Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Double Standards

I don't like to talk politics for two reasons.  First, it's just not something I'm super passionate about.  There are many other things I'd prefer to discuss.  Secondly, most of my friends are conservative republicans, and while I describe myself as unaffiliated, I tend to lean to the left.  Sharing my political views has often made me the recipient of scorn, anger, and rejection.  And there are many other things I'd prefer to do than get yelled at because I buy into the whole global warming scam, or whatever.

Today I saw this car parked in a parking lot.

Bumper stickers from left to right read:
"fuck your tea party"
"Your prejudice is your own.  Don't blame God."
"GOD is NOT a republican"
"Focus on your own family"
"When do I get to vote on YOUR marriage?"

My point here isn't to talk about each individual issue.  What stood out to me was the overarching theme and the hypocrisy that's regarded as acceptable so long as it's directed at a certain group.

I couldn't help but put myself in this person's position and wonder why they feel this way, wonder what he or she might be thinking.   "How dare you tell me how to live my life or try to force your values on my family.  How dare you tell me that your way is better, that it's the only way.  How dare you tell me how lost I am."  I get it.  But at the same time they seem to be saying some of the same things.  "Your way is wrong.  My way is right."  Offering up the reminder, "judge not lest ye be judged" while in the same breath saying "fuck anyone who challenges my point of view," as our Hyundai Sonata puts it.

What a double standard.  And I'm not just talking about the left or the non-religious, I hear this attitude from conservatives and religious people all the time.  It's easy to talk about love and tolerance and an open discussion until you're confronted by the people that you feel hated by, and then it's ok to retaliate in kind.  But that just doesn't work.

I'm not saying people shouldn't stand up for their rights and values and what they believe in.  I'm not saying they don't have every right to voice their opinions.  But there's a big difference between respectful political discourse (even when only one party is respectful) and retaliating against those who challenge you.  Look at how Martin Luther King, Jr. did it.  Look at how Ghandi did it.  Look at how Jesus did it.  And then explain why fighting hate with more hate is a better way.

Remember Westboro Baptist Church?  God, I look forward to the day that no one remembers who they are.  I won't post any pictures of their signs, you can google them if you have to.  Anyway, I remember seeing a news spot about a gay and lesbian rights group that set up a booth across the street from where Westboro was picketing, and they were taking donations to support their cause.  I'll never forget the guy they interviewed- not just his words but the tone of his voice, the look on his face.  It wasn't hatred, or anger, neither was it submission or shame.  He didn't have an unkind word to say about the people who were shouting in the background, he just explained that he was trying to make good out of an ugly situation.  He decided to fight hate with peace, and his organization raised an absurd amount of money that day.

No matter what you believe in, you won't get anywhere with mere words.  It's time to start backing them up with actions.  Don't want to be judged?  Believe everyone has a right to their opinion?  Think everyone has equal value?  Then live it yourself, even- no, especially- when it's not easy.  As I stated in my last post, the times it's hardest to stick to your values are the times it's most important.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On My Worst Moments

I love being a mom.  I really do, but I didn't at first.  I really struggled for the first 6 months to find an inner peace, a steady place every day, and I often felt overwhelmed and unhappy.  I watched other moms cope with the challenges of a new baby, watched them adapt beautifully (or at least appear to) and wondered, "why is this so hard for me?"  I've always felt somehow lacking as a woman and for months, motherhood was another confirmation of my feminine inferiority.  I felt guilty every time someone said to me, "Isn't it fun?" or "Don't you love it?" and answered a meek "oh, yeah" but inside felt a resounding "NO!"  I finally decided to drop my pride, ask for help, and be authentic with the people who love me.  I received in return many listening ears, much understanding, and plenty of support.

The last few months have been vastly more enjoyable, ever better and better.  I'm finally feeling that I'm a competent mother, able to handle the many and varied challenges, able to adapt.

I practice what I've been calling "intentional parenting."  It's the same way I treat Stephen.  We've always believed in being intentional with one another, never doing or saying anything casually or thoughtlessly or out of routine, quick to repent when we do, talking about everything, and I'm happy to say it's given us a rock solid marriage.  I suppose I could call it "intentional relating" just as easily; it simply means I approach every day and every interaction with purpose.

I wake up every morning with the higher calling of not only meeting Isabella's basic needs- feeding her, clothing her, keeping her safe- but sowing into her heart and spirit the messages and values that Stephen and I have determined are most important.

That she is abundantly loved, of exceptional worth, and highly honored.

That we deeply value her heart, needs, desires, thoughts, and emotions.

That she is strong, beautiful, tender, intelligent, powerful, bold, and capable of doing absolutely anything she sets her mind to.

That Stephen and I are a safe place for her to run to when she's unsure.

That we deeply value our relationship with her.

I try to give my daughter more than the minimum.  I try to pour everything I have into her, and I truly love doing it.  The things I set aside for her benefit are not even worth mentioning, because she's worth my time and energy.

I work for this every day, and I'm covered by grace when I fail.  But at nighttime, everything that I value so much during the daylight hours seems to go out the window.  Lack of sleep is like a mental illness for me.  I'm not kidding.  I feel like I turn into a totally different person.

I don't know (nor do I particularly want to know) if this is normal, but Isabella often wakes up to nurse 3 or 4 times a night.  Even at 9 months old it's rare for her to make it longer than 5 hours at a time.  I'll usually get up and nurse her and she'll fall right back to sleep, no big deal.  But sometimes she just can't get settled back down, and no matter how many times I bounce her to sleep and set her gently in her crib and pat her back for what feels like an eternity, she just wakes back up and I lose my temper so hard I think I'll never find it again.  I would never, ever hurt my daughter but I definitely know what it feels like to kind of want to a little tiny bit, in some deep dark corner of my heart.  Instead, I slam doors and stomp around and curse like mad and get so worked up that even when Stephen finally gets her back to sleep I'm too full of adrenaline to get back to sleep.

Then as I lay awake in bed with my heart pounding feeling like a werewolf slowly returning to human form, God speaks to me in a firm but gentle voice.  He reminds me who I am, what He made me for, that I'm better than this.  He reminds me of the commitments I've made as a parent, and that I'll look back at this challenging season as a moment in time, a mere heartbeat in the journey of my child's life.  And then I remember that every nighttime waking where I respond to Isabella and don't leave her alone to cry in a dark room, I've taken another brick and cemented it into the foundation of her heart, building the knowledge that her needs are important and that Mommy and Daddy are people to be trusted.

And in the morning I apologize to Isabella and ask her forgiveness for losing my temper, for not being gentle and loving and patient with her.  I thank her for being patient with me and giving me grace.  I tell her I'm going to work on this issue in my heart and I tell her how much she means to me.  I know, she's only 9 months old... that's why it's so important I start humbling myself now, while it's still relatively easy.  We want to cultivate a culture of honor in our home, and it happens day in and day out, over time.  With humility.  With intention.

I'm slowly realizing that the moments it's hardest to honor and love are the moments it's most important to do so.  This is how character is built.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Under Pressure

I don’t know what’s gotten into Isabella over the last few days.  She’s barely napped during the day, is difficult to get to sleep in the evening, and is waking up a lot during the night.  Classic teething symptoms aside from there being no sign of teeth emerging.  Anyway, I was trying to put her down for a nap today, she was fighting it and I was getting really frustrated.

We absolutely don’t believe in letting our daughter “cry it out” but sometimes I need to take a couple minutes to regain my composure when she’s having a hard time.  So I put her down in her crib, said “I love you,” and left the room.  I sat down at the dining room table for a minute or two to take a break and tried to breathe deeply.

Isabella’s cries were getting really insistent and I decided not to push it.  If she’s really not ready for a nap, I’m not going to try to force her.  One of the things I’ve learned during the last nine months is that I can’t control my child- or anyone else- no matter how much I want to.

I went in, picked her up, and carried her out of her bedroom and into the living room.  Her room was dark so I couldn’t really see her when I picked her up, but when I got her into the light and looked at her face, I was completely horrified.

Isabella’s cheeks, chin, mouth, hands, and shirt were covered in blood.  The expression on her face was undeniable fear.  I was an absolute disaster… thankfully Stephen was home, he held her while I cleaned her off with a rag and finally managed to pry her mouth open.  The blood was coming from a cut on the inside of her upper lip- probably from her own teeth.  When I went back into her room I found that her comforter was bloody, too.

I feel wretched,  My little girl hurt herself and needed me.  She was crying for me and I couldn’t tell the difference between “I’m frustrated and tired” crying and “I’m hurt and bleeding alone in a dark room please help me” crying.  She didn’t have to wait more than 90 seconds for me… but that’s still a long time for a baby in pain.

I’m thankful she wasn’t seriously hurt, I just hate that she was scared and I didn’t come for her right away.  I hate that when I realized she was bleeding I couldn’t stop freaking out and get my head on straight and do something about it, all I saw was bright red blood all over my baby's sweet little cheeks.  I just kept saying “oh my god oh my god my little girl, I’m so sorry oh my god,” while Stephen tried to reassure me  (reassure me) that everything was ok.  And it is now... minor injury, minor incident.

But seriously... is this me as a mom under pressure?  I’m terrible at it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Taking a New Direction

I actually wrote this post on Saturday but didn't publish it till today (Monday) and of course, the sermon on Sunday was about dreaming, using Abraham as the example.  When God gave Abraham His promise, everything that Abraham did from that point on was intentional toward this dream.  God has given me a dream during the last few months so I'm going to take a cue from Abe and turn my sights in a new direction.

Dreaming can be scary.  It can be a risk.  What if my dreams don't come true?  What if I fail?  What if I get my hopes up and end up getting disappointed?  But I'm in a season of risk taking and big dreams, where God has invited me to dream with Him- not just to dream His dreams for me, but to dream my own dreams for myself.

If allowing yourself to dream is risky, then certainly sharing your dreams with others is the most dangerous thing you can do.  Then, if I fail, I fail publicly.  By sharing my dreams, I am acknowledging them.  By sharing my dreams, I'm making myself accountable for them.  By sharing my dreams, I'm making myself vulnerable.  By sharing my dreams, I'm making them more real.

But I've decided it's time to share one of my dreams... a dream that's so close to my heart that I was barely able to whisper it to myself for months, that I've only just begun to have the courage to speak about to my most trusted friends.

I've decided I want to be a midwife.  Not just I want to... I have to.  I need to.  I know this is a calling on my life and nothing will stand in my way to get there.

I'm still surprised by this dream.  I remember, a few years ago, having a conversation with my sister-in-law Kelli.  She told me she wished she could have another baby because she thought childbirth was so magical and amazing and powerful and she loved it so much.  She told me all about the birthing suite she'd wanted that had a tub and a birth ball and all kinds of weird birthing equipment in it.  I remember thinking, "Good Lord... this woman is crazypants."  I maintained that when (if ever) I had a baby, I wanted them to knock me out so I could just wake up and have a baby in my arms.  Because childbirth is hard and it's gross and I'm not going to do it.

Nearly 4 years later, I was blessed to have a drug free waterbirth with Isabella (joyfully attended by Kelli)... how far I've come.  It's amazing how much your perspective can change through a little education.  I've always been the kind of person that hates being to be told what to do, hates doing what everyone else is doing, and if you try to say I can't do something I'm damn straight going to do exactly that, so when I became pregnant and learned that the way you're "supposed" to have a baby is strapped to a bed in a hospital, hooked up to drugs, with nurses and doctors telling you what to do, and a 30% chance of a cesarean, I said hell no, there's got to be another way, and immediately began researching.

I discovered a whole world where pregnancy and labor aren't viewed as conditions to be treated, but a normal and healthy part of a woman's life; where the woman has control over her care; where parents are educated about labor and delivery.  The midwives I met with took all the time I needed at every appointment, they made sure I fully understood all of my options and everything that was happening in my body and soul.  I felt personally invested in.  By my last postnatal checkup I was ready to have another baby just because I didn't want to say goodbye to the amazing nurses and nurse-widwives who had cared for me for nearly a year.

My passion for the midwifery model of care has only grown.  When I'm around pregnant women, I have to restrain myself from drowning them with information, and when I have an open door to share about pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding... I leap through it.  Right now, writing this article, I'm holding back... I could write and write and write.  I just love this world.  I had an incredible experience and I deeply desire to bring other women into the same understanding and joy that my midwives were able to lead me to.

The thing is... I want to be a certified nurse-midwife. That's a Bachelor's Degree in nursing (4 years) and a Master's in Midwifery (2 years).  We're talking 6 years minimum of schooling... and I have a child.  I'll definitely have more.  Obviously I'm not going to school full-time, at least not right away, and I would be surprised if I finish in 10 years.  The idea of ten years of schooling is profoundly intimidating to me.  By that time I'll be 36.

My dear friend Annie put it in perspective for me: "The fact is, you're going to be 36 one way or another.  Would you rather be 36 and done -or almost done- with your degree, or 36 and wishing you had started?"  It's not like 36 is old... it just feels like a long time from now.  It sounds like a lot of work, being a wife and a mom and a student.  But I've set my mind on it.  I'm sharing it you-with whoever felt like reading this post- and I'm going to do it.