gaining wisdom

The Gift of Giving: In My Arms

The cover image for Plumb's "Blink" Album, https://missinginkshop.com/plumb/store/music/blink

 

"Your baby blues, so full of wonder

Your curly cues, your contagious smile

And as I watch, you start to grow up

All I can do is hold you tight  

Knowing clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms  

Story books full of fairy tales

Of kings and queens and the bluest skies

My heart is torn just in knowing

You'll someday see the truth from lies

 

When the clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms

 

Castles they might crumble

Dreams may not come true

But you are never all alone

Because I will always, always love you

 

When the clouds will rage

And storms will race in but you will be safe in my arms

Rains will pour down, waves will crash all around

But you will be safe in my arms, in my arms."

The Lyrics from "In My Arms", Written and Performed by:  Plumb

 

This song by Plumb is one of those mommy songs that always “gets” me.  I can be guaranteed a good cry by the time I get to the chorus, and by the end I’m pondering motherhood and all its many joys.  It’s good sometimes to step back from the daily routines and truly ponder what it means to love and be loved.

When Gabriel was young, I used to hold him close in my arms.  I had a sense of control that while there, he would be completely safe.  The clouds could race in, the storms could rage.  But he would be safe.  It was that fairy tale time—I was queen and he was my little prince.  But even in my arms I could not keep his heart beating, or feed him if his little tummy did not first send the hunger cue to his brain.

He is only 18 months now, but his independence has grown, and I have already felt those strange moments of him growing up.  And though it feels forever away, if what every mother says is true, I will blink, and he will be 18.  His dreams may not come true, his castle might crumble, and the storms might rage against him.  Even then, I will figuratively hold him in my arms, and tell him how much I love him.

The hard truth remains that he will never be completely safe in my arms.  I will do everything I can as a mother to protect my child physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  But he will be exposed to hurt and prayerfully growth in all of those areas.  I don’t want to “overprotect” him.  I think most of us have seen the harm in that extreme—need I follow up Plumb’s song with creepy Mother Gothel’s “Mama Knows Best” from Tangled?  Not the ideal either.

Thankfully, even though I cannot completely keep my child safe, I have found comfort in another truth.   It’s the love that I feel when I am so in love with my son.  It’s the fact that I am not the only one who feels this love for my son.  There’s my husband, and my parents and his parents, and Gabriel’s myriad of aunts and uncles, and his three boy cousins, and friends, ranging from 0-90 years old.  I find comfort in the fact that it’s not just me trying to help him through the storms of life.  Our community is right there helping.

The love that has overwhelmed me the most is the love from God, who says He loves us with an everlasting love, one that is higher than the heavens, deeper than the oceans, and farther than the East is from the West.  He has that same love for my son.  Love deeper than mine.  A love that can not only protect from the storms of life, but send them running the other direction with a simple command.

All these are the arms into which I find myself, my son in my arms.

Reflections: An Interview with Karen Young

At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC ---

I asked my mom if I could interview her about motherhood.

She said yes.

Because she's my mom.

And she's awesome.

And I begged a little.

Here's what we talked about!

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Q: How many children do you have? What years were they born? A: I have 2 daughters, one born in 1981 and the other in 1983.

Q: But you love your first daughter more, right?  'Cause she's the best daughter?  Mom, hello? *Crickets chirping* 

Q: What are some of your memories about being pregnant? A: When I was pregnant with my first child, my friend was pregnant with twins at the same time. I gained about 10 pounds MORE than my friend…and she delivered her twins a month early!

With my second pregnancy, it felt so different, I was sure it was a boy. It wasn’t.

I also remember that I went into labor with my second child during the season finale of M*A*S*H - February 28, 1983. It was a really good episode!

Q: You had two miscarriages, both after your second child. Did that affect your decision to not have more children? A: Not really, I was a working mom with two little kids and at 35-36 years old, I just didn’t feel like I had the energy to start all over with a newborn.

Q: Where did you get maternity clothing? A: I made some, shopped at a maternity and children’s shop in town and got some clothes as gifts. I wore a lot of the same pants over and over with different tops.

Q: Did you have special nursing clothing? A: Yes, nursing bras, my maternity tops and anything loose-fitting.

Q: Did you take any classes or read any books about pregnancy? A: Yes, definitely. Our local hospital had a program run by some of the nurses for husbands and wives (or you and your support partner). I think it lasted six weeks. The last week included a hospital tour. I also read some books about breastfeeding and baby development. No Google for me!

Q: Did you know what to expect during labor? A: For the most part. My husband was there the whole time. I was mostly monitored by nurses and the doctor was only there at the end for each delivery.

Q: Did you get a lot of advice from your female family members or friends? A: Not lots.

Q: What do you remember from your labor(s)? A: I had horrible hemorrhoids after my first child’s labor and I was VERY AFRAID of that during the second labor. I also remember being chastised by the nurse after my first labor. She said that my diet during pregnancy caused my hemorrhoids. Stupid woman.

My message to laboring women - “Do not push like you’re going to the bathroom!”

I remember that after my first labor they used a UV light for healing (of stitches, maybe?). It was kind of awkward because they stuck this giant light between my legs.

Also, I had to have an enema before my first labor, but they discontinued that policy by the time I had my second.

Q: Did you have an induction medication or epidurals? A: I don’t really remember, but I think I had an epidural with both labors.

With my second child, labor stalled and I was a week past my due date. I was induced to continue to labor. During the induction meds, the doctor and my husband were discussing the Civil War at length and I found that fairly irritating. I had to remind the doctor that “I was the patient”.

Q: Did you deliver at home, a hospital, or somewhere else? A: 2 hospital births

After delivering my first baby, I was put in a “ward” with other mothers for a time until I was moved to a private room for a day.

Q: How did you feel when you saw your baby the first time? A: I was excited to see that my first child had LOTS of hair. I did NOT want a bald baby. Bald babies would have been sent back for further cooking!

I didn’t have ultrasounds during either pregnancy, so I was, of course, happy to know whether the baby was a boy or girl.

With my second, I was really surprised since I was certain it was a boy. My second daughter also had hair, so she was allowed to stay.

Q: Did you breastfeed? Why or why not? A: Yes. I breastfed because I was cheap and it was easier. I did have some trouble once I got home from the hospital, but I eventually figured it out. I exclusively breastfed until I went back to work (5 months with my first, 6 months with my second) and then both babies were fed formula at lunchtime, but I still nursed in the mornings and evenings.

Q: When did you start solid foods? A: We started solids around six months and we used rice cereal. I was advised to start solid food if “the baby seemed hungry” even with nursing/formula. We introduced one new food at a time and I used some jarred food and made some of my own.

Q: Where did your babies sleep? Did your children share beds/bedrooms? A: We had a bassinet in our room for a few weeks with each newborn before moving them to a crib in a separate room. When we moved our second child out of our room, she shared a room with her two-year-old sister.

Q: Did you keep baby books for each child? A: We had a baby calendar for both of them, but I’ve misplaced them. I did save cards from their baby showers and some major holidays.  

Q: Do you remember any difficulties you had? A: I was concerned that my first child was a month old and wasn’t sleeping though the night. (I nursed at 11 pm.) I talked to nurse friend and she suggested using a pacifier instead of nursing (as long as my child was gaining weight). It took about a week of the baby waking and getting a pacifier instead of nursing.

I don’t remember when my second child started sleeping through the night, but I don’t remember it being an issue.

I remember that in the winters, bathtime was an issue because we had a drafty, poorly insulated house. We would take the kids to the basement to bathe in front of the woodstove.

With both girls, c.1984

Q: Did things get easier or harder with subsequent children? A: Easier, because I had experience. My attention was divided between two children, but I felt like I knew better what I was doing.

Q: Were your children well-behaved? A: I think they were both well-behaved. My second child was a little less “cooperative”, particularly during church time. However, I thought they both had a good attention span for their ages especially compared to some other children (friends’ children) of similar ages. I’m not sure if it was due to good parenting or just good luck. We did a lot of “looking at book time” and I think that helped with their ability to sit still.

Q: What do you remember most fondly about your babies' first years? A: I remember that I enjoyed watching my parents with my children.  My father was retired by that time and it was fun seeing him play with my girls because that was something he was often too busy to do with his own children.

Q: How much TV time under 2? A: Not much. We didn’t have many TV stations, and we couldn’t always get the PBS station. The girls watched some TV at the babysitter’s house. We didn’t get a VCR until late 1980s, but we didn’t really watch a lot of videos either.

Q: And no video games? A: No video games.

Q: Did your children have any serious illnesses? A: My first child needed a hernia operation when she was 6 years old.

My second child needed a hernia operation at 6 months and she had walking pneumonia during kindergarten. She also had some trouble with croup when she was in kindergarten and eventually had some asthma issues.

Both girls had the chicken pox – ages 6 and 4.

But no broken bones!

Q: Did you stay home with your children or did you work outside the home? A: I was an elementary school teacher, so I worked full-time, but was home during summers. My husband owned his own business and had a more flexible schedule. If the kids were sick, usually my husband stayed home with them.

Q: Since you worked, who watched your children? A: We used private, "at their home" babysitters.

Q: What were some of your hardest/saddest moments as a parent? A: It was always hard when one of the kids was sick or injured. Fortunately they weren’t ever seriously sick. And it was difficult watching my children struggle with normal adolescent issues. I was hard being unable to “fix” everything.

Q: Do you have regrets as a mother? A: I don’t really have regrets because ultimately I’m happy with how things have worked out. Sure, it would have been nice to have more money or a bigger (less drafty) house, but basically I was happy with our decisions at the time. I think we did the best we could with what we had. And honestly there isn’t any point in feeling bad about past decisions. They’re over.

Q: Are there special mementos you cherish from (or of) your children? A: We still hang a lot of their handmade Christmas ornaments each year and I really love looking through old photo albums.

Q: Are there things mothers do today that you think are crazy? A: I think too many parent let their children dictate what happens in the home, in the store or in school. It’s crazy that a parent would have an out of control child and say, “I just don’t know what to do.” Parents shouldn’t act (or be) so helpless.

I think that using “time outs” as a discipline tool is silly. Sometimes you need a little cooling off period (both as a parent and as the child), but I think that parents who believe that there should be NO physical punishment or correction are absolutely wrong.

I think that kids now get way too many material things. They just have too much STUFF. And because they have so much, they don’t appreciate or take care of their things the way they should.

Parents should require that their children take care of their things and make sure that they’re put away. It teaches them to respect their home.

And I don’t understand parents who don’t expect their children to contribute to the chores of a family. It’s important for kids to have “jobs” within the home. Giving an allowance is fine, but children shouldn’t be paid to do the dishes or make their beds. Those are jobs that everyone has because they’re part of a family and those are the responsibilities of each person in the house.

Q: What’s your biggest piece of advice for mothers raising children today? A: Teach your children personal responsibility.

Q: What were some of your proudest moments as a mother? A: I remember that a family member without children commented about how fun it was to spend time with my children. And I remember feeling very proud when people complimented me on how well-behaved my children were.

I’m also proud of having two grown daughters who are independent and am proud of the way they’re living their lives. I’m proud of the men they’ve chosen to be with, too.

My husband and I wanted to raise children that we would enjoy spending time with once they were adults. I feel like we’ve succeeded.

The whole family, January 2013.

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See.  I told you my mom is awesome. 

Words of Wisdom

January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC--

When I heard the topic for January was "Words of Wisdom", I was so excited. Over the years I have been so blessed to have some amazing women in my life. Many of them have been mothers and I have had the chance to learn from them. Not all advice works for everyone, but I have been lucky enough to find some gems that I think apply pretty much across the board. I thought I would share them with you.

Say Yes: When I was 15, my first nephew was born. Over the past 13 years I have had the privilege of watching my brother and his wife raise three boys. One of the things that has always impressed me is my sister-in-law's willingness to say “YES!”. While as a parent we can’t say yes to everything, she has a policy of saying yes unless she has a good reason not to. Yes for her, a parent of three pre-teen boys looks very different than me saying yes to two pre-school age girls, but her mentality has inspired me. So often I find myself saying no. To bubbles, to play dough, to pancakes, to bubble baths at 2 in the afternoon. I can’t always drop everything and color with my kids, but I could say yes much more.

Holding a Child's Hand

This is Best Part: Up to my elbows in dirty diapers and sticky hands, I used to get so frustrated when my mother would tell me, “This is the easy part.” More than once I went to bed in tears thinking that if this was the easy part there was no way I would survive. And then one day, I finally had enough sleep to hear what my mom was REALLY saying. Yes, this is the best/easiest part. And the next one will be as well. When my children hit grade school and are dealing with bullies, I will look back on this and wish all problems could be fixed with kisses. When my daughters are fighting with me over clothes I will look back and miss the days of my child crying because her school uniform shirt isn’t “pretty”. If I spend all my time wishing for the next stage, or longing for the last, I will miss the now...and the now is the best part.

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back: A few years ago, our pastor asked a group of us young parents to make a list of what we wanted our children to be/not to be in 20 years. While there were a lot of good things on the list, the first thing that came to mind for me was that I wanted my children to not be bitter. In 20 years, I hope that my children will be able to look back on their childhood and forgive my mistakes. We had a great conversation with our pastor about not letting fear hold you back. The fact is, as a parent, you will make mistakes. It’s just part of life. You will screw up. If you let the fear of messing up stop you, you will make even BIGGER ones. And that leads to...

Say You Are Sorry: The best mothers I know are the ones who are willing to go back to their kids when they mess up and say they are sorry. From yelling at a toddler to hurting your adult child, being willing to say you are sorry is often the only way to maintain a relationship.

And when all else fails, remember: “It’s just the first 40 years that are the hardest...”

At least that’s what my mother says...and my brother turns 41 next month.

Following the Path That Found Me

cloth diapers

January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC--

Hello everyone, my name is Sara and I'm a "natural" mom. I'm a breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby food making, natural childbirth advocate and I have no idea how I got here. You can read in my bio that I didn't grow up as one of those girls who day dreamed about the day when I'd earn the title of 'mother'. But now that I've got it I have to admit I'm quite surprised at the path motherhood has taken me on thus far.

I guess you could say that our planning process began before we even got pregnant… but we were totally clueless that it was happening.

When the hubs and I got hitched we signed up for a class that taught Natural Family Planning (NFP).  I won't dive into too much detail but it's basically birth control without the birth control. Natural. Effective. Awesome. I had been on the look out for a new gynecologist ever since making the move to GA so when our NFP teacher recommended a Christian-based practice that wasn't far from our house I thought I'd hit the jackpot. And after going to the practice and meeting the staff I was sure of it. Jackpot, all the way! Oddly enough it took me actually getting pregnant to realize that the 'doctor' I had seen at my first annual visit was actually a midwife. I guess I REALLY trusted my NFP teacher's recommendations and did little research on my own. Oh well. I was totally in love with her so I never thought twice. I was pregnant and a midwife was going deliver our baby. The plan was falling into place.

We started the usual schedule of pregnancy check-ups and one day while waiting for the midwife to come into the room, I noticed a flyer on the corner table promoting a child birthing class. It had dates and contact information and something about a "Bradley Method" so I thought, what the heck, may as well see if we can't get some birthing wisdom. It's customary, right? Once again… for whatever reason I did little to NO research on the Bradley Method before scheduling our classes. It was only after a very pregnant Bradley coach was sitting in our living room teaching us how to 'simulate sleep' during labor that the hubs and I fully realized it was a natural method of childbirth. No drugs. Very little intervention. Au Natural. She was a wonderful coach and completely sold us on the method so we thought, cool… let's run with it. I started out thinking, "Yeah, I'll try this naturally but if I decide that I can't handle it I won't be above getting an epidural". But after each class I became more and more confident in the fully natural Bradley method and the more confident I became in my own ability to successfully deliver without any medical intervention. The more I learned the more I fell in love with the miracle of childbirth. Another piece of the plan... laid out for me to follow.

So, we have a midwife and are going to bring this baby into the world without any medical intervention. Right on. What's next in the progression of what I like to affectionately call our 'hippy dippy decisions'? Choosing to breastfeed for at least a year, make our own baby food, and opt for cloth diapers over disposable. WHAT? Through a series of unidentified events that flowed through our birthing classes, research by the hubs and I, a desire to avoid letting a child completely bankrupt us, and talking with other new moms, we went full-fledged "natural". I never imagined I would consciously make the decision to nurse for a full 12 months, spray poop off a piece of cloth then throw it in my washing machine, or puree fruits and veggies on a weekly basis, but sometimes you have to follow that path that is laid out for you instead of trying to construct your own from scratch.

I'm so thankful that I had an open enough mind to embrace all the new ideas that were being thrown my way. The decisions my husband and I made surrounding my pregnancy and childbirth made such a strong impact on my life that I've even added becoming a birthing coach and even a midwife to my life's TO DO list. Gaining the right wisdom to suit your needs doesn't always come from the places you expect. Sometimes it just falls in your lap and you run with it.

What I Wish I'd Known

January is often a time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC-- Wisdom is certainly something I have gained through being a mother -- my ideas and thoughts change from baby to baby, or even minute to minute.  As parents, we are always evolving as we find what works and what doesn't, and I think that is a good thing -- the ability to change and grow.  As a doula, I love watching moms and dads prepare for and start their journey into parenthood -- what an amazing time!  It is not something to enter into blindly, however, and I love educating women on all the choices that they have when it comes to birth.  Below is a bit of information about my journey -- my journey to find something that felt just right.

 

What I wish I knew for my 1st birth:

  • You only get 1 “first birth.”
  • You have lots of choices—do your research.
  • Listen to others and ask questions—don’t take what one person says as an absolute truth.  Sample lots of people (friends and family members)—learn from their experiences.
  • You have time.  Although good prenatal care is important, not every decision has to be made by the time you are 6 weeks pregnant.
  • Choosing your Primary Care Provider is more important than choosing a hairdresser—ask more than one person (even if she has good hair).
  • Listen to your gut—if you don’t feel comfortable, move on.
  • Read, study, learn, grow—devour information.
  • These are not good reasons for picking a place to have your baby: gourmet food, new building or state of the art labor and delivery rooms, or distance (within reason).
  • There is no reason to be afraid of the pain—the pain is manageable, exhilarating, and necessary for having a baby.
  • Fear comes from lack of understanding—labor is natural and the female body was made to have a baby.

 

My first birth did nothing but set me up for failure in future births.  That statement seems very harsh (so harsh I almost did not type it), but it is true.  I was induced early, and despite a fairly uncomplicated labor, I was given a terrible episiotomy (after only pushing 3 times, so I doubt it was any sort of “emergency”).  Breastfeeding was almost a complete failure, except for the fact that an amazing lactation consultant helped me and encouraged me.  My baby had to stay in the hospital for almost a week due to jaundice, because he was born too early—this only added to my breastfeeding trouble and my baby blues.  I never saw the doctor that delivered him again, and I am fairly certain that I cannot even picture her face.

My first birth taught me nothing—surprising—because people kept commenting on how well things went.   That birth led me into my 2nd birth, which lead me straight to the O.R. to welcome my baby with my arms strapped to the table and my husband outfitted in scrub gear.  I first laid eyes on my daughter as she was lifted over a blue surgical curtain.

I finally hit my birthing wall and wised up, however my 1st and 2nd births followed me.  I desired to have my future babies in a Birthing Center; however, due to being a VBAC (Vaginal Birth after Cesarean) I had to be monitored more closely in Labor and Delivery.   (I won’t even mention that stupid episiotomy—scar tissue is not very strong, and even by baby number 4, he was still showing his ugly face.)  Even so, my 3rd and 4th babies were welcomed into the world by the skilled and patient hands of an excellent midwife.  Her face will always be etched in my mind, her calm voice in my head—she is a part of our family. When my 3rd baby was born and placed on my chest, I was so surprised by how calm and miraculous it was all at the same time.  My husband said, “I love midwives!” while staring into the face of our new son.

If I could do it all over again, it would be so different.  However, I can’t go back, only forward.  There is no reason to sit around and think about all the “what ifs”, and likewise, there is no reason to blame myself or point fingers.  That being said, I don’t want to sit back and watch women march blindly into birth—I want them to be informed one way or another.  I want women to make choices that best fit themselves and their families, even if they are not the same choices that I would make.

My birth journeys have made me who I am today, and for that I am thankful.  No matter what, I will never forget the emotion of laying eyes on my first born child—there are no words to describe the feeling, so I won’t even try.  However, if you are a mother, I know you are picturing it, feeling it deep within.  The sounds, the sights, the smells…they will never be like the first time, will they?