Sin and Parenting

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Man I love my kids but man do I screw up massively sometimes.  I love them so much they make me crazy, Maisy in particular.  That girl was specifically designed by God to stretch and shape me.  It’s painful most of the time.  She also brings me more joy than I’ve ever known.  The highest of highs, and lowest of lows.

One night, when all attempts at discipline and correction went so terribly wrong, I yelled like a banshee at her and ripped any bedtime privileges away from her.  Then I was left mortified at my own behavior and yet still seething at her if I thought about it again.

I did manage to end that night with “I love you,” kisses, hugs and snuggles but before that it was a whole hour of her screaming and me, seemingly, grabbing at straws to try and correct her behavior.  The girl just couldn’t, and can’t, handle it; instead of blunt discipline she needs snuggles and physical love in order to correct.  Gentle chats instead of revoking privileges.  Time in instead of time out.  Thing is, the world isn’t going to give her that so I felt compelled to try and teach her the hard lesson sometimes.

In writing this all out the answer seems clear.  She’s still too little to even attempt dealing with her feelings on her own.  I know she’ll get there.  And yet this realization makes me feel even worse because of how wrong I dealt with the situation.  But that’s parenthood.  Making mistakes and praying your children will forgive you so wholeheartedly they never slap you across the face with it later in life and that they will grow up to be awesome humans despite your sinful nature.

I was entirely unaware that parenthood would make me realize my own sinful nature to the painstaking degree that it does.  It’s heartbreaking and intensely and grotesquely humbling.  Buried deep down I do thank God for it.

It’s All About Perspective

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Lately I’ve been thinking… I may be in my best season of my life.  My own two little girls that think I’m the coolest thing in the whole wide world, they love me fiercely.  I’m also blessed enough to feel the love of the five other girls in my care.  During my days I chip away at photography work and homemaking tasks while the kids sleep.  While they are awake I get to watch these amazingly sweet and imaginative little girls play so kindly with each other.  And I have my husband home every night.  I feel like this is as close to heaven on earth I’m ever going to get.

It hasn’t always been this way.  With Josh on the road the countless sleepless nights with Maisy didn’t just feel like, but were torture.  I was so tired I couldn’t think straight nor could I parent with even the slightest bit of emotional stability because of it.  When I first started day care, and for the first many months, it was way hard.  Maisy deeply struggled with sharing me and her toys.  So much so that she sat in time out several times a day for hitting, yelling, tantrums, taking toys from friends, and the like.

I feel so blissful because I’m so profoundly thankful my load feels so much lighter with a husband who is only a phone call away during the day and is present here at night to talk though any rigors of the day over with.  I’m entirely content with all the things God has placed in my life, so much so I slightly nervously cling to every moment, hoping the next one doesn’t take my husband away from us so much of the time again, ruin the love my girls have for me and turn it into some of that teenager distain I’ve heard so much about, and that all the girls are suddenly at odds with each other all day long like they once seemed to be.

I’ve come to realize just how fully dependent the outcome of your days are, though, on your outlook.  My days right now could be painted very differently…

My own two little girls are so fiercely dependent on me that I can’t get away to do photography, let alone to run any errands or catch a glimpse of alone time, for more than a few hours.  I get very little sleep because of my baby and waking up early to greet the five other kids I have in my care during the week.  Then those five other little girls rip my house apart on a daily basis and wreak havoc on my ears with screaming and running and other boisterous activities.  I work night hours and weekends to do photography on top of the 50 hour work week doing day care without a lunch break.

It’s really all about perspective.

Why I Chose Natural Child Birth

Beauty in the Sacrifice

When I chose to give birth naturally I did so out of conviction first, research second.  When God created Eve he also created childbirth.  Through Eve’s sin that childbirth remained within the same design but with the addition of pain.  Since I trust God’s design in all things I also trust that in order to experience birth the way He intended it, I also have to do the pain part – birth without medical intervention.  Besides, I do deserve the pain.  May sound masochistic but that’s not at all how I feel, I simply feel it is God-honoring to pursue an unmedicated birth.

At 9pm on September 18, my birthday, labor began.  For a brief hour or two I attempted to make it stop and simply go to sleep.  Come 11pm I found bloody show during my latest trip to the bathroom, called my birth team, and buckled up for my home birth experience.  There was a hustle in the house as my entire birth team clearly thought this baby was going to come quickly.  Before the light of day I felt the promising and oh-so-exciting pushing urges only to have them slip away just as fast as they came on.  My labor came in short intervals with long contractions for the rest of the day.  I pleaded for the hospital and cried.  Come 3pm, 19 hours of labor behind me, it became obvious the hospital was not happening so I committed to doing anything and everything my labor team told me.  I went up and down the steps, I went up and down the steps in lunge form, I went up and down the steps in side lunge form, I squatted through contractions, I stood and swayed through contractions, I let them rub labor intensifying herbs on my feet, and I paced the place like a lioness stalking prey.  Finally I felt some teensy weensy pushing urges again and pushed with them with all my might.  The most I got out of it was a little blood here and there and a pathetic little hiccup sensation.  Several more rounds of that and I was coming to the wall of my determination, but just as my strength and will were about to give out my body finally took over for a glimmering 5 minute pushing contraction and it racked me like a tidal wave.  Eleven minutes later, Penny’s head popped out with the rest of her body slipping our right behind.

The cord was wrapped around her neck.  I watched my midwife fumble, gloved fingers too slippery on the cord, trying to get the cord off of her.  I started to reach, then thought better of myself.  I figured “the more the merrier” did not apply in this moment.  So, instead, I sat with invisible hands clenched around my throat and a boulder inside my belly sinking me into the ground.

For what seemed like an eternity they probed that cord.  Then finally it was off and I was on the floor with my not yet crying baby girl in my arms.  I knew she was a girl the minute I felt her head.  As she struggled and fought for air my heart welled with pride and how strong my baby girl was.  She fought so hard for air, for life.  And she won!  After what felt like another eternity of her crying and struggling for breath later she was finally able to breathe well enough to suckle like she so desperately wanted to.

This is the story of my second labor.  My 21 hour back labor home birth.  Nothing compares to the feeling of connection I had after that labor.  I was instantly inseparable from my daughter and undeniably so in love with her.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 1 Corinthians 5:17 NIV.  When Christ came to save us He came and He endured the pain on the cross for us, and He fought the battle in Hell for our lives, and He came out the other side alive and triumphant.  This is labor.  In labor I endured the pain of each contraction, I fought the battle for my baby’s life, and we came out the other side alive and triumphant.  There is no greater moment than that.  The moment of euphoria each mom who delivers 100% naturally feels that moment they have done it and are holding their sweet baby in their arms.  Take a runners high times a hundred and you’re about there. The beauty in sacrificing my own physical comfort is that I am doing labor God’s way, I am allowing my body to do what He made it to do.

Beauty in the sacrifice.  God gave me the greatest beauty there is to behold on this Earth: those moments following my sacrifice of self comfort, the euphoria that comes with completing birth, the happy hormones that come with naturally delivering, and the overwhelming raw surge of joy at holding that new life in my arms.

 

Quantity Time Versus Quality Time

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Monday morning I lived a dream come true.  For months I’d been longing to have an hour or two alone at a coffee shop to do whatever I want.  I could have gotten there sooner with a husband as supportive as mine.  But whenever I made the time to get out for this coffee shop alone time I end up rooted to the spot, within the four walls of my home, due to a kind of obligation to stay within arms reach of my two daughters.

Although I have career passions and photography business obligations on top of my responsibilities as a day care provider and mother I find I always push them aside in favor of as much motherhood as possible.  People say they grow up so fast, and they’re right, and I’m so desperate to not miss a thing.  But is the amount of time, the quantity, what matters or should I be scheduling in breaks for myself so that when I am home with the girls I’m more willing and able to dig in to some quality time with them?  It seems like the latter should be the obvious answer and yet I find myself conflicted all the same.

Penny is an amazing baby and, for all I know, my last.  It physically hurts me being apart from her and missing even just one smile, one laugh, or one snuggle.  She’s already so big, I can’t handle it.  It also physically challenges her as whenever I leave I’m also taking her source of food and security with me.

Now that Maisy has recently entered another challenging phase she, honestly, is easier to want some space from, but even still I feel compelled to not miss a moment.  To soak up her presence and little self even in the moments I’m not super happy about it.  Where’s the logic in that?  And yet I’m completely torn between the quantity time and quality time concept even still.

Reality is, no matter what I decide, they are growing up, and too fast.  Despite my desperate efforts not to miss it I know I still am.  As parents, are we doomed to “miss it” no matter how many hours or how much intentional time we put in?

If I Were a House

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If I were a house today I would have four rooms.  I would have one big room full of balloons, streamers, bubbles, and somewhat childish dance music.  One room would be draped in red with a scary, blazing fire going.  Another room would be monochrome grey-blue, from carpet to ceiling, with nothing else in it.  The last room would be a nursery split in half, one side a sunny yellow with sunlight streaming in, birds chirping outside and the sound of the cutest baby laugh you ever did hear while the other side grumbled from the floor and was edged in a blackish red.

This morning I poised myself on the couch for some precious moments simply to watch the six mobile children in my care split into two groups, the older bunch and the younger, and sit in two circles next to each other completely oblivious to anything but playing and chatting sweetly with those immediate buddies.

This afternoon I played with Penny while the others slept. The stubborn little she baby kept me entirely from the nap I so desired after only four hours of sleep (yup, her fault also), but also spent that whole time stubbornly seeking to woo me back into cheerful, wakefulness.  She succeeded on both fronts and I am happy to report that I got the girl laughing adorably hard as I lifted her in the air only to bring her in for a giggling forehead nuzzle and back up again.

This evening Maisy plucked herself out of play to go potty, only to turn right back around saying “my no haf to go pee pee.”  I gently ask her to go anyways “because we don’t want to have an accident” and she melts down saying “no” in all kinds of ways and flipping the switch into full tantrum mode.  Immediately my brain transitions from pondering fun things to do with my daughter in the next hour or so before bed and right on to getting the bed time routine going.  In my attempts, the volcano of feelings inside her erupted into a black and tearful raincloud crashing lightening.  After too much of my life spent working out how best to discipline her and maintain my cool at the same time in moments like this I actually managed to carry out a near perfect sentence for her behavior.  I cut out the entire bedtime routine, kissed her goodnight while saying “I love you,” and gave her space in her room with her bedtime music and nightlight.  I fully intended to leave her there to pass out if her roars of scream-sobbing her feelings didn’t turn to repentance, but also knew it wouldn’t come to that.  She always turns around, usually very quickly, asking to say sorry.  When she started to calm down she simply repeated through sobs, “My want to pick a book out, my want to read books with mommy, then my go back to sweep…  first my want to say sawy mommy, then my want to pick a book out, then my want to read books with mommy, then my want to snuggle mommy, then my go back to sweep.”  My heart was ripped in two, one side feeling her pain so fully I was on the edge of tears and the other was bubbling with a sort of strange laughter at the cuteness and sweetness of her way of thinking.

I walk in the room and ask her if she has something to say to me.

She nods.

“What do you want to say?”

“My want to say sawy Mommy.”

“Ok.”

“Sawy Mommy.”

“Why are you sorry?”

“Sawy my say no to mommy.”

As I pull her in for a long hug I smile a little at the corner of my lips and the fist clenched around my gut loosens a little.  In that moment I knew I must be doing something right.

About an hour later I was rocking Penny back to sleep and pondering motherhood.  The job that makes me so crazy and so full of joy all at the same time.  What’s extra hard about it is that it’s the job that never ends.  It’s in the moments that I have my heart set on tapping out for the day, thinking both my girls are asleep for at least an hour or so when Penny wakes and requires some extra lovin’.  Those are the moments I need to learn to literally and figuratively simply embrace because to fight them only makes them worse and makes me sad and angry.  This reminds me of labor.  To fight my contractions only makes them worse and makes me sad and angry.  It’s a small revelation I had in the dark while I rocked my baby back to sleep but it’s a powerful one for this task-oriented and occasionally emotionally maxed out mommy.  At the end of the day my job is still to pour as much love into these beautiful gifts I’ve been given as I possibly can.  I simply pray I can be perfect (knowing I never will be) and that by God’s grace these girls learn the character I’m fighting so hard to impart on them and have permanently full love tanks  when they one day leave my house due to the excessive amounts of loving I seek to pour into them all day every day.