Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unprotected: Book review

[One of the reasons that I haven't kept up regularly with blogging in a while is that I have been using most of my meager free time reading instead of writing, and I have been reading some very interesting books of recent.  Over the coming weeks, I hope to write reviews of some of these books.]

Unprotected, by UCLA campus psychiatrist Miriam Grossman is an incredibly sad but also encouraging book.  The author lays out how modern psychology has given in to political correctness, and how this influence is causing the field to hurt, rather than help many patients.

She starts off with the example of how sexual relations are treated among psychologists, especially on campuses.  The prevailing ideology is to encourage students to explore their sexuality and even encourage them to try risky sexual behaviors without any warnings as to the risks they may be incurring.  While campus health centers are very firm about healthy behaviors like not smoking, exercising, eating a balanced diet, not drinking too much, very little is said about sex other than to use protection, which is widely known to still have many risks, even if used correctly.

While political correctness says that men and women are the same, she shows that the reality is that no one is hurt more by this ethos than women. She shares fascinating research on bonding, and suggests that one of the reasons women are harmed by "friends with benefits" relationships is that after having intercourse, a woman's brain releases oxytocin, a powerful hormone that plays an important role in a mother bonding with her baby (oxytocin is also released right after child birth and while a mother is nursing her baby).  So a woman is not capable of having casual sex with no desire for further commitment in the way that a man can, because her brain is wired differently.  Grossman says that she sees scores of women who come in to her office needing prescriptions for antidepressants as a result of confusing "friends with benefits" type relationships.  No one has warned them that these relationships may actually be hurting them, so they have no compunction that would lead them to avoid this behavior.

The chapter on abortion is one of the hardest to read.  The prevailing politically correct thought about abortion is that very few women are harmed mentally/emotionally by having an abortion.  Grossman sheds light on to how many women are deeply affected by abortion but are afraid to let this hurt come into light.  The symptoms observed in many of these women warrant a PTSD diagnosis according to Grossman, though because of the political correctness bias, this diagnosis is rarely given.  She shares quotes from women who have had an abortion about their pain and loss, and the deep anguish of these women is heart wrenching.  She goes on to cite a study (done by a group of pro-choice men) that suggests that even a number of fathers who choose abortion go on to second guess the decision or think about the baby they may have allowed to be born.

Another heart-wrenching chapter is about all of the women she sees dealing with depression and anxiety because they want to have children, and have waited until their late 30's and early 40's to do so, in order to focus on their career, only to get to that time in their life and realize it is not as easy to do so as the media would have you believe (side note: I saw an article recently that said "Why women are better than ever at having babies in their 40's." and thinking that the only reason people share things like this is because they want to deceive themselves into thinking it is normal and easy to do so.)  Grossman shares the statistics on conception after 35, and chances drop significantly with each passing year, even with medical help.  And even if a woman can afford treatments like IVF (which can cost $20,000 or more), the emotional toll is very high.  One woman called it "a state of desperation like nothing else", and another said it was "the worst experience of my life".  It is not psychologically healthy for a woman to have to go through something like this, but politically correct campus health centers would never warn women about the risks of waiting until later in life to try to conceive.

Grossman also has chapters on why religion is actually good for you (from a psychological perspective), misinformation that has been spread about HIV/AIDS to make it seem like it is more common than it really is among non-drug using heterosexuals, the impact of STD's on a woman's ability to conceive and why people are required to be tested and treated for tuberculosis but not HIV/AIDS (and it boils down to political correctness).

After hearing all of this, you may be wondering how I found the book to be encouraging.  The encouraging part of the book to me was the fact that there is at least one professional in this field in America saying these things (with a good amount of research to back up her assertions as well, there are 40 pages of just citations at the end).

This book is an important read for parents, anyone who works with college students, anyone in the field of psychology and anyone who wonders whether political correctness is good for our nation.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Dear Foster Mama, Jesus will Bind up your Broken Heart

[In recent weeks, we have gotten news from three different foster families that we know that young children who have been with them for years will soon be leaving to go to their biological families.  This is a letter written to them, stemming from our similar experiences.]

Dear Foster Mama,

A few weeks ago, Esther came up to me out of the blue and announced."Mommy, did you know that if your heart is broken, God wraps it up in his love?" Her words were precious to me, as they were a great reminder of one of my favorite promises in the Bible.

"The Lord binds up the brokenness of his people and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow."  Isaiah 30:26

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me 
because the Lord has anointed me 
to bring good news to the poor, 
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, 
to proclaim liberty to the captives, 
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound." Isaiah 61:1 

First, let me say that I am encouraged by your willingness to put yourself out there for your heart to get broken.  So many people have said to me things like, "I could never be a foster parent, I would be too sad when the kids leave."  As if those of us who are foster parents are some kind of ogres who could care less about saying goodbye. No, mama, I know your heart.  What sets you apart is not your hard heart that is incapable of being broken, but willingness to trust God with your grief.

In the midst of your grief, preach to your heart, as the Psalmist did:

"Why are you cast down, O my soul. and why are you at turmoil within me? 
Hope in God, for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God." Psalm 42:11

When you are tempted to despair, preach to your soul to hope in God.  Remember Isaiah 30:26 (above) that your wounds are inflicted by God's blow (see also Lamentations 3:38) but that he is also the one who will bind them up.  God knew long ago, before you were even born, that he would lead you to be a foster mama and that he would cause the grief of you saying goodbye to your precious little ones.  He promises that he will do good things through your grief (Romans 8:28), so preach to your heart to trust him for the good results and pray regularly that he will bind up your broken heart.

We live in America, where the common belief is that life should be mostly good with short periods of hardship here and there.  The Bible paints a much different picture.  The Bible says that as believers, if we are living the way that the Bible commands, specifically if we, as sinful people, minister to others, who are also very sinful, that our life will be mostly difficult, but he promises periods of refreshment here and there until we reach our final Rest.  You are taking literally the Biblical command to care for orphans, and your heart is being broken.  Fight hard to trust God that he will:

"grant to those who mourn in Zion-
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit,
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified" Isaiah 61:3

God will give you beauty, gladness, the ability to praise him and a firmer foundation on him as a result of your mourning.  And even better, he will be glorified throughout it all.

And though the grief consumes your life at the moment, one day it will be almost nothing, in light of eternity.

"Therefore, having this ministry [of foster parenting!] by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart...

For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory that far surpasses them all, as we look not to things that are seen but things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are temporary, and the things that are unseen are eternal." 1 Corinthians 4:1,15-16

Another foster mama

[Click here to see a letter I wrote to Esther after one of her foster sisters left]

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

You have wearied the Lord with your words.

You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them." Or by asking "Where is the God of justice?"
Malachai 2:17

Passages like this remind me that there is no new sin under the sun.  This was written about 2500 years ago, but it feels like it could have been written yesterday.  

Malachi writes that the Lord is wearied by people saying things like, 
"Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them."  Doesn't this sound familiar?  Our society has come to tolerate, even embrace, every form of sin.  And many so called pastors have follow society into this sin (and maybe they have even led us into it) by claiming that God delights in so many who live in open rebellion to Him.

The second statement rings true as well.  It is not common these days to hear people say "Where was God when ___?"  Fill in the blank with "my dad was killed in a car accident", "the 9/11 attacks happened" or some other horrible tragedy.  People don't think that God is real (or if he is, that he is not just) because he allows bad things to happen, seemingly unpunished.  However, the Bible makes it clear that God is sovereign over all things, good AND bad, and that all evil will judged one day (though not always in our timing).

Be careful not to follow our society in making these kind of statements about God.  Words like these weary the Lord, and "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God"  (Heb. 10:31).

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Springtime in our Home

Springtime has seen our home grow more full, in more ways than one.

Most literally, our home is fuller by the addition of baby Zion Ezekiel, born in March.  For the first few weeks he started out as a fussy baby, but since then he has decided that the world is not such a bad place after all, and he is generally quite calm.  He started smiling a few weeks ago, and since then is a delight to tickle and coo over and play with.  He sleeps really well as long as he is in his bed.  In fact, he sleeps so well that for almost a week now he has slept solid 11-12 hour nights without waking!  I'm not saying this to brag, I'm saying this because I am shocked.  Hudson didn't start consistently sleeping all night until a few months ago.  I have heard other people saying they have two month olds sleep all night but I didn't know that could happen in like, you know, real life.  This is probably the most nights I have slept all night without being woken up since Hudson was born.  It's very good to sleep.

Alex calls him smiley Ziony.  It
kinda rhymes.  Kinda.

Our lives have also become more full with the reopening of the community garden.  Right now, I am going to the garden several days a week, working mostly on planting and weeding at this point.  I am hoping things calm down once summer comes, but of course there is always more to be done!  We have already harvested radishes, lettuce and basil (for this year's first batch of pesto- yum!  And it's not even summer yet!).

Our home (or at least our garage!) is more full right now as we got 32 chicks in the mail about a week ago.  Half are meat birds, and the other half will be layers.  We ordered enough chicks that our hatchery threw in a free rare breed chick.  Based on the look of the chick, something like this:

 We are guessing it is a white crested black polish chicken, which as an adult, should look something like this:

I was pretty much giddy when I saw this pic.  I can't wait to have a chicken walking around in our yard that looks like that!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Weak Mother

It was another one of those days.  Operating on entirely too little sleep, the morning was busy, the toddler was whiny, the baby was fussy and sleeping less than usual.  The to-do list was long, and seemingly nothing was getting accomplished.

When the kids all finally made it to nap time, I got to my baking.  As I stirred the cookie dough, my mind turned over with the usual questions.  Am I disciplining the kids too much?  Or too little?  Maybe they aren't sleeping enough.  Should I put them to bed sooner? Should I let the baby cry more?  Less? Am I spending enough time with the kids?  Am I making enough time to do school with our oldest?  Are they getting too much free play time or is all the play time a good thing? Am I cooking healthy enough or is it all too healthy?  Do they have too many vaccines or too few?  Do I spend too much time cleaning the house or too little?  Am I reaching out enough to people who don't know Jesus or do I need to focus on our kids more?  Am I talking to them about their sin enough?  Am I talking to them about my sin enough?  Am I sharing the gospel with them enough?  Am I showing enough grace?  Will they ever become Christians?

And on and on my thoughts rolled onto a thousand topics, never feeling settled about a single one.  My mind searched my knowledge of the Bible, looking for a verse or two to comfort me that I am doing the best I can, and that it is good enough for God.

But such a verse was not coming.

But God in his kindness, did point me to something in His word.  "My power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Maybe sometimes its good to be a strong mom.  But I find that in my weakness, I depend on God more.  I pray for wisdom on naptimes and bedtimes and meal plans and school plans.  I pray for help to repent of sin in front of my kids.  Most importantly, I pray for God to save them.

In reality, we are all weak moms, but only some of us realize it.  And seeing our weakness opens up room for God to give us His power.  And there is no other power on which I would rather depend.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Home birth and hospital birth: my (hopefully non-controversial) experiences with both

Back when I was pregnant with Esther, I did lots of reading on birth and birth styles.  The conclusion I came to was that the best choice for her and for me would be to have an unmedicated home birth.  However, our insurance situation at the time was such that only a hospital birth was covered, which for financial reasons was the route we decided to go.  Fortunately we had a good midwife, and though our hospital stay wasn't the best (though not terrible) it was short and manageable, and we were able to give birth unmedicated.

Fast forward to Hudson.  Same story with insurance, and a move led us to a new midwife and new hospital.  I really liked our new midwife and this new hospital was certified baby friendly, which made for a much better experience.  In fact, I would even say I enjoyed our hospital stay.

This time when I got pregnant, two things changed: we were now with Samaritan Ministries, which "shares" home birth at 100% (it's not considered insurance, so you can't say "covers" but pretty much the same idea), and my midwife was in the process of moving to a new city.  So this time around the hospital would cost more, and our midwife would not be able to attend.  Though I like my OB, I would prefer a midwife and I don't think there are any other hospital based midwives in our town (and the other upside to my previous midwife is that she was in the same office as my OB).

Long story short, after talking to a lot of people and weighing our options, we settled on a home birth.  It wasn't an easy decision like it would have been with a previous birth, this time I felt that there were some legitimate upsides to the hospital, but in the end I wanted to at least try a home birth so that I could know what it is like.

Right away, I was happy about our decision.  The two biggest reasons were that I really liked the midwife we chose and because having prenatal appointments at home made life so much easier.  I didn't have to find a sitter or even carve out that much time from my day.  The visits lasted about 45 minutes and I didn't have to drive anywhere or wait in a waiting room.  My midwife would even include the kids in on the exam as helpers which they enjoyed and provided them with a learning opportunity.  Another upside is that the whole appointment was face time with my midwife, which allowed for plenty of time for questions and conversation about life and pregnancy.  I would probably say that the prenatal visits were the biggest upside of the home birth experience for me.

When it came to the birth, the biggest upside was not having to make the transition to the hospital.  We now live 15 minutes from our hospital, which isn't the terrible one-hour drive we had with Esther but certainly not the very easy less than 5 minute drive we had with Hudson.  Even a five minute drive isn't fun because there is the decision of when exactly to leave, which for me is as close as possible to the birth without being too late.  In all honesty, the way things went this time I might have had the baby in the car.

Since it was a home birth, my midwife came when contractions were still relatively easy (which ended up being about 2 hours before the actual birth), as she knows my history of fast births.  This is different than hospital midwives who want to come after you are ready to push.  The problem with that for me is that by time I am ready to push, the baby is minutes from being born.  I was worried about feeling like a watched pot with her there, but she mostly laid low in a different room while I labored, only coming to check the baby's heart tones every half hour or so, meanwhile getting everything set up for the birth.  And in the end, Zion came fast enough that even her assistant didn't make it in time, so we all agreed that it was good that she came early when things were still easy.

I also really appreciated that right after the birth, I could crawl into bed, my bed.  And that first night, I didn't have to sleep across the room from my husband, knowing that he was getting a terrible night's sleep.  Instead we were all snuggled up in bed together.  I loved it.

There are some things that are more convenient in the hospital: a closer bathroom, a bed that sits up at the push of a button and the nice rolling table that sits your food, book or computer right in front of you while you lay in bed.  I also didn't love having to take mine and my baby's vitals by myself (my midwife did a check right after birth, at 24 hours and at 3 days, but in between those checks it was up to us).  They weren't necessarily difficult but its just more reassuring when someone else is doing them.

So what will we do in the future?  All things considered, home birth seems like the better option for us.  In a number of ways, it is easier, especially as our family grows, and especially given my history of relatively fast deliveries.  However, if there is ever a compelling reason to have a hospital birth, that will be a fine option for us as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Zion's birth story

I woke up at 6am on Friday March 18 with regular, mild contractions that were maybe 5 or 10 minutes apart.  I dozed off in between each but after about an hour I realized I was probably in labor and decided to get up and get my day started.  Things continued to progress and I lost my mucus plug, but then the kids woke up.  And when they got up my brain was like "Hey, I can't have this baby now, I have a life to live!"  We already had plans for free breakfast at Chick-fil-a and a morning full of errands.  With my mind on other things, my contractions slowed down significantly.  I called my midwife and updated her and she said it should be fine to run a few errands, as along as I didn't get "too far from the nest".  I didn't tell her that Chick-fil-a was a good 25 minute drive.

But we got through our morning without things progressing much.  We got home at lunch time, and soon after the kids were down for rest time/nap time.  I scurried around the house finishing last minute things to make the house feel in order and ready for the arrival of a baby (and a week with little cleaning).  I made an early dinner and by time that was done I was to the point of not being able to do much besides give in to labor.  My mom took the kids to a park and I got into the bathtub to relax (I have done this with each labor and it feels great!).  Towards the end of my two(!) hours in the tub my midwife arrived.  The kids came home and Alex put them in bed, and I felt like I could finally relax and just have the baby.  The contractions started getting stronger and I felt like I might be nearing transition, so I decided to get out.

I went downstairs and laid on the couch with Alex and tried to watch some March Madness with him as a diversion.  He texted my friend who was serving as doula to come, as contractions were strong enough that I was wanting some more support to get through them.  For the next 45 minutes or so I continued to lay there with the two of them helping me through each one, as they were getting progressively stronger.  I could feel that I was getting really close to transition so I decided to get up and go to the bathroom and then we would head up to the bedroom (where my midwife had been setting things up for the birth).  Standing up must have caused Zion to move down in a big way because I had a really intense, really long contraction.  It must have been audibly intense because Alex came to check on me.  After one more powerful contraction while I walked around the living room, they helped me to move upstairs.

We got up there just in time because I began to feel a really strong urge to push right when we got to the bedroom. Two pushes later my water broke, and then Zion was born one push later.

I was in a daze after he was born but I remember one of my first reactions was surprise at his light eyes and hair.  For some reason I had it in my head that all of our boys would have dark hair like Hudson and Alex, but Zion's appearance was very similar to Esther's at birth.  After a couple hours of cuddling and nursing, my midwife did his exam he was 7lb even (a half an ounce more than Esther at birth).

It has been a pretty laid back week since he was born and we are thankful.  We are in love with our new little Zion Ezekiel!