Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teenagers part 3

This is the next (final?) installment on this little series on parenting teens. If there is a desire for discussion, please feel free to leave comments in the comments section and i'll do my best to facilitate it!
One the most humbling, difficult thing I've done for my teens is to prayerfully find mentors for each one. Each of the three mentors is in a different decade of her life - each has different strengths and opinions and life experiences... each was open to welcoming one of my girls into their lives and hearts in the midst of their neediness.
I've found that sometimes teens want or need to expand their circle of trust. I want them to be able to find safe places to grow. Sometimes teens will be tempted to unload to another vulnerable (young)  friend - rather than in a safe, stable place. I want to be intentional about facilitating relationships with adults who they can relate to - who will consistently point them back to Jesus... and hopefully to us (her parents) too.
I've spoken to these women about my girls too - I want them to understand that they're not stepping on my toes. I want them to know that I see my own brokenness and I want my kids to have support and love and good, godly women in their lives. I want them to know that I'm grateful for their input.
My prayer is that these mentors would give similar advice to me - & also that they would say things like, "hey... maybe you should talk to your mom or ask your dad___" I know that when I've been so blessed to have the opportunity to build into other younger women's lives, that's the kind of advice I've tried to give - as well as turning consistently and persistently to my Father's word.
I've asked one of my best friends, Fawne, to guest post this blog because she has a passion for women and relationship - and also has been a beautiful shining example of discipleship in our church and every circle that she has ever been a part of.
I hope you love her thoughts as much as I do!!


The first mentor I remember in my life was a beautiful young woman (our pastor's wife) and I adored her. I was twelve when she came into my life and at the time I had never even heard the word mentor or discipleship and throughout the years she spoke truth into my life I didn't even realize I was being mentored. It wasn't until I was twenty-one and went away to a Bible college whose very core and foundation was discipleship relationships that I began to understand the importance and absolute need not only for being mentored but for mentoring as well. In fact, I learned that God's word does not suggest that we do this but actually commands it. Jesus' final words on earth were . . . "Go, and make disciples" (Matthew 28:19).

While I was at college I had a mentor who changed my entire worldview on discipleship and suddenly I knew that it was something I needed -- always and forever -- and I knew that if I needed it so badly that other young women would need it too. 

A discipleship relationship is not complicated, it's simple. It's one person helping another person to know Jesus better and to walk in light of the truth of God's word. Sometimes it's very practical . . . an older woman teaching a younger woman the tricks she's learned over the years in time management, childcare, and loving unconditionally, etc. Sometimes it's deeply personal and hopefully God's word is always central. 

That first mentor I was telling you about (our pastor's wife) left my life while I was still in my early teens and how I wish there had been another woman to take her place. I didn't know it yet while she was in my life but I was teetering on the brink of a tremendously painful season and as I look back on myself during those extremely difficult years my heart aches over my own loneliness, my need for someone to be there . . . speaking truth into me . . . my need for someone to listen. It's not that I didn't have great parents but a parent isn't a superstar and there's only so much they can do in each child's life. 

If you're a parent of teens I can't emphasize how important it is to have other godly women speaking into your daughters and other godly men speaking into your sons. Already I have begun to pray for God to raise up men and women who are strong in the faith to speak into my own children, especially as they hit those teen years. Don't be afraid to help direct your children (especially young teens) toward godly men and women although often enough I believe they're drawn toward people who love the Lord all on their own.

Is this risky? Yes. Yes. Yes. Your child will probably spill your dirty secrets and even if they don't their mentor will see things you would rather keep hidden but in reality (in most cases) your pride is the only thing that will receive a solid blow.

Could it go wrong? It could. You could end up with someone who uses what is shared against you and makes you the object of gossip and slander. It's possible. Not likely, but possible. It's a risk you have to be willing to take. When we obey God's commands there is risk involved . . . not a risk of losing our security and significance . . . because that is wrapped up in what God says about us and no one can ever take it away. But there is a risk of pain. Sometimes it hurts to obey God but in the long run it's never as painful as disobedience.

Although I have had some difficult circumstances come out of discipleship relationships the good that has come out of them far outweighs the negative. I echo what Ann Voskamp said on her blog today:

I am the woman who needs saving from herself again, again, everyday —  the dirty that needs to be wiped clean everyday, the hands that need a cross to wrap a life right around so she won’t get lost.

As a woman who is filthy, who needs constant saving, this is one of the tools that God has used mightily in my own life -- discipleship. Women who are wiser than me speaking truth, asking me questions that lead me to see my own wrong, helping me see my brokenness, and teaching me what it means to walk under the umbrella of God's ruthless love.

I dare not even begin to assume that I would be half the woman I am today without so many godly women in my life who were willing to pour time and energy and prayer and love into me. I am convinced that when Jesus commanded us to "make disciples" it's for a very good reason . . . we were not meant to go it alone. We need each other. 

Practical Tips For What Discipleship Looks Like:

1. Does it have to be face to face?  I'm a busy mom and I don't always have time to meet with someone for an hour so I do discipleship over facebook; some people do it via texting, others by phone

2. What do you do during discipleship? My favorite way -- which I learned from my mentor -- is to allow the person I'm mentoring to talk about whatever is going on in their heart and life . . . their struggles, fears, what they're thinking about, questions they have about God or His word, etc. and then to bring truth into that situation using God's word as the foundation. Ask lots of questions.

3. How long is discipleship and how frequent? It can be however long you want. Ten minutes. An hour. However long you need it to be to talk about what you need to talk about. You may have to set a time limit though. I like to "meet" once a week but again, there are no set rules.

4. What if I try it and it doesn't go well? It happens. I've had it happen in my own life. Don't force it. Some mentor relationships were not meant to be. If either of you feels that it's not going well than you are free to walk away at any time. It's not a contract. Don't be too quick to walk away though, sometimes it just needs a bit of time. Both of you are learning. But if it's not going well don't be afraid to be honest about it and to ask someone else or as the mentor to quit mentoring that person. My discipler use to say that if the person she was mentoring was only in the mentor relationship because she wanted to be a "good" girl but wasn't serious about learning that she would say, "We're done for now. If you ever change your mind and want to get serious about following Jesus than I will be here for you." Don't feel as though you have to continue mentoring someone who doesn't want to learn, being mindful that some people take time to soften. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

teenagers part 2

It was something I've longed for from the beginnings of motherhood; and it grew as Cai learned words and how to string them together to make sentences, and put her thoughts out for the world to see.
(You can read Cai's incredibly thoughtful and insightful blog HERE.)

Talk to me.

Please, babies... talk to me. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know what they did when they were out of my sight. I wanted to know what they thought of their childhood as it was in progress. I wanted to know their opinions about events, circumstances, experiences - what did music do to them... and how are they growing?
It's in my nature to talk (& often... to talk too much...)
But I genuinely find my kids to be very interesting people.
Sloanie recently wrote a poem and I loved it so much because it painted such a vivid picture of how she sees herself growing into someone different than the shy little girl we see in pictures of her at age seven.

Little Seven Year Old Me
The music I listen to would terrify little seven year old me,
The jokes I make now would horrify little eleven year old me,
The books I read now would bore little nine year old me,
And the clothes that I wear aren’t the frilly dresses I swore I would wear,
When I was little five year old me.
But fifteen year old me,
Looks back with love,
at the girl I used to be.
I’m older,

Maybe little seven year old me would be proud
Of the girl that I am now.
Instead of staying up in my cloud,
I grew up a little, I’m not sure how.

We still have lots of time to go,
Her life’s a part of mine like a silky soft sigh,
Just watch us as we change and grow,
Little seven year old me, and I

And so... a huge piece of my 'parenting teens philosophy' has been to talk to them. I kept talking to them when they were seven, 8, 10, 13, 17... and I sure hope I never stop. I talk to them about everything. We talk about prayer, gay marriage, poverty, racism, social justice and current events. We talk about boys, dating, hairstyles, 'fandoms' and clothes. We talk about friendships and family, rejection and divorce. We talk. We talk. And we talk.
And they have things to say. I try not to give my opinion as much, but I try to say things like, "but what about_?" if I think they might be missing something big. They are forming ideas and opinions - and I know that my teens aren't abnormally smart or socially aware - so i'll venture this fairly broad statement: teenagers are captivating. It's not going to be long till they're grown - and gone... and their teen years become a part of their accompanying, "silky soft sigh..."
I want to be friends with that piece of them too...
I want these to be years where they can bounce their newly forming thoughts off of someone who loves them. I want our conversations to be safe places to explore ideas and ideologies. I want to give them opposing arguments so that they can figure out their own heart as they wrestle (and sometimes struggle) through issues that are deserving of sincere contemplation.
I'm eager to see my little ones grow in 'wisdom and stature and favour with God and man'. And part of making sure that as a mama, I'm facilitating it happening - is by having conversations.
And here's where I tell you what happened today and maybe make myself look a little strange...
It was one of those one sided conversations that sometimes occur with teens. It was a crucial conversation that needed to be had, but it was uncomfortable - and hard. And so I spoke until my words ran out...
And then on impulse, I layed hands on the little woman who was  only murmuring in response. Instead of words of instruction - or forcing conversation (which incidentally works a whole lot better when there are two people taking part) - I just lifted her up to God. I prayed for her like I don't remember ever praying for another human being in my life ever. It was my best parenting moment of the day... (week? Year?)... Not heavy, just love. The words flowed as I prayed blessing over her life and our relationship.
Prayer? Is bringing someone bigger than yourselves into the conversation.
It was an instant reminder that this child is the workmanship of a Holy God who created her with a purpose and a plan in mind - and because it pleased Him to do so.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
(ephesians 2:10)
“You are worthy, O Lord our God,
    to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
    and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
(revelation 4:11)

And so, even in those moments - I gave her back - and I continue to give them back again and again and to trust the One who loves them a seemingly impossible amount when I acknowledge that He loves them even more than I do...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

teenagers part 1

Teenagers are kind of breathtaking.

You get glimpses of the fruit that you planted in their infancy and childhood.
It's both encouraging - and terrifying.

i don't feel like I'm in any position to offer advice on raising teens.  I'm so in the thick of it right now. i have three teenagers in my house - and I've done nothing perfectly... but at the same time, when a sweet friend texted me the other day to ask advice,  her questions resonated deeply with me. These were the exact things I've been dealing with these past years - and as we chatted back and forth, i realized that in this time, i *have* been learning and trying my best to implement the little pieces of truth that I've gleaned along the way.
So, i'll post here a bit - (knowing full well that i'll look back on this post in 10 years with a house full of different teenagers and laugh at my naivety) - and hope that there will be bits and pieces that are useful to remember and to pass along.

The first bit of advice that i would gently put forward is to make every attempt not to react or engage when provoked. This has been such a great exercise in humility and laying down my own pride. i want my girls to be able to say anything in my presence - and know that they're safe from harsh reactions and judgements. i want them to be able to voice their questions and know that I'm not going to take it personally if they have a different opinion than me. Sometimes they'll insinuate that I'm not doing a very good job... that's ok. Pride would get defensive, but humility would admit that chances are, they're right. Sometimes they'll imply that the things that i hold very dear and precious are just chaff to them. Pride would be offended, but humility is surrendered. Sometimes they'll hold someone else's opinion in higher regard than mine. Pride would be possessive, but humility reminds me to make an offering of my insights - understanding that rejection is a risk worth taking in these crucial years. My girls all talk to me differently - and in differing amounts too. That's ok. Sometimes communication is harder - we talk in the car when we don't have to make eye contact. We talk about song lyrics, current events, relationships - they say things that i agree with... and about things i disagree with too... and sometimes i know that I'm a little too transparent, "Ahhh - haha - mom doesn't approve..." they might laugh at me; but my hope is that our relationship can be one where defensive pride has no power to hold us back from getting into the places where a mama might actually be able to be of use to her nearly grown girls.

The second bit kind of builds on the first; my advice to my own self is to give grace in the moment, but then be intentional about having "the conversation" later. "Hormotional" is a fantastic word that works in many situations. So often we're worked up - and aching for resolution. I've learned (and am learning painstakingly) that resolution isn't up to only one person. You can be as ready as you want, to get through to resolve a heart issue that is resulting in sin - unkindness to siblings, anger or disobedience... but if my teen's heart is still overwhelmed with emotion - or hormones - it's like banging your head against a brick wall. It's so different than dealing with little ones who need instant conversation (because they won't remember having a melt down in 2 minutes let alone 2 hours). Teens might need time. i am trusting God that we planted good seeds and that the Holy Spirit is working in their lives and convicting them at a deeper level than my words ever could. So i let them leave when they need to. But i try to pick it up later - when the heaviness has lifted... "wow, that was pretty crazy back then eh?" Sometimes you get a little farther, sometimes you don't... but that leads me to number three.

Be intentional about dropping things. I AM THE WORST AT THIS. Ask any of my kids or my husband. i feel total rejection when i can't be reconciled. It has been a huge lesson for me in these years to learn to just drop things. (Neil? Is fairly awesome at this most of the time. He was born to parent teens, and i am so grateful that I'm married to such a masterful daddy). What i mean by, "dropping things" is that i can have a tendency to, "flog the dead horse". i notice that when I'm in a conversation with another person about a difficult topic, if they are silent - i often feel the need to fill in the silence with more and more and more and more and more words. I've needed to learn to stop. Have the conversation, let the conversation end... and then drop it. Done. It's finished. i know that so many times i would have been further ahead if i would have dialed back my words - and learned the value of quietness in my response.

And i guess the whole point of this first piece is to state declaratively: nothing is worth the cost of your relationship. So your child has a perfectly clean room and straight A's - if it cost you your relationship, it was way, way too high a cost. So i was wronged. Find me a mama who never, ever spoke in a rude tone to her child (& maybe some do exist, but I'm pretty sure they're more rare than we'd like to realize). We've been caught in that sin ourselves - let's extend some grace to the angry hormones-coursing-through-their-veins teenager who couldn't remember to treat us with common courtesy. i know we're trying to train our children to respect us - but at some point, that can't be enforced with an iron will. At some point, you have to choose the relationship over enforcement. I'm often reminded in parenting that I'm representing my Father to my little ones. And it breaks my heart to look with piercing eyes on the question, "Are they able to see His Goodness in the way that i parent them?"

Oh Papa, these little ones you gave me? i give them back to You. Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in Your sight...

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For thir souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
― Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 11, 2013

praise because of Hope

i've been writing poetry on the sly...
It has been the type of prose that comes in the dark of night when sleep won't come and your imagination refuses to leave you alone.
I have a problem in that I over think *everything* - and in some seasons it creates so many imaginings that i wonder if i'll ever have a productive thought ever again in my whole life.
As I've been wrestling through some of the darkness in my own life - suddenly, this week - there was an awakening of hope. A friend sent me a text message at 8:48pm.. "How are you?"
I picked up my phone to respond, but my brain jumped in.... "Yeah.... how ARE you, paige?"
Hope whispered... "Tell her you feel me. Tell her that you are hopeful..."
Doubt washed over me, "No! Don't do that! Everything will change tomorrow - and you will be without hope and without even the dignity of knowing your own mind."
The hours passed and soon it was too late to text her back...
Morning broke - and I could see her text sill awaiting reply. But I still couldn't answer....
Ridiculous, I know.
Finally - at 2:29, I broke my silence. "Hopeful. & yes. That took me a whole day to write. Hope is so beautiful."
The bible is full of hope - (I love Romans) - and the Christian who keeps his eyes and heart focused on the hope that will not disappoint - is one who is living constantly in truth.
I read a quote the other day that, "Any area of your life that you are not experiencing hope is an area being influenced by a lie. There is ALWAYS hope."
I believe it. I sing it. I shout it. I live it.
i'm going to paste some bible references at the bottom of this post that might shed light on some of the thoughts that i've listed in point form below.

* Hope isn't something that I do all on my own. Hope is given to me by the Holy Spirit. I can ask Him for it when I need to.

* It's in times of darkness and uncertainty that I need hope - and even then - it's a fixing of eyes on the unseen. It's a hold my breath and keep my eyes on the horizon for the rising of the sun. It's a choice to believe even when I have yet to see. There is a beauty in the anticipation of hope - like a pause in music or a dancer who is motionless... a closing of the eyes - knowing the music will soon swell around me as I breathe - "here it comes..."

* Hope doesn't have to be full of sorrowful martyrdom. No. Hope should bring us joy - it should bring peace and patience to our waiting - and when we experience Hope by the power of the Holy Spirit - it should lead us to praise God. To really PRAISE GOD - as we faithfully continue to pray about the situations we're in.

* Hope doesn't mean that I just surrender and then lay down in the fetal position. Hope is a word that gives me the courage to act. i'm digging in, i'm learning and i'm putting one foot in front of the other - because I hope - that God is leading me through.

It has been so amazing lately to be able to understand that we're all in this together. We're all carrying burdens both seen and unseen. Some are struggling with things that are easy to talk about - and some are suffering in silence afraid of the stigma surrounding their mental illness, their failed marriage, their drug addiction or criminal charges. My sister shared a quote with me the other day, "Legalism says, 'what a shame'. Grace says, 'that could be me'. Humility says, 'that is me... " & I guess that's where i'm at these days. We're all messed up - we're all broken... and none of us... not one... is without hope.

Psalm 43:5

New International Version (NIV)
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Psalm 71:14

New International Version (NIV)
14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

New International Version (NIV)
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Romans 12:12

New International Version (NIV)
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 15:13

New International Version (NIV)
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Friday, October 18, 2013

His Praise

Yeah... i'm a Christ follower.
I love my Father - and I know that He's the One who holds me fast.
I'm learning to praise... and in this season, he's teaching me why I praise. I still have so much to learn, but this unhindered, effortless praise that has begun to flow from my notoriously stingy heart... i firmly believe that it's protecting me.
"Not like that daughter," He instructs me, correcting my praise that would tend to focus on my circumstances or my own position before Him. i see my praises coming weak and ineffective as i 'praise in my circumstance' or 'even though i'm broken, i'll praise You...'
Gently, He corrects... "Like this..."
And I see myself, arms thrown wide, heart fairly leaping from my chest, focussing my eyes solely on Him.
Friend, Father, Companion,
Reigning King,
Really... honestly... Reigning KING!
The One who calls me by name,
my provider,
my healer,
my shepherd,
my banner of LOVE and PROTECTION...

And I gotta praise. I have to sing, i have to break, i am changed.

And sometimes there might be a tiny baby clinging to my chest as my eyes meet His... There might be a teenager whose silence is both frightening and perplexing. There might be a busy husband, distracted and aloof...
And yet He calls.
"Praise me..."
And sometimes i want to wade shallow, i want to sing instead of moaning and weeping, i want to praise from the basement... not the rooftops.
Persistently He beckons,
"Praise me..."
And quite frequently i feel lost - both old irrelevant and at the same time inexperienced and immature... not yet arrived. Oh God, will i ever arrive? Am i even making any progress? What am i doing? Where are we going? Am i accomplishing even one tiny thing that will last?
He replies,
"I want you to praise me."

And so i do.
And it's almost violent - the breaking and tearing in my chest as i surrender to Him. No trying harder - just surrendering more. No gentle swaying bending - it's a horrifying splintering roar as all that i am is changed when i allow myself to encounter... to really encounter... God.
And praise is the vehicle that brings me to Him - and His Glory is the only thing that ever mattered at all.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

on Faith

I've always thought that I had plenty of faith. I believed in a God who parted the Red Sea, filled the bellies of his people wandering through the wilderness. This same God raised the dead, healed the blind and made the lame walk... I believed all that, right?
I did - & I do...
But this week, in a moment of prayer, I realized how very fragile and frail my faith really is... Do I believe Him when He speaks? Do I obey when He calls? Do I trust when the circumstances terrify me? Do I believe it enough to change my course of action when He directs? Enough that I would speak with confidence the prophetic word He gave? Enough that I wouldn't wince and wonder... "What if He doesn't do it? What if that wasn't God? What if what I think is the voice of God is just wishful thinking?
And then I wondered... where is my faith really? When my doubt causes me to shun a change in plans - when i allow my fear to choose my path - (even when I've been told differently) and when His words to me remain unuttered because i'm not certain He'll come through...
There's a story from 2 Kings that won't leave me alone this week.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

i want my Father to open my eyes... i'm so weak and so shamefully full of unbelief.

It's time for 40 Days for Life again. Continuing my journey in learning to pray - so grateful for a Father who wants me to grow - and gives me opportunities to listen and obey.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

food prep - how we do it

Every once in awhile I throw out a "how we do it" snapshot into how we work different situations as a bigger than average homeschooling family. What works changes often, but here's a new little gem that has been keeping us floating recently.
{To see more How We Do It posts, click HERE!}
Food seems to be kind of a big deal around here... With kids home all day, there aren't any lunches to bag, but there are 3 square meals to think of, plus all the snacks that keep our crew going. Often I feel like our kitchen just has a revolving door - some kids are still making toast for breakfast as i'm trying to do food prep for lunch. Food prep is interspersed with little ones needing my help with school, and a hungry baby who wants his lunch early. We barely get the kitchen cleaned it seems, when I realize it's supper time and that I've used all my culinary creativity for the day and I should have started early because this kid is babysitting, has gymnastics, is going to work, etc...
I decided I needed a food prep day - and I needed some help from my bigs. The day that we decided would work best was Sunday afternoon. We made a list of things that it would be nice to do ahead of time. Some of the things we do are:

soups: broccoli, potato, autumn
doughs: bread, buns, pizza dough, pie crusts, cinnamon buns
ground beef: meatsauce, seasoned taco beef, meat buns (stuffed buns), lasagne, chili, meatloaf/meatballs, enchiladas
casseroles (I've got a few "often do" casseroles that everyone seems to like).
chicken pot pie
pre-cook chicken breasts so they're ready to use
cookies, muffins (or even just a large batch of muffin batter), apple crisp, nuts & bolts
pre-cut veggies or fruits
a big pot of quinoa - (it stays nice in the fridge & can be pulled out for a simple salad with lemon & olive oil, salt & pepper dressing & whatever veggies are on hand).

i'm sure we'll add to this little list over then next while as we figure out what works & what doesn't. It's not intended to replace all meal prep, but it does give me a leg up on the week to have devoted a few solid hours once a week to get a nice little chunk done ahead of time. We decide what we're going to do before the weekend so we can shop if we need to - and then on Sunday, we're ready to roll. We pick a few things - (this past Sunday, we made 2 large casserole sized chicken pot pies, plus a little extra crust to make pies in jars for a snack one day and we made huge batches of both potato and autumn soup. We were also going to make muffins, but we ran out of time and energy, so we cut it short). This week - when lunch came, I could pull the soup out of the fridge to warm on the stove and make some fresh biscuits to go with. Easy.
Now that I have so many nice little women in my house, we divide the work and it's actually so fun to work in the kitchen with my people - not worrying if someone should be doing math or getting some other must-do school-day subject done. This week, charter & mollen peeled veggies, Cai made the pie crusts, I made the chicken pot pie filling, Sloan kept the kitchen sparkling so we didn't have to stop and clean and we divided the work on the soups. Pey was out with a friend, but she's often my extra set of arms when Elmer would rather be held than put down.
It feels like it takes a lot of energy to keep this family rolling - and with daddy on the road more than he's home, I've made it my goal this year to plan ahead, to ask for help, to look for the areas that are driving me crazy and to make my best effort to find solutions.
This one has been a gooder!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I love my little ones... like, I crazy love them.
I walked past my son in the kitchen tonight. He was getting advil because his teeth were hurting pretty bad from his braces. He is almost my height now - and as I pass him, he seems like a man.
He's more like me than like his dad. His hair is fair - and he talks too much and feels so deeply.
I stall him... I ask him about school, about his friends, about his faith... but in moments, his little sister is hissing up the stairs, "Charter! What's taking you so long?"
I should have known she wouldn't be asleep yet...
She peeks up the stairs and sees me. She smiles and climbs into my arms.
Her hair is like silk except for the tiny piece where best friend's mom sewed a feather in it. She still fits under my chin - even though she's tall for nine.
And I know they're tired... they need to go to bed... but I wrap one arm around my boy... and one around his littlest sister. They pull in close - and awkwardly tuck their other arms around their own body.
"No." I whisper insistently... "Each other too..."
And they do.
We're wrapped in a little huddle - just the three of us - and I can't help but burst into prayer.
I get one line in - and we hear a whimpering wail from downstairs... the little brothers have discovered their big siblings are missing.
They laugh - and they break our sacred huddle and tiptoe down the stairs whispering reassurances in sleepy tones.
And I?
I feel the emptiness of arms that want to grab hold of those two siblings and make them see the precious thing that they sometimes treat with scorn...
Oh babies... can you see how each of you has been gifted to the others? Do you understand how much these relationships mean? Will you throw them away like trash? Or could it be... that when my arms are laid to rest... it will be in the arms of your brothers and sisters that you will find comfort?
And this mama wants to absorb each hurt that you inflict on each other, because, my precious babies? They're not as big as you imagine them to be.
And this mama wants to reinvent bad habits - I want to make you smile at the one who drives you nuts, compliment the one who makes you jealous, be generous to the one who always seems to take...
But I can't do any of that. Because these relationships aren't mine to orchestrate or manipulate or force... no, these relationships are YOUR gifts.
And so I watch - smiling when you work together, laughing when you play together... crying when I see you making music together... cheering when you stand up for each other, weeping when I see you dancing, worshipping, praying together ... drenched in hope when I see your secret friendships forged with laughter... but then begging mercy for the one who shouldn't have done it - pleading grace for the one who doesn't deserve it...
I know i'm a hot mess as a mama (and wife - and human being)... but the one thing... *the one thing* that I have going for me - is that I don't think it would be possible for any other mama to love you all more than I do - and the best thing that I know to give you - the ones that I love so desperately...
Is each other.
Treat each other well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


This post is a rewrite of a throwback post from the very earliest beginnings of my pregnancy with elmer. i accidentally deleted the entire completed post  (i do that more often than i care to admit...) but here's the bits i could put back together again...


Two different women from completely different walks of life contacted me within days of each other. The first sent me two different emails and in each one, she encouraged me to pray for the Archangel Michael's protection. This confused me - as there isn't much that i do understand about angels - and so i wrote her back and told her that yes, i would surely be praying for God's protection.
But then, the second woman - one that i really love and respect wrote me the following email:

"I am reminded of this passage in Daniel, where it talks about the struggle in the spiritual world and how the Archangel Michael comes to intervene.
Keep going, keep trusting, finish well because God is going with you."

And then she cut and pasted the entire 10th chapter of Daniel...
And i decided then... that despite my discomfort - i would pray in a different way; one that made me uncomfortable and uncertain.
It took me three days to gather up the courage to actually pray. i was embarrassed by the idea of saying words - forming a prayer - about something that i didn't really understand. During those three days, i prayed about other things, i talked *about* prayer, i read my bible and mulled over the idea of protection - but finally amidst the hubbub that is my house on any given day, i threw my dish towel on the kitchen counter and asked my daughters to hold down the fort - that mama needed 15 minutes to herself.
Slowly, crimson cheeked, i climbed the stairs. Locking myself in my room, i sat down on my bed and checked my phone for messages before finally throwing it down on my bedspread muttering, "Enough, Paige. Do it already... "
Flushed, mouth dry and feeling foolish and wordless in my very own locked bedroom, i knelt - because i do that sometimes... and i held my palms out just the tiniest bit... because it's how i'm most comfortable when i come to my Father... and then i blurted out something like, "God? i have no idea how angels work... and i feel stupid asking, 'cause it seems like such a crazy thing to say out loud, but do you think that you could send Archangel Michael to protect me?"
And then i started to cry.
i wasn't expecting to - as most of my thoughts were pretty shallow in those moments leading up to my pathetic little prayer...
But i cried and cried and cried as if a little dam had just burst.
My prayer continued and flowed like a river after the first spring thaw - all muddy and impatient and cleansing and raw... And He met me.
What a funny thing - that small change in posture brought... A reluctant willingness to make myself foolish allowed a brokenness and an acknowledgement of my Papa's goodness that could have happened no other way.
And when my time was up, i gathered myself up off the ground, wiped my tears and went down to my little ones. No angel appeared in flaming glory, no life-changing epiphany, no bright lights or rolling thunder...
But i learned - yet again - that if i am willing to humble myself - my Papa is so faithful to meet with me, to gently lead me... and He wants me to ask for His protection - knowing i'll find comfort there.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." - 1 peter 5:6&7

Friday, September 20, 2013

Season of the hallelujah

Daddy has been gone for a week and I've only spoken to him once. And it was loud, and little hands kept reaching for the phone, and I couldn't hear or think... and so when he said, "I gotta go..."
I just let him go.
Little Elmer hasn't been sleeping, and so i'm sloppy with sleep deprivation - the little boys are getting away with more and there is mess and disorder and all that, and it's covered in the glaze of, "oh, but if I weren't so very, very tired... I would certainly do better..."
Last night, Elmer started his night wakings at 11:30pm. I had only shut my eyes at 10pm, and I couldn't believe my eyes as I looked at the glowing clock and realized that this was all I was gonna get.
And so we began what has become our nightly routine... my tiny son calls, and I go to him... I pull him into bed with me - because my bed is too big without daddy anyway. We nurse and doze, nurse and doze, nurse and doze... hours pass... i'm not sure how much I've slept and how much I've been awake... I pull his little body close. At three months he's several pounds smaller than any of his big brothers were at his age. He's still so little.
In a dopey haze, I feel little lips rooting at my nose. We must have fallen asleep again. Now it's 4am. I pull my face away from his pink mouth. It's dark in my room, but the light of the street lamp leaks through my window blinds and in the dim orangey glow, we make eye contact.
His smile lights up the entire galaxy.
My stomach flip flops and I want to laugh... loud.
He's three months old and he thinks it's funny that he was trying to latch onto my face... and I think it's funny too.
He coos and talks. And in my froggy voice... I talk back.
i'm glad in that moment that Neil's gone.... that we're not disturbing him... that he's sleeping peacefully in some hotel room on the other side of the country...
i'm happy.
i'm really happy.
i'm not all, "praise you in this storm" happy... but i'm genuinely happy... like "things are laugh out loud funny" happy.
And I know why - and I know how - and the first word in my mind is (I kid you not) - a little, "Hallelujah"...
Because He's speaking so loudly - and so profoundly - and it feels like one of those shifts that are so big that they permanently change you... like down at the very core of who you are.
He's calling me into the season of the hallelujah.
A season of praise.
It's as if He were in the room and the arrows are flying and fear is chasing me with his horrible throaty growl - and my Father flings a thick protective cloak over my shoulders...
What's this? I wonder - fingering the fabric and breathing in the fresh scent of it and recognizing the aroma of Spring that brings Life...
And it's praise... He's letting me be covered by praise... calling me to it... inviting me to live on it like bread and water... like air and the sleep that I lack in this temporal realm...
It's deeper than gratitude. It's lighter than obligation because it's fueled by love.

I do love Him.

And it's funny... there are parts of me that feel like a crickety old woman.  Is this what it feels like to be 80 years old, and to be called to fling wide your arms and dance for your King? What will it do to my wrinkled old brow to be called to laugh and cry and praise in what looks like an ugly howl to the world, but what my Father treasures because in it He recognizes my very heart? And it's like a morning stretch - and bones crack and muscles ache and it feels so good... to praise Him.

You are who you said You were... and that's who You'll always be.
It's worth a Hallelujah.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

thoughts on going over

Found this post in my drafts folder... I guess I never went far enough over to get to post it - but there are kernels of truth worth remembering in this post...
Elmer, I loved carrying you...


My due dates are approaching. I say due dateS 'cause I have the one from the ultrasound... and then the padded one that appears on my papers giving me a little breathing room for my babies that seem to need to cook a little longer.
As I was thinking about going over this morning, I was thinking how it's kind of neat how some women never get to experience those wild emotions and incredible anticipation that some of us go through when we carry our babes beyond the normal time frame. I remember that when I carried Sloanie *one day* past the expected "date" I broke down in heaving sobs on the couch... I wanted her to be in my arms - safe - so very, very badly and when she didn't come as anticipated, I was undone. I only ended up carrying her a few extra days - but each one was torture an emotional turmoil that felt like a marathon when I compare them to the 16 far more peaceful days I carried Ephraim past his expected arrival date.
So, there's no comparing experiences - even for the same mama... There are bits and pieces of our own stories that make our experiences unique. Sometimes we're struggling with health issues that make medical intervention and induction a safer and better alternative; and sometimes we're blessed with peace and health to carry our little ones until nature brings pregnancy to it's inevitable end.
So today, my musings on the good and the bad of carrying baby a little on the longer side...
First the not as nice... cause I wanna be honest... The anxiety is the hardest part of the end of pregnancy for me. I worry about carrying him too long, about his arrival, about his little home inside me, about labour, about meconium, about the timing of his birth and about every circumstance surrounding it. It's a daily, hourly battle for me to lay that down... It's also hard physically. Just this past week, it seems like all my ligaments and joints said, "Oh! Let's get ready for baby! Everyone, LET GO!!" And suddenly, things that were easy for me at 37, 38 & 39 weeks... are incredibly awkward and even painful. Things like walking, picking up a a cup (pregnancy carpal tunnel? Never had that one before!!), putting on shoes... (ahem... finding a pair of shoes that actually fit). These are parts of the 'hard' for me... Now for the 'nice'...
Getting to carry a baby past it's expected date usually means that things are continuing to go ok... Serious complications like cholestasis, incompetent cervix, pre-e... etc... those haven't been your issues. That's something to have a lot of gratitude for! There are a lot of ladies that would exchange the moderate discomfort of carrying baby for a little longer for healthier, more "complication free" pregnancies. It's exciting to carry past the expected arrival date... like waking up every morning, wondering if today will be the day. You've reached the "end" - and even though your brain tells you, "i'm never, ever going to have this baby...." that's just not true. All pregnancies end. Yours (& mine) will too... Any day now... and that's exciting. Going over also gives room for lots of contemplation and *absorbing* of those last sweet days of pregnancy.... As I type this, i'm watching my son wiggle, twist and turn in my belly... I won't be able to do that much longer - and it's an incredible feeling.


And now, as I read this, he's wrapped in his soft blue blanket at my side. His pink feet are peeking out the bottom and the soft rise and fall of the blanket shows his breaths.
Grateful for each stage of life - for the One who gives and for the little one we get to raise.

Friday, August 23, 2013

darling babies - later-post

i picked up my computer a dozen times in this last couple of months to blog - and a dozen times I haven't been able to follow through.
Even now, I hear Elmer stirring upstairs and I doubt i'll get more than a line or so down before he calls with his gentle cry and i'll have to run to him. He's tiny and soft now - his baby rolls are just starting to form - and the feeding of his little frame has consumed us both these last weeks.
(True enough, this post had to sit half finished while I filled the needs of my tiny one who cries to be held - and rewards my efforts with giant gummy smiles.)
We're in some years that feel like a giant rollercoaster ride - or maybe it's something less civilized yet - this season that rocks and sways, brings us to terrifying heights and plummets us towards earth while our hearts pound and we wonder if we'll survive at all.
We have you, daughter entering your last year of highschool, and you, tiny son, just born - and six of you in between, all at various stages of growth and life. We have a daddy who travels  (who by the time I post this will have come and gone again maybe a dozen times...) and a mama who clings to Jesus - a family that is held together by love and grit... And a Saviour who holds us all.


I can tell it's him - arriving home after a late night flight - because the door shuts softly. My sprite daughter won't be home from work for another half hour, and my tiny baby won't wake for his first night feed for another hour after that. He pads up the stairs, and I rub my eyes and struggle to sit up in bed.
He always looks so good to me when he gets home from the road. His shoulders are so broad and his skin so brown. He smiles that smile that melts me and starts to unload his suitcase. His voice is low and full of warmth - and mine answers his in sleepy-we-have-a-newborn-again tones. Our conversations wind gently around you children that we made together.
And the one thing that I feel like I did right is to love your daddy. We've fought and made each other mad and sad before... I made him want to pull out his hair, and he made me cry... but I know without a shadow of a doubt that I love this man who has borne the weight of this growing family all these years.
Cause it all comes down to relationships, little ones.
It never stops being about relationships.
You can try to do and you can try to be and you can give and cry and rage...
Or you can just love and open yourself up to real relationship.  The kind that bends without breaking, stretches without tearing and grows you stronger with the joy and the pain...
So I let him see me.. like... really see me. When he's gone, I text him my vulnerability.
"Be soft with me when you get home."
Because he's a big exhausted man who might miss the subtle nuances of a tender wife who has missed him desperately.
"I will. I promise." He responds.
And i'm heard.
And he does.
Babies... I love your daddy.
And together... we love you.
And this family - is a gift that none of us choose to take for granted.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

posterior tongue tie - part 2

A week after Elmer's revision, his improvements seemed significant to me. I decided to wean him off the supplements. I decided if I just nursed him more - i'd have to pump less - and so I pumped less and less and nursed more and more - till I was nursing almost constantly. Within a couple of days, I realized that he wasn't pooping or peeing like he had been. He quit sleeping any longer chunks and was constantly fussing and rooting. I realized quickly that I needed to start pumping again, but those couple of days wreaked havoc on my supply *again* and I had to build it with constant pumping and nursing yet again. I finally awkwardly managed to figure out pumping and nursing at the same time to save some time - and as my supply returned, I found myself grateful that at least I *had* milk - even with the other trouble, I was grateful that it really could be so much worse.
By this time, I was two weeks past his revision... I went back to the dr. to check on his progress - and she confirmed that he was in no way ready to quit the supplements. She also wanted me to stay on the Domperidone - which honestly? It has a side effect that makes it impossible to lose weight - & unless i'm really careful, my body wants to gain weight... I know, I know... vanity... but I still have 10-15lbs leftover from pregnancy... and i'm used to it falling off at a nice pace... This little piece of my vanity makes me uncomfortable & it's not very fun... but... i'm a stubborn mama sometimes, and so the Domperidone stays - and apparently, so does the baby weight -  until we really feel that I can wean off of it... and I guess I can't just yet.
The dr. wanted me to continue pumping like crazy, building up my supply to the point of oversupply to see if it makes it easier for Elmer to nurse.

I also decided to contact Dr. Jack Newman on his website to see if he had any insight into my situation. When you contact him, you have to limit your question to a certain number of characters - and it was really hard to be detailed and brief at the same time. As a result, his answer wasn't as useful as it could maybe have been, but I did take from it a renewed interest in the idea of breast compression. I had been foregoing the breast compressions in favour of the tandem nursing/pumping. I only have 2 hands after all... and I figured if I nursed, I could pump more - and maybe the reverse was true too... But after reading Dr. Newman's response, I rethought my goal. My ultimate goal isn't to pump more - my ultimate goal is to have Elmer solely on the breast - so I decided to go back to breastfeeding with compressions and then pumping after the feed. This seemed to have an almost immediate impact. He was swallowing more at the breast - it was like I was pumping - and instead of going into a bottle, it could go straight into my babe...
The breast compressions were so successful that even though I was terrified to quit pumping for fear i'd have to rebuild my milk supply yet again, I decided to try again. When Elmer was 5 days shy of 2 months, I quit pumping. I weighed him at the beginning and at the end of the trial and he had gained appropriately, so I felt confident to continue as we were and to continue weaning off the Domperidone too. This is a really slow, laborious process. I was on the lowest dosage of 8 pills per day, but even so, you have to wean down 1 pill every 4-5 days and if you notice a drop in supply you have to go back to the last dosage that was working and stay there for 2 weeks before attempting to wean down any further. Needless to say, i'm still in the process of weaning off of it, but honestly? It looks like at 2 months post partum that there's a light at the end of the tunnel & that we've made enough progress to feel pretty normal (we're down to 3 pills per day). This is a huge step considering our doctor felt at his last appointment that his latch was still unorganized and weak - enough so that she didn't feel sure we would ever be able to wean off the domperidone as long as we wanted to continue nursing.
I know that this journey was one that I chose. Other women would have chosen differently - & that is totally cool. I just knew that *I* needed to listen to my mama heart and do everything in my power to make this work. Yes, it was a ton of work - and yes, I wanted to quit several times... especially in the middle of the night when I hadn't slept. Yes, it hurt. A lot. Yes, I got discouraged and wondered if maybe we just weren't going to be able to do this thing...
But i'm so very glad that we were able...
And i'm looking forward to the next months and years of our breastfeeding relationship with tender hope and awed pleasure.

Monday, July 22, 2013

posterior tongue tie part 1

This was written a few weeks ago... when I was hoping there wouldn't be a part 2... but there will be. We are still struggling now - but I thought I would share part 1.


So, surely it must nearly be true that I have experienced almost every breastfeeding barrier in the world... Read my post Breastfeeding Anyway HERE to see what i'm talking about :)   Elmer's nursing journey has been no exception - and it has taught me yet another gem of knowledge that I lacked before he came.
If you read Elmer's birth story, you'll know that he was born in a beautiful water birth. I didn't have an epidural - & baby was alert and content when he was born. After I held him in the water for as long as I wanted to - my midwives helped me stand and they wrapped us both in towels as I climbed carefully out of the tub carrying my tiny mite. They didn't want anyone else to take him, as they told me that research supported the claim that me holding him would help to establish our breastfeeding relationship (ha!) - even though I had been unable to get him to latch in the tub like I had with Ephraim when he was born.
As soon as I got out of the tub, I tried again, but we couldn't manage to latch. I honestly didn't think too much of it, as I was drunk on birth hormones - and giddy with my beautiful baby boy. We took our time, and finally it was time for the midwives to come and check him out and weigh and measure him. During their check, they saw that he had a pretty thick anterior tongue tie - his frenulum was stopping his tongue from releasing so that was likely why he hadn't been able to latch. They asked me if I wanted them to clip it. I immediately said yes. Just the day before, we found out that Charter (our 11 year old son) requires braces - and the orthodontist told me that this need was likely because he is tongue tied so his tongue never sat in his mouth correctly - so his palate is narrower and deeper than it should be.
My midwives proceeded to make what they said was a fairly deep frenulum cut - and Elmer miraculously latched.
We were pleased with his latch and it looked like he was sucking well. It was mildly uncomfortable right from the first latch - but breastfeeding has never been easy for me - and Reynauds usually causes quite a bit of pain early on - so again, I didn't think too much about it.
We went home, and Elmer continued to be difficult to latch, but that's not uncommon - & I never find the beginnings of breastfeeding easy - so I just continued doing what I was doing - until Elmer was 24 hours old... and then I couldn't latch him at all. It was evening, and he rooted and fussed for hunger - and I offered him the breast and he couldn't latch at all... I expressed milk into his little birdie mouth - and he swallowed, but couldn't lap it - or get latched on to get the milk himself. Neil went to bed, and I put myself to bed in another room, skin to skin with my newborn and continued to offer the breast every hour of the night - but we made no progress. I held a soother in his mouth to see if he could suck on it - I offered my finger to see what was happening, but his little tongue would just thrust it out. By the wee hours of the morning, I was almost delirious with exhaustion... I hadn't slept in days - with prelabour and then labour and the new tiny baby - and I couldn't figure out why something so hard was suddenly a hundred times harder than it should be.
By 8 am I was genuinely worried. My baby hadn't eaten anything at all in at least 12 hours and I wasn't sure how much he had taken in prior to that - I was sure he hadn't had much in the past 24 hours - as his latch had gotten progressively worse the previous day. I told Neil I was going to have to call the midwife, and as I said this, our doorbell rang - and it was the midwife stopping in!!  I was so relieved to see her - and we immediately set about seeing what we could do about his latch.
She showed me how to put my finger on the roof of his mouth, wait for him to attempt to suck and then turn my finger and press down on his tongue to encourage him to "cup" rather than thrust. My midwife found it very odd that elmer wouldn't even suck a finger that was in his mouth. He would just sit gape mouthed with a finger pressing his tongue. Finally, she encouraged me to "bolus feed" him. I would express tiny precious drops of colostrum into a cup and use a spoon to encourage him to try to "lap" with his tongue. It seemed like he *could* do this - but not well - and very reluctantly. It would take forever for me to get the 2 teaspoons expressed and then slowly get him to take them in, and then try to breastfeed and then start again. This lasted until late afternoon when I finally got him to (painfully) latch on again.
When he would latch, I would do all I could to correct the latch that he had, pulling out his bottom jaw and fixing his upper lip (which had a very obvious tie - but was maneuverable). He would swallow for the initial let down, but then it was like he didn't know what to do - and he would let go - and cry for hunger. So, I would give him the other side and the same thing would happen.
My milk came in with a BANG like it always does - and through the engorgement, I expressed into the bath to try to stay soft enough to be able to feed him (if I would have known what would happen, I would have saved this milk for what came next!!)
Elmer had weighed 8 pounds at birth, by 4 days, he was 7 pounds 4 ounces... by 6 days, he was down another ounce... but it was such a small loss that the midwives felt he must be ready to turn around and we were confident that day 8 would see a gain. I nursed like crazy, doing hand compressions I had watched on a Dr. Newman youtube video. I scoured the internet when I was up all night, trying to find suggestions for babies with "weak suck", "how to fix baby's latch", etc... We nursed every hour of the day... but I didn't feel like we were having much success as his diapers were hardly wet and his poops were frothy with little substance.
Day 8 came and the midwife at first said, "no, there's no gain..." but then she remeasured and said, "Oh, yes there is - he has gained 100 grams!"
I was ecstatic. It had been so much work, but what we were doing must be working! It was worth it, I concluded and steeled myself for some sleepless nights and difficult long days of nursing to see a return to birth weight by the time we would weigh him at 2 weeks (most babies are back at birth weight between 10-14 days after birth).
Over the next 5 days though, I thought my little one looked gaunt. I hoped it was that he was growing, stretching... but I started to worry. His little face looked so thin, and as he was 22 inches at birth - such a long boy - his little legs looked just skeletal. By the time I brought him in a day before 2 weeks, I wasn't very confident that he had gained very well... but I was still shocked when they put him on the scale and he weighed 6 pounds 14 ounces. When I saw him naked, it was even more pitiful. He had good colour, and didn't have a sunken fontanel, but he had no flesh at all on his bones. His loss was 14% of his body weight and the midwives were pretty shocked and dismayed along with me. They let me cry in the back room as I rocked him and cuddled him and tried to nurse him as we talked about options. They told me 14% is just not ok - and we can't continue doing what we're doing... I agreed and told them if I had realized that he was still going down, I would have been more proactive - and borrowed the pump my friend had offered.
They said they felt like he should probably be supplemented with formula - & I balked. Two of my friends had offered their breastmilk - and my mama heart wanted him to have human milk. I told them I would pump and supplement with my own milk - but they were concerned that it was a supply problem. They wrote me a prescription for domperidone and told me that however I did it, he needed to be supplemented 40-60 mls after every feed - and he needed feeding every 2 hours around the clock. Another midwife that wasn't there at the time even phoned me at home and told me she wasn't comfortable with *not* using formula at this point - but I pushed for breastmilk and told her if we saw no gain in 2 days, that I would go out and buy formula immediately. I felt like I needed to follow my heart and give this a fair shot first - and so I did.
I dried my tears and got to work. I borrowed the pump from my friend and with my very first attempt, got the 60 mls he required after I had already fed him. He chomped and chewed, but took the bottle with minimal problems. My friends stepped up with the donor milk and so my routine for the next 5 days around the clock was to nurse my tiny one, then pump that side, then nurse the other side, then pump that side - then I would feed him whatever I had pumped (supplementing with donor milk when necessary). This would sometimes take over an hour - as he would need diaper changes in there too - and so I would have an hour break and then start again... around the clock. I was exhausted. I started the domperidone, fenugreek, blessed thistle and a mother's milk tea - but I couldn't keep up with the supplements - so whenever I couldn't pump anymore, I would give him milk from my mama friends and pray that he would grow.  For 5 days, it was close to 50/50 donor milk to my expressed milk. I nursed him at the beginning of each of these feeds - but over the course of those 5 days, my milk increased and I used less and less donor milk. On the sixth day, he was back only on my milk.
We reweighed him after 2 days and he had gained 6 ounces. We were thrilled with this gain, and scheduled a reweigh for 3 days later. At this weigh in, he had gained another 6 ounces - putting him only 6 ounces from birth weight. I was so happy he was gaining - and his full diapers were soothing my mama heart - but deep down, I wondered what was the root of the problem? Why couldn't my baby eat? My number one goal had to be to get Elmer eating and gaining... but not far behind, I had another set of goals. I was going to get Elmer off donor milk, then I was going to figure out how to get him to get milk from me, not a bottle, and then I was going to get my body off of the domperidone, fenugreek and blessed thistle.
My midwives told me that whatever was going on with Elmer was beyond their scope and they referred me to a breastfeeding clinic here in the south of Calgary. One suggested that my age and number of babies maybe played a part in our problems (even though I knew this wasn't true... it rubbed raw and hurt my already hurting heart)  - they had theories and suspicions, but couldn't nail what it was.
Finally on July 3rd, I went to the lactation clinic. Elmer was 2 weeks 6 days. I told Neil on the way, "if they try to 'fix my latch' I will scream."
"Why are you even going then?" he asked.
"I want help - but I want real help - I want them to figure out what's wrong..."
Early on, a good friend had suggested that Elmer sounded like he had a posterior tongue tie. She had a friend go through the experience of a posterior tongue tie and thought there sounded like there were similarities. My midwives told me it was a possibility but that it wasn't something they were trained to deal with - and that i'd need to ask at the breastfeeding clinic. So, I hoped that there would be an answer - but it didn't seem likely to my midwives since they had already clipped his frenulum at birth and they said his lip tie didn't usually impact breastfeeding.
I got to the clinic and filled out my paper work and they weighed Elmer. I started to get teary when we found he was 8 pounds even - finally at his birth weight! He had amazingly gained 18 ounces over only 1 week! 
The nurse came in and after talking for only 2 minutes with her, I started to get excited. She started explaining to me the symptoms of a posterior tongue tie - how you can't see it, but you feel it. How it's different from a frenulum clip - but can have an enormous impact on the ability to breastfeed. She felt in his mouth and showed me how his tongue wasn't working properly - she pointed out that his palate was deep and narrow - a sign that his tongue hadn't ever been able to move freely even in the womb. She told me that a lip tie is a good indicator of a baby who likely has a posterior tie too. Everything that she said fit - she said with a posterior tongue tie - the mom is feeding the baby, but the baby is never feeding himself. It's too hard - so mom needs pumping, meds and constant feeds to help baby gain - but if baby could move his tongue, he could feed himself and it would be (almost) effortless.
She told me she was going to go get the doctor and see if she confirmed her suspicions.
She swung the door shut behind her and I picked up my baby.
I nuzzled my face right into his neck.
And I started to sob.
It was something real - it wasn't some horrible nightmare where suddenly my body didn't know how to do this... and it was something they could fix... and we could work on... and it would get better... and it was good that I didn't give up - and the nurse told me I was amazing, that she couldn't believe how well we had persevered... and the encouragement was like balm to my hurting, exhausted mama heart - and I couldn't stop the tears as I looked at my tiny son who I know had suffered. I knew that getting this release would hurt him, and I ached to know that he had to suffer more before we could start to get better, but I was so grateful that we had a path to start on...
The nurse returned before I could compose myself with the doctor - and they were both the picture of compassion as they tenderly wrapped my son in a blanket and fixed his tiny mouth. I nursed him right away as soon as they were done - and I could feel the difference as he inexpertly tried to figure out how to move his mouth and tongue.
One day later, he's still a very disorganized nurser. We have been given some exercises to do with him to try to get him to start using his tongue properly. They said it might take some time to relearn how to suck and how to effectively nurse - but I feel full of hope that we're on the road to recovery now.
And - that - is my extremely long story... and believe it or not, this is abbreviated to take out most of my *feelings*.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

elmer's birth

He's here.
i'm not very on the ball these days, but I want to blog his birth story before I forget all the little details that are already sifting through my fingertips like fine sand.
I carried Elmer past the ultrasound due dates...
We're having a baby today! 40 weeks 5 days.

I was comfortable and content. We had the due dates padded on my paperwork, and so I never felt rushed or that I was running out of time like i had when i carried Ephraim so long. Right before I hit my due dates, my joints decided to get ready to have baby and went all loose and made walking funny and awkward. I also got carpal tunnel in my hands - something I had never experienced before - and so the last tiny bit that I carried him, was a little more tender and ploddingly slow (but not unbearable by any stretch).
i'm not sure what day I first noticed that I might be leaking fluid, but since I've never leaked before, I pushed the idea out of my head. It continued though, and Tuesday night I noticed I was starting to get some contractions. They were very light and mild though and were easy enough to fall asleep in the midst of. I woke in the morning and didn't experience many more, but the leaking continued. I kind of argued with myself that if I was leaking, surely the few contractions would be enough to push me into real labour - as my labours have often begun with spontaneous rupture of membranes followed immediately by the onset of labour.
Neil had been travelling and was finally home on Tuesday night, so I told my body that it was ok to go into labour... that we could go now if all was ready. i knew he was going to be flying out early on Sunday morning, and i really wanted him to be there.  I had hoped that I would carry baby till he was finished his last trip - as I know how challenging those first post partum days can be - especially flying solo... but I had long ago surrendered the timing of my little one's birth to my Heavenly Father - and I trusted that He knew best.
Tuesday night and Wednesday i had lots of show, with only a few mild contractions. i kept thinking that one little thing could push me over the brink into real labour... but nothing ever seemed to do it. Overnight Wednesday night, i was leaking enough that i started to wonder in earnest if it really could be my amniotic fluid... and then i started to wonder if it was my amniotic fluid, how long had it been broken? i had tested GBS positive for the first time ever this pregnancy and the thought of having broken waters for days on end made me uncomfortable so i called my midwife in the morning and told her what had been happening. By then, (of course - isn't that how it always is?) the leaking quit - and she was concerned that because of the show, the test strips might not be very accurate anyway - but she wanted me to keep in touch if symptoms continued.
It ended up being a really busy day. My older kids had exams in Okotoks and Neil had meetings - i ended up being busy all day.  By the time i got home, i was feeling restless and a little frustrated. i sat down at the kitchen table to work on a tiny bench i was going to paint for our bathroom, and i felt another very tiny leak of fluid, so i picked up the phone and called my midwife again. She suggested we meet at the clinic and she would see if the swab came back positive for amniotic fluid.
We drove to the clinic - and i hoped furiously that my water was still intact and that i could just go home and wait in peace. There wasn't even enough moisture to require wearing a pad after all, and i really hoped that the restless unease was just the end of pregnancy jitters. When we got to the clinic, my midwife noted that i wasn't wearing a pad and gave me some hope that all was well, but when she swabbed, it immediately turned a deep blue confirming what i already knew deep down - that i had some kind of a rupture and that our little one was going to be needing to be encouraged to come sooner rather than later.
Discouraged, i looked at my midwife and sighed, "What now?"
i had been counting on avoiding the antibiotics by having one of my usual quick births - but now with the increased risk of ruptured membranes, i wasn't willing to decline the antibiotics any longer.
We talked about it, and i felt a ton of peace and trust - which is so rare for me - in taking the antibiotics and also an "induction smoothie" whose active ingredients are lemon verbena and castor oil. It was funny to run out to Neil's truck and tell him the midwife needed him to go get some supplies.
"Ok," he responded, turning the ignition, "What do i need?"
"She wants you to go to the grocery store and get peanut butter and orange juice."
"Um, for real?"
"Yeah... we're makin' a smoothie."
So he did - and then she made him mix it up too using their special recipe - and he felt very useful. It wasn't gross at all - lemon, peanut butter and orange juice make it palatable and i guzzled it down and watched the midwife start an IV for the antibiotics.
Within the hour (around 5:45pm), we were headed home with instructions not to wait too long. My midwife was as convinced as we were that with just the tiniest push, my labour would fly out of control and we wanted to be sure to have enough time to make it to the birthing center.
The one thing that made me kind of sad was the fact that it was the night of Sloanie's violin recital. We talked about going to the recital, and just leaving if we had to - or different ways that we could make it work... but in the end, we decided that we were just going to have to miss it. We called Sloanie and she didn't skip a beat - just assured us that it was fine - and she was excited for the imminent arrival of her sweet baby brother.
We arrived home, and Sloanie had fed her siblings as Cai had been at work until i called her and asked tentatively, "Think you could get out of work tonight and come with?" (Her friend George volunteered to work overtime so my chicky could come home, and so I owe a debt of gratitude to an employee of Dairy Queen who I haven't met yet).  Peyton volunteered to babysit the rest of our crew since she had come to Ephraim's birth and she said she would give Mollen a chance to come since she was my only daughter who hadn't been able to attend a birth. There was a bubbling excitement in the house as we made ready - but finally everything was done that needed to be done and we looked blankly at each other, "What now?"
i wasn't in labour - but the idea of travelling to the birthing center in the throes of hard labour wasn't all that appealing either, so i called my midwife and asked her if we could just head over since we were committed to having baby now anyway - and just count on labour kicking in once we got there. She agreed to meet us there so we packed our girlies and one empty car seat in the truck and headed out.

Took a bit of convincing to get Neil to add the second finger. He's bad. :)

i was getting some random, painless contractions on the way there... and i asked Neil if we could start listening to my birthy play list while we drove... i had made some good choices putting it together... and as i surrendered by body and my plans for this birth and even the tiny child within me into God's hands, the tears just flowed. The birthing center isn't that far from our city's abortion clinic... and as we drove past the clinic, i looked back. i saw the gate shut tight across the parking lot entrance - and i prayed for Life.
When we arrived, my midwife decided she might as well check me now (her previous exam at the clinic had been a speculum exam because she didn't want to give me a full pelvic exam because of my gbs status). At the clinic, i had been high and closed, and despite the fact that it hadn't been very long, and i hadn't experienced many contractions, i hoped for progress. As soon as she checked me, my water broke in earnest and i couldn't even hold in a huge sigh of disappointment to see that it was stained with meconium.
My midwife again, was the calm voice of reason and she told me that she's required to tell me that the recommendation with meconium staining is a hospital birth. i asked her how she felt and she told me she was perfectly comfortable where we were... i told her i was too... and we decided to stay.
i had made a little progress, but not much, and having checked the baby's position in the womb, my midwife wanted to try some different positions to see if we could get his little head turned into a better position for birth. Finally, she smiled at me, "We're gonna go do some stairs now..."

She had me going up the stairs with wide legs and deep squats. When a contraction would come, she would get me to take two stairs and lean into it for the duration of the contraction. My contractions were really too short and mild to be making much progress, but i did the stairs till i was breathless - and before we knew it, it was time for the second dose of antibiotics and smoothie. i sat at the table as they mixed the antibiotics and they plugged it into the little port they had left in my arm. i begged to have it taken out now that i had taken both doses of antibiotics, but they seemed to want to keep it in for the duration now that we had it inserted. As the antibiotics finished, suddenly i felt *another* pop and a gush - and my water broke again.
"Surely now..." i murmered...
My midwife was baffled at the extra rupture, but was pleased that this water appeared clear... It was around 9:45 when i had the second dose of antibiotics and downed the second dose of lemon verbena. Slowly, slowly, slowly... the contractions picked up in frequency, duration and intensity... It wasn't long before i asked to get in the tub, and my midwife said looking at my countenance was enough to tell her I had made progress, I was finally not laughing, so she told me to go for it.
The water brought immediate relief.
i wasn't sure if i had been making progress or not - and i was a little worried that the water would slow the progress since it had been so much work to get me going and that was unfamiliar to me. My midwife told me she wasn't worried though, so i just enjoyed Mother Nature's epidural and breathed and coped through the contractions and let the water soothe me and the music that Cai played bring me peace.
It wasn't long and the contractions were overwhelming. i didn't feel strong and fearless - & that's ok - you feel what you feel in labour, each one is it's own journey... This one didn't come to catch me, i ran looking for it - and met it... despite my weakness.
i felt his head descend inside my body and wondered if it was time to push. My midwife managed to check me without getting me out of the water and helped me get the last tiny lip of cervix out of the way.
i worked so hard. It hurt, and i pushed... i felt him descend even more... The room was very dark and i was more vocal - but not out of control. Neil squeezed himself into a tiny corner beside the tub - and when i cried, "i don't want another contraction, i don't want to do this..."
He wryly added, "Babe, i'm tired - i want another contraction... Let's do this..."
And no matter what either one of us wanted, my tiny one descended and my body pushed and did what it was designed to do and i reached down in the water and felt his head crown and slip from my body.
"His head is out..." i groaned to the midwife.
Strains of One Thing Remains in the blackened room... "Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me... Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me...
"Oh, it is?" She laughed softly and helped me to get in a better position to push out his body.
(I was going through Sloan's pictures after and I found a video that was pitch black... I was going to delete it, but I hit play... I heard my midwife's voice, "I think it's time to get the sisters".  There was the sound of the soft lapping of water and then my groan as he was born, and the midwife's gentle acknowledgement, "Intense eh?" to my pitiful, "That was such hard work..." Quite an amazing thing to hear... )

i pulled him from the water, and clutched his tiny body to mine. He was so peaceful, he didn't want to cry. He breathed and looked around, wide eyed, grasping tiny wrinkled fingers at the air - pressed close to his mama, half submerged in the warmth of the water, blinking in the dim light as we spoke in lowered tones and waited for his cord to stop pulsing.
"What a peaceful birth..." The midwives smiled at my son - and i thought in that moment that i was so grateful that even after the decades of midwifery experience between these two women, the mystery and magic of childbirth was obviously not old for them... i was so glad for the women who attended his birth.
It was 11:51pm when he was born, and we made it home by 2:30am - I insisted on stopping at McDonalds for a Big Mac on the way, much to Neil's dismay... he was exhausted after all the resting on the couch he had done and wanted to get home to bed. ;)
The next day, we chose his name:

And there are so many more bits and pieces and stories I want to tell and pictures of grace in the midst of the vulnerability of new life... but if I don't post this now, i'm beginning to doubt I ever will... Blogging became tricky for so many, many reasons in the past couple of years and i'm out of habit and practice... and it shows :)
Elmer, you are a blessing to this family. We are so in love with you already - and I pray (yesterday it was in a sobbing half shouted prayer in the privacy of the little orange car)...  that you will be a willing vessel for God to accomplish His good works through you.
Oh buddy, mama is just so blessed - in tearful gratitude for the precious gift of your life. I just know we're going to be special friends...

late night for miss mollen...

They added a banner stating, "It's a BOY" to the window a few hours after this picture was taken. Elmer was the third baby born at the birthing center that day...

"I need some support." "Oh? Could you come over here? I've got to check some emails..."

That's my bikini top clutched in my hand... getting ready to get in the tub..

5 days old

5 days old... precious pictures taken by Carey Stevens photography. You can see more HERE.


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