Real Love Doesn’t Hurt

Over the past few weeks two NFL players have been suspended for domestic violence. Ray Rice, for abusing his then fiancé, and Adrain Peterson for abusing -not disciplining- his four year old son.

When it came out that Rice had beaten his fiancé and been caught on camera a year ago, there was an immediate backlash. Rice apologized, calling his actions inexcusable. Hashtags popped up all over twitter condemning violence against women.

Personally the first thing that came to my mind when I read the Rice story was that he had probably had a violent childhood himself, that he never learned how to solve conflict or deal with strong emotions using words, he learned to deal with these things using his hands. I thought that he and his now wife should see a therapist and seek healing. That’s not to excuse in any way what he did, but abusive situations aren’t black and white. I don’t believe that anyone is born abusive, I believe that abuse is a learned behavior. Every abuser was once a victim. Abuse is a vicious cycle.

I think Adrian Peterson’s story is a perfect example of where this viscous cycle begins. I can’t think of anything that makes me angrier than child abuse. It’s disgusting beyond words the way Adrian Peterson’s case has been handled.

First of all, there has been no apology just a statement thinly veiled as an apology to defend his abuse as “discipline”.

Unfortunately Peterson wasnt the only one defending his actions. Running back Reggie Bush issued this statement “I most definitely discipline my daughter. I have an almost one year old daughter. I definitely will try to not leave bruises but I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on the situation”. Peterson’s mother said, “whipping is not abuse but about love.”

Seeing statements like those should have been shocking. They weren’t. They’re statements I’ve heard over and over again out of the mouths of countless people. That’s how deeply embedded violence against children is in our society, especially in the south.

Reggie Bush’s statement was particularly chilling. Disciplining an almost one year old? That is a baby!! A BABY! I can’t even put into words how ridiculous that is. All I have to say about that first sentence is that Reggie seriously needs to read up on child development. The fact that he said he would try to not leave bruises but would most definitely discipline her harshly?

Try to not leave bruises? Like sometimes bruises are just accidental and they happen, no big deal. He proudly announced that he will discipline his daughter harshly. The dictionary definition of harsh is this, “ungentle or unpleasant in action or effect” with these words next to it “grim, severe, stern, cruel, austere” Those are not the words that should describe a father.

The rationale here is bruises on Ray Rice’s girlfriend are a deplorable example of domestic violence, but bruises on a little girl, inflicted by her own father, the most important man in her life who’s top priority is to protect and care for her, that’s not domestic violence at all!! No, no, no that’s different, that’s discipline. Accidents happen. How else would she learn?

In fact, Adrian Peterson’s mother already explained it perfectly when she said that whipping isn’t abuse, it’s about love.

When a man loves a woman, sometimes he hits her, to teach her a lesson, to teach her how to behave. She deserves it anyway. After all, he really loves her. Now replace man with parent and woman with child and we have the pro spanking rationale.

Except I left out the excuse that every generation of parents has done it and all their kids “turned out alright”. I read an article in time magazine on why spanking is never ok, and the authors response to the cliche “I turned out ok” was that as a child she was molested, yet she turned out ok. You see, children turn out ok despite spanking, not because of it. The mere fact that someone is defending the person who hit them shows that they’re not ok. How did everyone react when Ray Rices wife defended him and said that she had a role in the beating? Exactly. There is no difference between women and children, except that children are the current second class citizens with no rights and no way to defend themselves. No one deserves to be hit.

Before I continue, let me share this article on the effects spanking has on girls. The findings on the release of oxytocin(a love hormone) to combat cortisol (a stress hormone) are especially telling.

Aside from the research citied in this article, (and I have provided only one study compared to the mountains of research done over several decades that all conclude corporal punishment is an unhealthy practice) I have a problem with a grown man laying a hand on a small child and calling that love. How hypocritical is it to teach a little girl that her father hitting her is “love” and that she “deserves” it, yet if her partner “loves” her and she “deserves” it, it isn’t love at all, it’s abuse.

Like I said, abuse is a vicious cycle. I would bet that Ray Rice was “disciplined” in the same manner as Peterson’s son and he repeated what he learned on his fiancé. We know that Peterson was physically punished as a child because he praised it in his statement. The cycle repeated itself on his four year old son. The victim became the abuser.

All physical punishment is abuse, because it is all intended to cause fear and pain. As a Christian mother, I don’t want to teach my children anything through fear and pain because that’s not how Jesus taught. Jesus taught with gentleness, compassion, and grace. Can you imagine Jesus hitting a child? I can’t. The bible says that love is patient, kind, not easily angered, it doesn’t say anything about sometimes love is hitting a child.

My husband will never physically punish our daughters because girls look to their fathers for an example of what their husbands should be like. I will never let my girls believe that any man, in any situation has the right to touch them in any way that they don’t approve of. I will never let them believe that men hit women or children no matter what the situation is, no matter how socially acceptable others allow it to be. We will never call it spanking in our home, because that word is a cover up for hitting. We cannot expect women to embrace bodily autonomy as adults if they are taught as children that someone else has so much power over their bodies that they have the right to hit them when they see fit. We cannot model to our children that it is ever ok to hit for any reason.

There is a ministry whose page I follow. A few days ago they posted an exert of a journal entry from a girl who had been abused. One line stood out to me, she said love is good and doesn’t hurt.

I don’t care what the reasoning is, I don’t care if it was just one hit that didn’t leave a mark, or several slaps that did leave marks. Hitting a child hurts them, and love is good and doesn’t hurt. Even dogs can be taught without hitting, so why couldn’t a child be taught without hitting.

The stories of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are at the heart of the domestic violence problem we have in America where every nine seconds a woman is assaulted. Violence in adulthood comes from violence in childhood.

This isn’t to say that every parent who has used physical punishment is a child abuser. Like I said, it’s something that is deeply embedded in our culture. When my oldest daughter was born, I knew I never wanted to hit her for any reason. I knew I wanted to teach her without punishment, but I didn’t know how. I didn’t even know if anyone parented that way. I definitely didn’t know much at all about child development or what reasonable expectations looked like. I think there are a lot of parents out there like that.

Parenting can be done peacefully, without violence. If you want to parent differently, but don’t know how, there are links on this blog, there are Facebook pages and support groups (peaceful parenting, respected children for respected futures, gentle discipline support group) to help you get started and learn alternative ways to parent.

Let’s break the cycle and teach our children to solve conflict with their words and not their hands. Let’s teach them through our own behavior by using our words and not our hands when conflicts arise in our own homes.


Sabrina’s Birth Story

Sabrina Isobel Martinez
Born at 3:39 pm August 29th
7 lbs. 14 oz

I had an extremely easy pregnancy with my second daughter. Morning sickness was mild and brief, the majority of my cravings were healthy foods (fruit, yogurt and granola) I excersised comfortably for a majority of the pregnancy and even moved into a new house at 38 weeks.

For some reason throughout my pregnancy I had the feeling that Sabrina would be born during the day, and past her due date- and that’s exactly what happened. At 42 weeks pregnant, I began to have contractions about 15-20 minutes apart. They continued for an entire day without picking up, but were mild enough that they didn’t really bother me.

When I went to bed that night Laila refused to sleep without her hand on my belly, she even woke up several times in the night to sit up, look at my belly, rub it, and then go back to sleep with her little hand resting on my belly button.

I didn’t sleep that much, as the contractions began to intensify a little and Sabrina was kicking and stretching most of the night.

The next morning I woke up and was thinking to myself how many days past my due date I was, and how miserable my inevitable induction would be.
Laila however didn’t feel like laying in bed anymore and pulled me into our bathroom to brush teeth before I could give any more thought to it.

It was while we were brushing our teeth that I felt a warm gush. At first I thought I had peed myself but then I quickly realized it was something else. I ran to the toilet and realized I had lost my mucus plug. Although losing the mucus plug isn’t an immediate sign of labor, I felt that losing mine did mean that labor was near.

I put on a pad and called my mom and husband to let them know that I thought labor was near. My contractions picked up that morning and I began packing my hospital bag when they hit five minutes apart.

I went into the hospital and was hooked up to a monitor and was given a cervical check. I hate doctors, hospitals, anything medical, so I immediately began to feel nervous and my contractions slowed back to ten minutes apart until they completely stopped. I was discharged and went home so frustrated, convinced that I had stopped my labor and would definitely end up with an induction.

Once in the car my contractions started back up. Over the next few hours they intensified but I ignored them, thinking that if I returned to the hospital they would probably stall out again.

I tried going to bed that night, but as the contractions intensified I couldn’t even lay down comfortably in bed. Finally I decided to count them and they were about seven minutes apart. They continued at seven minutes until about five in the morning when they hit five minutes apart and began to intensify a little more.

I decided to call the hospital and ask if I should come back in. They told me to come back in so I went ahead and woke up my husband, had some breakfast and then called my mom to come over and watch Laila.
When we got to the hospital I was already at six centimeters.
I hate hospitals, and I hate the idea of giving birth in a hospital, but unfortunately homebirth wasn’t an option for me, so I was very focused on making my labor/birth as unhospital like as possible.

Once I was in my room, I dimmed the lights, turned on the tv and pretended I was in a hotel room. A nurse brought me a tray of fruit to snack on and I brought my own snacks as well. I stayed hydrated by eating ice chips and drinking a mixture of coconut water and lime juice (a natural electrolyte) instead of being hooked up to an IV. A lot of doctors tell their patients not to eat when in labor. Not only is it torture for a pregnant woman to go hungry all day, but labor is physically exhausting and a woman needs food to keep her body energized. My midwife advised me to snack on light, but high protein foods during labor. I ate almonds, fruit, granola, and scrambled eggs. I had so much more energy compared to my last labor.

Another regular medical procedure I declined was continuos fetal monitoring. IVs make movement difficult, but a fetal monitor strapped to your belly via one giant itchy piece of Velcro makes it impossible. Instead of continuous monitoring, a nurse would come in about every 25 minutes and check the heartbeat with a Doppler.

I also would have declined hourly cervical checks for a laundry list of reasons, (they’re uncomfortable, unnecessary, and dilation isn’t an indication of how fast labor will go) but cervical checks weren’t something the midwife routinely did for the very reasons I just listed.

Besides the nurse coming in to check the heartbeat and the midwife coming in to discuss my birth plan with me, I was spent the entire labor just me and my husband. Our room was quiet and relaxing. We just watched tv and I moved through my contractions. I almost forgot I was in the hospital.

By about three I clock my contractions were two minutes apart and I was beginning to wonder if I would be able to go through with a natural birth. I didn’t know if I was ready to push, I didn’t feel that pressure to push the baby out, but I felt like my contractions were right on top of eachother and that it was time to have the baby. I called the midwife and told her how I felt. I asked her to make sure I was dilated and ok to push because I wasn’t sure what that was supposed to feel like. She checked me and I was fully dilated, but had an anterior cervical lip (not uncommon) and my water wasn’t breaking. My options were to continue to wait for the water to break or to let her break my water for me.

At first I declined having my water broken, but then another contraction came and the midwife told me that once my water broke, I would be ready to push. I decided to go ahead and have my water broken. Within minutes I was ready to push.
For me, laying or even sitting during labor was impossible, it took contractions from being extremely uncomfortable, to being downright painful.

I don’t know if I called the midwife to the room or she heard me cry out from the last contraction but the next thing I knew I was on the bed asking if they had a birthing bar. There was one attached to the bed that she pulled up for me. I quickly realized that I didn’t want to use it because I would have to be in a ten to fifteen minute squat while pushing the baby and I was way too tired for that having been pacing since about 9 pm the night before. I decided to lean against the head of bed and push. I started pushing and I could feel Sabrina moving down. About halfway I got scared and stopped. With my first daughter, she was turned wrong and I pushed for nearly four hours. I was so scared that would happen with Sabrina again.

The midwife reassured me that Sabrina was moving, and I wouldn’t be pushing for much longer. Relieved, I pushed again and she crowned. I held her there and waited for the next contraction, bit down on the mattress (weird, but it really helped) and pushed as hard as I could and she was out.

As I pushed I was surprised that the “ring of fire” wasn’t nearly as painful as I had expected. Even though I tore a little in the front, the whole thing felt like a pinch. During the last month of the my pregnancy I did perineal massage and I really think that made the difference. I also learned from another midwife about slow crowing – waiting for another contraction after the baby crowns – to allow everything to stretch and prevent tearing.

I couldn’t believe how easy the pushing had been. The nurse next to me tapped my shoulder and said, “look down, there’s your baby”. Looking up at me with the most beautiful grey eyes and a head full of curly hair was my little Sabrina. I scooped her up in my arms and layed down on the bed while we waited for the for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating. I went to feed her and she latched perfectly. Eder cut the cord and we stayed in the room unbothered for about an hour so the three of us could bond.

I’m so glad I chose the midwife and the hospital I did. Care providers make such a difference. Natural birth was an amazing experience. The labor and birth were more peaceful and the recovery was quicker and much less painful. In fact when I was discharged I got up, did my hair and make up and wore a cute dress home. Just a week later I was hardly bleeding and felt good enough to resume most of my normal activities, which include chasing a toddler.

In my experience OBGYNs and midwives view birth very differently. Sheila Stubbs said, “The midwife sees the miracle of childbirth as normal and tends to leave it alone unless there’s trouble. The obstetrician normally sees it as trouble and if he leaves it alone, it’s a miracle.” Very true. Childbirth is definitely a miracle, something intimate and incredibly special to be shared between the mother and father with as little intervention as possible. Every woman remember her birthing experience(s) for a lifetime. It’s been almost a month now, but no matter how much time passes I’ll certainly never forget how amazing giving birth to Sabrina was.