Tuesday, 28 August 2012


She, her, sister, daughter, granddaughter, niece, these words all feel so foreign on my lips and ears.

Five years of being a boy-mom and now she's here. She's sleeping on my lap and I love her so much my chest tightens, there's a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Her daddy and brothers are equally smitten and I just love them all so very much.

I once feared the idea of having a son. I knew girls, was a girl, had four younger sisters - what did I know of the world of boys? Then he was born and I fell so hard, loved being his mother, loved every bit of it, and now it is this tiny girl on my lap who has me trembling. What do I know of the world of girls?

I was scared I would have a girl. I was scared I never would. Now I do and the realization of one dream inevitably means the loss of the other, a house full of boys.

I'm no longer the only girl in this house. Now I've got this little partner in crime, and one day we'll sit at the table eating too much chocolate and talking about those things which are the sole domain of women. And I try not to get ahead of myself, try not to foist my own dreams upon her instead of the desires of her own heart, those plans whispered to her by her Creator, but maybe one day she'll be a mother too and that only makes me cry harder, the sheer beauty of it all.

I keep thinking of the future, all those rites of passage that are unique to girls. I worry about how this boy-mom will handle it. What do I know of makeup, of preparing a girl for her first period, of somehow somehow imprinting upon her a positive body image? What if she is like me? And what if she's not?

But I'm over-thinking it all. I know, below these surface fears, that the main things are still the main things. Love her. Respond to her. Meet her needs. Talk with her as she grows. Maintain and strengthen relationship. The details will always be different - between all three of them - but the focus is the same.

As long as we've got that, maybe we'll muddle our way through okay.

Just writing along with The EO...

Monday, 27 August 2012

The First Week

Sweet girl is a week old now, and we couldn't possible be more smitten.

Her big brothers absolutely adore her. They both like to lay beside her, looking at her face and hands and feet and hair. The boy is thrilled to have a sister, and the toddler tells me about a hundred times each day how much he likes her. It's wonderful to watch them with her. My favourite moments, though, are when I catch all three of them on the couch doing their own thing - sweet girl having a nap, the toddler looking at a book, the boy making a puzzle - and think wow, those three kids are mine. Wow.

My mother-in-law left yesterday, making today my first full day on my own with the three kids. If I think about it too much, I get all kinds of panicky, so I mostly just try not to think about it. I can do this. Heck, it's 3:30pm as I type this line - I am doing this! Go me. Still, I don't know how I could possibly thank her enough for all that she did during her two weeks here, and goodness knows my laundry hamper will never again be so consistently empty.

On the other hand, it's nice to be getting back into routine. It feels good to put the house back into (my) order. The husband came home from work today and said, admit it, there's part of you that's happy to be doing things your own way again. He laughed when I enthusiastically told him about how I'd put all the dishes back into their "proper" spot that afternoon; he wasn't the least bit surprised. It's not just me, though, finding it comforting to be back into our routine. The boys had been getting a bit squirrely under the (excellent) care of their Oma, and their behaviour is much improved already. The boy especially is back to his usual polite, helpful self. The toddler is, well, two. Lovely boy, but still. Two.

Breastfeeding got off to a painful start, but sweet girl and I are getting better at making sure she has a good latch. The bleeding has stopped and the cracks and blisters have healed (thank you, lanolin!), so now it's just a matter of practice to make that good latch natural. She lost 5oz of her birth weight and as of today has only 2oz to go before she's back to where she started.

Sleep is surprisingly plentiful so far. Sweet girl still sleeps through much of the day, as newborns do, and her sleep tends to be in long stretches. She is also impressively unbothered by her brothers' noise and occasional outright chaos. Nighttime is also going well; she no longer wakes for two hours in the middle of each night (and I do indeed miss it). She currently has a long stretch of sleep when we first go to bed, and then she wakes up to nurse every hour or two in the early morning hours. I feel generally refreshed come morning, though I still like to slip in a nap sometime during the day. Sleep will be even less disrupted when we get her latch down well; right now, it takes a few minutes of fiddling during each nursing session before she settles into a good latch and I can turn the lamp off again.

Sweet girl is content to be worn throughout the day. When out, we've been preferring our ring sling. At home, I am in love with one of my two third-baby splurges, the Mei Tai Wrap T-shirt (my other splurge was one of those overpriced muslin blankets, which I also absolutely love). I strip sweet girl down to her diaper and she has a nice skin-to-skin nap while I prepare lunch or read a book or whatnot. It's perfect; I love it when a splurge turns out to be totally worth the expense.

The biggest two challenges so far are mornings and helping the toddler. Mornings are difficult because sweet girl is often nursing, the boys want their breakfast, the toddler needs to pee, and I want a few minutes of my own in the bathroom to wash up. We'll find our "new normal" soon enough, but for now it's a bit of a juggling act. Helping the toddler is a challenge because I can't always get up immediately in order to help him to the bathroom or to assist him through a difficult moment (sibling dispute, screaming, etc). For the bathroom, we're working towards greater bathroom independence. For the latter, it's basically a continuation of what we've already been doing as far as providing him with tools to work through his big toddler feelings and express himself in a healthy/appropriate way, combined with saving my requests until I am able to help him follow through in carrying them out.

My own recovery is going okay. It's still painful to be walking around and yet, as much as I'm continually told to just sit and rest all day, walking is pretty much unavoidable when there are other children to tend to and no one else here to do it for me. But the pain is by no means unbearable and I do my best to sit as much as I can, ignoring the crumbs on the kitchen floor even as I itch to sweep them up. (Turns out I may be a bit particular about things. Who knew?)

Well, that about sums things up. Sweet girl is napping on my lap right now and I just can't get enough of her perfect peaceful face. She makes the sweetest facial expressions. Also, I swear she's smiled at me more than once. I know, I know, "it's just gas", but I've got my fingers in my ears so I can't hear you say that, la la la la la la. I'll just continue to insist that she really has smiled at me. So there.

Guys. This girl. I'm in love.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Weekend Reading

The Talk @ Momastery
Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart- ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.

Something That Helps @ Jumping Tandem
“Wow,” I said out loud, “that just changes my entire perspective on being a guest at a wedding. I mean, I usually just go and cry because it’s so romantic and hopeful and beautiful.” Now, I see that being a guest at a wedding is an amazing privilege. Not something to be taken lightly. It is an invitation to celebrate and to dance and to cry and to witness the beautiful exchange of vows. And it is an amazing opportunity to bow for a moment and invite God to bless them and to keep them and to be gracious unto them — even ’til death do them part.

Let me help you understand those crazy Christians @ High Heel Wearing Hippie Mommy
You see, he has this theory about 4 stages of Christianity.

He calls the first stage, “Simplicity.” This is the stage that Christians are in when they first become Christians, whether that’s when they are children or adults. Most Christians will move beyond this stage, but some never do. The stage is characterized by “black and white” thinking. Christians in this stage will tend to believe that you’re either for us, or against us. It’s all or nothing.

When someone does a cut-and-paste job of Romans 1 @ Bible-Thumping Liberal
Christians suffer from the sins of the depraved mind, then do exactly what Paul says they do. “Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.”

Now continue on to Romans 2, and you’ll see why Romans 1 was written.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The birth of our daughter

Our daughter was born at home at 1:42pm on Sunday, August 19, 2012, after approximately four hours of labour.

On Sunday morning, five days overdue, I wasn't feeling very hopeful. I'd had only the mildest of preparatory contractions in the past week, no signs to point to the beginning of labour.

It was after 9:00. Everyone had been up for a while, but Sunday is my morning to sleep in. My husband gets Saturday; that's the way it's been for a long time now. I wasn't really sleeping - my loose pregnancy joints made that difficult - but I was lounging in bed anyway, enjoying the quiet and the lack of pressing responsibilities.

The contractions began as I lay there in that place between fully awake and fully asleep. They were different than the contractions I'd been having on previous days. They were low down, crampy, and wrapped around my lower back. They weren't intense or even regular, but by 10:30 I was starting to think a back rub would feel nice. I texted my husband out in the other room, but he didn't have his phone with him and so I received no response. After laying there for another fifteen minutes, I got up to find him.

He came into the bedroom with me and we talked for a few minutes. I told him these contractions were different and I planned to phone the midwife after having a shower. I said I'd just give her a heads up; they were mild and infrequent enough that I didn't expect anything to happen anytime soon.

In the bathroom, I discovered bloody show and took that as confirmation that things were indeed beginning. I poked my head out of the bathroom to let my husband know and then got in the shower. I had only one notable contraction while in there, and it too was easily bearable.

At 11:30, I phoned my midwife to give her a heads up that I was in the beginning stages of labour. I let her know I'd give her a call back when things began to pick up. My husband and I quickly prepared the bedroom for our planned homebirth, putting extra sheets and waterproof covers on the bed and clearing a few things away.

I spent the next hour idly wandering around the house. My mother-in-law was there to watch the kids, and my father-in-law had also flown in for a weekend visit. I could feel everyone watching me. I made myself some toast with peanut butter, took my daily iron and other supplements, and tried to make lighthearted non-labour-related conversation. Eventually I retreated to the bedroom for some privacy. I drifted around the room, clearing away bits of clutter and making sure everything felt ready.

By 12:30, the contractions were getting much more intense. I sensed an urgency to call the midwife even though I didn't really expect anything would happen until much later in the day. Deciding it was safer to call than to have another unplanned unassisted birth, I went ahead and paged her. Another contraction hit as she promptly returned my call, so I motioned to my husband to answer the phone while I dealt with what was now definite pain. As the contraction ended, I took the phone and told her she should come. Now.

It was a cool, overcast morning, so I went to sit outside and await her arrival. My husband continued to hover nearby. I was quite inwardly-drawn by this point but found his presence comforting.

At 1:00, the midwife arrived. She moved her supplies into our bedroom and began setting up. I was having a more difficult time managing the pain by this point, unable to find a comfortable position. I worried about how I'd make it through the next hours if I was already having such a hard time.

The midwife asked if I was okay with an internal exam and I readily consented, wanting to know how close I was. I expected I would be about 5 or 6cm dilated. "You're 8cm already," she told me, "but I'm sure you already knew that." I didn't tell her I'd had no idea I was that far along, but it was a relief to hear.

The boys continued to wander in and out, giving me little hugs and kisses and excited smiles before heading back out to play with their Oma and Opa. The boy still wanted to see the birth itself, while the toddler's decision changed moment by moment. I was glad their grandparents were there to care for them.

By 1:30, I was moaning and whimpering through the pain. The contractions were so different from my other two labours - which, interestingly enough, were also very different from each other. My first labour's contractions were very much like waves. My second labour had a few contractions that felt like little pinches behind my bellybutton, followed by the three full-body-slam contractions that broke my water and delivered my baby with no real warning. These third labour's contractions were very low down, very crampy, and nothing at all like waves or pinches. Funny how three labours could each have such unique contractions.

Then came the contraction that brought with it some pressure and a slight urge to push, along with a great deal of moaning and whimpering. The boys were both in the room at the time. Their dad reminded them that I was making a lot of noise because it was hard work to help the baby come, and it hurt quite a bit too, but I was okay. They both accepted the explanation without any upset, having heard it ahead of time as well.

I knew that my water would break with the next contraction. I had an intense desire to be in the bathroom instead of the bedroom, so I told my husband and midwife and immediately headed there before the next contraction came. They followed me in and closed the door behind them. I hadn't planned to give birth in the bathroom because of the size and poor layout, but when the time came, that's just where I wanted to be.

The next few minutes were almost exactly like my previous delivery, only this time my midwife was there, my husband was with me instead of on the phone with the paramedics, and my mother-in-law was in another room instead of catching a baby she hadn't even planned to see delivered. I sat on the toilet and the next contraction came. The midwife said the baby was right there and suggested I move to the floor. I refused until the water broke, and then, as with last time, I moved to the floor on my knees and let my body do all the work. I was glad to be leaning on my husband this time instead of clutching the edge of the bathtub.

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that this was it, the baby was coming, and it would all be over far sooner than I had expected. Two contractions later, our baby was born. It was 1:42pm, less than an hour after the midwife had arrived.

The birth itself was, oddly enough, the easiest part of the entire labour. I had only held on tightly to my husband as the contractions pushed the baby out; again, as with last time, I didn't push at all myself. I asked my husband later whether or not I had hollered through the delivery (as I most definitely did with my other two) and was surprised to hear that I hadn't made a sound this time. Just hung on and gratefully let it happen.

After collecting myself for a moment, I realized the midwife was telling me she would pass the baby up to me; I shifted position and took the baby from her, holding the baby against my chest. The baby had been screaming but immediately quieted and snuggled against me.

The boys came in soon after. They were both excited to see their baby sister or brother, but the boy was a bit disappointed he'd missed the birth. I was disappointed for him as well; it had all just happened so quickly.

The boys wanted to know whether they had a brother or sister. None of us had checked the gender yet, so I pulled the baby away from me to look. It was a girl!

I sat there a while longer, waiting for the placenta. Eventually I chose to cut the cord and give her to my husband so I could get into a better position. The midwife clamped the cord and my husband cut it, then took her out to show everyone while the midwife stayed with me. The placenta came (in good time, but it felt very much like a "finally" to me). I was able to get a close look at the placenta this time, which was a first, actually, despite it being my third birth.

The midwife asked if I'd like a shower and I gratefully nodded, remembering how I'd asked for one last time and been refused by the paramedics. I rinsed off and headed to my nice clean bed, where they brought me the baby. She promptly and easily began to nurse.

Eventually the midwife checked us over. I hadn't torn and everything else was fine as well, but the afterpains were nearly as bad as the contractions themselves had been. I was given Tylenol, Advil, and arnica pellets. Everything looked fine with the baby too. She was 8lbs 8oz, 51cm long, with a head circumference of 34cm.

She and I made ourselves at home in our bedroom for the rest of the day. Her daddy kept us company and her big brothers wandered in and out to look at her. The boy was thrilled, while the toddler was a bit more cautious. He soon came around, though, and began inspecting her ears, eyes, hands, and toes. I made my phone calls to share the news with family.

Later that evening, I left the bedroom and let my in-laws have some time with their new granddaughter. I sat outside for some cool fresh air and some quiet. My husband soon joined me. I tried to wrap my mind around the idea of having a girl. Even though I'd been prepared for and excited about either gender, there was still part of me that just assumed it would be a boy. But here she was, a girl!

The kids began getting ready for bed. Since the baby was still content after a full day of nursing, I went into the boys' room with them to put them to sleep, our usual bedtime routine. The boy kept telling me how excited and happy he was about his little sister being born. The toddler kept reaching up to touch my cheek and tell me he loved me. It was a lovely quiet time with just the three of us until the toddler fell asleep; just what each of us needed.

More than 24 hours later, we finally settled on a name for our little girl. We are all completely in love and so happy she's here.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

While the nights are still precious

I pray over her as she stares into the shadows; it always feels like she can see things there that I can't. Then her eyes shift, catch mine, and I whisper her name into the lamplight.

It's three o'clock in the morning now. We've been cuddling and watching, whispering and nursing for the past hour. She is silent, just taking it all in, and I'm the same as I take her in, this tiny new thing laying in front of me. I am captivated.

Her brothers breathe softly from their places on the floor; her daddy is asleep beside us. I feel nearly selfish to be sitting here enjoying her while everyone else sleeps. I want to wake them up, look at her tiny feet, marvel over her softness with them. She is beyond belief; they always are, these tiny ones, but it's new all over again for me.

I gently massage her from head to toe. She lies there, still silent, then softly unfurls when I get to her legs. I continue, her calf, her foot, each toe. Then I apologize - I need to change your diaper, sweet girl - and for the first time, she doesn't cry while I do.

It's four o'clock now and the faintest bit of light is beginning to come in through the blinds. She nurses once again and I watch her until, at last, she drifts off to sleep. She'll wake again before morning but only to nurse; our time of silent conversation is done for tonight.

Four nights so far and these two hours have been just for us. She doesn't sleep but doesn't cry either, just lays with me and watches, listens. And I cherish it.

So I'm writing it down because I know one night I'll be tired and I'll just want her to sleep, just sleep, baby girl, and maybe then I'll remember these words. Maybe I'll remember how precious these silent moments are, just the two of us watching each other in the lamplight. And the lost sleep will become both my sacrifice and my joy, both privilege and responsibility, both worship and blessing.

One night, these sleepless hours together will be our last, and I won't even know it at the time. She'll sleep through them the next night and I will miss them even as I eagerly accept the extra sleep of my own.

Until then, I will cherish these quiet dark hours with her.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Wordless Wednesday: It's a girl!

Our daughter
was born at home
on Sunday, August 19, 2012
at 1:42pm
8lbs 8oz

Monday, 13 August 2012

Pregnancy Tales: A lighthearted look at the past nine months

Pregnancy. It's beautiful and miserable and miraculous and painful and wonderful and all the rest. It's pregnancy glow and morning sickness. It's cute little baby bumps and big swollen ankles. It's grinning over tiny baby outfits and peeing when you sneeze. It's elation and exhaustion. Excitement and panic. Highs and lows.

And sometimes, it's just plain funny.

Potty Training

The actual process of potty training a child while you're pregnant is great. You're peeing so often that it's easy to remember to bring the toddler along each time. It's like a built-in potty timer! Perfect.

But then they actually become potty trained, past tense. Suddenly I'm waiting in line as my oldest takes a poo, my toddler does the potty dance in front of him, and I've got to go last because I'm the grown up. Meanwhile I'm imitating the toddler, legs crossed and all, and I've got to wipe the older one and then help the younger one with his clothes, all without peeing my pants.

And I'm asking myself the entire time, why was it, precisely, that you wanted to potty train the toddler?? I don't know, Self. I do not know.


The expectation of a new baby requires that certain preparations be made. For us, this included transitioning our bed-sharing toddler into his own bed. With that accomplished, our bedtime routine now involved me sitting in their room until said toddler fell asleep, as the alternative meant both boys were up for hours giggling and talking and playing together. As we figured out our new bedtime routine, I moved from sitting beside him on the floor, to sitting on the end of his bed, to sitting in between their beds, to our ultimate solution of me sitting on his bed while he fell asleep with his head resting on my lap. It's terribly sweet, actually, to have him fall asleep there, his head on my thigh, my legs a cradle on either side of him. Of course this only works because once he's asleep, he sleeps like a rock, making it easy to slip out from underneath him.

Aye, there's the rub. With this big belly of mine, there's no "slipping out from underneath him". It's more along the lines of heaving myself out from underneath him and praying I don't fall over in the process. There's an image of a beached whale in there somewhere as I struggle to both move out from underneath him and stand up at the same time. It's not pretty or graceful or smooth in the least; some nights I've very nearly given in and called my husband to come help me up. So far I've managed it myself, though, and I am invariably glad my five-year-old is the only witness to this nightly struggle.

My Bedtime

And then comes time for me to go to sleep. I've been exhausted all day. After all, in celebration of Mommy becoming pregnant, my two year old decided it was the perfect time to stop napping. (This happened both times. My toddlers can be awfully unkind.) Surely I'll fall asleep as soon as my head hits my pillow. Good thing, too, since everyone keeps reminding me to get in my sleep while I still can.

But no. The cruel twist of fate known as Pregnancy Insomnia strikes again. Instead of grasping these last nights of uninterrupted sleep before the baby arrives, I lay awake for hours. My brain refuses to turn off. My loose pregnancy joints begin aching. My pregnancy bladder demands yet another trip to the bathroom. I begin to mope about how terrible my life is. Nothing like overreaction at two o'clock in the morning.

At last I fall asleep. Then, far too soon, I wake up again - and can't fall back asleep. Something urgent occupies my brain. Last week it was what order I should phone people in when I go into labour. What if no one's home? Should I get the quick calls out of the way first - tell the husband to come home, let the daycare kid's mom know it's time to pick him up, call a friend to come over if no one else is here - and then go through the longer process of calling the midwife clinic, seeing which midwife is on call, getting her pager number, paging her, and then awaiting her reply? Or should I just go straight to 911 because oh dear Lord I'm going to end up delivering this baby with three children staring at me and not another adult in sight! This was all very urgent and important and dramatic at four o'clock in the morning. I watched the room get brighter as the sun rose.

Some nights, I simply give up. It's 3:08am as I type this section. My life is unfair.

Prepping for Childbirth

I was watching some natural birth videos with the boy to help prepare him for the upcoming homebirth of his little brother or sister. He wants to be there and the videos answered more of his questions and prompted some really good new ones too. He's feeling quite calm about it all.

I, however? Completely freaked myself out with those stupid videos. I suddenly remembered quite vividly just how painful natural birth is. I don't want to do that again! What was I thinking?? I told my husband I was just going to cross my legs really tight and the baby could just live in there. Supportive man that he is, he laughed at me, and then he said that would only have worked if I'd tried it nine months ago. Very funny, darling husband. Just hilarious.

Oh, the Comments

With two boys and a third child on the way, I have learned two things from the comments I have received during this pregnancy:
  1. Three children is A Lot of Kids.
  2. Everyone hopes this one will be a girl.
I can only shake my head in disbelief at the first. It's only three kids. One more than two. How that earns us Big Family status, I can't figure out.

As for the second, well, it's a little more difficult to stay lighthearted here. My midwife recently told me that three brothers would be nice, and you know what? I nearly cried. It was the first time this entire pregnancy that someone has said something positive about the idea of having three boys.

The worst comment I received so far was this gem from a mother of four: "Oh, you have two boys? Hopefully this one will be a girl. That would be nice. If not, well, you can always try again." Because it wouldn't be "nice" if I was blessed with a third boy, right? If sweet Mystery Baby is just another boy, it'll be "oh, too bad, but at least you can try again," is that it?

The second worst comment so far was from another mother: "Will you be okay if it's a boy?" No. No, I'll be devastated. Anything but another healthy and happy boy! The horror!

Finally, the third worst comment has come from multiple random strangers: Anything along the lines of "hopefully this one's a girl!" when said directly in front of my two boys. How do you think that makes them feel?

If it is a boy, I will be thrilled. What an honour and a joy to raise three sons!
If it is a girl, I will be thrilled. What an honour and a joy to experience raising a daughter!

We'll find out soon enough which joy our family will be blessed with.

Fortunately, not all of the comments received are awful. My favourite comment recently came from a single young man:
"So when are you due?"
"In less than a week."
"What?? But you look so...calm!"
I'm not sure how I'm supposed to look in these last days, but it would seem "calm" is not it.

And with that, I'm off to work on my panic-stricken face.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Weekend Reading

In which it’s caught (not taught) @ Sarah Bessey
I worry sometimes about how I’m passing this whole life-in-Christ, God, and faith thing down. I worry about whether I’m doing enough and then I worry about whether I’m doing too much. I don’t like competitions and scores and games for Jesus stuff. I don’t like formulas and gold stars. I worry about turning the Bible into a children’s story book, about helping the tinies to engage with Scripture and wrestle and ask questions, and then I can’t bring myself to read about Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, Issac, on the mountain, no part of me could ever understand that obedience, I admit, I’d probably go to hell before I’d raise a hand to hurt my child, I don’t understand it at all.

The Myth of the Magic Autonomous Age @ Natural Parents Network
Proper instruction early on, coupled with a keen eye on the readiness of the child, afford the child the confidence to accomplish the tasks set before him.

No parents want their child to be injured, but the answer isn’t restriction from activities: It is taking the time to teach the correct approach and safety measures.

Obedience is a pathway of Maturity and Faith @ I Take Joy
I do believe in obedience for me, for children, for all who want to love and serve God. But, I see now that the goal for my obedience is not behavioralism–performance–doing a task that I want done this instant because of fear of punishment. I do not measure my success as a parent by whether or not my children instantly obey.

Instead, I want my children to learn to love God, to desire to serve Him out of their hearts of respect, awe, reverence, love. I look for growth, not perfection. Maturity, not instant holiness.

Learning to go Slow @ The Parent Vortex
Cars and people are not that different, really. Vans blow up when things get too hot and there’s more pressure than the system can handle. People blow up in anger when they get hot and stressed out too. So stay cool. Release that pressure. Go at a comfortable speed. Avoid traffic jams.

We’ll get there when we get there, and that’s OK.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

He's Already There

The next days and months stretch ahead of me and I can see nothing. I am so used to my plans, my well-thought-out details, so accustomed to knowing what will happen when and how. I struggle to know what to do with all these question marks that now line the path.

It is only now, when suddenly it seems as though there's nothing I can plan at all, that I even realize how tightly I've been grasping to that sense of control.

This year of mystery begins with the impending birth of our third child. I'm counting down the days and casting around for that sense of control but there is none. I have no expectations, only the knowledge that whatever I plan may amount to nothing.

I had oh such plans for my last birth, dim lights and soft music and all the rest. But then it happened and it was nothing like any of us could have expected. Such is birth, wild and unpredictable and untameable. What can I possibly plan? It will happen as it happens.

And yet I find myself longing for the sweet naive plans of my second birth. There was such peace in the days leading up, peace mingled with impatience, eager for it all to start happening just as I planned. This time - not knowing what to expect, when to expect it, where, anything - I lack that same peace. I cling to my supplies gathered in a basket, to my phone numbers waiting on the fridge, but what else can I plan?

The past weeks have been filled with anxiety as I cast around for the sense of peace that control gives me. Finally, I pray. I don't know anything, God. I don't know what it will be like and I'm scared. I don't know what to expect and I feel only a step away from panic. I don't know anything.

The answer comes quietly, as it so often does. I'm already there.

He's already there. At last I feel that calm, quiet sense of peace. It is not the false peace of control and certainty, but the deeper peace of knowing that whatever, whenever, however it happens, God is already there.

He's already there. He knows how it all turns out. He doesn't promise anything, doesn't reveal anything, but He is there and somehow that is enough. He is here and He is there and He is afterward, whatever happens. The only constant. The only certainty. His presence.

The question marks stretch on. The weeks following the birth, what will they be like? How will our family will adjust to its newest member? Again I will have to step back, release control, let go of the need to have everything done My Way. For a time there will be only rest and the humility of allowing others to bless me, not earning it or deserving it; somehow that makes it so much more difficult to accept. I don't know how I'll feel, what that time of recovery and adjustment will be like, what our baby will be like. My calendar is empty because who knows?

He's already there.

My oldest boy begins his first official year of homeschooling; my husband begins his final year of earning his Electrical Engineering degree. What can I plan? Trial and error with homeschooling, the pair of us figuring it out as we go along. My husband, busier than ever with school, and I, with so many more responsibilities and needs to meet. Will there be enough of me?

He's already there.

And then he graduates and the mystery only grows. Where will he find work? How long will it take? Will we move locally? across the country? Will we stay where we are for a while? It's so hard to put down roots when they can so easily be yanked up again. I want to paint my walls and hang up some shelves but is there even a point?

He's already there.

Our family will step out in faith with our fledgling church home and all I can think is how desperately I long for the richness and depth of corporate liturgical worship. What will this church come to look like as it unfolds? Will we find our place in it? Will it find good soil, take root, grow? Will it fade away, as so many other church plants have in this area? What makes us any different?

He's already there.

My plans gave me peace, but it was a false peace. There was never any guarantee that they would turn out as I expected them to. There was never even certainty for the rest of the day, much less tomorrow, next week, next month, next year. He is already there, but for me there is only this moment. I can live in it or I can let it pass by unnoticed as I struggle to find certainty in the future.

I want to live fully present. I want to bring glory to Him moment by small moment, not reaching ahead for future promises. It is only now, with no choice left but to let go, that I can rest in the much deeper peace of knowing that however it all turns out, He is already there.

Somehow, that is all I need to know.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Breastfeeding, Modesty, and the Church

There is arguably nowhere that should be more accepting and encouraging of breastfeeding than the Church. Our Creator God designed a beautifully functional system where mothers can nourish their growing babies directly from their breasts, with a number of additional benefits to both mother and baby. To use our breasts in this primary God-ordained purpose is to affirm His design as good and worthy.

Breastfeeding is a mother's first foray into learning to read, trust, and respond to her child's cues. The infant, likewise, develops a strong emotional security as he learns to trust that his needs will be quickly and appropriately responded to. The more sensitive a mother becomes to her child's cues, the better the child becomes at giving those cues. This is the beginning of communication and connection between mother and child. As connection grows, the mother/child relationship becomes increasingly natural and instinctive, resulting in a foundational mutual trust and sensitivity upon which the relationship will continue to build.

Yet too often the misguided and misconstrued notion of modesty that permeates much of the church hides breastfeeding women away in back rooms, or at the very least under a blanket, suggesting that breastfeeding is somehow dirty, shameful, or inappropriate for public. Has so much of the church so easily succumbed to our culture's misconstruction that breasts are primarily sexual?

Many women, including myself, are fortunate to belong to a church that accepts and even affirms the natural role breasts play in nourishing our children. Too many others, however, experience the opposite, asked to remove themselves to a private place because the act of breastfeeding might "cause a man to stumble" or because "children shouldn't see that."

This is what happens when the focus of modesty becomes merely covering up our bodies. It reduces men to slavering dogs and women to tantalizing temptresses, affirming our culture's message that breasts are primarily sexual.

Such messages are demeaning, insulting, and damaging.

They are demeaning to women who are made to feel ashamed of their bodies. Hidden away in back rooms or asked to cover up, many find themselves discouraged, berated, shamed, and even compared to strippers. Some women are made to feel so uncomfortable that the breastfeeding relationship itself becomes threatened. Other women lose out as well without the example of mothers nursing in their presence, particularly because breastfeeding is a right-brained activity that is best learned by imitation rather than instruction. Breastfeeding will never be considered normative if it is never seen. Have we become so afraid of our God-designed bodies that we fear "causing a man to stumble" by feeding our babies?

They are insulting to men who are treated as uncontrollable beasts at the mercy of their sexual impulses. When breastfeeding is suggested to be immodest, the implication is that a man is unable to control his thoughts at the mere glimpse of a piece of a woman's skin as her child latches on. Taught to fear both their desires and women's bodies, the body paradoxically becomes the focus. Rather than encouraging responsibility, compassion, and self-control, the source of discomfort (a woman breastfeeding her child) is removed, and so the cycle continues.

They are damaging to our sons and daughters of all ages who lose the opportunity to see breastfeeding as a natural, God-designed method of feeding babies. We deny children and young adults the chance to witness breasts being used for their primary purpose, leaving them at the mercy of secular culture where they soon learn to view breasts as sexual objects. And thus the cycle is perpetuated: breasts are shameful and breastfeeding is to be hidden away.

They are damaging to the church body who loses the richness of the breastfeeding imagery used throughout Scripture. (See, for example, Genesis 49:25, Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 60:16, Isaiah 66:10-11, and Psalm 22:9.) While Song of Solomon acknowledges the breasts' beauty and sexual nature (as well as that of the lips, face, hair, neck, arms, legs, and more), it is the picture of breasts as a source of loving nourishment and sustenance that takes center stage throughout Scripture. The Hebrew El Shaddai can be literally translated as "God of many breasts". When breastfeeding is treated as a necessary evil, tucked away for fear of the breasts' secondary sexual nature, the totality of the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child is not witnessed: the baby's full-bodied eagerness as he reaches for the breast, the bonding and responsiveness between the pair as they gaze at each other, the baby's utter satisfaction afterwards. That imagery is part of the whole and to miss it is to miss the full picture of the relationship between God and His children.

But what about modesty?

Scripture affirms modesty in the sense of godly character rather than the superficial beauty of outward adornment and expensive attire (1 Timothy 2: 8-10). Such modesty seeks to live a life that gives glory to God rather than to Self (much as the sacrificial and worshipful aspects of breastfeeding do).

When we reduce modesty to merely a way of dress, however, we lose the depth of the true meaning of modesty. Modesty is primarily an internal attitude, an inner sense of humbleness, comportment, character, and self-control that goes far deeper than the superficial level too many in the church hold to. The focus on clothing - sleeve length, skirt length, neckline, and so on - rather than the heart is a shameful distortion and reduction of that deeper, internal modesty.

Tracy beautifully describes her devastating experience with this nuance in her piece Perverting Modesty:
"With this attempt to dress me by this new definition of modestly, my genuine modesty of person was replaced with a fixation on a superficial modesty of shoulders and knees being covered...This modesty fetish has perverted the idea of true humbleness into a niche clothing market."
Of course, there is room for thoughtful respect of others. However, there is a difference between being discrete and hiding the act of breastfeeding entirely. There is no need to expose oneself more than necessary, but neither should a woman feel compelled to drape a blanket over her baby or move to another room. These things are welcome options, certainly, for those who feel most comfortable nursing in that manner, but the expectation of such a thing should have no place in our society. The distortion of what modesty means is reflected in every suggestion that feeding a hungry baby is immodest or improper.

The church is not the only place that routinely shames women for breastfeeding in public. Stores, restaurants, and other public areas are often likewise squeamish, ordering women to leave despite laws throughout Canada and most of the United States that protect a woman's right to breastfeed in any public area. Yet it is the church, mindful of the purity, goodness, and appropriateness of God's creations, that should be leading culture in this regard, not following along behind it.


The 20th annual World Breastfeeding Week takes place from August 1-7, 2012. This year's focus is "understanding the past, planning for the future."

Join the Natural Parents Network in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with their annual WBW blog hop!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Attachment Parenting Through the Challenging Times

You can find me over at Practicing Mammal today, guest posting on the topic of living out the ideals of attachment parenting in the thick of it all.

During these early years, when dealing with the unique challenges of young children, pregnancy, or both, maintaining those attachment ideals can be difficult. Other demanding or stressful situations, too, can distract from our attachment focus. How do we resist these challenges and distractions and continue to parent in an attachment-oriented way?

First, we stop resisting.

Read the rest over at Practicing Mammal!

Practicing Mammal is mother to seven children, ages 5 through 25, and wife to her "favourite husband". She is passionate about community, gentle parenting, and Christ-centered marriage. Her experience makes her an invaluable mentor to the young mothers around her as she ministers to them regarding attachment parenting and the Christian perspective. Be sure to check out some of her other excellent posts while you're there, particularly her ten-part series on Attachment Parenting (links in the sidebar on her blog).

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Weekend Reading

Blessed Laws of Motherhood @ Growing an Olive Tree
Now, a women who is not permitted to go into the Temple, be out in society, or cook or clean for her family is bound to what?


I look at the laws of motherhood and interpret that passage as a special time the Lord has designated to set a woman and her new baby apart for bonding and postpartum recovery. By limiting her social and family responsibilities, the Lord is giving provision for her body to heal and the breastfeeding relationship to be established. Other women of the community were likely present to care for her, and the needs of her home. She was blessed to be totally free to focus her care and attention on the new baby, because she's not busy with household chores. In the words of the doula movement, I suspect the community was "Taking care of the mother so she could take care of the baby."

Thriving Is More Than The Specifics @ Rosmarinus Officinalis
We didn’t choose to cosleep because API recommends it, but because we valued her nighttime needs as much as her daytime needs, and having her with us allowed everyone in the family to sleep better. It didn’t interfere with our sex life, and it wasn’t a drain on our marriage. We know that children whose needs are met promptly and gently use that extra energy towards their emotional and mental growth. All three of us thrived, and she slowly moved to sleeping in her own bed when she showed signs that she was ready. We have an open-door policy and she still ends up with us most early mornings, but she has a healthy relationship with sleep in her own space and in ours. It goes back to being a safe place for her.

Finding Joy @ Simple Homeschool
Yes. I am a happy person. But sometimes I forget that joy and play are worthy of a spot on my “to do” list.

Sometimes I even behave as though work and joy are mutually exclusive.

But they’re not.

The God of the Mundane @ Internet Monk
The church is awash in the belief that the extraordinary acts of faith – missions, vocational ministry, street evangelism – are our marks of meaning and significance.

“Do something radical. Or crazy. Whatever you do, don’t be ordinary. Because, obviously, you cannot live a mundane life unto God.”

I wish I had looked in the eyes of homemakers and electricians, accountants and actuaries, farmers and physical therapists and told them differently.

Am I alone in worrying there is no God for the mundane? You know for those who, in the name of Jesus, are simply faithful spouses, honest in business, love their children well and enjoy the world they live in while waiting for the next — is there a God for them?