or cultures or genders have ever suffered from discrimination or oppression. Obviously, the severity of it differs, but so, too, has society over the generations.


I am a white female. There are things that, as a female, I am subjected to that men are not; sexual harassment and rape come to mind. There are also things that, as a female, I shouldn’t expect to be able to do, or included in unless I possess some pretty stringent qualifications. Very few women, for instance, can pass the physical agility portion of testing to become firefighters and, therefore, should be excluded from that job. Yes, I said it. There are places in the work-force (and in the military) where women just don’t belong. I don’t want to be trapped in a fire on the second (or higher) floor of a building and see some 120-pound woman come in thinking she’s going to carry my happy ass down a ladder – or my husband or my 170-pound dog. Forgive me for thinking that she’s just not capable of such feats. Chances are, she is not.


I am the child of a German immigrant. I was in elementary school still before the Berlin Wall came down. There were a few of us kids with German immigrant parents. When the other kids figured it out, I recall having to defend my mother as being from West Germany, or “the good side” so as not to be confused with the Nazis.


The news today abounds with stories of black oppression and it truly is a problem in some areas. But it’s also NOT a problem everywhere. The one thing that I really do not understand is the continued idea that slavery is something that blacks need to be compensated for in some way. Unless you are caught up in a human trafficking situation (and your race or gender does not grant you any exceptional status here), slavery has not been around for several generations. No one alive today has been a slave nor a slave owner. So many people in our nation today are first- and second-generation immigrants, so have no dog or pony in this show. Yes, slavery was a terrible thing, and it continues to be a terrible thing, mostly in other countries (discounting the aforementioned trafficking trade). There is no way to make up for it at this point in time. It was abolished and, legally, all men (and women) are equal now. Opportunities to achieve on all levels are available to all, whether or not some can and do take advantage of them. It’s hard work, but obviously it pays off seeing as we have spent the last (nearly) eight years with a black President of the United States.


This topic will obviously ruffle a lot of feathers, and that was not my intent with this post. First and foremost, I want people to recognize that each individual is unique and diverse all by his/herself. You probably don’t get up in the morning with your first thought being “I’m black/white, gay/straight, whatever today.” You’ve got too much else on your plate, too many other personal and professional responsibilities to let that one aspect of your being be the primary focus of your day-to-day existence.


So when will you stop allowing society, as depicted by the mainstream media, dictate who and what you are based only on one aspect?

You are more than that.

You are a person. A person of great worth. Don’t live your life fighting to be that “gay person” or that “black person”. Be YOU. Be your own person who just happens to be gay or black or female or whatever.


It is you who are responsible for your happiness. Our forefathers only guaranteed you the right to pursue it. Quit living a life expecting others to fix what you see is wrong. Stand up, dust yourself off, and fix your problems yourself.

Besides, chances are, you are the primary cause of your problems, not “others.”



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Story Time 11/29/2014

Wow, it’s been a very long time since I posted to this blog.  I had so many projects going on this year that I featured on my other blog,, that I neglected adding any thoughts here.

I wanted to take a moment to sing the praises of my younger son, Sean.

Sean was quite a busy boy all his life. He was never the type to wake up and come into his mom and dad’s bedroom for some snuggle time.  He was the boy that peeked in our door, hoped we were still asleep, then snuck off downstairs to explore, also known as getting into everything!  Oh, the stories I could tell about his little adventures!

But today, I want to talk about the content of his character.

You see, Sean lost his grandmother recently.  She was not what I’d call a nice person.  Oh, she was cordial enough to “others” so few people knew the not-so-nice side of her.  But Sean did.  Grandma was the type of woman to play favorites, though she would never admit it to herself or others.  Between her own children, it was clear she favored her son (my kids’ father) over her daughter.  She claims she “raised them both the same” and couldn’t understand how they turned out so differently. My ex-sister-in-law has made some questionable choices in her life that would leave many people scratching or shaking their head in judgment of her.  Ironically, she’s actually got a terrific personality, but I didn’t get so spend much time with her to know her very well.

Still, Grandma’s favoritism extends to her grandchildren, too.  She had six grandkids from her daughter before my boys came along and the first-born of that bunch was always her favorite. When my two came along, the first-born, too, became her favorite. She doted on him more, spent more time with him, and spent more money on him. When it came to Sean, she seemed to merely tolerate him if she wasn’t scolding him.  Now, I know he’s always been a handful, and I, too, spent way more time scolding him than scolding his brother.

Yet, Sean’s gift was that he, unlike many in his family, isn’t one to hold a grudge. He seems to love unconditionally. When he heard his grandmother was in the hospital and not likely to recover, he insisted on spending what little money he had for a train ticket home to see her. His father suggested he not spend the money or make the trip, but Sean’s response was that he loved his grandmother and wanted to see her again before she passed.

How incredible is that!

Sean warms my heart with his kindness. He spent so many years crying over the way she treated him, yet, in the end, he chose to honor her instead of ignoring her.

This Christmas I hope everyone choses to remember others with love and forgiveness. I shall strive to emulate my son’s example.

God bless, and Merry Christmas, everyone!

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Scott’s Story Time – Swearing In

This is the story of my son joining the military. I am so proud! It began with his buddy, JD, starting the process of enlisting last April (2013). JD was joining the Coast Guard Reserves and Scott decided to join him. He started seeing the recruiter in September. He was required to take a computerized test (ASFAB) to ensure he scored high enough in various knowledge and skill sets for the job he was hoping to get. Then he had a physical. The boy weighs less than me and I’m at least four inches shorter than him (sigh).

Eventually he was accepted into the same Coast Guard Reserve unit as JD, up in Sandusky, Ohio, ultimately to be trained in law enforcement. Scott seems pretty excited about patrolling on a boat with guns! You go defend us from those Canadians trying to sneak into the U.S. by way of Put-In-Bay!

(Thanks to Josh for this wonderful photo!)

They decided to wait until after the holidays to enter basic training, which is in Cape May, New Jersey. Basic Training for eight weeks, in New Jersey, in winter.



Not sure what these guys were thinking!

They were supposed to leave on January 7th, but we had some bitterly cold, record low temperatures, and flights out of Port Columbus were grounded. Their departure was rescheduled to January 14th.

So, Monday afternoon, Scott and JD came to my house and from here I drove them up to the Embassy Suites by the airport. Let me tell you, it’s a damned good thing that Uncle Sam got discount rates and covered their rooms. All the little recruits were put up in style for the night!

hotel 1.14.14







The only difference between my room and Scott’s was that they had two queen beds to my one king. With my military discount, and adding tax, it still was over $200 for maybe twelve hours’ stay! The recruits all got a free dinner and breakfast to round out the nice accommodations. Now, I will admit that, having been prior Air Force, myself, and on flying status, I got to stay in some pretty nice hotels during my career. The Coast Guard may treat their members just as nice. I feel sorry for all the kids who leave for Army or Navy basic training this day! I don’t think they will have it so nice again in their enlistments!

Speaking of enlistments, Scott and JD joined up for eight years! Because of that commitment, they will get to come out of basic training at the E-3 pay grade.


So, the boys were given an 0430 wake-up call with an 0435 repeat call to be sure they were up. They had to check out, report for breakfast and be done eating by 0530 when the busses left for the MEPS station. Sounded like very few kids in the crowd got much sleep. I know I didn’t. I had worked night shift on Sunday, got about a three-hour nap Monday morning, and tried to go to bed Monday night at around eight o’clock. I was awake again by eleven and tossed and turned all night hoping for a few more z’s. They never came back.

I followed the bus to the MEPS building.


MEPS 1.14.14

From there, it was more waiting (for me) while the recruits went through various stages of in-processing and out-processing. Most had another quick check by the physician and Scott was, again, scolded for his lack of weight! I told him he had better plan on eating everything he can shove in his mouth each and every meal while he’s gone! I want to see a few more pounds on him by the time he graduates!

Finally it was time for the recruits to swear in. Scott and JD were in the first group. They gave us family members a lot of freedom to take pictures and video if we wanted. Scott was so very serious this whole time!



I opted to video the actual swearing in instead of taking still shots, as I thought that would make a better memory than just a few photos in a scrapbook (you know I’ll be making him a scrapbook!).

We got to spend a few more minutes with them before we were ushered out.




(Wow, I really did need some sleep!)

Scott signed his life away and his enlistment was final. (He got a copy of this certificate a few weeks back, but it’s all I have to include in his scrapbook later)

BF 2

I could have driven myself over to the airport to spend a few more moments with him, but they wouldn’t be outside of the secured area for long, not to mention I’d still have to deal with airport parking! I was running on vapors (I did not get breakfast), and the pups were waiting for me to get home and let them out. I gave Scott some last hugs and best wishes then headed home.

Not sure what time he got to the airport or left from there, but the itinerary has them only flying as far as Philadelphia, then getting on another bus for a couple more hours’ drive. Apparently there are no airports any closer to Cape May than Philly. I figure I will just drive out there for Scott’s graduation. He’s allowed to drive back home with me then, as his technical school training got pushed back to September. If he flew, we’d still have to pick him up from whatever airport they let him fly into.

I can’t wait to see him in eight weeks! I want him to do well, but, I gotta say, as the second-hardest basic training of all the branches, I feel for him! He’s got a pounding ahead of him! (This is why I joined the Air Force!!)

But when it’s all said and done, he will proudly wear the uniform of a Coast Guard seaman!


God bless you, Scott and JD! Stay strong. Stay safe. See you in eight weeks!

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Story Time – A different kind of Hero

This year, thousands of our military members will not be home with their loved ones for Christmas. They have a strong understanding of duty, honor, and country. They don’t begrudge us our time with our families because they are the ones keeping us safe so we CAN celebrate with them at this time of year. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts and pray for their safety and for their families. It is with great respect and thanks that my family will be together this Christmas, my nephew granted some leave during this season from his military training, and my own son not scheduled to leave for his basic training for another two weeks.

But today I want to talk about a different kind of hero. I work with them every day.

No, I’m not talking about doctors or nurses, though they most certainly deserve the title of hero as well.

I am talking about the parents and family of our most critically ill babies and children, suffering in hospitals all over the world instead of gathering around a warm fire, delicious food, and twinkling lights on a Christmas tree. Some children will recover and eventually go home to spend future Christmases in their loving homes, more grateful than most families for having spent a past Christmas scared and hurting.

Some families will not get to take their child home and their future Christmases will be forever marred by the indescribable pain of loss.

Today, my heart and prayers are with a specific family who sit vigil at their beautiful son’s bedside waiting for the Lord to call him home. I cannot write this without shedding tears of sorrow for the pain they are suffering right now. Yet through it all, they hold tight to each other in love and support. They allow us to share in their grief, embracing strangers as family. I cannot imagine the hell it must be for someone to give all control over to others, knowing that the outcome will not be a happy one.

What to do you say to friends or family that you know going through such sorrow? It’s impossible to know any words that will take their pain away.

I spent my night trying to give comfort where I could, knowing that, while it was appreciated, it was far too little…I could not give them what their hearts desired.

And so I pray. I ask the Lord to please give the family the release they need or please give them a miracle that will make this Christmas memorable for the best reasons. I don’t know what God’s plan is for this family, or anyone, but I trust he knows just how much we can all handle and that he will give this family just the right amount of time with their precious, precious boy.

So, as you all sit down to your holiday meals this year, put aside petty bickering that might be a part of your family traditions. Don’t you dare complain about a gift not being exactly what you asked for. Don’t indulge yourself into oblivion without remembering those who will not do anything but sit at their dying child’s bedside in a strange, cold place asking for nothing and everything, knowing that Christmas will never be the same again.

Say a prayer for our troops, but also say a prayer for these other heroes. Remember them today and everyday. If you know someone personally that is going through this, be there for them. No words are necessary. Knowing you are there is enough. And as time goes on, stay by their side and let them talk of their child to you as much or as little as they want. Allow them the memories and the gift of sharing.

Christmas is about love and the gift of life. We all will do better to remember that and return to times when just being together as a family and celebrating God’s gift of His son to us was the most important thing about this season.

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Story Time

As I approach the beginning of another trip around the sun, I look back and see that my life has taught me there are no absolutes. Flexibility and open-mindedness are just two of many keys to survival in a world that is constantly changing.

While I have felt honored to be included in many groups over the years, both in my real life and in various communities on line, I find inclusion is also flexible, some days less than others. More often than not, it is the wide range of personalities that keeps different groups entertaining and worth that inclusion.

Sometimes, though, you say or do something that makes you realize that you have either out-grown a group, or, perhaps never really fit in to begin with. The choice to be made at those times is “do I stay or do I go”? Is inclusion important enough to alter your views to line up better with the majority? Or, are your beliefs worth standing behind?

While core values shouldn’t have to be compromised just to feel like you fit in with a particular group, one should try to accept that some differences of opinion will always exist and that neither side is “wrong” or “bad” for their beliefs. For so many issues in life, there is no right or wrong, black or white. There are certainly more than fifty shades of gray.

I have always thought that I was accepting of others whose opinions differ from mine. I enjoy lively debates on a wide variety of topics and I believe I acknowledge positive points others make even when they don’t necessarily “jive” with my views. Sadly, there are times when, despite your acceptance of another’s opinions, it is clear s/he will not accept yours. In the past, I was much more likely to heighten a verbal debate into more of a confrontation, which can really only happen with the other party is also game for escalation.

These days, I find that such escalations only drain me of mental energy that is best reserved for more constructive pursuits. I have learned that it is better, at times, to walk away than to try and prove my worthiness to be included. When I feel like I am taking a defensive stance on a given topic, no matter how small it may be, then I know it is time to make a change. Perhaps that sounds like “giving up” or “throwing in the towel”, but by whose standards? What one person may view as me “running away” from an uncomfortable situation thereby giving the impression that I am weak, I believe is, rather, a show of strength that I do not need to be defined by the company I keep. I do not need the acceptance of many others to note my worth. Within my small circle of lasting and true friends I know that I am valued beyond compare.

At the end of the day, I want to look in the mirror and see a person who willingly chose to be a better person, not by bringing others down, but by lifting them up. When I no longer feel lifted in return, it is certainly not in weakness that I walk away.

Strength comes from knowing how to stand, comfortably, alone and not feel lonely. Surrounding yourself with people who are not uplifting to you may imitate inclusion in a group, but it is no cure for loneliness, and perhaps self-doubt. Who wants to live like that?

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Story Time – My job

I have been a nurse, now, for over twenty-five years. Doesn’t always seem that long. Some days, it seems longer. Just like the twelve-hour night shifts that I work.

For those who do not know the specifics of my career, I am a neonatal nurse. I work in Newborn Intensive Care. I have periodically jumped ship and tried my hand at other aspects of nursing – adults, pediatrics, case management, transport – but I seem to always return to the babies.

Within all of nursing, I think my specialty is unique in the sense that, no matter the circumstance, we will do everything humanly, and medically possible to save the lives of some of the tiniest, sickest babies ever to enter this cold, cruel world. Yes, we talk to parents about quality of life and, sometimes, respectfully and gently suggest that doing nothing may be what is better for the baby. But in the majority of the cases, we do everything because it is what parents want. Our patients have no say in the matter. We do our best to advocate for them, but do not always get to do what is best for them.

Parents don’t always understand what it is they are asking of us, or what it is they are sentencing their precious infant to, possibly for a very long time to come.

At times, I see articles posted across the internet about the whole abortion debate. Just the other night, I read something about a group of Obama supporters trying to accuse anyone against late-term abortions to be sexist, or “anti-woman.” Crazy, right? The current line in the sand is that there is a ban on abortions after twenty weeks gestation. One question the article posed was, if you are a woman against late-term abortions, can you be “anti-woman”??

When I was younger, even though I have always leaned conservatively in my ideologies, I was more liberal-minded about abortion. I felt that it should be legal if only to prevent the back-alley coat-hanger-induced variety of abortion that would endanger many a [young] woman’s life. That didn’t mean that I, personally, would choose to have an abortion, myself. Like most folks on the right, I tend to think in terms of, if you don’t like something don’t do it/read it/buy it/use it/etcetera. We shouldn’t need more laws about it.

Should a woman be permitted to use abortion as her primary method of contraception? Well, it’s epically stupid, but shouldn’t it be her choice?

I used to think so. Kind of still do. Mostly, since it’s not something I need to consider, personally, I quite frankly don’t care about it as a political issue all that much.

What I care about more is actually the flip side to this coin. The increasing number of women using some form of infertility treatment in order to have a baby, or four or five, or eight. The more you have, the harder it is to carry the infants to term. The earlier they are born, the harder it is to save them. I blame the fertility specialists for this. I’d also blame “Big Pharma”, but that would take me three more days of writing to sort out my thoughts. I’ll stick to hating on fertility docs for now. They indiscriminately implant far more eggs than a human would release naturally, perhaps discuss selective reduction once the embryos decide to survive (though most parents can’t bring themselves to do that), and then expect that the family simply accept that, if the infants are born early, the neonatal teams will take care of them. Once a baby is born, whatever the gestation, the OB is done with it. His (or her) focus is back on the mom and, other than performing the occasional circumcision on a baby boy, s/he has no further vested interest in the infant. Leave that to the pediatrician or neonatologist.

Technology being what it is today, babies all over the world are being “saved” at earlier and earlier gestational ages of birth. Currently, twenty-four weeks is the average accepted age of viability, though there have been documented cases of “successful” treatment of twenty-three week gestation infants. Perhaps an infant or two has even been “saved” at twenty-two weeks. People are in awe of the abilities we have in place to care for infants this small, this premature.

People should not be in awe. They should be cautious if not down right frightened.

The sad truth that most people don’t realize is, more likely than not, babies born this early suffer life-long disabilities as a result of being born too early. But the parents that have been trying for years to just get pregnant look at their newborn and only see the promise of a bright and shining future for this miracle child who has a world of opportunity ahead of them. Add multiple births into the equation, and, even though the infants might reach a “decent” gestational age, they still tend to be smaller in size, and somewhat more vulnerable to complications than their singlet peers. Remember “OctoMom”? Does any news outlet still report on the kids? No? Why do you think that is?

Babies are cute, even if they are disabled. Toddlers and older kids who have not successfully met and passed various milestones are not so cute. They make folks uncomfortable, and thus are no longer “news-worthy.” I wonder where her support network drifted off to after the first few months or so of the babies’ lives. How long before helping this woman care for her excessively large family became tedious, inconvenient, or a down-right burden to her friends, family, church, and local community? Some reports indicate that several of her children suffer from various health and behavioral issues, including autism. At least one is still in diapers at almost five years of age.

I said earlier that my specialty is “unique.” One aspect of it that makes it so is that, regardless of the parents’ financial status, including whether they have insurance and of what type, all hospitals see to it that premature and severely ill newborns are set up on assistance plans to ensure they (the hospital) get paid. NICUs are big revenue generators for hospitals that made the investment to have them. Not all NICUs are in the confines of an established children’s hospital. Many hospitals that cater mostly to adults, but that have maternity departments have Special Care Nurseries or Newborn Intensive Care Units. A NICU in a Midwest Children’s Hospital can charge around $6000 PER DAY just for the bed and nursing care of the infant. Doctor fees, specialist consults, surgeries, therapies, and medications are all expenses incurred above and beyond that daily charge. Consider that a term infant is born at or after 37 weeks (36 weeks in some cases). Any infant born earlier is likely to stay in the hospital until its original due date. So an infant born at 30 weeks gestation may stay in the hospital for six to ten weeks. A twenty-four week infant will stay around fourteen weeks or more, depending on complications. Most singlet premature infants will wipe out an insurance policy’s maximum pay-out of around a million dollars.

Now, what do you think it cost for OctoMom’s eight premature infants’ hospital stay? She was already on welfare when some idiot fertility doctor agreed to implant her with all those embryos, so let’s not bother talking about who paid the bill for their hospitalization.

I’m not sure how OctoMom was able to finagle having all those kids via fertility treatment, since it’s expensive and, even if she had insurance, it’s not covered by any that I’m aware of. Still, every year thousands and thousands of women pay large sums out of pocket to become mothers of multiples.

I’m not saying that this miracle of modern medicine should not be available to those who can afford it. I, myself, benefited from some fertility medications in order to become pregnant for my two sons. My “plumbing” issues were easily corrected with a single round of two different pills that did not cost me very much and, each time, I was blessed with one baby, not multiples.

But, should there be a line that fertility doctors no longer be allowed to cross? I tried to look up information on naturally-occurring multiple births and found only that the vast majority of multiples consists of twins, with a few triplets, and rarely any more than that. Humans were not designed to bear more than two or three infants at a time. So why are doctors implanting eight eggs in a woman, or even five or four? I understand that there is a possibility that some, perhaps none of the embryos will “take”. Some that do implant successfully may spontaneously abort for any number of reasons, reducing the number of embryos that will survive to delivery at some viable gestational age. I get that, the more embryos implanted, the better chance of having at least one baby born.

But what about when all the implanted embryos survive?

I firmly believe that fertility specialists should implant no more than two embryos at a time since twins have a much better chance of remaining in utero nearly to term, and thus are born healthier than infants born extremely premature. I’m sure some moms (maybe even some dads) would heartily disagree with me. Some may say that, due to finances, or other nefarious reasons, they will only ever have this one opportunity to attempt fertility treatments, so it’s imperative that all fertilized embryos be implanted to ensure at least one survives.

But what happens when a family uses all their savings just to have the treatment, then give birth to, let’s say four babies. Regardless of whether these infants end up completely “normal” at the end of their hospital stay, how does the family expect to pay for all the things four newborns need? Car seats, high chairs, bouncy seats, playpens, formula (if mom doesn’t/can’t breastfeed) – DIAPERS! If they didn’t already have a van or some other type of vehicle capable of carrying six or more people, now they will likely need to get one. Can they afford to? Not surprisingly, these families tend to turn towards others – their family, friends, church, community, government – to help supply them with the things they will need to care for all these babies. Sometimes, communities (and others) step up and help, but more often than not, families end up on some form of government assistance.

In my opinion (and, yes, I know what opinions are like), choosing to bring multiples conceived through artificial means into the world is one of the most selfish acts a woman (and her partner) can make. Sometimes, these couples already have one or more singlet children that they conceived without any assistance. Suddenly, that child is saddled with multiple needy siblings that will dominate attention-getting simply by design – babies need more of everything from their care-givers than older children do. But to a toddler who used to be the sole recipient of all his parents’ attention and affection, it is a traumatic event to suddenly have to share that attention and affection with several more contenders. Add in any special needs one or more of the new siblings may have, and there will be very little time and energy left over for quality time spent with big brother.

So, what’s my point, you ask? Perhaps I have none, other than to vent and maybe educate folks about something they may not have known much about before. Certainly, the practice of treating infertility results in “job security” for me and my fellow neonatal clinicians, so I shouldn’t really be “against” it. But I am when it involves the seemingly irrational indiscriminate application of this incredible science to produce “quantity” over “quality.” Technology continues to advance in the care and treatment of premature infants, but much of it is all still “experimental” in that there’s no way to ever predict which infants will sail through their hospital stay uneventfully or which will succumb to heartbreaking complications that perhaps result in death, or at least life-long disability. We think we can apply treatments that worked so well to save the thirty-week-gestation infant to the twenty-four-weeker with equally successful outcomes. Some places are trying to apply it to twenty-three and even twenty-two-weekers. And when just ONE report is made where a hospital was “successful” in “saving” the twenty-two-weeker, then suddenly parents think that ALL twenty-two-weekers can and should be saved.

Oftentimes, “saved” only means that the infant survived. It fails to describe in what condition he survived. People go on the internet and post on blogs about how they know someone (who knows someone) who “just had twenty-three-week twins and “they are fine.” “Fine” as in “completely normal at, say, three years of age”, or “fine” as in “alive with complications”?

The future holds even more scary notions of where science wants to take the issue of infertility. Just today I read an article from The Daily Mail (a UK publication), that talks about genetically modified babies being born. (See the full article here ). I don’t for one minute claim to understand completely the science behind the process, but I can see the writing on the wall. Those parents who want, and can afford to, will soon be able to have doctors manipulate their eggs and sperm – their DNA – to produce children with very specific traits. Maybe they want only boys, or want their baby to have blond hair and blue eyes. Babies made to order! Even scarier is that the article implies that technology is currently available to clone infants, should moral objections be overcome.

I am continually dismayed, yet not at all surprised, that more and more people feel it is always okay to do whatever they want without regard to the long-term consequences, and that it is someone else’s responsibility to see to it that they may continue along this course. Want a litter of kids in one fell swoop, but don’t want to be financially responsible for them? No problem. The fertility docs will take your money to give you the babies and the government will allow for tax dollars to pay for their care. But don’t dare criticize these families for their choices! That would be sexist, racist, elitist, whatever-ist, and just downright disrespectful! The world should rejoice in the blessed event of these multiple births as though it were “a miracle.”

Word to the wise parents who still choose to go the “multiples” route. At least have the decency to treat the doctors and nurses who care for your babies with respect. Most of us have been taking care of critically ill and premature infants longer than you have and, while you are the parent, we, in fact, do know more about what your baby needs than you do. We completely understand that your world has been rocked in a way you never imagined, and that you are completely overwhelmed. We know that it sucks to not feel like you are in control of anything and that you only want the best for your babies. We accept that you need to be included in your babies’ care and that you need opportunities to bond with them. You will not like every person on your babies’ care team, just as you do not like every person you work with, or deal with in your daily lives. That does not mean they are not qualified and capable caregivers. Certainly, legitimate concerns should be reported to the management, but, in reality, those concerns in the neonatal field are few and far between. Questioning everything the staff does typically only serves to interfere with them providing the quality of care to your infant that you are so concerned about.

One thing that irritates me is new parents’ ideas about visitation with their babies. Just because you are excited about the birth of your babies does NOT mean that it is acceptable to parade every family member and acquaintance through the NICU to ogle at them. The earlier the gestational age at delivery the LESS stimulation the infants can handle, and just conversation around the bedside is enough to put some of these babies over the edge. Again, the doctors and nurses have the experience, and it would be in your babies’ best interest for you to actually take their advice on how to interact with the babies. From sounds to temperature to lighting to touch, these infants cannot tolerate any of it in excess, and in their world, that limit is reached very quickly. If you truly want the best outcomes for your babies, please listen to the doctors and nurses and do what they say.

Lord, I could go on and on and on about various aspects of this topic, but it’s late and I’m getting disorganized in my train of thoughts. Suffice it to say, I work in a field that has outstanding rewards and devastating losses, sometimes within a single shift. It is not a field of nursing for the feint of heart.

I encourage families considering fertility treatments to not only talk with the infertility specialist and your OB/Gyn about it, but to consult with a neonatologist so that you fully understand the risks you are taking with the lives of the very beings you believe you want more than anything in your world. Everything you do has consequences in life. When your decisions affect the lives of others, you had better understand completely what it is you are choosing to do.

Choose wisely, not selfishly.

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