Thursday, June 30, 2011

Becoming a Doula: A Catholic Birth Story

As some of you know, I have started the (long) process of becoming a certified doula. At my last birth, I had the amazing opportunity to help a good Catholic friend and her husband through childbirth. Regardless of her pitocin induction, this mother did an amazing job looking to Christ for strength in labor and was able to birth her son without the use of any pain medicine. "As Catholic mothers, we cannot embrace motherhood while rejecting the process which makes us mothers; we cannot appreciate our vocation while resenting the mysterious time when our child resides tranquilly in our womb and while fearing that joyful moment when the child emerges from our womb and is first welcomed into our arms" (From Your Vocation of Love pg. 115).

These are birth notes from the eyes of the Doula:

It is May 18, 2011 and you are scheduled for an induction at Mercy Medical Center. I arrive at your house at 6:50am to find you hurriedly trying to do the last bits of laundry before going to the hospital. Your children are so excited that their baby brother is coming, and sister speaks of how big of a help she is going to be.  We arrive at the hospital at 7:20am and meet your kind nurse. As we check into the room, your children dance around with excitement as they look out the window and discover the hospital room where their baby brother will be born. At 8:15am you are checked and found to be 3-4cm and 50% effaced. At 8:20am your Pitocin is started while Dad takes the children to eat breakfast in the cafeteria. When they return from breakfast, you and Dad decide it is time to take them to the sitters house. They all kiss you goodbye and shout, “Goodbye mommy” as they exit the door.

At around 9:15am your doctor arrives to greet you with his enthusiastic smile. He decides to break your bag of waters to try and get labor moving.  Soon after, Dad returns and finds us chatting up a storm. He suggests we read the daily mass readings. As we wait for contractions to pick up, you suggest praying a rosary for a safe delivery. Dad leads us all in the rosary as we contemplate the glorious mysteries. This moment was so special to watch a couple pray so devoutly to the Mother of us all for your sweet baby boy.

At 11:15am you are checked and still found to be 3-4cm and about 50% effaced. We decide it is time to get you out of bed and moving to get baby to come down the birth canal. For the next hour we move around trying various positions. You slow dance with Dad, sit backwards on the bed, and lean over the edge of the bed during contractions. We can all tell that the contractions are getting more effective and stronger. Dad looks at you with a loving smile and tells you how great of a job you are doing. You continually ask him, “Am I still here?” and he smiles and says, “You’re still here!”  In these words you find strength to go on.

At 12:30pm you mention feeling pressure and are checked to be 6-7cm and 80% effaced. You are so happy that progress is being made! We continue moving into different positions and at 1:05pm you are checked again and found to be 8cm and 100% effaced. You are focusing through each contraction with such peace and strength that you surprise us all! Contractions begin to really pick up and you mention how badly you want baby  here. You whisper to him in between contractions, “Come on baby. It’s time to come out.”  As contractions get harder, you ask for a prayer from your bag. You silently pray a prayer for strength to our Blessed Mother and are immediately uplifted and determined to continue on. In your hand is a small wooden cross that you grip with each contraction, remembering the true meaning of labor and the sacrifice of motherhood. What an honor and blessing to witness the strength found in Christ during your labor. It was truly breathtaking.

At 1:15pm you say that you need to push and your doctor is called in. You are set up in bed with Dad at your head, holding your hand and encouraging you during pushing. At 1:26pm your baby boy comes slipping out of your body and everyone in the room exclaims in unison, “HE’S BEAUTIFUL!”  Baby  is so pink and handsome and is quickly placed on your chest where he is perfectly and wonderfully content to be in your arms. Dad is so incredibly proud of you and tells every person he talks to how wonderfully you did with no pain medication throughout labor. 

This birth was filled with so much love, strength and an incredible amount of grace. You did AMAZING! Please know that this is only my perspective on the birth, and Baby’s true birth story belongs to you.  This birth has taught me so much of the power of prayer in childbirth, and it is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. I feel very honored and blessed to have been a part of something so sacred. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why We Don't Have Cable

We don't have cable in our house, and by "don't have cable" I mean we don't have one single channel on our TV. Just black fuzzy stuff. The thought of getting cable has crossed my mind a time or two, but it was once again put to death after our vacation last month.

On our trip to Colorado and New Mexico, we had more time in front of a television than we have had in a long time. So did our children. At our hotel while getting ready I turned on a cartoon for Peanut and thought, "Hey why not? He never watches cable." This happened three different times, and three times I wished I hadn't turned it on.

Show number one: Disney Channel. Turned on a cartoon that was in half english, half spanish. The ENTIRE episode was about water conservation and saving the environment. The show used some pretty extreme fear tactics including have a character move out of her home because she couldn't water her garden anymore. I'm not against water conservation. I'm not against doing things that help our environment. But the truth is, my two year old son really doesn't need to learn that from the cartoon on TV. Can't we just keep it to a cute story about sharing or using your manners? I'll teach my son how to turn off the water when he is brushing his teeth without making him fear that he will go thirsty for the rest of his life if he doesn't. And I'll do it in English. 

Show number two: Disney Channel (again). A "family" show about siblings. One of the brothers is trying to master his wizard skills. WIZARD SKILLS! Seriously, I don't remember this stupid stuff when I was growing up. Not only do I have a problem with the moral aspects of wizards, witchcraft and all such things, but also with the fact that Disney tries to make it look cool and normal for kids to go around with sticks and manipulate their environment however they see fit without ANY mention of God. It's not in the context of imaginative play, but in the context of reality.  Now I wasn't expecting Disney to mention God, but I was expecting a little something more like Mickey Mouse or the Mighty Ducks.

Show number three: The Cartoon Network gets turned on for Peanut at my parents house. A nearly pornographic commercial of Lady GaGa comes on in between cartoons. What in the world do cartoon watching aged kids have to do with Lady GaGa? Am I missing something? The commercial showed her in barely a bra and underwear doing extremely sexual dance moves! On Cartoon Network! 

I know some parents say they monitor very well what their children watch. And I believe that. But I don't trust the television industry enough to let them anywhere near my home. We only get one shot at innocence, and to have it taken away in the snap of a finger on a TV station that was supposed to be "kid friendly" is not going to happen in this house. The truth is, we don't know when little boys start viewing women sexually, or when little girls start thinking that they should look just like that model on TV. I am not willing to take the risk of assuming my kids "don't get it" only to find out they were negatively influenced by the shows I put on for them. I know my kids will come in contact with some of the scenarios on TV in their everyday lives, and I'm not trying to put them in a bubble to shelter them from that forever. But I am not willing to let cable television form the way my children think and respond to those situations. I will decide when things are "age appropriate" and explain things in the context of our faith, not in the context of a television show.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Other People's Kids

For some reason, I always seem to have more patience, kindness and charity towards other people's kids. If I am babysitting someone else's children, I am the world's best "mom" for the few hours I have them. This has always bothered me. Why can I be so consistently nice to other's kids and not my own? Of course you already came up with the answer (because you are smarter and faster that I am). It's because I can give them back. At the end of the two hours, no matter how many fits they threw, questions they asked or times I had to repeat myself, I can give them back to their own parents. When I am watching other children, I always try and think of how I would want someone treating my child if I wasn't around, and presto! I'm the (almost) perfect sitter.

Have I forgotten that my children are not mine? Have I forgotten, or perhaps never realized, that I'm really just "babysitting" for the God of the universe? Sure babysitting a couple of hours versus many many years is quite different, but when put in the perspective of eternity, it's all a short time. Being a mom to small children is very hard sometimes. It has tested my patience beyond what I ever thought possible and necessitates that many times I have to put my needs and desires on the back-burner for the time being. But in those moments when I do loose my patience (which is quite often), or do choose to do selfish things instead of play with my children, their true Father is watching in on this mommy whom He has entrusted with their care. I am not trying to say that God is up there judging and condemning my every fall. He knows I am weak. He knew that when He gave me these children. I am merely saying that these children aren't mine. That I am only responsible for them for a short while. And hopefully at the end of that time, I am able to give them back to their heavenly Father and say, "Here he is, more perfect than when you first gave him to me, ready to enter into your eternal kingdom."  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why I Suceeded

My mom often gets asked a question, "What did you do with your girls to make them turn out so great?" Her response is always the same, "I have no idea." Last night I think I found the answer to that question.

I'm not trying to brag, but my parents raised some pretty awesome children. My oldest sister is a Phd student studying neurobiology at a University expecting her first child in November, I' know me, and my youngest sister is a nursing student and completely devoted to pro-life work. Beyond wordly success, none of us have left the Catholic Church and we have all been very successful at whatever we have set out to do. I have often asked myself that same question, "Why have we all been successful and not lost our faith in the midst of the world?"

Tonight we watched the documentary The Human Experience. If you haven't seen it, it's a must. It documents two brothers who live homeless on the streets of New York, visit orphans in Peru, and speak with the Lepers in Africa. One of the brothers had an abusive father growing up, and didn't say much about his mother. At the end of the documentary, he spoke in length about how people with two parents who loved them growing up take that for granted. He lamented that those people are successful in the world because they always have the "safety net" of their paren'ts love to fall back on.

That hit me like a ton of bricks. All parents make mistakes, but through my parents mistakes I have never doubted for one moment their love for me. I was constantly being told as a child, "I love you!" "I'm proud of you!", not matter what. If I did poorly on a test in school (which was rare), I was simply asked, "did you try your hardest?" If my answer was yes, then it was a simple, "Then I'm proud of you" once again. This is the key to my parents success in raising children. We were loved unconditionally. That is all. I have always felt, and still do feel, that I could go out and attempt anything in this world. If I failed, I knew there was my parents love waiting for me like a giant safety net, to catch me as I fell.

Someone very near and dear to my heart has struggled with alcoholism for a very long time. He has fallen and gotten up more times than I can count. He has never given up on God or himself. I never can figure out what gives him the want and the will to keep trying. Then, I look at his parents and it becomes clear. They have loved him through it all. Though they may not run to him and physically rescue him every time he relapses, they are there, offering masses, saying prayers and holding on to hope for their child. They have clearly and abundantly demonstrated to their child how the Father loves us, even when we fall for the hundreth time. I have never asked this person what drives him to get up every time, or what keeps his faith in God alive, and maybe he wouldn't have an answer. But I do know one thing. I know this man is loved unconditionally by his parents, and they aren't afraid to tell him that.

Parents tell your children you love them! Tell them you are proud of them (even if you were really hoping for an 'A' on that report card)! Every day. Many times a day. Their faith, their life and their sucess depend on it.