Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Conception through Early Childhood Resources

I haven't posted in almost three months!  It was an intentional, albeit unannounced, break from blogging because I just didn't care for the tone with which I wrote on August 21.  I don't ever desire to even sound to myself as if I have all the answers, and that's what I was "hearing" when I re-read my last post.  Plus, the time off for our first semester of homeschooling was a good move because it has taken a major adjustment in my daily and weekly routines to get a handle on our new normal. 

I come back to blogging today because I was asked to share my resources for all things conception, pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and parenting.  I always feel like when I'm asked to address something, God directed it as an opportunity for me to be that Titus 2 woman to someone.  This blog also helps me to be able to refer again to a place I collected all my thoughts if someone else should ask me for them. 

Since the beginning truly is always a "very good place to start," I'll begin with conception.

Praise God, I'm blessed to be a Fertile Myrtle!  It isn't something I take lightly, as I have several close friends and family who have experienced infertility.  God has declared in His Word that "children are a reward," (Psalm 127:3)  According to one of my resources, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, most women's first major measurable loss of fertility is at twenty-seven years old.  Knowing that many of us may not be so naturally blessed with fertility, that we were designed to bear children in younger years, and that God says children are a reward, I believe we should not delay our childbearing years.

The first step toward conception is (marriage, duh!) to see your doctor if you are on any type of birth control.  He will guide you toward deciding how long you should wait to try.  I understand one month of a regular cycle is recommended most often when coming off of a pill form of birth control, but your doctor will know what's best for you.

From my experience, having a normal twenty-eight day cycle, I just googled an ovulation calculator to conceive my first child.  I wanted to make sure we tried at the right time!  God saw fit to bless us right away.  Other than that, I can't recommend any specific resources.

What to Expect When You're Expecting is one of the most popular pregnancy books of our time!  Unless you've been living under a rock, you've most likely heard of it.  It is a good resource, not at all from a Christian perspective, but it covers everything moms need to know about pregnancy.  Many doctors' offices give this book to first-time mothers.  I was given one by my OB when I was pregnant with my third. 

A better resource to me is the book I mentioned earlier, Your Pregnancy Week by Week.  My sister-in-law loaned this one to me during my first pregnancy, and I liked it so well that I bought a copy to own myself.  Rather than taking the reader through monthly changes, there's something new to read with each week!  Again, not written from a Christian perspective, but everything one needs to know about the medical side of pregnancy.

Also, make sure you like your doctor or midwife.  If possible, a Christian obstetrician is great because you want to know that the person responsible for the life of your unborn child is pro-life!  Know, too, that the doctor is competent to take care of women in high-stress situations.  Ask other women, or even better, ask a nurse or someone else that works the labor and delivery unit in some way, who they recommend.

Natural Childbirth
The perfect childbirth experience is not the be-all, end-all of motherhood.  It's important to step back and realize that a healthy mom and baby are all that really matter when it comes to delivery.  We cannot beat our chests and become self-important when we look back at our deliveries, but praise God for His love and mercy to us through the miraculous experience He has given us to bring forth life.

That said, I do believe that natural childbirth is usually what is best for mom and baby medically speaking, and from my four deliveries to date, praying, seeking God's peace through contractions - those were awesome times of spiritual growth and reflection.  And I didn't do it perfectly!  Some really crunchy, all-natural moms would claim I didn't really go naturally because while I had no form of pain relief through medication or epidurals, I was induced into labor each time with Pitocin. 

Labor plans are important, but also be flexible as you listen to your doctors or midwives.  In order to be prepared, the #1 thing to do, especially the first time around, is to take a labor and delivery class at your local hospital.  I took Lamaze, but other methods, such as Bradley, may better suit you.

A word about c-sections here: Many hospitals are making great improvements in order to insure moms and babies don't miss the bonding that takes place during a regular vaginal delivery.  While being trained to be a breastfeeding peer counselor, I learned about laid-back breastfeeding.  I was able to watch a video of skin-to-skin contact immediately following a c-section.  Here's a link.  If you know ahead of time about the need for a c-section, you may able to make this happen. 

One of the most obvious ways God made women to nurture their children is through breastfeeding.  There's no denying it: women have milk glands, men don't.  When I hear moms say that they want to make sure Dad doesn't miss out on feeding the baby, I want to scream, "Who did God create to feed baby?"  - but I generally hold it in.  Most mammal mothers are very protective of their babies, not allowing anyone else to do the nurturing in their babies' early lives.  We in America are all too eager to hand our children to someone else.  Yes, breastfeeding takes time, and no, it isn't always easy to get, but it's worth the effort for you and baby!

Ok, so for the resources:
The Nursing Mother's Companion is one my favorites - and I actually only use the little pamphlet adapted from it, "Nursing the First Two Months" - but the original will get you through weaning, optimally at least twelve months into life. is a great on-line resource.  With my fourth child, I was able to self-diagnose thrush with this resource, and then confirm it with a phone call to my favorite lactation consultant at our hospital. is a new resource for me, and it is written by a Christian with a world-view to match!  I recently wrote the author, Krista, a question I had even though I'm not still nursing, and she responded very quickly!  Krista also writes about her childbirth experiences, both natural childbirth and c-section.  I highly recommend you check her out!

One more thought for expecting moms: If you plan to breastfeed, please don't stick a bottle in your baby's mouth out of fear they'll starve.  Healthy babies aren't born hungry, just with the desire to suck and be near mom.  Please either see a trustworthy lactation consultant or call an experienced friend for help first!  Some babies have no issue with nipple confusion, but others really struggle to take the breast after having a bottle in those first few days.  You don't want to create more hills to climb for yourself!

Parenting:  Here's where I'm going to have to take a break!  I have lots of resources, and if you've been reading this long, you're exhausted too!  I'll post soon!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What I'm NOT Looking for in a Homeschooling Titus 2 Woman

My two oldest girls are in their third week of homeschooling.  They are in second grade and kindergarten.  I do have a four-year-old, but I don't count K4 because I just don't think it necessary that school begin formally at so young an age.  She already recognizes her letters and numbers, so I'm working on all the letter sounds and including her in social studies and science activities with her older siblings as appropriate.

It has been a really fun three weeks!  I expected it to eventually go smoothly, but I thought school would begin with some bumps.  Praise God for His goodness to our family!  The biggest challenge is coming up with extra activities to fill the time because one is flying through her language arts curriculum and the other is flying through her math curriculum.  The oldest broke her arm the weekend before school began, so she hasn't been able to begin handwriting or do any real physical activity safely.  I expect that'll help to fill the necessary 4.5 hrs required each day by our state's law. 

I joined a large local homeschool group because I wanted my kids to have a chance to meet other kids outside of their church and so I might be able to meet some other parents further along in their homeschool journeys.  It seems to be a great group, serving five counties, with a Christian orientation (though it would've been fine with me if it were secular), and with plenty of opportunities to get together.  There's a meeting once a month for parents to hear speakers, a monthly roller skating event for the kids, field trips, science fair, and several groups and clubs that meet.  There's even a football team, new this year!  How awesome is that?

Tonight is the first meeting for parents, and I am so eager to meet others in the same position as me!  I do have a Titus 2 homeschooling mom in my life, but she lives on the other side of the state!  She's my dear friend and family member, Nicole.  She has been so encouraging, but I know she wants me to meet some folks nearby.

While I'm keeping my eyes open for a local Titus 2 homeschooling mom, I can't describe exactly what I'm looking for (other than what's listed in verses 3-5), but I do know what I'm NOT looking for:

A know-it-all.  The decision to homeschool was not a decision my husband and I made lightly, but that was only the first decision (to begin).  Once someone decides to homeschool, there's curriculum to consider, subjects to include or not to include, educational methods to employ - the list goes on and on.  Maybe it's because I'm eclectic in my methods, but I want someone who understands that each family and each child is different, and acknowledges that I will do what is best for the ones I teach. 

A big spender.  On that same vein, I don't want someone that goes overboard and has the most "pinworthy" school room and has spent thousands on curriculum.  Let's keep it real.  One of the reasons we decided to homeschool is because it's more economical than public school.  I need someone more willing to put her heart and effort into homeschooling than her checkbook.

Neither someone too structured nor someone too flexible.  I need someone who can help me roll with the punches because I tend to lean toward major routine and schedules.  I also don't want someone who really unschools.  That gives me the heeby-jeebies.  I want to know that I'm leading my kids, not them leading me.

I'm looking forward to tonight, and I'm praying that soon I'll know that Titus 2 homeschooling mom God has for me! 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Change is Inevitable

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary!  We couldn't believe how time has flown by so quickly.  While taking a week-long break from our kids, thanks to the generosity of one of their aunts and their Granna, we reflected on the changes in our lives since we said "I do". 

Gulf Shores, Alabama (which we took by storm celebrating our anniversary)

We are very different from those star-eyed young'uns we were ten years ago.  We've had some knocks that have grown us more Christ-like.  More time out of our parents' nests has made us do things "our way" (though there was nothing wrong with the way either set did life).  Essentially, we became who we are - Clint and Lauren.

Sadly, "he's/she's not the same person I married" is something we might hear from folks deciding to divorce.  It is heartbreaking to think that rather than growing together in marriage, many grow apart.  Change will happen, whether we want it to or not, so it is in our best interest (and in the interest of the little people who depend on us) to cultivate growing together.

I mentioned this last year, but I've learned it bears repeating.  Get away together!  Overnight.  Once a year.  If possible.  Make it possible!

Embrace and encourage each other's interests.  I now watch Nascar - who'd have thunk that ten years ago!  My husband helps keep my flower beds mostly free of weeds, and he cheers for me when I run, and he receives his just reward.

Be realistic, and learn to love the physical changes that come with time.  I actually really like the mature look my husband is beginning to have - maybe it's because I haven't watched Magic Mike or soap operas throughout our marriage.  Encourage your husbands to have realistic expectations of beauty after multiple children by remaining physically available to him so he might not struggle so much with lust or possibly pornography.

"This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh." -Genesis 2:24

The one flesh relationship God created can still be just as beautiful in your marriage as it was in the beginning.  I'm happy for the changes in my marriage and pray the same for yours!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?

One of my friends, Amanda, hosts our church's youth girls to her home every week throughout the summer for fellowship, kitchen training, and for an older woman to come teach them on any number of topics.  This week was my turn, and we met at a different friend's home, and I thought I'd share what God laid on my heart to teach them. 

I asked the girls what they want to be when they grow up, with graduation from high school just around the bend.  I remember as a very small girl, still in Mission Friends, that I wanted to be a nurse.  I don't know why, but by the end of middle school, I wanted to be an occupational therapist because I wanted to help people who'd been injured in some way to regain their life skills through the use of dance and art.  That summer, I began volunteering at one of our local hospitals, something I would continue to do the next three summers.  While I loved being a youth volunteer, I quickly discovered, that being a nurse was out for me because I couldn't believe the hours the nurses in the hospital worked.  By that fall, I knew for sure even occupational therapy was out because I'm not gifted in science.

I failed to share this, but I decided to become a teacher because I was in our high school's Teacher Cadet program.  As part of the class, I went every week to help one of my former primary school teachers.  Standing in front of the empty classroom, waiting for my teacher and her class to return, I just knew this is where God wanted me to be, at least for a season.  It was actually while studying childhood development in college, that I made the decision to stay home with my children, something my future husband also wanted.

After sharing about childhood dreams, I turned to Scripture.  First, the Scripture that is the basis for this blog:
In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine.  They are to teach what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and children, to be sensible, pure, good homemakers, and submissive to their husbands, so that God's message will not be slandered. -Titus 2:3-5
 We also read about the Proverbs 31 woman, paying special attention to verse 27, "She watches over the activities of her household and is never idle."

I have been so happy to see many of our youth girls make efforts to embrace femininity in the ways they dress for worship, wearing dresses, and I had heard that on the mission trip, they were good at serving the men who were working.  So now, I wanted to continue to encourage them to embrace femininity as they graduate, possibly go to college, take on careers, and/or marry.  I wanted these scriptures to serve as a basis for our understanding of what God wants a woman to be in her life.

A little side note here, I realize not everyone will marry, but most will, and if you don't, you're still called to be life-nurturers, even when you don't physically bear children.  Single women or infertile women are often some of the most helpful to women dealing with the rigors of daily caring for children.  They can be of great help loving on our children in a number of ways through babysitting and Sunday School teaching, just for a couple of examples!

I went on to give the girls a quick lesson in our roles from the beginning of time.  Genesis 1:27, we find that God created both man and woman in His image and are both accountable to him.  BUT, Adam had the huge responsibility of being the first-born and was given authority and jobs to accomplish.  Woman was created with physical differences that made her suitable to be a helper.  I learned from Mary Kassian that the only other time the word for helper is used in Scripture is describing God as our Helper.  This is a huge compliment, not a secondary-type-citizen role! 

Then, the FALL came.  Adam failed to intervene, so he born responsibility for sin first.  And one of the consequences, along with the pain of childbearing, is that woman would "desire" her husband, meaning she would want to overpower and manipulate him.  Even little girls figure out ways early on to sweetly manipulate their daddies.  The sinful idea of "Girl Power" comes from this desire.  Ever since then, women have seemed to struggle with their role.  In modern times, we see women struggle to both have careers and be good mothers.  Even women who have decided to be at home often label themselves as "just a housewife".

However, if we remind ourselves of those first Scriptures, obviously God has an interest in women caring for their homes and families.  We can embrace what God created us to be and find joy in it rather than drudgery. 

I'm not saying all women must be at home, though if I didn't think it best, I wouldn't be doing it myself.  I do think it wise to at least consider careers that are helpful to the family.  As young women, if you desire to study further after high school, perhaps you can choose something that can also help you in your God-given role as wife and mom.  I know my education degree has helped me more with my own children than it did in those two years I taught school.  I think cosmetology is an awesome field.  One of our church members was able to be at home while earning an income by having her shop in her home.  While we were in seminary, I knew several nurses who were able to work just one day a week and still keep their families' insurance coverage.

The reason I was drawn to teach on this topic is because I see far too many women delaying marriage and delaying children so long that they sometimes miss the blessings God has in store for them.  They may delay marriage because of a career.  They may delay children because they see them as hindrances.  Our best opportunity for discipleship comes through parenting.  Paul did say to remain as he was (single) because singleness makes folks more free to ministry, but it's also better to marry than to burn (1 Corinthians 7:9).  So marry, but then don't delay having children too long because the "children are an heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward" (Psalm 127:3).  We need to value children rather than see them as hindrances.

My final thought is that young women should seek the Lord's will for the work He has for them to do throughout their lives and in all the seasons, to reexamine their motives for whatever work they may be doing.  Money, a comfortable lifestyle, the fact that being at home is hard work, whatever - none of that matters in comparison to what God deems as important.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bikini Season

It's the time of year for "hot fun in the summertime": swimming in or lounging by the pool, boating on the river, and going to the beach.  I love this time of year because I love to be in the water.  When I'm pregnant (not now), it is so nice to float weightless, and always this time of year, it's just plain refreshing to get out of the heat and cool off a little.  At the beach or the river, our family enjoys God's creation, the beauty of the marshes and the awesome wonders of the ocean.

Head to most any beach or public pool, and you will see many, if not most, girls in bikinis.  I can't imagine letting my little ones run around in nothing more than their underwear covers in front of strangers, though I know it is the norm.  Most modest women reading this are in full agreement with me at this point, but...

I'm not saying we should do away with bikinis.  I own and wear several bikini sets myself.  GASP!  What is the preacher's wife saying?

When modest women dress, they not only need to consider that they're representing God, but they need to dress for their husbands.  If you've got a private backyard or a boat that takes you to a quiet place, your husband may be happy to see you in a bikini and erase any mental images he may have of other women.  If you go on a vacation, don't be afraid to pull out a bikini (or strapless maxi dress) to whoo your husbands, who were designed by God as visually stimulated creatures.  Keep the spark of your marriage alive as you dress for your husbands!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ministering to the Bereaved

Last week, my husband preached his maternal grandfather's funeral.  It was a great honor to him, to be able to reflect on his father's life publicly and to share the gospel with those who need the Lord.

I was unable to attend either of my grandparents' funerals.  I took a toddler and four-day-old baby (along with the aide of my husband and mother-in-law) on a six hour journey to see my grandfather just before his death.  Upon our return home, literally just after walking through the door, I received the phone call that he had passed away.  Grateful to have seen him and had a good conversation telling him about his new great-granddaughter, I didn't want to put my family through the torture of traveling again for his funeral.  When my grandmother passed away, I again had a newborn, less than a week old.  Then, with three children, my husband made the journey alone to help preach her funeral.

Reflecting on these times anew because of our recent "loss" and the gracious love poured out on us, I was reminded of all the good things we can do to show love during times of bereavement.  I have to admit that I had grown a little callous in the way I've handled preparing meals for those in their sorrow.  I needed the reminder of what a ministry it can be to do these simple tasks.

It is incredibly helpful to prepare meals for those going through the loss of a loved one.  When I came home after seeing my grandad, a church member brought our family a meal and a simple Christmas wreath for my door (it was December).  After the long journey, it was nice to just be able to sit down at mealtime.  Again, this time, it was so nice to not have to think about getting meals together.  At least two churches and some coworkers of folks in the family brought meals.  We didn't have to worry about lunch or dinner.  Some great friends (a brother and sister in Christ) even brought breakfast to us one morning.  I hope to not forget this blessing in the future.

Attending a funeral is an especially touching gesture.  One of the ways the pain of a loss is softened is by seeing loved ones.  The impromptu family reunions that come about through funerals is a bittersweet blessing.  Older folks are much more inclined to attend funerals, and I suppose it is because more of them are free to do so because of retirement, but when younger folks can be free, it is so nice.  I was especially touched by one of my husband's cousins (on the other side of the family), her husband, and baby attending the funeral.  I knew it took effort, but I felt such love from them for my mother-in-law.  It was worth it.

Providing childcare is a big help!  My oldest daughter (almost seven) wanted to stand in the receiving line prior to the funeral, and it was great to see her be so ladylike.  On the other hand, there's no way my youngest two, especially, would've made it through that or the funeral.  Praise God for some friends of the family we knew could be trusted to care for our children (mine and my sister-in-law's) for a couple of hours.

Hopefully, going through this time will help me to minister better in the future!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thoughts on Kids' Bible Selection

Mother's Day 2012 may go down in history as my favorite of all time.  "G Bug", my middle daughter, was baptized!  She had made her public profession of faith in Jesus as her Savior two weeks before.  Ever since her sister was baptized on Father's Day last year, she has had many questions about salvation.  Having always struggled with her behavior more than her older sister, she totally understood depravity and the "blackness" of sin.  She knew Jesus was needed to clean it all up, and she came to us (her parents) wanting to have a final talk about making Jesus the Lord of her life.

G Bug just received her first "real" Bible for Christmas this past year.  When we've given our oldest two their Bibles as gifts, my thoughts and prayers have always been that our children could become Christians through reading them.  God has answered those prayers!

Bible selection wasn't easy.  I asked several friends, but many of them (being in the same stage of life as myself) didn't really know what Bible choice was best either.  Now that I've been through this with my husband and been happy with our choices, I thought I'd share how we arrived at them.

First, Scriptural wording isn't a foreign language in our home.  Most mornings, we read from God's word, and for that family time, we often choose to read the Holman Christian Standard because of the literal translation from the original Hebrew and Greek texts and for the easy-to-understand, modern wording.  I'm not saying this is the translation your family should use.  As my husband often says, the best translation is the one you read.  I'm just sharing why we have chosen it for our family.  We also read a children's Bible storybook at bedtime.  These are obviously condensed versions of the stories we know well from God's Word.

Secondly, we considered the translation my husband uses to preach.  What does your pastor use?  This is helpful to consider because beginning readers need all the help they can get to follow along during worship services. 

When my oldest daughter was just beginning to read, and before we bought her Bible, she carried a children's devotional Bible to church, which mainly had pictures and sections of Scripture throughout the book.  She commented to her dad one Sunday that the words he preached weren't in her Bible!  Being a very biblical, expository preacher, that didn't sit well!  We knew she needed the translation he preaches from, which for full disclosure is usually the New King James Version.  Occasionally, he may use another translation, but most of the time, our daughters can follow along when he preaches because they have a Bible with all of the same words.

When our girls were baptized, they were given a copy of God's Word from their church, and this was the Holman Christian Standard version.  This is what they study from during their quiet times and what they memorize.  So finally, we have them using a translation that is easy to understand but that has not departed from the original intent of the authors God inspired to write.  This means they have one Bible for church and one for home use, but it works for us.

I'm not saying that our way is the only way to choose a Bible for a child, but considering all of this really helped us to feel like we were making wise decisions.  Maybe it may help you as well!

Friday, May 25, 2012

VBS Prep

If you're a part of most any evangelical Christian church in the US, your church is most likely holding a Vacation Bible School this summer.  I LOVE VBS!  I think this is because I had an awesome VBS director in Mrs. Jean, but the entire church I attended growing up was involved in this very important week every year.  We held the training for our association at our church, so many months before the actual event, we were preparing decorations and dance moves (before the SBC hired someone to come up with them) to go along with the theme song, created skits, and most importantly, prayed for the training and our VBS.

I've felt kind of behind with my preparations for VBS this year because I've had a few other distractions this year.  I had taken on the part-time, very flexible, breastfeeding peer counselor position.  I very much enjoyed getting to work with moms, but I stepped into an alternate position so I wouldn't have to go into the office every week, so now I feel better about it.  The other distraction was the decision my husband and I made to begin homeschooling this fall.  I was cross-eyed for several weeks making curriculum decisions, comparing prices, and finally putting in my orders, along with planning my schedule for the year. 

Being pleased with my progress there, I turn my eyes fully toward VBS and the birthday party planning for three of my four kids.  June and July is crazy around here, y'all!

While I had helped decorate for years and had helped in crafts some on a mission trip, when it came time for me to teach my own class for the first time I was a little overwhelmed at the thought.  While I was a summer missionary, the team I worked with helped several churches with VBS.  My role during that time had always been to be a clown.  I didn't have the responsibility of teaching a class.  Yep, the clown part you read right.  I was Sugar the clown for about eight years.  Anywho, the first class I was given to teach when I was twenty and on a break from summer classes in college, was the fifth and sixth grade boys.  I don't know that anyone else wanted them, but they were a joy! 

Since that first time of teaching VBS, I've learned a few things, and I thought I'd share for anyone else who may be in the VBS preparation trenches right about now.

Go to your association or state VBS training if offered.  Ok, it's a little too late for this first suggestion, but make plans for next year.  Yes, it may cost you a Saturday morning and $10, but it helps.  If you struggle with decorations, as I do, it helps to get a visual picture in person of what rooms should look like and talk to someone in person about how to put them together.  You can also get many a Bible study tip from little old ladies who've been teaching for years.

Get your curriculum as soon as your director will release it to you.  March isn't too early.  Read your lessons.  Begin collecting all those crazy items you can't imagine how you'd possibly use.  Get your head in the game even if you don't possibly have the time to start cutting out those gazillion pieces of paper you'll need for various games and activities.

Have a folder for each day's gazillion pieces of paper.  If you can start the cutting early enough to save last minute stresses, don't stress yourself out by losing all the pieces.  Put them in seperate folders.

Have a bag for each day's "accessories".  This is new for me.  I heard about it at my training.  I like it.  I have a paper grocery bag for my day 1 (which involves having pieces of paper wadded up into balls to resemble rocks).  It's nice to have all the unusual items put together in a neat way too.  I can just grab each bag as I head out each day to teach. 

Learn the songs and the dances.  Don't be afraid to do them.  The enthusiasm you put forth will be reflected in the kids.  The best teachers are the ones who don't care what they look like.  God sees your heart, and He will reward.

Work on decorations, but realize they're not the most important thing.  Bible study is more important than any craft or amazing waterfall you hang in your classroom.

Pray, pray, pray.  Only God can change the hearts of your students and lead them to Himself.  He can divert any difficulties that may be hurled your way that week.

Be prepared to share the Gospel.  Sure the pastor can and should talk to the kids, but don't be scared to be a part of the most amazing thing that can ever happen in a child's life.  Don't let your fear keep you from experiencing the blessing of being the one God used to lead a child to Himself.  Remember your ABC's!

Friday, April 27, 2012

How to Enjoy a Trip with Kids

Last week, I shared about my breakthrough vacation with my family, at the time a mom of two.  I promised to share how we not only survive, but thrive on our vacations.  With summer coming, maybe these tips can be of some help to you.

1.  Timing is everything.  The vacation I described last week could've ended up very differently. Two weeks before a baby's due date isn't usually a smart decision! The first vacation I took with my littles was also not the best timing because my baby was just eight weeks old. For me, that was too young. Although babies that young sleep through most anything and are easy to transport in strollers, carriers, and slings, they often have sensitive little tummies and skin, aren't usually sleeping through the night, and can't communicate a lick of what it is that may bother them. If you're only going to see family, these aggrivations might be worth it, but if you hope to get out and about for recreation, it might be more trouble than it's worth to carry a small infant. Our babies of seven or eight months old, however, do really great on family vacations. Sleeping in an odd location might cause for some sleep disturbance, but usually nothing too difficult to deal with by nursing or cuddling for a few minutes.

2. Take whatever "lovey" your children need.  We're Babywise folks, but however hard we might try, our children still end up attached to some blanket or stuffed animal while they're little.  We didn't realize how attached our first baby was to what we dubbed her "blinger" - the wind-up part of her crib mobile until we went somewhere without it.  We learned, unfortunately too late for her Uncle Nate, the man that graciously drove around town hunting a toy that made similar sounds.

3.  Be where the action takes place.  If you want to hike, by all means stay in that cabin and enjoy nature.  For our last vacation, even though we loved our old familiar state park stomping grounds, we decided to stay in the nearest city so that we could very quickly get to restaurants and fun touristy attractions.  I also didn't want to cook or wash dishes (this is vacation we're talking about, after all), which would've happened if we stayed in a cabin.

4. Consider spending a little money in order to save a little money (and sanity). We paid a higher price (though we were still very thrifty) in order to stay at a hotel with a heated indoor pool. It was so worth it! This meant our kids got to swim every day (with it in the mid-50's outside), and we didn't end up spending more money on outside entertainment. We also had a small fridge (for milk-filled sippy cups), a great continental breakfast, and nice exercise facility. My plan had been to take advantage of the treadmill during the kids' naptime, but a really bad cold kept me from it. Sometimes, a suite with a fold-out couch can be found wherever you travel, enabling mom and dad a good place to be once the kids go to bed, not to mention the extra bed a large family may need.

5. Be flexible and train your kids to do the same. An example: All of our three girls share a bedroom, but only the older two share a bad.  In a hotel room, they must all three sleep together.  For now, they're short, and we've found it works nicely to have them sleep across a queen bed rather than lay in the normal positions for their heads and feet.  Our youngest still fits in a pack-n-play.  We'll see what happens in the future, but we'll roll with it.  While sleeping arrangements can be planned ahead of time, unexpected and disappointing circumstances may also come about.  This is part of life, and everyone must learn to "do everything without grumbling and complaining" (Phil. 2:14).

As summer quickly approaches, I hope you'll enjoy vacation time with your family.  Now that we've had our family vacation, it'll be my turn with just my husband, also so important to the entire family's well-being!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Family Vacation

Spring break was phenomenal for my family this year!  Here are my kids at Watauga Lake.  And to think I used to live in fear of traveling with babies and toddlers!

This fear surfaced five years ago when my second child was eight weeks old.  My oldest was not yet nineteen months old.  We decided to go with my in-laws to our regular vacation spot in Roan Mountain, Tennessee.  This was our first trip there with our children.  Before, the distance from town had been pleasant and the loft was a nice place to sleep. 

We traveled a long distance, but the main culprit for our first family vacation to start poorly was my choice of food.  I, a nursing mama, ate raw broccoli, not once but twice at the beginning of the week.  I don't care what all I learn in every lactation class I take for work, where they continually say it doesn't matter what mom eats - my experience tells me that I must now always stay away from raw broccoli while nursing.  My baby girl had the most awful gas all week.  Not fun at all.

That loft where I'd always slept didn't work out so well for my toddler.  She could hear the adults still awake and fought us every night about sleep.  The heat also rose, and with us being newbies at the travel thing, we didn't bring the humidifier she regularly used.  Her big blue eyes got all crusty before we left.

It was a challenge, and one I swore I wouldn't go through again.  And then...

Still with only two kids, but one very nicely warming in the oven and nearly ready for her debut, we needed to take a family vacation.  My husband had been asked to preach a trail sermon in view of a call at a new church.  We were feeling God's leading, so even though I was about two weeks away from my due date, we had to take a little road trip.  I just didn't tell my OB-GYN when she examined me the day before we left.  I praised God I wasn't progressing toward labor.

This time, we only had to drive about three hours.  Our new church was paying for the hotel, but my husband being frugal got us an "okay" hotel.  We did have a continental breakfast and a clean pool.

We had a ball!  Our family made many happy memories.  Ok, my husband and I made those memories, and my oldest daughter (almost three at the time) thinks she remembers some of them.  We played in the pool to our heart's content.  Floating was so nice for my big belly.  We went to the beach and listened to our 18-month-old tell the ocean, "No!" in an angry little voice as the water would touch her toes as we walked along the shore.  We laughed that she thought she could tell the waves to stop!  We enjoyed exploring new places we'd never been before.

My husband and I would put the children to bed at their regular naptime and bedtime, with the exception of the toddler just getting snippets of morning naps on our way somewhere.  He and I napped one day, but then there'd be no way we could go to sleep at 8:00 with the kids.  Instead, we put lawn chairs in front of the door and had a mini-date.  One of us would walk next door to Sonic for drinks while the other stayed with the kids, then we'd visit and/or read books and magazines.

Things went very well with the church, and we were called to serve here.  Now, when we drive by that hotel, it is our "Ebenezer" (read 1 Samuel 7).  We'd had a period of difficulty, but this was the place where God restored us.  That hotel is a visual reminder of God's help and faithfulness to our family.

We've had at least three really great family vacations since that trip, and my husband and I have learned some tricks for traveling with little folks.  I hope to share those with you in the next few days, so stay tuned!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How to Bring Kids in Corporate Worship

Today, I'm finally going to share how it is I take my children into corporate worship services without losing my sanity.  I'm not saying all of these ideas may work for everyone, but for me, they're key to worship being an enjoyable experience for all involved.

A few months back, I wrote about preparations for Sunday morning worship beginning on Saturday night.  Getting everything ready (clothes and items that go with us) is essential to not feeling rushed in the morning.  Playing worship music helps my heart's focus.

It is better to train before you expect the desired behavior rather than be forced to correct misbehavior later.  The expectation has been laid out long enough ago now that my children normally know what to expect, but if I've seen an area they need to work on, I will remind them to do so before we go to church.  My expectations for worship include speaking kindly to adults, shaking hands, sitting when we sit (and looking straight ahead), standing when we stand (such as during singing and through some prayers), and being reverent in behavior.  Being reverent for us is being appropriately quiet and mostly still.  I also do not allow my children to eat or drink in the worship service. 

Potty before church.  And it doesn't hurt to avoid drinks that have a tendency to flow through our systems quickly.  I only give my kids milk on Sunday mornings rather than juice or water.  My girls (and their Sunday School teachers) are pretty good about remembering a restroom stop before coming to worship, but I always ask just in case. 

Choose a place to sit that works for your family.  For some families, sitting near the front is best because the children focus better on the service without having to look over other heads.  For others, like mine, the back is best because of access to the door.  If a bathroom exit or discipline is necessary, I don't have to carry a child out in front of everyone.  When my older children were smaller, I often had to take out more than one child at a time because my husband is the pastor and I sit alone.  With two parents or grandparents, this may not be necessary.  We also like to slip out with my husband to greet our church family at the close of service, so sitting on the end near the aisle is helpful.

Have age appropriate expectations.   I already mentioned my general expectations, but it also changes with age.  Because we sit near the back, I do allow my youngest daughter to stand in the pew during special music so she can see better.  I also allow her to color out of a coloring book during the sermon (not before), but I do not allow my older daughters to do so.  I don't allow the coloring book to come out before because any child that can sing their ABC's can be expected to learn the songs we sing in church or at least to listen. Once my kids are five, it is expected that they will follow along in their Bibles as the Scripture is read and look up at the pastor as he preaches.  I open the Bibles to the Scripture and help my emerging reader move her finger along the words.  Yes, this is a lot of work for one set of hands, but well worth it!  My six-year-old can find some major books (Genesis, Proverbs, and the Gospels) and she often wants to find the chapter and verse on her own once I've found other books for her.

Discipline when necessary.  If my child disobeys any request I make during a worship service, and I must repeat it more than once, I take her out to the restroom or outside to discipline her.  We pray and return to the worship service as quietly as possible.  Restoration must take place in our relationship in order to have happy hearts.  Loud crying is not allowed or we go through the whole process again because we do not want to disturb others.  This doesn't happen much.  If you are clear from the beginning what you expect and what the consequences are, it gets easier!

Not too much cuddling!  I know it sounds harsh, but this isn't the time for that!  I'm affectionate with hugs and kisses, but if the focus is going to be on God's word while the pastor preaches, we've got to not be too involved with one another.  I also don't allow my children to lay down in the pews.  Saturday night and Sunday afternoon are times for sleep, not during the worship service.  Eeeek!  I know that sounds cruel, but we're the ones in charge of our children's routines, so we can help them to be attentive in worship!

So, I hope this is helpful for those of you trying this for the first time.  For those of you who may have missed my reasons for bringing children into corporate worship, here's the link.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kids in Corporate Worship

Parenting is hard work. 
If you're already a parent, you're probably thinking No kidding.

My concern is that we often hand off that hard work to other people - i.e. grandparents, teachers, the church.  When we do, we miss opportunities to share God's Word with our children ourselves, one of the greatest joys to be had in parenting. 

As far as it goes with church, I'm not saying that children don't benefit greatly from having other adults serve as their teachers during Sunday School, missions education programs, or Vacation Bible School.  My focus is on the Sunday morning corporate worship hour.  Here are my arguments for children worshiping with the rest of the church body and not off in "children's church" or something similar.  And before you read them, it might be helpful to know I'm talking about children three years of age and older.

Children need to hear their pastor's preaching.  Most of my life, I've been part of churches which are small enough they've only supported one full time staff, the pastor, but I've also been a member of the largest Southern Baptist Church in the state of Kentucky with a very large staff, and also part of a church plant that met in a trailer, and it eventually supported a bi-vocational pastor.  In every circumstance, I believe children need to hear their senior pastor preach.

The senior pastor's preaching is the uniting, teaching voice to the church.  Lead by the Holy Spirit, the pastor studies and prepares to deliver sermons each week that will be edifying to the church body.  The senior pastor is the shepherd of the local church body.  He knows the needs of his congregation.  He knows in which direction the church needs to be lead.  Every member and future member of the church should be familiar with what the pastor teaches.  A child can't truly say "this is what our church believes" if he's never heard his pastor preach.

The pastor also can't be more than a preacher if he doesn't regularly see his church body, even the littles.  Most pastors stand at the door to greet the congregation at the end of each service and often at the beginning.  Even the big 'ol church I was part of, the senior pastor did this.  This is a time for handshakes and hugs, words of love.  Kids need to be a part of this.

It encourages intergenerational bonding within the body of Christ.  If our children don't get to know the adults of the church, how then are they to find Titus 2 men and women?  On the other hand, most older adults are encouraged by seeing the coming generations learning to love God. 

At this point, if you haven't already, you may be thinking about some snooty adults that don't want to be bothered by children in the worship service.  They may say they're distracted.  Your pastor may address this, but we do know that not everyone who attends church is saved.  And even among Christians, we are all growing at different paces and to different levels in our Christian faith.  Distraction can be a real issue when parents don't make attempts at dealing with minor behavior issues before they become big ones, but most of the time, distraction is a heart issue for the one being distracted.

It is a form of discipline for the parent.  Yes, I mean that as a positive argument.  Kids might make it hard to focus on the sermon for a season.  They may test your patience.  You may have to learn to say what you mean and mean what you say.  Are you one that makes threats?  It won't work without follow-through.  Parents will undoubtedly have to take their children out of the service, lovingly correct them, and return to worship.  Sometimes more than once.  Bathroom breaks may occur.  I am convinced all of the momentary issues parents have to work through makes them better parents and better children of God.  "No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11

Sitting in worship is a spiritual discipline children should acquire earlier rather than later in life.  Spiritual disciplines aren't easy.  Fasted lately, anyone?  Teaching a child how to participate in corporate worship may not be pretty at first, but notice that last scripture applies here too.  The first several times a child is in worship, it may not be enjoyable.  Give it some time, and it may not only be enjoyable for you, the parent, but also for the child and those other church members surrounding him. 

How pleasant it is to hear my three, five, and six year-olds sing along with the Chris Tomlin and Laura Story songs our choir sings, the Doxology we sing each week, and other hymns.  My three-year-old walks around the house singing, "He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now."  How awesome it is for my children to participate through passing the offering plate!  How satisfying it is to help my daughter's find the scripture for the sermon, and guide my five-year-old's finger along as she learns to read God's word!  This is the fruit of peace.

What do we get when children are delayed in coming to corporate worship?  Tweens that haven't learned to potty before church (yes, I know there are emergencies even for adults), teenagers that haven't learned the sanctuary is a place consecrated for the purpose of worshipping God and need to learn to care for it, and young adults that still desire to be entertained rather than know how to be still before the Lord.

Still, you may be wondering, how do I do it?  How can I possibly take my children into worship?  In the next few days, I'll share the tips that have made it possible for me to sit alone in worship with three of my four children so far.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bon Anniversaire, Dr. Seuss!

No matter what goes on with my daily household chores, however sparkly or grimy my abode may be, at the end of each day I can measure some success as a homemaker through a very important activity.  Did I read to and with my children today?  If I did, wonderful, even if the house suffered.  If I didn't, but my home is spotless, I'm bound to feel like I missed out on one of the greatest ways to nurture my children.

Today is Dr. Seuss' birthday, which is what primarily has me thinking about reading with my children.  But yesterday, my son gave me a bit of a pat on the back in this department.  My husband stepped in to wash the dishes I had begun to work on (Yes, I find him quite hot!), when my son (20 months) walked into the kitchen wanting me.  Taking me by the hand, he led me to the den, and finally to his corner of the room with a basket full of board books.  He began to point and say "uh, uh" (not yet saying book too often).  I told him I needed to do some other work first, but that I would read with him later.  Walking back to the kitchen, he followed with a book and cried. 

My husband commented, "Congratulations, Mommy, you've made our children readers.  I never thought my son would ever cry to read a book."  Success!  Of course I read him the book.

In the hustle and bustle of all we have to do, it's nice to be reminded from time to time that the simplest of activities are usually the most loved and cherished by our children.  So I also encourage you to end your days as mothers by asking yourselves two questions:

      1)  Did I teach my children of God's ways (both his just and his merciful ways) through the use of Scripture and prayer with them?
    2)  Did I read to my children, the smallest of infant his board book and the older child from a chapter book?

If so, I think you can give yourself a pat on the back!

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;" -Proverbs 1:7a

Thursday, March 1, 2012

First Blogiversary!

Happy first blogiversary to Titus 2 Moments!  Thank you to all who've read my thoughts!  It has been so much fun to write here and to hear from those of you who've enjoyed reading! 

We've been without internet access for the last three days, so I've felt very out of touch, and I've meant to post sooner, but this was my first chance.  I hope to write again soon!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Personal Journey through Breastfeeding, Part 2

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all!  Now back to my story... (and in case you missed the first part, here's the link.)

You'd think there'd be no issues the second time around because I knew what I was doing, but my baby #2 needed to learn how to latch too.  In came the sugar water.  I'm telling you, it's nearly a miracle cure in those first days. 

My milk came in when she was four days old, the same day we decided to go home to see my grandfather before he passed away.  That was physically and emotionally painful, but very much worth the effort.  I was able to tell my grandfather goodbye in person. 

Once my milk came in, I faced hyperlactation.  Most every time I went to nurse my daughter, I sprayed her in the face, and she'd choke and gag.  I learned to lay flat on my back, allowing her to nurse from above, before going to a regular nursing position.  It enabled "Bug" to control the milk flow.  It took a couple of months to get my supply adjusted.  The problem with hyperlactation is that there's an imbalance of foremilk and hindmilk (the fattier portion).

Well worth all the work, we were also very mutally happy with breastfeeding.  Again, I was pregnant before weaning my second daughter.  I nursed for another five months before weaning her at twelve months.  This was a more sad occasion for me because once I began the weaning process, Bug just up and decided she wouldn't nurse anymore once I had her down to just one feeding a day.  This was unlike my first, who allowed us to have a picture of the final feeding.  I can't even remember the final feeding with my second because she decided she didn't need it if I was only going to offer it once a day.

With my third child, something was up from the very beginning.  She wouldn't latch well at the hospital, but I didn't stress because I knew it takes time.  She seemed to prefer to lay on one side of her body, but I didn't know that meant anything in particular. 

We were in the midst of packing to move when I brought her home from the hospital.  My husband and I struggled at every feeding.  Little Minute was such a wonderful baby, but she cried at every feeding.  I took her to a lactation consultant pretty quickly, as there wasn't one at the hospital where she was born.  I was so angry because the LC immediately put a bottle in her mouth!  I had been working too hard for that!  She gave me a nipple shield, which seemed to help for a couple of weeks.

Once we moved (my daughter was three weeks old), things were getting pretty hard.  My daughter cried a good bit, but seemed pretty satisfied during meal times.  I took her to a lactation consultant because she still wouldn't latch without the nipple shield.  This LC weighed her, and my heart sunk to see that she weighed what she did at birth.  The nipple shield doesn't allow enough stimulation of the nipple, so my milk supply was diminishing, and my baby wasn't thriving.  It took a couple of visits, but the LC was able to determine that Little Minute had a slight case of torticolis, meaning one side of her neck had underdeveloped muscles.  She couldn't pull the nipple enough to draw milk, and it also took her a very long time to take a bottle.  I was able to take her to a physical therapist just once to learn the exercises she needed to correct her condition, but I always had to supplement this daughter with formula.  My heart broke, but I was glad to live in a world where I could care for my daughter.  If this had been a few hundred years ago, I imagine she could've died.

Oddly enough, even though this child had to be supplemented, my menstrual cycle didn't return until after she was weaned completely, so I actually made it an entire year without getting pregnant again!

Baby #4 is my only boy thus far, and he is also the only one who seemed to be born to nurse!  There was never a need for sugar water because he always latched correctly from the beginning!  I had prayed for this after my Little Minute had such difficulty.  All during my pregnancy, I prayed God would make my boy a good eater, and He answered above and beyond what I ever expected.  Had my son been my first child, I would've thought breastfeeding is so easy and not been able to understand why women give up before their babies have time to learn what they're doing.

That's not to say there weren't issues.  I experienced thrush for the first time with my boy.  Thrush is a very painful yeast infection that affects the nipples and usually, the inside of a baby's mouth.  It's a pain to treat, but I can laugh about it a little now.  Here's a pic of my purple-faced baby while we dealt with it. 

Just as it was with all my babies, the hurdles were worth jumping as we nursed our way to a year.

I love breastfeeding, and I encourage it for the health of mom and baby.  Breastmilk is exactly what God designed for human baby consumption.  It is living with active cultures that contain healing properties.  I've put it on cuts rather than putting on topical ointments.  With my three children that were exclusively nursed, I've always lost more weight than I've put on during pregnancy because of the 500 calories a day that can be burnt through nursing.  My breast cancer risk is greatly reduced.  My children are bright and appropriately attached to me.  I'm thankful God gave this gift of bonding between mother and child.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Personal Journey through Breastfeeding, Part 1

Finally, it seems I have time to write once again!  A few weeks ago, I mentioned I'd like to share my breastfeeding experiences for those of you that it may benefit.  Again, if this is a touchy subject for you, and it may hurt our fellowship, don't read the rest of this post, but do tune in another day!

I'll also start by throwing out the disclaimer that this truly is just my personal journey, and I am no professional medically trained person.  I have studied tons of articles and books both for my personal understanding and for work, but I'm only a support person to breastfeeding moms, not a lactation consultant.  If you face any difficulties in breastfeeding, I would highly recommend that you talk to friends that have been there, but if you continue to face problems, please seek the help of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.  Whatever you do, don't give up!

My personal journey through breastfeeding begins at my birth!  If I understand correctly, my mother nursed me for the first week to ten days of my life.  After that, my grandmother went home, and my mom felt like she probably didn't eat well enough to make "good" milk.  Knowing what I do now, even malnourished moms can make good milk for their babies, though our bodies will rob us to take care of the babies we feed.  Still, this was excellent for my mom to give me the best for the first days of my life.  Even colostrum, the first milk, is filled with tons of antibodies!  After that, I saw my mom nurse my brother five years later, again for a few weeks.

I thought nothing of breastfeeding again until I was pregnant with my first child.  At the time, the American Academy of Pediatrics was saying exclusive breastfeeding was best for babies through the first six months of life, and that it was still the best with the addition of solids up through twelve months.  I think even "or as long as is mutually desired" was part of their position.  For me, my decision to breastfeed was then a no-brainer.  Why wouldn't I do what was determined to be the best for my child?

Such an easy decision to make, but I had no idea I would have some snags along the way, and that it would be difficult at times to reach my goal of one year.  Praise God, I had friends pregnant before me.  I watched as one of my friends learned to nurse her first child.  She encountered hyperlactation (over production of milk) and thrush in her son's early weeks.  It made me realize I had a lot to learn, so to a class at Babies-r-Us I went, and I got several videos from the library. 

Here's a funny confession: The women and babies in the videos grossed me out.  To be such an advocate for breastfeeding now, at one point it did bother me!  Seeing my friends nurse, however, didn't bother me in the least.  I could see very clearly how God had created women so perfectly for nurturing young life. Another odd thing about those videos: all of the babies latch perfectly every. single. time.

Along comes baby #1 on July 1, 2005.  If you've already read her birth story, you know she latched perfectly the first time within half an hour of her birth.  Her second feeding "had" to be a bottle of formula because I was in surgery.   Truly, if a breastfeeding advocate had been watching out in the middle of the night, she would've made sure Princess M had received that feeding through a tube or a syringe.

All of the next few days, we spent our time trying to get my baby to latch.  She actually did fairly well, and of course, perfectly every time the lactation consultant in the hospital was around.  I was taught by her that I could put a little sugar water on my nipples to give Princess M some instant gratification because colostrum, being so thick, is often difficult to drain from the breasts.  Sometimes, babies will try to latch, then get aggrivated that something's not there fast enough.  I've done this with my friends many times, and it totally does the trick!

It took a solid week for my milk to come in due to the spinal I had for surgery.  Diapers were good and weight gain was up at the week mark despite the long wait for milk.

Princess M was a sleepy baby at times, and it seemed to take a circus to keep her awake for a full feeding.  At night time, this was a challenge.  If I fell asleep, I'd have no idea how long she'd eaten.  I'd decide to go ahead and lay her back down, only to be back up in thirty minutes because she didn't get a full feeding after all.  I learned to stay awake by reading.  In the daytime, I'd read out loud to my daughter.  At night, I'd read silently.  I devoured every magazine and book I could get my hands on.  My husband was in seminary at the time, and I read his textbooks.  I've often wondered if my oldest daughter is so smart because of this and obviously, she was getting breastmilk for brain development!

I tried to pump with two manual pumps, one I'd bought, and the other came from the health department.  They both seemed to be duds, and I was getting really frustrated that once my daughter was four weeks old, we were going out of town, and I felt she needed some bottles expressed for her.  I couldn't get anything from a manual pump!  My husband saw my tears, and he decided we'd buy something for the first time with a credit card: an electric breast pump!  That $250 was worth it!  I've used it with all four of my babies.

The day before we were set to take our daughter home to South Carolina, I began to run a fever, feel achy, and have red streaks on my breasts: mastitis.  My doctor was good to me, not forcing me to come in to see him, but going with my description of my symptoms, he called an antibiotic in for me.

Despite every hurdle, my daughter and I kept the nursing going, and by six or seven weeks, were really mutually happy with the whole deal.  She was always in the 75th-85th percentile for height and weight. She was always very healthy, never running a fever until after she was weaned! 

When my oldest daughter was seven months old, I became pregnant with my second daughter.  I continued to nurse my first child for five more months.  Weaning was a little sad, but knowing I had another one coming made it easier for me...

Part 2 tomorrow - all three of the other babies in one more blog entry!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Birth Story

I failed to mention one little detail in my last post.  Financially, it also occurred to me that we wouldn't have to pay the anesthesiologist if I didn't have to see him for an epidural.  We figured that meant we'd save around $1,000.  To bad I didn't know I would end up seeing him after all, just not for the epidural...

For three weeks prior to my daughter's birth, I was 1 cm dilated.  My due date was June 27th.  At what I expected to be my last visit with my OB, he said I was effaced, and he didn't expect to see me the next week at his office, that he'd be highly surprised if I didn't go into labor that weekend.  My husband was church planting at the time, and he had to travel every weekend to the other side of the state.  As naive first-timers, he called the leadership of the new church to let them know he wouldn't be coming because I would surely be in the hospital. 

No baby by Friday.  So we walked...and walked...and walked.  I was certain my feet couldn't handle any more by Sunday evening.  No baby Monday morning.  On Tuesday, June 27, to the OB I went.  He was surprised, and began talking induction possibilities. 

Now "going naturally" to the vast majority of the "natural" community means completely allowing your body to do its own thing.  I think that's wonderful.  Maybe one day I'll be able to do it, but there was there are two factors that have led us to induce every time my body hasn't done its own thing the way we expect.  First, we don't live near family.  In order to have the help a new mom needs, we really kind of have to plan when family needs to come, and none of the grandparents are retired yet, so work schedules also have to be considered.  My parents really needed to go ahead and come if they were coming.  Second, my husband's in ministry.  At that time, he'd already taken one weekend off.  He could take off the coming weekend, and we could for sure have a baby, allowing him to go back the next week without missing a thing. 

Many doctors will tell you pitocin makes labor harder, and many moms that plan to go without pain medication give in because of it.  For my fourth child, I was only the second woman my doctor had ever seen go without meds with the use of pitocin.  This is not me bragging, but it's part of the story.  I felt I could still go ahead and try not to use meds because I'd never had a child anyway.  What difference did I know?  Also, with induction, the baby's heart rate has to constantly be monitored, so there's no getting out of bed, so traditional methods of pain relief, like walking, or changing positions isn't allowed in most hospitals.

June 30, my dad's birthday, my parents arrive in town.  I fix him zucchini bread, place a few candles on it, and we celebrate hoping the baby will come before the induction scheduled the next day.

July 1, we wake up bright and early.  Surprise, surprise, still no baby.  Pitocin, here we come.  The IV was in and running by 8:00 am.  Those first several hours were easy.  I visited on the phone with my in-laws as they traveled to Kentucky to see us.  I visited with my parents in the delivery room while my husband went to get his lunch, thankfully not eating it in front of me.  By noon, I needed to begin to use my Lamaze breathing.  I think I was at 4 cm.  By 12:30, it was time to send my parents out to the waiting room.

It's totally a personal choice, but for me, I just wanted my husband, my doctor, and the nurses in the room with me.  Some people have a whole party, but for us, this was the start of our family, deeply intimate.

My husband was a great coach, even though this was our first go round.  Coach and laborer communication improves with each child.  Still, with #1, he massaged my back and was a constant encouragement.  He helped me count my breaths.  He was going to help me with my focal point, but I ended up closing my eyes with each contraction.

I moved too much.  Never able to get comfortable, the monitor on my tummy kept losing Princess M's heart beat.  The nurse had to insert a monitor into the top of her little head.

Around 4:00 pm, I'd figure, I was at 5 or 6, and I was beginning to question if I could actually do this without pain meds after all.  My husband gently reminded me of my goal without forcing me at all.

A couple of hours later, I was moving into transition labor (7-8 cm), and I was now praying constantly, but especially during now very strong contractions.  This was the time that was so good for me spiritually.  Without pain meds, I was totally feeling my need for dependence on God to bring me through labor.  Knowing that pain in childbearing is a result of the fall, because of sin, I knew I deserved this pain, but praised God for His goodness through all things.  I can't adequately express how special it was to experience this. 

When I was checked and found to be at 9 cm, I actually began to feel the need to push, so my doctor let me.  Five minutes later, at 8:03 pm, Princess M had arrived!  She didn't cry, just looked around.  My first words after she was laid on my stomach, "You're so big!" to which my doctor replied, "Really?" - later to find out she was 7#5oz.  I had only been 5#6oz, so she was big to me.  My husband and I cried.  After I was able to hold her for a few minutes, we watched as they took her across the room for her measurements and to clean her a little.  We were so tickled to see her still not crying, just looking with these huge eyes at us as she took in her new surroundings.   

I was able to nurse her for the first time very quickly after.  Of course, everything went so well because for the time being, she was very alert. 

I still hurt very badly at 9:30 or so when they took me to my room.  I called my friend I talked about Saturday.  Was I supposed to still be hurting?  She told me it'd pass once I got some rest.

By 10:00 my husband and I were doing our best to settled down and sleep.  By 10:30, I was having contractions again and needing to do my Lamaze breathing.  That couldn't possibly be right, and it concerned my husband enough not to bother with using the call button, but for him to go get a nurse himself. 

My nurse thought I must need to empty my bladder, but when she tried to get me out of bed, I just couldn't bear the pain.  She laid me back down and massaged my tummy.  I passed a blood clot the size of the placenta.  I immediately felt much better and thanked her profusely.  But the moment of relief I felt was a moment of major concern for the nurse because she pressed the call button and yelled that she needed help fast. 

By the time her help arrived, I was in pain again.  The two ladies determined I was bleeding internally, but they couldn't see where it was coming from.  The doctor on call was on his way.  I wasn't conscious for all that came next.  I'd waken for a moment, have a wave of pain, and pass out again.  Sometimes, I'd hear my husband saying, "Lauren, stay with me."  The doctor actually liked me sleeping though, because when I'd have those waves of pain, I moved my legs too much for him to work on me. 

As it turned out, as my daughter made her exit, she torn an artery on my vaginal wall.  I bled internally back into my womb, so there was no way for my doctor to see that anything had gone wrong until I began to have contractions from the blood filling my uterus.

I remember thinking, Man, by the time this is taken care of, it'll be time to feed the baby again.  Eventually, they brought papers for my husband to sign to allow me to be given donor blood.  Once that was done, I was taken to surgery.

Here's where it got very serious for my husband, but funny for me.  The loss of blood was keeping me from understanding how serious a situation was going on.  He, meanwhile, was hitting his knees outside the elevator doors praying for God to keep me alive, then calling our parents to let them know they needed to come back to the hospital immediately.

So the funny side: When the anesthesiologist arrived outside the surgical room, he explained that he would need to give me a spinal block so I wouldn't feel the pain while they did surgery to correct the tear.  I had lost too much blood for them to put me to sleep.  He told me he'd be with me throughout the procedure, and for me not to worry because I wouldn't be able to move.  I laughed, and told me him a few hours ago I had thought I was too good for him.  He laughed out loud too!

I also flipped out because I didn't want them to cut my wedding band and engagement ring off.  They calmly put tape on them and reassured me they'd do no such thing.

I passed out, but I awoke in surgery, tilted nearly on my head.  I tried to move my feet but to no avail.  I looked around at all the people in surgical masks.  I found the anesthesiologist, and told him about not being able to move my feet.  He replied, "Remember, I explained that to you a few minutes ago."  Nope, I didn't remember, but went back to sleep. 

When all was said and done, I received three units of blood.  I was taken back to my room to find all my loved ones waiting, including baby girl, who was being given (gasp!) a bottle by her dad.  She was having to wait too long on me to feed her. 

All was well.  God delivered me.  And we took Princess M home on Independence Day, with my hemoglobin at seven.  My doctor assured me that it was a rare thing what I went through, and that I could have all the babies I wanted.  Praise God!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Let's Start at the Very Beginning...

...a very good place to start, right?

Initially, I thought I'd write about breastfeeding first with my return to blogging, but we need a baby to begin.  Before I share my oldest's birth story, it might be helpful to know why I wanted to attempt natural childbirth. 

Even before the baby, there were ideas I had swimming around in my brain about how parenting should be done correctly.  Ha!  Reality begins as soon as you see that bundle of joy.  Some of those ideas stick and others don't go over so well when you're dealing with a real life human being with his or her own ideas.

Throughout my childhood, I had the idea that I would be a working mom until I had all the children I wanted.  Only then would I stay home with them.  My mom had worked until my brother (five years younger than myself) was about six months old.  She then stayed home eleven years.  I also had the idea that I would have plenty of experience in whatever career path I had chosen so that once all of my children were in public school, I could return to the workforce outside the home.  Other than wanting a bigger family, that's really the only "solid" ideas I had before going to college.

I was required to take a childhood development class for my major, elementary education.  Dr. Bob Gaddis was my professor, such a godly man.  In the textbook we used for the class, there were reports of the findings from studies on early childhood (duh!), some of which were about the first year of life and the importance of the early attachment process for children with their moms.  Ironically, while preparing for a career, God convicted me that I needed to be home with my children during their most formative years of life (preschool age) and possibly even longer.  My mind was firmly set.  This wasn't even taking into account how I need to be my husband's helper, and I was completely oblivious to how much work is required to be a pastor's helper.

Now, this class was also a summer course.  I really enjoyed my summer classes, with even smaller groups than normal and more time for discussion.  At some point, Dr. Gaddis talked about being in the room when his wife gave birth to their two daughters.  He spoke with great pride how his wife had given birth both times completely naturally (no paid medication) and one of their daughters had been breech!  He wasn't trying to influence the girls in my class to do the same, but I so loved to see this man so proud of his wife.  I just couldn't help thinking my future husband (then boyfriend - we weren't even engaged) would be so proud of me if I went without medication.  Again, my heels were firmly set.

The next summer, I was married to my husband, and almost three years after that, we had our first child.  In the months leading up to her birth, I became further convinced I could give birth the old fashioned way without pain relievers of any type because of all the other new moms surrounding me.  There were many couples in the same stage of life we were in, with most of the same convictions because my husband was in seminary.  I listened to others' birth stories, heard the joy they felt, both medicated and not.  My best friend from that stage of life had her first child three months before me.  It was fun to be pregnant at the same time, and we were two of four teachers at our school expecting babies one right after the other.  Another very close friend had her first child four months after me.  Again, what fun days those were! 

Anyway, the first friend I mentioned was medically required to deliver her son without the aid of an epidural.  She had time to prepare herself that it just wouldn't be an option no matter what.  After she came through her son's delivery without medication, she encouraged me that I could do it.  I took a Lamaze class with my husband to prepare for the big day.

Birth story to come Monday!  Was that abrupt? I feel as if I'm saying, "Tune in tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel"....