Monday, December 17, 2012

I wore pants to church on Sunday. Yes, to Sacrament Meeting, too. I want to share my experiences from it, for those who are curious about how it went. To share effectively, I really feel the need to give my background, and why this movement is so personal and important to me.

Let me start by asking this question: When was the last time you had your virtue or worthiness called into question because of what you were wearing? If you're a man, chances are good your answer is "Never." If you're a woman, especially a Mormon woman, chances are good you're answer is, "Recently." If you're a Mormon woman who wore pants to church, yesterday, your answer is definitely, "Yesterday." Sexism within the church exists.

In my own lifetime, I have personally experienced sexism within the church. As a young teenage girl, I chose to wear a sleeveless black sheath dress to church. To be clear, the neckline went all the way up to my neck, and there were arm-holes where there should have been sleeves. The arm-holes fit snugly around my arms, and the only "extra" skin showing was the tops of my shoulders. I felt confident and beautiful in that simple black dress. I looked very nice.

A member of the bishopric, and the father of one of my good friends, pulled me into a classroom during the meeting block. He sat me down and shut the door. He then proceeded with the following dialogue, "I noticed you're wearing a sleeveless dress, today. I want to ask you how you feel about what you're wearing." I responded with something like, "Okay, I guess." He continued, "What your wearing shows far too much skin. You have a responsibility to the men of this ward, to help them think clean thoughts. When you wear clothing that shows too much skin, like the dress you're wearing today, thinking clean thoughts becomes difficult for us." The message was clear: he, and every other man in that ward was thinking unclean thoughts, and not only was it my fault that was happening, it was also my responsibility and duty to make it stop.

A few months ago, I wore one of my favorite dresses to church. It covers plenty of square footage. It even covers my garments, but is form-fitting. It's extremely flattering in all the most feminine ways. I wore this beautiful dress with some gorgeous black suede 5-inch high heels. I looked smashing. Some would even say, "sexy." I was treated differently that day. Men in our ward, who had never even acknowledged my presence before that day, were overtly friendly. To be clear, there was no flirting or misappropriation. Men who I have never spoken to in my life, and who probably still don't know my name went out of their way to strike up conversations with me between meetings. They smiled broadly at me, in the hallways of the church. Men, who I could name by name, treated me differently the day that I went to church flaunting all of my God-given assets. In what would be deemed by most to be "modest," simply because it covered my garments.

This is a small sampling of the undeniable sexism I have been confronted with. I have also encountered the following situations in other women: turned away at church dances, because they weren't "wearing the right thing," lectured by bishops for breastfeeding outside of the mother's lounge or nursing uncovered, lectured by bishops and other members of their wards for wearing bare-legs under their skirt, or wearing a skirt that was deemed too short. I could go on. The point is: sexism within the church exists. This is not a contrived plight.

Taking it one step further, because people were so incredibly tense over something as simple as women wearing pants, I humbly submit that this is a conversation that we need to be having.

When I got out of bed yesterday morning, I had gone to sleep praying that I would know what to do. I definitely did not want to be disrespectful or cause any type of distraction. I made the decision to wear pants, and felt a tremendous and tangible peace over that decision. The Spirit told me that Heavenly Father was very okay with me making that decision. I chose out a very nice pair of black slacks, a silver sweater, my black boots, and some tasteful jewelry. I fixed my hair, and went about preparing for church in a way that I have every Sunday, for as long as I can remember. When we walked out into the cold, snowy world, as a family, I was especially thankful to be wearing some nice, warm pants.

Church was uneventful. I received few, if any, strange looks. I am the ward  chorister, and so I had to be on the stand 4 times during Sacrament Meeting. There were no comments on my attire. I was my same self, commenting during meetings, and juggling kids. Mostly, people seemed not to notice. From my perspective, the only distractions I caused were when I had to get up and leave the room with a screaming baby. That is a very typical thing for me to be doing any Sunday, though. I do want to share that I felt as though many people really saw me, yesterday. Not that they just looked at me, but that the really *saw* me. Like they were waking up. In Sunday School, many people made comments that were pretty obviously in support of me. They said things like, "I'm glad to have the priesthood, because it allows me to serve others in such a unique way. I don't want to leave the sisters out of that comment, though. The sisters of this church serve in very meaningful ways, and their presence is felt."

I went home from church without having had a single event of any kind. After church, however, at choir practice, there was an event. I was talking with my choir, about what we should wear for the Christmas Program. The choir pianist, Marilyn, piped in, "Whatever you wear, just DON'T wear pants! People on facebook are saying that women should be allowed to wear pants to sacrament meeting. Can you believe this garbage?!" (Should be noted that she is very elderly, and very sweet. I really, really like Marilyn.) Awkward silenced followed. Everyone was watching me for a reaction, as they had all seen me in my pants that very day. I chuckled softly, adjusted the music stand, and cleared my throat. One of the choir members started laughing hysterically. Then Marilyn asked, "Did I miss something?" I answered, "Well, I wore pants to church, today." Aghast, she exclaimed, "You did?! To sacrament meeting?!" "Yes." We proceeded to have a really great dialogue, where everyone joked about men wearing skirts, to which I pointed out that in many cultures, men do. I also took the opportunity to point out that it has been culturally acceptable for women to wear pants in our society for decades, that wearing a dress is a social-norm, not church doctrine, and that women do not need permission to make fashion choices. It must not have been that big of a distraction after all, since Marilyn didn't even notice. She and I hugged-it-out, and we finished practice. It was very light-hearted and positive, and I think everyone walked away from choir practice with a sense of sharing and camaraderie. I am SO glad I wore pants.

I plan to wear pants to church every week, until it is not a "thing", anymore. Because it should never have been a "thing" to begin with. It did not effect my worship, or (as nearly as I could tell) anyone else' worship, either. I felt reverent, and enjoyed all my meetings the best that I could with an 8 month old on my hip. In my own life, the Spirit was abundant, love was present, and the world went on turning on the day women everywhere wore pants to church.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Birth Story of Wirth Leon Sanderson

Disclaimer: not for the faint of heart or easily embarrassed! Also, it’s kinda a novel! Sorry...there’s lots to tell...

There is some debate as to when I actually went into labor...I had been on limited bed rest for 10 weeks, and then full bed rest for another 2 and a half weeks when my blood pressure started going up. At its highest, it was up to 146/101. I was on bed rest to keep my body from going into premature labor. When we saw it was that high at my 36 weeks prenatal checkup, me and my midwife Sherri decided that I needed to get off of bed rest and get my body going into labor. So, I went from sitting around all day long every day, to walking, going for bumpy rides, eating spicy foods, and anything else I could think of to get labor going.

That Monday I started having contractions. But they were superficial, short, and never rhythmic. On Thursday evening, I had just gotten off the phone from giving Sherri an update, and telling her that I didn’t see my body going into labor that night, when I had 3 contractions right on top of eachother. They were powerful, moving contractions. I could feel my body unfolding. Since we had Jonny in 2 hours start to finish, and since I have had my babies naturally with very little pain, we didn’t want to take any chances at being left without help. Especially so long before my “due” date. Jeremy called Sherri back and she had Angie (another midwife) run right over. 7 minutes later, Angie was at our house, I was in bed laboring happily, and things seemed to be under way. Angie checked me and I was at +3 station, somewhat effaced, and 4-5 centimeters dilated. Sherri arrived, and she and Jeremy gave me a foot rub, because my feet were impossibly cold. Even after being rubbed, my feet wouldn’t warm up...we realized later that (for whatever reason) my “cold feet” were symbolic. About 45 minutes after Sherri arrived, I got really tired and decided to try and sleep through contractions. As soon as I started to drift to sleep, the contractions died down and stopped coming about an hour later. So, everyone went home to sleep in their own beds.

I slept until about 6 am, when the contractions came back and were strong enough to wake me up! I got into a tub to try and discourage the contractions if they were just Braxton Hicks. When they didn’t stop, we called Sherri, who ran right over again! She checked me and I was at about a 6 ½ dilation. We also called my mom who came to help get the kids to school and keep things in control. And Sherri’s apprentice/assistant midwives came to set up our house for the birth. It was crowded, chaotic, and distracting. And so, predictably, my contractions stopped.  We decided that we would go to Walmart to pick up a few things we needed for the birth but hadn’t purchased yet. We were hoping walking would get the contractions started up again. After several laps around Walmart, a long car ride home, a nap, a Cafe Rio salad with hot sauce, several sincere efforts on Jeremy’s part to help me start labor (wink,wink), and several laps around the yard and house, I felt I wanted to be in the tub. We had been avoiding it, not wanting to discourage the contractions. But, I decided to do what felt right. As soon as I got in, my contractions started right up. It was just Jeremy and I talking between contractions, and really enjoying the time and relaxing. Every once in awhile I would say, “These contractions are really regular! Should we call Sherri?” And Jer would answer, “Let’s just wait and see.” It felt like hours to me that I sat in that water, enjoying myself and wondering what would come next. Jer was amazing and attentive, refilling my drink and bringing my snacks and wiping my brow and rubbing my feet. He was the best labor attendant I’ve ever had!!

When it happened and the contractions finally got deeper and stronger, Jeremy about jumped out of his skin with excitement dialing Sherri to tell her it was definitely time to come deliver our baby! She said she had an appointment to finish up and then she’d be over, and that Angie would be coming over right away. The contractions continued to deepen, and while they were super intense, they were never unmanageable. The mood was very mellow. We talked and laughed a lot between contractions. I remember telling Angie and Jeremy that the contractions almost felt good, and that I wasn’t even done yet, but I was already so proud of myself!  Haha!! If I only knew what was in store for me...

A short time after Angie arrived, I started feeling the urge to push. She checked me to make sure I was complete. I remember the look of dismay on her face, and her words, “How I can say this in a positive way?! still have some cervix left. You need to be patient!” Oh, resisting the urge to push! It’s like resisting the urge to breathe or think. For what felt like an eternity, I moved into different positions, breathed and moaned and groaned my way through 10? 20? 30 more contractions? I’m not sure how many. Felt like a hundred! Sherri, who had arrived during this time, checked me again. She told me I was at a 9 ½ plus, but I had an anterior cervical lip that was swollen and likely would not dilate. She suggested that she could hold it out of the way so that I could try to push past it. I was reluctant until the next contraction reminded me that there was only one way out of this! I agreed and on the next contraction she lifted my cervix out of the way. And on the next, and on the next. And I pushed like I have never had to push. And then, finally, on the 4th contraction, I was complete. We had planned for Jeremy to deliver our baby. He went to get into the tub, and Sherri stopped him. We didn’t realize until that moment that he was wearing red shorts. My midwives have a strict “no red at births” rule, in keeping with a superstition that red will make the mother hemorrhage. So, he had to run into the bedroom and change his shorts while I waited even longer to push! Finally, he was in the water, I was fully dilated and we were ready to have the baby! I was so thrilled and so upset and so frikken sick of labor! And I gagged. And gagged. And then I was throwing up. Heaving. Hurling. It was disgusting. And painful. But every time I heaved, the baby got a little lower. He worked his way down the birth canal with the force of my vomiting. A few gags and he was crowning. A few more pushes and he was here! Jeremy got to receive him, and lift him out of the water!

This is where it got really amazing! When he was born he wasn’t breathing right away. In the hospital, they would have immediately cut the cord (his only sure source of oxygen) whisked him across the room away from me (his only sure source of comfort and familiarity) and proceeded to ram a tube down his throat and air bag him to force breathing. How do I know this? Because I’ve lived it! In the comfort of our home, while the midwives were capable of doing those things, they chose to wait and see what our baby could do on his own. Baby lay on my chest and I gently rubbed his back to encourage breathing, and within about 30 seconds, he coughed, gasped, and gave us the most beautiful air-filled scream I’ve ever heard! We got to hold him right against our chests and admire him. He was full of things to tell us. He “ooooo’d” and “ahhhhhh’d” for the better part of an hour. Jeremy laid him back in the water so that just his head and neck were out of the water and he just laid there, floating and looking at the world around him. It was quiet and sacred and warm, and so loving! You can’t buy that experience in a hospital!!

After his birth, we got to leave the placenta attached until it stopped pulsing (almost a full hour after his birth). We discovered he had been born with a true knot in his cord. Jer looked it up, and apparently only 1% of umbilical cords have a true knot in them...

We also got to climb right into bed together and sit and cuddle our new baby while the midwives did all their work around us! When they were done, we were left alone, to sleep and cuddle and bask in the glow of having a sweet new baby boy. My recovery has been amazingly easy! My baby has been super mellow, and hardly ever fusses. The benefits of home birthing are boundless. We are already reaping the benefits of the decision to have him in our home. It was hard, but it was worth it!