Posts Tagged ‘motherhood’

Faith, Family, Midwifery, and Such

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

I long for real community. A place where women and their families can come together to connect, support, and just do life together.

As I stood over my cutting board, processing 40 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts by myself, I thought how much more enjoyable the task would have been if I had had someone alongside me. I’m tired of being independent in everything. I want to lean on someone. I have no problem at all being alone, doing things on my own, because I can. Quite simply, I’m pretty good at just getting things done, and it rarely crosses my mind to ask anyone to come along.

I don’t want to anymore.

I want a friendly face beside me, just doing things together. Laundry. Bulk cooking. Spring cleaning. First my place, then hers. Like they did 150 years ago in rural areas, not because they liked each other so much, but because it enabled better survival and created a safety net of people who would rush to your aid when your barn was on fire.

I have so many ideas in my mind of how to make this happen. First of all is to invite others into my space and set the example. (So if anyone wants to split that 40 pound box of chicken next time, hit me up!)

Another idea is to use the NextDoor app to reach out to my literal neighbors, and host small gatherings. I’m actually thinking of making a ton of apple cider on Halloween/Reformation Day, and ladling out hot cups of it from my front porch and meeting my neighbors. Or starting a neighborhood Bible study, unconnected with any local church.

I have already done a freezer meal session with my best friend, and it was amazing! We managed to put together 11 meals for our families, and loved the time together! She used several of hers to bless other families in need by taking them dinner. So the ripple effect of our efforts touched far more than just our families. I love that.

I have also determined to ask for more help. After spending about five hours (at least) looking for a good deal on a winter coat for my eldest, I realized I could have just posted on Facebook to see if anyone had a hand-me-down. With how many clothes I pass on to smaller people, it makes sense to try and look for people who would be willing to pass down to my kids.

One of my favorite things to do is to call up a friend, find out what their plans for dinner are, and combine forces. Another of my best friends–I’m an extrovert, I have more than one best friend–and I used to do this all the time. We would combine her pasta with my veggies and a few random sides, and create dinner together for our families. Especially when it was near the end of the month, and we were both short on groceries and cash. The weird meals we made were not Pinterest-worthy, but they were appetite-worthy, and brought us together as families. Totally worth it.

Acitivies, events, and playdates are all great, but I want more. Because when you go home from the playdate, you still have 87 piles of laundry to do. You still have to cobble together dinner at the end of a long day of errands. You still have to be a decent human being to your spouse. And that can only happen in community.

So, that’s my heart. This is what I want to do here on this blog. Write about faith, family, and community. Midwifery, birth, and all that jazz are intimately connected to those topics. And I find that I cannot write about one without writing about the other.

Welcome to my renewed blog, where you get all of me! Not just the birthy me. I hope you find a comfortable place to pull up a chair and read!

How do you find yourself creating or participating in community?

Grace & Peace,

Breath & Wings: A Mother’s Day Post

Sunday, May 10th, 2015

Breath & Wings

Her new wings are still unfurling, tender and delicate. A flutter here, another in a moment. Quiet! There she goes. Uncertain, her feet have left the ground anyway.

“Now is as good a time as any!” Her wings straighten and thrust her into open air.

Not yet soaring, she hops and jumps and keeps testing the strength of these wings. A little higher now, she catches a breath of wind! Just the tiniest movement of air that keeps her suspended in glorious flight for a time. He gently sets her back down, whispering assurances of his soon return to lift her to newfound heights.

“But, I want to fly now.” Forlorn, the wings droop for a time.

If flight is so hard, perhaps it’s better in the soft, sturdy turf. Her eyes lift, and catch the glint of light on other wings. Inspired, her wings twitch in anticipation. Yes, there is strength there, but not of her own stuff. It has come through gentle, slow healing and unfurling. A painful process, and one she has born with grace unfamiliar to her until this day. Grace she did not know she possessed, through the power of the Breath of Life.

The breath returns. Joyously, he lifts her up, carries her. Helps her use her wings in earnest!

Flight is exhausting and exhilarating! Joyful and hard, it takes more work than walking the turf had asked of her.

But flight is freedom, and she knows it full well. Still, she cannot fly forever just now. Not yet.

“Soon,” the wind promises her.

Her wings tire, and he gently gives her rest. “Lie still awhile. Take nourishment. Lasting strength will come.”

There is nectar here, and nesting places for tired wings. Another flight awaits, and sunrise always brings the breeze.

Keep going, Mom. You really can do it. I have never stopped believing in you. I have never stopped thanking God for you. You gave me life, by the grace of God. Without you, I would not be who I am. My wings have unfurled because of you. You are loved. You matter. And you are my favoritest Mommy ever!

Happy Mother’s Day!
Love, Sunshine!!!

Some Say I Am Brave

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Image from http://www.vickidonlan.com

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. To me, that’s like saying I’m brave for having a big wedding. No matter how involved the planning, we all know the real work of marriage starts when the wedding is over.

So it is with birth. Our childhood, our growing up, and our pregnancy is the training ground. Birth is the opening ceremony. Motherhood is the marathon.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth. Others would counter that choosing a hospital birth is brave.

I say choosing to become a mother is brave, no matter where you choose to bring your child into the world. I say learning to make fully informed decisions — guided by a beautiful hybrid of evidence-based information and your intuition — is brave.

Doing this often means going against the flow of society in general, and the tide of modern obstetrics in specific.

It means navigating endless resources, asking questions, and taking time to figure out answers. It means identifying, confronting, and processing fears, anxieties, and stressors that hinder you from being able to fully trust your body and your chosen care provider. It means letting go of a process we have very little control over, when all is said and done, and forming realistic expectations about your birth based on your unique emotional health, health history, and risk factors.

It means being able to tell your well-meaning loved ones that you appreciate their input, but that you are choosing a different way than they did. It sometimes means being willing to give up your ideal for reality — whether that entails a homebirth transfer, an unplanned cesarean, or an accidental homebirth.

The location of your birth doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you got there.

Navigating the road on this journey isn’t as simple as using GPS systems to decide where to turn. It’s less like a road trip, and more like a sea voyage. You may have all the tools in the world in your boat, but unless you use them, the horizon looks exactly the same no matter which direction you look. Sure, you can guess which direction is the right way to go, but you can’t really know unless you have a destination in mind, and you’re able to use the tools around you.

It’s up to you to pick up those tools and make use of them. No one else is really in that boat with you.

It’s up to you to be brave.

Where do you want to go?

Do your homework. Take nothing for granted. Never say never. Then, when you know where you want to be, pick up the tools you have and get yourself there. No one else can (or will) do this for you.

Some say I am brave for choosing homebirth.

What really made me brave was my willingness to open my mind and look beyond the status quo at all the options available to me. That was the hard part. What continues to make me brave is looking four little ones in the face each morning, and loving them in spite of the challenges that mothering them presents.

Some say I am brave. I say that all mothers are brave; some just have not figured it out yet.

When did you realize your bravery as a mother? In what moments have you been brave as a mother?

Pick up good books. Take an evidence-based childbirth class. Know where evidence-based information resides on the internet. (It’s not typically at BabyCenter, just FYI.) Ask questions of your care provider every appointment. Hire a doula. Look outside your box. Interview providers you might not have considered. Confront your anxieties and fears about birth – with professional help if you think you need it.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

 

Super Power Sight (a Guest Post)

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

By: Jackie Miller: She is my husband’s aunt and my long-time friend. Along with her sisters, she raised up a generation of loving mothers and fathers. She and her sisters shared nursing duties when their kids were little, some had home births, some did not. Each of them supported and provided a loving “village” to train up their children together – the way it was meant to be. This post illustrates the importance of nighttime parenting – even if you find yourself in the “granny years” now. The granddaughter in the following story is eight years old, not a toddler. She is “old enough” to be in her own bed, and this story could have turned out differently. Read and learn from a mother (and now grandmother) who knows that those long nights with littles can be so hard, but that those nights and moments are worth it. Her children are proof. Her grandchildren will be, too.

This hasn’t happened to me for a long time, maybe 10 years, maybe longer. I was out of training, so I didn’t know if my skills were up to the task, but I accepted the challenge anyway. It all started by someone calling out my name in the middle of the night. “Granny, I had a bad dream and I’m really scared, can I come into bed with you?”

My reply was out before she finished the question; I said, “Of course Sweetheart.” As I pulled back the blankets and moved my pillow over so my granddaughter could share it with me, she ran and hurled herself into the very center of my being and pushed back in against me with every fiber of hers. My arms were there and ready to envelope her. To comfort and love her.

As I kiss her head and hold her tight I start to pray over her, that the Lord would take away her bad dreams and help her to relax and be able to rest. At first she is stiff and trembling, but the more I prayed, cuddled and loved, the more relaxed she became until total peace had filled her little body.

I had not lost my touch; my mommy (Now Granny) super powers were still active. They were just a little older and a lot more mature. Amazingly, I discovered with beautiful clarity, I now had super power sight. Oh what a beautiful gift Jesus gave me last night, as I lay there, half asleep, holding her close to my heart. A flood of memories came back to me in that precious moment as her warm little body warmed my very soul.

How many times in my life have I done this before? How many nights in my life had I begrudgingly wished my kids would just sleep through the night so that I could sleep? How many times had I laid there uncomfortably, while little arms and legs wiggled and poked me? Just waiting for them to get tired enough for me to carry them to their own bed so I could have my space? I remembered each time, each child, and I almost wept with the overwhelming wish that this moment in time, right now while I held my granddaughter, would never end.

Now was not the time for desiring to go back to sleep, NO! Now was a time to share our hearts, our dreams, and yes – some laughter. I whisper into my Em’s ear, “How would you like to get up with Granny and have some hot chocolate?”

I think she was out of bed before I could finish saying it. I gave her my big fuzzy red robe to wear, and it trailed behind her on the floor as we walked to the kitchen. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Hot cocoa in our hands, we sat wrapped in the same blanket on the sofa and listened to Taylor swift (Her favorite singer) on her Ipod, and of course we sang along… “Some day I’ll be living in a big old city, and all you’re ever gonna be is mean.”

I really really really love my life!

For more of Jackie’s heart, as well as tips and ideas for decorating and remodeling, read her blog: We Treasure the Little Things.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Pain’s Message

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Photo from vi.sualize.us

“Labor will hurt. Probably a lot. But whether this is negative is another matter… A laboring woman can be in a great deal of pain, yet feel loved and supported and exhilarated by the creative forces flowing through her body and her ability to meet labor’s challenges.” ~ Henci Goer

Pain in general is not a good or bad thing, in and of itself.

Pain is simply a message from our body to our brain that something needs to change. It tells me when to move my hand away from a hot surface. Pain tells me to lie down and rest for awhile. It tells me to take a bath.

In labor, pain is part of that creative process moving through my body. It does more than just tell me to get moving.

It empowers me to take what control I can in an otherwise uncontrollable event; it places me squarely on the crest of each contraction wave, where I can ride it out in some measure of peace. It tells me to seek comfort – in a warm bath, in the arms of a loved one, outside in the sun, in a dimmed room with soft music, in the motion of walking, and even in the simplest relief of emptying my bladder.

Pain signals the release of huge amounts of endorphins, bringing me to the brink of ecstasy as I feel the baby slip out of my body and into my arms.

Pain experienced in loneliness or perceived isolation is excruciating. Pain experienced in an environment of peace, comfort, and perceived safety is empowering and moving. It is life-changing and educational. It is powerful, intense, and sometimes indescribable.

The pain of labor is not suffering.

In life, as well as in labor, I find that it is often only through pain that I can experience pleasure at its fullest.

The agony and the ecstasy of labor and birth often go hand-in-hand. They are experienced in the same moments. Even at the height of a contraction, there is knowledge in my mind and heart that I will soon forget my pain at the joy of my child being born into the world. In my face, one can see unbounded joy, awe, and underlying it all – the pain of motherhood that never really goes away. We carry it with us as we agonize over every mothering decision.

Motherhood and its inherent pain is a baptism unlike any other on earth.

Being immersed to a depth we did not know we had, to emerge in the clear air of a role we somehow know without being expressly taught.

Pain in labor is what teaches us, and proves to us beyond all doubt that we have what it takes. We can rise to any challenge.

“You can’t scare me. I’ve given birth!” is our rousing, unarguable cry!

The pain of labor and birth, no matter our experience of it, or how we choose to manage it, tells us in a voice of authority: “We CAN be mothers.”

Photo from JustQuotes.org

What is/was your experience with pain in your labor(s)? How did you use the various tools available to you (everything from natural methods to medication is welcome to be mentioned here) in order to meet the challenge of your labor pain? Would you change anything about how you managed your pain? Why or why not? Did you experience a painless birth?

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany

Learn From My Mistakes

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

Every mom would be wise to try and learn from the mistakes of others. This is the story of my biggest one.

I did the CIO thing with my oldest. I “flexibly scheduled” his feedings. If he was crying, and I noted that he was dry, clean, full, and well-rested, I let him cry. Sometimes, it took up to an hour before he would “self-soothe,” while I became more and more callous to his baby whimpers.

No wonder he was nearly diagnosed with failure-to-thrive at six months old, and I was told to wean him, feed him formula, and fry his Cheerios in butter to fatten him up. I had lost my ability to really gauge his needs, because I ignored his signals.

He is now eight years old, and a perfect example of what is so very wrong with letting young babies “cry it out.”

Thankfully, I was better educated before I had my subsequent three children. Oh! the difference! I cannot begin to describe it. I hesitate to write much more, because I don’t want to violate the privacy of my children, but I share because this message is too important not to.

My oldest son is an outgoing, independent kid. He’s smart, an advanced reader, active, and imaginative. He laughs easily, especially at farts, and longs for adventure. He is affectionate and verbal, seeking hugs and giving out “I love you’s” as though there were no tomorrow. I love him deeply, and am so proud of the young man he will grow to be.

Yet, there is something missing in him. The areas in which CIO children struggle most with–even long-term–are empathy and stress response. Two key areas my son has deeply-rooted issues with, that I can trace back to the first time I let him CIO at two weeks old.

These issues are manifest in several ways.

It takes next to nothing to completely set him off, revealing bitterness, anger, fear of failure, and a sense of helplessness. (Really, it’s a “learned helplessness.”) When he is even mildly distressed, he cannot handle it. He believes himself alone, with all the world against him. He cannot control himself at all. All my efforts to teach him to breathe, pray, and calm down feel as though they are to no avail.

He cannot sympathize with other children without great effort and coaching. He quickly gets aggressive–usually verbally aggressive, but he occasionally gets physical–when he feels wronged or slighted. If I ask how he would feel if so-an-so did the same thing to him, he has the same answer every time: “Sad.”

He struggles to express what’s going on inside. He doesn’t think his opinion matters.

He almost never asks for help with anything, because it was ingrained in him that his mother would not help him if he cried out for her. He will drive himself into a flurry of frustration, trying to do things on his own, that I am more than willing to help with. It doesn’t sink in when I tell him that I want to help him; that I’m there for him, no matter what. That all he has to do is ask, and I will respond. Deep down, he doesn’t believe me. His infant brain was hard-wired to understand that I wasn’t there when he needed me as a tiny baby crying for comfort.

I was often in the next room, crying it out myself, or with music up loud enough that I couldn’t hear him.

Occasionally, I have glimpses of hope when he tries to confide in me. On the rare occasions he wants to talk to me, I do my best to listen, and let him know I love him. That I’m a safe place for him to land.

As the articles I will link at the end of this post outline, CIO damages areas of the brain specifically related to empathy and stress response. The two key areas my oldest son struggles with deeply. So deeply at this point, that I’m researching affordable therapy for him.

Yes, therapy.

There is only so much I can do as a mother, and I really am doing all I can to make up for lost ground.

And I share this story hesitatingly, knowing that I am exposing myself to judgment.

I don’t care as much about that any more. The truth is more important.

If I can save one baby from being forced to cry it out – I will be satisfied.

To me, picking up a crying baby and responding to him is an act of love, respect, and common decency toward a fellow human being. How could it be otherwise? We would do no less for our adult friends. Why do we expect our babies to soothe themselves when we can rarely do it for ourselves without a trusted shoulder or a kind ear? It just doesn’t make sense.

I learned from my mistakes, and my other children do not have these struggles. I know, without doubt, that the difference between them and their older brother stems from more than personality or gender differences. I know, as the mother of these four precious beings, how much power I really do have to shape their lives when they are small. I have learned to appreciate and use that power more wisely than I did with my eldest.

The more information I take in from evidence-based resources, and the more I combine that with the heart instincts I was given as a mother, the more I know that what I share here is true. That CIO methods of infant care are no kind of care at all. It is dangerous physically, mentally, and emotionally–in the long-term–for babies. Period.

I hope that those who read this will take advantage of this opportunity to learn from my mistakes, and do things differently. It’s not to late to start responding to your child’s legitimate needs for comfort.

This is the sole reason I share here.

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

And just for good measure, here is a panorama of good reading on the subject: Sleep Training: A Review of Research This is one of the newest articles out, if you prefer a quick summary: Dangers of Crying it Out

Parenting is an art, not a formula.

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Parenting is hot business these days.

In bookstores, online, and among local communities, we have available to us countless offerings of formulaic “If you parent OUR way, your progeny will grow up full of awesome! No, really. Trust us!”

I call B.S.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all method to every child. (What you’re likely thinking: “We already know that, Tiffany, what’s the point of bringing this up?”)

The point, my friends, is that there are too many people who cognitively acknowledge this fact, but do not acknowledge it by their actions or in their conversation. Or worse, use it to justify very poor parenting decisions.

“Well, if She would just take a switch to his backside once in awhile, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, if She would just wear her baby 24 hours a day, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, if She hadn’t given in to every little cry, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

“Well, if She had only breastfed longer, she wouldn’t have this problem.”

Now, I am just as guilty of this kind of statement as the next mom. It’s too easy to lapse into competition and criticism when it comes to our children and their behavior. From before they are born, to the day we die, we are judged by how our children seem to be turning out.

However, what we need to realize is that parenting is an art, not a formula.

It’s time that we truly realize a few things as Moms.

1) To be repetitive: There is no one “right” way to raise a child – no matter what anyone with any semblance of “authority” tells you. (Be especially wary of religious “methods” that claim to know “God’s way” of raising babies. The last time I checked, God doesn’t promote any particular method over another.) In other words:

“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” ~Jill Churchill

2) There are no guarantees in parenting.

No, wait! I can think of at least one guarantee: Your kids will have issues. They will sometimes reflect badly on you – even if it’s only in the perception of others. And another one: They will sometimes delight and amaze you in the most unexpected moments.

Some kids who are raised in terrible, abusive environments grow up to blossom into amazingly healthy individuals. Some kids who are raised in a loving, healthy environment grow up and go to jail. That’s just reality.

Don’t get me wrong. Parenting matters. It matters a lot. All I’m saying is that we need to come down off our high horses and realize that there is more than one right way.

3) That said; there are an overwhelming number of biological bases for some types of parenting. There are biological, physiologic reasons that babies cry, want to be held a lot, and need their parents around the clock. There are reasons babies don’t read clocks, calendars, or schedules.

Aside from all philosophical and religious reasoning, there is something woven into the very creation of mothers and babies that tells us something we already know: That babies and mothers are designed to be together. A lot. That babies are adorable, soft, warm, and sweet-smelling so that we will want them close to us more often than not. To ignore that normal, instinctual response is foolish at best, and harmful at the worst.

4) There is wiggle room for various methods. Some things are arguably, measurably harmful to children. Things like yelling, hitting, disciplining in anger, ignoring legitimate needs (and yes, the need for a baby to be held is physiologically legitimate), and abuse.

However, there are just as many, if not more things that are wonderful, beneficial, and work wonders for most children. Affection, trust built on the security of relationship with both parents (when possible), safe and healthy boundaries firmly and gently enforced, natural consequences, and play, for example. And those are just a few of the core ones.

From a mother who rarely reads parenting books any more, my advice to parents consists in a few simple principles.

First, find a philosophy that offers no promises or formulas or specific “steps” to raising children. Secondly, learn to understand the basics of normal child development, starting with how birth and breastfeeding work (yes, it really starts there).

Thirdly, discard anything that gives you a negative, sometimes physical, reaction. If it makes your stomach knot up, or seems to fly in the face of your own instincts, drop it. It’s very likely not right for you or your children. Pay attention to your instincts – they were given you for a reason.

Last, but not least, find a group of like-minded parents who can support you in whatever decisions you make, and are willing to share tips and advice without dictating anything to you, or presuming they know your child as well as they know their own.

Parenting is a complicated mish-mash of instincts, emotions, and cognitive ability. To ignore any of these components would be foolish. To place undue emphasis on one of the three is just as foolish. As parents, we need all three to do a good job.

Ultimately, I’d like you to keep in mind the following quote as you raise your precious little one.

“Remember, you are not managing an inconvenience; You are raising a human being.” ~Kittie Franz

It’s one that has alternately convicted and encouraged me. Let it sink in. Evaluate yourself and how you view your role, then grow from there.

Share your favorite piece of parenting advice you’ve ever received, or your favorite parenting quote. Mine is summed up in the quote I just shared, honestly. I really want it on a plaque somewhere…

Grace & Peace,
Tiffany Miller, CLD, CCCE

A Mother’s Body

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Labor?

A mother’s body grows a new person from a microscopic connection.

A mother’s body internally reorganizes to make room for her flourishing baby.

A mother’s body soothes and gives her baby love simply from her beating heart, sounds of her breath and how she rocks.

A mother’s body is hardwired to nourish and protect her unborn child.

A mother’s body responds to her baby’s signals of movement.

A mother’s body assists her baby in turning and adjusting.

A mother’s body answers the call of labor when baby presses start.

A mother’s body hugs and helps her baby move into birthing position.

A mother’s body gives her baby hormones for calm, alertness and stamina in later labor.

A mother’s body works to push her baby into this world earth side.

A mother’s body warms her new baby perfectly skin to skin.

A mother’s body makes human milk to feed and comfort her baby.

A mother’s body is soft and worth nestling into.

A mother’s body is strong, fierce and tender.

A mother’s body is feminine and the epitome of beauty.

A mother’s body is different than before as are you now Mother.