Monday, October 31, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Finding Encouragement in His Word

Is it still Monday? Does this still count as a Monday discussion? What year is it?

Yowza. Between deadlines and illnesses and vacation recovery, time has been sprinting away from us these days.

We really do have intentions of returning very, very soon to our series on infant feeding. (Truly!) Today, however, we have no carefully-crafted words or deep thoughts to share. Megan has strep throat, and I am currently inflicted with the inability to form coherent sentences outside some intense work on the two book chapters in separate files open on my computer screen. (That last sentence is a perfect example of the non-coherent thing. Don't try to make sense of it...just move on and toss up a quick prayer for my mental state.)

Anyway, rather than give you a thoughtful post today, we would like to just shamelessly ask you for more input! (Charming, right? Please forgive us.)

One of the chapters in process right now is a devotional section of scripture and prayer points to encourage new mothers in those weary, bleary-eyed days and months with a new baby. If you have particular scriptures that have been inspiring, comforting, or otherwise meaningful to you as you have walked the road of parenting, would you be so kind as to share them with us in the comments? We each have a few that are dear to our hearts, but God's Word is so beautifully vast that we know there are likely many more perfect examples that would be perfect for this chapter!

Thank you so much for continuing to share your hearts and wisdom with us! I was plugging some of your stories into another chapter this afternoon and just marveling once again at the privilege it is to have such incredible input to share with the future readers of Spirit-Led Parenting. God has blessed Megan and me so much with all of you!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekend Links - 10/29/11

I'm going to call this the "Just posting some random YouTube stuff since I'm a little overwhelmed by this manuscript." edition.


This is completely adorable.



I love Will Ferrell.



Mark and I are big Coldplay fans. We purchased Mylo Xyloto on the morning it released earlier this week, on our way through Tulsa. And watched some of this Today Show concert at a hotel in Rolla, Missouri last week.



Megan and her girls introduced us to the Kid History videos while we were visiting last weekend. This one is my personal favorite, I believe!



Back to writing! Have a great weekend!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : A long overdue meeting!

We're taking a break this week from our Spirit-Led Parenting post series on feeding, because Megan and I have spent this weekend doing some intensive work on the book.

And the most exciting part?

We've been IN THE SAME PLACE for the very first time ever! Our family road-tripped to Oklahoma for Fall Break, and it was a truly wonderful visit.

More on the trip later, and another post on feeding to come next week!


Laura and Megan


The kids (new great friends)! Noah, Aliza, Dacey, & Maya.


A very happy Monday to you all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Honoring Your Stories

Today, Megan shares about one of the many things God is doing in us as we seek to serve Him through this book project. I echo her thoughts with a wholehearted "Amen".
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God's timing is always perfect, even (and especially) when it seems He has let something drag on far longer than you ever imagined.

I can say with 100% sincerity that I am thankful that He didn't allow us to move forward with this book project when we first began writing it. A very well-respected and wise literary agent told us that we needed to wait, that we should look several years down the road before we were ready to publish. That was exactly not what I wanted to hear at the time, but it is exactly what I needed to hear. She may have been thinking about time in terms of building the platform from which we would launch our message, but God knew time was needed to smooth over some areas in my mind that were prone to preaching instead of open to listening.

He gave us the gift of several years to listen.

As we have listened, it has become more and more obvious that when it comes to feeding our babies, there are many conversations happening and that all of the voices contributing to these conversations are important. As we have shared our stories with you, you have responded with such honesty. Whereas I once envisioned a message that would hold almost exclusively to the idea of persevering in breastfeeding, the stories you have entrusted to us have changed the shape of what we want parents to know about seeking God's direction in this area of parenting. Your honesty about your pain and hurt and disappointment and shame have caused us to know that we aren't alone in our search for redemption.

We wanted to honor some of these stories you have shared with us through these conversations. It is our hope that in giving voice to your stories, all of us will be reminded that rarely is this easy for anyone.

As I read through the comments left at SortaCrunchy and here in our series on feeding, I'm reminded that this topic is never as simple as it seems:

Emily: I, too, was determined to breastfeed, but try as I might, my milk never came in. Just a few ounces, but no let down. Ever. Turned out that I had a retained piece of placenta, which prevented the let down. I cried buckets and was so heartbroken until I decided to let it go at 3 weeks (I'd had to supplement from about day 5 since my son had lost a pound!) Although I'm sad about not breastfeeding, I'm more sad about the fact that I spent the first few weeks of my little guy's life being incredibly depressed instead of soaking up every second.

Katy: Thank you so much for this. I can't tell you how many well-meaning people encouraged me to just "try offering him your breast" when my child had a severely damaged heart and just couldn't maintain the stamina to breast feed. I WAS pumping, but it's hard to maintain supply with no actual baby. Worst of all, all those well-meaning comments made me really me hate to even discuss the topic, so much so that I've forbidden any and all conversation about the topic as we plan for our next child.

Beth: If I were living in my ideal world, I'd also like to see the assumption that not breastfeeding is a choice go away. For me, it wasn't a choice. I started bleeding internally after delivering my daughter. It wasn't caught until significant damage had been done. I underwent emergency surgery and spent almost 24 hours on a ventilator while they tried to keep my lungs going until my body recovered enough to breathe on its own. I didn't see my precious daughter much during that time, though the maternity nurses were hugely accommodating and brought her over to me as much as they could. By the point I was released from the hospital, my daughter had been on formula for a week; I was on blood thinners to prevent a stroke; and, they (3 intensivists, my OB, the lactation consultant, & Katie's pediatrician, the biggest breastfeeding advocate I know) felt the risks to her, and to me, were too huge to allow for breastfeeding.

I didn't have a choice. It wasn't a decision. I am wounded when people say I don't love my daughter because I didn't breast feed her, or that I don't respect her because I didn't. Or that I abused her because of it. Or, my favorite, she wouldn't have developed her own health problems if I breastfed. It honestly kills me.

Courtney: I am currently breastfeeding baby #3 and again, having a LOT of trouble with supply. I have so much guilt about it, but have tried pretty much everything. My midwife says I have worked harder than any of her clients in the 7 years that she's been a midwife. BUT, I still feel guilty. And, it's because of people that judge women without knowing their situation. I try to ignore the stares and opinions, but it's difficult. I want to do what is best for my baby!

What's hard for me is that I have an ideal situation for breastfeeding. I had a homebirth, skin to skin immediately, delayed cord clamping, over an hour to feed before they weighed, etc. But, even with an ideal situation, breastfeeding is very difficult for me and causes much anxiety. In the past, I quit after about 2 months of trying because it caused me so much anxiety. This time I will breastfeed even if it's just a little bit. I plan to continue as long as I can. But, I can't judge others who try real hard and still struggle and decide to stop.

Every person needs to do what is best for them and their family. Yes, breastfeeding is best, but a non-anxious mama is more important in my opinion.

Linn: There was no thought in my mind that I would use the bottle. But as we know, babies and our bodies don't always cooperate. My first son latched on and we did everything right, but try as we might, there was no milk. When we had to take him to the ER at four days old, we knew it was time to consider what God wanted...my son to be alive! Lactation consultants, strange contraptions to increase milk supply, medications shipped from New Zealand, tinctures and teas multiple times daily, and pumping with an industrial pump all produced almost nothing. While my son needed several ounces a feeding (or even 1-1.5 ounces if I wanted to feed every hour!) I could only get enough milk expressed to not quite cover the bottom of a bottle. We kept at all this for two months, knowing that he needed all the breastmilk we could give, but it never increased. It was the most heartbreaking part of my parenting: knowing that I could not provide what my son so desperately needed. I became thankful for formula and the chance it gave my son at life. I became protective of my bottle feeding and felt attacked every time I got what I assumed was a judgmental look from breastfeeders. I was sad (and still am, seven years later) every time I saw someone able to breastfeed.

With my second son, I anticipated the problems and began the medication as soon as I got home from the hospital. But it was much tougher to continue with the breastfeeding regimen of breast, pumping, bottle feeding, cleaning up the contraptions, and taking the meds when I had a barely two year old running around. When my second was one month old, the routine was wearing on me, and the medication had begun giving me severe headaches. With much prayer, I stopped breastfeeding for the peace of my family. And God knew best...I was able to enjoy those early months with my second son, while I agonized and missed out on my first son's infancy as I fought against the body God gave me.

thewilkinsiv: When I was pregnant with my first, breastfeeding was never a question. I knew I would do it. It's best for baby and I was made to do it. And then my milk never "came in," and my daughter was losing instead of gaining. We we started supplementing with formula and I started taking every supplement I could find and pumped after every nursing session to try to increase my supply. And it never got a whole lot better. I remember being in church in the early days and wanting to hide when mixing a formula bottle because I was afraid people would judge me and think I wasn't doing the best thing for my baby. Which is exactly how I felt! I had so much mommy guilt that I wasn't able to give my baby what she needed because my body was broken. Everyone says it's the most natural thing, but for me it wasn't. And I had no idea why. I nursed and pumped for 8 months and then went to formula.

Missy: Nightmare. I had a list of "what good mothers absolutely must do" in my brain and heart and breastfeeding was #1 on the list. It never worked. After 8 weeks of waking up every two hours to pump and then feed him, a borderline failure-to-thrive baby, taking all kinds of herbs, several LC visits, many tears, and a good dose of postpartum depression, my husband finally had the courage to say, "You have made breastfeeding an idol. It is robbing your joy of this baby. I really think you should stop."

God immediately sent me several women who assured me that yes, my good-mother-hood was not reliant on having behaving boobies. My scrawny baby went on formula and all was well with the world. Weaning brought fertility - and his sister was born 10 days after his first birthday.

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This is just a small, small sampling of the stories we have heard through the years. Oh yes, I am so thankful for the time we were given to make space in this conversation for everyone.

I am becoming more and more convinced by the day that relationships trump systems and coming alongside people is more important than clinging to principles. If Laura and I are going to write with integrity about following God's direction in all areas of parenting baby through that first year, we must be devoted to honoring the stories on both sides of this conversation. If we truly believe that God's plans and purposes for each family are wonderfully complex and unique, then our message must be well-rounded, respectful, and authentic.

We realize not everyone agrees with us here, and we are learning to be okay with that. Thank you for sharing your hearts and stories with us. In a very real way, your influence is growing our message in ways we could not have imagined when we first began this project years ago.

Is there an area of parenting where you have changed your mind on a topic after really listening to the story of someone else? Feel free to share your experiences in this with us today.

photo by: umjanedoan

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grateful

You guys.

On Monday, I hit "Publish" on this post with a few butterflies in my stomach. I've shared about my difficult breastfeeding experience before, but it's never easy to put a personal struggle on display. Are you really in this, Lord? I trust that they'll be kind. But will anyone relate?

I'm sure God has chucked in affectionate amusement at those questions during the past two days as your stories have rolled in. To say that I've been touched and overwhelmed would be an understatement. You have shared your hearts and your pain and your joy and your wisdom, all wrapped in raw honesty and strength found in Him alone.

Six years - almost seven - removed now from those first days of motherhood, I have long since come to terms with our feeding woes and found solace in God's remarkable redemption. And yet, He surprised me this week with yet another precious layer of healing in my heart through your journeys and your willingness to offer them here.

And words like these...


"Wow. This is so...validating. In my circle, I've met very few women who went through what I did. But here you all are! "


There is perhaps no greater inspiration for Megan and I as we find ourselves in the middle of our heaviest writing phase for this book. When the Lord first put this message on our hearts, He gave us a deep desire to speak to mothers who have struggled to fit into the mainstream boxes; to give them a voice, offer the freedom to follow the Spirit's leading, and create a community of support and encouragement. If He will use us - because believe me, it will have to be ALL HIM - to accomplish any of those purposes in even the smallest of ways, it will be more than we could ever have hoped.

Thank you so much for ministering to Megan and to me so deeply with your participation in these discussion posts so far. You have no idea how much it means to us. As Megan said in her post yesterday at SortaCrunchy (and if you haven't read it yet...you need to), "It is no small thing to trust that much."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Early Breastfeeding Challenges


I never expected to be anything even remotely close to a breastfeeding enthusiast. I planned to try it out, read a few things and took the recommended classes. Along the way, I tucked away one piece of advice that had jumped out at me more than any other at the breastfeeding class. Try to make it six weeks. It can be really hard to get started. But just give it six weeks... Of course, I had no idea at that point exactly how hard it could really be. I would quickly find out that nursing a baby, although one of the most natural aspects of motherhood, can also be one of the most frustrating.

Reality hit almost immediately after Maya’s birth, as I struggled through the first night of parenthood, unable to figure out why I couldn't seem to feed my baby. Over and over I tried to help her find a good latch, while she would pull away, crying. I cried too. In the morning, a lactation consultant sat with us for quite some time, watching Maya's mouth and trying out some new holds and strategies with us to combat the latch issue. Finally, she suggested that I wear a contact breast shield for a few days, until Maya was accustomed to the positioning necessary for nursing. The plan was that I would wean her off of the shield within approximately one week. That didn't happen.

Once at home, I still battled through feedings. The shield made my letdown slower, which resulted in Maya becoming so upset as she tried to begin a meal that she would cry hysterically, making the process all the more difficult. When we could get her latched, she often took forty-five minutes or more to finish a feeding, meaning that I would sometimes end one nursing session and begin another one an hour and a half later, attempting to squeeze a bit of sleep in between. Please, Lord. Help me make it through this. I tried – even begged - to quit several times, while my husband sat beside me, patiently reminding me of my six-week goal. "It's just a few more weeks. Then we can see how you feel. You can do this!" As much as I wanted him, or someone, to just let me off the hook, it didn't happen that way. Looking back, I'm tremendously thankful for that.

Something happened over those next few weeks. We sort of hit a groove. I remember the first night that I didn't feel it was necessary to wake Mark up to help me with a feeding. Maya no longer cried during mealtimes. And while she still ate quite often, her feedings grew somewhat shorter in length, giving me longer stretches of sleep. I felt as though I were getting my feet back under me. By the time the six-week mark rolled around, I was ready to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.

As time went on, breastfeeding became a familiar experience - something I could never have imagined in those first weeks. And a new day dawned when Maya turned six months old. Starting on solid foods and reaching new developmental milestones helped her to naturally transition to less frequent nursing sessions and other ways of soothing herself. And remember that breast shield? The one that we planned to ease Maya off of within a week? Well finally, at six months old, she was able to do without it. It was smooth sailing now, and there was no question in my mind that I'd nurse her through her whole first year.

So, what does breastfeeding have to do with a Spirit-led parenthood philosophy? Well, in itself, not much. I've become an unlikely advocate of breastfeeding. But what I want to get across with my story isn't as much an endorsement of breastfeeding as it is another example of the value that comes from heeding the Lord's wisdom and your own God-given instincts over one-size-fits-all advice when it comes to parenting your child, no matter which feeding choice you are led to make along the way. At first, I could not for the life of me understand why I had been led to breastfeed when it was such a rough road. My baby's eating habits fit no "typical" description or pattern. But looking back, I can see that when I allowed myself to accept the individual needs that Maya carried into this world, to release my predisposed expectations of what my breastfeeding experience should be, and to respond to her cues and to the unique challenges we faced together, I was blessed with some of the clearest revelations I've received from God thus far about Himself and about parenthood. Here's the thing...the important aspect of my story wasn't the way in which I chose to nourish my child. It was the way He guided me to a greater understanding of dependence upon Him, of surrendering my desires and plans, and of what it means to simply trust. For me, breastfeeding was the path this part of my spiritual journey took. This past week I wrote out this part of my parenting journey for the book, and I found myself overwhelmed with emotion at what God did in my life as He used my challenges in feeding my baby to weave a beautiful story of redemption and growth in Him.

So what am I trying to say here? A few things. First, that I know and sympathize in a very real way with the struggles that can come with breastfeeding, and that my story is a testimony to the difference that help from professionals, support from loved ones, and perseverance (sometimes through tears and gritted teeth) can often make in overcoming those difficult times. Secondly, that I relate very deeply with the pain of those mamas who desperately wanted to breastfeed and could not. Your stories have touched Megan and I so much that we are focusing a section of the feeding chapter in our book on that subject, covering you over with words of encouragement and peace. And thirdly, I echo once again the central theme that Megan and I want to hold above everything else as we write these posts and work on our book...in all things, let the Holy Spirit be your guide.

To those struggling with the initial breast vs. bottle decision, the Counselor can bring wisdom. To those stuck at a difficult juncture, He can bring clarity and encouragement. To those mourning a breastfeeding journey that did not end as hoped, He can bring comfort and strength.

May we surrender ourselves to trust and follow – no matter where He leads.



Did breastfeeding come easily for you, or did you face obstacles as well? What got you through the hard times, and what would be your best advice for a mama who is deep in the trenches of a rough breastfeeding journey?

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Also - don't forget that your submissions of stories for possible use in our book are due TODAY! Details here and here. Thank you so much!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spirit-Led Parenting : Opening Thoughts on Feeding Choices

Megan is sharing her heart here again today, with some excellent thoughts to kick off our series on infant feeding.

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Today we are beginning a series on feeding baby - one of the most primary concerns for parents of brand new little ones. We began this discussion over two years ago in this post at SortaCrunchy, and certainly many conversations on feeding have taken place on my blog. But as we work through the material for Spirit-Led Parenting, we are narrowing our focus to looking at what these choices look like and how they develop organically in the life of Spirit-led believers.

Readers of SortaCrunchy know that I am a breastfeeding advocate. The motivation for my advocacy stems from a desire for any woman who wants to pursue breastfeeding to have all of the resources, information, and support she needs to be able to do so. It is no small thing, then, for me to set aside my advocacy hat for a minute so that we can discuss this topic with an emphasis on unity amongst other Christ followers.

Obviously. the first major decision we will make for our babies is the choice between breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of the two. There are many, many voices speaking to women today on this topic. I think that somewhere in the cacophony of voices preaching, teaching, advocating, deliberating, analyzing, and proselytizing the breast versus bottle question, we as Christian women may neglect to listen hard after the one Voice who is able to speak absolute truth to our lives, our families, and our circumstances.

A foundation of the Christian faith is the premise that at the moment of belief in Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, speaking to us the voice and words of our Father God. As believers, we know we can call upon and rely on the prompting of the Spirit within us in each decision we are called to make. I don't know about you, but I find that I tend to compartmentalize the topics in which I feel God would be interested in providing direction: Ministry opportunity? Yes. Marriage partner? You bet. A move to a new community or a new church? Certainly. Homeschool, private school, or public school my children? Absolutely.

Breast feed or bottle feed my baby? Well, see, my pediatrician says . . . but this parenting magazine says . . . and my best friend told me . . . and my grandmother's advice was . . . and the La Leche League leader said . . .

Friends, this should not be!

Here's what God reminded me of this morning in studying His Word - we need to seek His truth for our family, for each individual child, before we listen and give heed to any other voice in this matter.

In John 16: 13, Jesus spoke, "But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth." All truth. The Truth that surpasses any wisdom of man - the Truth that speaks to every situation. Later, the Apostle John would write to the new church, "As for you, the anointing (referring to the anointing of the Spirit) you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit - just as it has taught you, remain in Him" (1 John 2:27, NIV, emphasis mine).

In context, of course, John was writing to the new believers to remind them that they need not make themselves susceptible to erroneous teachings because they thought themselves to be uneducated in God's truth. John is reminding them that the Spirit dwelling within them was enough to educate and enlighten them of the truth of God and His Word. But I don't think it's a stretch - do you? - to say that God's wisdom is enough to speak and teach us truth in any and every circumstance in our lives . . . including the decision of how we, as mothers, choose to feed the little ones He entrusts to us.

I feel strongly that the very first thing Laura and I need to speak about feeding is to make all aspects of this part of parenting a matter of prayer.

If you have children, did you pray over what choice to make in the area of feeding the new baby? I confess to you today that I did not. I made my choice mostly out of fear - fear that we would be unable to afford formula so I felt I just had to make breastfeeding work. That approach certainly colored many of my first experiences in breastfeeding. I have to wonder how different those earliest days and weeks would have looked had I approached the whole matter prayerfully.

Today, we would love to hear from you. Have you even considered approaching this choice prayerfully? How did that play out in your lives? We are eager to hear what experiences and reflections you can share from your life as we thoughtfully consider how to encourage parents to be Spirit-led in this (highly controversial, emotionally-charged) matter.

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And just as a reminder, we would love to have your stories and contributions collected by October 10th - one week from today! See this post and also this one for subjects and submission instructions!