Oh my dear mommies! I am so sorry that I have been absent. My husband had a medical emergency and I had/have to help with appointments and bandages and he cannot drive so the blog and website have had to be on hold. I am sure I will be back soon. Thank you for reading and sharing in 2018.
I have writer's block. That's why I have been absent for so long. (and LIFE has been happening) I have a lot to share but it is hard to get it coherently from my mind to the keyboard. I enjoy being in the moment with a mom (does that make it a mom-ment, sorry) and trying to help her problem solve what is right in front of her. It is harder to come up with a cohesive program of teaching or training for a new mom. I am trying to write a class for new moms but I feel it is something you find on-line at any time if you knew what you were looking for. I don't want to come off as a know-it-all or worse, just be another opinion a mom has to wade through. So how do I continue blogging when I am stuck? I guess it is exactly like motherhood. I will have to continue through trial and error and with the confidence I can muster. I will trust that God will use my words to help someone and give grace to cover my shortcomings. I don't know what the long term fruit of it will be, just like motherhood. I will make decision after decision. Really there are very few things that we do that we can predict all the variables and know it will come out how we wish. How much more with something so very open as blogging, and more so as parenting? Being a parent, you may have the illusion that you can control the outcome of parenting but truly the outcome is based on so many factors. I saw this especially in my children's temperament. They were each so different from birth. Even the birth experience was different with each one. I thought going into the birth experience with my second daughter would be the same as my first or better because my body and mind knew what to expect. It was night and day. There was so much that was different, I couldn't begin to list it all. One of the biggest things was that my middle daughter had the cord wrapped around her neck and she quickly was in distress. Something like that, I could neither predict or fix. My youngest had the best birth, laboring at home with a doula and friend and my mom and husband until I felt ready to go to the hospital. It was the easiest even though she was the biggest of the three babies by a over a pound! I had birth plans or ideas of what each of my three girls' births would be like and each time they were different, from each other and from what my idea was. Birthing a blog is similar in that it is different than I expected and has challenges I could never have foreseen. Life doesn't happen in your own timing either. You can plan and then something traumatic happens and you are thrown off your game. Nursing, you think, is natural and will be easy. More and more women are finding this hard. Lack of support and environmental and food source changes are some of the reasons for this. Suddenly, baby is here and breast feeding is a formidable challenge. How do we adjust? We press on, but remember to feel those feelings when you do. Feelings of loss and discouragement are real and do not go away when we push them down. Like a float in a swimming pool, you might be able to hold it under for some time but when you release the effort of holding it under, it will come back up with force. I am learning that the ways I was taught to deal with my emotions was not helpful. I hope you have someone with whom you can share your feelings and be accepted. Maybe if you are not blessed with someone you can talk face to face with, you can find someone online in a mom group who needs support too. Just knowing you are not alone can make a huge difference, especially if you are pregnant or are after birth are still experiencing postpartum hormones. (PS this can take years to regulate and I know some who are changed forever, sorry). But find someone who gets what you are going through and also please be a friend to yourself. I am the best at ripping myself apart, I'm definitely my harshest critic. I am becoming more aware of my self-talk though. Trying to rewrite that inner dialog is tough though.
SO my encouragement for today is, that God can take your parenting and birth story and hormones and self-talk and whatever else you are struggling with and make it for His glory. One more story, I lost my cool one day, my daughter was pushing my buttons over and over. She was talking back and being sassy and I lost it. I took her face in my hand and squeezed her cheeks between my thumb and middle finger squishing those big cheeks into her mouth. She had made me so mad that I wanted her to see what she was doing with her mouth hurt. But I did not think! This did not bring the outcome I wanted. I calmed down and apologized. She accepted and we made up but it can never be as good as if I had calmed down first. Another day, I caught her doing this awful maneuver to her young sister. I was mortified. I never wanted to hurt my daughter and now she was using what she learned from me to hurt her sister. How did God use this sin I had committed against my daughter? He is the master and so full of patience towards me and them. First, I apologized again to my daughters and they saw what repentance really looks like. Then, I was able to see how I could calm myself and make better choices for correction. (it looks more like consequences for actions). I also saw how God corrects us (consequences too, we reap what we sow) and forgives us when we repent from the heart. Mommies, let's press on. We feel the lack, we know we cannot do it in our own strength, so we grow closer to our God by asking His Spirit to help us. He promises to.
Fall is coming here in NJ. Well, maybe... uh, its supposed to be. However, we are still having 80 degree days and humidity. But there have been a few chilly mornings that give me hope for “sweater weather.” Fall is snuggly to me. November especially. My Grammy, Mom's mom, was born in November and she was the host for Thanksgiving. She had a cozy home and a way of making me feel loved. Grammy also could cook! I was about to go on down this track but I think I'll save that for the feasting post, that is coming up soon. But she had a way of making things cozy. Do you have memories like this? Is there someone in your life that made you feel accepted and warm and cozy? If so I'll bet that you realize how important that was to you. It adds so much to who we are as people. Feeling loved and accepted and right and comfortable is so very vital. It helps us to grow, it nurtures our souls and opens us up to think of things bigger than ourselves. I have been on Pinterest lately and I looked at Hygge. What is this? Of course now my page is inundated with Hygge posts. Hygge for Fall...Hygge your home...Hygge yourself! What is it?
In the book “How to Hygge” Signe Johansen says this: “A Danish/Norwegian word that translates as a feeling of cosiness, hygge can also mean kinship and conviviality.”
This got me to thinking about our current topic of Sabbath Rest. Coziness is very restorative to me. My Grammy had hygge down! I felt cozy and the feeling of belonging or kinship there. Not every kin feels like kin. What creates this feeling of coziness? The first sense memory that comes to mind is the smell of her house. The cooking smells, her personal smell, even the smell of the blanket that I wrapped up in for a nap. I think smells are a very strong memory trigger for many of us. I wonder what smells my daughters will associate with home.
What else made me feel cozy and warm and loved at Grammy's? There was a calmness there that I did not experience elsewhere. An unhurried air. We had things to do and there were schedules at times but often it was just a time to play in the yard or basement with few toys. One of my great memories of that time was being about 5 or 6. They had a very old piano in the basement. I would go downstairs and play. Now my playing was as a 5 year old would. Probably a cat walking across the keyboard would make more appealing and listenable sounds than my banging, but I would play my “piece” and then go to the stairs and holler up, “was that good, GRAM?” She would sweetly reply, “Yeah, it was great, play some more.” Now, as a mom, I see that that was a great way to keep me out of her hair and a way to know exactly what I was doing in the basement, but as a child.....I felt heard, I felt accepted, I felt encouraged. I could affect the world positively and I was encouraged to do so. I could make someone happy even though I was little. How warm is that?! And how easy it was for her. I hope I am doing this in my own life as a mother. I hope I am making them feel loved and special and warm.
Physical touch also added to the hygge at Grammy's. We got a hug coming in and going out and any time in-between that we wanted. Our special blankets were in the hutch so they smelled clean and fresh and cedar-y. We curled up on the couch for quiet time and were surrounded with softness. I felt secure and able to rest after a busy day of play or school or a special holiday meal. Though she often had chores to do, she would stop occasionally and look at a photo album with us or play a game. I remember playing at being a waiter or chef many times. I also made it difficult because whatever she ordered, I would be out of. But she would pretend she was frustrated and order again. She made time to be close. As I write this I am thinking that I feel restored when I spend time reading with the girls or snuggling with a movie. I especially like to color or do a puzzle with them. I hope they do too. I want to be more intentional about making time for these things.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to remember what things made you feel cozy then and and what makes you feel that now. Practice some self-care in whatever phase of raising children you are in. Sit and snuggle. Read out-loud to your baby all the way up to your teen. Think of ways you can slow down the pace of life and restore coziness. Let me know what ways you feel hygge or Sabbath rest.
Last time we talked about rest and what that would look like for a mom. There were four elements of Sabbath that my Pastor lined out, they were:
a)worship (which we discussed last time)
I told you in that post that I wanted to go out of order because I thought there was a hierarchy for moms. I still do but I feel that play and resting are equally valuable. So I must pick one to do next and I chose play. I choose that next because it really struck me as we were listening in church,
this is a key that modern moms are missing!
Pastor shared it like this, that we are told that the kingdom of heaven is filled with joy. Therefore, joy on Earth is a picture of eternity. My pastor then reminded us that CS Lewis had his Jesus character Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia, romp for joy after his resurrection scene. Did you lose your joy at the birth of your child? Are you so full of responsibility, as I am at times, that you forget the joy of being the mom of this little person? Does the work feel like drudgery and you forget to smile at your toddler? It happens. It does! But stop a minute. The dirty bottle will wait, (the dirty diaper might not, phew) but the housework definitely will. Smile, tickle, hug, play peekaboo, find something funny. Fake it 'til you make it but please do let down your guard, relax a bit and find the joy. You will! At bath-time, watch as your child marvels at the bubbles or put some on your chin and watch your toddler explode with laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.
True confession time. I had to stop playing Barbies with the girls, I had to find other things to play. I realized each time I was playing, I couldn't just let the prince climb the tower and get the princess. I had to ask, is this prince a Christian? Will he be saving his kiss for marriage? There was no silliness, no joy, just what I thought was moral teaching. And it was awful. And I was being ridiculous. I was much better at painting or doing a puzzle or other make believe play. I found that that was OK. The girls enjoyed time with me and we found other ways to giggle and romp that did not involve a serious teaching moment each second. Find your happy place with the older children. The best was often a dance party or blanket fort. So fun and easy to do quickly. Go with what makes you both joyful. Luke 11:32 to piggyback on yesterday, says “For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the kingdom.” I can't get my brain around that, but it does. Practicing kingdom rhythms makes God happy. Imagine how He must love it when we are being joyful with one another? That is amazing to think about.
I'm praying that you can leave your work behind a bit and change your mindset.
Besides what I just said about the restorative powers of playfulness, there is tons of research on the mental and emotional, cognitive and developmental benefits of play for children. If you are finding yourself worried about if your child is developing well or if you are easily swayed to the tiger mom camp, where you want everything your child does to give them the edge, I say two things, one, go back to the beginning of this series and see that this is just setting you both up for the culture of exhaustion and two, playing actually is the best thing you can do to foster good development in your child. Time to play. I know it can feel awkward at first. I really do. But if you let your child lead, the smile and light in their eyes will help you have confidence that you are doing the right thing. You will both feel refreshed and restored and Sabbath rested, no matter when it is.
A word about time. If you feel that if you open this door it will never end, you should remember that you are in control. You can say to a child, I need to finish this and then I can play for 20 minutes and then we will move on to quiet time, whatever has to happen. They may be upset at first but they will see that the play time is worth it, though it has to end.
Maybe play is painful for you. Maybe thinking of childhood is hurtful or someone took advantage of your playfulness and now it is connected to abuse. You are not alone. This is a broken world where that goes on. It is not what God planned for you but He can use that pain to bring healing and closeness to himself. Seek a guide, a christian counselor or therapist or a pastor who can help you through that or talk to a trusted friend. Don't miss out though. I have shared in the past that buried abuse can show up as you interact with your children. Your brain wants to protect your child and can call the trauma to mind. Use the memory to get to the bottom of things. I have and it has caused me to grow. HEAR ME: I am sorry that happened to you and it is not your fault.
I hope this week you find good ways to restore your soul and may sweet old-fashioned play be awakened in you. It is so good for you and it is huge for the life of your child. God intends for us to have joy. I hope we both can seek it as we practice Sabbath rest.
Hello dear ones! I hope you are well. Today we will be talking about Sabbath. My pastor and church have been diving in to this topic again and it got me to thinking. What does Sabbath look like to a mom? I imagine you, like me, thinking that is a great topic...for someone else. But Matt 11:28-29 says “Come to me, ALL of you who are weary.” If there was ever a group of people who are weary, I say it is today's moms.
In my church we are talking about the culture in which we find ourselves, New Jersey 2018. We all agreed almost across the board, NJ 2018 is a culture of exhaustion. We are unable to restore and refresh. We typically numb out with anything that helps us keep going, games, tv, food, alcohol, drugs (prescribed or other.) We have lost our focus as a people.
My pastor came up with a better prescription, God inspired I believe. It has some church specific elements so I will try to generalize for you. Please understand, as he explained to us, these are meanto be tools and not laws. God will show you what you can do in your specific situation as a mom and wife and daughter of God.
(If you are not yet a daughter of the King then there is a way that you can be and that takes presidence over anything else here. Children of the king get to eat from his table. His table is full of good gifts and it is yours to share when you love Him and serve Him as your Master and friend. Find a good guide to help you if you are just starting out.)
For the rest of us, who have been walking a while but maybe got a little overwhelmed by this mom thing! There is hope for us too.
What does this Sabbath rest look like for a 24-7 mom? You are one if you work inside or outside of the home. The elements for everyone that my Pastor lined out are these:
OK so I want to talk about these one by one but I want to switch them up for us as moms. I want to focus on the most important first and work my way to the least, in my mind as pertains to mothering.
Worship: of course, our focus is Godward. There we find the strength for it all. Worship is restorative too. Spending time at the feet of the king is the best. So what are some ways you can do that? Colicky baby is demanding all my time, or no nap toddler is running me ragged. What can we do? What has been most restorative for you prior to baby? Let's tweak it for today. Do you love worship music? Blast some over that colicky cry and sing while you dance and pat her back. Dance and sing with your toddler. Pray outloud while you pace with your baby. Also, serving a trying child with a good attitude and praying over that child can be an act of worship too. It is also Ok to put your child in a safe place (crib, swing, child proof room) and take a few minutes to yourself and pray. They can cry for a few minutes without fear that they will hate you or need therapy. (we have plenty of other sins that they will likely need therapy to overcome, oooh.)
Worship can be done in the midst of life and it can be messy and hormonal and in short bursts but it will be honored if it is from your heart.
I have so much to say on this topic of Sabbath I think I will do it in a series. So the bad news is, this is a cliff hanger. The good news (maybe, you ARE still reading) is that there will be more and it will be this week. Stay tuned readers. More Sabbath rest coming up soon. I hope that during this week, you are able to take a few minutes out of each day, or more, to rest and restore and refresh. If you get to actually have a Sunday Sabbath, I pray it is also refreshing and that you use it to hear from your Father who loves you. I am praying for you all.
As you walk right past that culture of exhaustion and give up the old ways, God will bless you. Practice, yes practice the sabbath. If you forget, start where you are. Ask God to remind you or show you pockets of time that are fit for Sabbath rest. You are no longer a slave, the sabbath shows others and reminds you, that you are free but dependent on a very good Master. Do the first things first, “Seek the kingdom of God above all else and He will give you everything you need.” Luke 12:31 (NLT)
Yes, lovely ladies and awesome gents, I do not only provide a village for others and preach a village for the blog readers but I do in fact have one myself. I am so blessed.
Are you the type of person, like me, who sees needs and fills them when she is not really thinking of returns? Like, unless I'm feeling bitter or something, I rarely sing< "what have you done for me lately?" (see Janet Jackson from the eighties, you young'uns) I really do get joy and other positive emotions from just being around for people when I can. I have not given much thought to where my village is at, though I know I have one.
When I write this blog, though I know I am going to post it on social media, I really don't think of specific people. I feel much safer writing this to "internet mom." That way I don't judge my thoughts too harshly. See if I thought of that-really-awesome-put-together-mom from church or radical-barely-parenting-mom-of-boys from co-op, well I would spend far too much time thinking about how they will take what I am saying. Yup! that's me! I struggle with people pleasing.
Ok, rabbit trail has criss-crossed over itself and now back to the tribe I was talking about. I wrote the last post thinking of Internet Mom and not my "inner-net" moms. Yes, I made that up. But seriously, I was not thinking of people I know seeing my post to moms who are struggling to make ends meet and really not imagining them checking to see how I am doing. But my tribe did. I had offers for rides and grocery money and help with my daycare room set up and more and more. My tribe, though not living in my village, rose up to care for me. I was astonished at the gifts from people who I know have also struggled. I especially benefited from the stories of God's grace. This person was paying it forward from a time when she was living with her family in the in-laws house. Another, had rewards from Costco and how things transpired so that she could use it to bless me. The way things lined up for these other moms really showed me how God has not abandoned us but is keenly aware of every little thing we need.
I saw my tribe and where I also contribute to my tribe in encouraging words and stories. That is worth so much in growing my faith. I am learning through all these situations, how very much our Lord has grown me. It used to be that I would panic if we could not meet bills or eat what we were accustomed to but slowly I think, that is not truth but God will meet all my needs. For my own sake, though I hate to admit it, He usually waits til the very....last......minute! Don't ya just, argh!
Yes, I do not just say over and over, "get a tribe." I am living it out. And how did I get this tribe? I prayed and asked God and then I got to work, peeking out of my introvert shell and reaching out of it to help someone. I did not do this expecting any return. I didn't say to myself or anyone,"I helped you, now when the time comes, I'm going to need a favor." (No Godfather tactics here). I just did what I could do to be a friend, to listen to a hurting acquaintance, to agree with a new mom who could barely make it to church that this stuff is hard. Proverbs 18:24 says that a person must show himself friendly to make friends. I have seen the dividends and often not from those I have invested the most in. I have clearly seen my tribe, my people and my sisters. One fellow tribes-mom told me that she read that post and gave me the Katniss salute. That in itself showed me that being real is what God has in mind for this blog, if one mom hears me and can go on another hour? Mission accomplished. Thanks for being there tribe. Unmanicured, dirty fingernails, Katniss salute to you all. Back into the fray!
I have been really busy. I am getting ready to launch family childcare in my home. I had been praying about this for a while. Then, my family's one and only car died and I thought I will get the playroom (see pic) ready (since I am not going anywhere). I thought, I will build it and see if they come. While it is not a field of dreams it is a dream of mine to spend more time at home while still ministering to other children and families. So I prepared my space with the things I have and some donations from friends. While I have been home though, I have been without income. I have a little side Etsy store, and my husband works intermittently in entertainment, but these do not even begin to cover most of the bills. So while we will not be evicted we are living very tightly right now. I was thinking about this today as I shopped with coupons and the lowest budget ever: I wonder if there are any moms reading this that have found themselves with too much month and not enough money on a frequent basis.
So you have a newborn or a toddler and the stress that that can bring to daily life, you have your own doubts and insecurities and then you have the added pressure of how you are going to eat or pay car insurance or put gas in the tank. I also noticed, there are very few mom you-tubers who are showing you this side of life. You could look for someone to give you mom advice and end up thinking, she has good thoughts but she really doesn't understand me on her pretty couch with perfectly placed art on the walls. I just want to say,
“I SEE YOU.”
Many times I wondered, how can I even get to the “household hacks” when I feel like a hack at life. I have been there. I want to tell you that I don't even have a happy ending for you. I really like Brady-Bunch-perfectly-wrapped-up endings with lessons learned and tousling of bowl haircuts. But I am still in it. I have stepped out in faith,changing focus again. Though it is not a change of gears, my purpose is still and probably will always be, God willing, to care for moms and babies. But it seems that God in His goodness and sovereignty has chosen to start me on this new focus. I did not get a sign from the sky, unless being stuck on the side of the road with a dead car is a sign. Possibly so. But I used 2 weeks to turn my storage-y basement into a playroom and then my dining room into an arts and crafts studio. I am trying to make lemonade out of my lemon of a car situation. (see what I did there, lol).
Are you struggling? What focus have you had to change? Please remember that even though these situations are stressful, it does not make you less. My Christian counselor always encourages me that, “you have nothing to earn and nothing to prove.” You may wonder why God allowed this situation and I really cannot say. I am not God. I DO know, God is not surprised by the situation you are in and He is saddened by your suffering too. He also will not leave you there. He promised to use these things for your good. You cannot tell now what that will be. He also promises to use it for his glory. How in the world God will be glorified in me not having a car for 3 weeks and therefore not being able to babysit in the homes I have been working in? HMMMM, that remains to be seen. But I am trusting. Well, mostly trusting, most minutes, sometimes I am ugly crying and yelling but I am also telling my emotions to trust Him. Emotions are more of a temperature gauge. Like when you touch a hot stove, nerve endings tell you get your hand off that! Emotions tell you, something is wrong here! Emotions are not the truth though (or so I am told). The truth is you might have a burn or you might have moved away in time. You say, "ouch", maybe more than ouch and now you have to deal with the truth. After you feel your emotions you can ask, "What does this situation tell you about your heart?"
Lastly, why am I dealing with this on a mom blog? Tough situations make you look to your foundation. Is it strong? If you are busy mentally with finances, housing, food supply, you will have trouble focusing on the children's other needs because these basic needs are so urgent. It's ok because God made them resilient and especially newborns have few needs, wear them so they can feel you close. The hormones given off by touch will also bring YOU some relief. Same if you are nursing, its good for both mom and baby. If you have a toddler, try to take a break and cuddle them on your lap, read a story. If you have an older child, talk to them about what's going on. PS they already know something is stressing you out, might as well tell them. Explain that you are trusting God with this but it is hard to do. You can help them to get it now so they can live it as they deal with things as an adult. I also find that though it is frustrating, my teens are starting to understand how good they have it even if it is different from what friends have, especially because our church is mission minded. The girls are seeing the big picture in a hard place and I think it is drawing them nearer to God. This is what we want. In the moment though, I want to cry because we are having beans and rice again and not take-out or restaurant food that the girls prefer. But I have a new sliding scale after being in Uganda and seeing what they do not have but the joy they do have. We come to realize though, as I have said before, these things we use to compare are not the things we need. As we zoom out, we see that people need, truly NEED, is care and love and support. All of which are free. We can join in the centuries of humans who have lived in hard times and survived. Even we have lived through hard situations and got closer to a God who loves us. There is your strong foundation. Look at the big picture when you can, study the word, especially old testament mothers who show us perseverance because they knew that the current hard time is not the end of the story.
My very humbling grocery trip today still makes me glad. I have food for us and though it was some of my very last dollars, I know there is provision for those who love Him. He is pleased to give us the kingdom. That He will, if I see it here in this valley or not.
PS: I am currently working on providing in home childcare but I am still available for postpartum work if you are a local reader. After I get my feet on the ground with the childcare I will also be offering online consulting during certain office hours and I will also still be blogging. You cannot get rid of me so easily as that. I may even be Vlogging in the future. So keep coming back. Blessings, Paula
This month has been filled with the ups and downs of busy life. We started the month with a crazy dash to find the money for my second born daughter for camp. We had planned to have a few more weeks to get that done but found the session we planned on was filled and had to step it up. God provided through extra work and a family member. We took trip one to the Poconos (3 hours round trip). The second week has been filled with getting the first born daughter working papers, for the same camp that second daughter is a camper at. So trip 3 to the Poconos (the 2nd was camper pickup). My first born will be working 2 weeks at camp. They are not consecutive! So I have 4 more trips up there before July is over. Why am I sharing this with young moms?
I wanted you to know that one day, this season of child raising will give way to another and before long they will not have daily needs but the needs might be bigger and different. But the same things basically apply. You will need to be a detective to feelings. You will not always get a teen who wants to chat and you will have to ask questions and use intuition to see emotions they might not even realize they are experiencing. You will guide them to use their upper brain processes to move from an animal action to a more rational thinking action. Just like you must do with a toddler, the subject matter just changes.
My girls get so much joy from camp, just like I did as a girl. Homeschooling makes it easy for us to not be too busy during the school year. We keep activities to the things that the girls really care about and point towards where God seems to be leading them. Camp is a investment that is crucial to these two girls. Just like you, with young children, you will have to see what the child really gets the most joy from and follow. You cannot do everything, even if your perfectionist brain thinks it can. So please, pick and choose the best things.
This makes me think of those, get out the door battles at toddler age. Your child likes structure but not at the expense of some downtime. If you have an activity planned at all times, you might be afraid of just existing with your child. I know moms like this. From park to library to nap to snack to gymboree. There is no free play or if there is a planned hour for free play it is only for the best of educational toys. Some days these children never touch the ground. Car seat to highchair to crib. If that child gets frustrated, is there any wonder? She just wants to spend time with you. You are her hero and role model and she wants to just sit with you or climb with you or eat with you. She is wired to copy you if you haven't noticed. This stage is aptly called the Parrot stage because this is what they do, parrot every word and every action. Monkey see, monkey do.
My point in all this rambling is that you need to slow down. Busyness is not your friend with an infant or toddler. Slow deliberate calmness is the way. Take time to read a story at the library. I visit lots of libraries, I hardly ever see a mom and child reading there. I see kids on the computer, parents quickly choosing books so they can leave and children playing with toys while mom says, 5 minutes and then drags them out crying. This is not just for them but for you. Stop and examine that bug or leaf with new eyes, young eyes that never saw the lines in a leaf. Not only will it help you gain new perspective but it can help your stress levels as well. Give up some of those plans and live in the moment. Try it for a little while and see what happens. Love to hear your comments about how this little experiment works for you.
Photo by Markus Spiske freeforcommercialuse.net from Pexels
I'm really not political. I mean like I run away from debates like the plague. I am more neutral than Switzerland. If you see a political post on my Facebook then it is my code for come and find me I have been abducted and need help. That being said, I have to react to the recent unpleasantness at the borders. I MUST. Families are essential.
I think I have mentioned my mission trip to Uganda before but in January of this year I went on this life changing adventure. The middle of their summer in the dry season I was in Kaberamaido. We have this amazing “carepoint” where we meet the needs of children who are, usually, orphaned by the loss of one or both parents. They must receive school fees and food and most of all love. On my trip, I received all the love and joy I could handle. So why do I bring this up in a blog post about uniting families?
While I was there, I experienced the true meaning of family. I believed foolishly that I was going there to give. I never felt the need to be a savior, I have a Savior already and so do they. I did feel like I would be a teacher to some young people and some mothers. I thought as a Postpartum doula I would impart great knowledge about bonding and attachment. The mothers of Uganda have all the knowledge they need. The people I met there, like Florence and like Monica, (the names they asked me to use) were mothers to everyone. They are my age probably or a bit older, but so much wiser. These women humble me as I see them easily caring for the other mothers and children around them. Men are quite scarce in that community. Either they were murdered by guerrillas, dead from disease or with another family because they make the rounds. There is also rampant alcoholism. But none of that changes the way I saw family shown to me. Aunts raising nieces, grandmothers nursing grandchildren, sisters looking after each other's children and older siblings (I'm talking 8 or 9 years old) with infants strapped to their backs going about their day. They were all looking out for each other. I realize I only saw a snap shot and that often we put on our best for visitors but I am certain that children are valued there and families are together fighting for a better life.
I look at this and I compare it to our lives here and I feel like we really are missing something. I know I have talked before about community I also want to talk about attachment. The babies I saw did not often cry. These babies had their need for touch met by being carried everywhere by many relatives and friends. They were fed on demand by the breast of the closest lactating mother. The children, as they grew were given freedom that was developmentally appropriate. It was intuitive and completely safe because everyone was looking out for everyone else. Now clearly, as I have already stated, it is not all roses and there are needs in Uganda. But here is the key, in the poverty and the diseases that permeate the country, the people are looking out for those in need. If a family member is homeless or without food, the extended family believes it is shameful to not care for their own.
Here from my soapbox, my words are clear. Do you want to change the way our country is going? Work on making better people. You don't think cuddling your baby can have any way of making a better future? You would be so very wrong! This is THE way!!!
Bonding changes brain chemistry. Brain chemistry effects the way we see things. The way we see things can create a paradigm shift. We can bring this care for each other into our way of thinking. We can love our way into creating a new way. Keep families together. Feel the weight of your own power as a mother. You can change things, but not in resistance and war or laws and divisions. You change the world by rocking a baby, holding her close to your heart and making sure she feels loved! This baby will then grow, maybe she will be a policy maker, maybe she will see the way she developed well emotionally and help others learn to help their babies. Maybe she will hold her baby and help her to grow into a adult with a healthy emotional life which also betters the lives of others. Can't you see how important you are? If you want to change the world start with the children who think you are the world and think the world of you.
PS I am reading a fascinating book about brain chemistry. This is not a plug, I get no gain from sharing this. I just want to share this resource with you. Oh, and I just thought of another I would recommend if you are interested in how you can effect the brain chemistry of your child for good...
Anatomy of the Soul:
The Whole Brained Child
What an amazing thing it is to give birth! It is probably the hardest thing you will do, ever! Filled with emotion and strength, it is truly glorious. God is bringing His plan for a new life into the world through you, isn't that incredible. It also feels weighty. It is relatively easy to care for your baby when he or she is inside. But how do you make the transition from pregnancy to mothering? Can you prepare for this at all?
What will life be like after you bring home this new person? What can you expect and what will be expected of you? You probably are pretty skewed one way or another. You might have the picture of a fabric softener commercial, everything is in soft focus, you place your freshly bathed infant in a huge fluffy towel as they coo at you and give you a first toothless grin. You are diapering and dressing them with confidence. Yes, you will have those days. Possibly you are fearfully thinking of another scenario, a colicky baby like the one your sister or friend brought home who cannot stop crying, will not sleep and projectile vomits. Yes, there will be those days too. But like everything in life, it is a mix of both. If someone tells you it is all one way or another, they want you to admire them, either for soldiering through or for being a perfect parent. Neither will be your full time experience.
So back to the question, what can you do to prepare for the new adventure of a child?
I think the first tactic is to create a nurturing environment. As you build a nursery room or nook in your bedroom, make it an inviting place that you can relax in. Create a nursing space in your living area with good books, a charging station, a soft light and a place for a cold glass of water. The more relaxed you can be, the more relaxed the baby will be. The baby is created to receive cues from you! They can sense the stress hormones or they can sense the oxytocin (a relaxing hormone) created by bonding, milk production and breastfeeding. You can do a lot to help make the baby content and it starts with creating an inviting environment for you, which brings dividends for you, too.
The next thing is education. Now, if you take nothing else at all from me, this tidbit is key!!! Don't miss this. Educate yourself about a style that feels right to you and follow your intuition. If it isn't working for your very unique child, or you, scrap it! Don't let anyone tell you there is only one right way to parent. Even if there is someone who you admire, a real or even a perfect-seeming person, they are not you, they did not have your child. This is not a computer we are dealing with but a person with real feelings and real personality built in. It cannot be and will never be, “If I do it all by the book I will get the perfect outcome.” There are just too many variables in God's creation. If we could know what worked for every single child, there would be no need to google anything. We would all have the manual and all have cookie cutter children. However I believe we all have an inner manual installed while the baby grows. It is called intuition. If we attune ourselves to the inner voice of our intuition, we will know what to listen to, what advice to take, what to leave behind. Which brings me to the next thing I think is crucial.
We can prepare for this transition by getting our tribe around us. Wise women a little further in the journey than you will be an asset you cannot measure. You have heard me harp on this already, if you follow me. If you do not have a church family with someone you can cling to, look for a moms group, a person from your childbirth class, a postpartum doula (I know a good one), and even a Facebook mom group. All these can offer some support so you can keep yourself from being isolated. Look for a few helpers to come alongside you. You will not regret it.
These three elements are key to my mind, to start to prepare for this brand new journey. There are other things that can help but no toy, no app, no gadget or technology can ever replace your intuition or your own special way to comfort and care for your child. You were made for that child and that child was made for you. You have a purpose in their life and they have a purpose in yours. Relax and enjoy your baby, they love you! Try to find your joy in the little moments when they look in your eyes, grasp your finger. To them, you are a superstar and if you are caring for a little one day to day, you are a superstar to me too.
Paula is a wife and mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula