Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Sea Could Bring You A Sail

Changes are a comin'. Lately I've been thinking about one of my favorite scenes from the movie Castaway when Tom Hanks' character returns home and is talking to a friend about how he stayed alive on the island. He says, “And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?” So much great insight to take away from that movie, and you know a film is good when it holds your attention despite only having one actor throughout most of it and when it makes you cry over a volleyball floating away (Yes, I admit, I mourned Wilson, okay? I had imaginary friends as a kid. Give me a break.), but the reason I was reminded of that particular scene is because I've been focusing quite a bit on the future.

I'd forgotten how hard it is to feel so tired all the time. I'm thankful we got to take a beach vacation this year because I needed the rest. Oh, how I envy those women who consistently work out and have plenty of energy throughout their entire pregnancies. All three times I have had grand plans of doing just that, and all three times I've had to laugh at myself when I have to go sit down after climbing a flight of stairs. I'm still getting stuff done, just not at the pace I'm used to. I'm being forced to remember that slowing down isn't a bad thing. It's making me see what's right in front of me and letting me know that it will be gone tomorrow. 

It's more than just the fact that we have a third child on the way, though that's definitely enough to get a person thinking about how things are about to change...A LOT. It's that life is always changing. The slowing down has at least allowed me to notice how much the little ones I already have are morphing.
 They are maturing.

I offered to get Hannah her cereal one morning:
No, thanks. I like to get it because it makes me feel like a big girl.”
She paused and looked at me shyly. “But thank you for serving. I don't want you to feel like I don't want you to get it anymore.”

How did she know? Does she sense how hard it is for mommies to let go sometimes? Does she also see how happy and proud I am to see her growing up, even though I want to keep her little for as long as I can?

She's my big girl, bigger every day.

They are learning.

Abram has been interested in rhyming words lately. “Mommy, what rhymes with zag? Jag?” “Yes.” “Does bag?” “Yes.” “Does Jean-Luc?”

(No, and perhaps we should find Daddy something else to watch on Netflix besides Star Trek...)

They are both learning so much every day, and I love seeing the world through their eyes. Do they know how much they also teach me?

They are growing up. They are loving each other. We're building this life one day at a time.

Hannah will start school in the fall. Abram will be a big brother soon. I'll (hopefully) get some energy back, but my hair will keep graying, our kids will keep growing, this life will keep spinning, and as long as we're on this earth, nothing remains the same.

Uncharted territory lies before us - that's what all of life is. I don't know what the future holds, but I know that I gotta keep breathing. Today only lasts one day. Tomorrow the tide could bring something that changes my course forever.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Out Of Hibernation

I've wanted to write something. I've tried to gather my swirling thoughts into something coherent for a while now, so I could just have something, anything, to write – because it's like therapy for me – but I've been stuck in a weird place for quite some time.

Weight Of The World
Aside from giving birth again in a few months, all I've been able to think about, for the most part, is the state of the world we're living in. I go back and forth between wanting to write about current events to raise awareness about issues that are important to me and wanting to go hide in a hole somewhere so I don't have to think about any of it anymore. The latter part has been winning lately, and I often wonder if it will be what wins in the long run. Same goes for spiritual or personal topics or anything else I can think of to write about. The introvert in me is currently full force, and I'm having trouble deciding if I should fight it or not.

My kids are doing and saying the funniest things right now, and I can't even bring myself to write a fun, lighthearted post about them. I feel too bogged down by the weight of it all. But as I find myself writing this, I also find myself thinking that there have to be many others who are experiencing the same weight, the same burdens in this fallen world that humanity forces us to face. So I'm just putting it out there in case someone like me needs the reassurance that there's someone else like them out there - “Me too...I feel it too.”

Surely, we all feel it, though we may each experience it a little differently.

I have a picture of that stupid dress on my phone. You know the one – the infamous photo of a white and gold dress that's (supposedly) actually black and blue, though I'll just have to take everyone's word for it, because for the life of me, no matter how many directions in which I twist my phone or how many times I play around with the brightness, I can only see white and gold. Every time I look at the darn thing, I get so irritated that I can't see the colors for what they truly are. I don't like when my eyes won't let me see the truth. Do you see where I'm going with this?

(I'm honestly over the whole dress debacle, but it makes for a nice metaphor here.)

I wish I could see the big picture. I mean, I suppose that I can sometimes, but I guess I wish I could always see it. I recently looked back over those posts about scripture that I wrote several months ago, and I sort of thought something along the lines of, hey, there's some good insight here...who wrote this? Cause right now, it doesn't feel like it was me. I'm hoping I've just been frozen for a while and am about to experience a thaw. It is spring, after all. Finally.

How To Get Out Of A Funk
At least my children have helped me get through this season. They are so great about keeping me from getting frozen too solid. We've had cuddles and milestones and firsts like lost teeth and dance parties in the living room with Daddy and hilarious dialogue, so why in the world do I ever let life stress me out?

Somehow I always end up going back to that C.S. Lewis quote I have on the About page of this blog. I can't keep my heart to myself. It just isn't what we're meant to do. So I'm sharing it with you and hoping you'll share yours too.

It is spring, and I feel the thaw coming.

Loving Life After Winter

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Nipples And Boobies - Oh, My!

Why are we still having debates about public breastfeeding?

No, really – why?

You would think that a culture that considers itself as enlightened as ours does would have figured it out by now, but no, the ugly commentary about the 'crazy exhibitionists' continues. I still see people saying that mothers nursing their babies in public is 'vile and disgusting'. I've stayed out of it for as long as possible because I honestly don't think there is anything I can say to change people's minds on the topic, but perhaps I can just provide some insight into why I feel the way I do.

Breastfeeding did not come easily to me. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read the standard literature about it and wondered why there was so much written on the topic. Isn't this something I should just know how to do? I thought. I didn't understand why it was necessary to read about seventeen different nursing positions, how to achieve a proper latch (don't you just stick the baby up there and let him/her do all the work?), and all the other intricate workings of feeding your baby from your breast.

Then when I had my daughter, I found out just how difficult it really could be. It took weeks for us to develop a proper latch, so she and I were both often frustrated to the point of tears. I had an oversupply, and I developed mastitis. She wanted to nurse constantly, and I leaked all the time. I did not want to give up because I knew it was best for her, but it was hard. I realized that all the reading I had done had not even remotely prepared me for how challenging this would be.

It got better as months went on, but I wondered how I would ever be able to do it discretely in public. Although I used a nursing cover, she hated being covered up and would flail wildly whenever I tried to latch her on underneath the cover, and my letdown was so quick that she would often pull away in the middle of it, leaving me squirting milk all over her while I tried to juggle her and the cover and my erupting breast all at once.

It was a mess.

So I can't possibly express how glad I was that I stuck with it and was able to continue nursing her. You would think that after dealing with all of that, I would have no problem nursing her in public even if she did fling the cover off and, God forbid, someone caught a glimpse of a boob slip. But when we were out and about, I almost always ended up in the car, hot and cramped and missing out on things for fear that some judgy stranger would gawk at me.

Now, not everyone struggles the way I did. I first met a good friend of mine right after we each had our second child. She came over to our house, and I was excited to learn that she too was breastfeeding. I wouldn't have to feel so awkward about struggling to latch my son – we could struggle together! So when it came time for my son to eat, I didn't feel too embarrassed as I wrapped the cover around my neck, situated the Boppy pillow, heaved my bowling-ball sized breast out of my tank top, and tried several times to slide my nipple into his mouth just right before I eventually got him latched on.

Not long after, my friend's son was ready to nurse. I watched in awe as she threw a blanket over her shoulder, popped him on, and kept right on talking. That was it. Easy breezy.

Man, I was jealous.

So what it boils down to is not all of our experiences are the same. It isn't as simple as 'just cover up'. I know that seems to be the easy solution, but it isn't that easy for everyone. There isn't a 'right way' to nurse your baby. It isn't about making sure everyone else around you is comfortable; it's about making sure the baby is comfortable and nourished and loved. A nursing baby isn't something to gawk at or feel weird about. I understand that many people are not familiar with breastfeeding and may be a little uncomfortable around it, so I do choose to use a cover to try to prevent awkwardness, but I certainly shouldn't be required to do so. And if the baby gets too hot or sweaty, and I choose to take the cover off, that doesn't make me an exhibitionist. It doesn't make me someone who enjoys people looking at my baby-attached breast. It makes me a good mother who puts her baby's needs first.

Last year I attended a ladies' class at a conference, and there were several young mothers with babies in the room. All of them were breastfeeding with covers. The speaker, who frequently travels on mission trips to India, commented on how much she loved having all the mothers and babies in the room and how it made her feel right at home. “When we have our classes in India,” she said, “there are boobs everywhere.”

And that's how it is in so many other cultures – no one even bats an eye at breastfeeding babies. How amazing would it be if our culture valued motherhood and womanhood in the same way? If instead of mainstream being the normalcy of pornography on the big screen, it was the normalcy of mothers using breasts for their intended function?

I think that modesty is always a good approach to take, but I don't see how it relates to breastfeeding. Not in a culture where we see so many Victoria's Secret billboards. Not in a culture where it's too easy, at the click of a mouse, to watch strangers having sex in the privacy of our own homes. Not in a culture where our children are constantly subjected to not-so-subtle sexual content on cable television.

And you're worried about breastfeeding?

Perhaps one of the most telling examples I can give you of how far off base our culture has become is a thread I recently read on a Babycenter forum. A mother was concerned because she had found out her 14-year-old son had been looking at porn on his computer. I know nothing should surprise me anymore, but I was still appalled to read through the comments and see what the majority of posters were advising. Just open an account for him, they said. He's going to look at it anyway – at least you'll know what he's looking at. Better for him to do that than act out his sexual frustration in other ways.

We live in a society that tells our sons it's okay to objectify women, but it's gross to see them mothering their children. A society that robs our children of their innocence and then wonders why they can't have functioning relationships. A society that tells them everything under the sun is okay as long as it makes them feel good, unless it's pure or moral or loving.

And you're worried about breastfeeding.

So that's where I'm at – I find myself in a place of such disbelief that my kids are more likely to encounter immorality online than nurturing in public. Why? Because too many people think breastfeeding is weird? And you're only supposed to do your 'weird' stuff when no one's looking?

By creating a problem where one doesn't exist, we're ignoring the real problem.

Considering all the unfortunate aspects of life my kids could be exposed to, I can only hope that they will get to see lots of breastfeeding, that they will know what nurturing is. I hope I will have plenty of opportunities to show them examples of wholesome love and tell them, “This is life. This is how you live.” God knows those examples are hard to find.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Keep The Authority Where It Belongs: The Case For Parental Rights

You may have heard about the Stanley family by now, as their story continues to gain more publicity. What is being reported is that the authorities investigated their home after an anonymous caller told them that the children were running in the snow barefoot. The children were then taken into custody upon the discovery of a 'dangerous' mineral supplement in the home, one that the father claimed he used as a water purifier.

I do not know this family personally. I've never met them and know very little about them, only what has been written about this incident. I also don't know if there is more to this story than what we have read, and there very well could be. I feel it's important for me to mention that because it's frustrating when people jump all over a news story and make decisions about it based on the very little information that the media supplies. Tried and convicted in the court of public opinion, so to speak.

That being said, I also know this is not the first time I have heard of a family being ripped apart based on someone else's poor judgment. This story comes on the heels of yet another story about parents who are under investigation for allowing their two children to walk HALF A BLOCK alone to a playground. And these two stories come on the heels of numerous other incidents of parents being accused of neglect because they left their kids alone in a car for two minutes while they ran into a gas station or had the audacity to disagree with their pediatrician. Considering over 3 million children are 'checked up on' by CPS annually, it's no wonder these stories are so common. DHS and CPS appear to wield an awful lot of power. All it takes is a phone call from a nosy neighbor. Maybe one day the authorities will show up on your doorstep.

Is there anything in your parenting someone else might disagree with? Have you ever done, said, or allowed anything that would be deemed questionable by the cranky lady down the street, or even your own friends? I don't doubt the way I run my household is a little different from the way you run yours, but I bet you love your kids. I bet they love you. Chances are we're both doing what we feel is best for our individual families.

But when it comes to these types of investigations, where the lines are drawn appear to be so discretionary, based on the whims of whomever is involved in the case. Who do you think deserves to be investigated? Or even deserves to have their practices outlawed? Deserves to have their children taken away?

Families in a polygamist community? A family who practices alternative medicine? A family whose parents spank their children?

There have been plenty of times when I have felt sorry for other kids and the way they were being raised, but I also recognized that they weren't my children. When it comes to issues of personal liberty and parental rights, you are not the authority on my family, just as I am not the authority on yours. At least, that's the way it should be. But as the state receives more and more power and more and more funding to place itself in the middle of our daily lives, it can't come as any surprise that this continues to happen. And it won't stop, not as long as we continue to wage war on each other's ideologies.

Ours has become a culture of self-righteous finger wagging. All I have to do to see that is read through a few threads on a parenting website. How dare you mutilate your child with circumcision! Breastfeeding your 3-year-old is abuse! You should never feed your child McDonald's! Spanking is the same as hitting!

That's precisely where this gets uncomfortable. Should your standards be applied to all people? Of all backgrounds and religions and cultures? Which perceptions should we allow to dominate as we apply arbitrary rules to how people live their lives?

Because that's what human beings do best – decide they're right, and then decide that everyone else should live accordingly. That's why we're now under the thumb of so many laws and why children are getting ripped away from loving homes. But I'm here to say that your parenting choices should remain precisely that – your choices.

It's horrifying to hear of tragic cases of abuse and neglect. There are some cases of severe harm, sexual trauma, and death that I've heard about that stick out in my mind and sicken me to my core. But one has to wonder if these cases would be fewer if less time and money were spent on investigating ordinary people just trying to live their lives and more attention was given to real problems.

So to the nosy neighbors who like to make reports, I'd like to ask you to consider these things: Consider striking up a conversation with the family instead of reaching for the phone. Consider that you are about to step on the constitutional rights of those parents AND CHILDREN in that household. Consider that the strange family next door just might be good people who simply do things a little differently than you do.

Consider that you're taking away help from a child who actually needs it.