Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The love of the stranger

Conservative politics can have many failings. One of these is a tendency to turn racism and fear in the community to its own advantage. This is evident in the resurgence of conservative political parties in Europe. It has also been a feature of Australia's policy toward asylum seekers for many years now. Australia makes every effort to deter asylum seekers (this photo shows police boarding an illegal vessel and arresting its occupants).

As I was completing my read the Bible in 90 days plan, one of the themes I looked for was that of how we are to treat strangers. It was clear that God places a high priority on loving strangers, just as he does upon loving widows and orphans. Strangers often appear to be people who are "foreigners" and in need. Locking such "illegal immigrants" up in detention centers, as Australia does, does not appear to be consistent with the priority God places upon loving strangers. What do you think?

The baby feeding issue

It will come as no surprise to most Mums that how to feed a baby can be a contentious issue. Those who bottle feed can feel judged by those who breastfeed. Those who schedule feed can tend to be judgemental of those who "demand feed" - and vice versa. Those who breastfeed for one year or six months often express judgment of those who feed their children for two years or four. Whenever these conversations come up, I like to churn out my standard line. "Each to their own, each to their own", I say!

This is not because I believe the Bible has nothing specific to say about the baby feeding issue. It is because I believe the Bible speaks very clearly to this issue, and encourages us to take an "each to their own" attitude. Romans 14 indicates that we not to judge others based on what they eat. Food is one of the "doubtful things" over which we are not to get into disputes (Romans 14:1).

I am uncomfortable when Romans 14 is applied to anything and everything, from pot smoking to belly dancing. This type of application amounts to the idea that anything that is not specifically mentioned in the Bible is an area of total Christian liberty. I attempted to counter this argument in my post "Sure, you can be a Christian polygamous, petrol sniffing, right wing racist if you like". Romans 14 tells us which matters it is speaking of - food and special days. Baby milk falls into the category of food, does it not? Therefore we shouldn't be spending our days commenting on what others are doing.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Our bonny boy

Our family

Kara Dekker took this photo for us when she and John visited a couple of weeks ago. We were privileged to have them visit us during their honeymoon in Tasmania!

In this photo Elnathan is six weeks old. At his six week check he was on the 90th percentile for weight gain, which was exciting!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Mom Just Like You

I have been receiving inspiration from Vickie and Jayme Farris's book "A Mom Just Like You". Vickie is a homeschool Mother of 10 children, and she writes frankly about her struggles and the reasons why she keeps on going. I have enjoyed the way the book is frank about the weaknesses and struggles we may face, but also provides many reasons to persevere. Vickie does not encourage readers to just embrace her conclusions, rather she urges them to search the scriptures and come to convictions for themselves about what they should do with their lives. Trust in God and relationship with Him is emphasized throughout. The book covers many topics, including prioritising your marriage and teaching a large family. I recommend this book for other mothers who hope to homeschool.

The best cloth nappies

Before Elnathan was born, we decided to use cloth nappies. Dave especially wanted us to do this, due to the environmental impact of disposables. It was sobering to realise that the total amount of garbage we put out each week would probably double if we used disposables! While some people will argue that cloth nappies are just as bad for the environment, we are convinced that this is not the case. 

I set out to discover the best and easiest way to use cloth nappies. I set up a registry of nappies for my baby shower, and received a few different ones which I could try out to decide on the best ones for us. I also purchased a few things. 

One day I conducted a little experiment to see which nappies dried the fastest! This is our drying system, hanging the nappies in front of our heater (we love to put them on the washing line in the sun, as this bleaches and sanitizes them, but it is winter right now and so this is not always an option). The BumGenius pocket nappy and the plain cotton nappies won the competition. Of course, drying time is not the only marker of a good nappy. Containment is also very important, and I had to wait until Elnathan was born to find out about that!

It was not long after the birth of Elnathan that we decided the BumGenius pocket nappies were definitely the best in other categories as well - ease of use, containment, and fit. They really do fit a newborn (unlike some of our other "one size fits all" nappies). We've found that some nappies look good, but fail to contain the messes - thereby defeating the purpose of a nappy! There are other good nappy brands out there (I can also recommend Baby Beehinds), but BumGenius wins our vote for the best nappy. The cutest little man models a BumGenius in this picture

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

My Birth Adventure

Ever since Elnathan was born I have been hoping to write down on my blog some of what God did for us in the labour and birth. Life has been busy, though, and I haven't even yet completely written out the story for myself! Here are some of the details. 

I woke up with pre-labour pains several times during the early morning hours on 5 May. I phoned my midwife about these pains in the morning, as they were continuing. Dave decided to work from home, but as it turns out he did not do much work! We went for a walk in the morning in an effort to make sure things kept on track - we wanted this baby to come!

In the early afternoon the contractions had become strong enough for me to phone my parents and some friends and tell them I was in labour. Around 3pm my midwife arrived. The contractions were getting stronger but I was able to pray and sing through them.

About 5pm I climbed into the birth pool, which was set up in the dining area, and found relief for my sore legs. The water was soothing.  The contractions became intense, and I remember trying different positions and crying out to God as I went through them. Dave sat beside the pool and held me and said encouraging things like "you can do this". He also gave me sips of drinks. 

A few hours later (about 8pm) my midwife told me that I was about 8cm dilated, and would be going into transition soon. I remember saying at some point "I just want to love God and love Dave" - I didn't want to respond wrongly to them during the trying time of labour. My sister Janelle, who is a midwife, arrived around this time. At one point I was really loosing it as the contractions became incredibly intense. My midwife and Dave helped me to realise that I wasn't helping myself. Dave helped me to breath and Janelle and my midwife took turns rubbing me where it hurt the most. This enabled me to calm down. In between contractions I was able to doze against the side of the pool and be soothed by the warm water. 

Dave had Christian music playing, and I remember singing along to the Sovereign Grace music song "Give me the strength to sustain me, wisdom enough to guide my path".

At around 10pm my midwife said that I was ready to push. She told me that the key was to push harder than I thought I could, and that with a first birth it could take 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I was praising God to have reached this point. I talked about how people have implied or thought that I wouldn't be able to have a normal pregnancy and birth because of my back injury. I said "but I didn't believe them, and I can give birth!". This was a wonderful feeling and I was praising God. 

Janelle and my midwife told me the baby would almost certainly be born before midnight. I was excited about this, as we'd prayed the baby would be born before the due date (the 6th)! However, things did not progress as fast as they thought. We all prayed together for this stage. 

At about 12pm my midwife said I needed to get out of the pool to have the assistance of gravity. I thought I couldn't, but everyone said "yes you can!". Dave was especially encouraging! I leaned on Dave, with my leg on a chair, and he held me up through each contraction. I remember everyone saying to me "push, push, push" through each contraction. I was also making a lot of noise, and the thought of the neighbours did cross my mind! 

Our midwife thought I'd need an episiotomy, but then I tore and our baby came out all at once. He landed on the chair in what seemed like a pool of blood! It was Elnathan - after months of speculating about whether our baby would be named Elnathan or the name we'd chosen for a girl, now we knew! I was happy to have given Dave a son. I exclaimed that I knew the baby was a boy! I'd been saying so throughout the pregnancy.

Dave and I climbed back into the pool with Elnathan, as I wanted to relax in the water. He looked very floppy, so the cord had to be cut and he was taken away to have some oxygen. He quickly recovered. 

After the delivery of the placenta and the first breastfeed, I went to bed. Dave took Elnathan to introduce him to his parents via Skype, then brought him back for another feed. Another midwife came to help my midwife with the stitches. I was very tired and could hardly face this next stage, but kept praying and speaking God's truth. I was able to be calm enough for them to proceed, and was blessed to be able to lie in my own bed and look at our wedding picture on the wall while I was being stitched! 

Finally we were left all alone with our newborn - and it felt like someone really should be supervising! 

There are so many things to be grateful for about our labour and birth adventure . . . 

* the comfort of our own home
* wonderful midwives to help us - not just one but two devoting their full attention to us in the most difficult stages - plus another excellent midwife to help with the stitching!
* being able to cry out to God throughout, without any inhibitions and knowing that all present were also seeking him
* good advice, particularly when I was not coping well
* the birth pool
* the medical expertise and equipment needed to help Elnathan breath properly
* being comfortable with our midwife and the care we received
* Dave's excellent support, and the strength God gave him throughout
* God's strength for me, enabling me to persevere 
* A reasonably short labour in total, for a first birth
* the special experience of having my sister at the birth
* an intervention-free birth, which was just what we'd prayed for! I believe this would have been much less likely to happen in hospital. Without the pool and excellent supporters I may well have begged for some drugs for pain relief, and it is also likely there would have been intervention due to the longer than usual pushing stage.

God has answered our prayers. May we always remember what he has done.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The God who delights to humble us

Suppose you eliminated suffering, what a dreadful place the world would be! because everything that corrects the tendency of man to feel over-important and over-pleased with himself would disappear. He's bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered."
Malcolm Muggeridge, as quoted in Elizabeth Elliot's A Path Through Suffering: Discovering the Relationship Between God's Mercy and Our Pain

My labour experience with Elnathan was a wonderful example of God's providence and answered prayer, which I hope we will always look back upon with gratitude. It was also one of the most painful and difficult experiences of my life, which I came out of thinking "Wow, I've been through that and I'm still here!". Our early weeks with Elnathan have likewise been full of examples of God's goodness, and full of physical pain as I've had problems with breastfeeding.

At times I've wondered what on earth God was doing - the pain of birth seemed enough, without the added feeding problems. My answer is that God has humbled us through this pain. We often prayed for humility, and God has answered through suffering. There is nothing like suffering to put us in our place. Pain reminds us that we are not in control. We have to surrender to God's will, not our own. 

Suffering also reminds us not to judge ourselves to be better than others. Would we do better if we were in their place, with their suffering? My relatively small sufferings have given me a greater appreciation for the reasons why people might be afraid of birth, or might give up breastfeeding in favour of the bottle. I don't believe I was ever harshly judgmental of those who opt for elective cesareans or bottle feed from the start. Now though, I realise that I could easily be one of them if I did not have so much wonderful support. 

Pain has humbled me again. May God be glorified.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Becoming Mummy

Before Elnathan was born, I thought of myself as a Mum to an unborn child. Sure, we had not met our child yet but I was still his or her Mum. 

So it was a surprise when I did not feel like a Mum after he was born - the whole thing seemed unreal. It took me a couple of weeks to begin to feel like Mummy.

While we may be blessed with many  more children in future, it will be Elnathan who turned us into parents! If any additional children come along, we will already be "Mummy" and "Daddy". 

As I joked in the couple of days after his birth, he is "Experimental Version 1"! He has parents who forget to check his nappy when he won't stop crying, and generally feel quite unsure of themselves!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II

During the last weeks of my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time lying tummy down in a beanbag in an attempt to get Elnathan to move into a better position. I am so grateful that my midwife recommended this (and lent me the beanbag) as he did move into a better position and I'm sure labour was easier as a result.

I had been getting little reading done previously, but this forced inactivity turned me to reading again! One of the books I read was "Evidence Not Seen". What a precious time it was as I walked with Darlene through here terrible experiences and her complete surrender of everything to God. What she went through is incomprehensible to many of us - torture, starvation, imprisonment, the loss of her much-loved husband. 

I highly recommend this book, and want Elnathan to read it someday.  In our smaller life trials, the same God who worked on Darlene's behalf helps us through. Just as she had to be willing to give up everything and continue to love and serve God, we face many daily opportunities to die to self. Like Darlene, we can find that out of the end of all our hopes God builds faith and strong relationships with others. In our weakness and pain, we too can find relationship with God as our strength and continue to serve him.

I dusted the house!

Yep, it is true. In the life before the arrival of Elnathan, Monday was dusting and tidying day. Today for the first time in four weeks, Monday was dusting and tidying day. I only got to two rooms, but it felt great. I love caring for my home!

My wonderful man

I can't say how grateful I've been for my husband at this time of transition to parenthood. I knew I had a gem, but now I have an even deeper appreciation for him! I was amazed at the way he took on all the necessary household tasks, from cleaning bloodstained items after the homebirth to doing his most hated job (washing up) more than once a day! In first couple of weeks after Elnathan was born I was very weak, and Dave's help was invaluable. 

Here are some pictures of those first weeks with our little man.

Dave outside the doctor's surgery where we took Elnathan for his first ever doctor's visit, and his first ever drive in the car outside the womb!

Enjoying a cuddle with Daddy . . . Daddy's arms are one of the safest places to be!

Dave on his birthday, the week after Elnathan's birth, with his most important present!!

In the weeks following Elnathan's birth, I often thought of the phrase from Proverbs "Son of my womb, son of my vows". The reality of what my body had been through to give Elnathan life was still fresh . . . "Son of my womb". My gratitude to be in a loving marriage relationship at this time was also often on my mind . . . "Son of my vows". I love this photo of Dave's hand with his wedding band on, over our little son.

Elnathan loves to have his bath with Daddy. In fact, Daddy was the only one to do this job for the first two weeks.

Dave was also the first one to take Elnathan beyond the boundaries of our property! Here he is returning from posting a letter with our little man.

Thank you God for the blessings of marriage, of help, and of the perseverant love I've expressed in daily tasks being returned to me at the time I needed it most. 

God has cared for us.