Tag: mamahood

We’re Too Flexy :)

Two weeks of homeschool  are under our belts.

We are LOVING it.

Is it early days? Sure, not to mention my parents were in town last week, so things were a bit more stay-cation-y than they would have been. We took that as a “deschooling week,” and while there was a worksheet here and there, we also kicked off by enjoying a place we’ve wanted to visit for awhile, Brookgreen Gardens.

We only enjoyed a portion of this beautiful and historical place that’s pretty much in our backyard… a storybook playground, a small kids’ discovery center, and a zoo of local animals. We plan to go back to enjoy the Sculpture Garden soon.

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The things I wanted most to change for us by making this decision are changing. More focused attention. Better sleeping (9am is soooo much better than 6am…). Better eating (I’m getting into cooking lunch…). Time to explore. Time together.
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There have been a few surprises. The biggest one was on the first “official” day, when Kaity came downstairs in a dress. Kaity does not wear dresses. Later in the week, when my parents took her shopping, she picked out a new dress and a nightgown. Only thing I can figure is she feels very safe. She doesn’t like to be fussed over for looking pretty (Cool or amazing, yes. Pretty, no). She knows we won’t.
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I love the conversations I get to hear them having with each other and with others. I love that they had no electronic devices to play with for the past 4 days and stopped asking after the first day. I love that P.E. has been riding bikes, together with me pulling their baby brother in the bike trailer, and part of their writing has been letters to cousins and friends. (Don’t forget to mail them, Kelly).IMG_4906 IMG_4908

One day this week, Rod asked us to go to lunch together. We headed to our favorite local sports bar, where our manager friend told us his wife had homeschooled their children. Then, over nachos and wings, after we schooled Rod about the origins of Halloween we had learned that morning, we semi-spied on a Red Hat Society lunch taking place in the dining room. Miranda just happened to be wearing a purple dress, so I told her about “When I am old, I shall wear purple…” and asked the girls if we should go crash the Bingo and merriment. The prizes looked really cute.

Before we left, I walked over to their table and told them how much we enjoyed seeing their fun. One of the ladies chased us out the door with an (empty ;) ) purple gift bag for Miranda. Later that day, we read the poem together (our first reading unit so happens to be poetry!)

That’s it, you guys. That’s the kind of natural, “the world is our classroom” experience that is my goal for our learning together.

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And this is an almost-nine-year old girl pretending she’s not giddy about that purple gift bag.

Other things we are loving so far:

  • doing reading and spelling on the couch
  • seeing their friends after school just like always… this is a cool holdover from having attended public school for a few years that makes me very happy for them
  • the girls doing their own laundry (Wednesday is laundry day!)
  • the girls are both 3rd graders now! (it was always my goal to get them in the same grade level)
  • As of this morning, I’m all organized :)
  • Most of our curriculum is free
  • We have several field trips with other local homeschoolers scheduled.
  • We are eventually going to embrace the idea of lapbooks. They look so fun; we just have to overcome our “arts & crappy-ness.” We are so not a craft family…

We are flexible people. It’s where we thrive. So when we haven’t done social studies yet and friends want to play, we play. When I have a work project that needs 45 more minutes, they read or color a little extra while I finish. When there wasn’t time before church for reading, they read me poems in the living room afterwards. It is working for us, and I’m glad we took the leap!

Still

elizabeth-ii-quote-grief-is-the-price-we-pay-for-loveThere are moments in life that that are so life-changing, we will never forget them.

I remember the moments of discovery for each of my pregnancies… not just the positive test moments, but the “Hmmm… could it be…?” moments leading to those double lines. Having been diagnosed infertile, the possibility of a pregnancy was always one that made me as wary as it did excited. The moments of confirmed fertility…miraculous YESes in my life are among my favorite memories.

And of course, the moments I first saw and held my babies – there is nothing that compares.

The moments of loss – the stages in which I learned that our baby David was never going to be in our arms – are equally vivid for me. I still remember the moments in which my doctor couldn’t find the baby, then couldn’t find the heartbeat… the moment of realization that her words were equaling “miscarriage”… the moments of manic wavering between hope and despair over a very long weekend… the moments of confirmation, of bleeding, of hoping it was over… the moments of pre-op as I prepared to give birth in a way I never wanted to.

David was born. He was not born alive. He was likely not in a recognizable form. I never saw more than a blurry sac on a screen. I never got a picture. I don’t know if his eyes would have been brown or blue or quite frankly, if he was a he. But he was once alive, and he was born.

Some of the moments in life I felt most alone were the moments preparing for my D&C. On February 26, 2014, I sat in a curtained room alone. It was quiet. A worker who apparently did not read my chart carefully administered a pregnancy test. I didn’t have the wherewithal to say, “Are you freaking kidding me?” or even, “Is that necessary?” I did have the presence of mind to say this to one of the nurses as she prepared my IV:

When you stick me, I am going to start crying. It won’t be because of the needle.

I’d been through a few medical procedures alone before. When my appendix was ruptured in 2003 and we had been trying to get pregnant since our wedding, the IV for my CT scan set me off. They had given me a pregnancy test and I knew if it must have been negative. I was 26 and probably still looked 18 and that poor tech was so confused when my tears started flowing. He thought I was afraid of the needle.

Almost exactly a year later, my cycle of fertility testing ended with a laporoscopic surgery. In my optimistic form, I had people praying like crazy the night before that I would be miraculously pregnant and the surgery wouldn’t be necessary. Once again, a test was administered, no results were verbalized, and when the IV got started. I cried. Those poor nurses thought I was nuts. I told them I wanted to be pregnant and they said, “Honey, that’s why you’re here…” Then they out some happy juice in that tube and that was that.

So, something about the pre-op procedure, being secluded from my partner, and the IV confirming that this is really happening makes me cry.

Fast forward to 2015, the morning of my planned C-section for Jack. I felt like a pro. I was in that same pre-op area for the 3rd time in 3 years (there had been another procedure before my miscarriage). I felt excited and confident. I asked if Rod could be with me, and they allowed him. There were no tears.

My birth story for Jack is still being written, but here is the take-away. Birth is hard, and so are surgeries. I had a pretty routine 3rd-repeat C-section with Jack, and also had a tubal ligation. But having your insides cut up and sewn back together is what it is, and so is birth, and there are many emotions that accompany all those things.

I decided in the hospital after Jack was born that I didn’t want any moms going through any kind of birth to feel voiceless or alone, but in particular, moms experiencing surgeries, fear from past experiences, or loss.

Because I have worked in ministry for most of the past eight years and on a church staff for the last 3.5, I figured, “Eh. I will talk to some people in the hospital and see if I can’t be some kind of maternity chaplain.”

And then, I said that to a birth worker in my community, and her immediate response was, “OH! You should be a bereavement doula!”

Huh?

How can I be a doula when I have only birthed via C-section?
What the heck is a bereavement doula?
Why in the world would I take a certification course now, after having my 3rd child?

I am not sure I have all the definite answers to those questions yet, but they are evolving, and I will say, I am following a path that seems to have been ordained for me long ago –

  • when I was an adolescent having nightmares about infertility
  • when I was vicariously grieving for acquaintances, friends, strangers, celebrities, and fictional characters grieving from miscarriages and stillbirths and sudden infant death
  • when as soon as, maybe even before, I recovered from my miscarriage, people crossed my path who just needed someone to listen and support and understand
  • when I realized that Myrtle Beach has a fundamental little tribe who supports mamas in all seasons and I have might have something unique to offer

So this is my “announcement.”

StillBirthday UniversityWhat started as a little Facebook page inspired by my wise and wordsmithing daughter will soon be Three Dots Birth Support Services, or something like that.

And through the amazing design of Stillbirthday, by this fall, I will be certified as a doula for births with all outcomes and plan to go on to certify as a chaplain.

As I read through the course material and finished my first exam today, I wonder not how I can handle the workload but how my heart can hold the weight. Every 20 minutes in the United States, a baby is stillborn and a family is devastated. Forty percent of pregnancies in the U.S. end in pregnancy, equaling 600,000 per year. (all stats from Stillbirthday.com)

I had one that completely knocked me out. I cannot imagine multiplying that heartbreak by such staggering numbers.

I can only hope that one at a time, I can help mothers, and with my husband on board, families, get to the other side of those still, fearful, devastating moments of loss.

I want every mama to know that her baby matters.

My story wasn’t over, and neither is theirs, and neither is yours.

Last Time Mom

take pictures in your heart

In the American birth industry (oy ve, it is an industry) a woman who gives birth over the age of 34 is considered “advanced maternal age.” Some statistics say that 20% of babies are now born to women over 40.

So there are a lot of “us.”

I first encountered “AMA” after the horrible appointment in February 2014 when I was told my baby had no heartbeat. My doctor wanted me to schedule a D&C that day, but since I was experiencing no miscarriage symptoms, I chose to wait.

Note: I do not regret this at all. Based on research, it was very possible that my tilted uterus was obscuring the view of the fetus and things were fine. However, God “helped” me out in that 5 days later, I began experiencing pretty severe symptoms along with another ultrasound that showed the fetus was shrinking. I inevitably had a D&C, but I would have never rushed to one.

Anyway, when she sent me away with follow-up paperwork that day, I had to look up everything it had said: “Threatened AB” (which means threatened abortion – potential miscarriage), “AMA.” I am not sure what my age had to do with anything since I had never had a miscarriage nor had any pregnancy complications, but alas. I was labeled.

My granddaughter Nora and me
My granddaughter Nora and me

It became clear to me early in my subsequent pregnancy with Jack exactly what AMA meant. You want to know my unprofessional summation?
It’s a marketing scheme. Surprise! We are in ‘murica, where one of the most natural processes on Earth has been turned into a sanitized and overly-scrutinized-by-insurance choose-your-own-adventure with very little adventure unless women happen to know they can take ownership of their own stories (that’s another post). And being AMA did not mean a darn thing in terms of my pre-natal care or experience, other than I was offered and encouraged to have optional genetic testing done, including an amniocentesis, to determine whether my baby had any genetic defects… even though there was no history in my or my husband’s family to put us at risk for anything other than Celiac disease, dry skin, and chronic stubbornness. 

I declined all the tests.

Please understand my heart. I understand and empathize with why these tests are valuable to some people. I have heard the song “I Will Carry You.” I personally know people who experienced the tragic outcome of trisomy 13 or 18 or have had babies born who needed immediate critical care. But I also know people who did everything preventative in their power, tests, precautions, and were still surprised by a diagnosis in their child that was devastating. And even when we are “prepared” with knowledge, what can we really do in instances of tragedy?

So my heart here was… We are going to get the child we are meant to get. He or she might be in perfect health or might have something severely wrong. Either way, we will care for that child with all the love and resources we can. We would not terminate a pregnancy based on genetic testing because basically, all of them have more than a small chance of being wrong.

Thankfully (and I thank God daily), Jack progressed beautifully. I had a bonus ultrasound at 16 weeks which I thought was only going to tell us his gender (he was, ahem, All Boy), but when the tech took us through indications and markers that I didn’t even know existed and showed us that we essentially had nothing to worry about, my exhale turned into tears pretty quickly.

In a previous post, I mentioned how I compartmentalize my fears. Yeah. I had done that. And I didn’t realize how scared I was that my age or some other factor was adverse affecting my baby until I was told that he was fine.

A few weeks before my due date, I felt like the oldest woman in the world!
A few weeks before my due date, I felt like the oldest woman in the world!

So what good was it to be AMA? Well, here are my thoughts:
A few weeks before my due date, I felt like the oldest woman in the world!

– as a 37 year old with 2 previous births, a miscarriage, and having raised 2 step kids from puberty to adulthood, I had…well, the wisdom of experience. I don’t ever consider myself wise, but at this point in life, I do consider myself experienced. So when other expecting mothers (and I was blessed to be around a lot of them while pregnant with Jack) had concerns and questions, I was able to be That Mom… the Titus Mom…not the voice of expertise, but the voice of experience and encouragement.

I was very clear about what I did not want. I did not want any interventions I didn’t need. I didn’t want to gain unnecessary weight. I didn’t want my baby to have bottles or a schedule.  I didn’t want to fuss with things that didn’t matter or try to take care of anyone outside my immediate family. These were all things I did differently when my girls were born… I had an unnecessarily clinical aftermath of Kaity’s birth (and probably an unnecessary C-section, but that is also another post), I had a hard time losing weight, I didn’t know enough about breastfeeding and gave up for the wrong reasons, and I tried much too hard to take care of more than what or whom I needed to.

I also knew what I wanted. A gentle C-section (thank God this was a readily available process at our local hospital and with my preferred doctor). On-demand, relaxed breastfeeding. Not too many visitors (I lost on this one a little, but only because our baby is so loved).

– I knew what to expect. This mattered on so many levels. I knew what to ask for during all the pre and post operation procedures. (Rod got to be with me during most of my pre-op, not because I was nervous, but because it is boring! If only I had asked for this when I was getting my D&C..)! I knew how to cope with the surgical pain. But more importantly… I knew time was going to fly. I knew Jack would look like a different person in a week. I knew those blurry, mostly-sleepless first nights would not last forever. I knew it was just as important to take pictures with my heart and mind as it was with my camera. And so I savored every single moment. And I still am.

I can espouse on and on about the privilege of being a “last time mom.” I guess that’s a more applicable and less smart-aleck way of reusing the term Advanced Maternal Age. Even though my hair is graying and 40 is only a year and a half away, I don’t feel advanced about much of anything. The longer we are raising kids, the more questions parenting brings. That is why it is important to be a community that shares with love and encouragement. I hope as a mama and stepmom and grandma (this still makes me smile and shake my head), that is what I will always do.

Redemption Child

One year ago today, 3 months after a devastating miscarriage, I suspected I was pregnant again. This week, I am revisiting the journey of carrying and birthing our Jackson Cash – my redemption child!

redemptionchild1Unmitigated joy. It’s not a feeling I am used to, and yet, when I am around my baby son, whether he is eating, sleeping, chatting, smiling, or just looking at me with his wide, blue eyes, I feel it bubbling up.

It’s not that I love him more than my other children; of course not. But his timing, his entrance into our world, well, it’s so easy for me to see God’s hand in it.

I have probably said before how much having another child surprised us. The roller coaster of shock, elation, and heartbreak of our miscarriage last year changed me forever. It changed my perspective on mothering, family, my career aspirations, my belief in God and His works, my bond to other women, my pregnancy experience… everything.

But carrying and having Jack changed me, too. In the years between Kaity’s birth and his (6 years, 11 months…), I was often, as my Gramma H. would say, “running myself down.” I didn’t like my body. I wasn’t losing weight. I didn’t nurse the girls long enough. I should have pushed harder for natural births. I didn’t enjoy them enough. I should have taken more time. I should have planned my job moves differently. I should homeschool. I should do this, this, this, and this. AND, even better, “This person did this better. This person looks better. If i was like that person, my kids/family/body would be ______.”

What a lost cause that thinking is.

During my pregnancy with Jack, I met amazing women, mamas, nurses, midwives, birth workers, who encouraged me personally or by simply sharing their stories. Through those months – and the four following, I’ve been able to make peace with my C-section births, my ability to breastfeed, my level of patience with my children, and my role as a mama, a stepmom, a grandma, a wife, and a sister in the community of mothers.

In a nutshell, God sent me a whole lot with my newest, my last baby. While the loss of David last year brought me so many questions, the birth of Jack brought me affirmations.

God used Jack to make me listen to Him saying…
You are enough.
You are new.
You are forgiven.
You are strong.
You are beautiful.
You are young.
You are patient.
You are kind.
You belong.
You give love.
Let my joy radiate from you. Point to your son and say, “The Lord is good. His promises are real and true. I have been redeemed.”

As a result: I don’t feel uneasy when I have to nurse my son in public; I feel confident. I don’t feel shameful about the extra pounds around my waist or the gray hairs sprouting more frequently; I feel strong. I don’t wonder if my husband is really attracted to me or whether my kids really adore me; I feel cherished. I don’t feel like I missed the boat in my career; I feel like my whole future is still unfolding, and like I am showing a smart, balanced, and loving example to my children.

I was these things all along, though. I was supposed to see them that way. And it dawns on me that God could have used any number of things to clarify my vision. I am very grateful that He chose as His means of attention-getting a pure bundle of cuddly joy, one who elicits smiles in a hundred different ways, one made to fit perfectly into the curve of my chest and my heart. God sent Jack to make me a better listener…

And oh, the things I am hearing! :)

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
 Romans 4:21

to be continued!

Happy Birthday…

4 babies
I am the mama of 4 babies.

The best I can guess, you would have been born today, or at least, some time this week.

I carried you for 6 weeks.

I knew you for 2 weeks.

And then, you were gone, before you were ever here.

I think of you daily, with sadness and wonder and gratefulness.

In 2 weeks, you gave us joy, love, and appreciation that we didn’t have before you.

In the 3rd week, through your passing, you gave us a new dream.

That dream is a different picture of our lives,
a more complete picture of our family.
It might have included you, but now, it includes your brother.

Thank you, sweet baby, Heavenly child, for what you gave to me.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you more, but I am your mama, forever.