Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Preparing for Birth, Part 2

Find a doctor you’re comfortable with

Do not, I repeat, do not settle for someone you aren’t comfortable with unless you absolutely must. Just because you started going to one does not mean you can’t find a different doctor. Of course, if you switch too late in pregnancy it’s harder to find someone who will take you on, but probably not impossible.

When I got pregnant for the first time, I thought I wanted a woman doctor. I tried one and she was awful. So I switched to a grandfatherly, experienced, laid-back gentleman who had delivered a zillion babies. He was the best. When I moved to Shreveport, that’s what I looked for again. I asked around until I heard of someone that sounded like a good fit. As it turned out, he was.

My OB’s whom I’ve been certain have a personal relationship with Christ have been the best experiences. I feel more comfortable with someone who believes in the power of prayer, will hopefully be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and exhibits the grace of Christ in his life.

My sister and other friends have used midwives for low risk pregnancies. Honestly, the testimonies of moms who have gone this route lead me to believe that their prenatal care has been far superior to mine. However, there are no midwives in our area that I know of, even if my husband would go for it–which is unlikely! :)

Find a doctor your husband is comfortable with

Even if your husband doesn’t go with you to every appointment, I believe it’s a good idea for him to at least meet the doctor near the beginning of the pregnancy. Your husband will more than likely be with you during the birth and he’s the one who will probably make decisions if you should become incapacitated (an unlikely scenario, but worth considering). If your husband acts as your support and coach, he will be interacting with the medical staff a great deal. Things run much more smoothly if he has a good relationship with your OB–and especially if he respects him (or her). It will be stressful for you if your husband and the doctor have a personality clash or if they have a tense relationship for some other reason. That said, as your advocate, your husband may at some time have to be more confrontational–but if he and the doctor mutually respect each other, conflicts work out much better.

Remember, the doctor works for you

I have great respect for medical professionals who are well-trained to help people and save lives, and I’ve interacted with a number of wonderful doctors. Nevertheless, I’m a bit leery of the medical profession because I’ve seen a lot of playing God among doctors. A nurse told me recently that she was told point blank in nursing school that a great deal of the time doctors are just guessing at diagnosis. So be informed, do your own research, and remember that the doctor is working for you in this natural process of birth. Again, I’m grateful for doctors who save so many lives, but in low risk situations, understand your options and stand your ground. In short, don’t be bullied by a doctor or medical staff.

A personal example: Unless my baby is in distress, I won’t be induced. Do I get pressure? Of course. But having done the research, I believe that for me—barring a medical emergency—baby should come when he or she is good and ready. Having my third birth at just 2 hours of active labor and the fourth at around 3 hours solidifies my view even more. I believe it’s easier when nature takes its course, and I’m willing to take a stand for this. Your non-negotiables might be different–this certainly isn’t a statement against those who feel it’s necessary to induce–But I’m just saying that when you have a personal issue about which you feel strongly, don’t feel pressured to do something against your better judgment.

Use a birth environment you’re comfortable with

If you’re having a hospital birth, find a doctor who delivers in a hospital with a good reputation. My doctor for babies 2 and 3 mainly delivered at a huge, usually overcrowded hospital that frankly has a reputation for inadequate care. (Blunt version: We heard horror stories.) However, he personally has a stellar record and was willing and able to deliver at the small Catholic hospital down the street. That’s what we chose, and the care has been personal and excellent.

Of course there are other options too: birth centers and home. While there aren’t any options locally that I know of, I have friends and family members who have had babies at home and at qualified birth centers in other places with great results. Seek the guidance of God and determine with your husband where you should deliver. My mom friend Jenny (who has birthed 8 babies at home) reminded me, “Jesus is in the hospital too.” My hospital births have been great, but I attribute it mainly to choosing good ones and being informed and proactive. And I believe that God has led us to the places where he wanted me to give birth.


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Homemaking: A Noble Endeavor

I know I’m old-fashioned, but I believe that homemaking means so much more than keeping our houses clean and our families fed. Our influence is powerful and our work is important!!!

Home is the true wife’s kingdom. There, first of all places, she must be strong and beautiful. She may touch life outside in many ways, if she can do it without slighting the duties that are hers within her own doors. But if any calls for her service must be declined, they should not be the duties of her home. These are hers, and no other one’s. Very largely does the wife hold in her hands, as a sacred trust, the happiness and the highest good of the hearts that nestle there. The best husband – the truest, the noblest, the gentlest, the richest-hearted – cannot make his home happy if his wife be not, in every reasonable sense, a helpmate to him.

In the last analysis, home happiness depends on the wife. Her spirit gives the home its atmosphere. Her hands fashion its beauty. Her heart makes its love. And the end is so worthy, so noble, so divine, that no woman who has been called to be a wife, and has listened to the call, should consider any price too great to pay, to be the light, the joy, the blessing, the inspiration of a home.

-JR Miller


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Preparing for Birth, Part 1

When I found out I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I got a phone call from an old friend. Actually Jenny was more friends with my mom than me at that time. The oldest of her 7 (now 8 ) children are just a bit younger than me. Jenny calls herself a “baby groupie.” She loves to talk about birth and babies. The express purpose of her call was to rejoice with me and encourage me about how to have a successful pregnancy and birth. I learned so much in that one hour conversation! I’ve come to understand since then that most doctors don’t tell you much about the birth process or how to get ready for it. Many women go into labor fairly unprepared.

Since I just had a baby and so many people I know are pregnant right now, I thought I’d jot down a few things that have been helpful for me in preparing for birth, things women like Jenny have told me and things I’ve learned from reading and having 4 babies of my own. Look for the other 4 parts to this series over the next week or two!

Don’t be afraid

The Bible tells us not to fear 366 times, I’m told, one for each day of the year and and extra one for leap year! As expectant mothers, I think it’s common to worry over our little one inside. Will the baby be OK? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t manage the pain? What if I’m a bad mother? Trust God. He wants us to be at peace. He is Lord over birth just as over every other part of life.

Meditate

I was especially overwhelmed with the temptation to fear during my third pregnancy. As an antidote, I meditated on Psalm 139 for weeks before her birth. Ahhh…Sweet peace…

Eat well

Did you know that it’s believed that a child’s palate is influenced by what you eat during pregnancy and breastfeeding? Aside from that, healthy foods result in a healthier baby and a mama who’s in better shape after birth. I read What to Expect When You’re Expecting when I was pregnant with Elizabeth, and I have to say that I was overwhelmed by all they said you had to eat. They even included instructions for how to stuff yourself with all the required servings if you were full. Now I’m no doctor or nutritionist, but my personal opinion is that it’s more about what you eat than how much. If you have an excellent diet, I don’t understand why you should max out your calorie intake just to squeeze that extra dairy serving in. Personally, I focused more on general healthy eating and didn’t worry so much about counting servings.

(Um, I should be honest for a second here and admit that if the part about in utero diet affecting preferences is true, then Grace, my fourth, will probably be addicted to peanut M&M’s.)

Exercise

Birth is the hardest work you’ll ever do. You’ll perform better if you’re fit. One book likens it to training for a marathon.

When I was pregnant with Elizabeth, I hadn’t exercised in awhile, so I started with just 5 minutes. The next week, 10. By the end of the second trimester I was exercising about 45 minutes day and I was in the best shape of my life (except my abs, for some reason…*G*). I had a very successful, though long, first birth, and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight within a week. (Yeah, blows me away too. That never happened again!)

Subsequent pregnancies I simply haven’t had the time or ability to exercise that intensely. It really worried me at first, but someone encouraged me that the strength would be there when I needed it. It was. I do think that if you can work out vigorously (using common sense and the green light from your doc of course), that’s great. But if a brisk walk is all you can do, that’s great too. The bottom line: just get moving.


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On Our Daily Routines


The routines of housework and of mothering may be seen as a kind of death, and it is appropriate that they should be, for they offer the chance, day after day, to lay down one’s life for others. Then they are no longer routines. By being done with love and offered up to God with praise, they are thereby hallowed as the vessels of the tabernacle were hallowed–not because they were different from other vessels in quality or function, but because they were offered to God. A mother’s part in sustaining the life of her children and making it pleasant and comfortable is no triviality. It calls for self-sacrifice and humility, but it is the route, as was the humiliation of Jesus, to glory.

To modern mothers I would say “Let Christ himself be your example as to what your attitude should be. For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as a mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high. . .” (Phil. 2:5-11 Phillips).

-Elisabeth Elliot


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Ladybug Door Sign Tutorial

As promised, here’s our tutorial. So easy! Last week the kids and I made personalized signs for their bedroom doors. I was inspired by Pottery Barn Kids. When I saw their ladybug art (for an arm and a leg) I thought, I can do something similar myself–for pennies! (Looking at the PB site again I’m getting ideas to make it better next time.)

First, pick your materials. I used a square of picture matting, but any heavy cardboard will do. You could even use the back of a cereal box and cover it with a piece of solid-colored paper. Then Sarah and I chose some pretty coordinating scrapbook paper, one for the background and one for the ladybug.

NEWSFLASH!!! HOBBY LOBBY HAS SCRAPBOOK PAPER 50% OFF THIS WEEK!!!

In retrospect this was probably not the best paper to use for a tutorial. Her sign turned out a little busy and the ladybug was hard to see. She had her heart set on these colors, though, so here they are.

I cut a piece of our background paper a little smaller than the cardboard/matting and glued it on. There are lots of fancy scrapbook adhesives that probably work better, but I just use as glue stick.

Trace a circle onto the paper you’re going to use for your ladybug. I used a cup as a guide. I flipped the paper over and traced on the backside so the pen marks wouldn’t show, but it doesn’t really matter. This isn’t about perfection.

There ya go!

Cut the circle in half.

Cut a little strip of paper for the center of the ladybug. You want it the same length as the diameter of your circle. Pottery Barn uses sheet music, and I’ve tried several different contrasting papers, but I keep coming back to sheet music too. It’s cute, neutral, and unexpected.

Decide where you want your ladybug and center the strip. Glue it on.

Glue on one side of the ladybug, centering it at the top of the strip and angling it at the bottom.

Now glue on the other side.

With a sharpie, draw a half circle for the little head, and 2 little antennae.

I added a square of solid paper because it would have just been too busy and un-readable to write her name directly on the background paper.

Personalized!

Hot glued some ribbon on the back. I’m sure there is a more scientific way to do this. I just globbed it on.

To use Sarah’s favorite expression–”Ta DAH!”

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I traced around this ladybug with the sharpie to help her stand out a little. She was sort of fading in to the background.

I made one for Elizabeth since she wasn’t home that afternoon.

And of course, one for Grace, since she is too little. This is my favorite. The possibilities are endless!

Understandably, Silas didn’t want a ladybug. He asked for a cowboy hat. Ummm…

It took a few tries. He kept saying, “No, fatter there. Taller there. Skinnier there.”

See, it doesn’t have to be perfect! Just have fun!


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Creativity

As image-bearers of a creative God, I believe we are all creative! I used to think I wasn’t. I’d say that I was the only uncreative one in my family, because I didn’t do the same things others in my family did. As I changed my thinking to understand that we are all creative in one way or another, suddenly it came more easily. The more I create, the more creative I become. Creativity doesn’t have to mean you come up with ideas all on your own (although it can mean that). I’m all about copying talented people! And my motto is keep it simple!

Crafts are one great, creative way to connect with our children. Don’t be intimidated by thinking you aren’t creative or artsy enough. Anyone can learn to do great, simple crafts! I’m working on a tutorial for a fun paper craft to do with our kids that’s really just cutting and pasting. Hopefully it will be up tomorrow.


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Fully Engaged

I wrote this some time back. It’s a reminder to me–I’ve let this slip lately!

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I find that my kids get into lots less mischief when I keep them busy. They play outside much of the day, in the yard where I can watch them from the kitchen or living room. They rarely get into trouble as long as they are running around, playing in the tree house, and riding their bikes and scooters. When they come inside it’s a different story, and their mischief-making is even more pronounced when I’m on the phone or the computer. Kids seem to have “preoccupation radar” and they can tell when my mind is busy with other things. Now my kids are sweethearts, don’t get me wrong, but when they know I’m not looking they will get into fun forbidden items (mom’s lotion, furniture polish, and spray starch are a few). One of them will come running, “Silas pushed me!” “Elizabeth hit me!” and I have no idea exactly what happened. Or they disobey and each denies their involvement and blames the other. It’s human nature, and they are as likely to do it as any child.

I’ve found that I can let this happen and deal with it the best I can after the fact…When my lotion is all over the outside windows, when the carpet is well-starched, when one of them is crying and hurt and the other denies that they shoved and I have to try to sort it out. And this happens sometimes.

But by far the most peaceful way to mother has been to learn how to be a fully engaged mom. When I get too busy and preoccupied to notice what they are up to, it’s usually because I am selfishly insisting on “me time”. I think that as moms we need to have time to ourselves, but we also need to embrace our mothering role and be “all there” as much as possible when our kids are “all there”! I’m learning—slowly—to find my personal time when they are down for naps or before they get up in the morning. Do I do it perfectly? No way! (In fact, right now they are dancing to the stereo in the living room and I’m hoping everything stays as happy as it is right now.)

The best way I’ve discovered to do this is to keep my kids with me–in the same room–pretty much all the time (except when they are outside). I try to involve them as much as I can in what I’m doing. They help me put laundry in the dryer, empty the dishwasher, make a salad, and vacuum. They are learning vital skills and we enjoy each others’ company. And most importantly I can stop that mischievous behavior before it gets started in many cases. It’s a lot easier to say, “Silas, put the sharpie away,” than to have to discipline later for sharpie on the furniture. It’s more fun for him and me! Sometimes I think we can help our kids not get into bad habits by just dealing with them promptly and never really letting them get started. That’s not to say that their fallen nature won’t rear its ugly head at times, but even when it does, we can more easily handle it before it gets out of control if they are with us. (I have to say that I didn’t come up with this on my own. Wise mamas from many different places have shared the same general idea, and I’ve just benefited from it.)

I’ve been tempted to whine about having four tiny ones and no time for me. Then I have to remember a few things. One is that God says they are blessings. They are not just blessings when it is convenient or when they are big enough not to need me so much. They are blessings, period, human beings made in the image of God, and pretty darn cute too! I wouldn’t trade their smiles and snuggles—as well as their tears and dirty diapers—for anything in the world. I also have to realize that while they are gifts from God, I have chosen to receive those gifts. So in a sense having four small ones is my choice. I can gripe about the blessings I’ve chosen to receive, or I can embrace this role of mothering little ones. Third, I have to realize that we are all benefiting from being together. They are learning, and they are there for me to hug, kiss, pick up, talk to, and serve. We’ll be closer and more connected for chopping the salad or folding laundry together. I’m also more available to sit down and read a book to them, or drink a cup of tea, or play basketball or check out their newest project, when they don’t have to hunt me down.

When I do, I have to consciously remind myself to be fully engaged. When they are all underfoot, this means that I’m both answering questions and chatting with them about the details of their little-kid lives, and giving almost constant instruction. “Sarah, don’t touch, that’s hot. Elizabeth, will you put empty the dishwasher? Silas, please put the breakable dish down.” On it goes. They are little, after all. I have to use an eagle eye and not let my mind wander to my next project. At first, it’s mentally and physically exhausting, but that gets better with time. And when I realize how much better I know my little ones and how much happier they are when they feel productive and stay out of trouble, it’s all worth it.


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Healthful Homemade “Ice Cream”

This raw vegan “ice cream” has got to be the best kept secret of the vegan world. It makes my carnivorous husband nervous when I use the term vegan (“vegans are weird”), so I’ll clarify that I’m not vegan or even vegetarian, but I do have a child with dairy and sugar sensitivities, so recipes like this one are a boon. Everyone in my family loves animal products of all kinds, but they also love this creamy, good-for-you treat. I have to credit my sis who first told me about it.

So you’re wondering how to make it, right? (BTW, the picture really does not do it justice. It was snapped in haste.)

Peel and freeze a bunch of very ripe bananas. I freeze them on a cookie sheet so they don’t stick together and then tranfer them to a ziploc bag.

When you’re ready to make the “ice cream,” chunk a couple frozen bananas up and blend in the blender with a little water or rice milk or whatever liquid you have on hand. Just pulse it slowly till it’s nice and creamy, and I promise you, it will have the exact consistency of soft serve ice cream. You can eat it plain…Add a little vanilla…a glob of nut butter…a few frozen strawberries (as pictured)…a spoonful of carob powder…Lots of possibilities. Soooo yummy.

I was amazed at how good it was. You don’t have to be a health food nut to enjoy this.


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Beginning

Years ago, mothers felt confident about how to raise their children because of information shared among women and passed down through generations. Over time, as culture has changed, we’ve lost a lot of that knowledge. I have so many questions about how to raise my kids. Young mothers I talk to everywhere feel the same way. We love our job, but it sometimes feels thankless, and it’s often so hard to know what to do, how to bring up these little ones we’ve been given.

I believe that those of us who seek answers are part of a revival of motherhood—a revival both to recapture a vision of the power and importance of our role, and also to regain practical tools of effective mothering, knowledge that used to be taken for granted. As I discover how to be a better mom from God’s Word, wise and godly older mothers, and trial and error, my heart’s desire is to share what I learn in hopes that it might help or encourage someone else.

My greatest fear is that I’ll come across as arrogant or condescending or as though I think I know all there is to know about mothering. I’ll say right up front, I don’t. One time I thought I did. However, as I have children (four now), I realize more and more how little I know and how much I must rely on Jesus to be a good mom. I’m just learning in the trenches. What I know, insights I gain along the way, don’t come from me. I learn, little by little, from God’s Word, which He’s given in part to help me become more like Christ in every way, including my mothering.

Titus 2:3-4 says, “the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.” I love to talk to mothers (and fathers) who have successfully raised godly children. I glean great insight from their knowledge and experience. One day I hope I’ll be that wise older woman. In the meantime, I’ll just pass on wisdom gained from these Titus 2 ladies! Will you join me on my journey?

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