Wednesday, May 8, 2013
A great deal of my life (of any homemaker's life) is consumed with necessary labor. Cleaning, cooking, laundry, diapers, even a lot of our schooling can easily fall into the labor category. This explains why occasionally I will spend a week making really nice, time-intensive meals - even though that means that we don't have a clean house. It also explains why I sometimes spend time cleaning out baskets, drawers or cupboards that no one ever sees. Or why I enjoy hanging the clothes on the line in the summer even though it takes me longer to finish the laundry. I am trying to imbue some more meaning into my labor by taking extra time with it, to give it dignity and raise it closer to the level of work. Because it is very hard to do this full-time mothering thing long-term.
This video from TED describes a study that was done about work and meaningful work (or labor vs. work). He describes how they gave people lego figures to build and first told people they would be disassembled eventually but put them under a table. In the second instance they actually dissassembled the finshed lego figure as the person was building the next one. And at about 7:40 into the video (the whole thing is worth watching - especially as fodder for contemplating a homemakers life) he makes this excellent point. "By breaking things in front of peoples eyes we basically CRUSHED any joy that they could get out of this activity." Ummmm...can we say, "welcome to my life"? There is is folks. Science confirms it.
Every person who stays at home just to watch their children systematically destroy every bit of effort and work that they put forth can give a hearty "AMEN" to that point.
I actually experience home-schooling to be more work then labor and it is one of the reasons that I am able to stay home with my kids even though so much of my daily life can seem uninspired and uninspiring. I mean one can only read so many of those "savor the moment, young mother" memes and still have them mean something to you. After a while you just want to DO something that stays done! Like teaching someone how to read or reading the Secret Garden or even planning for next year. That is one way I cope. Blogging is another...unless of course Blogspot deletes my post...sometime's it's as bad as my kids.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Yesterday, in between a series of social units I had three hours of time at home with the kids. I thought it would be nice to get about 15 minutes alone(ish) in garden to pull up our accidental harvest of carrots since the ground was nice and soft from the rain. So I grabbed my rain boots, my trowel and my four year old and we started pulling out carrots.
Everyone was accounted for: the baby was getting a much-needed nap after being schlepped around all morning and afternoon, Anthony was doing some therapeutic baking (he nearly always comes home and bakes after having a day of social units that tax his poor introverted soul), and Cece and Rosie were taking a bath after both having accidents in their pants (I don't even want to talk about it...). So I took the remaining wild-card child to the garden for some Mom-n'-Tom time.
While I was out there I was thinking about how my life wasn't all that bad. "See? Look, at this, my kids are getting old enough to grab a moment here and there of peace and the warmer weather opens up my world to about a quarter of an acre instead of 1400 sq. feet. Ahhhh"...I felt rejuvenated walking back to the compost heap to dump a few buckets of clippings, hosing off the dirt from the carrots, feeding the bunny and giving her some exercise. Good stuff. About 15 minutes is all I needed to recognize the true fact that I have a good, blessed life.
But nothing in life is free.
I came into the boys fighting; the baking project abandoned and a kitchen covered with bowls and spoons and flour; the girls standing on the stairs wrapped in towels with bubbles streaming down their hair and face crying because they got soap in their eyes; soapy water covering the the floor from the bathroom all down the hallway and mixed with a bucket of dirt and pine needles that they had spilled earlier and; of course, the baby wide awake - thank you girls for crying so loudly.
Sometimes all you need to gain a little perspective on your life is a break from it for a short period. But the problem is that nothing is free as a mom. These children tax every bit of freedom and independence that I try to take from them and most of the time the tax is not worth the break.
But yesterday it was. I will hopefully keep remembering the smell of the soil and spring air, the feel of the wet grass, the soft fur of Lippity, the sound of nesting birds and the sweetness of carrot-harvesting with Thomas. And, maybe, MAYBE someday I won’t even mind remembering the tax I had to pay for that moment.
Monday, April 8, 2013
HEADLINE: Parenting is hard and really non-glorious work.
I'm feeling that in spades in this particular season of life. And to be honest, I'm having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees and I'm further down the path towards cynicism and selfishness then I have been in some time. So I'm in a daily, no, a minute-by-minute battle with my own inner-dialogue.
I won't give you examples of the negative thoughts that are slowly taking over my mind because they are ugly and embarrassing...anything BUT "pure-of-heart" though. They are thousands of little truths that are now twisted and swelled up lies. And I've been fighting a losing battle with them.
So, I was yelling at Thomas and Cece today because they were blatantly disobeying me by going upstairs when I told them not to (the yelling being the first-presenting symptom of my negative inner-dialogue). And Thomas turned around and yelled back at me with equal intensity, "What will make you HAPPY?!?!?! Hugs from me?!?!?!".
Yes, yes it will, T-dog. Thank you for the assist in this battle against the lies in my head.
"This is the day The Lord has made. let us be glad and rejoice in it."
Another fall, another rising. The twentieth of the morning so my knees are sore but it makes a difference having a hand to help pull me up.
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
We are all created by a God who is in pursuit of us. He is the Hound of Heaven, he is the great Lover in Song of Songs, he is the triumphant Commander setting the captives free, he is the good Physician healing our deep wounds… he is seeking us. Ironically, we often feel like we are the ones doing the seeking and He is staying out of sight. There is, of course, a veil between us and the Heavenly Eternal and we can only catch glimpses of His face when He pulls it back for us. Upon entering the Beatific Vision we will be confronted by all of God, all at once – his gentleness and his ferocity; his simplicity and his complexity; his mercy and his justice; his Fatherhood and his Sonship; his greatness and his littleness. For now there is a veil placed between us and the All that he is. But even the veil itself reveals to us more then we realize.
This veil is composed of many things. Many of the things, in fact, that make us who we are. We are all created with such uniqueness. Different temperaments, different childhoods, different gifts, different charisms, different vocations, different educations, different careers, and on and on. And while these things can make it impossible to pull back the veil and see God in his wholeness we are all created to reveal and to explore different aspects of who the Trinity is. God encompasses all of these differences in his person but he is not limited by any of them as we are.
I’m going to take two of the above categories to illustrate a point. The first is the classic four temperaments (which Nature provides us with) and the second is our career/job (which we hopefully have more of a say in).
The Four Temperaments, as defined by the Greek thinker, Galen (drawing from Aristotelian and Platonic insights) are Choleric, Sanguine, Melancholic and Phlegmatic. And, although all of these names initially evoke nasty medical images to one’s mind they are an excellent tool for understanding what God is looking for in you and what you will find when you look at Him.
For example, the Sanguine (I have it on good authority from Sanguine friends of mine) will likely have a vision of God that is welcoming, arms wide open and running towards them. The Choleric may resonate more with a vision of God as a great military leader come to defend glorious Truth. Another instance where we see this truth is that the more introverted temperaments will likely experience God through the pursuit of prayer that looks something like this: “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6). While the more extroverted temperaments might see God more clearly through the relationships that God has placed in his life.
Conversely, it is the same people who are able to see particular aspects of God clearly who also reveal to the world these different aspects of God. The Melancholic homemaker reveals God’s love of order and thoroughness through her ordered lifestyle. The Phlegmatic friend reveals God’s infinite ability to accept us where we are and not pass judgment.
We could explain this as a sort of psychological projection of our own strengths and weaknesses onto God and so dismiss our uniqueness as tool of pursuing God in this way, but I do not believe that we are meant to. I do not think that the fact that a Choleric sees the Christ as “leader” is merely a by-product of the Choleric projecting their own temperament onto Christ in the way that we anthropomorphize dogs and cats by projecting our own thoughts and feelings onto them (i.e. imagining that they are lonely, happy or sad in the same way a human being is). I believe that God created us like this. That he has placed a veil between us and Him. One aspect of this veil is our particular temperament and that while in some ways the veil hides his fullness from us it also 1.) reveals Him to us in a particular way and that 2.) we are meant to reflect that aspect of Him out into the world that so desperately needs every aspect of Him.
None of us reveal Christ in his entirety. I’m pretty sure that the only part that I reflect must be the dry skin of His elbow or some other non-glorious part. But we are all part of one body and we all reflect something of Christ to the world. The examples of our last three popes are a wonderful testament to the diversity of Christ and how he meets our every need.
The danger of such an insight obviously is that we will tend to excuse the weaknesses of our temperament while thinking that we are playing into our strengths. So a Choleric may glory in the truth of the Christ while not opening himself up to the compassion of Christ. The Sanguine may gloss over wounds inflicted on or by relationships in favor of keeping a “peace” that is separated from the truth and therefore a false peace. A Melancholic may prefer routine and insulation over vulnerability and relationships. A Phlegmatic may take the path of least resistance in the face of mistreatment of themselves or others.
Thankfully God has given us an antidote in the very work, people, and events that he has placed in our path. The work, people and events with which we fill our day should be used as a corrective against this error because Christ also reveals himself and his will for us through these things. If we are doing work then it IS the work that God wants from us right now – that much is clear. Second-guessing our work while we are in the middle of it is not useful…if we have put our hand to the plow then we shouldn’t be looking back.
I may not be a “baby person”, temperamentally or otherwise but if He has given me babies to care for then I best start lovin’ on babies because THAT is what He has for me right now. Our work, or labor, is another part of the veil that he places between us but even that will actually reveal another aspect of him to us if we look at it. Probably an aspect of him that we would not find if we and our temperaments were left to our own devises.
This whole topic came to mind because one of my husbands students tried to claim that he “saw God revealed in Goodness but not so much in Truth,” therefore the study of doctrine and theology was a mere hoop he had to jump through before he could get ordained and encounter God in the work of the priest (manifestations of his goodness, as opposed to his truth…hmmm). He was probably right about his natural, God-given bent - it will probably always be easier for him to see God through examples of goodness and he will probably mostly reveal God to the world through examples of goodness in his own life. Lovely, wonderful. BUT. God is also in Truth. He is Truth just as He is Goodness and just as He is Beauty. And if He has put your hand to the plow of study then you best try to find Him through that work, in spite of it being less natural for you. If he pursues us through our temperaments then he also pursues us through our work. All the things that make up our life are ways that he is trying to get at us.
How many of us are just biding our time until we can get the right job, get married, go on mission, leave the young baby stage of life, etc. We are jumping through hoops until we can get into the phase of life where we can pursue God in manifestations that we naturally lean towards instead of looking at the veil he has placed between us in the here and now and look hard to find him in it. He is pursuing us through study or babies or difficult relationships that are “distracting” us or whatever else he is asking of us but we don’t really see him because we are gritting our teeth while waiting for this season to pass.
To deny his revelations of himself in either temperament, work, background, or talents,or situations is to send back the roses that the Divine Suitor sent because they aren’t our favorite color. We need to learn to love the other colors to. Love is a many-splendoured rose - and He is pursuing us – through all of the uniqueness that He’s built into each of us and has laid upon us. We must see him in ALL of the aspects of our lives and our persons because He’s after us. Sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully but always relentlessly.
“Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'” Matthew 22:37
Thursday, November 22, 2012
This was around 3:30 pm on Saturday. Right after this picture was taken I had some “show” which was my first indication that this was “real” labor. I excused myself from the downstairs and headed upstairs to call the midwives and time contractions…to begin the transition to “labor land”. John started setting up the birthing pool while I emailed and facebooked people to let them know to pray and to call in the “troops” (labor support team, child care) all while timing my contractions.The contractions, I realized, were not my estimated 10 minutes apart but were every 4 minutes apart and were lasting for 2 minutes. So I continued my trying to communicate with the outside world, to instruct John and my mom about what needed to happen next (“I need some quiche. NOW. Don’t make the bed yet, just get the pool set up. GET THOSE CHILDREN OUT OF THIS HOUSE! AWAY! Send them AWAY!” Yeah. So much for my wanting them to be a part of this event…sometimes you just don’t know what you want until you KNOW) in two minutes spurts of pain-free existence. It felt stressful.
This is a picture of me trying not to FREAK OUT because the kids were still in the house (and fighting with each other loudly), the pool was only partially filled and we didn’t have any hot water left, the bed was not made with the special sheets and whatnot, I hadn’t eaten yet and it was dinner time and my midwives hadn’t arrived yet. And my water had just officially broken. It is now about 5:00 pm.
Each time my water has broken during labor it has been very quickly followed by delivery…so I definitely had a brief emotional meltdown which John talked me through. In retrospect I can definitely say that if I hadn’t planned on having a homebirth this birth experience would have been very, very bad. I would have barely had time to get into the hospital and into a bed and all of that would have been happening at the very height of labor. As it was even though there was a certain urgency surrounding the beginning of the labor I didn’t actually have to GO anywhere, get triaged, admitted, changed, hooked up. Any one of those things would have stolen the few moments of peace I experienced during this fast birth. Being at home made it possible to have peace in the midst of the quickness instead of panic because of the quickness.
Within minutes after this my “birth team” was assembled and the children had left the building. My midwife Liz had been on a date night with her husband just 20 minutes from my house and so her husband just dropped her off here. My mom was still in town. My friend Christine, a “homebirther” herself came straight from a family gathering and my friend Dale came over bringing with her her own 5 wk old baby who was very conveniently asleep for the entire experience – freeing up Dale to hold my coconut water for me.
Aside: My plan is that her son and Catherine get married because I think it would be a really awesome wedding toast to say, “I was there with you the day you were born and I’ll be with you until death parts us” (sniff sniff). OK, maybe that’s leaning a little heavy on the advanced planning side of my personality but it would be poetic! Amy, the midwife’s assistant (herself a doula and a midwife in training) and my second midwife Nannette arrived shortly after. That’s a lot of people for such a small space, especially when you put a big ol’ pool in the middle of the room. But somehow it all worked!
There was still a fair amount of scurrying around preparing things but now there were plenty of hands to do it. The bed got made (in case you are curious: you put down a set of bedding – fitted sheet, top sheet, bedspread – then a sheet of plastic and then another set of bedding. This enables them to just roll out the used linens and you already have fresh underneath. Plus there are many of those blue chuck’s pads that they use in the hospital). Liz checked my “progress” (the first and last internal check of the entire pregnancy!) and I was at 8 cm.
At this point all I wanted was to get into the pool…I was really needing to find a place to settle into myself and once I got settled I knew I wasn’t going to be changing positions/places again. We were coming round the bend.
So, around 5:45, after pouring a canners worth of boiling water and running the hose for a few more minutes things were set. It was initially humorous because I was in a pool, looking at my plant in the corner sipping coconut water through a straw (my chosen labor drink because it is high in electrolytes but not a brightly colored sports drink that when you puke it up during transition you think you have tuberculosis), holding hands with my husband…it was strangely reminiscent of our trip last fall to Jamaica.
Physically speaking the water was a great pain reliever. It was like taking down the intensity from an 8 or 9 at its height back down to a 6 or 7…those two points are a BIG deal, let me tell you. It takes you from panic, animal desperation to rational, coping level.
So we went through a handful of contractions that I was still able to breath through without vocalizing. Amy, the midwives' assistant (who is also trained as a doula and did her birth assistant training on The Farm) suggested that I take this time to start to turn more inwards and focus on what my body was doing and to imagine holding and nursing the baby. Very good advice. I was getting to the point that talking in between contractions wasn’t going to work because it didn’t give me enough time to get ready for the next one.
So, we shut the doors and I started to sound like a farm animal or a wounded civil war soldier lying in a field…at least what I imagine that would sound like.
When comparing the water birth to my only other drug-free birth I can say with complete conviction that the difference was astounding. Obviously there was a great deal of pain (not just “sensations” or “rushes” but plain old fashioned pain) in both but it was ultimately the difference between those two pain points that make all the difference. With Anthony’s birth 8 years ago I remember hitting a pain level of 10 and then somehow – someway – it got even worse. Both during transition and during the pushing (ring of fire) I was at a pain level of 10 and it was more then I felt was humanly possible. I felt terror and panic and like I was turning into an animal – desperate to escape. Not to put too fine a point on it. The truth is that I have never been able to birth drug-free in a hospital since…there was the amazing after-birth euphoria that followed and I have never regretted going through that but man, it was a little scarring.
This birth, in contrast, was completely different…and all because of those 2 pain points. I never reached a 10 with Catherine…well, not until the first real push. And then it lasted for 1 contraction, I believe. Up until that extremely brief moment I still thought that I “had room to grow”…that pain can, indeed, get worse then this.
Afterwards I mentioned to Nannette (one of the midwives) that I didn’t feel like I even went through transition and she pointed out to me that right before that really big push I had said that I felt slightly nauseous and I had gotten flushed and hot. I felt like, “Oh yeah. SERIOUSLY?! THAT was transition?!” And memories of grasping onto the side of the hospital bed, and begging my mommy to take me home and puking bright read gatorade over and over again filled my mind from 8 years ago. And then I remembered that it had occurred to me in the last couple contractions before Catherine came that I thought – thought, mind you…not screamed into the nurses’ face like last time…”I don’t think this was a good idea. Why am I doing this? I would like to go home now…oh I am home. Hmmmm…these thoughts probably mean that I am going to have my baby soon.” But it was all so much calmer and more peaceful…more humanly possible. I wasn’t an animal in terror, I was a mother giving birth. It wasn’t scary.
There was no coached pushing. No, “now it’s time to push” – my body had been pushing a bit more with each contraction and Liz had said to just go with it so I was when all of a sudden there was a weird popping feeling (like water breaking except that had already happened – it turns out that it was her head popping out from under my pubic bone) accompanied with a TREMENDOUS pressure…my cervix felt like a bowling pin must feel like when it gets hit by the bowling ball. I was suddenly completely and 100% aware that there was a bowling ball and it was coming out NOW. Somewhere within the space of a contraction, maybe two, her head was out and I guess I was trying to keep my legs together – which frankly, makes perfect sense to me as a defense mechanism. The midwives has to literally pull them apart since the rest of her body was still in. I can’t say I really recall any of this with any accuracy. But I have been told that it looks like I was trying to scramble and back out of the pool. To this I say, perhaps…that was the animalian moment and I can’t really recall. I DO recall during this brief period of time that Christine told me to lower my voice into the Amazonian woman range and “grunt it out. Like a poop.” Or something to that effect…it was a very effective thing to say because I dropped my voice to a lower pitch, pushed as hard as a could…and again…and there was the baby on my chest. It was 6:36 pm.
We just laid there for a few minutes breathing really heavily and I felt like we had really gone through something together, this baby and I. We had done it, me and my baby had survived that whole pregnancy, going passed our due date, through labor and now we were done! We had done it together. Buddies. Pals. We still didn’t know if we had a boy or girl and while the midwives were busy making sure I kept the baby’s head above the water, checked her Apgar score and keeping baby warm it just didn’t seem to matter yet.
Christine hazarded a guess…she thought she’d seen some indications of a girl. So, after some awkward shifting and I turned her over and got quite the surprise – my girls would all have sisters – plural! We had been so confident that it was a boy…it was just a guess but so far we had been 4 for 4 on our guesses. John and I both immediately had the same thought separately and told different people that even though we were surprised at her gender we feel like we’ve known her forever. Like she’s always been around. Like, “of course it’s you.”
I also got to cut the cord – which I usually ask my mom or John to do.
It’s a symbolic moment to me. The first step of your child away from you. As a mother you are always in the process trying to impart to your child what they need to survive in this world and get to the next…in other words: to leave you. It’s a bittersweet moment – just like motherhood is a bittersweet experience.
The midwives do “delayed cord clamping”…essentially waiting until the cord stops pulsing blood into the baby before they cut it. This serves to increase the baby’s blood count (especially “clottable” blood which they don’t start producing on their own for about a week) and decreasing the mother’s risk of hemorrhage by giving more of the placenta’s blood a chance to empty out before delivery.
They delivered the placenta in the bed instead of in the water because they can monitor maternal bleeding more easily then if it’s getting distributed through 170 gallons of water. Makes sense to me. Plus, it means that the pool doesn’t get too gross…just in case you are imagining that a water birth looks like alligator attack scene in a swamp…it doesn’t. There was no blood in the pool at all, just a lot of vernix that came off Catherine as she came out…making her a slippery little thing for Liz and Nannette to get a hold of. Come to think of it…I don’t know who caught her in the end. I’ll have to ask someone.
This is Dale and Christine…my trusty friends and future in laws…me hopes. They helped get the pool set up, did the dishes and the laundry, got me dinner, helped get the kids to bed once they came home…and most important of all – rejoiced with me and welcomed and loved my new baby with me.
My mom had been staying with us all week…waiting (a lot more patiently then I was), cooking, cleaning, child-caring, encouraging…and THANKFULLY Catherine threw her a bone on the eve of her departure. John’s mom, Sarah, his step dad and his brother just happened to be passing by on there way from PA to VA and so stopped in to pick up the free show. I always try to warn people that you never know what you are going to get when you come over but I do think this was one to remember.
Here’s the scale they use to measure…she was 8 lbs, 9 oz….making her our second biggest baby and our “latest” baby.
This picture cracks me up a bit because of my feet…at least my toenails were painted.
You REALLY must try to drink this Orange Mint Tea the next time you have a baby…or breakfast…it’s the best stuff in the world. Christine made it for a brunch a year or so ago and I vowed then and there that it would be my “after birth” drink if I were ever to have another baby. It’s heaven. This is a picture of me drinking heaven.
This is me sporting my fancy thrift store robe that I bought specifically because it’s ugly enough to wear immediately after birth and not care what happens to it.
Now is a series of pictures that I like to call, “In Which Thomas Forgets How to Smile”. Just keep your eyes on him…
Well, this one is at least true to his personality…
Lots of visiting and decompressing and processing the experience…
And suddenly…the kids were all asleep, the laundry was all washed, the dishes were all done…and we were home. Blissfully, peacefully, joyfully home.
And it’s now more “home” then it ever has been before now that it’s been blessed with the birth of a Lovelette.
Hopefully more posts to follow on our first couple days at home, on why we chose a homebirth, on what it’s like to never ever sleep…but we’ll see since, well – I never ever sleep.
This pregnancy, labor and delivery were in a special way consecrated to and offered up for the souls of Joey Howe, Peter Campbell and Sophie More and for the consolation of their families. Life and death are so closely connected and we are grateful for all the life on this earth that God gives us, whether it's Joey's 80 minutes, Peter's 23 years, Sophie's 90 years or Catherine's life just starting out. We are even more grateful though for the life eternal that He offers us when our sojourn here is complete. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Thursday, November 8, 2012
Removing just THIS much wallpaper took me upwards of three hours. So, we opted to wallpaper OVER it.
Ahhh…fox hunting. Just what you want every baby to dream about. Good night moon, good night room, goodnight foxes, goodnight soxes. Good night hunters, good night nobody, goodnight mush…obviously.
While the men of house commenced our first (and last!) wallpapering event I sat in this rocking chair (the chair my dad and grandma bought for my mom when she had me…she gave it to me when I had Anthony).
and read them this book. As you can, hopefully see, it’s a bead board textured wallpaper
This is where I’m going to set up the pool for the water birth. That way I can focus on the things that matter…The pictures of my babies (reminders that there IS actually a reward at the end of labor) and…
And the WAY to get to that prize…death always leads to life.
And the bassinet that each of my babies has used is all bleached and ready to go again…
Here we have a couple ultrasound pictures, the teeniest, tiniest diapers ever (!) and one new outfit. Because every baby should have an outfit with tags still on it.
And below is the onsie and hat that will go with the outfit…can not wait to see if we will be using the blue or the pink!
Many, many towels for clean up and in and out of the pool. Sixty “car wash rags” from Costco for $20…best deal for a homebirth ever!
The view of the backyard and bench for the spectators…
ONESIES and HATS. One of my favorite parts of “nesting” is pulling out the bleach and bleaching the heck out of old, used, loved onsies.
I love this vintage baptismal gown.
Here’s the “supplies” for the homebirth. Everything from gauze and chuck's pads to bendy straws and calcium chews. The midwives bring the oxygen and medicines…I just order the “kit” they plan out.
And there is an empty frame just waiting for the first baby to sleep in the “new nursery”. AND I definitely am looking forward to giving birth in such a lovely, peaceful space. Putting the '”home” in “homebirth!”