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I was reminded this morning how difficult it can be to actually be willing to grow. Growth brings change, and we are comfortable where we are. Others are comfortable with us where we are. Sometimes it feels like growth ruins everything.
And lets face it, pregnancy and parenting is definitely a time of growing. I was challenged to see things in a new way, experienced “problems” from a new perspective. My understanding was broadened. But it wasn’t easy.
I wrote this to a friend who actually brought this topic to my mind this week:
I’ve found so much of my understanding of Christianity has evolved over time — which I think is normal and healthy and just the reality of maturing. The downside is the tension I feel living in a world that still defines Christianity the way I understood it as an 18 year old.
I get it, the “collective” Christianity needs to be accessible to all.
There is a book I had to read my first semester of nursing school – about the process of becoming an expert. It seems in all fields the novice begins with strict rule following because the level of understanding is really basic. As a person becomes more experienced, they start to recognize the nuances to the rules and can understand the full principles behind the rules.
So to me, it feels like “collective” Christianity is stuck at novice, but as we grow we all mature and become more expert. While in other areas a more through understanding is appreciated, celebrated even, in Christianity it is beaten down for not sticking to the novice rules. So rather than becoming expert at knowing God, we become expert at making the rules more strict.
What do you think? Do you live in a tension as your faith matures?
I made the startling discovery last week that the blog was “down”. I had intended to write something quick and get back to my school work, so you can imagine just how annoying that was. I did what any busy woman would do. I ignored it.
I don’t pay too much attention to the website anymore. I use programs that take care of most of the work for me, so I haven’t kept up with the coding knowledge I need to fix issues when they arise. The last time I had a blog problem, I lost the whole blog. I didn’t have time for this problem.
I didn’t really have time for this problem this morning, but since I will be done with the semester by Friday I decided to start looking a little under the hood. As it turned out, five minutes was all it took. Five minutes to repair a damaged file. Five minutes.
I likely won’t remember how startling this was to me in an hour, when I am feverishly reviewing and typing and trying to be ready for finals week. But I felt it was an important reminder that sometimes what looks like a disaster is actually a simple problem. Sometimes taking a minute to really look at what we fear, the problem goes away. It doesn’t always work like this, but isn’t it nice when it does?
Have no fear of sudden disaster
or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be at your side
and will keep your foot from being snared.
Do you have your conference plans set for this spring? I know it is last minute, but I’m hoping you can work in a stop for the Christian Midwives International Conference. If not this year, plan for next year.
The conference is half retreat, half intensive education. I enjoy the time I get to reconnect with friends from around the country, and it is always refreshing to see how the work I do fits into something larger than me. It always gives me opportunity to learn how others are using the time of childbearing to minister to families.
You don’t need to be a midwife…usually the sessions are broad enough that doulas, childbirth educators, and nurses would be able to add to their knowledge.
As a bonus, I’m one of the session speakers this year.
I know many women’s groups offer support of a new family by providing meals for the first week or two after a baby is born. I was challenged today to think of another way to serve families.
Laundry seems to grow fast in the first few weeks with a new baby, so one of the ways to serve a family is to help keep the laundry monster within a manageable size. I think the specifics really vary depending on how well the families know each other, but it was suggested that there are several ways to help.
- If the family puts in a load of laundry in the morning, the meal provider can switch the laundry to the drier or clothes line when the meal is dropped off.
- If the family doesn’t have in-house laundry, the meal provider can stop by in the morning to pick up a load or two which will be dropped off with the meal later in the day.
- If a close friend wants to prepare a meal at the families home, it might be easy to wash a load or two while preparing the meal.
Interesting idea, and potentially a great help to many families. I can see that some families might feel uncomfortable having someone else handle their laundry, so this won’t work for everyone. But when it can work, what a lovely gesture of support for a new family.
I’m starting to avoid social media. I do like the ability to share the ins and outs of my daily life with my family and close friends (who all live hundreds of miles from me). I just find the conversations and sharing of blog posts disruptive to my extended friendships. No matter how hard I try, it is nearly impossible not to start thinking differently about a person after I have seen a few of the things she “shares” on social media.
This wouldn’t be so bad if what people were sharing were real questions and thoughts they had as they struggled through this ministry of motherhood. If the posts were honest assessments about how difficult it is to balance all the responsibilities most parents have throughout all the developmental stages children move through. But for some reason, that isn’t what gets shared on my wall. Mostly I get shares of blog posts that basically say, “the rest of you parents have it all wrong and I’m going to tell you why you need to be more like me.” Nearly always the post author fails to accept that parents may have any number of reasons for doing some things differently. Nearly always the post author sees the actions of other parents only through one lens and therefore complains about things I’m pretty sure the author does herself. Nearly always the comments at the end of the blog become more and more harsh criticism of “the rest of the world” who just doesn’t understand what real life is like and how a child should be raised. Ugh.
And it would be helpful if there were a way to hear the tone in the voice and see the non-verbal communication that demonstrates what most women seem to feel when they make comments about what they think a mother is supposed to be. Because if I could “read” the non-verbals, I have a feeling I would read many of the shared posts differently, and possibly some of the comments. But without those non-verbals I find reading the posts turn my stomach. I don’t imagine they are uplifting to most readers — unless the reader just happens to be exactly like the author. I don’t imagine they help build community among diverse groups of women, and may actually serve to drive further wedges.
The most difficult part for me is that I am pretty sure most of the posts that get shared and re-shared on my wall don’t really reflect the views of the friends who share them. Usually, when I ask, it seems the friend who shares liked one aspect of the post, or only read the title and thought it would be a good read. Despite this, when I read the article and get that knot in my stomach I know the way I think about the person who shared changes. This is a struggle for me because many of the women I am connected to on social media are women I’ve never actually met in person. That means if I comment on the posted item, she won’t have the luxury of knowing my heart or seeing my non-verbals to help her put my comment in context.
What it all comes down to is that, in my experience, social media doesn’t really seem a good forum for sharing about the realities of the ministry of motherhood.
I ran across this article from the CDC today:
Maybe you are like me, you want the researchers to say it doesn’t matter. In part, they did. It turns out there is no difference in initiation of breastfeeding. It’s just that women who have an induction or a cesarean are less likely to breastfeed to 4 weeks and to 6 months.
There may be many reasons this happens. In the hospital, the nurses are trained to offer help and support. While it may not be perfect, it is something. For many women this may be the most help they get. Some women may feel the need to switch to formula to go back to work. Other women may have felt pressured into breastfeeding and just not like it.
But it made me wonder, how many of the women who stop by four weeks feeling as if breastfeeding just never “worked.” How many of those women would have felt it a blessing to have another woman offer support and guidance – as little as some words of comfort or encouragement.
Then it made me wonder, how many of our churches have a structure that encourages women to provide that support to each other. The first four weeks after giving birth, some women might resume church or small group quickly, but not all of them. I wonder what forms this type of support could take…
- As part of a meal train
- Providing play dates for older children
- Help with household chores
- A phone call to see how she is doing
Many options, possibly it could work best for some churches to combine multiple efforts. Maybe the real problem is how to be sure the support is provided, without new families feeling bombarded?
I’m in a health economics course this semester, and I’ve been spending the last few weeks pondering the idea of insurance as a health financing tool. I’ve never been a fan of insurance – I’m still young and healthy so even in years I’ve had children I’ve paid more in insurance premiums than I would have spent out of pocket.
Basically, insurance is a risk pool. I put my money in, you put your money in and if something happens to either of us we have the money to pay for it. There are definitely some problems with the way insurance works in real life, but I’m starting to warm up to the idea of a risk pool.
First thought – a risk pool is what Joseph put in place before the famine in Egypt. He didn’t tell each family to save individually, he gathered all the grain so it could be distributed. It had its pluses and minuses – the people were fed and Egypt increased it’s wealth, but the people had to “sell” themselves to Pharaoh to get the grain back. So the basic idea is supported as “wise,” but maybe there are a few things that need to be worked out to make it fair to everyone involved.
Second thought – while reading in the prophets about the oncoming exile the people were repeatedly told they were being handed over because of their failure to look out for the needs of the poor and most vulnerable. This year was the first time I remember really being struck by this point – I’ve always focused on the angry God because they didn’t “follow the commands” and read that as bad sacrifices or something. But these passages really read about a society that wasn’t doing a good job of being a society. A risk pool is one way of making sure there is money to meet everyone’s health needs. We have systems for this now – we have Medicaid for the poor children and disabled (in most states it is nearly impossible to get medicaid if you are an adult), and to help ensure prenatal care for women. In fact, over 50% of births are paid for by Medicaid. We have Medicare for those over 65. So we are not opposed to the idea as a community, but I do wonder if we could do it better.
Third thought – health financing is not health care, but every bit of data shows not having financing decreases the possibility a person will get needed care. This is a sticky point, because on the one hand you can say it only hurts the person if they are not responsible enough to get a job and get health care. But on the other hand, the people most likely to not have a job and need health care are the poor (they have a disproportionate load of health care needs due to a number of factors, and yes one of them is that if you are sick it becomes much harder to stay in school and get a good job). So if they are not able to participate in a productive economy because of health, it does hurt the whole community for them to be stuck in a cycle of poor health – not able to get care – poorer health. And yes, poor health is linked to an inability to get out of poverty.
So here I am, wondering if a big risk pool for health care is a Christian solution to our countries health care woes.
I hope you don’t mind my sharing some deeper questions I’ve been pondering lately. I’ve been enjoying taking a new look at the Bible, and like any learning, leaves me with more questions than answers.
This year I have challenged myself to read the Bible looking for the power dynamics in relationships. Questions such as “who has power” and “why do they have power” have lead into questions such as “what do the people without power think about that?”
So this is my big question as I stay aware of power dynamics of what was written….If the Bible is written by men (and in many cases men who probably view a wife as a possession), can I trust that what they say about childbirth reflects what a woman at that time thought of childbirth?
I know this will bring up debates about whether the Bible is to be taken literally or figuratively, and if the Bible can be trusted as the unerring Word of God. But I don’t mean it to. Remember, this year I am reading the Bible in terms of the power dynamics – and it is from this position that I pose this question. If the authors and the translaters have been men, would they use the same words to describe pregnancy and birth that women would use? Would they put the same value on the process? At its most basic the question is this…If God had used a woman to write the parts with a birth or pregnancy, would it present the process differently?
I don’t know. I’m not sure how I could even tell without a thuorough study of history. But it is a question I am willing to ask myself to consider prayerfully.
I’ve challenged myself to learn to have more compassion. I admit it has been an interesting summer with unexpected, but much appreciated, personal growth. I was starting to feel that I was mastering compassion, until today.
This afternoon as I was preparing to make soup from a new recipe, I responded to the direction to “mince the vegetables in a food processor” with a mental, “Why would they do that?”
I didn’t ask this question seeking new understanding of cooking theory or techniques. In reality it wasn’t even a question – but rather something I said instead of saying, “I think their direction is wrong and I’m going to cut these vegetables with my knife.”
As I continued making the soup, I realized I wasn’t paying attention to the directions anymore. I was skimming the ingredients, but ignored the authors method of preparation. I hadn’t simply chosen a method of vegetable cutting, I had judged the recipe author to be irrelevant.
In my defense, I thought I had good reason to think the directions were wrong – actually absurd. Why would I bother getting out a food processor for a carrot, a stalk of celery and some shallots? Honestly, I could get it done just as fast with my knife and have less clean-up – and I hate having a lot of clean-up.
But I caught myself, and decided if I asked the question, I would treat it like a question. “Why would they do that?” To my surprise, I came up with some really great answers that not only defended the author’s cooking knowledge, but also demonstrated superior parenting skills.
- Maybe this author has a picky eater in the family, and minced veggies can hide in soup better.
- Maybe this author comes home and has to prepare dinner quickly, so leaving dirty food processor parts to soak and clean after dinner saves time before dinner.
- Maybe this author prefers the texture of soup with smaller vegetable pieces.
- Maybe this author has children constantly wrapped around his/her legs and feels the food processor is a safer mincing method than using a large knife when unpredictable preschoolers are “helping.”
You see, if I had just actually asked the question, treating the author with compassion instead of instant judgement, I might have decided to try mechanical chopping of vegetables for this soup. I might have really liked it, and it might not have taken any more time than using a knife. But it might not. The moral is not that I missed out on a great new technique because I was judgmental, the moral is that I pretended it wasn’t judgmental. I pretended my way would always be better because it makes the most sense given the conditions I have for cooking – if I hadn’t I might have responded like this, “Oh, that way won’t work for me right now so I’ll just use my knife.”
It would be to the recipe author.
And it is to women when we talk to them about pregnancy and birth. Attitudes of judgement about decisions made, or not made, are shared in your choice of language and the way you make your comments. Attitudes of judgement cause us to discount a woman having anything valuable to add to the conversation – and it changes the way we interact with the women we are judging.
There are many decisions women and families make as they try to conceive, try to maintain their health in pregnancy, try to navigate labor safely for mother and baby, and try to learn how to parent their newborn. I will not agree with every choice made by every family. I must learn how to treat other women with compassion, accepting their knowledge and experience may lead to different decisions without deciding they have no value.
A friend on a message board brought up an interesting topic last week. She had started volunteering for her local crisis pregnancy center and discovered the information they had to share with families about birth consisted of two outdated books. This ignited a passion within her, and I want to help grow that passion in others.
I didn’t realize the crisis pregnancy center where I volunteered was lucky. They had a full education program they offered to women for free. Run by a volunteer nurse, she helped the women find the right questions to ask and grow their confidence in their ability to mother their child. They used incentives to increase attendance, center tickets that could be exchanged for baby care items that had been donated to the center.
Not only did this help strengthen the women’s confidence and improve their health knowledge, it also gave the volunteers extra time with the women. Time to pray with them and learn how to better help them grow in Christ. Some volunteers (like me) were able to offer free doula services – a luxury for some of the women who lived far from family and had no means to pay a fee for labor support services.
It isn’t an easy way to serve your community, but it is so valuable.