Monthly Archives: May 2013

Confession: Labor and Nursing May Not Go As Smoothly As You Expect

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The go-to book for pregnant moms for a decade has been What To Expect When You’re Expecting.  I had it in my newly created parenting library during the years that I was producing children.  It is so much fun to try to connect with the development of this little life as it is happening, instead of having to wait until birth day to see what has been cooking inside.

However, one of the drawbacks of this book is that at the same time that it logs day by day the development of your baby, it also logs all of the things that can possibly go wrong.

If you are a mom that dwells on fear, you have to selectively read that book, drawing out the things that spark your imagination and faith, and skipping the parts that provide a feast for your fear.

There are so many great resources out there to help moms-to-be have great experiences with labor and the first days after having a baby.  Some are really helpful.  But some seem like they might have been written by people who don’t walk in the same reality that the rest of us do.  They promise things that I certainly didn’t experience.

My advice for labor is to put together a great plan for the delivery room that helps you be intentional about the experience that you’d like to create, but be willing to set that plan aside if things don’t go as you expected.  The goal of labor (besides having a healthy mom and baby) is to walk out of the delivery room saying, “That was awesome!”  For me, that meant fighting through the pain and fear and not using pain meds.  For others, it means walking in declaring that you’d like to be fully medicated/anesthetized.   For yet others, it means water birth, midwife-led, or home birth.  Whatever the case, remember that not all things go as planned, and emotional flexibility is really important.

And let me also say that for most people, nursing a newborn hurts.  It is valuable, the most natural and healthiest route for your baby (and for the new mom), but it also can be quite painful.  I certainly am not trying to be Debbie Downer, but again, I think that it is important to walk into the process with all of the information possible.  It might be a glorious experience from the first time your baby latches on, but odds are that it will be a bumpy road in the beginning, and that a lactation consultant will be your best friend.  Use their expertise liberally.

It is my opinion that our lives are neither about being perfect, nor avoiding pain at all costs, but about going through it, together, and finding grace for the experience.

(Image courtesy of imagerymajestic found on http://www.freedigitalphotos.net)

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Interruption – A Tribute

This week marks 3 huge events in my elder son’s life:  high school graduation, his 18th birthday, and his receipt of Eagle Scout.  I had to stop the progress of my little series on parenting to honor one of my own.

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As you might know, years ago I chose to homeschool my kids; therefore, I can speak from first-hand knowledge that this son was a fantastic student.  He is one of those students that never rolled his eyes in complaint about a subject assigned, he didn’t negotiate to get out of school early, he always had a good attitude, and he was very smart.  His main fault when it came to his education process is that he had such a full sense of humor that he was forever making us all laugh.  I can’t imagine school without him interjecting his humor and laughter to our process.

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Today this amazing young man turns 18.  He has been one of those kids that makes their parents look amazing.  He converses well with adults, being respectful and articulate.  He is inclusive of younger kids, being willing to step away from the grown-up conversations to help little ones feel special.  He is self-controlled and well-grounded when it comes to his peers, always making the thoughtful, responsible choices.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.

On top of all of that, he has recently earned his Eagle Scout rank in the Boy Scouts.  Some of you may know how difficult and rare this achievement is; but very few of you know how incredibly difficult his journey to this achievement was.  Remembering that we just made a cross-country move, what that meant to his Boy Scout career was that the hours and hours of work that he’d invested towards getting his Eagle project completed in Connecticut was lost. He had to start over in Texas, not just on developing a new project and the myriads of paperwork and decisions necessary to see it through to completion, but also relationally, building respect and trust amongst his peers and their leaders.  Add to all of this that the troop that he joined rarely awards Eagles, and has never, ever awarded one to a transfer scout.  He has had to work and work to get things accomplished, he has had to swallow his pride when he was misunderstood, and has had to stretch himself well-beyond his comfort level to navigate complicated relationships.

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With the help of one exceptional scout/friend that committed his time and effort to seeing Josiah succeed, the contributions of those who believed in him and were willing to help fund his project, and his siblings who relentlessly cheered him on, he got all of the requirements necessary checked off yesterday.  His Court of Honor, where he will receive his award, is a few months off, but we in the family are celebrating this accomplishment.

So today, I stop to honor my son as he graduates high school, turns 18, and accomplishes his Eagle Scout rank.  Quite a bit for a day’s work!

 

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Confession: I didn’t bond with my baby right away.

As I discussed in my last post, there are myriads of definitions that parents have of what being a parent means.  The more experienced you are at parenting, the more you realized that those definitions typically don’t hold much weight when you’re staring the down the barrel of reality.

As I was talking with a mom-to-be friend of mine, I heard in her words several of the “good mom” statements that I had said myself, before I actually held any of my children.  I thought it would be a good use of time on this site to explore some of the most commonly held expectations and deal with them honestly.

Confession:  I didn’t bond with my baby right away.  Maybe I should restate that:  I loved my daughter immediately, but because of what I’d heard from other parents about the magical, instant connection between mother and child (you know the one…where heaven parts, the angels sing, rainbows descend into the hospital room, the baby looks dreamily in your eyes, and you instantly know what their every need is and how you should respond) didn’t happen with me.  In fact, I must admit that even after a few days of being trained in the arts of nursing, bathing, changing and swaddling this baby, I still brought home a virtual stranger.  I remember looking at my husband with the beginning edges of panic joining with my words as I asked, “What do we do with her now?”

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Over time, as I began to be able to read her sounds, create a workable schedule, and learned to appreciate the wonder of who she was, I relaxed and gracefully stepped into the long journey of parenting.

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Two and a half years later, when we repeated this process with my son, I found myself crying in my car one evening, terrified by the fact that I didn’t love both of my children at the same time.  At least that was the way it felt.  At times, I resented my new son for infringing on the special times that I was creating with  my daughter, and other times I resented my daughter for stealing time away from the pure joy of caring for my new baby.  I really thought I was either going crazy, or somehow lacked the “mother” gene that I was supposed to have to make room for more than one child.

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And what made it worse was that no one around me was talking about this phenomenon. I had no one to either commiserate with me, or put my mind at ease, and no one to tell me that I wasn’t going crazy.  In reality, what I really needed were the magical ingredients of time, fellowship, and sleep.

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I can only imagine what it must be like for moms who suffer with postpartum depression, or moms who adopt a child/children that take extra grace to bond with.

We’ve got to take down the walls of perfectionism and isolationism to reveal the healthy and normal varieties of experiences found in bringing our babies home, and rearing them through all kinds of situations.  We’ve got to be willing to be real with those around us so that we destroy the myths of the ideals that we expect.  Sure, there are some absolutely ideal situations that we experience with our families.  Those should be shared freely.  But with equal candor, we need to share the days that we find ourselves at a complete loss, the days spent in tears, and the days that it is only by the grace of God that we don’t climb into our beds, vowing not to get out until the kids are in college!

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Confession: I Really Wanted a Son

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I was talking with a dear friend who just found out she is pregnant with her first baby.  While she has initiated conversations about child raising in the past, the conversations have just gotten more desperate and specific.  The impending arrival of her bundle has brought a lot of insecurities to the surface.  What I heard in her concerns has been reflected in conversations I’ve had with many others over the years.  There seems to be a pattern of expectations on how the new mom will feel – how the new mom will function.  I thought that I’d do a little series on exposing expectations that we have as parents that aren’t talked about much in the mom circles.  The things that a “perfect” mom wouldn’t feel (or admit to feeling).

The first one:  I’ll be happy with whatever gender my baby has, as long as its healthy.

Beautiful, loving, and gentle sentiment.  To some it may actually be true; however, my guess is that more often than not, we have strong opinions/wishes/hopes of what the make-up of our family will look like.  We certainly wish/hope for healthy children.  And if we’re honest, most of us have hopes about how many we’ll have and what gender they will be.  We need to permission ourselves to have hopes, be disappointed as often as not, and to be honest about it.

So here’s my raw confession:  I really wanted the opposite gender.  I mean, really wanted.  As in, I cried when I heard that I was having a girl.  Sobbed.  I always thought having a son first would set the stage for the perfect family.  My husband would be the world’s best dad to a son, and this perfect boy would step into the natural responsibility of being a great, protective, and comforting big brother.  And then we had our little girl.  Of course, I loved desperately and deeply my daughter when she arrived.  She was an ornament in our lives, and the exact personality and gender that we needed to begin our parenting journey.

Did I learn my lesson?  Of course not!

When I found out that I was pregnant again, I once more had strong opinions about what gender should be next.  This time, I had imagined that having 3 girls would be the perfect family composition.  I was sure of it.  Convinced of it.  I had allowed my imagination to see myself floating through flowery fields with my 3 lovely girls, their golden hair flowing in the wind.  I would dress them alike, teach them the wonderful ways of femininity, and watch them share deep secrets amongst each other.

But a sonogram revealed a little boy’s anatomy which quickly burst my bubble, and had me bursting into tears yet again.

Repeat the scenario 2 years later when I found out that I was pregnant with my second boy.  Seriously, I cried immediately outside of the Dr.’s office after seeing a boy on the sonogram.  Not the pretty, serene crying that sophisticated people call “weeping”.  I grieved.  Ugly crying.

With each birth of these amazing babies, I was instantly smitten.  I was able to step back and bask in God’s wisdom for my family, snuggling with my three amazing children.  His ability to manage my life was and is indisputable.  They are irreplaceable and forever have my heart.

(When my 4th baby’s gender was identified, I didn’t cry.  That, however, wasn’t because I’d matured and had learned to control my expectations, but because I actually desired the gender that I was getting!  My eldest daughter had prayed for a baby sister, and when I turned up pregnant, I knew that we HAD to have a girl for her desires to be fulfilled.  When the Dr. told us that we were actually having a girl, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I’d not once gone into a gender-revealing sonogram appointment and left with my expectations fulfilled!)

I’ll have to let someone else speak who has adopted children, but I’m sure there is an aspect of this to which you can identify.  I’ve seen and heard enough to know that not all things go as planned in the adoption process!

I felt like it was important to get out on the blogging world that it is normal to have hopes and wishes of what our family will look like.  It doesn’t disqualify us from being parents, nor does it diminish our ability to nurture and love these little offspring.  If you are a natural planner who likes things in order, there are a lot of things in your parenting journey that you will have opinions about, but that won’t be in your control.  We all have to learn that it is completely OK to have opinions, and it is also healthy to relax in His wisdom for the things we can’t control.

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