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CannaMamas Need the Freedom to Breastfeed

A couple of weeks ago, after speaking with a handful of receptionists in an effort to find a new primary care physician, I realized there must be a large number of people who are unaware cannabis is the technical term for marijuana.  I discovered this when I asked for the doctor’s stance on cannabis use, and the reply from the other end of the line was “huh?” or “what?” followed by a short explanation from me.  I’m still surprised physician staff in a legal state do not know, and do not use scientific terminology.

Proper term use helps combat the stigma associated with cannabis consumption.  This is important for a number of reasons, one highlighted in mid July by the Colorado Board of Health’s failure to add Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of debilitating conditions accepted for medical marijuana prescriptions despite the recommendation to do so from the Chief Medical Officer.  Preconceived notions should not dictate law or interfere with personal medical decisions, but they are exactly what caused the Colorado Board of Health to decline the addition of PTSD to conditions treated with medical marijuana, or simply cannabis.  Otherwise, the board members would have listened to the research that shows remarkable results.  Too often when lawmakers and people outside of the cannabis community hear “marijuana”, or even “medical marijuana”, images of “reefer madness” are conjured up.  The stereotypes, and frankly threats, follow.

This decision to ignore the recommendations of medical professionals and patients already has a serious impact on women and particularly mothers because according to the US Department of Veteran affairs, women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, and half of all women experience a traumatic event which results in PTSD.  The United States Census figures 81% of women were mothers by age 40 to 44 as of 2010.  

A-woman-smoking-a-joint-001

The consumption of cannabis is taboo, but no group of people are more hesitant to discuss their use than pregnant and breastfeeding women, a class of people who already face extreme challenges.  The reason we are hesitant is we face more than snide remarks and “side-eyed” looks.  We face more than discrimination.  We face the fear of losing our children.  Yes, I said “we”.  I am a cannamama that currently nurses my eighteen-month-old daughter, and used cannabis for about nine months of my breastfeeding relationship with my ten-year-old son.

Mothers should not fear losing their children because they choose cannabis to treat their ailments.  Months of government involvement in personal lives is not a good use of limited and precious resources meant to protect children.  Arbitrary rules and the whims of individuals should not rip families apart, but this is the current system that deals with reports of mothers that use cannabis.  I speak with women often about their experiences with child protective services (CPS) and the investigations that begin moments after giving birth.  Many of the stories sound familiar to my own.

I was handed a urine analysis cup before I was taken to recovery after the birth of my daughter in January of 2014.  I returned my cup to the nurse full of blood.  Meanwhile, another nurse rushed my newborn’s meconium to a lab to be tested as well.  Parental consent is not necessary.  Our bodily fluids and the bodily fluids of our children do not belong to us according to hospital staff.

The following day, a hospital social worker invaded my time with my family and new baby to spread propaganda and fear.  It was all very shady.  My husband and I were questioned at length, but kept in the dark as to what would happen next.  On the day we were to go home, a nurse told us that we would have to wait to be discharged until after we saw the social worker again.  All I wanted to do was get home and snuggle in my bed with my newborn, but instead we waited in fear.  We remained in a state of apprehension before a nurse came in and said we could leave.  It was horribly weird.

My husband remembers feeling uncomfortable and threatened.  It was clear they were ready to rip a newborn from a mother’s arms for using cannabis although I had refused pain medicine during labor, delivery, and recovery.  I didn’t have more than Ibuprofen and maybe a single Vicodin (I’d have to check my medical records to be exact) to relieve the pain from second degree tears and a hemorrhage the doctors had difficulty stopping, but the state was worried I was a druggie because I use cannabis.  It was quickly apparent to us that my husband’s sobriety, my insistence to protect my rights, and dedication to our baby’s health were top factors in the social worker’s choice not to pursue an investigation.

I’m not telling my story for sympathy.  I’m over it.  I have my precious daughter and CPS left us alone after the initial visit.  We are happy as can be.  However, this is not the outcome for every cannamama, and stories like mine are common.  These experiences should not happen to any woman that has just birthed new life simply because they chose cannabis as opposed to a prescription drug especially when the majority of these women, myself included, disclosed our choice of our own volition.

It’s not the best policy to treat honesty so harshly.  Because of my experience and the experiences of other cannamamas, I recommend lying where this matter is concerned when pregnant cannamamas ask my advice.  Women are afraid of their healthcare providers.  These are the same women with doctors who thrust Phenergan, Zofran, Reglan, Meloxicam, Flexeril, Vicodin, Oxycodone, Percocet, Fentanyl, Procardia, Amoxicillin, Prednisone, Tramadol, Dilaudid, Morphine, Celexa, Valium, Lexapro (need I go on?), and endless other pharmaceutical medications plus over-the-counter drugs at them.  I mean, not to get stupid, but cannabis has caused less deaths than Tylenol.

Stop treating us like chronically addicted drug abusers.  We aren’t, and our children are not in danger.  Most of us are good parents invested in raising quality human beings.  We get on the floor and play with our kids, we interact with them and enjoy watching them grow.  We worry about their health and education and all the other things good parents that don’t use cannabis worry over.

People seem to be under the impression that I have just done a hit of acid. I don’t know how to explain to the general public I’m totally normal other then my bullshit tolerance has gone WAY up.” – Elizabeth S., Denver, CO

A couple of days ago, someone in my secret Facebook group for cannabis-consuming peaceful parents shared a recent Cosmopolitan article written by cannamama, Lea Grover.  I agree with her, but she only admits to using occasionally when she is stressed as if to appeal to her readers and prevent harsh judgement.  I’m putting it all out there.  I “wake and bake“.  Using cannabis is part of my daily routine like brushing my teeth and flossing, and has been for more than half my life.

Cannabis saved my pregnancy with my son, made my pregnancy with my daughter tolerable, and helps me in my day to day life.  I don’t care if you believe me.  I care that you leave us alone.  I know what cannabis has done for me, and I know women that credit cannabis as their savior too.  I also know women forced to stop breastfeeding.  I know women forced to take parenting classes.  I know women that have had their children removed from their home.  I can’t remain silent any longer. The misplaced judgement must stop.  I expect critics, but I’m tired of hiding.  I know a slew of women tired of hiding too.  I come out of the cannabis closet for them.

If you are a nasty critic you may be wondering how my ten-year-old son, product of my first pregnancy in which I chose cannabis over Phenergan and Zofran to treat hyperemesis gravidarum, turned out.  I am proud to report this year he enters fifth grade and beginning his fifth school year as an HGT-identified (highly gifted and talented) student.  This means he is part of the one percent of the district’s student population that qualify based on “demonstrated achievement”.  He plays tackle football, performed in several Disney plays with a local theater troupe, gets along well with his peers, enjoys golf and reading…he’s already completed the Harry Potter series and read over a million words last year (that’s just what they tracked at his school and gave him an award for)…he loves math, and wants to pursue a STEM career.  I could go on and on.

As I have said many times in many conversations, I wish my son was involved in a study on the effects of cannabis on children exposed in utero and through breastmilk in order to help debunk the myths.  My daughter could be studied too as she currently exhibits similar attributes.  She amazes me daily with her abilities at this young age.

Coming out of the cannabis closet as a mother that uses cannabis and breastfeeds will impact my life professionally and personally.  My Grandmother-in-law is already concerned my husband and I will get another visit from CPS followed by threats of taking our children.

If you are a nursing cannamama, please know that you are not alone.

Nursing_area_sign

 

***The website – www.poliscimommy.com – may provide general information about cannabis use. I am not a doctor or a lawyer. I cannot give you medical or legal advice. I do not warrant or assume legal liability or responsibility. If you, the reader, or anyone else has a medical or legal concern, I urge you to seek professional care from a licensed individual.

Again, the information on my website is not intended to provide diagnoses, prevent, or cure any disease. In case of any health concern, you should always consult a licensed doctor or trusted health care provider.

i encourage people to change the law as opposed to break it. If you are not in a location where cannabis is legal, I do not warrant or assume legal liability or responsibility for your actions.

These are my opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints. I make no warranties or guarantees, expressed or implied.***

 

 

 

Excuse Me for Laughing

“This is a comedy club, not a laughing house. Please leave, Madam.”

Yes, this essentially happened to me.  The weirdest things always do as people often tell me.  Last Monday, my husband and I were on a double date with another couple.  Like most couples with children, we don’t get out much, and had been looking forward to the evening for a month.  We planned dinner and a comedy show.  I was so excited to see Martin Lawrence, a comedian I have loved since childhood.  I have heard, “Dammmmnnnnnn, Gina,” a million times because that’s my name too.  People think they are funny and original when they say it to me.

Anyway, the night started at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse where we arrived at approximately 7:45 pm.  The food and service were outstanding.  I enjoyed a very dirty classic vodka martini before dinner and a glass of wine with my meal.  We had a great time, catching up, and laughing…gasp!  I was never asked to keep it down.  In fact, I have never been asked to muffle my laughter in a public setting before by anyone besides my Grandmother, and I do love to laugh.

This time, I wasn’t asked to quiet my laughter by my Grandmother, and I wasn’t in just any public place.  I was asked to laugh quieter as a patron sitting in the back row of a comedy performance with a full crowd.

From Comedy Work's website.  Keep the women in the background and add "quietly" over their heads.

From Comedy Work’s website. Keep the women in the background and add “quietly” over their heads.

Only, I wasn’t asked at all initially.  I found out later my husband was told to keep his wife quiet or we would be asked to leave.

You read that right.  The waitress at the comedy club, under manager direction, asked a man to “keep his bitch in check”.  This is USA 2015, right??  As my husband told me, we came there to laugh and enjoy ourselves.  He knows sexism when he sees it, and he refused to stifle my good time. Eventually, the waitress told me herself to either keep my laughter down or I would be asked to leave.  I was mortified.

I won’t bore you with the details, if you are interested in my version of events, they can be viewed here and here on Facebook.    

I spoke to the “manager”, but he was rude and condescending.  He treated me like a child and belligerent drunk all in one (by this point in the night, I had 2.5 drinks over the same span of time if not longer.  I felt good, but was by no means drunk.  My loud laughter was not a result of the number of alcoholic beverages I consumed.  It’s just me. I laugh loudly.  I speak loudly.).  I wrote this review just after midnight on the way home.  Looks like the words of someone that deserved to be treated like a belligerent drunk, right?!Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.57.47 AMThe second manager was slightly better, but I got no where with either of them.  I never got an explanation of why I was told to laugh quieter or else be removed.  The show was over.  I missed the second half of Martin Lawrence’s performance.

I was furious.  My husband went to get the manager’s card.  We forgot to grab it, and I wanted to contact someone about what happened to me.  It was then that he received an apology and a refund.  Wait…what??  I argued for thirty minutes, and was treated like trash, to no avail, but my husband made progress in mere moments.  Tell me again that sexism isn’t rampant.

We still don’t know who was managing what that night because three different men represented themselves as such, none of whom ended up being the GM.  Mr. Jeffrey B. Fisher, the actual General Manager of Comedy Works Landmark Place, was too busy drinking at the bar to deal with customers that night.  I realized this when I met him in person.  My husband recognized him as the man laughing loudly over drinks at the bar with another man.  Imagine that.  Laughing loudly…I guess it’s ok when a man does it…

Is there a certain way women are allowed to laugh in public in the United States in 2015?  According to Mr. Fisher, yes, there is.  Although, I still don’t know what that way is.  When, later on in the week I came back, and I asked for clarification of the Comedy Works “laughter decibel” policy, Mr. Fisher became irate, threatened to rescind my refund, walked towards me aggressively with his 6’3″+, 300+ pound body, and told me to get off the premises.  This was after he yelled at me, waved his finger through the air and in my face, and interrupted me repeatedly.

I didn’t budge.  I told him I had a right to be on the property and inquire about my refund.  He walked off in a huff.  At this point, I didn’t know what to do, so I called the LoneTree police department for assistance.  Dispatch notified me that Mr. Fisher had already contacted the police and they were en route.

What?  Did I hear this right?  The General Manager of a well known establishment called the police on a patron because she wanted to give a formal complaint, and requested the company policy on laughter while waiting for the printout of her refund?  Sounds absurd, right?  This is no laughing matter.  The police arrived within minutes.

What is wrong with the sound of a woman laughing?  It offends men.  There is a long and brutal history of women punished and chastised for their laughter.   Mr. Fisher, you scoffed and laughed in my face when I noted the multiple instances of sexism I encountered at your establishment.  You told me, a woman, that I don’t know what sexist behavior is.  Do better.  Listen to women.

Ms. Wende Curtis, I implore you, to stand behind your reputation as a strong business woman, and as owner of the Comedy Works South, to fix this problem of sexism within your company.

The laughter of women sets fire
to the Halls of Injustice
and the false evidence burns
to a beautiful white lightness

It rattles the Chambers of Congress
and forces the windows wide open
so the fatuous speeches can fly out

The laughter of women wipes the mist
from the spectacles of the old;
it infects them with a happy flu
and they laugh as if they were young again

Prisoners held in underground cells
imagine that they see daylight
when they remember the laughter of women

It runs across water that divides,
and reconciles two unfriendly shores
like flares that signal the news to each other

What a language it is, the laughter of women,
high-flying and subversive.

Long before law and scripture
we heard the laughter, we understood freedom.

by Liesel Mueller

*UPDATE*

The moderator for the Landmark Facebook page deleted my posts to their page and also a post by a friend.  Rather than respond publicly to my criticism on their own page, “Susan” left this lovely comment on my profile denying their actions and calling me a liar. Like seriously, if this doesn’t illustrate my account, I don’t know what will. Their lack of customer service is seething.

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 8.11.53 AM

https://www.facebook.com/poliscimommy/posts/10205309749755599?pnref=story

Creeps, Leave Nursing Mamas Alone

Social media is such fun.  It’s where we get to share pictures, call each other names, and it is another place where women encounter abuse.  I have been incessantly harassed and trolled for a year now, one troll after another, people who report me for violations of Facebook’s community standards intended for “encouraging respectful behavior” with regards to nudity.  They are offended by pictures of my child nursing, and call it “pornographic”.

Since my story about Facebook deleting my account over a breastfeeding photo went viral in June of 2014, photo reports are a regular event in my social media life.  I am an activist, and I use social media to speak out about issues important to me, so I expect some level of backlash; however, it amazes me that the number one reason I am trolled and harassed is over my “lactivism”.

Yesterday, I decided to open my “Other” mailbox Facebook has for private messages.  Checking my “Other” mailbox gives me anxiety because I frequently receive messages like this one:BrianWatkinsHarassmentPM

https://www.facebook.com/poliscimommy/posts/10205282407752066?comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22O%22%7D&pnref=story

Unfortunately, I am not alone.  The online harassment of women is nothing new.  Women report abuse of this nature daily.  This has been a hot topic for a while with celebrity women such as Jennifer Lawrence and Nicki Minaj who spoke out against the abuse they have endured.

The harassment of nursing mothers is its own level of creepy.  Here’s a disturbing comment left on one of my breastfeeding pictures this week.TravisSearles

 

Here’s the jewel he left in my inbox.Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 11.23.02 AM

 

Brian Watkins (the first creep) tells me that he has been harassing me for some time now.

 

We aren’t friends, guy, stop coming to my page and looking at my pictures if you find children eating so offensive.  You don’t need to report my pictures.  You aren’t saving the “children”.  You’re just being a pain in my ass because Facebook’s algorithms still haven’t figured out that my photos do NOT violate their community policy even though Facebook has repeatedly stated these removals are mistakes.

 

I have been locked out of my account multiple times since the news story aired because of creepy trolls like Brian and their relentless reporting.  As recently as last month, Facebook blocked me from posting content for a total of 3 days because I posted a breastfeeding picture of another mom.FromBellyToBreastBan

https://twitter.com/PoliSciMommy/status/609059527833456640

Now, the inability to post content on Facebook, while frustrating, is not the grand offense.  It is the treatment of women, and the shame associated with our bodies versus the normalcy of breastfeeding.  Nursing mothers have enough struggles just trying to feed our babies.

We do not need the objections, the looks, the stares, the rude photos posted to social media mocking us, the trolls, the reports, the bans, and the nasty messages and comments to go along with the already difficult task of breastfeeding.  Let us feed our babies in peace and comfort.  These are important elements to a healthy breastfeeding relationship.    If pictures of babies breastfeeding bother you, perhaps you need to look inside yourself and question why exactly you find it so objectionable.

Our breastfeeding community is strong.  We will not allow bullies to intimidate us from nurturing our children normally.  We will not be deterred by creeps from posting photos to support, encourage, and normalize breastfeeding.  I reported the private message above to Facebook for harassment, but Facebook denied Brian Watkins’ message violates community standards.  What does it say when ongoing harassment and intimidation do not violate community standards, but a photograph of a woman and child does?

Even if Facebook doesn’t have our backs, nursing mamas have each other’s.  Breastfeeding Mama Talk posted Brian Watkin’s private message to me, and women rallied against his behavior.  We know what harassment is, and we will not tolerate it any longer. We will not be sexually objectified while we nurture our children.  We will not be shamed. https://www.facebook.com/bfmamatalk/photos/a.471668436214912.96317.411182815596808/888259534555798/?type=1

Feeding children can never be “pornographic”, Mr. Watkins, and if seeing a child nursing sexually stimulates you, please seek professional help.