Category Archives: Childbirth

Surrender and trust

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We are waiting for another baby in our house. I’m now “more pregnant” than I was with Miss M. I hope for all of my friends that they (you) always go longer with your first baby than with the second. Something happened in my brain when I hit that date and it kind of sucked. I have really great care providers and friends who talked me out of crazy, but it’s a difficult headspace for me to be in. (Side note: everyone needs at least two or three friends who are birthworkers! They’re the best in this kind of space!)

The reality is, where I’m at right now is a situation I hate to be in: I want to control the uncontrollable. I have to simply be patient, surrender and trust. That is SO hard. So hard. Often when I’m in this space, every bit of anxiety bubbles to the surface. Things I thought I’d resolved pop back up. It’s actually a really wonderful place to be, even though I hate it. It’s a space for growing and learning and making peace.

This space reminds me of the symbolism of a spiral and the spiritual practice of walking a labyrinth: the path is essentially the same. There is only one way in and one way out. There are no choices to be made, only a journey to be taken. As you walk the labyrinth or a spiral path, you often come back to the same point over and over again, but with a different perspective each time. That perspective allows you to understand that point differently, to learn the lesson again more fully, and to learn things that we couldn’t learn before. It’s a powerful opportunity.

It also stinks, to be faced with how stubborn you are and how much the same lessons need to keep coming up. It can be frustrating to see how much you didn’t learn a lesson you thought you had. That frustration is another learning opportunity: one that invites you to be gentle with yourself instead of judgmental and that in doing so to learn how to be more gentle with the other flawed humans we are surrounded by.

A friend of mine commented that we are all smoothing off each others’ edges by bumping into them. We are also afforded this kind of softening opportunity when we bump up against hard boundaries and uncontrollable situations.

Surrender is hard. Trusting God, trusting fate, trusting others, trusting ourselves, especially when we have absolutely no control, is hard. But often it’s the hard things that teach us the best lessons.

Figuring out how to do that well is messy and I’m really ungraceful sometimes. But I’m thankful for that mess and the chance to learn to be more gracious and graceful. Life constantly invites us to learn more. Really the only question we are left with is not whether or not we will be thrust into the situation, but whether or not we will embrace it, even when it’s the last thing we want to do.

For me, that’s what surrender looks like and that’s how I learn.

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Lessons from the Nativity

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Have I shared how much I love Christmas? I hate and despise winter with every bit of me but I love Christmas with equal intensity. It’s a magical time where I get to buy gifts for those I love (giving gifts is one of my love languages), spend time with family, follow traditions and rituals I love and turn my mind to Christ. Love is a big element of Christmastime.

This year as I’ve been preparing for Christmas, I have been impressed repeatedly by the story of the Nativity and what it has to teach us. I want to share a few of those with you.

Lesson from Mary

Mary shows us the ultimate humility of anyone except for perhaps Christ and more courage than anyone other than Eve when she says to Gabriel “Behold the handmaid of the Lord;…” Later, Mary travels with Joesph to Bethlehem. There, her baby is born in a stable, amongst animals, probably without the birth attendants of her choice (which likely her mother and sisters and the midwife who had cared for her in the beginning of her pregnancy). After childbirth, Mary received guests (the shepherds and probably others) to greet her newborn son. This was usually a time when women were somewhat isolated as they were “impure” (which is a really amazing study topic if you have some time and not associated with sinfulness like we may think), and here she was receiving guests! Now I’m not suggesting she was up on her feet, fixing meals or refreshments, but the grace Mary must have had to receive these strangers teaches me to be more generous with others in my life. Her humility to be the Mother of Christ, to bear the trials which came with that calling and welcome the worshipers who were sent at one of the most sensitive and vulnerable times of her life reminds me to be humble as my Heavenly Parents and Savior shape me into who They want me to be.

Mary also teaches me to be thoughtful, meditative and reflective. In possibly one of the most beautiful scriptures about spiritual experiences, we learn “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” By pondering, I create space for God to teach me more about experiences I’m given to help me grow.

Lessons from the midwives

I have to read between the lines a little here, but as a birth worker, I’m well familiar with the fact that Mary was probably attended to by midwives and gave birth in a stable or a home. Her sisters- and mother-in-law were probably there as well. It’s possible that they weren’t planning on attending to Mary who lived in Nazareth (about 70-80 miles away). It’s likely that Mary had been in Bethlehem a few weeks before her baby was born but the midwife there probably hadn’t had a lot of time getting to know Mary. This untold story teaches me to be willing to helping those in need, no matter what circumstance we find our lives cross paths or how much or little I was planning on being of aid. It also teaches me to be open to opportunities to serve whenever they come.

They also teach me that just as men witnessed the Christ child, so did women. That’s a powerful message of equality in a world which largely ignores or misunderstands the contributions of women to the work of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lessons from the shepherds and the wise men

Christ was actually likely born in the spring. This was “lambing season” when mother ewes were giving birth. This was (is) a very intense time of the year for shepherds. However, at the angels’ direction, the shepherds “came with haste” to find Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. I don’t know if they left their sheep all at once, or if they took turns, but they all left their livelihoods and something that was very important to them at a very critical time.

Similarly, the wise men left their livelihoods and lives and traveled a far distance to meet Jesus. Their journey was not short and was likely expensive. These stories teach me that following Christ is something worth giving up everything that’s seemingly important. This is a lesson repeated throughout the nativity (with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men and Anna) but also throughout the scriptures as Christ calls apostles and disciples to follow Him.

The shepherds were also ordinary people. They weren’t Jewish religious leaders or important rulers. They were humble men without much to garner them an invitation to the most important event in all of history. Similarly, the wise men were foreigners, possibly even gentiles from Babylon, who would’ve been looked down upon by the Jews no matter their status in their own kingdom (where they were probably admired and respected). This teaches me that Christ doesn’t just want to speak to the leaders of the church or those who are deemed appropriate or worthy by “the world” (and that includes the body of the Church). Christ reveals himself to the mighty and the small, the poor and the wealthy, those who lead a church and those who never do “more” than show up to worship. Anyone who will hear the call to come to Him are welcome.

Lessons from Christ

Christ came to earth in the humblest of circumstances. He became an infant, tiny and helpless, descending physically to the lowest a human can be, utterly dependent on another for care. He became as we are in order to do the Father’s will. Like the shepherds and the wise men He gave up everything to come serve us. As He grew, He learned grace by grace, not all at once, just as we do. He became like us so that we can become like Him. He was willing to submit to all things, including the complete loss of autonomy and self-sufficiency, to follow God’s plan. The message couldn’t be clearer to me: following Christ means being willing to recognize our infant state and our complete and utter dependence on someone else (Him) for our salvation.

 

The nativity holds so many other lessons for me, too many to tell here. It’s a beautiful story with so much complexity and depth, with untold stories and silent lessons waiting to be discovered.

At this time of darkness, we celebrate the greatest Light of the world. He is the way, the truth and the light, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer of Israel and the Savior of my soul. Christ came to earth a baby, as we all did, and became what we all hope one day to be. He shows the way and He enables our salvation as we come to Him and be perfected by his blood.

Merry Christmas. May the light of Christ shine on you at this season and always.

Image credit: the Mormon Channel and Simon Dewey.

Image credit: the Mormon Channel and Simon Dewey.

I don’t mean to be pushy but…

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It’s confession time. One of the worst-kept secrets about me is that I tend to be a little bit… blunt. I don’t have a lot of tact and sometimes struggle to understand how exactly what I said was offensive. I also tend to be passionate and vocal (you might call it highly opinionated) on a number of topics. Additionally, I have a hard time seeing past “the right way” to do something. When I’ve done my research and I know the decision I’m making is the safest, wisest, most educated decision for the average person (not for everybody, but for most people), I tend to get a little judgy when people haven’t done their research and make the “wrong” decision.

That combination is not always a winning one, as I’m sure you can imagine.

I know that sometimes this prevents people from hearing what I’m saying. Or it leads to unintended offense. That is never my goal.

This is especially true when it comes to childbirth. I believe the healthiest, safest and most fulfilling way for the average mom to have a baby is drug free and the healthiest, safest and most fulfilling place for the average mom/baby is at home. If you disagree with me, that’s ok, but you better have a good reason based on good education and information (I feel like I there’s an implied “or else” at the end of that sentence… not what I intend!).

I am especially passionate about this subject and I’m going to talk specifically to my pregnant friends now.

What happens during childbirth are some of the most critical things that can ever happen in the lives of a mother and her baby. It is possible that that time-frame is the single most crucial in their lives. It frustrates me to no end that in our society birth is seen as something to be endured and feared and that doctors and nurses in our medical-industrial complex have never seen a natural, normal childbirth, are so trained to see pathology that they cannot just let birth happen and that the average doctor and nurse cannot be relied upon to give accurate information. I don’t necessarily blame them. That’s just the system that’s in place. More than that, I am frustrated that as women we do not do more research, ask more questions and take control of this event.

Women should understand – YOU should understand – that childbirth is at least as important as your wedding day. You put hundreds of hours into planning the day you get married. Why would you not put in as much time planning for the day you bring life into the world?

I want for you and every woman in the world to have the kind of childbirth experience I had. It was lovely. It was wonderful. It was amazing. I can’t wait to do it again. And it wasn’t that way just at the end.

Next time there are things I might change a little bit (like being at work for most of my labor), but I have very little I could complain about. Most of Monkey’s birth was indescribably amazing.

So I hope you don’t take offense if I ask you about your birth plans. Or if I make a suggestion that feels a little bit pushy. I’m really not trying to be obnoxious.

I want for you what I had: a happy, healthy baby and a happy, healthy momma free from birth trauma or drama. I want for you to have a peaceful, empowering, pain-free, comfortable, spiritual, powerful birth.

So, I don’t mean to be pushy, but have you thought about the experience you want? Do you know how to have that experience?  If not, please do. Take charge of your birthing experience. This is too important to just let it happen to you.

– – – I don’t usually do this, but I want to dedicate this post to the wonderful women in whose footsteps I walk. Mom, I love you so much! Thanks for doing it differently. In so many ways, I owe you for the freedom I have to choose something different myself. Katy, thank you for talking about this so passionately. You made it easy to want what I wanted. Cathy and Marinda, thanks for guiding me to what I wanted and helping my trust myself. And Valery, thank you for capturing precious moments I wish I remembered better! – – –