You don’t always have to raise your hand

When I was raking leaves in our front yard at six years old, my grandfather rested his large, heavy hand on my shoulder and said, “I like that you’re a hard worker and that you never quit.” I adored him, so his comments warmed me while we were outside in what I’m sure was 55-degree weather. More than three decades later, that South Dakota memory remains vivid, which illustrates how much his philosophies continue to shape my life.

 

During my early 20s, I was the sole employee of a weekly newspaper in the Black Hills. I created story ideas (and assigned the stories to myself); photographed events; sold advertisements; tracked new subscriptions; designed the newspaper; and yes, delivered the newspaper to area businesses. The newspaper publishers, who lived in a nearby town, learned I was staying up all night to complete these tasks. One evening, they knocked on my apartment door and asked me to consider a reporter role at one of their other newspapers. I was horrified. I asked, “You want me to QUIT?!” They responded, “We don’t want you to quit; we want you to try an easier job. We think maybe you don’t have enough experience for this job. You’re young, and this is a big role.”

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Reframing the motherhood conversation

My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in early July. While my pregnancy is fairly obvious, I still mention it when relevant. During a salon appointment, I mentioned it so my stylist would know to use a pregnancy-safe product. Then, in making the small talk which is typical in salons, the stylist asked my age. When I revealed I was 40, the hairdresser responded, “Wow, you started having babies late, huh?”

Late. While looking forward to my new baby, “late,” is the last adjective I would ascribe to his upcoming birth. Despite my understanding that the stylist intended no malice, I immediately felt like I needed to defend my decision to have a baby at 40. Instead, I did not say much, and the topic faded. The topic shouldn’t fade, though. The burden was on me to reframe the conversation, and I didn’t.

I did not meet my husband Tim until my early 30s. We married after more than a year of dating, and I became pregnant the following year. We were both thrilled. It happened quickly, and I soon began planning the nursery theme. But at the six-week mark, I experienced complications and was admitted to the emergency room. The medical staff could not detect a heartbeat. The doctor spoke to me in a kind tone and said, “There’s a small chance the calculations are incorrect, and you aren’t as far along as you thought. But, more than likely, this is a miscarriage. I am sorry. My wife experienced six of these.” Tim, always hopeful, thought positively. But I instinctively knew the outcome.

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