Monday, June 28, 2010

General Update

Thank you for following me to the new blog and for the anniversary wishes. I truly have the sweetest husband on the planet. I came home from work today to 3 dozen roses-a dozen for faith, a dozen for hope, and a dozen for love.

These were our wedding invitations:

And the same "Faith, Hope, Love" theme was in our readings, on our cake, on our bookmark favors, and several other places so he was playing off of that. And I carried purple roses, and one of the bouquets was purple. We had reservations to go to the Melting Pot, which is where we like to go, but close to when we were leaving, I got sick again, so we canceled and we just stayed in playing games, reading, and just hanging out-no expectations, no disappointment, just being together. I love how thoughtful and sensitive and gentle he is.

I'm generally feeling a little bit better. I seem to go longer between episodes, but when I have them, they are more severe. However, I think I'll take the severity-with-breaks as opposed to the ongoing version I've been having. However, I have lost 6 pounds, and I was having some more bleeding over the weekend so my doctor wants me to come in again, tomorrow. Woohoo, another look at baby! Honestly, I'm not worried-I called for informational purposes because I had a couple of questions, not because I'm worried. The only thing that gives me cause for worry is that HE is worried.

Our friend Mike was back in the hospital over the weekend--please pray for him. He's home now while they wait for the tumor board to meet, but we're not sure what the tests they ran this weekend will show and we're praying it's not another tumor. Thank you for praying!

We did have the kids on Sunday as a result. Their daughter absolutely ADORES Todd. Like to the point that I think she'll be crushed when she becomes old enough to realize he's taken. They're both equally wrapped around the other's finger. He's great with kids in general but I particularly love watching him with me such a sweet picture of what our life will be like with our own kids.

I am grateful to have lost a little more weight so that when I put it all back on (and then some), I'll be a little ahead of where I was. But I'm also sort of secretly anxious for a "baby bump" too. I know it will take forever, because I have a rather substantial "too much bad food plus too little exercise plus a hormone imbalance" bump already that baby first has to overcome, but I'm still looking forward to looking pregnant.

We've started talking about names. I sort of window-shopped around the net the other day at nursery bedding and furniture. Tonight I did a lot of reading on cloth diapering. It's overwhelming! I'm not "crunchy" by any means, but holy cow, the chemicals in disposable diapers are terrible! Cloth diapering grosses me out a little bit, but the thought of all those chemicals and all that extra landfill I think grosses me out more. We'll see. We know which doctor we're using and which hospital we'll deliver at but beyond that, I keep changing my mind on birthing methods, intervention preferences, etc.

Which brings me to a frustration. I don't understand this movement in the Christian mothering world to be militant and one-size-fits all. I'm just not like that. And I only see it on one side of the spectrum. I feel so much pressure within the Christian community to only do things one way--Bradley method, unassisted or midwife assisted, drug-free home birth, after which I need to cloth diaper my baby, buy the nearest organic baby carrier and swear off strollers, join the La Leche league, feed them only breast milk and food I make myself, and then homeschool them.

I've already deviated from some of those choices and intend to deviate from several more. I hate that there's this sort of morality associated with it-like "this is the only way Good Christian moms do things." I don't understand why there's this sort of spiritual snobbery and underlying current that women who do those things love their children more, and why judgment comes on those who don't practice any or all of those things. Honestly, though I have good friends active in those movements and many others who birthed/raise their children according to those principles and who are NOT jerks about it, the general attitude that permeates from the movements as a whole is a huge turn-off for me.

Here's the thing. I want to do as many organic or chemical-free things as I can for baby. I want to take Bradley classes because they seem to give me the best understanding of what happens with my body and baby's. But I have no idea if I want an epidural or not. I'm terrified of having a c-section, but don't think it's a moral choice. I could never in a million years go through birth without a medical professional nearby. The idea of a hospital is comforting to me-the thought of a home birth terrifies me. I think Moby wraps are pretty cool but I hate most of the other wraps I've seen-they look so uncomfortable for mom and baby! I don't think I'll scar my child for life if I employ the moderate use of a stroller. I want to breastfeed, but if for some reason I can't adequately provide for baby, I want the freedom to explore other options. I might make my own baby food, or I might buy it in jars. I will not be joining La Leche and we have no intention of homeschooling.

Some people would read that and immediately gasp and start praying for us. And I just don't get it. I firmly believe that the choices a family makes are between the husband and wife, God, and their children and that they depend on what God is directing them to do and what is best for each child. And since no two parents, no two walks with God, and no two children are alike, how on earth could the answers to non-moral, non-doctrinal issues be universal? I don't have any ideological or moral objections to any of those things I mentioned, or their opposites. I just don't think they're moral issues at all.

I think it's part of a greater idea that I've become increasingly uncomfortable with. I think the American Protestant culture has become increasingly preoccupied with religi-fying society. We've become obsessed with keeping God in our pledge and on our money and in our schools, with pulling our kids out of those schools, with getting people to vote Republican, with trying to bully the President into participating in a prayer ceremony he doesn't believe in anyway, with banning gay marriage and gambling, etc, etc, etc, all because "God wants us to" and it's "the Christian way." Why aren't we devoting that same passion to genuinely spreading the gospel and the stories God has given each one of us to tell? I can't find anything in scripture to support ANY of those things. That's not to say they're unchristian or unbiblical, just that they're extra-biblical and where scripture is silent, I believe it is up to each person and each family to discern what God would have them do on those subjects.

Becoming militant about anything, especially non-salvation issues, isn't doing the cause of Christ any good. Goodness, I'm a Christian and I'm turned off! I just don't get it. That's not to say that I don't think there's a place for Christians in government or Christians in social causes or whatever, but I think our process of "Christianizing" as much as we can has eclipsed our primary purpose. If there was a true revival in this nation, we wouldn't need to fight the courts to keep God's name on our dollar bills. We need to be active in encouraging our friends as they spiritually parent their children, not in becoming invested in their diapering choices!

Thinking on those things lately has really been convicting, because I my personality CAN be a crusader-type. I'm passionate and pro-active and articulate and it's easy for me to get on a soapbox or a bandwagon. I don't want to be known by my cause unless that cause is Christ. I want the focus of our home to be on the Lord, not on some social structure and set of rules. I want to make parenting choices according to what is best for our kids, even if that's counter-cultural or different from child to child. And I want to be the kind of person that gives that same freedom to the parents around me and I want us to sojourn together as we each seek the Lord's best for our families.

Man, I had no idea this post was going to go this direction! Hubby is home from picking up a very late dinner so I'm gonna get back to him! Thanks for sticking with me.

I'll post tomorrow after our appointment!


  1. Agreed!!!! :)

    And hopefully I don't come across as one of the jerk-type crusaders.... I definitely try not to.

    Honestly, there are some aspects of our parenting decisions that I keep quiet about just because I know I'd be crucified for them, either from one side or the other. The mommy wars are very much out there and active, and they can be very, very vicious. Good perspective on that.

    Right now I'm getting hit again by the homeschool-only crowd - I am reading a couple of things that are in the "homeschooling is a Christian duty" camp. It's hard not to feel condemned!!!

    Thanks for writing! So excited to hear about baby tomorrow!!

  2. D-no you were one of the folks I was referring to who is active in some of those movements and who is not a jerk ;) I appreciate all I learn from you, and I DO learn a lot from you BECAUSE you're not a jerk who turns me off to her subject.

    Sorry you're getting hit with the homeschool stuff again. Stick to your guns! You and Joe have sought the Lord and He has brought you to a good solution for your family. What that solution is is nobody else's business! And stop reading those things!

  3. We cloth diaper - because of chemicals but more to save money.

    I nursed Jonathan til 1 year when he weaned himself because it was the healthiest, most natural thing for him - and again to save money.

    I wore Jonathan because it was the easiest way to get things done around the house... and I hate seeing babies stuck in "buckets" (car seat carriers) when we were out of the house. When he was really little it was also a good way to keep lots of hands off of him :) No money savings here.

    I made Jonathan's baby food. It was easy and natural. And again I saved money.

    We are now planning to homeschool even after I fought the idea for so long. But we're doing it because I've seen Jonathan's learning styles and he seems to be advanced for his age. I'm willing to do it because I don't want him to get lost in school, get bored, and act up. I'll do what is best for him from year to year.

    We take a step by step approach... what's best for this baby and our family. Many times those are financial decisions as you've seen above. And we plan to do it all over again when baby boy #2 comes in October... and we'll adjust as needed to him and how he fits into our family.

    Oh and don't be worried about the Dr. wanting to see you. Totally normal when I would bleed and they are probably keeping a closer eye on you up front.

  4. I think it is interesting that you associate that sort of militant thinking with Christians. In my experience, that is far more common from non-Christian crunchy/green/worship-the-goddess types.

    Anyway. Jen, I'd be happy to email with you on any of the topics you mentioned. I've cloth diapered AND used disposables. I've had a homebirth BUT I absolutely believe that you should be in a hospital if that makes you feel safe. And I'm just about finished with my doula course, so I'm pretty knowledgeable about birth options. I'd be really happy to offer any help you'd like, but only if you want it. :)

  5. Argh, my comment just got eaten. Trying again.

    I think you're right: there are universal principles (e.g., love your children), but those universal principles work out differently in different contexts. (I've often thought this about modesty. Modesty, as a principle, is universal, but it works out differently in different cultures.)

    One baby-related example? With my first two kids, having them vaginally was the best option: cheapest, easiest, safest. However, with my second two, having a c-section was honestly the most loving thing I could do, given their unique prenatal condition (being monoamniotic twins). Anything but a c-section would have been risking their lives.

    So there, within one family, you can see the same universal principle working out differently in different contexts. In each case, I was doing what was best for my child, but what was best for one child wasn't best for another.

    So, yep! I think you're onto something!

    There's definitely merit in having the debate - and especially merit in making sure women have options - but the choice in and over itself doesn't tell me, or anyone else, whether or not the mother is good or bad. There are good reasons to choose each option and bad reasons to choose each option. You weigh them, you pray about them, you listen, and you decide. I think you'll do wonderfully well.

  6. I fit in so many of these categories in the sense that we do them to suit our family as needed. I cloth diaper (it's not really all that gross) mostly to avoid blowouts. The money savings is nice and Miss L doesn't really ever have issues with rash and other health related problems that can come with disposables.

    I use a Wrapsody wrap (or a Gypsy Mama-they have more material for us tall mamas) when the babies are little because it's easier and helps with bonding when my breastfeeding attempt was a bust from the get go but I stuck with it for six months. Like someone else said, it kept a lot of hands off during RSV season, etc. Then when they are bigger I use the Ergo because it's super comfy and I can wear it for hours.

    The option to homeschool for is not completely out of the question because we don't think that the government schools are an option for us anymore. However, there is a classical Christian school that we love just down the road from us which is really the best option for us, I think. We are just praying that it will still be going when Miss L is ready for school in a few years.

    Yeah, there is a lot out there... if you would ever like to process the diaper thing (we do both cloth and disposables_ that would be great. Or if you would like help with figuring out a moby/wrap or try on an Ergo. :)

  7. We're due to have baby #3 in 2 weeks - we're going to cloth diaper for the first time. is a GREAT website that breaks down all the CD info out there - has been very helpful for me.
    We're doing it to save money, and that's pretty much the main reason. I think we have about $150 invested right now, and may spend another $75-100 more before he's potty trained, but when you look @ that vs the $2000-$2500 some studies say it costs to diaper a kid from birth to potty trained - it was a no brainer! :) That said, we will prob use disposables some, for church, my weekly bible study in the fall, and other events, just for the convenience of others that may not be comfortable/familiar with cloth diapering.
    Same with breastfeeding - I enjoyed it a lot with my girls, and it also saved a ton of money - and there are lots of health benefits for you and the baby, too. My older daughter did get occasional formula bottles - and she's just fine! :)
    I do plan to use a Maya wrap with this baby, mainly b/c I have 2 other kids and only 2 arms/hands... it will be a help when we go places.
    You will make the right choices for your family. You're doing the smart thing by researching now, and realizing that not every kid in every family fits into the same mold.
    So excited for you!!!!!

  8. The one piece of advice I have to give: plan, plan, plan, know what you want and (more importantly) WHY you want it, but let go of any expectations now.

    I was open to pain meds during birth, but wasn't planning to take anything until I hit 6 cm. I wanted to go into labor naturally, but had to be induced at 42 weeks (OY). The ensuing pain left me unable to relax, therefore unable to dilate, and I needed the epidural to avoid C-section. But the deviation from my plan made me feel like I had failed as a mom right from the start. I sure wish I hadn't had such high expectations.

    And then breastfeeding. OH, breastfeeding. I never made enough milk to exclusively feed Noah, and God knows I tried. But every time Noah was given a bottle of formula, I again felt like a failure-- often to the point of tears. And was I? No! It's just the way life works out.

    Don't even get me started on my decision to not stay at home. Last week Noah had a little meltdown in public, and a complete stranger remarked "You know, if you stayed at home with him, he'd be better behaved." First of all, this person had no idea whether or not I was a SAHM. Secondly, EVERY toddler melts down, and Noah is incredible well-behaved. But she hit her mark anyway - I felt awful for longer than I'd like to admit.

    So anyway, plan! Know what your principles are, but also acknowledge that every baby is different, every body is different, and you just have to adapt and figure out what works for YOU. If it works for you and meets your personal standards, it's not wrong. Don't let anyone tell you different!

  9. Manda-see those are the things that make me so mad! I hate that we create those societal pressures and I think that's why I'm so afraid of making any decisions. I've heard too many stories like yours where the plan was one thing, but nature or biology or necessity required another, and then you end up really struggling with the change because we've created this system that X,Y and Z are "best" and everything else is just a substitute. I don't want to get to the point of feeling like that, which is why I think I'm so resistant to those camps of thought, even though in principle, I like and hope for quite a few of them.

  10. Jen - Can I just say I am high fiving you so hard right now! :) It is definitely good to have a birth plan, and your plan for "how its going to be" when the baby comes. You don't want to go at it haphazardly (besides, if you tried to forego the plan I think your head might explode! ha ha!) What you just have to keep in mind is that the baby gets a say in this plan too, and that is one that can't be expressed before s/he's born. Parenthood is the biggest "figure it out as you go along" experience you will ever encounter. There is no "one size fits all" for anything! As for the birth plan, its great and highly recommended to have an idea of what you would like to happen, and maybe a plan B, but the biggest part of the plan should be to go with the flow. I definitely didn't plan on having a C-Section with Joshua. I figured with these hips of mine he'd just pop right out! So the way things turned out sure wasn't what I wanted, and I had to grieve the losses I experienced because of that, but that time was short, and in the end I had a healthy baby and none of that mattered.

    The most prepared parent to be is completely aware of the fact that they have no idea what to expect! :)

  11. Can't wait to read your post Jen in whole, but the quick skim, sounds like we have a lot in common! For the record if it matters, I cloth-diapered for a year or so but moved back to disposables when it just wasn't working for us, nursed Amelia til she was past 2 years of age, and use a composter and garden. However, I never did baby-wear, don't plan to homeschool, and gave birth w/ an epidurral in the hospital. For me, I just picked what was important and what the Lord was convicting me to do. We are all different and the Lord convicts us different ways. Don't let anyone pressure you into anything. Ultimately the Lord is the one who should be the one giving us guidance. If others have an issue with that, oh well!

  12. Jen--I have several friends who are devout Christians and rest assured that there are plenty of moms out there that walk the walk when it comes to Christianity and have bottle-fed their babies and diapered them with disposable diapers. Not to mention fed their babies with solids from Gerber when the time came. I think it is a matter of one group being much more vocal about their choices than another.

    Whatever you choose for your baby will be the right choice, and your baby will thrive and be just fine. My mom bottle fed me and breast fed my brothers, we're all happy, healthy adults.

    p.s. There is a third option when it comes to diapers: there are disposable diapers without all the chemicals and that are biodegradable.

  13. I had another thought, after reading all the comments! It may be that what you (and your readers) perceive as hostile or strident voices are actually meant to just be...vocal. For example, La Leche League is often perceived to be militant, but you have to remember that less than two generations ago, women were not ALLOWED to breastfeed. If it weren't for the women in La Leche League, we might not have the right to breastfeed in public places, and our doctors might still be telling us to take medicine to dry up our milk while feeding our kids formula. Birth activists are another example. I consider myself a birth activist - I believe that cesareans are done far too frequently, and for questionable reasons. Does this mean that I hate all cesareans? Of course not - I'm profoundly thankful that Jessica was able to have one with her twins! But I also think it is a calling and a duty to help women understand their bodies and their rights in birth, which in this current culture usually means advocating for natural births and VBACs.

    I guess I'm just saying that those of us who might come across as judgmental (especially if you don't know us well) may in fact simply be trying to protect our right to a voice, and our right to a choice.

  14. I think (unfortunately) sometimes Christians can be the most judgmental type of people I've ever met! (and I am a Christian!) You are the parent of this baby so you and your DH get to decide all those things about diapering, feeding, etc. Now with birthing, I would think the most important thing is to get him/her out safe and sound. Have a plan, but be prepared to be flexible. This is just the beginning of parenthood - have a plan, but be flexible. :-) And don't let the turkeys get you down!

  15. Em-I see your point and if that's all I thought those movements were doing, I wouldn't have a problem. But it's when it crosses the line from advocacy to unwelcomed "advice" and "criticisms" that I have a problem. I don't place you in this category by the way.

    Two recent examples I have encountered have been the whole "if you don't like it, put a bag over YOUR head" hostility from the LLL. Just because I don't want to see your boob, doesn't mean I don't think breast feeding is wonderful! But it's so hostile and when I read some of their things, they're so negative about women who use formula, even without knowing the circumstances behind why a woman uses formula.

    Another I recently encountered was the etsy shop of a "Christian Homeschooling Mom" who makes necklaces to brag about VBACs and HBACs and in her description is very down on c-sections, and tells doctors to "suck it." It's THAT kind of thing that ticks me off.

    There are also subtle things people say, like "______ is the most healthy choice" (breastfeeding, vaginal birth, etc). Well, that may be true sometimes, and even often. But, sometimes, it's not (as in Jessica's case), but people in these movements present these things as though they're gospel truth and the automatic alternative is that any other choice is "not as healthy." I just don't think you can say those things are universal principles and I think by saying them, we put pressure and judgment on other women who end up with different scenarios.

  16. Well . . . I think there's a way those groups are right and a way they're wrong. They're right if you're just considering the thing itself. If you're just considering the thing itself, breastfeeding is more healthy than formula-feeding. It's normative, and should be seen as normative. I say that, even though I've used formula gratefully at times.

    The problem comes when those groups can't make the jump into different contexts. I'm fine with them saying "breast is best" when the argument is "which option, in normal circumstances, is best?" Objectively, it's just true that breastfeeding is better - IF all your considering is feeding itself. But feeding never comes by itself. It comes as part of the experience of the baby, mother and family. "Breast is best" is true, but it's true in a limited sense.

    I think the problem comes when crusaders 1) can't make the jump to abnormal circumstances and 2) can't understand that "abnormal circumstances" are NOT necessarily anyone's fault.

    You see problem #1 with people who just can't understand that c-sections, formula, whatever could EVER be called for (extreme, ridiculous example: "I'm going to homebirth these sextuplets no matter what!"). Most people don't have this problem, but it does sneak in.

    #2 is, in my experience, much more common. It's where guilt - and guilting - sneaks in. It's where somewhere, deep down (or not so deep down) it's assumed that somehow, the fact that you had to go for the second-best option (which would be the BEST option in your particular case) is YOUR FAULT. That's just silly, and I think it deserves condemnation. Can things really be your fault sometimes? Sure. But to assume that? So wrong. Or to beat yourself up because you're doing one of the "second bests" when it really is THE BEST for your particular situation? No.

    It's an easy trap to fall into, but I think you're wise to try to avoid it. Learning to let things like that go . . . I think it's actually learning the Christian virtue of detachment. I know I grew a lot when I couldn't do "the best" for my twins. I learned what is important and what isn't. I learned (again) not to value myself by my performance. I learned that sometimes, even innocent things like "a good birth" can be idols and distractions and one of the "things of this world" that you can lust after. Weird, but so true.

  17. A small note on "put a bag over your head": I think that's put in anger, and it shouldn't be. But I do think there's a lot of truth to the fact that, as my missionary friend put it, "privacy is where you look." You can get rid of a lot of fuss if we just all agree (as a culture) not to look at things that shouldn't be looked at, granting each other privacy by averted glances rather than by shunning. Easier all around.

  18. Jen, I think it is so refreshing and it makes me happy to see you grappling with certain aspects of a "Christianized" (it actually has nothing to do with Christianity) sub-culture. Just so you know, the judgment goes both ways in a lot of areas. La Leche League (which is a secular group, not affiliated with a religion, by the way) may seem to be very judgmental to some (no idea, personally, since I've never interacted with them myself), but I'm amazed at how much commentary and judgment I receive as a nursing mother in this society. "Your baby is TWO? Still nursing? Isn't that weird?" And then just remember that if you DON'T homeschool, you might feel pressure from some individuals, yet if you DO homeschool, other people will assure you that your children will turn out to be poorly educated and poorly socialized and blah blah blah...

    Just use the wisdom that you and Todd have acquired throughout your lives and ignore all the crazies. Everyone who knows you is convinced that you will be great parents!

  19. I think that what you just wrote is an amazing testament to who you are.

    "I hate that there's this sort of morality associated with it-like "this is the only way Good Christian moms do things." I don't understand why there's this sort of spiritual snobbery and underlying current that women who do those things love their children more, and why judgment comes on those who don't practice any or all of those things. "

    That just shows that you truly think things through and that you are not a sheep following a herd. I love that you are spiritual and religious but you don't want to bully or be a snob. Sounds much more like how the Jesus that I have grown to love would want us to live our lives. I am pretty sure that Jesus would NEVER have turned his back on someone who has used jarred baby food. ;-)

    Also, I love your stance on the politics. I respect your school of thought. You were brave for putting that out there. I would imagine, that there are people in your community who would want to chew you up and spit you out for that. Good for you for looking a little deeper and exploring for yourself.

    As far as the stroller goes. GIRL, get a jogging stroller! You have said it time and again that you are a little overweight (welcome to the club!). The last thing you need to do when Baby is born is to limit your options for activity. If you can breastfeed AND get a good, solid 1/2 hour walk in every day with that jogging stroller, you're gonna feel better than EVER and be able to be the active, healthy mom that this baby deserves. The best thing that you can do for this child is to be a healthy role model, you have a big responsibility on your hands.

    Okay, that was my 2 cents...
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  20. Jen,
    I am a fellow Snowflake mom who peeks into your blog once in a while. Thank you for this post. You articulated so many of my thoughts and frustrations lately. Our boys attend a fabulous Christian school and lately there has been an exodus of parents who are choosing to homeschool. Their reasoning is: We just love our kids so much that we want them home with us as much as possible. While I feel they have a right to make the best educational choices for their children and an obligation to follow where the Lord leads their family, I resent the implication that because we don't homeschool, we don't love our children. The spiritual and academic growth I see in my children each year amazes me and is in line with the goals hubby and I have for our children. We do have goals and dreams for our children, but after parenting for 11 1/2 years I have learned that I cannot control every single thing that happens to my children. I cannot control every bite of food that goes into their mouth or every fabric that touches their skin. Nor should I... I think there is an alarming trend in today's society (both the Christian and non-Christian sectors) to make parenting and children an idol. Don't get me wrong, parenting is my number one priority in this stage of my life. But God is ultimately in control and He is ultimately the one who is in control of my children's lives. He has entrusted them to us, but He is still their Father. When we become so focused on making every decision perfectly, we set aside His authority and take it upon ourselves. My advice to you in this stage of the game would be to just enjoy. Treasure every single moment of your pregnancy. Its okay to think about and even plan for how you'd like things to go, but things don't always go as planned and it would be a huge bummer to miss out on the blessing right now because you are so focused on what's to come and how it should be. I've bottled fed my babies adopted as newborns, breastfed my Snowflake babies, disposable diapered them all, fed them jarred baby food and homemade food, sent some to preschool, some not. None of those choices make me a good or bad mom. My focus is on my relationship with my children, with enjoying them as the blessing they are from God and doing my best to raise them into strong Christian men.
    I hope its okay that I got on my soapbox! Many blessings to you and your growing family.

  21. Anneke-I agree with everything you said! Thank you so much for your comments!!