Category Archives: Monday Musings

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Monday Musings: Weeping

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/31582586@N03/3033203245/

As inauguration day approaches, my body is betraying the fear I am carrying. I wonder if I am faking it well enough in front of my children.

I watched the full video of the press conference with the President-elect on Wednesday and started weeping. I still cannot believe that this person is going to be our President. If you sympathize with me, you don’t need me to enumerate all the concerns. If you don’t agree with me, probably nothing I write is going to sway you to see things from my perspective, so I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince you that the next four years will be nothing short of interesting.

To add to my agita, I have recently felt a call to speak up for legal abortions. Yes, I believe that abortions kill babies. It makes me so sad to think of all the children that were not born. However, I cannot ever advocate for a reversal of Roe vs. Wade because I truly believe that legal abortions save women’s lives. It is hard for me to speak up about my beliefs because I am a Believer. I imagine that God had plans for those children to live or the pregnancies wouldn’t have happened. I know I am alienating good people who had no cause to dislike me up until know, and that makes me incredibly sad. And, I LOVE BIRTH. How could this topic not be difficult for me?

In short, I am a ball of emotions on an incredibly short fuse.

As I sat trying to process everything roiling around inside me this morning, I started with gratitude.  Thankful that despite the turmoil I have felt inside over the last week, Crazy Mama has stayed on vacation. While admittedly, I got a little louder than I like to be), it wasn’t yelling.  I’m chalking that noise up to ovulation and the fact that I am sad that there are no more babies for our home after seeing tons of babies at our class reunions and holiday party.

The gratitude is this: I am doing this Peaceful Mama thing the way I want to. I am filling up my reserves with affirmations every morning. When I feel myself at a boiling point, I close my eyes. I take my deep breaths. It’s not my absolute best, and still I can be thankful for where I am right now.

I am also inspired to action. What can be done? What is one small thing I can do to effect change?

Number one:
Share THIS document I put together when I had the privilege of hearing Jon Kyl speak several years ago. Daddy Bruss and I sure miss this honorable statesman.  Senator Kyl encouraged us that yes, we can make a difference when we gather up a group of friends and encourage them to light up the phones, emails, and fax machines with messages that state our position clearly and succinctly.

Number two:
Instead of saying that I support legal abortion, take the next step and research ways to decrease the need for abortion. As a dear friend suggested, it probably means providing for more services for women who would be inclined to abort due to lack of support. So on my list of things to do is to get more involved with those organizations and do my part by volunteering. If even one life is saved because a mother feels supported enough to carry her pregnancy to term, then it is one small difference for which I can be thankful.

Number three:
Take heart and courage from the brave souls in the front lines of social change – the teachers who are shaping the minds of our future for a few hours a day. While they can’t single-handedly undo any messages of hate and otherness that students are hearing at home, they can create a safe space in their classrooms and speak out with words of love instead of the words of division that we keep hearing when we turn on the news and see the state of our nation and the words of the President elect.

Fingers crossed that I will be granted permission to share some images that one of our students is going to be posting in her high school classroom (red tape: the work is a product of a peer group grant). When she shared the images and the statements of acceptance with me this morning, I started weeping again. In gratitude this time, because I know that she is not alone in feeling like this. There are other people who see people who look like me and empathize with the fear I live with daily for our children and myself, and anyone who looks “Mexican” or “Muslim” or “Gay” or “Disabled” or any “Other”. There are a cadre of teachers who GET THIS and will make their classrooms safe havens for all students, not just the ones who fit the prevailing version of “normal”.

We cannot accept the divisiveness that the President-elect campaigned on as our new normal. Today is not just a day off from school or dealing with the inconvenience that the banks are closed. On Martin Luther King Day (heck, really anytime!), I implore you to take a minute to talk to your children about Civil Rights and why we cannot allow history to repeat itself.

Here are three resources to explore:
Scholastic Lesson Plan https://goo.gl/smjYV2
The Leadership Conference https://goo.gl/U5R2Wa
PBS https://goo.gl/1WFdsd

Here’s hoping that this processing will help my stomach settle down so that I can stop running to the bathroom every hour of the day.  I am going to focus on gratitude – we are not alone. We have allies. We can find a way to bear with the next four years.

Photo Credit: Tunc Tezel
https://goo.gl/OIB1Ys

Monday Musings: Living

If you have been following along the blog for a while, you know that 2016 was a huge year of shift for us.  We sold our two homes – both of which we loved – in preparation for a possible move across the country.  We also lost many family and friends as they moved on to the next journey after life.

Just when we thought we were through the woods of all this shift, another beloved mother in our circle passed away suddenly in December. I am still not clear if it was a stroke event or a heart attack – what ever it was, it was enough to invite her to move on – and she did, leaving behind a husband and four children.

I am devastated for her child that is Night Owl’s age – she was the surprise baby after their three older children had basically made them empty-nesters.  And also for her three older children that will now go through all their adult “firsts” without their mother, to say nothing of her husband who is now going to have to find his new normal as well. It is so much to process…and yet I realize that they are not alone and someone, somewhere, is holding vigil tonight for a beloved soul that will pass along before all the goodbye’s have been said.

This woman’s passing hit especially close to home since she was the same age as my beloved husband. I came home from her services and told Daddy Bruss that the first order of business in 2017 is for him to have a complete physical and catch up on any tests that he hasn’t had in a while and/or yet that are suggested for people his age.  I also realized that it’s time for me to admit that I am practically in my mid-40’s  and it’s time for me to take me own advice.

Her passing also made me recommit to my intention to Live Life Today.  There are things that are important and things that really don’t matter.  It has made me really motivated to get rid of the junk and clutter that we accumulate because There Is No Time To Waste on Small Stuff.

My new intention for our homeschool day is to only do “things” until noon, and then have lunch and go out and have experiences with our children.  I don’t know if we are going to finish our curriculum as I had planned before I had these revelations, quite frankly I don’t think I care anymore.  As long as the Sweet Peas do math, read, write, make music and dance every day I think we are going to meet the rest of any requirements on field trips.

I watched THIS TED Talk tonight and it is right on point to where I am in my life. Thankfully my revelations arrived through the course of reflection over all the grief we experienced as a family last year, and not a highly stressful experience like this speaker lived through.

Since deciding that my ultimate goal is being the best parent I am capable of being, I have not felt a huge struggle with the yelling.  I close my eyes, I take deep breaths, I remember Lisa Reinhardt’s voice guiding us “to be” at the pace of melting chocolate, and I count until I can open my eyes and answer calmly.

Quite frankly, if I die tomorrow, I have a very clear picture of what I want my children to remember, and it’s not Crazy Mama.  We all sent her on a long vacation.  I hope that the intention to be Peaceful Mama is strong enough this time to leave her there a good, long time.

Peaceful Mama has huge hopes and dreams. I want them to remember a mother who showed up for them.  I want them to remember that my deepest desire is for them is to find their passion in life and pursue it.  I want them to remember that my love for them was deeper than the oceans and I hope they will use it to soar higher than the stars, because I believe in their greatness and ability to do anything with their talents that they set their mind to achieving.  I want them to remember that I am one of their biggest fans and that they are very, very loved.

I want them to know that their father and I conceived them in love, brought them into the world in love, and that they are loved in such a way that nothing can separate them from us.  We will always strive do whatever is in our power to help them learn, grow, explore and invite them to take risks so that they can learn who they are meant to be and what their God-given gift is to use for the benefit of others.  I want them to remember that we made choices in our personal life to facilitate the pursuit of our dreams, and that creativity and helping others is an honorable pursuit.

If the way I live my life in whatever time I have left conveys this to them, then my work on this earth is complete. It’s so easy to take time for granted and put things off because There Are Things To Do.  The bottom line is that there will always be Things To Do.  The time to be in relationship is limited.

I don’t know how much time I have left, so I am doing a lot more snuggling and saying more I love you’s than I used to.  I continue to remind myself of their love languages so that they receive the love in actions as well as in words.  Much of my desire to speak more and do more as it relates to my passion for birth and breastfeeding and the childbearing year has taken a back seat to my desire to be someone they remember fondly and with love.

So now I am signing off to have a late night snuggle with none other than Night Owl.  Good night.  Wishing you all a day full of love <3

spfextendedbf

Monday Musings: On extended breastfeeding

Recently I was asked, “What would you have said if someone had told you  that you would be nursing well beyond the first birthday when you had started your breastfeeding journey?”

My answer:
I would have told them they were on the crazy train…that I was never going to nurse beyond the first birthday. My plan was to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation of exclusively breastfeeding for six months, and then breastfeed our child until their first birthday.  It was going to be one and done in all senses of the phrase: one child for one year, and then I was going to be going back into my career and dancing.

God had other plans for me…he must have laughed as he was growing me.

As it turns out, as Puma was approaching her first birthday, I told Daddy Bruss that I didn’t think we were close to being done with breastfeeding.  She still felt so small, and nursing a soon-to-be toddler wasn’t weird, as I had imagined it might be.

She went on to nurse for 22 months all together. There was a time when I got pregnant  when she was 18 months old.  At that point she started to decline breastfeeding. When I miscarried, she was back to the breast as she had been before the pregnancy.

She weaned herself at 22 months…about two weeks after she weaned, she asked to nurse again.  We tried, but it seemed the milk was all gone.

We went on get pregnant again (how could I say no to my amazing husband who has provided me my dream life?!!), and we welcomed Night Owl to the family.  He got to nurse for about 18 months.  When I got pregnant with Charger sooner than we had planned on being pregnant again, I started having contractions when I was nursing. Out of fear of miscarrying again, we made the choice to do an “emergency wean” and over the course of a week that breastfeeding journey came to an end.

Charger had different plans when I got pregnant with Otter, as we expected, around the time he was 18 months old.  I tried to wean him, because I was having contractions again every time I nursed.  He flat out refused.  I sought help from our IBCLC, Debbie Gillespie, and my La Leche leaders…they had lots of suggestions, none of which worked for us.  I decided to go with prayer and lots of self-talk.  For whatever reason, he was not ready to stop breastfeeding, I knew of other moms who had breastfed through pregnancy so I knew it was possible. I told my body every time I nursed that the oxytocin that was being created was just for milk and not for labor.

Eventually the contractions subsided.  I watched Charger’s bowel movements turn back to baby poops as my colostrum came in the last month of Otter’s pregnancy. He even told me the milk tasted saltier than usual. But he was not ready to stop nursing.  By the end of the pregnancy I could only nurse him for a few minutes at a time, once in the morning, once in the evening, and it always had to be in side-lying position.

We welcomed Otter to the family when Charger was two years and two months old.  He was thrilled to have creamy milk again – he LOVED it. It totally helped to have a nursling with a good appetite and more stomach capacity to ease engorgement. We set some guidelines down – Otter first, him second. We started offering other alternatives to comforting instead of going back to nursing now that he was enjoying milk again.

His third birthday came and went…still nursing.  When Otter went on an 11-day nursing strike around her first birthday (he was 3.5 then), I was so grateful to have a nursling to keep my body informed that I still needed milk.  As the two nurslings got older, they had fun with nursing.  Every once in a while they would nurse together.  They definitely had ideas about which “side” was theirs and got upset if the other would start nursing on their side first. Mostly, they enjoyed the camaraderie of having something in common, and would call out to each other when it was the other’s turn with mommy.

Charger went on to nurse through his fifth birthday.  Around that time, we did wean him. I really felt that at five years old, he could give it up.

To this day, he still tells me at least three times a week that he wishes he was still nursing.  When I ask him why, he says because the milk was warm.

Otter is turning five years old in October. I don’t know what we are going to do when we hit her fifth birthday. Since weaning Charger, I have learned that mammals nurse their young until they lose their milk teeth.  In the case of humans, that is the loss of what we call “baby teeth”.  Which does mean that all our children weaned too soon – and that we do as a country. None of our children had lost a tooth before they weaned. I really don’t know of anyone except our first Bradley Method teacher who was nursing a seven-year-old when we met her.

For anyone who is reading about extended breastfeeding for the first time, let me assure you that it is not the same as nursing a newborn, or even a toddler.  She only nurses in the morning or in the evening.  Sometimes once a day, sometimes twice a day, sometimes not at all.  Nursing is still her safe place, our place of connection.  Every once in a while, when she is inconsolably upset, she will ask to nurse and we will connect during the course of the day.  I can’t express milk anymore, but I see it and hear it as she nurses.

I can only go back to what I know. Breastfeeding is a dance between the mother and the nursling.  The lead and the follow changes, and as long as both partners are willing, the dance can continue.  Charger definitely has memory about breastfeeding, so I know Otter will, too.  I want those memories to be peaceful for her, not ones of regret. So we will continue, dancing as long as it works for both of us.  I try to treasure each nursing session, never knowing which is going to be our last.

That day is coming, and my season as a breastfeeding mother will come to an end.  I hold on to the promise that a new season awaits, one in which my accumulated knowledge will still be able to serve and encourage other breastfeeding families although I am not an active participant any more.

 

SPFAug15

Monday Musings: Wouldn’t have you any other way

I have struggled a bit this summer as a “single mom”. No cause for alarm, I am not really a single mom – I couldn’t hack it.  I have so much respect for single parents who truly Do It All.  For us, it’s just the circumstances we are in this season as Daddy Bruss is starting to travel more with the work he is doing.

I am trying to have a conversation every morning with our kiddos.  It goes like this:  I share what is on my list of things to do, I tell them how I expect the day is going to go. Then I ask them: what is it that you wanted to do today…and can we please be nice to each other and keep Crazy Mommy in her box???

So many deep breaths…it helps so much to be mindful.  Saying out loud, “I am taking deep breaths because I do not want to yell.” Peaceful Mama does manage to stick around most days. And if Crazy Mama does come out to play yell, I promptly apologize and we start over.

Somehow, I have turned into the person they ignore.  Daddy Bruss noticed it – I am not quite sure what to do about that piece yet.  One thing I am going to start doing is a morning mindfulness practice, inspired by THIS news story.  One thing to love about this internet age…so many awesome meditations are available for free on the web.

Something that stopped me in my tracks recently is that the lyrics to a Mindy Gledhill song, called Anchor, *really* resonate with Otter. She has only heard the song a handful of times, and she can already sing the words along with the music. This particular stanza stopped my heart…

“There are those who think that I’m strange
They would box me up, and tell me to change
But you hold me close and softly say
That you wouldn’t have me any other way”

Read more: Mindy Gledhill – Anchor Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Seriously…when a four-year old can sing this…oh my heart.  I am totally committed to being that Peaceful Mama. I want to be that person that they know is holding them just the way they are…not asking them to change anything for me…just meeting them where they are and loving them unconditionally.  It is also my reminder that all my children need me to snuggle them in and tell them that they are treasured.

On a related note, I have always loved the line in the Olivia book, by Ian Falconer, where the mother says to Olivia, “You know, you really wear me out. But I love you anyway.” See a version of the book HERE

That is me right now in this season. I am worn out.  Yet I know that I am doing the best job in the world, nurturing and loving and growing the next generation.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am so grateful for my village of amazing mamas and grandmas that inspire me and give me the courage to do my best every single day. Without them, I would be sinking through this season.  Thanks to them, I know I can do this.

I am also thankful for the Living God that we serve. I know that with His help, I do have the peace that surpasses all understanding right here, to be accessed as soon as I can be still. It is an awesome peace that reassures me that I really am not alone and that I am striving for a higher purpose.

I can do this.

P.S. Even though I am more worn out than ususal this season, Life Must Go On!! HERE is the time management tool I use to determine what I really need to do every day…I still want to keep up with our blogs, the kiddos have places to go, we have a new birthing class starting at the end of the month, and I have a couple of projects in the work…all are worthy and I want to be present for my children and the commitments I have made.  

SPFquoteJune20

Monday Musings: What is a good mom?

“Remember that being a good mom is ultimately about the relationship you develop with your children and the important life skills, not about how your life looks on the outside to others.”

From the book Motherhood Realized ~ powerofmoms.com/motherhood-realized

Many of us find the age of the internet a blessing and a curse.  Never has been so much information been readily available and accessible. What we do with all that information depends on our personality: do we obsess over it, comparing notes, trying to get it right; or do we let it go in and out without attaching significance to it; or maybe something in between….and maybe it all depends on the day and the topic.  Regardless, there is a lot for parents to read and consider as they grow their families.

Today’s quote really resonates with me for a couple of reasons.  First, I love the idea of working backwards in our relationship…what kind of relationship do we want with our children when they are adults?  And which life skills do we want them to have? When they leave the house, as they build healthy relationships…what does that picture look like?

Once we have an idea of the end-game, it helps to make the daily minutiae more meaningful. Maybe it helps us stick to our plan to have them help even though it takes longer to get things done (anyone else with me on that one??) It certainly helps me guard my tongue – we know that words can never be taken back. Bearing in mind the adult relationship I want with my children helps me (most days!) to speak gently.

The other reason this resonates with me is because it is reflexive.  It’s easy to compare ourselves to others…what are they doing? Is it right – wrong – hippy hoodoo – who cares?  Remembering that I am only building a relationship with my children and that there is no one else to impress keeps me from playing the “better than” game.

I have to be the best mom for my children…not the best mom in the world. Just mine call me mother, and keeping that at the forefront releases me to love and accept other mothers where they are, rather than comparing them and asking if they are a better or worse mom than I am.

What do you think – what does this quote inspire in you?

SPFquoteJune13

Monday Musings: Struggles

“Successful mothers are not the ones that have never struggled. They are the ones that never gave up despite the struggles.”
~Sharon Jaynes

This quote takes on a whole new meaning today as I think of all the mothers who will go forward without their sons and daughters after the tragedy in Orlando. There are not enough words to express our deep sorrow.

In today’s image-driven society, it is easy to set ourselves an impossible standard portrayed by filtered pictures that show the best of our moments with our children.

I love this meme that has been making the rounds on social media:

HOTMESS

http://pin.it/fO4RF9G

As the popular saying goes, the struggle is real. Some of us struggle with being on time. Others, organization. Some, our temper. Others, mood disorders. Some, with self-esteem. Others, self-acceptance. And the list goes on and on.

The point is, you are not alone. I am not alone. Somewhere, someone is struggling with the same inner demons that you are facing. Take comfort in the fact that even though we don’t all want to admit it, we are all hiding something.

What matters more is how we go above and beyond that to do our best for our children. Are we providing a safe place for them? Are we recognizing their needs? Are we responding to them?

We won’t get it right all the time. We can strive to do better; resolve to show them the best that we have to give more often than not.

I truly believe that if we operate from a place of love, we will make the right decisions for our family. A parent that makes decisions from a place of love for their child will make decisions that are best for their family.

And by the same token, we must also allow ourselves a measure of grace. For we are only human, and it is impossible to be at our best all of the time. Inevitably the pressures of “adulating”, the fatigue of trying to do too much in too few hours, the stress of daily life will sometimes crowd out our best intentions to show up as whole, patient humans raising other humans.

So today I invite you to name one small thing, just one, that you can strive for today. What is one small way that you can do best by your children and your family today? Then go for it! Do it, and go to sleep tonight with the satisfaction that you did one thing right today. Even if it was just keeping everyone alive for the day – it was worth it.

I leave you with these closing thoughts:

https://goo.gl/ZF07yF

CLEANHOUSE

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/174936766748325198/

 

 

SPFquoteJune6

Monday Musings: On Parenting

“Being a parent is not about what you give up to have a child, but what you have gained from having one.”

Bruss and I just completed our 24th and 25th Bradley ™ series over the weekend. What a wonderful and exciting time for all of our students as many of them embark on parenthood for the very first time!!

For the last segment of our final class in the series, we each share our thoughts on “being mom” and “being dad”. Here are some things we share with our students about what is gained from becoming a parent:

1.) Your greatest teacher.
Each child that joins your family is unique, individual, and will require you to parent them in a particular way. If you take the time to watch them and listen to them, they will share some amazing insights and open your mind in ways that you never knew were possible. We aim to parent them in such way that honors them as smaller humans capable of experiencing and expressing their thoughts and emotions.

Their statements, actions, and questions allow us to be constantly evolving as parents. We have learned so much about ourselves, and how to be individual parents to each child, just by following their cues.

2.) The opportunity to be curious.
One of the best pieces of advice I received as a newlywed was from the mother of adopted children. She stated that her children were free of pressure to “be this” or “do that” because she and her husband had no way of imposing their expectations on them based purely on genetics. I resolved then and there to allow our children the same opportunity to be themselves, even though we are genetically related. Hence the curiosity: what is their talent, their gift, their calling??  Our statement to them is that we hope to help them find their calling, whatever it may be, and then support them 110% in their pursuit of their passions so that they can glorify God in their way with their gifts.

3.) The opportunity to play.
There are some places that are great to revisit as parents: the floor and the park. We take the opportunity to sit on the floor with our kiddos and play with our children. Not all the time, and not for their entire playtime, just when it works out. If it’s a super-busy day and our children want to play, I will say yes, for “x” minutes I can stop what I am doing and play with you.

We can also visit the park and play with our children. Maybe we won’t get on all the features of a playset; we do however push them on the swings or run around a little with them. And when we can, we do clamber up after them on the ladders and slide down the slides – it’s all in good fun.

4.) The opportunity to become a better version of yourself.
Being a parent is so much this. We try not to fall into old patterns that we learned from our own experience as children. Instead, we see the opportunity to decide what kind of parent we want to be, and do that. Whether it’s trying something new to set a good example, to being brave in situations you would usually avoid, to basic things like yelling less and laughing more, there are ways we can strive to be a better person every day.

5.) The truest love you will ever know.
One of my favorite movie moments is from the film, “Maleficent”. After sixteen years of protecting and growing to love the child, it is Maleficent’s kiss that breaks the curse she spoke to Sleeping Beauty.

The love I have for our children is fierce, protecting and caring. It wants to hold them tight and at the same time give the wings they need to fly. I hope that despite all the mistakes I have made and will make as a parent, our children will know that they are loved. The moments I treasure are the contented sighs in their sleep, their sleepy faces in my arms, the little hands reaching for mine when we are out for reassurance and safety, the spontaneous laughter around the kitchen table when we have “a moment” …those little moments make my heart swell to bursting.

While I love my husband to pieces, it is different to love and adult and to love a child. He is my lover, they are my beloveds. I am grateful for the opportunity to love them all.

 

So those are five things I feel I have gained from the opportunity to be a parent – how about you? What is something you have gained from having children?

SPFMay23

Blessed Receiving

As I seek to find the lessons through this season of grief, I am learning two more things… the true meaning of the word, incredible; and that there is also a blessing in receiving.

Let’s talk about incredible first: the Google definition says 1. impossible to believe; 2. difficult to believe, extraordinary.

It is incredible that since March 23 of this year, four people in or near our family circle have passed from this earth. As I write this, Daddy Bruss is on his way to see his mother, who may also be reaching the point where she needs end of life care. Incredible.

Also incredible is this calling I am answering from God to provide support to one of these families through their time of grief. I am not at liberty to share the details. What I can tell you: we serve a LIVING GOD. The pain they feel: Incredible. The little miracles that are happening, the daily answers to prayer – there is no other explanation other than the supernatural is in play here. Incredible.

The other lesson that I am learning is that although the Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), it is also a blessing to receive with grace.

So much in our U.S. culture is rooted in independent, do-it-yourself resourcefulness. We pride ourselves on being “self-made”, on “pulling ourselves up from our bootstraps”, “dusting ourselves off”, and “starting all over again”.

When we teach classes on postpartum, we talk about the importance of accepting help after the baby is born. It requires us, as adults, to do what we have been indoctrinated against in our churches and in our culture…actually say YES and RECEIVE when someone offers to help us.

As we have experienced incredible grief, and watch others around us experience grief, it becomes apparent that postpartum is not the only time that we need to say YES to help that is offered. If people are blessed by giving to us, then we are acting in grace to receive the gifts with an open and humble heart. Although maybe we are more comfortable giving, grief is another season that grows us in the art of receiving.

As we are in our season of change, I need to be gracious and accept the offers of help from all the students that we have had the honor of helping through the years. As hard as it is for me to accept help, I am saying YES.

The image that rested on my heart as we entered this season was a story about Moses. One of the Old Testament stories relates a time when his father-in-law tells him that the job of shepherding the tribes of Israel is more than one person can handle alone. He proposes a system of governance so that Moses can find helpers and also remain in his role of service to the people. I am so grateful that these words are in my heart, and for these stories that serve as an example.

Those that know me well know how much I love to give, and how much joy, I receive from being a “giver”. Beyond that, I wonder if even some of my self-worth is tied up in being in a position of giving.  I can see now that this lesson is timely and that it is one I needed to learn.  Mark off another notch on the growth chart…I am growing again.

As I apply this lesson to the season of change we are in, I can see that grief is big. Changing homes and saying goodbye to what we thought was our forever home is big. And handling these things at the same time – even bigger. So I am learning to say YES. I am not in a season of blessed giving…I am in a season of graceful receiving.

Tell me your story – how have you been blessed by receiving?

SPFMay16

Season of Change

Seasons – such a great analogy for the pathways through life. Cassandra wrote about the current season she is in recently – that of FOMO and realizing that she IS just where she needs to be *for now*.

We happen to be in a season of loss.  Loneliness. Isolation. Grief can be a very complex place to travel – while you know the pain you are feeling, it’s not something that others can see. It’s hard to walk around with a broken heart, yet you are expected to interact sanely with other people. When all you want to do is cry or scream at every reminder that you are hurt and yet – SMILE. BE NICE. Pretend you don’t feel crazy right now.

Let me back-track a little…we are very blessed. Our lives are rich in blessings: healthy children, good health for us, the opportunity to pursue an educational path that works for our family, work that is fulfilling. We give thanks for our blessings every day.

So much of the work that I do outside of homeschooling our children is centered around pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding – the joyful welcoming and nourishment of new life, and helping families cope when there are complications that stem from pregnancy or the birth journey…yet it all goes back to LIFE and living.

This season of loss is completely new to our family. It started last fall when a mom at the dance studio passed away in a car accident…since then, several other losses of close friends, acquaintances, and my husband’s father two weeks ago. Five services or funerals in all. And now one more family member is in critical care – oh my heart.

As mush as I hurt, these are friends and acquaintances for the most part…I can only imagine what the families are going through as we are grieving with Bruss’s family. For those of you that pray, please keep all the families affected by these losses in your thoughts and prayers. Husbands are grieving wives, fathers and mothers are grieving their daughters, children are grieving their mothers and fathers…it takes my breath away to think of the pain people carry throughout their day.

While I am hurting, is not my heart that concerns me. I am an adult and I have coping strategies. What is really on my heart is my children – how do we nurture them and reassure them that while all this loss feels overwhelming right now, this is only a season??? Three of the people in those five: mothers. A couple of our sweet peas are having separation anxiety, there is definitely more patience required for all of them on a daily basis. Their questions and behavior indicate that they are starting to wonder if I am next on the list of mothers that is going to be moving on to the next journey. (note to self: call an art therapist: stat)

On top of all this emotional turmoil, we are going to be moving – so now the loss of their childhood home in preparation for a calling we have to be ready.

I wonder: why is our family being “forced” to learn about grief? What is the lesson? It feels like a sloughing off of all the material things that are not important.  Now we can **really** appreciate the things that matter: family, health, living a life with meaning and intention.

What are we holding on to? The promise of SPRING after the season of Winter. I know this is only a season; this, too, shall pass.  I wonder: is it also a preparation for “real life”? We have been in “summer” (abundance, comfort, security) for so long, it had to cycle…is this a call to be humble and walk with more humility? Is it helping us all recognize that it will continue to cycle as we grow and walk in the Lord? I don’t know…all I do is keep searching for the lesson in all that has been happening.

This story from the Bible is first and foremost on my mind: the one about the bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom – five were ready with oil for their lamps, and five were not.  The parable of readiness is really resonating: we don’t want to miss an opportunity. In our particular case, we want to be ready to travel light if we feel the call to do so. Is that across the country, or living abroad? Only time will tell.

So we are holding on to that: Be Ready. We are now going through the process of sorting through every room so that we can pack light for the next season, whatever it may hold. We have all seen and can appreciate what is really important – having each other, and taking care of our health so that we can live for the purpose God is calling us to fulfill.

And so starts the healing process – learning to GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I was really sad and angry when I read that verse out-loud in our daily Bible reading two weeks ago. I lost it in front our sweet peas, and honestly told them that I wasn’t ready to give thanks yet.  Writing today, I can see that from that anger, I have grown to a point where I can write with some gratitude for this season.

What have you learned from grief? First of all, I am sorry for your loss. I feel your pain. I would be tremendously grateful for any light you can shed on this season.

May the peace of the Lord and the grace of God be with you today…I am certainly learning to lean on it more, and to take comfort from the fact that we are children of a Living God.

Growing your motherhood

I want to preface this post by acknowledging that this is a very mommy+me post. My husband is a huge part of our family dynamic, so I want to be sure to give him huge props for being an amazing co-parent and involved part when he is not at work. When I talk about our children, it just happens to be a relationship that grows when he is at work since I am a stay-at-home mom. When he is home he is hugely involved. However, our family dynamic is one of me doing most of the childcare from 7 am – 4 pm

One of the great joys of teaching childbirth classes is having students return for future pregnancies. It is an honor to walk this journey with them after they have been initiated through the birth journey and parenthood.

When we do a 12-week series that I like to call the Bradley “next” class, we talk a little bit about sibling preparation every session, instead of breast feeding basics that we would do with a class full of new parents.  It’s a nice way to introduce ideas about parenting multiple children, and have the couples dialogue about what their new normal might be like when they are parents of 2+ children.

One of the most common questions mothers have is similar to the one I had: How will I love the next child?

For we will never have the singularly devoted time, the energy moving in one direction; it will never again be “just the two of us” plus your co-parent. We give so much to our first-borns – some of us wonder if will we ever be able to give enough to the rest of the children.

One of the ways we prepared Puma to be a big sister was to read her some sibling books about welcoming a new baby. I  remember sobbing every I time read her a book where the mother is home with the two children, and the big sister is adjusting to life with a new baby. I am so grateful to that illustrator for drawing a tired mom and a messy house, and a family that eventually finds joy and a new normal.

BigSisNow

Image source: Amazon

It gave me hope, and it gave both of us a reference point when we needed to have a conversation about “the baby”. We could talk about the family in the book and then talk about how that might look for our family.

Now, I had the grace of having a toddler as a big sister…due to a miscarriage between Puma and Night Owl, they are almost three years apart. I had it easy in some ways, because Puma was at the age when she was happy for a little independence and relished her ability to do something, but not the baby, “they’re too little…” Some of our students are welcoming sweet peas 15-18 months apart, so the older sibling is still very much a “baby” compared to where we were.

Here is one thing I do want to share, because no matter how far apart your children are, this may resonate with you:

You are enough. You will find a way.

You may need to ask for help. You may need to lower your standards. It is possible to have multiple children and still have time every day for meaningful time with them .

One of our student’s mom shared this nugget of wisdom with me. She is the mother of six children, and this is what she told me: Every time we brought a baby home, we lowered our standards a little bit more. Now they are all gone, the house is perfect, and I miss them all.

This is what I do know as a mother to four children:
The emotional hurdle from being a mother to one child to two children is a huge one. For many of us, it’s hard to wrap our mind around the idea that our first born is graduating to be a big brother or big sister. Maybe you are asking yourself how you will possibly be able to give the best of yourself when you are being pulled in more directions.

The beauty is that our love doesn’t just double. Our heart grows exponentially, and there is so much love you can’t always hold it all! Our new children need us in a new way, sometimes a different way, and that stretches us in our motherhood.  And all our children (and your partner!) will benefit from this new mother you are growing into.

While we may grieve the loss of giving everything to our first-born, without oue other children we might be tempted to stagnate. That isn’t much of an option when you add to your family, because each new soul is going to ask something new of us as mothers. And you will rise to the occasion, again and again.  You will find yourself with more resources, more knowledge, more confidence than you might be able to imagine right now.

Reflecting back, I can tell you that it was good to cry those tears, and grieve the loss of our only-child status. It helped me be emotionally ready for the next birth. It let me turn the page to the next chapter.  It allowed me to embrace my new normal once I found it.

It was messier, louder and a little more chaotic at first. However, we all adjusted and I am actually sad that Otter will never get to experience the joy of being the “big” in our family…but seriously, we had to stop having children at some point!

If you are in your last days or weeks as a mother of one before you welcome your next Sweet Pea, I invite you to celebrate your only-child earthside status between between/through/after the inevitable tears. Do one special thing every day, take pictures, talk about all the things your first-born can imagine about being a “big”. Celebrate your motherhood and your relationship with your first-born, while still taking the time to point out all the big brothers and sisters while you are out and about. It will help both of you adjust to the idea of the new baby :)

I hope your motherhood journey will continue to inspire you and grow you in rich and wonderful ways <3

More about Sibling Preparation on Sweet Pea Births HERE

You can also check our archives here on SPF for blog posts both Cassandra and I have written about sibling preparation.