Yesterday would have marked 15 years of being sober.

Yesterday would have been 15 years sober for me. It is, and it isn’t, all at once.

I’m drinking again. And? I’m entirely comfortable with that. The only discomfort I have is about telling you.

After all, I’ve been open about my alcohol abuse in the past, having drank heavily from age 11 to 21. I wrote about it for Teen Vogue. Saying I was an alcoholic hasn’t been anonymous for me for years.

I’m concerned some of you will worry. I am okay, truly. I promise.

I’m concerned some of you will feel like I’m extending a license to break your hard-earned sobriety.




Not even a little bit. My choice, made with the full support of my husband, my therapist, and most friends, and the begrudging support of my protective best friend, is my choice. It’s about me and not you.

It’s about me and not you.

I’m concerned some of you will be disappointed in me. If you are, that’s okay. That’s a valid response, as are all other feelings you might have about this. Feel what you feel.

I’m concerned that many of you will be confused. Why risk it? Is this wise? Is it safe? What changed? Am I deceiving myself?

Those questions deserve a hearing, because I choose to write in the public sphere. Not everything needs to be public. But when I’ve shared openly about not drinking, it makes logical sense to share openly about drinking again.

That’s why I’m writing this post. Our first night in Ireland, Lee and I ended up at a pub. A delightful 80s and 90s cover band was playing. We had a couple drinks. After getting the first ones, I snapped the picture below. I could have Instagrammed it., but I knew this was too delicate to just throw at you on social media. I want to take care with what and how I communicate the shift.


So, when did this happen?

In December,Lee and I decided to start an experiment we’d been considering for a while. To see how alcohol impacted me now, at 36 instead of 21, we began to share a glass of wine together after bedtime, no more than once a week.

We didn’t know how it would play out. Possibilities ranged from triggering trauma responses and stirring up emotions from when I abused alcohol to numb the pain of abuse, to risking a return to addictive behaviors and risking also that my explanation would be perceived as a free pass to drink again for those who need to be sober.

Please, don’t. That’s not a permission slip I’m signing for anyone but myself.

Before I took my first sip since March 28, 2004, I had been discussing the idea with my medical and mental health professionals, Lee, and several dear friends who have proven in the past that they are willing to risk out relationship if needed to speak the hard and necessary truth to me. The first of these conversations was in early 2017. I knew it wasn’t the right time then, but I was beginning to realize that it might be, eventually.

I did not do this lightly.


So, why do it?

Because I wanted to. I’ve only learned in recent years that my wants and desires matter. I like alcohol, and I wanted to have the occasional freedom to have a drink in the context of community with others. This wouldn’t be a good enough reason alone, though. While it’s always important to be in touch with what we want, it’s not healthy to pursue every desire.

Because I could do so safely. For me, PTSD is my primary diagnosis. Substance abuse was a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. Of course, many people with PTSD are addicted to alcohol or drugs (or busy-ness or Twitter or…) or in recovery from those addictions. But as I’ve been intensely processing my childhood trauma, peeling back layer after layer, some of my secondary expressions of PTSD have gotten quieter or gone silent. I couldn’t have safely taken another drink without doing the years of therapy that preceded that first sip in more than a decade.

Because I’m not sure it was really accurate to have said I was an alcoholic. I drank to numb. I drank to forget. I binge drank. I had a host of habits consistent with addiction. I will, without reservation, acknowledge that substance abuse certainly fit for me during the decade I drank regularly from age 11 to 21. But I stopped drinking pretty easily, I never once relapsed, and - most crucial to the story - I decided sobriety was my only option while a member of a fundamentalist church context where any alcohol consumption was vilified. I am confident I struggled with substance abuse then. I’m not confident it was accurate to call it addiction.


Are you sure?

I’m sure enough. I’m as sure as I can be. I’m as sure as I was when I decided not to drink 15 years ago.

My skepticism started with my first AA meeting. I never went to a meeting until I was 12 years sober. I know AA has been a pivotal part of some friends’ recovery, so my expectations were high.

I wrote a post titled more than an alcoholic the day before that first meeting. And then I went.

I loved the truth telling of the people there.

I questioned the truth telling of the Big Book.

The claims in the Book - which serves as the bible for AA - were bold. The theology veered toward Calvinistic total depravity at times, and it stressed how we are wrong so much more than how we are good. The history was mostly accurate. The science, though? It struck me as suspect.

It was then - in 2016 - that I began to research the roots of alcohol abuse treatment in the US. I found, not surprisingly, that AA has strongly influenced how we discuss and treat alcoholism. When I told a doctor that I was newly sober in 2004, she quickly said, “you know, right, that you can never drink again because you’ve struggled with alcohol like this and have a family history of alcoholism?” I nodded, having never considered any other approach.

I’m glad I didn’t consider any other approach at the time. I needed to make a clean break. I needed to learn in action that life doesn’t have to be saturated in liquor. I believe strongly that this is the ideal long-term approach for many, and I believe strongly that it was the ideal path for me at the time.

I don’t doubt the benefit of the Big Book or AA program in reaching a needed sobriety for many. I don’t want to lay out an argument against that. Some people will go to the extreme to dismiss the program altogether, but I’m not an enemy of Bill’s. I also think it’s important to acknowledge that every AA group is different.

That said, I look at how we treat almost everything else, with treatments tailored to the individual (as this Harvard paper suggests for alcohol abuse), and I consider this excerpt from the Big Book to be utter bullshit:

Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demands rigorous honesty. Their chances are less than average. There are those, too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.

Honestly, WTF?

I might give the shaming language a pass if that passage rang true, but it doesn’t. The books Sober Truth in whole and Critical Thinking, Science, and Pseudoscience in parts discuss this in detail. (A review of Sober Truth in The Atlantic can be found here.)

Sure, AA can work, but so can other approaches. For me, intensive therapy - which I recognize as a privilege afforded by insurance and income - has been the best approach, both early in my sobriety and now. (One reason AA is so popular is because it’s free, it’s available, and it’s a community, which I acknowledge is not true for therapy.)


so what now?

Am I giving myself a forever permission slip to drink? No.

When I started drinking, I was little. I got sober when I was 21. I stand by that decision. It was right for me then. When I quit, I needed to do so, because - as I wrote a few years ago on this blog - I had reached a point at which I was drinking excessively every single time I drank. I also did so because of family history with alcohol abuse and because my fundamentalist church was anti-alcohol for anyone.

It wasn’t a bad choice to stop.

This new-ish decision isn’t a bad choice either. I’m a different and healthier person now at 36 than I was at 21. (Hopefully, that’s true for everyone.)

As for me, I’m drinking again. As for you, I have no advice beyond encouraging you to make informed choices within safe community. (That means it’s not wise to drink if you lack safe community or the accountability provided within it if you are willing to be deeply honest, as is necessary with any real accountability.)

I had a problem with alcohol 15 years ago, but as my faith has shifted in recent years, I’ve reevaluated everything. I’ve deconstructed and reconstructed my beliefs about God, using the Bible holistically rather than leaning on someone else’s interpretation and prescription for what I ought to believe. (Far too often, the false Jesus peddled by those who have self-appointed themselves as guards of all things “biblical” is one who is misogynistic, ableist, and somehow blond and blue-eyed, which makes sense only because he is entrenched in rich white supremacist ethics. Thank God that’s not the Jesus of the Bible and of history.) I expect to honestly wrestle with faith for the rest of my life because I consider that fundamental to any worthwhile faith journey.


so is your Insta gonna be boozy now?

I won’t post much about alcohol beyond this essay, unless there’s a noteworthy update to offer. I know how challenging and disorienting the overabundance of alcohol-saturated posts could be when I wasn’t drinking. I felt left out, like I didn’t belong, far too often. I don’t want to create that feeling for anyone else.


Yesterday would have marked 15 years sober for me. In a sense, it doesn’t - no 15 year AA chip this year! - but in a sense, it does. In the fullest sense of what it means to live soberly - to be steady, to not habitually or heavily drink alcohol, to have a clear head, to give pause to myself and thought to anything related to numbing emotions, including but not limited to alcohol - I still consider yesterday a soberversary of sorts.

When my best friend - for whom this is not breaking news - texted me yesterday to ask, “so, are you still celebrating your sobriety anniversary?”, the answer was an easy yes. My relationship with alcohol changed significantly 15 years ago. It remains forever changed, even as a healthy choice for me (for now) might include a glass of Riesling or a whiskey sour from time to time.

Maybe it will stay this way.

Maybe it won’t.

But this is where I am today.


(All pictures in this post are from our first 24 hours in Ireland)

Infanticide is already illegal, but you wouldn’t know that from last week’s news.

Carrie Ann Lucas was killed by our failed healthcare system a week ago.

I know that lede sounds extreme or exaggerated, but it isn’t. She wasn’t an infant - I will get to infanticide in a moment - but she was a beloved activist, adoptive mother, ordained minister, and disabled woman. She was 47. Her death was not premeditated but it was entirely preventable.


The picture above came from her Facebook page. In a post there, this explanation is offered for her death:

Carrie Ann Lucas, a disability rights attorney who pioneered representation for parents with disabilities, died after an arbitrary denial from an insurance company caused a plethora of health problems, exacerbating her disabilities and eventually leading to her premature death. 

A follow-up story by Forbes and an obituary in the Denver Post explore her life and legacy further, but the sad reality is that Carrie Ann didn’t have to die last week. She got a cold in January of last year. That led to a trach and lung infection. She was prescribed a specific inhaled antibiotic expected to be effective for treating the infection while avoiding complications due to her muscular dystrophy. Her insurance company refused to pay for it, covering a less effective antibiotic instead, knowing that she has a history of drug allergies. She had a bad reaction to the alternate medication, spent the past year in and out of the hospital, and died of septic shock a week ago.

Carrie Ann spoke out against physician assisted suicide, declaring that her disability did not make her unworthy of life. She aligned with the pro-life movement on that. While I am not familiar with her stance on abortion, I can confidently say that she would have opposed any concept of a child being born alive and then killed by doctors.

Last week, the Senate voted down a procedural motion to move forward with debate on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, introduced by Ben Sasse (R-NE). Sasse is best known, along with Jeff Flake (R-AZ), for speaking boldly against Trump’s poor decisions but ultimately voting in favor of them. Sasse argued that babies who survive an abortion be treated rather than killed.

Carrie Ann would have agreed with that. I agree with that. In fact, Congress agreed with that when I was still in college, passing the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002. That act protects the life of an baby born alive, as defined:

the term `born alive', with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion

As made clear in the excerpt above, born alive includes babies who have survived abortions.

The legislation introduced by Sasse was political theater. The substance of it was already made law seventeen years ago. Why introduce a redundant bill then?

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First, redundant legislation is nothing new. To put their position on the record, members of Congress have sponsored or introduced would-be laws that were already passed, on a range of issues from gun control to airline regulations. Not only does it make their position clear, but also it makes the position clear of anyone who opposes the measure.

Why does this matter? Well, I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s an election in 2020. It’s kind of a big deal. When campaigning, it’s a lot easier to say, “my opponent wants to kill babies,” if there’s a recorded vote you can cite. Voting against something called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act sounds pretty damning if you don’t know what it is.

Except the Democrats in the Senate - all but three - didn’t vote in favor of killing babies.

The vote last week was procedural. Procedural votes are part of the legislative process, determining if a proposal gets voted up or down. Given the way I saw conservatives spin the issue last week, though, you might have understood the yes votes to be in favor of babies’ lives (and against infanticide) and the no votes to be against babies’ lives (and for infanticide). That’s the way it will be told by Republicans during the 2020 election cycle.

But it’s not true.


A no on a procedural vote can, of course, mean the legislator opposes the intent or content of the proposal. But it can also mean that they don’t consider the bill worthy of congressional attention because another act - in this case, the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 - already exists to do what the proposed legislation would do.

Likewise, a yes on a procedural vote doesn’t mean the legislator supports the intent or content of the proposal. In the dramatic healthcare vote in July 2017, McCain voted no on Obamacare repeal, casting the deciding vote. The reason the moment was so uncertain, though, was that he voted yes on the procedural vote. He considered it worthy of discussion and consideration but not of passing. That’s one notable example of a procedural vote being just that, procedure, and nothing else.

If it could have electoral repercussions, though, why did only three Democrats vote for it? Wouldn’t it have been easier to let it sail through if it wouldn’t change anything?

The problem here is that the proposed Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was unclear. For babies born alive after an abortion attempt - babies already protected under law by the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 - doctors would have been required to offer identical care to the survivor of a failed abortion as they would to “any other child born alive at the same gestational age,” under the measure discussed last week.

At first glance, that sounds good, but it gets tricky because this provision could be interpreted two different ways. The first way is that the full range of interventions - from comfort care (that is, keeping a baby with a fatal condition comfortable without other medical intervention) to heroic attempts to sustain life no matter what. The second way is that if any other child born at that age without any complications would survive, then doctors must take all possible action for the abortion-surviving baby to survive, even if comfort care is in the best interests of the child and family.

I’ve seen well-reasoned op-eds arguing each interpretation in the past week. The interpretations generally fall along party lines, with Republicans arguing the first and Democrats the second. Whenever any issue is this strictly partisan, the facts are usually somewhere in the middle of the two stances.

In this case, neither interpretation is a given. But let’s review the branches of government real fast:

The legislative branch makes laws.

The executive branch enforces laws.

The judicial branch interpets laws.

The legislative branch should craft and pass clear laws that take all foreseeable outcomes into mind. But none of us can play out every move to the ultimate end, right? That’s where the judicial branch shows up. They don’t make the laws; they interpret them.


Right now, many courts are shifting to be more aligned with Republicans, given Trump’s nominations. I wish nothing partisan factored into judicial decisions, but we all know that’s not true. That’s why you’ll see Republicans at the state and federal level pushing laws that wouldn’t have made it through the courts before but that they hope will now. Even if the courts functioned perfectly, though, the ideal situation is one in which the law has such indisputable clarity that no judicial interpretation is needed.

In other words, legislators aren’t doing their jobs when they pass murky material into law (or, in this case, into the process of debating the actual content, as this was a procedural vote). The judicial branch is needed, but it’s meant for those issues that aren’t caught and addressed in the actual writing of the law itself.

This whole debate has turned into a shouting match about whether or not late-term abortions exist. I could weigh in on that (basically the medical definition of late-term is 40-42 weeks pregnant, so it’s not medically accurate language), but the gist is that I see pro-life friends quoting one OB saying that third trimester abortions are never needed while I watch pro-choice friends and doctors citing many more sources to say that they sometimes are. These are rare cases, yes, but given that third trimester abortions make up one percent or less of all abortions, it makes sense that these would be pregnancies that are the exception rather than the rule.

The measure voted down last week, though, wasn’t really about third trimester abortions; it was about what would happen afterward. I do consider it worthy to discuss the wisdom and act of abortion throughout all maternal stages, but this piece isn’t about that and neither was the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.

The other reason I consider the scenario to be political theater is simple: Mitch McConnell knew they didn’t have the votes. He knew it wasn’t going to pass. He knew no vote was needed. But he sought one anyway, so the record could show who did and didn’t vote for it.


Not only do I suspect those motives, but McConnell acknowledged them in an op-ed he wrote about the act. In his own words,

The American people deserve to know whether their senators stand with vulnerable children struggling for life.

The vote last week wasn’t about last week, and it wasn’t really about vulnerable children, who were already protected under the 2002 legislation.

No, the vote last week was about 2020.

Infanticide was already illegal. Nothing Sasse proposed, even if it had passed, would have offered any needed or lacking protections.

In the midst of Cohen’s testimony and Mueller’s continued process and the seemingly unanswerable questions about what depths of corruption must be reached before change comes, the one reliable base for Trump - white evangelical Christians, with 68% holding a favorable view of Trump, including 28% with a very favorable view - needed a reminder of why they made a deal with the devil and, in doing so, damaged their own credibility for loving neighbors already born. This redundant bill was presented as necessary and a procedural vote portrayed as positional. It worked. “But baby killing…” has been the chorus in response to anything negative about Trump this week from a certain demographic.

I used to join them. I used to champion the de-legalization and even criminalization of abortion as the best way to save lives. I would have been the first to pull a “butwhatabout abortion?” with a sweet yet patronizing smile, as if I immediately had claimed higher ground.

I did and still do consider a separate life to have begun as soon as unique DNA is created. For me, that moment - conception - is when a new person is formed. I did and still do consider abortion to be ending a life.

So why have my political stances changed? It’s not what you think. It’s not the oft-claimed view of pro-life for me but pro-choice for thee.

I used to roll my eyes hard when Hillary - in 2008 - and others touted that they wanted abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. Not safe for the baby, I would mutter to myself. But now I find myself in agreement, and the death of Carrie Ann Lucas illustrates why.

Medical professionals rather than elected politicians should be the ones who offer guidance when a women is making her choice. Doctors are best equipped to make the best decisions for the person they are treating, particularly in emergency situations and especially in outlier cases. The problem is that typical cases are generally the ones used to encode insurance policy and abortion law. For patients, like Carrie Ann, doctors need to be able to treat the patient in front of them.


When I think of rare instances in pregnancy when hard decisions must be made, I think of my friend Rebecca. She’s a sonographer at a high-risk OB clinic. She scanned her own body through three pregnancies. For two of those pregnancies, she discovered and diagnosed fatal conditions. Because she had access to equipment and knowledge in understanding the black and white images that make no sense to me, her babies - Cora and Layla - received diagnoses incompatible with life far earlier in her pregnancy than other babies would. She had options far earlier in her pregnancy than most mothers have.

And? She chose to carry both Cora and Layla as long as she could. They both were stillborn, one at 29.5 weeks and the other at 36 weeks. Some pro-life folks have tried to tell her story as a model of valuing life, but Rebecca isn’t having that. She wrote:

I chose life for two babies, knowing they would die. I do not believe that should be a choice women are forced into making.

Two of Rebecca’s three pregnancies ended with a small white casket holding a much loved baby girl. I’ve watched her navigate the grief and pain and depression of the aftermath. I hear pro-life folks talk about women grieving after having abortions, but choosing to carry a baby to term who you know will die is unimaginable for most of us.

Sometimes it’s not the baby whose life is in question, though.

When I was pregnant with Robbie, my health was a hot mess. I had raging and untreated PTSD from childhood trauma I tried to hide away in hopes that it would go away. I had been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder that was barely under control when I got pregnant. A week after receiving my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, I peed on a stick and watched two lines - a positive result - slowly show up. To manage my symptoms and avoid more bone erosion in my joints, I was on high doses of prednisone for the entire pregnancy.

That was fun.

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Then when I was about 30 weeks pregnant, the front of my shin began to swell, redden, and burn up. I have pictures of it somewhere, but you definitely wouldn’t want to see them. (I lived through it, and I hope I never find the images. It was that bad.) My kind and compassionate doctor explained to me, before opening, draining, and packing the infection with gauze, that it would hurt a lot because lidocaine often isn’t as effective when you’re expecting. I remember her saying something about the increased blood volume during pregnancy decreasing the efficacy, but all that is vague recollection. The sharply focused memories came immediately after, as one doctor, one physician’s assistant, and two nurses worked on my leg with sharp instruments.

When they took a swab of the wound to test which kind of bacteria was present, we all expected it to be a formality. We’d wait on the results. I would start a broad spectrum antibiotic safe for us during pregnancy.

I know that was a Friday. Early the next week, maybe Monday or Tuesday, I got a call with results. My doctor tried to sound reassuring as she told me the infection was a highly resistant strain of MRSA, but her voice cracked as she explained they didn’t have a plan yet. She had to confer with other specialists to determine if there was an antibiotic that would be safe for both me and Robbie, and she tried to keep her voice level as she explained that we had to prioritize my health.

She didn’t add “if we have to choose” to the end of that sentence, but the words hung unsaid between us nonetheless.

I had symptoms of the infection being in my bloodstream at that point. Given the positioning so close to my tibia, bone infection was a major risk too. As I started the new antibiotic, one that wasn’t ideal but they hoped would work, I was given strict instructions to come directly to the hospital if we saw any signs of sepsis. If I became septic, I could destabilize quickly, making delivery via vaginal birth or c-section medically dangerous for me but full treatment for the infection dangerous for Robbie.

I’d seen storylines like this on medical dramas, and they seemed much tidier there. I loved my baby. My pain levels were terrifyingly high. Jocie was turning two that weekend. Lee and I had been married only three and a half years. I was only 26. I hated the range of bad choices in front of me.


Thankfully, that antibiotic - the one that wasn’t ideal - worked. I got better. Robbie was fine. I delivered a few months later.

I know the medical rules set by insurance bureaucrats and untrained politicians didn’t work for Carrie Ann. I know I would have been the exception to the rule in treatment if I had become septic. I know I have been the exception to the rules in so many other medical situations.

(After all, you don’t end up as a 36-year-old woman with a spinal fusion and spinal cord stimulator if you check all the boxes for being a paradigm of health.)

Roe v. Wade allows for abortions for the health of the mother. Some cases are clear. Others aren’t.

I’ve heard pro-life friends argue that the health exception is too broad. As someone who has fought hard for my health, I now take regular medications to maintain it. If I became pregnant again, then we would have to make some painful decisions. We would also have to research inpatient psych programs that are equipped for pregnant patients, because coming off some meds could destabilize my mental health.

I’ve lost enough friends to suicide or self-medicating addiction to know that mental illness can absolutely be terminal. No lawmaker should have the authority to require a woman with potentially fatal depression to continue her pregnancy if it isn’t safe for her. I know I’ll get comments calling me a baby killer (comments on abortion blogs are so fun, y’all) but any other stance results in dead mothers and dead babies.


Death isn’t fun to talk about, but even in cases in which one adult kills another, it isn’t always murder. Sometimes it’s deemed an accident. Sometimes it’s found to be justifiable. Sometimes it’s considered self-defense.

How, then, can we not view abortion in that way as well? Some are acts of self defense, lived out by women who deserve compassion and empathy rather than judgment and condemnation.

Some of you disagree. That’s okay. We don’t have to agree, but we do share some common ground.

Your argument says as long as abortion is legal, babies will die. My argument says if legislation becomes what the pro-life movement seeks, women will die,

We aren’t that different, you and me.

This reminds me of the decision moment in Bird Box, when Sandra Bullock’s character is talking out loud about which child will look (and die). Our imperfect messy world doesn’t let us opt out of death. I’ve told God my thoughts about that, sometimes with prayers that would require an explicit label if recorded, but I haven’t found an option for life, only and always, on this side of heaven.


Will all babies live if your laws pass? No. Abortion will still happen (as will miscarriages and other fatal circumstances). The women with the most resources available will still have access to all options in healthcare while women with the least medical access will continue to struggle disproportionately. Restrictive abortion laws often backfire. I know you don’t agree, but I am convinced by facts that your path leads to more abortions than mine.

Will all women live if laws go my way? No. Here’s the thing: Pregnancy can be and is both a natural process and a medical complexity rife with risk. Pregnancy literally kills women every day, here in the USA.

I’m not here to sway you. I’m merely weary of the same shoddy arguments being recycled and lobbed at each other. I think in all our fighting, we aren’t hearing one another any more. This post is simply my way to say, here’s what I think. Take all the time and space you need to consider it.

Your focus is on the risk to the baby. Mine is too. It’s also on the risk to the mother and the right for women and their doctors to make better decisions than legislators.

I believe this about more than abortion, though. Carrie Ann Lucas is dead. She didn’t have to be. But a healthcare system that limited her choices and rejected the originally prescribed antibiotic as unnecessary killed her.

This is why I can no longer support any legislation limiting access to healthcare. Hard rules kill.


Please, try to understand that many of us who oppose so-called pro-life measures are as grieved by death as you are. We don’t all celebrate abortion, even if we support the legality of it. Plenty of us are striving for lower abortion rates.

We see different paths to that than most pro-life folks do, though. We tend to address the demand for abortion by policies focused on education, childcare, transportation, domestic violence, universal healthcare, access to birth control (including to teens along with comprehensive sex education), pay equality, and other supports. Many of us are celebrating the significant decline in abortion rates throughout Obama’s presidency with the trend continuing since then. Given the push for more restrictive abortion laws, it might surprise you to know that abortion rates are currently at the lowest recorded level ever in the US.

Increased use of birth control is the primary driver of the declines, which can largely be attributed to the Affordable Care Act’s provisions for birth control coverage and to Planned Parenthood which arguably prevents more abortions by providing birth control than it performs.

One last question must be explored when discussing Carrie Ann’s life and legacy: What about abortions performed because of disability? Both she and I adopted disabled children. But you might be surprised by what research shows with regard to abortion and disability.

It’s not okay with me that unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are nearly twice as likely to be aborted as those without such a diagnosis. From the most recent comprehensive research review on the topic, however, “evidence also suggests that termination rates have decreased in recent years, which may reflect progress in medical management for individuals with Down syndrome and advances in educational, social, and financial support for their families.” He elaborated in an interview with The Atlantic,

Families have significantly more educational, social, and financial support than they had in the past. For example, from a social standpoint, women of childbearing age are from perhaps the first generation who grew up in an era where individuals with Down syndrome were in their schools or daycare centers — perhaps not the mainstream integration that we see today, but still a level of exposure that was very different than in generations prior. They grew up watching kids with Down syndrome on Sesame Street.

In other words, it isn’t laws or court rulings that are decreasing abortion rates for children with prenatally diagnosed disabilities. It’s policies and programs available – from medical care to education to social supports and more – that affirm their lives after they are born. When we show that there are places in our country in which people with disabilities are welcome and loved, expectant parents feel more confident in choosing life instead of abortion when faced with a diagnosis for their unborn child.

We might not see eye to eye. That’s okay. But we aren’t enemies. We are both loved.

I’m not evil. You aren’t either. I don’t hate babies. You don’t hate women. Reductive reasoning and straw man arguments help no one, including women and babies.

Choosing life can look like a lot of different things.

I choose my life, because it matters.

I choose the lives of my children, because they matter.

I choose the lives of all children, because there is no such thing as other people’s children.

I choose your life too, whether you agree with me or not, because you matter.

I choose to support policies that reduce abortion rates rather than ones that try (unsuccessfully) to restrict them, because unborn children matter.

We aren’t that different, you and me. And we aren’t that different from Carrie Ann Lucas either, except we’re alive and - due to inflexible policies limiting the care her doctor wanted for her - she’s not.

I want to see abortion rates continue to drop, including for babies with prenatal but survivable disability diagnoses. That’s why I don’t agree with pro-life legislative attempts. You could say that I’m arguing for infanticide here, but that wouldn’t be accurate. It isn’t true, either, to say that Democrats voted for infanticide this past week.

But I’m sure it will be said plenty during the 2020 election cycle.

He who tried to rape you will try to ruin you

He who tried to rape you will try to ruin you.

History tells us this again and again.

But you know what else history says?

You are more than what he tried to make you. He tried take what wasn’t his to take. He tried to make you into an object. He, the subject, tried to conquer you, the object.

Maybe he did more than try.

But you were never meant to be an object.

You are a conqueror not a conquest. You are a survivor though you were once a victim. You are a force with whom to be reckoned, not the dirt to be dug up for someone else’s confirmation hearing.

You are an embodiment of hope.


Hope. Sometimes I hate that word. Sometimes I love it. Hope and I, we have a fraught relationship.

But hope is what makes us different. Hope is why we get out of bed. Hope is why we stay in bed but don’t end it all there, because hope believes there will be another page to the story. Hope is what allows us to not crumble at the weight of the world, and hope is what meets us when we do and feel like nothing but mere crumbs.

Sometimes I hate hope.

I am more comfortable naming the pain, cursing the wicked, fighting the storm, living into whatever fierce meme some random PTSD profile has decided to post that day. Do you see this wreckage? I scream, the violence of my voice making my vocal chords hurt for days afterward. You say you’re starting to smell smoke, but we’ve been burning for ages. Now you start to shout fire, but for what?

There is nothing but ash here anymore.

I weep. I hate crying, but I weep anyway. I don’t know what to do when my activism of a life has been ignored so that by the time those in power feel tepid and then a bit toasty, dental records are all that are left to identify the lost souls.

But then there’s hope. Fucking hope. Hope shows up again, as a breathing tube reinvigorating me to speak, to fight, to care, to hope another day. That throat, sore from screaming, rubs raw as the life-sustaining tube goes in and comes out, breathes in and breathes out, bleeds in and bleeds out.

Our industrial revolutions have made homes tidy and healthcare machine-driven and help outsourced and hygiene widespread… but hope haunts those places. Hope is a comforter to those who need comforting, but she’s a damn ghost to those whose halls have too long hidden away rooms of torture. These are rooms where you can be a justice placing his hand on her mouth, a president boasting of other places his hands can go, a lawmaker whose hands can be tied and silence bought by the highest bidder, and a group of high school boys held unaccountable for decades. These rooms are places where hope is terrifying. Hope haunts those whose horcruxes are embedded in the status quo.

But you, dear one, you have nothing to fear from hope. Hope is a guide, a light, a sustenance, a bridge… for you. Hope is a golden middle finger to those for whom hope paints a future in which they, not we, are the ruined ones, but hope is the thing of miracles for us.

Hope brought us this far. May hope also show them the way out, because their time to ruin us is up.

my back is damaged, but

My back is damaged.

Sure, I’ve known that for a while, even before my first spine surgery when I was a 23-year-old newlywed. Back then, I was familiar with pain but absolutely terrified about being a wife, given the married model I grew up with was doused in alcohol and gussied up for appearance. I don’t know how to describe my parents. I just know it wasn’t real, what they projected to the world.

My back and my knees were never right. They were broken before they were whole, effed up before they were fully developed. The same could have been said of my soul, but somehow that survived intact.


My therapist says survival of me was a mix of my tenacity and the grace of God. I’m still not sure about that. I think I just did the next thing, until the things I did were my choices rather than their consequences.

I’m still learning to deserve healing, to believe I’m made for more than bruises. I’m still learning that little girls shouldn’t have to earn love from the people meant to give it no matter what. And I’m still learning to recognize the sound of my own voice, the voice they once stifled with as much violence as they quieted the rest of me.

And still they speak.

My back is damaged, yet another body scan showed last week, described objectively by a clinician writing out the words of my brokenness with sterile and impartial terms. This scan was meant to take some pictures to help my neurosurgeon properly place the spinal cord stimulating electrodes during my most recent surgery yesterday. It did that.

But it also showed the broken places from the days their consequences reigned while my choices weren’t even a thing yet. Back then, I was the object of the story - the one to be hit, to be thrown, the one to be stripped, raped, sold, lather, rinse, repeat.

I’m the subject now. I do things. I write things. I make choices.

Like the choice to have surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery, surgery, and yesterday one more surgery over a stretch of 18 months. This is my bodily trauma therapy, the taking apart and putting back together, the reconciling my then with my now, the learning I was never made for broken.

After this recent and hopefully last surgery, my back is damaged. But the neurostimulator we’ll turn on in a week will quiet the pain of it, changing my experience of that damage. It’ll be weird to have electricity coursing through my spine, but it should have been weird for bones and joints to be damaged before they were developed. That was just my normal.

I’ll take this new weird, a weird of my choosing to reject their consequences in me.

My back is damaged, but my voice is not.



We worked hard on re-wording our complaints in a formal grievance process. The principal and other supportive staff finally understood the issue at hand, and then they got creative about how to meet it. Long story short: my kiddo is starting on Thursday with the new teacher and in the classroom that we parents and our child's psychologist was requesr. WOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I will also be meeting with a school board member in a few weeks to discuss how we can improve access and accommodations for kids affected by trauma throughout our district schools, and we'll see what comes from that! I'm a stubborn Mama Bear for our children but I'm also a fierce advocate for all kids. This isn't a win until it's a win.

Hi. I'm Shannon. My husband Lee and I have six kids, some by birth and some by adoption and all fiercely loved. 


Part of how we came to adopt is our belief that every child deserves an advocate. Ideally, that advocate comes from the family or community a child is born into. Given my own experiences with childhood abuse, we knew the ideal isn't always the real. 

We don't deserve any kudos for advocating for any of our children. They are all ours. They are all worthy. Growing inside me doesn't make two deserving and the other four charity. 

No, I am Mama Bear to each of our six. 


Usually, I'm successful. I have an undergrad degree in communication and a graduate one in education (specifically special education, so I know the legal pathways we can take). We've had the gift of passionate, child-focused teachers and administrators.

Until now, unfortunately.

I do think it can be different. I have hope. I think the principal we're facing wants to do the right thing for our child. The issue at hand is both simple and complicated:

We have a child with PTSD.

This WCPSS principal isn't treating PTSD as if it's real. 

She treats our kids as if their smiles mean they're not affected by the past. This principal even ends each email with "smiles," followed by her name. But we need her to look beyond the smiles and believe PTSD is real.


Our child's diagnosis is well documented. The story is not mine to share, though. I won't use our child's name or pronouns throughout this piece to protect their identity. Some adoptive parents tell their child's stories, including the deepest trauma and struggles, as if they're the center of the story. We aren't.

Hear. This. Clearly: We never were meant to be the star of our child's show.  

What can I share with you the trauma this child survived, though? Here's a story: This is a child who asked, "you no beat me?" whenever caught in trouble in the first two years in our family. Let me say that again: this is a child who asked "you no beat me?" to any adult. Again, this child didn't expect the answer to be "no, sweetheart, I won't beat you" each time because they had received the opposite in the past. 

Miraculously, this child knows safety now and trusts us. Beyond us, few are trusted. Our child has known that previous teachers weren't going to physically beat them, but that's as close to trust as they got. Because our child didn't feel safe in those previous classes, academic performance and overall motivation has always been challenging. 

Simply put, because of PTSD, this kiddo is below grade level in reading and math. 


We were all looking forward to this school year. For the first time ever, our child could have a trusted teacher and an optimal environment for learning. As a child who has shut down in every other classroom, this year would be different. They only trust five adults, including me and my husband. One teacher is on that short list, teaching in the same grade our child should have entered with fellow classmates two weeks ago. We expected our child to flourish in that classroom.

We took all the possible steps. We submitted a parent input form on May 11, 2018, asking for this child to be in the trusted teacher's class. I emailed the principal on May 18 to make sure she got it, but because she routinely doesn't reply to emails, I didn't consider it concerning when I didn't hear back. 

Then our child was assigned to a different teacher with no explanation.

Unfortunately, now the principal insists that I never turned in a form on May 11, despite two parents being in the office as I did so who remember seeing me turn it in. One parent remembers because we chatted about how this was the first time in a long time that she wouldn't submit an input form for the next year because she wouldn't have any elementary school students in the coming year. The other parent was submitting her input forms at the same time I did. 

What happened to my form? I don't know. I won't speculate. I don't know if it was lost or misplaced or discarded, so I am not accusing this principal of anything. Meanwhile, this principal says I'm lying about turning in the form.


We emailed and left phone messages through the two weeks leading up to school starting. The principal only responded once we involved her boss. By then, school was about to start. She offered to meet with us on the first day of school after school had already started; only one of us could attend that meeting because we couldn't put our child in the position of seeing friends enter classrooms while not having no place to go. I was sick, so I was the one who stayed home. I ended up meeting with the principal the next day.

Her second argument emerged in those meetings: "That class is now full. It wouldn't be fair to move a child from that teacher's class because school has already started."

Again, she chose to ignore us until we escalated our communication to her boss. This is a key point. Had she cared to respond before then, in May or even in early to mid-August, our child could have been moved easily. The barrier the principal stands by is one of her own making. She can make the change, but she doesn't. She can even request permission to add one more child to the desired teacher's classroom, as the average class size for each grade is the primary concern. I don't care how she solves the problem she created, but it's up to her to solve it.

But this is about more than a desired teacher. We aren't throwing some fit because we want or prefer something but could accept something else. At this one school, we have had 22 different teacher assignments (including one that was changed right before school started a few years ago). We have accepted 21 of those assignments with no fuss. This one is different.

Why? PTSD.

Our child's diagnosis is not being treated as if it's real. But PTSD is real, WCPSS.


Our child's psychologist is licensed and has her doctorate in psychology. She wrote a supporting letter for our request. I won't share all of it, but here are some pertinent details:

[Child] suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to severe trauma experienced during early childhood. [Child’s] current therapy goal is to develop basic trust through relationships with safe adults, which include [their] parents, therapist, and teacher.

In summary, the basic treatment goal is for our child to trust big people. That's why this teacher assignment isn't a mere preference. It's a need, based in a real diagnosis that impacts every facet of life, especially learning.

The letter from the psychologist continues,

In the school setting it is critical that [child] feels psychologically and emotionally safe in order for maximum learning to occur. In other words, when [child] does not feel safe, [child] shuts down and is unable to learn effectively. In school, children without PTSD due to early childhood trauma are able to establish trust bonds quickly with safe teachers and thus focus on the task of learning. [Child] is not that child. Trust takes a very long time for [child] to develop...

... [Through circumstances given in the letter], this child subsequently developed a relationship with [trusted teacher] over [period of time], Since a significant trust bond has already been established, my strong recommendation is that [child] be placed in [trusted teacher’s] class. Instead of wasting time developing trust with a new teacher, [child] can move fully into academic learning with [trusted teacher] , which is paramount. Mrs. Dingle included her parental opinion and my professional opinion on the teacher input form she submitted May 11th to the school. This request was also denied.

Note that May 11 bit? That form, that I completed with psychologist input, is the one our principal says I never submitted. We did. Accusing us of lying, this principal is bold enough to insist confidently that that I didn't submit the form.

(In her last email to us, she claims I didn't turn in the form on time, so I wonder if they found my form after all and have changed their story to say it was submitted late when it was not.)

Placing [child] in another teacher’s class, even an excellent teacher’s class, is likely to be experienced as a personal rejection which will further impair [child’s] fragile self-esteem.

If you don't understand why this principal won't provide a suitable learning environment, you're not alone. It doesn't make sense. It isn't logical.  

This principal action's and WCPSS's support of her shows us that they don't consider PTSD to be a real and serious condition. Science says they're wrong. Psychology says they're wrong. Historical reports and research says they're wrong. 

In fact, I asked our photographer not to edit out the tombstone in the background of our first family picture. Some things that have died from our pasts live on because trauma's tentacles hang on to us tightly. Trauma - mine. theirs. ours. - is like a ninth member of our family. We have hope, yes, but we also carry trauma. The trick is simply to work toward the hope being greater than the trauma. 


We have documented everything painstakingly.

But, in our state, the principal has final say on teacher assignments. So, here we are. WCPSS won't help. Everyone else in the district, other than this principal, has conceded that this is not ideal but repeated the party line that the principal is the only one who can change student placements with teachers. 

WCPSS, PTSD is real.

On today of all days - World Suicide Prevention Day - it would make good sense to recognize mental health diagnoses as necessary in educating the child. After all, adoptees are four times more likely to attempt suicide than nonadoptees. Why? It's a toxic combination of trauma, grief, and more. That toxic combo includes schools saying no to reasonable accommodations because they don't think PTSD is real. 

I don't want to be writing this. I don't want to be fighting this fight. I don't want to be calling out the principal and school system. 

But I'm a Mama Bear. I fiercely love and advocate for each of my children. For my children and for all the families lacking the privileges I have to persevere through this, including the privilege of time to keep our child out of school (and, if necessary, homeschool). But every family isn't able to do that. WCPSS needs to treat PTSD seriously for the sake of all students and ensure schools are trauma-informed.


It really is.