A beautiful dress

This was at the top of my soon to be 9-year-old daughter’s birthday list.
“A buetaful dress” to be more precise.

My rough and tumble tom boy.
My sweet and sometimes spastic child who can’t always find herself in space.
My awkward, lovely, frustrating, cherished girl.

She wants a beautiful dress.

It makes me misty-eyed because it reminds me that at the center of herself she just wants to be loved. She longs to be appreciated and celebrated.

It is hard to remember this when she won’t brush her long red curly hair.
It is hard to remember when I have to ask her six times to stay out of her brother’s personal space.
It is hard to remember when everything about her is and always has been loud and sharp and on the move.

But she is almost always in a skirt and tights, and she loves to make bracelets.
Why wouldn’t she want a beautiful dress?

Why is it so hard for me, as her mother, to see this tender heart longing to be seen?

Am I too busy?
Have I fallen into the rut of seeing only her challenges?
Whatever the cause, I am awake and aware of her today.

Because she wants a beautiful dress.

God, open my eyes to see the heart in each of my children that cries out to be loved, cherished, seen and understood. Give me awareness of my own tendency to walk through life so busy that I miss the quieter call to love these precious gifts.
Amen

Awareness, beauty, gratitude–
Ingredients for a ReFreshing Life

**I wrote this post over a year ago and set it aside. It jumped out at me today, tugging again at my heart.

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Keep It Moving–Doula Tuesday

When labor starts, contractions are light and mamma has lots of energy. She is upbeat and if at home, she flits around making sure everything is ready for her new little one to arrive. As things progress, contractions intensify and she slows down.

There is a natural rhythm to her pattern of moving, pausing, moving again. When contractions require all of her focus, she may find a place and stay there. The rocking chair, the couch, her bed. It takes so much energy to stay on top of the waves that she may not want to shift positions or move.

If she is settled in, it can take a lot to break in to her world and convince her to get up. It is really beneficial for women to move during all stages of labor. Baby is moving with the contractions, turning and shifting, looking for the one way her head will fit down into the pelvic opening. She’ll make it on her own eventually, but it helps if mamma will move as well.

As mamma walks, sways, kneels, the pelvis rocks, tilts, and opens in ways that encourage baby to make her descent. If we can keep mamma moving, we can keep labor progressing.

Practical tips are these: mamma needs to move or change positions every hour, and get up to go to the toilet every hour and a half. These are not hard and fast rules, but they are a guideline to keep in mind while supporting labor.

If labor is taking place in a hospital setting, even if mamma is tied to the bed because of monitoring or an epidural, we can keep her moving. If you haven’t seen or used a peanut ball, these tools open so many doors for positioning in bed. Mamma may not be able to get up to go to the toilet, but it is important if she is under anesthetic with an I.V. to remember to ask for her bladder to be emptied for her. She may not feel the fullness of her bladder, but that does not mean it isn’t in need of relief. Voiding makes room for things to keep moving.

Check out the videos below for tips on moving in labor and the use of a peanut ball.

Working together to move labor along.
ReFreshing!

Steadfast Heart Doula

Don’t Kill Them, & 4 Other Essential Parenting Rules

My 5 Simple Rules for Parenting

When my first child was born, I read the books and followed the developmental charts like they were blueprints for a nuclear power plant. I didn’t want anything to explode, and knew that if something went wrong it would be a) the most terrible-awful-horrible thing ever, and b) as the mother, it would all be my fault. 13 years and two more kids down the line, I can tell you that children are way less fragile and more resilient than we could have imagined when we drove them home from the hospital at 15 miles per hour.

Everywhere you turn someone else is telling you what you absolutely have to do in order to raise healthy, happy children. They’ll scream, threaten, cajole, and manipulate your emotions to get you to follow their advice. We all want the best for our kids, right? So why is it that many of the opinions we hear completely contradict each other?

My years of experience and seeing my kids survive (so far) have brought me to a place of simplicity when it comes to parenthood. Feel free to investigate all of the parenting options out there, but I’ve boiled my personal rules of parenting down to just 5.

Parenting Rule #1: Don’t Kill Them

This is a vital piece of advice if you want them to live to adulthood. This includes things like feeding, clothing, and providing for their obvious physical needs. It also covers the very real temptation that might arise around the age of “I can do it myself” and re-emerge when the eye-rolling starts. Take a deep breath. If you don’t kill them, they will probably grow up and have children who also go through these maddening stages. Don’t we all want to see that day?

Parenting Rule #2: Do Your Best

Mismatched socks on their feet, their clothes wrinkled, and you don’t know if that jacket has been cleaned since they dripped ice cream on it last month? If that is the best you can do today, great. They are covered, and trust me their teacher has seen worse. Some days my best includes locking the bathroom door with the fan on so that I can’t hear them when they whine at me outside the door. Five minutes of solitude in the toilet just might help you follow Rule #1. You aren’t going to be parent of the year every minute of every day. Give yourself a break and just determine to do your best with what you have.

Parenting Rule #3: Love Them

I know you might be thinking this rule should probably be #1, but realistically I think not killing them wins for purely practical reasons. Love your kids. Love them sticky or clean. Love them hair combed or with rats nests. Love them with their precious gifts of art you couldn’t decipher if you were a master of cryptology. “Is that a dog? Oh, it’s mommy. Thanks, sweetie.” Just love them. Love covers over a multitude of parenting mishaps, and it will most likely help them not become psychopaths. It’s true.

Parenting Rule #4: Trust God

There are so many things in your children’s lives that you have absolutely no control over. You can’t keep them from every danger, or every bully, or every dumb idea they might decide to try out while your back is turned. If you are going to raise children, you need a higher power.

Parenting Rule #5: Everything Else Can Be Worked Out in Therapy

You know that all parenting theory is just that, theory. Someone has a good idea, it looks great on paper, but then in practice it just doesn’t work for your child. Besides, look at how much has changed in the years since you were a youngster. Could we ever have predicted that our kids wouldn’t know how to dial a phone? (I mean a real phone, selecting Grandma from the contacts list does not count.) So much will continue to change in our world, society, and in the understanding of young minds. You are bound to mess up. Besides, therapists are nice people and we should want to support their industry.

As parents we are under so much pressure to be perfect, but none of us were raised by perfect parents. (If you write to tell me your parents were perfect, I don’t know if we can be friends.) All of us are here, walking around as (mostly) productive members of society. Give yourself a break from perfection based on someone else’s theories. You will be a more peaceful parent, and your kids will need less therapy. That’s a win-win situation in my book!

Keeping it simple
ReFreshing!

An open heart in the face of grief

Pregnant women experience spotting all the time, and everything turns out fine. The voice of denial did it’s best to keep panic at bay. I struggled through prayers of bargaining, and anger at my body for the biggest betrayal I’d ever experienced. All the stages of grief cycled again and again, but I always came back to denial in those early days.

Not denial of facts, but denying myself the experience of emotions I was sure would overwhelm me. My heart was locked down tight.

What else could I do? I had just announced to my church elder board that I was pregnant the week before. I had responsibilities at church on Sunday. My family of three was headed out of state on Monday to our Pastor’s Retreat, which I still felt strange attending as just an associate pastor.

I didn’t have time to fall apart. I didn’t want to feel all the pain, and loss, and grief. Other people needed me to be strong. And it felt as though God wasn’t answering my prayers. I wasn’t particularly interested in anything He had to say, either, so I guess it was mutual.

The bleeding continued as I packed the car, as I preached in church, as we took family pictures of all things. One of the Elders, a woman, noticed something was wrong and asked me if I had lost the baby. I nodded. She cried. I didn’t.

We went to our Pastor’s Retreat, I pasted on a half-smile and determined not to talk to anyone about anything serious. Keep it light. Skim the surface. Bury it deep.

I’m not sure why it was that I wandered out into the common area during our free time. Husband and toddler napping, I thought I would try to journal a bit. As I sat, a woman I’d never met struck up a conversation. I don’t know how it happened, but I told her everything. Not sure what to expect, I certainly didn’t think she’d tell me that she had also suffered pregnancy loss, three times.

It was a comfort, knowing I was not alone, that life really could continue. When I went back to my journal, there was a prompt in my spirit that I needed to grieve. I desperately did not want to do any such thing. The impression was unmistakable “If you do not grieve this loss, you claim that it had no value.”

When we value things and lose them, we grieve. We may not like it, but that is the way life is. By refusing to grieve, we deny that what was lost had value. By refusing to be affected, we deny that what was lost had any impact on our existence. I could not allow that. This tiny life had lived for such a brief time, the only impact it could have was on me. I would not rob this life of meaning.

So I grieved. I opened the doors of my heart and let the pain in, and let the pain out.

And it was worth every tear, and sob, and sigh.

Brené Brown says that we cannot selectively numb our pain. When we shut down we shut out everything, including joy. It is better to live with an open heart and some pain than to live without pain and also without joy.

This pregnancy loss happened in May of 2005. I had a subsequent loss in August of 2005, and another over Memorial Day weekend 2011. Each loss was its own journey through pain, acceptance, and healing. I had to choose every time to open my heart and feel the loss when by my own habit and nature I would have avoided and stuffed those feelings down deep.

If you are experiencing grief, or if you never gave yourself permission to grieve a secret loss, give yourself permission to open your heart. You will not heal with it closed off, and you will find that joy is dulled and life loses it’s color. It will hurt. But it will not hurt forever, at least not with the same sting.

I still feel sad when I think of the losses we experienced, of wanted babies. It does not overwhelm me, though, with tidal force waves of grief. I have walked on, and I have delivered two healthy babies since that first loss, for a total of three. I have had 6 pregnancies, and 3 live births.

Not everyone’s story ends like mine. I have a beautiful friend who is expecting baby number 8 in June, she has her own stories of loss. I have a brave and wonderful friend who, unable to conceive, has chosen adoption. I know families who have chosen not to have children, those who have chosen adoption over producing biological children, and those who are still charting their course. Wherever you are on this journey of life and family, I hope you choose to walk bravely forward with an open heart. You may experience loss and grief, but you will also encounter moments of exquisite joy that you may have otherwise missed.

An Open Heart
ReFreshing

Support without judgment, Doulas at their best!

Ever get the feeling that everyone has an opinion about everything that you do? Exercise, eating choices, your job, parenting, and yes even how you give birth are up for public criticism. I have good news, there are people out there who will listen to your thoughts, concerns and help you make the best informed choices for you!

I am speaking of course about Doulas! Doulas are not people to tell you how you should do what you do. We are there to help you explore all of your options and can help you find resources with good information, and evidence-based conclusions. When it comes to birth or postpartum care we can help you figure out what is right for you and how to have the best chance of achieving your goals!

Do you want to give birth with little to no intervention? We can help you find coping mechanisms like meditation, movement, water and positioning to reduce pain without medication.

Do you want to plug in to an epidural with the first contraction? We can help you answer questions like: how early is too early? will an epidural slow down my labor? should I try narcotics first? what other options are out there?

Are you scared about some aspects of labor and delivery? We can help you find information so you know what to expect and how to cope.

Using a midwife? We are cool with that.

Giving birth in a hospital? We think that’s great.

Home birth? More power to you.

Sometimes people think a doula will push the partner out of the picture, but a trained doula knows better. We are there to support the partner and help them be involved to the extent that they are comfortable. Some partners want to be in there, holding hands, chanting mantras, full-on coaching. Other partners need to be involved in less intense ways. Some moms don’t have partners, or their partners are not going to be present for the birth. Whatever the partner involvement, doulas can help make the experience more satisfying for both mom and partner.

You can find a doula to help you, regardless of your hopes and dreams regarding birth.

We believe that every woman should be supported in labor so that she can make informed decisions that are right for her, increasing satisfaction and reducing the risk of trauma.

Support without judgment.
How ReFreshing!

Thanksgiving Survival Guide: 5 ways to evade conversation meltdowns!

Thanksgiving is coming! I hope you all are looking forward to this time of family togetherness and bliss as much as I am, but just in case you are not here are some tried and true ways to avoid World War III at your family table.

1. Ask a question that leads to a more positive tone.
When your loved one is ranting about what they hate, why not ask a question that nudges them toward their hopes and dreams. Here are just a few examples.
“What do you hope for?”
“How do you see that unfolding?”
“How can we work toward that together?”

Who doesn’t like to talk about their hopes and dreams for the future? Let them keep talking, but asking these questions gives them something good to talk about. Making specific plans is also a good way to engage logical brain function when the lizard brain wants to take over. Whether they are looking forward to college, vacation, or the new world order, at least it will put a nice twinkle in their eye.

2. Change the subject altogether.
Uncle raving about politics? Auntie griping about the election? When you asked about their hopes they mentioned the destruction of an entire demographic? Here’s some topics to divert the maelstrom.
“What an amazing, miraculous World Series!”
“Do you have any recent pictures of your kids/dogs/grand-kids/cats?”
“Who made this delicious dish? You have to tell me all about the recipe!”

I don’t ever watch sports, but even I know about the Cubs and their history smashing victory! So you don’t know the players’ names or numbers or the final score, let your relative fill in the relevant details while you “ooh” and “aah.” Same goes for the precious pictures. They may be overly enthusiastic, but I bet Trump/Clinton/Obama isn’t in the frame. Oh, Junior dressed up as one of them for Halloween? On to the food, people love to gush over their special contribution to the meal.

3. Excuse yourself to go…elsewhere.
When you don’t achieve success with numbers 1 or 2, find a way to leave the room. Now is the time to:
Help cook or clean
Go to the restroom
Take a walk

Don’t you have something in the oven you need to check on? Always have something in the oven! No? Perhaps the dishes need doing. You can always go to the restroom. Yes, you can go every 15 minutes! Who cares if they think you have a virus. Maybe they’ll leave you alone if you are sick. This looks like a good time for a walk. On a day of over-indulgence whether you’ve had too much turkey, or just to make room for pie, no one will fault you for getting some fresh air.

4. Eat something! Drink something!
If you are afraid of returning fire with your words, stuff something in your mouth! Why else did we get everyone together anyway? Have a piece of pie…or three. Get up and refill your glass. Offer to get them a cup of coffee while you are up. Coffee builds bridges, and it might make you need to visit the restroom again soon, so it’s a win-win.

5. Fall asleep.
When all else fails, take a nap. Not sleepy? Pulse racing? You can always just pretend to fall asleep on the couch, or the chair, or on your plate. Trust me, cousins talking about your narcolepsy may not be pleasant, but it’s better than turning this Rockwell moment into a red-faced brawl!

BONUS! Turn on the game–no talking during football!

Everybody Grieves

Today I officiated my 30th funeral.

It’s really a milestone I never considered as I started in my first solo pastor position ten years ago. As a 27-year-old mother of almost two at the time, birth was on my mind ever so much more than death. Regardless, I narrowly missed preaching my first funeral less than 2 weeks after my first Sunday in my new church. Thankfully the family had already planned for a former minister to come for the service.

I’ve had years of no funerals, and a 12 month period in which I performed 10. There is no predicting how many times I will serve in this way, nor whose family I will sit with next as we attempt to honor a 60, 70, 80 year life in a span of 30 minutes of memories, eulogies, scriptures and songs. It can be heart breaking.

It can also be uplifting as I listen to family members laugh at their loved one’s quirks, smiling at their bossiness, forgetfulness, tardiness, or other trait that in life annoyed them. Now those family members cherish even the most irksome habits.

img_0095In a society that goes out of its way to ignore death, put it off, and pretend it only happens to other people, I need to tell you that everybody grieves. Sooner or later there will be a day when you grieve the loss of a loved one. I have grieved more than I could ever have thought possible in these past 10 years. I need to tell you that it’s ok to mourn.

There is no time limit on grief, no amount of days or months in which you are required to be over the loss you suffered. You will find that life continues to go on. Without your permission the clock still ticks. The sun sets only to rise again on days when you feel darkness would be a better accompaniment to your pain. But no one asks you if it is ok for light to come seeping in at the corners.

The waves of sudden sadness crash in at the most unexpected times, when you see someone who reminds you of the one you lost. A memory, a smell, a song might send you rushing from the room to dry your tears. Don’t listen to the voices in your head or from others who will say you are being ridiculous. Tears are a sign of love.

Pain from loss is a signal that you are missing something precious. You would not grieve if you did not cherish what was lost. If you felt no pain, would you be claiming they had no value?

Or perhaps the person died leaving pain of a different kind in their wake. They caused real harm, and never made amends. The hurt of that loss can persist even longer.

img_0094

If you grieve today, know that you are not alone. Grief is as much a part of life as the celebration of birth. It is inseparable from our human existence. Look at the people around you, either they have experienced grief or they will. And you can be guaranteed that it will not be on their preferred time-table.

So cry your tears, laugh at the memories, share your pain with people who love you.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will receive comfort.” – Jesus

Acknowledging our common experience.
How ReFreshing.