Where will the Brineys live? Or: Living arrangements in polygamous families (SSW s1e7, c1)

In the season finale episode of Seeking Sister Wife, the Briney family is getting ready to move out of state, but there was a difference in point of view about whether all the wives should continue to live together or not.  In the final scenes Auralee is an absolute saint.  She extends the olive branch in an amazing way to her sister wife, April.  Angela chimes in as well, and they all end up coming together in a beautiful way for the good of the family in both practical and emotional ways.

family chat

As may be expected, working out where everyone lives is a very common dilemma facing plural families, and it can be handled in a variety of ways.  Some families live in a single dwelling, sharing the same kitchen and living room (like the Alldredges do).  Some families may live in a single dwelling with separate apartments like my house or like the Fosters or Morrisons.  Some families have separate houses for the wives, but they are all in close proximity to one another, on the same property (or in the same cul-de-sac, like the Brown family currently does).  Some families may have separate houses for each wife, and those houses may be in separate cities or states.  I even know one family where the wives are in separate countries halfway around the world from each other (although they are working toward living all together).

Furthermore, many plural families are somewhere in between these various solutions, scalesor in transition between them.  For example, I know a family with three wives.  Two of them lived together in a single dwelling while the third (who was reportedly more difficult to live with) lived in a separate city.  Later on, the third, separate-city wife moved to a separate house next door to the other two, and lived there for a while.  Now they are all living together under one roof!  Ultimately, the solution to this problem will be different for each family, and lies in finding the correct balance between the practical and the emotional.  Both are very real issues, and need to be addressed.

The practical side of the question deals with resources like time and expense.  It is certainly more expensive to live apart: There are multiple rents or mortgages to pay, separate utility bills will add up to greater expense than a combined bill, more property taxes, more home insurance, more time and expense for home maintenance, added expense for owning duplicates of many items, and additional time and expense is involved in travel between homes.  These, and a great many other things, are practical factors that must be considered.  I think a general consideration of practical factors will favor living together.

The emotional side of the question deals with feelings, perceptions, and jealousies.  Some wives may not be able to stand seeing their husband show affection for another wife, may not be able to abide sharing a kitchen or other living areas, or may have or want different rules for their children.  Kody Brown once said, “I have two wives who think sharing a kitchen is abusive”.  This is in contrast to the Darger family whose philosophy is: If you can’t share a kitchen, what business do you have sharing a husband?  Of course, the Dargers are somewhat of a special case as the wives are already close relatives (which I am sure has been a blessing to their family).  I mean, how different could their kitchen management styles be?  They all have the same grandma.  They probably all have the same book of family recipes.

One plural wife I spoke with told me it can be harder to share a kitchen than to share a husband.  So, if you are adding an extra master bedroom to your house to accommodate a new sister wife, you may want to consider adding another kitchen too.  Each family will have to find what works best for them.

Children further complicate emotional considerations.  Children from different wives may have rivalries (especially if they are from previous marriages) or resentments.  In addition, there may be worries about societal perceptions. (What will the neighbors think?  What will my friends think?  What will our extended families think?)  Finally, some people may just be plain old difficult to live with — there are personality conflicts of all kinds.  These, and a great many other things, are emotional factors that must be given consideration.  I think a general consideration of emotional factors will favor living apart.

From my point of view, I think most (perhaps all) polygamist men want to have their families together as much and as close as possible.  If a plural family is not living together, it is very often because of difficulties between wives, or children from different wives (think of Sarah and Hagar, and Isaac and Ishmael, for example).  I was once talking with my grandpa about the scriptures when the subject of Abraham’s wives came up.  He said it was a shame that Abraham had married Hagar (because it led to difficulties that separated his family) and that he shouldn’t have done it in the first place.  I told him the shame was not that they married, but that they didn’t stay together and try to work out their problems.  Well, I’m not trying to pass any judgment on Abram, or his views on marriage and family, but I do think it is generally better to work on problems while problems can be worked on – even if some separation is warranted while the problems are being resolved (it may take years in some cases).  Anything worth having is worth working for.

Why would plural husbands generally want their family together?  There are certainly the financial pieces, which I mentioned above, and this weighs heavily on most husbands’ minds.  In addition, a husband will be able to more effectively portion his time between the members of his family and his other household duties.  Another important factor is the way that close-living facilitates family activities, family teaching, and family worship.  Finally, there is a desire among men, even if subconscious, to have their wives and children close for the sake of protecting them.

From a Biblical perspective, during the time when a couple was engaged to be married, the bridegroom would go away for a time and busy himself preparing a home for his new bride to live in.  If the man had more than one wife, he would have prepared a home for each of them in turn.  The home(s) would be built on the ancestral lands of the bridegroom’s father.  The bride-to-be fully expected to receive her own home to live in (whether this was a separate dwelling, or an extension of the existing family dwelling, would depend on the particular family and circumstance), and providing one for her was part of the future husband’s duties toward her.  When the home was made ready, the bridegroom would return for his bride, receive her to himself, and lead her to her new home which would become her responsibility to tend and care for.

In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. – John 14:2,3

Sympathetic Biological Envy in Polygamy

Note from the blog owner: Natali Dilts is a new contributor to the blog and this is her first post.

The first memory I have concerning my “bonus-mom” plays back in my mind as follows: being excited to see her and then running towards her but then stopping at the tip of her left ring finger. “Your father asked me to marry him”, I perfectly recall her enthusiastic inflection as she urged me to admire her engagement ring. I looked at it in disbelief, I remember thinking “What about my mom?”. Before I could fully articulate my original reaction, I saw my biological mom embrace my soon-to-be mom, and as any seven year old would, I followed my mother’s example and began to welcome this new woman into my life.

Ten years later, I informed my birth mother of this memory. She then asked me several questions, her questions were questions that I already had. One of the questions being: Most of the people I knew as a child were directly involved in a polygamous relationship; why was my initial reaction negative?

Perhaps the engagement simply caught me off guard because of my expectations of what a romantic relationship looked like.  The courtship process in polygamy is strict and similar to that of a Christian Baptist dating ritual. No physical intimacy before marriage, apparent family involvement, and the purpose of the relationship to be “to the glory of the one and only God”. To the untrained or youthful eye, such a relationship could easily be determined as a close friendship.

I was homeschooled; my two social groups were family and church so the idea of polygamy was not foreign, in fact, it was incredibly common. I was actually more familiar with the polygamous way of life than the typical monogamous way of life. Though I had mentally understood the concept of polygamy fully and I had seen polygamy my entire life, I think I was surprised at my own family’s involvement. However, I do not think that fully explains why I reacted negatively to my bonus-mom’s engagement.

When I was seven, monogamy and polygamy to me was just a difference between two families. Refrigerating bread versus not refrigerating bread was a more prevalent difference between family beliefs than polygamy was. I would talk openly about my two mothers whenever I came into contact with children my age who were not acquainted with polygamy. I continued on that way until I was told not to do so.

“You shouldn’t tell other children that you have two moms; they might get jealous. You get two moms but they only one. You get a bonus-mom.”

Obviously, this was not the real reason I was not to tell “outside children” of my way of life but it’s the reason I believed. I do not think that the general public’s negative view of polygamy influenced my thoughts that day either. However, the majority of the world is mono-normative, meaning, monogamy is the ideal, typical relationship. This is similar to the idea of a physical relationship defining a romantic relationship. People’s certainty of normality speaks so much louder than people’s active disagreeance in regards to your lifestyle.  This concept of normality likely had an effect on me; the effect was not drastic but probably influential.

To be completely honest, I am not exactly sure what prompted me to think this way, there is likely a combination of several things both seen and unseen. I recognize that trying to understand my seven-year-old psyche in order to explain the immediate, sympathetic jealousy that many children of polygamy have felt in defense of their biological mother, will not provide many if any concrete answers. However, opening the discussion may lead to more concrete or evident answers and it may inspire “plyglets” to come forward and tell of their experience in polygamy. I do not claim to speak for all children of polygamy, I also know many “plyglets” who have formed a closer bond to a bonus-mom and felt jealous for her instead of automatically empathizing with their bio-mom. Nor do I claim to be an expert in psychology. These are mere theories of why some children of polygamy may feel jealous in the name of their biological mother.

Transition to siblinghood is similar to the transition into polygamy.

A common explanation describing how one man can love many women is described through how one woman can love many children. Psychoanalytic theorists such as Freud have emphasized the stressful nature of this transition for firstborn children, often citing it as one of the most traumatic experiences of early childhood (Adler, 1957; A. Freud, 1946; Winicott, 1964). Parental attention, once the sole province of the firstborn, must now be shared with a sibling rival. Winicott (1964) considered the distress of first borns during this time to be normative; “it is so usual as to be called normal when a child is upset at a new one” (p. 133). Since several children experience this, they are likely to relate to their mother and be empathetic. I personally experienced this with my mother. I am the oldest and I remember how I felt at the birth of my younger sister, not incredibly positive, I projected the emotions I felt towards my sister onto my mother and how she may have felt about her sister wife. Whether or not my predictions were correct, it caused me to empathise with my bio-mom and her struggle to accept a new wife.

Fetal Bias

Many neonates demonstrate a stronger connection to their biological mothers in contrast to their additional caretaker (father). It has been concluded that the main reason for this phenomenon is the physical dependence of early life. Emotional bonds are created and called “womb bonds” while there is a physical growth of the fetus. Then following the birth of the child, the first moral development stage of life is termed “trust vs mistrust”, where the child learns to trust their mother through physical care or where the child learns mistrust through neglect. The intimacy of this relationship does not extend to the additional caretaker until around the age three. To extend this trust to even more caretakers it could take an additional amount of time and it is not guaranteed to have the same intensity.

Egocentric Sympathy

It is estimated that until around the age of eight children are completely egocentric. Many interpret this as “a lack of sympathy until the age of eight years old” but this is not the case. Children are able to comprehend the difference between positive and negative emotion by the age of twelve months and they typically respond accordingly but they do not see the emotion felt by others as important as their personal emotions because it is not a central part of their world. It would be fair to assume that their biological mother’s emotion is of more importance to them than the emotion of their additional mother.  Simply because, their bio-mom typically plays a more central role in their lives, thus she is more important and her emotional state trumps the emotional state of her sister wife.

Conclusion

In what I have observed in my personal experience and through the basic childhood psychology that I have studied, I conclude that it is likely for a child to feel jealousy out of empathy for their biological mother when the possibility of polygamy is proposed. It is likely for the following reasons: societal influence and expectations help to dictate which ways a child may think of polygamy, there is a closeness to a biological mother that cannot be recreated, and the child is more likely to know of the emotional effects of their biological mother than of their additional mother.

This topic is important to present to the general public and the polygamist public because it highlights an important emotional process that “plyglets” experience. Further psychological speculation or anecdotal information from children of polygamy could be useful in defining polygamy’s place in the modern world.

References and Bibliography

Adler A. The progress of mankind. Journal of Individual Psychology. 1957;13:9–13.

Affonso DD, Mayberry LJ, Sheptak S. Multiparity and stressful events. Journal of Perinatology. 1988;8:312–317. [PubMed]

Alter JK. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Columbia University; New York: The relationship between language maturity and the adjustment to the birth of a sibling.

“Biomental Child Development: Perspectives on Psychology and Parenting” (2013).

“Envy Theory: Perspectives on the Psychology of Envy” (2010).

Are the Snowdens Married? [Or the Alldredges, or the Brineys?] (SSW s1e1, c2)

In the first episode of Seeking Sister Wife we are introduced to the Snowden family, Dimitri and Ashley.  A little after 7 minutes in Dimitri tells us that after dating for 2 years they, “Committed [themselves] to each other.” Additionally, on TLC’s, Meet The Families of Seeking Sister Wife, page we learn they have purposefully abstained from a legal marriage under the eyes of the law in order to ensure equality with their future wife.  They consider one another spouses, they have 3 children together, they share finances and many other things, and they also let us know that they have no marriage licence from the state of Georgia (or any other state).

We Committed

In light of the several comments and questions my posts have generated (see here and here) about the nature of marriage – especially in the Snowden family, but also in the Alldredge and Briney families as well (and all other plural families too), I have decided to write a post on my views about what constitutes a marriage.

A few years ago (November 2015) some friends of mine decided to rededicate their marriage.  They threw a big party and asked if I would “officiate” at their ceremony.  It was a relatively informal event; I said a few words, and they renewed their vows with each other.  It was a beautiful thing, but the reason they were doing it was a bit disappointing.  You see, they had just left the LDS Church (the reason why is unimportant to this post), and the validity of their Church marriage (specifically their sealing – more about this later) was being called into question by some of their acquaintances.  This is sadly not an uncommon occurrence.  When the Church kicked us out we had the same experience.  Concerns were expressed to us that we had broken our covenants and now we were adulterers, had lost all our blessings, no longer had the Holy Ghost with us, etc.

This post, and my future post about the Mormon concept of Sealing, are adaptations of the words I prepared for that marriage rededication ceremony.  Here it goes:

In 1774, Thomas Jefferson said these words, “A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” This was two years before the Declaration of Independence.  At the time these were radical words – treasonous words even.

The common model of government at the time was that no rights existed for the common people – except those granted to them by the King.  The King owned all the land, the people were subject to his mandates, and any privileges the people had were granted to them by their Sovereign Lord.  He in turn received all his power from God by virtue of the Divine Right of Kings.  Alas, there are many unfortunate parallels between government and religious authorities.

As powerful as they think they may be, governments are run by men – mortals all.  Governments do not possess any powers unless those powers have been delegated to it by the people who are governed.

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence correctly proclaims this fact.  It reads in part:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Eleven years later these ideas were crystallized in the Constitution of the United States of America.  It was the fulfillment of the promise made in the Declaration of Independence.  And yet, despite the Constitution being the founding document of our nation’s government, our Constitution is widely misunderstood; and here is the misunderstanding:

constitutional-convention

The Constitution does not grant you the right to free speech.  It does not give you the right to print what you please, or to choose your own religion.  The Constitution does not grant you the right to carry arms for your defense, to assemble or associate with whom you please, or any of the other things we have imagined it to grant to us.

If you will take the Bill of Rights, and actually read it, you will discover that in every case, the rights mentioned are not granted.  It does not say anything to the effect that, “the citizens of the United States are hereby granted the right to worship as they choose…”  No, No!  On the contrary, it says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”  It does not say anything like, “you may carry arms for your defense.”  Rather it says, “the right shall not be infringed”, and on and on.

Indeed, the government cannot grant us anything we do not already have – we, in fact, are the ones that have granted powers to the government – the government does not have anything the people have not given to it.  Rather than being granted, all the rights mentioned are protected.  They are not extensions of our privileges, they are limits and restraints upon the government!

Well, what does all this talk about government and rights have to do with marriage?

The truth is: if the government has any authority at all, to marry anyone, then they have received that power from the people, and their receiving of that power from the people in no way diminishes the rights of the people (unless we let it).  The powers are delegated, yet still retained by the people – because they are inalienable.  They cannot be separated from us.  They are inherent both to our being and to our existence.

The sanctity of marriage is reduced by getting the government to protect it.  Orthodox Christian theologian Davd J. Dunn writes,

“Today’s Christian conservatives seem to be worshiping America, or at least a certain idea of it, when they ask the government to protect the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. In doing this, they have vested the state with the power to sanctify…Christians who demand the state take up the task of defending marital sanctity are effectively making the state their god. They seem to think that their local capitol can perform miracles when [in reality] only the Holy Spirit has the power to sanctify.”

Well, there are some, no doubt, who do not feel the same way about things.  They are upset with anyone who does something out of the ordinary.  And in particular with anyone who exercises their rights while ignoring the religious or civil authorities.  There are many who feel that marriages are illegitimate without the approval of the government, or the Church, or both.

But it has not always been that way.

Marriage in the scriptures, and for most of human history, has simply consisted of a man and woman (usually with the consent of the woman’s father), living together and attempting procreation.  No priest, no license, and no registration.  These are all recent innovations within the last 500 years.  The Catholic Church did not require marriages to be officiated by a priest until 1563.  The Anglican Church did not get around to making this requirement until 1753.  For most of human history, marriage has simply been an agreement (contract), recognized or arranged by the immediate families, for a man and woman to live together.

He calls her wife, she calls him husband.  They share a home, they share a bed.  They have and raise children together, and they have cast their lots together for good or ill.  They are married.  Are the Snowdens married?  Absolutely yes!

Does that mean that any two people can just live together and call it marriage?  The answer is no; that’s just called shacking up.  The other elements are required also, namely the commitment to live as husband and wife – with all the duties and privileges that are connected thereto.  Shacking up, without commitment – without the man taking the woman as wife, is sin.

You could classify marriages into three sorts: social marriage, religious marriage, and civil (or government) marriage.  Social marriage is rooted in the ideas of Common Law and Natural Rights, which I have discussed somewhat above.  It has probably been the most common type of marriage thruout the history of mankind, and perhaps the oldest as well (tho this is debatable I am sure).  Either way, it is certain that of the three, civil marriage is by far the late comer to the party.

What about all this business with government issued marriage licenses then?  When did that become a thing, and why?  First, let us take a look at the legal definition of the word “License”.  From Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition, published in 1910) we have:

“A permission, accorded by a competent authority, conferring the right to do some act which without such authorization would be illegal.”

In other words, a license is permission to do something which would otherwise be illegal.  The problem is that the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed that marriage is a fundamental right for all.  And even without the Court’s decisions, marriage (both monogamous and polygamous) has existed for thousands of years as a fundamental aspect of human life and society which stems from our rights to associate and to contract.  Marriage predates all our modern laws, governments, and licensing requirements. How then can getting married be illegal?  Of course the answer to this question has everything to do with polygamy.  Licensing of marriage by governments had its origins in efforts to stamp out plural marriage among the early Mormon people (and also to prevent interracial marriage – which is beyond the scope of this post).

In closing, here are some questions you may want to ask yourself (or your friends and family – if you like those stimulating sort of conversations).

If my right to marry is fundamental, why do I need permission from the government before I can get married?

If I get a marriage license, what does that marriage license give me permission to do that I could not do before I got the marriage license?

Who is giving me that permission?

Where did they get the power to give me that permission?

And perhaps the most important question,

If I get married without a marriage license, is my marriage still lawful?

When there is no structure available to you, then make your own.  There is no approval needed from any man, or government, or religious institution.  And despite the disapproval that may be shown by some, it is our God-given, and natural right to do so.

 

Note: SSW s1e1, c2 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 5, Commentary 2.

Morning sickness, midwives, and molar pregnancies (SSW s1e5, c2)

Morning sickness during pregnancy is very common, especially in the first trimester. There is an extreme form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). Women with HG have a lot of nausea and vomiting and often have difficulty keeping anything down at all. HG can persist all the way through the pregnancy rather than only the first few months. Some of these women lose weight rather than gain weight; some are hospitalized because they can’t keep enough fluids down to stay hydrated.

My cousin gets HG so badly in all of her pregnancies that she can’t even take care of herself, much less her children; she has to live with her parents or her in-laws when she’s pregnant so she can have constant help.

My first 3 pregnancies were easy compared to my 4th pregnancy. But that last one was a doozy. I had HG and vomited all the way up to my due date. I was usually at my sickest in the evening, when I ought to have been singing to my kids and snuggling with them as they were being put to bed.  Instead, my then-9-year-old daughter basically ended up putting her siblings to bed on a fairly regular basis, no bedtime songs and cuddles with Mama because she was lying on the floor with her face over a bowl.

I didn’t have HG as badly as some other women I know of. I was able to gain a normal amount of weight in my pregnancy, and I only had IV fluids once. However, I used many, many remedies to keep myself reasonably functional, including all the natural remedies such as peppermint and ginger and frequent snacks. A prescription of Zofran (from a certain CNM named Karla Jo Bennett) wasn’t helpful. What did help me was taking Unisom — the one with 25 mg of the active ingredient doxylamine succinate — twice a day (three times a day helped with the nausea/vomiting even more but it made me way too sleepy), taking loads of vitamin B-6 (micro-doses all day and a slow-release dose at bedtime), completely stopping my consumption of all grains, and most helpful of all, getting a shot of b-vitamins every day or two.

morning sickness remedies
My morning sickness remedies

The first midwife I went to for b-vitamin shots was Karla Jo, but eventually my regular midwife taught me how to give myself shots, which was far less expensive and far more convenient than driving to the midwife’s office and paying her to do it every time.

I got tested for H. pylori (a bacteria in the stomach that is one cause of HG) and the test came back negative. Karla Jo was the midwife who was lucky enough to keep my stool sample in her freezer until the the lab came by to pick it up.

Karla Jo is a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), which is the kind of midwife with the most education and privileges (such as writing prescriptions).  Since she has more privileges than my regular midwife, the two of them worked together to meet my needs for medical care. (I saw several other types of medical professionals to try to get some answers about my HG, but in the end, no one could solve the puzzle, and eventually I gave birth and the problem ended on its own.)

Karla Jo is not just my CNM but she’s also my mom’s first cousin. I was close friends with her kids (my second cousins) when I was younger.  We went on homeschool field trips together; I played Foosball in their basement; and her daughter and I wrote sticker-covered letters back and forth.  I remember having dinner at their house once when they ordered plain cheese pizzas and added their own toppings after the pizzas were delivered (that was so foreign to me).  I attended the baby shower of one of her daughters and drove across Los Angeles to visit her other daughter, who was on a layover.

I was surprised when I saw Karla Jo in the sneak peek of Seeking Sister Wife, and I excitedly texted her and said, “You’re my friend Vanessa’s midwife! I saw you on TV!” and we laughed about it and she told me about her experience with the TLC film crew.

Karla Jo was the midwife who performed Vanessa’s ultrasound in episode 5 of Seeking Sister Wife.  She had to give Jeff and Vanessa the sad news that Vanessa actually wasn’t carrying a baby, and the further bad news that she probably had a molar pregnancy.  It turns out she was correct, even though in 20 years of caring for women and babies, this was the first time Karla Jo had seen a molar pregnancy.

Screenshot 2018-02-22 23.16.56.png

Molar pregnancies occur in roughly 1 out of 1000 pregnancies. This means it’s highly unlikely you will have one, but it’s likely that you know someone who’s had one. Karla Jo’s sister had one. So did my mother-in-law.  My regular midwife has seen 3 in her career.

In a normal pregnancy the hormone hCG (which is responsible for morning sickness) appears at implantation, increases to a peak between 8-11 weeks of gestation, and then decreases. The levels of hCG going down after the first few months is the reason why the symptoms of morning sickness typically lessen at that point.

The hCG hormone is measured in milli-international units per milliliter (mIU/mL). Normal levels approach 300,000 mIU/mL at the peak. In a molar pregnancy they go much higher, so even though the woman isn’t carrying a baby, she feels sicker than someone having a normal pregnancy.  She also has positive pregnancy tests despite there not being a baby, because hCG is what’s being tested with pee-on-a-stick pregnancy tests.

When you watch the early episodes of Seeking Sister Wife, and Vanessa is so sick, you can bet there’s a good reason she was experiencing the worst morning sickness out of all of her pregnancies. When Vanessa’s hCG level was tested it was 1,200,000 mIU/mL!

Screenshot 2018-02-28 11.26.22

When Vanessa’s regular midwife Sherri Price couldn’t hear a baby with her doppler (as shown in episode 4), she asked her good friend and fellow midwife Karla Jo if they could come to her office (which is at her house in Pleasant Grove, Utah — not in Genola, Utah like SSW implies) and have Karla Jo take a look with her ultrasound machine.

After Karla Jo said yes, Sherri mentioned that, oh by the way, a camera crew is coming.

Karla Jo hadn’t planned in advance on being filmed that evening, and she didn’t get home until just before the film crew wanted to start filming.  She had had a full day and the film crew and everyone else beat her to the house.  Her husband fed them ice cream and entertained them for an hour.  (At one of my appointments with Karla Jo, her husband took my kids into their backyard and let them collect the eggs from their chickens.)

Most midwives don’t have their own ultrasound machine (they’re a pretty expensive piece of equipment to just use occasionally), but Karla Jo has one. So she is kind of the go-to when another midwife wants her client to have an ultrasound done.

Screenshot 2018-02-22 23.18.13.png

Karla Jo says it was an interesting experience to have a film crew present while she did her work.  Normally she would have dimmed the lights in order to see the ultrasound screen better, but the film crew needed the lights bright.

She didn’t get told anything that happened after everyone left that day.  She didn’t know for sure if she would end up in the final cut; she didn’t get a copy of the episode; she didn’t get told when it was airing.

As far as the filming and editing of the show, Karla Jo say the editing was done in a deceiving manner.  For instance, the audio is edited enough so that at times she is shown saying the exact opposite of what she actually said (for instance, the word “don’t” got cut out of one of her statements).  She also thinks the scenes she’s in that were posed (like when she was standing outside with Sherri) felt very fake.

Screenshot 2018-02-22 23.25.27

Technically Karla Jo can’t use an ultrasound to diagnose a molar pregnancy, but you’ll notice that she was able to give a better idea of what was happening than the first midwife was, and she gave good advice to go ahead and get checked out by a radiologist.

I have seen people on social media criticize Vanessa for going to another midwife instead of the emergency room. The show said Vanessa’s problem was “possibly life-threatening,” but that doesn’t necessarily make it an emergency. Cancer is life-threatening as well, but no one calls an ambulance. Vanessa wasn’t bleeding or even cramping; the situation wasn’t so urgent that they needed the emergency room, and going to the ER wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Please, let’s leave the ER for true emergencies, rather than clogging them up with important but less-urgent medical situations.

As I said, at the time of Vanessa’s first prenatal with Sherri, she wasn’t bleeding.  However, early in Vanessa’s pregnancy, after taking a positive at-home pregnancy test, she was spotting quite a bit and even bleeding a lot at one point, so she thought maybe she was having a miscarriage.  She got an ultrasound, which appeared to show a very early embryonic sac.  She also got blood work done twice showing that her hCG hormone levels were rising at an expected rate.  So according to all that she was definitely pregnant.  She figured that she was either going to miscarry or not, but that it was out of her hands.

The bleeding eventually slowed and she continued to be pregnant (as far as she could tell), so she just figured things were progressing normally. There seemed to be no other reason for concern, and she planned her first prenatal for 12 weeks gestation as usual.

Her first prenatal is shown in episode 4, and the follow-up appointments and surgery are depicted in episode 5.  What the TV show doesn’t tell you is what happened after Vanessa’s surgery.

The pathology report fortunately came back negative for cancer from the mass that was growing inside her, and for a short time she thought Oh good, surgery went well and now I’ll just recover.

But Vanessa ended up with a painful complication.  Her high levels of hCG hormone triggered something called theca-lutein cysts, which are a type of ovarian cyst most commonly associated with molar pregnancies.

After Vanessa’s surgery, her ovaries looked fine, but within days the cysts grew as a result of those heightened levels of hormone. Her abdomen was filled with these ovarian cysts, as shown in the below ultrasound images.  She had so many and they were so large that she looked 8 months pregnant!

Vanessa's ovaries on ultrasound
Ultrasound images of Vanessa’s ovaries filled with huge theca-lutein cysts.
image3
Vanessa’s belly a few days after the surgery (huge because of the cysts)

She literally could not lie down or hardly even recline because she couldn’t breathe. She also couldn’t eat because her stomach was so crowded.  It was several weeks after her surgery before she was recovered enough from those horrendous theca-lutein cysts to start feeling normalish again, and it took almost 2 months before her hormone levels were back to healthy levels.

Now, months after Vanessa’s surgery (a high-risk D&C), her hormones levels are good and her belly is back to its proper size, but she is still constantly on the lookout to detect further problems.  Any cells remaining in her uterus could begin to grow, or worse, metastasize into other parts of the body.  The way to determine if that’s happening is with pregnancy tests, so she has to avoid getting pregnant but take tests every 2 weeks to be sure the hCG levels aren’t rising.  If she gets a positive pregnancy test then she will have to hurry in to the doctor to determine what’s going on.

Although her experience was difficult and traumatic, Vanessa feels like it was divinely timed and directed, and she is at peace about it.  She is glad the viewers of the show got to see thru real events how loving and supportive her amazing family is.

But she’s still nervous about the future.  Once she’s physically and emotionally ready to get pregnant again, her odds of having another molar pregnancy are significantly greater than before: about 1 in 20.

Vanessa appreciated having supportive midwives to help her through her experience.  She loves Sherri and also speaks very highly of Karla Jo.  She reports: “Karla Jo was really great!  I would consider her as a midwife if I was still in the area.  I didn’t spend tons of time with her but she came VERY highly recommended by Sherri and I really liked her presence and personality. I felt very safe with her.”

Karla Jo Bennett serves Utah County, Salt Lake County, and surrounding areas. Her midwifery website is www.gentlebirthandwomenshealth.com.  (Sherri Price is retired now, so if you were interested in hiring her, you’re out of luck.)

 

Notes: Vanessa Alldredge’s story and medical details shared with permission.  SSW s1e5, c2 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 5, Commentary 2.

Sampson (SSW s1e6, c1)

When I was a new missionary for the LDS Church, and living at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, UT (this was back in 1998), I had a Branch President that I quite admired.  He was a very wise man.  Here is one piece of universal wisdom which he gave, and which I have never forgotten (tho perhaps not always lived):

“The scriptures say that Sampson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, and every day at least that number of relationships are damaged with the same weapon… You don’t have to say everything that comes to your mind.”

Plural marriage puts you in impossible situations sometimes; situations where it is impossible to please everyone, or even most of the people.  This is most often true for plural husbands.  While the difficulties between the Briney women continued to play out in this most recent episode, I must say that I was pleased with the involvement that Drew displayed.

donkey

Furthermore, I have to offer an apology to Drew.  In my last post I did not take into account the very likely truth that TLC is either behind much of the drama portrayed in their family, whipping it up to more than it need be, or else cleverly editing the video clips to show stern looks and eye rolls out of context, as well as leaving out parts of the story that wouldn’t fit the network’s vision for the show.  Drew and all good plural husbands are much more involved in settling disputes, and counseling with their wives, than could ever be shown on television.

 

Note: SSW s1e6, c1 means Seeking Sister Wife Season 1 Episode 6, Commentary 1

Dateonomics

Note from the blog owner: AmasaMason is a new contributor to the blog.  This is his first post.  

 

The growing dating/marriage crisis within the LDS church is no secret; church leaders have been trying to figure out what to do about it, the single women and men in the church are suffering because of it, and even secular sociologists have taken notice (for example see time.com/dateonomics ). No longer are LDS women being deprived of marriage solely because LDS men are “slacking” in their duty to find a wife and have a family; the solution is no longer as simple as exhorting more LDS men to marry. It is much more insidious yet mundane – it is a simple math problem.

Currently within the LDS church, there are more than 3 single women for every 2 single men. This means that if every single LDS man married a single LDS woman, there would be 1/3rd of the single LDS women left over. One third. Let that sink in for a moment.

This is actually a very predictable consequence within any conservative institutionalized group which encourages members to marry within the group and have large families. When there’s a positive birth rate there will be slightly more 20 yr olds than 19 yr olds, slightly more 25 yr olds than 24 yrs olds, etc. Historically (perhaps even biologically), women on average tend to marry older men and men on average tend to marry younger women; the gap is usually about 4 years. Therefore a 24 yr old man will statistically be more likely to marry a 20 yr old woman compared with a woman his own age, and a 23 yr old woman is statistically more likely to marry a 27 yr old man than a man her own age. The result? If a woman hasn’t married by the age of approximately 25-30, her prospects of finding a husband are disproportionately lower compared with the odds that a man the same age will be able to find a wife. 

Bottom line: for a moment, let’s ignore the trend that more LDS men leave the church in adulthood than women; let’s ignore that more LDS men marry outside the church than women, that on average more LDS men delay marriage than women, the possibility that LDS men on average are “less valiant” as a group than LDS women, or any other potential contributing factors – even if we set aside all of that, we can STILL expect to see this disparity between single men and women due to simple math and economics.

This dating/marriage crisis within the LDS church has reached the point of being essentially irreversible. This is why more and more leaders are promising faithful women that even if they don’t have an opportunity to be a wife/mother in this life, they can still lead a happy and productive life and look forward to having those opportunities in the next. While somewhat true, this is a very inadequate “solution” to the people affected so deeply.

Interestingly, another conservative group that noticed a similar trend (Hasidic Judaism) handled it with arranged marriages, and having men and women marry peers of their same age (20 yr old men marry 20 yr old women, 24 yr old men marry 24 yr old women, etc.). This could be a viable solution moving forward if it were institutionally enforced – for future marriage/family relationships; however, in the meantime, there is a huge group of single women that would still not have their needs taken care of. If only there was another option….

The elephant in the room is that there is a solution that doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination considering the historical precedents and doctrinal foundations of Mormonism/LDS theology. What if all single women in the church were to have their marriage prospects immediately expanded to include not just the single LDS men, but also the faithful, married LDS men? Voluntary associations between consenting adults such as this could certainly provide the opportunities for marriage and child bearing that are desired by so many LDS women, who will statistically never have such opportunities otherwise.

I would not encourage the LDS leadership to get involved in arranging marriages etc. as sometimes happened in the early days – too easy to exercise unrighteous dominion and violate agency. However, to remove the severe penalties currently enforced (note: LDS people choose to practice polygyny today are immediately excommunicated as a rule according to the policy in Handbook 1) and allow the biblical principles (ironically, those restored and practiced by Joseph Smith himself) including polygyny to again be accepted by the church, this would result in a grand reunion between the mainstream LDS church and so many fundamentalist break off groups. It would provide the opportunity for people to live according to God’s inspiration and revelation in their marital relationships, a climate which has been absent since 1890. Removing the stigma against polygyny – by removing the extreme penalties enforced by LDS policy currently in place – would be a huge step in the right direction for all of Mormonism/Restorationism.

How the teens took it…

Note from the blog owner: Melissa is my sisterwife and she is a new contributor to the blog.  This is her first post.  

 

I have been asked many times how my teens reacted to me becoming a plural wife.

I’ll tell you: Horribly. And I don’t blame them.

Let’s review the collapse (there will be other blog posts fleshing out these experiences):

All my life I was raised to be very judgmental of others: hair, weight, clothing, how people carried themselves, etc.  It was never just, people are different.  No.  There was some immeasurable standard to which all were compared, and to which all failed to measure up to.  They were mocked, made fun of, and there was an undercurrent of haughtiness embedded in my very soul.  I laugh now because my family was hardly the type who could lord anything over anyone.  Sincerely, my own grandmother was annoyed by us – she is likely the one this critical worldview was passed down from in the first place.

Naturally, I passed all of that judgmental world-view on to my children.  In the line of attack were people who lived in any manner differently from North American, mainstream, LDS, intact nuclear family.  The sad part is that my own family didn’t meet the criteria for which I judged people – I was a divorced single mother.

Believe it or not, I was the worst toward polygamists.  I didn’t know any polygamists, and I didn’t need to.  I believed they were apostate, weird, and likely inhuman.  I was mainstream LDS, born and raised in Colorado (with a 6-year stint in Seattle), and educated in Utah.  I’d been living in Utah since 2000.  My only reference points toward those living in plural families were news stories about how horrible the fundamentalists were; from not educating their children, to wearing old-fashioned garb, to their reprehensible lifestyle of sharing husbands.  I was particularly horrible during the Texas events of 2008.  I declared that all of the FLDS children should be removed by the authorities and raised by others.  I confess that I vocally cheered at their trauma.  God, I am such an ass (that was a prayer).

Five weeks before our lives were rocked by a series of events which left us homeless, (which in turn led to a series of events that created the structure, and mind/soul shift, for me to become a plural wife), upon hearing about a local plural family, I started off on a mean-spirited diatribe about how disgusting I thought their entire lifestyle was. We were in the car. All of my children were with me. And I was a monster. What a stage I set.

the teens primary colors

As all of this was going on, I did not prepare my children for my change of heart, and I don’t know that they would have understood it. When I first approached my children with the idea, they were horrified.  They thought I had lost my mind. Suddenly, their rock-solid mom was adrift and they thought she was mad, unstable, brainwashed – everything I had said about polygamist women.

As time progressed, I did other less than mindful things which were ignorant to the venom others held and created a huge backlash for myself.  I put my children in the care of my parents who were terribly misinformed and highly malignant against this lifestyle.  My father told my children that my husband was going to take my 16-year-old daughter as a wife. My parents called my ex-husband – a man known to them as an alcohol/crack/porn addict, and spouse abuser – to offer him custody (apparently, they thought he would be a better parent than I, in spite of all of his limitations, and regardless of me being the legal custodial parent since September of 2000).

My father called both the police and DCFS (Child Protective Services) to report me. At the time polygamy was not illegal. Thankfully, the authorities told my father to bring my children home, or be faced with possible kidnapping charges.  However, I still had to deal with a police officer coming to my home for a keep the peace call.

At one point I attempted to go to a counselor.  I had no idea who to reach out to.  The one place which specialized in polygamy turned out to be an agency which helped women and children flee from abusive plural situations.  The counselor told me that she had never counseled anyone entering a plural marriage and could not help us.  She did have a private session with my daughter where she told my child to flee the home entirely.  I have since found out that counselors who are LGBT(etc.) friendly are the most open to those joining a family in a plural situation.  I made one appointment for my daughter with an LGBT(etc.) friendly counselor, but the counselor moved immediately after and gave us a referral.  My daughter refused to speak with the referral.

Through all of this, my kids were confused, horrified, and had no resources to sort things out.  I truly believe that I could have made it much easier had I not been all along so horrendous about those unlike myself

TL;DR bottom line: Don’t judge.  Don’t teach others to judge.  You may be eating a feast of crow, and end up being judged by those for whom you set a terrible example of judgment.