Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Simeon’s Birth

The baby was supposed to have been born on his due date – Friday, November 2nd.

The Plan

We had it all planned out.  We’d welcome in the Sabbath with all of our extended family present, enjoying our tradition of reading the creation account and several other passages of scripture.  We’d sing, then I’d run upstairs, have the baby, and come back down for a great dinner and fellowship.

The Dream

On top of that perfect plan, my good friend Mari had a dream that she was at my house asking if anything was going on with the baby.  As I sat at our dining room table, I told her nothing had really changed and then immediately had the contraction to kick labor off.  It was 2 pm.  She saw our midwife, a young blonde woman, come.

Given that our midwife is youthful and blonde, and that Mari is always at our house on Fridays, which is when the baby was due, I was hopeful that she had been given a prophetic glimpse into the big day.

But 2 pm that Friday passed by without the start of labor.  We thought maybe she misinterpreted the dream and that it was really 2 AM when things would kick off.  But alas, 2 am came and went with no change in baby status.  Mari and my other good friend, Katelyn, stayed at our house that whole weekend eagerly awaiting labor to begin.

By Monday morning, since still nothing had happened, everyone left to start their regular week. Erich and I had an 8 am appointment with my midwife that I was sure I wouldn’t need when we made it the week before. But there I was, waddling into her office three days overdue.

A Change in Status

As the kids played together on her enclosed patio, she checked me. I was 90% effaced and 4cm dilated – not nearly as far along as I had been at the end of my last two pregnancies. But during the check my membrane separated. That was a good sign!

Erich and I hung out and talked with her for a long time. At one point, she looked at my belly and noticed I was having a contraction.

Reaching over to touch, she said, “Wow! That’s a good one!”

“Really?” I said.  “I wouldn’t count that as a good one.  Decent, but not as strong as they get sometimes.”

“Well, be sure to let me know if anything changes. I won’t be at all surprised if you have this baby today.”

Today worked great with me.  Today my husband was at home with me, and my midwife was close-by. Tomorrow he was supposed to be an hour and a half away and she would be an hour away. Not good news for a girl whose last baby arrived just 25 minutes after the first real contraction.

Glad that today might actually be the day, we loaded the kids up and left.  During the 20 minute drive home, I noticed that my contractions, which were a very regular part of my pregnant life, were coming even more regularly. I payed attention to the clock for the next few.  Sure enough, they were consistently 2 minutes apart.  I waited a little bit longer just to be sure they weren’t going to space back out.  When they didn’t, I called my midwife.  Even though the contractions weren’t any stronger than usual, she said she would be over shortly.  Her assistant would make her way over too.

Let the Party Begin!

I called everyone to let them know what was going on.  They all began heading over, with the exception of Myrna.  She was out running errands.  Her husband said he’d pass the message along to her when she got back home.

Excitement energized me. I bustled around the house, moving laundry from the washer to the dryer, washing the sinkful of dishes, and reminding the kids of expectations for this home birth. Through it all, the contractions remained consistently spaced two minutes apart, but pretty mild in intensity.

The regularity of the contractions reminded me of my first labor with Madeline. With Anson and Kieryn, nothing was consistent until the contraction, the bottom-wagging, can’t-talk-through-it contraction that kicked off the fast sequence of events that brought our babies forth.

While part of me was rejoicing that my body was giving us enough warning to get everyone and everything in its place, another part of me was growing more anxious with each perfectly-timed contraction.  If they were so closely-spaced now, what was going to happen when the one came? Would labor completely overwhelm me this time? Was I strong enough to endure it all again?

Mari’s Dream Come True

The flutter of activity and conversation kept me from entertaining these worries for very long.  My midwife needed to check the baby’s heart rate.  Mom was cleaning up from the lunch of quesadillas she made for the kids and was already beginning to cut vegetables for a stir-fry dinner.  Kieryn was ready to go down for a nap. Erich decided to grab some rest too while things were still quiet. Katelyn needed to get some homework done. And Myrna had just arrived.  It was 2 o’clock.

Myrna had barely settled at the dining room table where several of us were talking when I had the contraction.  I was in the middle of a sentence.  As the contraction warmed, I stood up to lead forward on the table and wag a bit.  I was still speaking, but as it continued to rev up, it silenced me.  I managed to say something like, “Hang on.  Can’t talk.”  I closed my eyes and breathed through it.  I remember hearing my midwife say it was time to top the birthing tub off.  I couldn’t have agreed more. As it faded, I told Madeline to go get Daddy.  It was time.

The Power of Prayer

The worries that started to bubble up in my heart earlier began boiling hot. Instead of feeling like a seasoned birther, confident and ready, I was more fearful than I had been for any of my past labors – the first one included! Fear kept me from following the ebbs and flows of the contractions.  Instead, I resisted them.  For a few contractions, I had no rhythm.  No peace.

Moments of clear connection with the outside world were interrupted by contractions that pulled me into a frenzied inner birthing world.  I was aware that everyone was buzzing around with last minute activity – filling the tub, getting cameras ready, putting a movie on for Madeline and Anson.  I didn’t think anyone could tell I was struggling to remain calm, and I didn’t have the time between contractions to explain it.  But at that exact moment Erich held me and prayed for me.

I don’t remember what he prayed exactly, but I was reminded that I could trust the One who held me and our baby in His sovereign arms.  He would be with me.  I could trust Him. And I did.

My fear subsided, and the contractions became manageable.

I cried, held Erich’s face and said, “I’m so glad you are here with me.”  My faithful God had heard my prayers.  Erich was right at my side for this labor, just as he had been for all the others.

As I stood in Erich’s arms waiting for the tub to be ready, my sisters, Mari, Katelyn, and Myrna gathered around me to pray. More strength and peace covered me as truth further saturated my mind.

Another Water Birth

At 2:05 pm the tub was ready.  As I lowered myself into the hot, buoyant water a familiar joy rose up, manifesting itself in a smile.  Hot water surrounding a laboring body is a beautiful thing.

And this tub experience was the best yet.  The unpleasant chemical smell from my first two births at the birthing center was absent.  And unlike the last tub I birthed in that had hard sides and a confining shape, this tub was soft with a wide edge and plenty of space to move.

I was in for just fifteen minutes when I whispered through a contraction that it would be time to push soon.  With the next contraction the pushing began, and my water broke.  It was 2:20pm. Within one minute, his head was crowning.

“Good girl,” my midwife praised.

She grabbed my hand and put it on the baby’s head.  Other midwives had offered to let me reach down and touch the babies’ heads, but I never took them up on it.  Once I was in a comfortable position, latched on to Erich with all of my might, I didn’t want to move.  But I was glad that she unlatched me so that I could experience touching my baby’s small head as it emerged from me.  His fine hair felt so soft and sweet.

In another couple of minutes she told me to reach down and catch my baby.  “That’s okay,” I managed to say between pushing.  Touching his head was great, but I was interested in returning to the inner work of getting him out.  Catching him was her job. 🙂

At 2:23 pm, he arrived in fullness.  Like his sister Kieryn, he was a beautiful purple baby.  It took him a while to get a good cry out, but he finally did and checked out perfectly healthy.

Post birth

His Name

Blondie

We prayed for a healthy and strong boy who would hear and see our Savior, so we named him Simeon Valentine.

Simeon is related to the Hebrew word, “shema” which means “hear and act.” It was the name Leah gave to her second son, saying that God had heard her plight (Genesis 29:33).  Simeon was also the name of the righteous and devout man who was promised that he would get to see the Messiah before his death.  Indeed, he did, and he rejoiced saying, “my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:25-33).

Valentine is related to the Latin word meaning “strong and healthy.” It was also the middle name of Erich’s grandfather who passed away just before Simeon’s birth.

At an even 9 lbs and 22.5 inches long, he is definitely on his way to fulfilling the healthy and strong part of his name.  🙂

Siblings Meet

As I caught my breath and left the inner birthing world, I noticed that Madeline and Anson were in the room.  They had been down in the living room watching a movie, but Madeline paused the movie when she thought she heard something upstairs.

We had watched Kieryn’s birth video together the week before in order to prepare them for the sounds and sights of labor. Madeline recognized the pushing noises I was making.

“Hurry,” she said to Anson.  “Mom’s pushing out the baby!”

Though Anson didn’t make it in immediately, Madeline arrived just in time to see Simeon’s birth. With tears in her eyes, she welcomed her new baby brother into the world. (I didn’t have any siblings, but Madeline makes it look just how I always imagined it would be.)

one happy sister

And in another demonstration of the kindness of our heavenly Father, Kieryn, who went down for a nap just before labor started, woke up just after I finished.

Kieryn and Simeon (1 month old)

Brothers (1 month)

Kids Cuddling

chocolateSweet Endings

As if things weren’t great enough at this point, my midwife started running a soothing herb bath for me. AND as the water was running, she busted out a big Ghirardelli sea salt and almond chocolate bar as a treat for my hard work.

I told her she was pre-hired for the next delivery!

Dancing with Babies

A friend just sent me this photo he took one Shabbat as I danced with Kieryn and Simeon in worship. What a great memory!

Dancing with Kieryn

Fourth Pregnancy Firsts

8 months pregnant (Yep, that giant tummy got even bigger!  I went another WHOLE month before giving birth!)

8 months pregnant (Yep, that giant tummy got even bigger! I went another WHOLE month before giving birth!)

So many things about my fourth pregnancy were different.

For the first time, I would be giving birth in the fall, not the summer. This made me nervous.  What would I do if I couldn’t bring my screaming baby outside for a walk in nice, warm weather? (I always have screaming babies.)

For the first time, I craved cheese.  Slices of cheese, melty cheese, gooey cheese, cheese crumbles, cream cheese. The form didn’t really matter.

For the first time, I had evening sickness, which was really just gross, burpy nausea each evening. (Could it have had something to do with the cheese?…)

For the first time, I would be bringing a baby into the world in a different town.  This was because we were living with my parents, which also meant that…

For the first time, I’d have my mom with me for the whole pregnancy, birth, and newborn time. My mom is amazing. Having her support through those tough early weeks of pregnancy kept our home from becoming the nightmare it had become during each of the other first trimesters. And knowing she wouldn’t have to drive an hour-and-a-half to try to make it to the birth was a great relief.  On top of that, I’d have another set of arms eager hold the baby anytime I needed a break.  Just a few extra reasons to rejoice that our family was living together.

BUT… for the time, I had a flash of worry that I might end up giving birth without my husband, mom, or midwife here to support me. It was somewhere mid-pregnancy when it occurred to me that I could very well go into labor when Erich was in Knoxville (an hour and a half away), when my mom was at work (40 minutes away), and when my midwife (who lived only 20 minutes away) happened to be somewhere further away.  Last time I had only 20 minutes from the first “real” contraction to the time I held my baby girl in my arms.  I assumed this time wouldn’t give too much additional warning.  Thankfully, I have a sovereign and trustworthy God. When I placed my worry in His hands, trusting Him to bring the baby forth in His perfect time, I was able to rest knowing that whoever was supposed to be here would be here.  On top of it, Madeline was excited about the prospect of assisting me through it all by herself.  Given how mature and capable she is, I knew she would do a wonderful job! (Details on the actual birth are coming next…)

What remained unchanged this pregnancy was the miracle of it all.  Even though this was our fourth pregnancy, none of the joy or wonder was diminished.  The growing belly was just as exciting.  The movements were just as exhilarating.  Hearing the baby’s heartbeat was just as awe-inspiring.

And having three older kids to share in it all was super-fun!

Me and the big-sisters-to-be early in this pregnancy

Me and the big-sisters-to-be on the First Day of Unleavened Bread. As an interesting side note, I was pregnant during all of the 2012 feast days – another first! (2 months pregnant)

The baby belly is a bit hard to see in this picture, but it was definitely there.  This is our family just after our hilarious bumper boat expedition.

The baby belly is a bit hard to see in this picture, but it was definitely there. This is our family showing off our water spots just after our annual bumper boat expedition.              (6 months pregnant)

A surprise baby shower (yes, a TOTAL surprise!) given in September (6 months pregnant)

Here I was at an amazing SURPRISE baby shower           (7 months pregnant)

Madeline: 7 Years Old

Tell me about yourself.

Ummm.  I like to go on dates with Daddy, and give Daddy hugs and kisses.  And I love Mommy. And I’m seven. And… I like to have fun. (Seeing that the unstructured questions may not be best, I jump in.)

Okay, let me ask some more specific questions.What is your favorite thing God made?

Hmm… Let’s see … Animal or thing?

Whatever you like best.

I like friends! And Mommy and Daddy.

What is your favorite story in the Bible?

I like Ruth and Naomi.

Why?

Because it shows God’s power a lot. Orpah left Naomi right away, and Ruth didn’t want to leave, so she asked to go with her.  And then God led her to another husband.  So, that’s why I think it’s so cool, because God showed Ruth His power.

What is your favorite non-Bible story?

You mean one that’s not in the Bible? Just another story?

Yes.

I like two kinds of stories.  One is “Where is my cup?” and another is “Where is my kitten?”

Aren’t those stories you wrote?

Yes.

What story or stories do you like that you didn’t write?

Hmmm… I like the one about the crow and the fox.  (She proceeds to recap the story for me.  I couldn’t keep up with her.) Do you need another one?

Do you have another one?

Yep! Anne of Green Gables! Now what? Do you have another question? I like this interview!

What’s your favorite school subject?

I like … Does it have to be something we do or that other kids do?

I don’t really understand the question.

Well, does it have to be something other kids do?  We don’t do science very often, but I like science. (Yeah, there’s a bit of my weakness as a homeschooling mom on display…)

What is your least favorite subject?

Math. Definitely math.

Why?

Because it has to go from easy things to really hard and then very hard.  I know why I like science more – because it’s outside.  And for math you sit at a table.  But for science, you get to look at rocks and leaves, and explore and find things.  That’s why I think its fun.

What is your favorite day of the week?

That would be Saturday! And Friday night.

Why?

Well, on Saturday, I get to eat cinnamon rolls and go to church, and sometimes there are new people I get to meet.  And on Friday night it begins Sabbath, so I love it.

Are you excited to have a new baby brother in a couple of months?

Well, that’s what I was trying to tell you! I’m SO excited, yes! I think that when you get in the shower, I’ll get to watch my baby brother and I’m so looking forward to that moment that I get to babysit a little baby brother.

Tell me about Anson.

He’s funny, and he’s my brother, and I love him. Sometimes we get into fights though.  The funny thing about Anson is that he promises things and doesn’t keep it.  Sometimes he’ll say he’s never going to play with me again and then he will call me later in the day to show me something.

Tell me about Kieryn.

She laughs at everything Anson does.  And she is funny just like Anson.  Mostly all of us are funny.  When you’re typing it almost sounds like laughing.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Uh, that’s a little bit hard to answer.  I want to be an artist, an author, a cook, a missionary… I want to be all kinds of things!

Do you want to get married and have children?

I definitely would like to have children, but I don’t know about getting married.  God has a plan for all of us.  Let’s just say about the husband thing, sort of. I sort of want to get married, sort of not.

Why would you not want to get married?

I didn’t say that.  I just said that I sort of want to get married.

How will you have children if you don’t get married?

Say for example, I go to India and learn to speak their language – that would be a pretty hard thing to do – but if I did, I could adopt some orphans. Like Gladys.  She went to China and she had a hundred children before she got married. So, maybe I could be like her and adopt children and then get married later.  There are two ways you could have children.  One is you could just have God and have no husband and have a baby. You know how Joseph wasn’t exactly married, and he didn’t sleep in the same bed with his wife until after she gave birth to a son?  OR I could just adopt orphans.

What about people like me who have children?

What do you mean?

Well, you said there were two ways to have children: if God made a baby without a husband or if you adopted.  But I have a husband and didn’t adopt any of you.

I know.  Those are separate things.  If you didn’t get a husband, you could either push a baby out with God or adopt.

You seem pretty set on getting children without a husband.

Really? I didn’t mean that.  You were just asking me questions and I was just answering them. Do you have any more questions?

I don’t know.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Well, you’re the one who’s supposed to ask questions.  Like ask me what my favorite snack is, or what would I do if I had to go across the sea without a boat.  Like if God asked me to swim, would I do it.  Questions like that.

Okay, so what is your favorite snack?

Almond butter and jelly sandwich!

And what would you do if God asked you to swim across the sea without a boat?

When I’m a kid or when I’m a grown-up?

I don’t know!  (Laughing) It was your question.

If God told me to do it I would do it.

Do you think you’re going to like being seven?

Maybe.  It depends.

On what?

I thought you were going to say that. (Smarty pants.)  It depends on if you have a lot of children. … (She goes on with a very confusing line of thought.  We discuss a bit and then decide to forget that whole thing.) Yes, I will like being seven.

(She asks me if we’re done.  I say yes. Then she goes on to tell me more questions I could have asked. I tell her to just tell me whatever she wants me to type.)

My two favorite animals are lambs and horses. Do you know why I said my favorite animal is a lamb (a baby animal) and a horse (a grown up animal)?  Well, its because horses I like to ride.  I rode one once and I liked it.  And lambs are cuter than sheep, aren’t they?  Ummm… My favorite thing to do in the day is make projects, and play with things. You know, like that bead thing that I got from Memere for my birthday. And I wish I had glasses like you.

Is there anything else?

Maybe. Yes.  Two more things.  I get to have a sleepover with Kiara on Friday.  Oh… (as an aside to me) If we send this to people in Knoxville, they won’t know who she is…

That’s okay, baby.  We really should wrap this thing up anyway.

Okay, one more thing. I like flowers.

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The Case Against Breast-Feeding (and other thoughts about motherhood)

This article, The Case Against Breast-Feeding, was published in the Atlantic magazine in April 2009, but I just came across it today.

I’ve never encountered feminism with such ferocity. Sure, I’ve heard stories about women long ago trying to throw off the shackles of domesticity, but I didn’t know it still existed with such force. The author proposes that breastfeeding might be “an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down.” Wow.

Before I get too far along, I want to make clear that I do not believe that all mothers must nurse their babies in order to be good parents. There are circumstances that prevent it, of course.

I also think the author does have some interesting information regarding the lack of definitive science  showing that breastmilk reduces illness, increases intelligence and the like.  That part is on page two of the article.

But my primary interest in this article is not about the breastfeeding.  It’s not the author’s distain for the time involved to nurse a baby and the limits it places on her as a woman alone that made me sad.  It’s her minimization of the importance of motherhood that really struck me.

Here are some of the particularly painful quotes:

Being stuck at home breast-feeding as [my husband] walked out the door for work just made me unreasonably furious, at him and everyone else.

In Betty Friedan’s day, feminists felt shackled to domesticity by the unreasonably high bar for housework, the endless dusting and shopping and pushing the Hoover around—a vacuum cleaner being the obligatory prop for the “happy housewife heroine,” as Friedan sardonically called her. When I looked at the picture on the cover of Sears’s Breastfeeding Book—a lady lying down, gently smiling at her baby and still in her robe, although the sun is well up—the scales fell from my eyes: it was not the vacuum that was keeping me and my 21st-century sisters down, but another sucking sound. . .

About seven years ago, I met a woman from Montreal, the sister-in-law of a friend, who was young and healthy and normal in every way, except that she refused to breast-feed her children. She wasn’t working at the time. She just felt that breast-feeding would set up an unequal dynamic in her marriage—one in which the mother, who was responsible for the very sustenance of the infant, would naturally become responsible for everything else as well. At the time, I had only one young child, so I thought she was a kooky Canadian—and selfish and irresponsible. But of course now I know she was right. I recalled her with sisterly love a few months ago, at three in the morning, when I was propped up in bed for the second time that night with my new baby (note the my). My husband acknowledged the ripple in the nighttime peace with a grunt, and that’s about it. And why should he do more? There’s no use in both of us being a wreck in the morning. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to seethe. . .

We were raised to expect that co-parenting was an attainable goal. But who were we kidding? Even in the best of marriages, the domestic burden shifts, in incremental, mostly unacknowledged ways, onto the woman. Breast-feeding plays a central role in the shift. . .

[Breastfeeding] is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. . .That is why, when people say that breast-feeding is “free,” I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing. . .

What a tragedy that women would feel that caring for their babies in this way is a meaningless work!  To borrow a phrase from my friend Heather, it’s so sad that some mothers “aren’t sure whether they want to commit their bodies so fully to the nurturing of these babies once they are born.”  In her post El Shaddai and the Nuturing Mother, she goes on to point out that this is such an important work that even God himself uses the analogy of a nursing mother to describe his comforting activities.

But the tragedy extends far beyond breastfeeding.  If only mothers like this could see what value motherhood has, what an important work mothers do in the lives of their children and ultimately in society!  Oh that we mothers would embrace this work – this messy, busy, complicated, challenging, critical work! 

Let me challenge the notion that motherhood is menial by asking this: What other job gives more responsibility than motherhood?  What other job requires more passion, talent, energy, patience, and creativity?  Some people work to train others to lead, or to write, or to compute, or to sell.  As a mother I can train others – my children – in even greater ways:  to be strong in the face of adversity, to be ethical in the face of temptation, to be thinkers, to be sensitive, in essence, to be godly men and women.

Sure, this job doesn’t come with all of the public accolades that a corporate job might. But my husband’s praise means more to me than the approval of a nebulous “public.”

There are usually no bonuses given when goals are reached. But a box of Dunkin Donuts functions as a cost-effective incentivized treat for me.

And I usually don’t get written about in important journals.  But the cards my children make for me with their heartfelt thanks are far more precious mementos.

Like the author of this poem,I am glad to be a mother.  And I pray that all mothers, like the author of this article, would one day see the value in it.

Motherhood

She came tonight as I sat alone, the girl I used to be.
And she gazed at me with her earnest eye and questioned reproachfully;

Have you forgotten the many plans and hopes that I had for you?
The career, the splendid fame, and all the wonderful things to do?
Where is the mansion of stately height with all of its gardens rare?
The silken robes that I dreamed for you and the jewels in your hair?

And as she spoke, I was very sad for I wanted her pleased with me…
This slender girl from the shadowy past, the girl that I used to be
So gently rising, I took her hand, and guided her up the stair
Where peacefully sleeping, my babies lay innocent, sweet, and fair.

And I told her that these are my only gems, and precious they are to me;
That silken robe is my motherhood of costly simplicity.
And my mansion of stately height is love, and the only career I know
Is serving each day in these sheltered walls for the dear ones who come and go.

And as I spoke to my shadowy guest, she smiled through her tears at me.
And I saw that the woman that I am now, pleased the girl I used to be.

– Author Unknown
Quoted in Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski