Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Up At The Farm

We've been up at my parent's farm in Wisconsin for most of the week and will be heading up there again on Friday. They're getting ready to sell it and move to town, so there has been much work to do! Here's some of what we've been doing:

I'm hoping to post more about our time there in the days to come. Stay tuned!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Babywearing, Part I: Bucket Babies

bucket baby
n. 1. a foal or calf nursed by hand; 2. an infant perceived to spend an excessive amount of time in a portable car seat.

Portable infant car seats. They're great for keeping your baby safe in the car, but how do they rate as infant carriers for outside the vehicle?

Most, if not all, parents have used these baby-containers-with-a-handle to tote an infant while out and about. Convenient, right? Baby goes in car seat, baby-in-car-seat goes in car, baby-in-car-seat goes into the store, baby-in-car-seat comes out of store, baby-in-car-seat goes back into the car. No unbuckling, rebuckling, strollers, nasty shopping cart baby holder, etc. But is it really that great for baby? And is it really that great for mom?

First, let's look at it from the mom's (dad's/caregiver's) perspective. Let's talk ergonomics. How do you usually carry the car seat? In one hand, bent kind of sideways so it doesn't bang into your legs, with your other arm stretched out for counter-balance. Yeah... not so good. Consumer Reports says that using an infant car seat to carry your baby "can be a killer on your wrists, elbow, lower back, and neck if you tote it by the handle or if you string it on your forearm like a handbag."
“The greater the horizontal distance from the weight you’re carrying to your torso, the more stress on your joints, discs, ligaments, and muscles,” says Mary Ellen Modica, a physical therapist at Schwab STEPS Rehabilitation Clinics in Chicago, IL. “It’s equivalent to walking around with three or four full paint cans in one hand--something most people wouldn’t do, but they’ll carry a car seat that way.”
A better way to carry the car seat is in front of you, with both hands on the handle, and close to your trunk and centered at your waist. However, just the repeated mechanics of removing/replacing the car seat with the infant in it causes a severe risk for back injury. Chiropractor Dr. Diane Benizzi DiMarco, in her article Post Partum and Beyond: Managing Back Pain in Women says,
The mother/caregiver who chooses to remove the entire car seat with child is exposed to aberrant posture and lifting motions. Removing the infant and car seat simultaneously is common when the infant is sleeping and does not transfer well out of the seat to a crib. It is also common to remove the infant within the car seat when the infant cannot hold its’ head erect or cannot sit up in a seat provided by a shopping [cart] or again, if the infant is a sleep. An infant who weighs 12-15 pounds and a car seat that weighs 10-15 pounds can impart excessive biomechanical stress to the spine. Mothers/caregivers normally lean over the back seat from the back car door, unlatch the seat and proceed to lift with outstretched arms, to carry the seat or place it where they intend. Continued repetition of this spinal abuse can result in spinal injuries including injury to the disc.
It seems that infant car seats are pretty rough on mom's body. Is there another way? Well, you could go this route. How about attaching the car seat to your body with a harness!

(If this seems incredibly bizarre to you, you'll enjoy this article at Thingamababy. She says, "Now, there are two types of parents reading this article. Some of you are looking at the product photo and thinking, 'Hmm, that's really interesting.' The other group is looking at that photo and thinking, 'What the hell is wrong with our society?'")

And really, is it that convenient to lug your baby around in a car seat? Before we got rid of our portable infant car seat in favor of one that our babies were much more comfortable in, I too used it from time to time to carry the babes in. So quick, so easy, he won't wake up... But he usually did wake up because both Moses and Judah HATED being in the portable car seat. Which would leave me to carry the baby in one arm while pushing a cart or carrying the stupid car seat in the other arm. If he did stay asleep, I was still left carting this unwieldy thing around, setting it down, picking it up in the other hand, and cursing myself for not just putting the baby in the sling.
Ah. The sling. Could this be the better way? Most moms who have forsaken the car seat carrier in favor of some sort of soft baby carrier would give a resounding YES! And although they can't say so themselves, I think the babies would agree.

One of the deepest needs of young babies is to be close to - i.e. in physical contact with - their mother. In The Vital Touch, one of my all-time favorite books on the importance of touch and infant development, author Sharon Heller says,

Does it make a difference how baby is transported? Judge for yourself. Carried, our infant experiences body warmth, frequent position change, deep pressure touch, containment, and rocking, to say nothing of the opportunities to balance her head, upright her posture, or use her muscles for clinging.
All this is lacking when the infant is carried in a car seat. Or stroller, for that matter.
As for all the variety of stimulation during carrying - the frequent kissing and stroking of hair, nose, cheeks, eyebrows, and forehead, the change of positioning, the rearrangement of clothing, the swaying side to side and back and forth - it all but disappears during wheeling.
There are other developmental worries for babies spending too much time in infant car seats.

For the young infant, they [car seats] offer too little restriction of movement; for the older infant, too much, especially in the trunk area. Explains Sandra Edwards, an occupational therapist..., neurological development progresses best in an environment that encourages opportunities to explore and experiment with movement. "Devices that restrict movement may deny the child important opportunities for sensorimotor development." Little wonder babies get restless when tied down in these seats and grapple to move about and to upright themselves.
Plastic infant seats are also stiff. Babies' soft, flexible bodies are suited to fold into the crook of an arm, nuzzle into a neck, enfold into a breast, not to press against rigid, unyielding surfaces. Infant seats are a particular problem for children at risk for motor delay, explains occupational therapist Patricia Wilbarger, since they position babies "so that the back muscles can become abnormally stiff."

This can then cause problems with muscle flexibility, as well as with muscle development. Babies carried in-arms "use their head, neck, and shoulder muscles to stabilize themselves and establish stronger trunk stability. Those muscles may develop sooner in babies who aren’t carried around in a car seat," says Consumer Reports.

Carrying also provides "vestibular" stimulation, that is, stimulation through motion. The vestibular apparatus is located in the inner ear and its job is to maintain equilibrium. When babies receive movement in all directions (up and down, back and forth, side to side), they learn to balance themselves and keep their heads and bodies in a neutral position - no small feat for a wobbly infant! When in parent's arms, babies receive all three of the types of movements they need to develop their vestibular system. Not so much in the plastic seat. (For a great in-depth look at the effects of vestibular deprivation, see Heller's chapter "Rock of Love
" in her book The Vital Touch.)
So next time you're running to Target with your baby, consider tossing a soft baby carrier into your diaper bag and carrying your baby next to you instead of in the car seat. Your baby might wake up? Well there's a good chance the soothing motion of your walking, the sweet smell of your body and the familiar sound of your heartbeat will cause baby to drop peacefully back to sleep. There are plenty of comfortable, ergonomic, easy-to-use soft baby carriers on the market right now that are easily as convenient as hauling that darn car seat around, and waaay more beneficial for you and your baby. Here's one last plug:

The average Western infant gets touched 25 percent of the day or less. By nine months of age, touching time goes down to 16 percent of the day. In a model day care center, [researcher] Tiffany Field and colleagues found touch time to average only around 14 percent of the day for even young infants. As for actual holding time, between the ages of three weeks and three months, the average Western infant is carried a little more than two and a half hours a day.

Infant seats do nothing to promote attachment between mother and baby. The mother's body draws the baby into a pulsing circle of warmth, softness, and roundness that contains and cushions his shape in supple, receptive contours; that adjusts and adapts in sync with his turns, squirms, and stretches; that massages him with slow, fluid motions that vary his day and give rhythm to his existence. This cements the connection between mother and child; plastic containers do none of this. As such, they dramatically change the baby's sense of life and human relationships.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Grieving With Those Who Grieve

Thank you, dear friends, for your words of love, for remembering Matthias, for grieving with me during the past days. I have been comforted and buoyed during this bittersweet time by knowing that others remember my baby and love him too. It is a terrible thing to think that his life will be forgotten, that I will mourn for him alone. Thank you for being willing to enter into that grief with me and letting me know he is not forgotten.

I was incredibly blessed to see evidence that others had already been to his grave when we arrived there on Saturday (Elisa - thank you, dear sister!). Thank you for the notes, the calls, the comments, the hugs, the music played in his honor, and for just letting me share and talk about Matthias. That in itself means more than I can say. I know it can feel like "I don't know what to say", but just asking "how are you doing?" and listening to me answer is such a blessing. I am thankful for all of you who have been willing to "grieve with those who grieve."

I especially remembered those of you who were with us when Matthias died, who came to the hospital and held him, who ministered to us in our darkest hour, who stood with us as our baby breathed his last breath. Thank you. You willingly entered "a house of mourning" and that is a frightening thing to do. You all have a special part in Matthias' life.

I was reading over the pages of the guest book from Matthias' funeral and found myself saying, "wow, I didn't remember that so-an-so was there!" To all of you who came to his funeral to support us, to grieve for Matthias, to honor his short life, to thank the Lord for him - thank you. Even now, three years later, it encourages me to see all your names written down.

* * * * *

On Matthias' birthday, we were all able to go to his grave as a family and spend quite some time there. It soothes my spirit to be able to tend his little grave. I planted a miniature rose bush at his grave site (does anyone know anything about growing roses? I'd really like to keep this one alive!) and Grace helped water it and put mulch around it. Moses ran around the grassy field, laughing, and Judah just hung out with me. What a blessing all our children are!

We have a tradition of setting an extra place at the table on Matthias' birthday; a symbolic tribute to the little boy who is missing from our table. It is a poignant and sweet meal - we feel his absence acutely and try to imagine what it would be like to have him there.

I baked a special birthday cake to celebrate Matthias' life, and before we ate it we prayed that God would let Matthias know how much we love and miss him, and that we are celebrating and remembering him especially during this day. I think God does pass on our love to Matthias in heaven.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Three Years Gone, Forever In My Heart

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: when dearest ones depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then thou shall better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.

Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Do you think this song is right, that we know God's love and His heart better through the "vale of tears"? I think this is true, and I have experienced it profoundly. God showed His love to me when Matthias died in a way that could not have happened during times of ease and peace. I think that is what it means in Ecclesiastes when it says "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting". God enters into our suffering with us and it is there that we truly see His heart.

* * * * * * *

I miss Matthias. It is still so terribly sad for me to think about his death. I still ache to hold him and be his mother. But I have been able to finally, in a real way, be glad that he is in Heaven instead of here with me. It took a long time. The thought of him being in Heaven did not bring me comfort while I was in the depths of my grief. The pain of my empty arms was so overwhelming, I just wanted him here. I wanted to hold my sweet, precious baby, and the fact that he was gone just consumed me.

Now, I'm better able to be sad for me, and be glad for him. I'm sad because I'm a mother with one of my children missing from my life, and that's painful. I'm sad because I had to say goodbye to my baby so soon. I'm sad because I'm not able to mother one of my children. That is a deep wound in my heart that I don't think will be completely healed until Heaven. (When Jesus fully repays from His own fullness all He takes away.)

But for Matthias, who is enjoying pleasures forever more at Jesus' right hand, I am thankful. He suffered very, very little on earth. He is experiencing a joy that I can't even begin to get my mind around. God let Matthias pass over the long, hard, dark road and enter into the joy His presence so quickly. For me, in one sense, that is sad; for Matthias that is beautiful, merciful love. Matthias has what I ultimately want for all my children! And for that I rejoice!

Now, instead of wishing Matthias were here with me
, I am more able to think, "I wish I were with Matthias." So there is both joy and tears on this day, and both are good. Behold the kindness and severity of God.


Friday, August 8, 2008

From Daily Light, for August 11th &12th:

That through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death.
– Our Saviour Christ Jesus...abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. – He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. – When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: "Death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of death is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. – For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion."Fear not...declares the LORD, for I am with you...Of you I will not make full end. I will discipline you in just measure."
"For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," declares the LORD, your Redeemer..."For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you. "O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony,k and lay your foundations with sapphires." – We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

HEB.2:14; 2 TIM. 1:10; ISA.25:8; I COR. 15:54-57; PS. 23:4; LAM. 3:31,32; JER. 46:28; ISA. 54:7-10; I THESS. 4:17,18.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Remembering Matthias

Today was Matthias' due date, three years ago.

Visitor From Heaven
(from a song by Twila Parris)

A visitor from heaven, if only for a while,
A gift of love to be returned
We think of you and smile.
A visitor from heaven accompanied by grace
Reminding of a better love and of a better place.
With aching hearts and empty arms
we send you with a name
It hurts so much to let you go,
but were so glad you came.
We're so glad you came.

How very softly
you came into the world,
so silent and still.
You stayed only a moment,
but what an imprint
you have left upon my heart.

Matthias Paul Mailly
August 9-10, 2005
Safe in the Arms of Jesus

Remembering you, Matthias, my sweet baby, today, this week, and always.
You will always be in my heart until we meet in heaven.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Be Fruitful

This is really just rambling about something that's been on my mind lately. Having babies. Well, more specifically, things like deciding how many to have, or *not* deciding how many to have, "planning" your family size, or using no birth control and "letting God decide".

We have friends who are in all camps, those who are struggling to have babies, who have lost babies, who are pregnant and have several small children, who are using no birth control or family planning, who are purposefully spacing their children out... I see them all in prayerful consideration about what God wants their families to look like.

With the anniversary of Matthias' birth and death approaching, and having recently had another baby, I have been thinking more often about these things - giving birth, raising children, having babies who die, deciding when and if to have more. I know families can -in faith- reach different conclusions about family and children issues; I'm trying to work out what I think, what God is teaching us, calling us to as a family.

I know I love babies, love being pregnant, love the act of birthing, love breastfeeding and having a baby to hold and love and mother. My eyes well up with tears even now, thinking about the day when I will be done having babies. I have heard of men who struggle to think of Heaven being perfect when there will be no sex there. I struggle with thinking of there being no birthing and babies. I know, I know, the bad theology in my reasoning, the idolatry in my heart. But that's just the way I feel sometimes, when I'm not feasting my eyes on Jesus.

Anyway, I don't necessarily want to open the whole birth-control can of worms (have I already done that?). It's more just feeling so strongly the GIFT that children are, the incredible, indescribable blessing they are. When your baby dies, or you can't conceive, or you watch a mother whose baby is fighting for life before he's even born, it's difficult to blithely accept saying, "no, we don't want any children right now." Saying no to children just makes me feel... sad.

At the same time, wow, I just don't think I could handle raising 12 kids. I would want to have 12 babies, but 12 toddlers? Twelve teenagers? Could I do that? It sounds awesome and terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.

Obviously, our culture leans way more towards having only a few, if any, children, and for some really ignorant reasons. That makes me really sad.

So I guess I'm not saying, what's your stance on birth control. I think birth control issues come second to figuring out your basic understanding or view or philosophy about children. Are they a blessing? A blessing in moderation? Is it poor stewardship to have a dozen? Should we always be saying "yes" to children, or should we try to space them perfectly 4 years apart? When (if ever) is it okay to say "no" to having a baby?

I'm really still working through this. A friend who is pregnant with her third baby, after having lost her firstborn son several years ago (and then having a healthy daughter) was talking about this the other day; just how your view on this issue can change dramatically after you've lost a baby. All of a sudden you know - really know - how fragile life is, and how it really is God's prerogative to decide how many children you have, and suddenly you think differently about saying, "No thanks, no children right now. Maybe later."

Anyone want to share their views?

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Sort of Things You Only Say to a Boy

Funny, weird and slightly disgusting things I've caught myself saying to the Boy lately, none of which I ever said to Grace when she was two:

"Please stop saying, 'I love poop' ".

"Moses, say you're sorry for biting Sissy on the butt."

"Moses, look!" [in a super excited voice] "The garbage truck!!"

"Judah doesn't like it when you stick your finger all the way down his throat."

"I love it when you drink your milk instead of gargling it".

"Moses, did you poop on the floor?"

"Yes, that's a very nice bug. Let's put it outside."

"Please stop eating bread crusts out of the garbage."

"Yeah! Your pee went in the toilet!"

What funny things have you found yourself saying to your child that you never thought would come out of your mouth before you were a parent?