Collective Unrest

 

Distressed but Hopeful: Parenting in the Time of Trump

July 25, 2018

At 26, I started to get the “urge,” that feeling that comes along suddenly and slaps a young woman in the face and screams “KIDS!” I never wanted children before this, but suddenly the thought of a newborn filled my thoughts constantly. It’s likely no coincidence that these maternal feelings arose at the time I had begun to date the man I would eventually marry. Something about finding someone who is worthy of reproducing makes the idea a lot more appealing. We decided after marrying to wait to have kids until we reached certain milestones. We began to try but kept moving the goalpost of really trying, due to shifts in careers, major moves, and other life changes. Suddenly I was 35 and facing advanced maternal age and we hadn’t conceived. Finally, we had a talk about whether we’d be ok if kids never came along, and sadly we decided we would. One month later, I found out I was pregnant.

News of my pregnancy was incredible; I was going to be a mother! Every day, I felt my belly, imagining that I could feel kicks, knowing full well that my grain of rice-sized fetus was not kicking me. I Pinterested the shit out of my first trimester. I pinned every pregnancy snack and announcement idea I could find. Nothing was going to derail my excitement. Except one thing: the media circus that was the Trump presidential bid was ramping up. I found out that I actually knew people who supported someone that, in my head, was literally impossible to support. However, assured by my husband that he would never win, I carried on in my pregnancy bliss.

Then came November. I was 8 months pregnant and I had fallen asleep distressed but hopeful about the outcome of the election. I woke up, like I always did being 8 months pregnant and as large as my couch, and checked my phone. Trump was the apparent winner of the election. I was stunned. I woke my husband and cried. What kind of world was I bringing my child into? A man who strutted around like a macho peacock, bragged about sexual assault, was blatantly racist, and had a clear lack of any qualifications had managed to win the support of half of the country. Perhaps I had been blind to the fact that there are so many people who agree with this type of thinking, who think women don’t deserve respect, who think it’s funny to mock people with disabilities, and who don’t mind someone rising to the top on braggadocio alone.

The next morning, I drove to work. Already hormonal, I was significantly affected when ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon came on the radio. I cried for the entirety of my 45-minute drive to work, only to arrive and find the rest of my office to be as emotionally distraught as I was. The feelings subsided, however, and over the rest of my pregnancy I focused on my joy over my soon-to-be born daughter. She arrived early the next year and she was lovely enough to come just early enough that I could record Obama as the President in office when she was born.

My husband and I shed so many tears when our daughter made her entrance into the world. She was beautiful, she was perfect, and she instantly filled the spaces in our hearts we never knew were there. We stared at her for days, relaying to each other our unbelievable luck. Here was the most beautiful child that ever existed, and we were her parents.

When we took her home, we were filled with the most unimaginable happiness. We were also exhausted. We got pooped on a lot. I cried constantly. Breastfeeding was impossible. And then there was Facebook. I shared pictures of my sweet child, but at the same time was flooded with news, bad news. Trump was doing everything his detractors thought he would, only he was ramping it up. He was worse than we could have expected. Thoughts of guilt for bringing my child into a world where people thought that someone like him was an honorable person who should lead the country clouded my head. I wondered what it meant for Christianity when an accused rapist who said he just “grabs them [women] by the pussy” won the Evangelical vote.

What did this new country mean for my daughter?

But at the same time, I saw women rising up, marching in numbers greater than I had ever seen. It seemed like every week there was an extremely well-organized and powerful march. I gained a renewed sense of hope. Yes, something is wrong, but there is good out there, and a lot of it. And as my husband says the pendulum will always swing back the other way.

It’s been a struggle to maintain this sense of optimism in the year and a half since the birth of my daughter. Where news used to be a mix of good and bad, it almost feels as though every article I read is worse than the last. I wonder sometimes if the damage being done is irreparable. What will happen to my daughter when everything feels as though there is a systematic push to strip her of her rights? Will she get a decent education? Will she have access to healthcare? Will we continue to elect people who believe that a woman deserves to be assaulted, and how will that impact the values and beliefs of the boys becoming men in our society?

Of course, I’ve also been profoundly saddened and terrified by the incidences of school shootings. I have a lot of thoughts about what is behind the startling rise, including the social isolation of “social” media, but the inability of our government to put sensible regulations on guns to save our children’s lives is beyond comprehension. It feels as though dead children are the unfortunate price of admission to the hearts and dollars of the NRA. The fear of what will happen when it’s time to send my own child to school strikes a chord of fear in me that is unmatched by any other anxiety I’ve had in my life. I recently left Facebook because I no longer wanted to be faced with the tsunami of bad political news, but before I did, a woman in my mom’s support group asked for help locating a bulletproof backpack for her preschooler. Let me state that again….she bought her preschooler a bulletproof backpack. Our preschoolers should be concerned not with learning shooter drills but with how many cookies they can reasonably eat during a day.

So, I continue each day raising my daughter, trying to shape her into someone who will uphold the values that will make this a better country in which to live. I balance the extreme joy of loving her and giving everything I have to her with all the fears that come with raising a child, as well as the direction America seems to be headed. But even in the face of all the fear, when I look at her smile or hear her yell “Mommy!” I know that there is good. And I’ll do everything I can to protect it.

 

Amanda Lautieri

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