Sure as Hell?….

I ran across the phrase again today, I have uttered it so many times too, “Sure as Hell…” It struck me seeing the words in print…. why are we “Sure as Hell,” but not “sure as Heaven?” Are we so lost as a people, all we can be certain of is eternal separation from God, eternal loneliness, heart-break and a sense of loss? Are we so caught up in the negativity of the world around us that we can not see that there is more? I ask this because I am guilty too….

Too often I have given into anger and spoken rashly, harshly, when I should have been silent. Too many times I have not been able to enjoy the simple beauty around me, I can only see the war, the starvation and the grotesqueness around me mostly from my computer or TV screen. Seeing that phrase in a meme posted by a friend on Face Book… it caused me to pause… and struck me dumb.

What if instead we changed the phrase… What if instead of cursing we said, “Well, Sure as Heaven, the sun’s gonna come out tomorrow..” or “Sure as Heaven, I’m alive and breathing today…” It sounds so funny and strange to mouth those words.. but in the end, isn’t Heaven where we all want to end up anyway?

This Lenten season, I decided to forgo my usual sacrifices. Chocolate is too easy to give up because I know that after Easter, I can go back to what I did before… this year instead of the “I won’t…” I am trying to replace a bad habit with an “I will…” My worst habit is the tendency to focus on the negative.. I invite negativity into my life almost as naturally as breathing…I’m not talking about the “think positive” mumbo jumbo or the rose-colored glasses way of being positive, but more, of trusting God to manage the world, and only trying to carry my own cross. (shouldn’t that be enough, really?). Jesus didn’t say, “Take up your cross, and your sister’s cross, and the one of your President….” He just said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” I have to do my part, bear up under the challenges I am given and give the rest over to God… it’s hard for a control freak like me…but..”Sure as Heaven, I’ll get there one day!”

Have a Blessed Lent!

From my Heart to Yours,
The Hiland Rose

Reason, not Dogma…..

I was running errands in the fog this morning and ended up behind a minivan a lot like mine…. The largest outward difference though, was one lonely bumper sticker on the back. It declared in big red letters, “Reason….” followed by black and smaller ones, “not dogma”…. to which, in my head, after a wry chuckle heard by my three-year old in the back seat was, “Ok, so if reason fails, then what?”

When it comes to humanity and it’s troubles and challenges, the first reaction is always to seek a practical solution, something soundly based in psychology, technology or biology… a solution that we can control as it were… when that fails, then what? All the worldly knowledge and medical technique on earth can not explain the disordered desires of a sinful heart… nor can it explain the miraculous recoveries, healings and survivals of the worst accidents, illnesses and conditions….After a while Reason fails, it fails in the face of a very simple question. One uttered by the lips of every preschooler with such regularity, a parent finds themselves running rapidly out of answers… three simple letters, “why?”

Any mother or father of a precocious and curious child understands what that’s like, you get frustrated because you answer with every reasonable, logical and learned response, only to still find another “why?” on the heels of the last. “Why” is the black hole of logic. It absorbs every logical answer and yet remains empty. Reason and Logic, hard science and intellect can only travel so far before being swallowed in “why?” “How?”, now, that question is easy to answer. “How?” always has a process, the solution is reached by following a logical path. ie: How did the Earth form? How come the sun is yellow? How did you get here? These answers are easy you don’t have to think too much (what answer you give that curious child could result in some awkward moments later though… trust me on that one)… Reason serves and there is no need to go further. “Why?”, on the other hand isn’t about process as much as it is about purpose. Why we are here, living this life, going about our routines is another matter entirely. Why does the sun warm the earth? Why is there an Earth at all? Pure Reason breaks down after a bit, it acknowledges that it is finite and “Why” asks a bigger question.

A response to the question of why someone is alive answered with only Reason would look something like this… You are here because your parents made love and chose to keep you and raise you. But why? Well they love you. Why? Because there is this biological bonding hormone that makes them want to take care of their offspring to ensure the population of the earth continues. But why?, that sounds… boring, why are there humans in the first place? Reason can give answers to how humans allegedly evolved from lower life forms, but when asked why the process of evolution had to make humans instead of leaving us as apes….or turning us into flying things or sending us back to the ocean like some birds? well, you see, Reason can only dance around the edge of “why” but never really satisfy it.

Here enters Dogma, Faith and Hope. You see, Dogma is the teaching of truths understood through Faith. Why are you here? well, a loving God created you, you are his child and he longs for you to be with him. Your purpose is to be, to love God and your neighbor. Why, because if God is love, and he loves you, he also loves your neighbor, hence you should love your neighbor… (logical no?) Love of neighbor then means that all humans thrive and live better because they are content in the understanding that they are loved. The human body is carefully designed to this end in all of it’s processes. Because God loves you, he made this beautiful Earth for you to live on. Because we love God and respect our fellow humans, we take care of our Earth and use it for our enjoyment, and survival, while ensuring our offspring enjoy the same. The sun is warm and yellow because it is just the right size, and formulated with just the right gasses to sustain and encourage life on Earth which happens to be just the right distance from the sun for that to work. If you put God back in the picture, well “Why” things are the way they are is wonderful!

Love is your purpose. You exist because of love. Love is the answer to “Why?”. Faith helps us to trust that this is true…. Dogma. To have Reason without Dogma would mean that only half the questions would be answered, leaving a gaping hole in the intellectual mind around which is a burning frustration that leads to depression, fatalism or anger…. your call. I like my Reason with my Dogma, thank you very much.

Happiness Is A Choice

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W-O-W, it’s been a long time since any of us have written on the blog! I will take this moment to extend the apologies of our little group and say, “We’re apologize for this interruption. We will now return to your regularly scheduled blogging.”

Whew, I am glad we got that over with. ;)

So, how are the New Year’s resolutions holding up? Did you set a realistic goal? I sure hope so!

My New Year’s resolution is one that, I hope, will make me a better wife, a better mom, a better sister and friend, and a better daughter of God. My resolution, to be happy.

You see, I’ve recently discovered, through listening to a series of CD’s from my dear friends, that happiness is a choice that we make.

ImageHappiness is a choice?

Yes, yes it is. You see, we’re humans, not animals. We can make conscious decisions about our thoughts, behaviour, and attitudes. We are not animals, like, well, let’s say goats. We’re not goats. Buck goats have to be separated from the does. WHY? Because they, uhm, how to put this delicately… basically, they have no self-control. If it’s breeding time, the bucks are mindless noisy pen-escaping pains in the rear who can think of little else than getting at those scintillating females. I’m sure Shalimamma will back me up on this one. ;)

We’re not goats.

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So, by virtue of my non-goat status, I am making the decision to be “Happy, happy, happy” this year. I believe that this will bring peace to my soul and success to my family. Attitudes are infectious. If misery loves company, then happiness must be 10 times more powerful, especially if you believe it.

I choose to believe that I am happy. I choose to pursue my happiness.

My husband (although I love him dearly,) cannot make me happy. I have to choose to be happy.

My kids (oy) can’t make me happy. I have to choose to be happy.

My friends and  family won’t make me happy. I have to choose to be happy.

I’m posting this all over the place, here, my Facebook Page, my email, my kitchen, my car, my bathroom mirror. I will do this because I know that the world will be trying to force me to choose to be miserable, and I will need that constant reminder to help me focus as I strive to pursue happiness. I will fall (literally, sometimes, lol), and I will have to fight to maintain my happiness, but I am determined not to lose sight of my goal.’

2014, the Year of the Happy Non-Goat.

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Have a blessed New Year, and best wishes with your New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s some inspiration:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWp1VOFQxKg

Who does Porn hurt anyway?

A strong warning for those who have children near by and for those who are easily offended. You might want to switch over to something nice and Christmas related… I intend to be straight forward with the truth here, and the content of this article will be provocative, graphic and maybe even a little scandalous.

“He can look all he wants, as long as he doesn’t touch.” words from a crass female client of mine back when I used to work behind a salon chair. A lot of people feel this way about Porn. As long as it doesn’t affect them directly it’s free speech right? Uh no.

Porn is a multi billion dollar industry that embraces abortion, illegal drug use, prostitution, helps spread venereal disease, and encourages sexual abuse of women, and children. News flash it hurts families. It’s more than just looking at dirty pictures, or that stash of magazines Dad hides in a shoebox in his closet that every one knows is there and thinks is funny. Porn isn’t just consumed by perverts, stoners and bums who people think of, hanging around outside x rated book stores and gift shops. Porn addiction strikes ministers, decent family men and women, politicians, pastors kids, rich or poor, young boys and old men. It’s worse than Crack, and it’s so accessible.

What can staring at pictures of sex acts and naked women really do to harm someone? It’s not like the guy is sitting at a stripper bar stuffing dollar bills in the garter of a naked woman, right? It’s not like he’s actually out there sleeping with these women or carrying out a crime, right?

Ask Jessica Ridgeway’s family, her killer, a seventeen year old boy…baby faced and shocked at himself in a police interview….Ask countless divorcees who’s marriages fell apart because a partner just didn’t measure up any more. Ask the thousands of victims of sex trafficking, youth exploitation and victims of child sex abuse. You could even ask me.

There is a leap from just fantasizing, to carrying out the act to make a fantasy a reality. I have to ask though, where do the ideas come from? How does a kid like Austin Sigg get the idea that strangling and raping a woman would be exciting, something he obsessed about? So much so, that he tried to kidnap a grown woman first, and failing that, took a child he knew? That is an extreme example, one that is still raw. One of the details released after his trial was that he had a hard drive full of porn on his computer. Most people don’t go that far, by the grace of God.

Porn is evil and so readily available….Most people don’t even have to pay for erotica magazines or the “dirty” stations on HBO anymore. It shows up in your inbox via unsolicited erotic emails, it calls from image searches for entirely unrelated subjects, it shows up in You-tube video searches and in free internet game menus, searches for things that are innocent… all it takes is the click of a mouse or the wrong spelling of a key word to be enticed into a sordid world where the only limit is your imagination and ability to stomach it. You don’t have to go looking for it, it finds you.

Pornography creates a fantasy person, that isn’t thought of as a person, but a tool a product. A consumer of Porn shops around looking for his idealized image of what an exciting sexual experience could be, a new thrill to aid in achieving his euphoria. After a while it gets stuck in the consumer’s head and interferes with his ability to see a real spouse as desirable. Even someone who understands the beauty and joy of conjugal love sees an end to a means on the screen and the shame prevents true intimacy when the opportunity arises in marriage.

Porn consumption hurts the spouse of the consumer deeply, especially when the consumer isn’t apologetic, or worse blames his spouse, accusing her of being frigid or not measuring up in other areas. The consumer then justifies himself based on flawed logic, that he deserves better than what he has. (a stretch considering what porn depicts, suggesting it is somehow better…) He feels he’s not technically cheating on his wife because the woman is a fantasy.

The thing with Porn though, it’s just like Crack, or Meth, what ever, it alters the brain. Sex isn’t enough after a while. To get that same euphoria, things get worse visually, or just looking becomes a “What if?” situation. How far is it from “just looking”, to “let’s spice things up in the bed room!” to “I’m bored with you.”? Now, how far is it from looking at grown consenting women and men engaging in all forms of nasty, to viewing children and fantasizing about the same? How much of a leap is it to go from watching sexual play, to viewing snuff shows to get a fix? How far before you want to feel what it’s really like to dominate a partner and cause pain to the point of euphoria? How long before you think bondage or needle play isn’t enough and you want to experiment with strangulation to enhance orgasm? You see, once the line is crossed over, where do you fall off? This isn’t just a young people’s problem, grown men and women make light until it’s come between them… or worse.

From the perspective of the spouse, especially in a relationship where everything else is as it should be, it is a devastation. It doesn’t even have to go past the occasional looking at pictures on a screen for it to shatter the wife of a consumer. As a woman, she gives herself in everything she does, mind body and spirit, especially in the bedroom, only to have her husband not do the same. It is just as bad as if he had acted on that fantasy with another woman. In truth, I almost wish in my case that it had been full infidelity, then I could confront her, and see what the hell she has that I don’t….I can’t confront my husband’s other woman, she is made up of a monster behind a fair face….an evil, older than man that walks behind the flesh. She is a fantasy woven of thousands of images and suggestions that no real woman could ever live up to, or would want to…. I hate her.

I hate her because she is a lie. I hate her because she is tearing my husband to shreds, emasculating him, while he thinks it’s just a bad habit, a minor addiction, (if there is such a thing) like smoking, something he can control and only resorts to when he thinks he can blame me for our problems. I hate her because she is real to him, real enough that she interferes with our intimacy and shadows every act of love with a temptation to perversion. I hate her because she is not content with stealing one man, but insists on having all of them, a whore who’s goal is the corruption of every male mind on the planet and the subsequent annihilation of human kind. Her name has changed, but I know her from the Old Testament as Ashtoreth, her partner, Moloch.

Pornography and her twin sister, Suggestive Advertising, permeate every form of entertainment, every product or service is sold using her…. there is no escaping the gateway… What’s worse, is that it turns sex into a selling agent, a tool or something disgusting and perverted. It makes double standards about breast exposure and breast feeding in public, it makes women slaves and cages us because expressing our femininity isn’t enough, we have to look like something we are not just to make initial contact, teenaged girls are told to be sexy because beautiful isn’t enough to land a man….It turns the beauty of sexuality, of our human form into something shameful to gaze upon, my greatest and deepest heartbreak as an artist, a mother and a wife.

Man up America!!! Keep your pants zipped and hit the confessionals! Moms and especially Dads raise your daughters to love and respect themselves and others, raise your sons to do the same. Open up about porn to your sons, many start consuming at the age of 12. Porn stars or housewives, we are all women, and we all deserve to be respected as such. Our bodies should be temples, not tools. (Unless a woman is deranged, masturbating in front of her is not considered a form of worship at the temple of the body… yuck!) Sex isn’t a commodity people, neither are children. Marriage is sacred and sex is too.

Wives, stand up to your husbands, call him out if you know he’s consuming. Don’t pooh pooh it, and don’t accept that it is some how your fault. When confronted most of the time he’ll say it really isn’t your fault or anything you are doing or not doing. If you have issues with intimacy, work on it, your marriage is worth saving. Don’t debase yourself and start consuming with him or trying to emulate what you think attracts him to Porn. More often than not, it isn’t your sexual relationship that he will point to as failing. It hurts, but you know, you have to fight for what is worth keeping. I am, I will not lose my husband without a fight.

Men, if you have a problem, get help… it is an addiction, just like to alcohol and cigarettes or heroine…. get help. Hang out with like minded men who can support you in your intention to stay pure. Your wife will thank you, and you might be surprised how nice the real deal is without all the smut in the way. For those of you wives who read this and might want to nudge your man toward healing check out this site, http://www.nofap.org, my friend recommended it to me for my other half. It’s an online community available 24/7 where men struggling with this can safely interact and encourage one another.

Hang in there ladies…. I reiterate, anything worth keeping is worth fighting for. I for one know my man is worth it, and so am I.

From my heart to yours,
The Hiland Rose

Snowy Day = Blissful Mommy

How are you enjoying this bitter cold, the snow that’s suddenly decided to blow in, the crazy freezing wind and the accompanying wind chill?

I’m LOVING today, and yes, I’ve been out there in it. ;)

snowy day

This morning has been fabulous. It’s been peaceful and happy. It has been the kind of morning that makes me realize how blessed I am in my vocation as wife-and-mommy-extraordinaire.

So, even though my bumm has turned into permafrost after dropping the kids off at school this morning, I’m grateful for this cold. It’s made us slow down and relax, which is something that we often forget during the holiday season, especially during Advent as we prep for our upcoming festivities. It’s so important to slow down and focus on what is really important this Advent.

Here’s my recipe for today’s bliss:

I rocked out to Christmas carols and Sting and the Police on my way home from school drop off.

I came home and cuddled with my youngest daughter while she watched the original Smurfs cartoon.

I made homemade waffles and bacon for my spouse and daughter, followed by Quiche Lorraine for myself.

I didn’t do the dishes and I’m NOT sorry.

Why am I not sorry for not cleaning up after my breakfast mess? Because, when my hubby went to go pick up our middle daughter from Kindergarten, I sat down and played Cecilia’s version of Connect 4 and it was joyful.

connect 4

For 45 minutes we sat on the floor, racing each other to get the chips to the top of the Connect 4 game board.

Christmas carols were playing on my stereo and I had my Jimmy slippers on.

 

dog slippers

Seriously, it doesn’t get more blissful than this.

cc wins

I learned that Cecilia is an expert chip stacker. She’s going to be an excellent poker player, I can tell.

cc poker player

So, today, I’m taking the day off from stress and worry. I’m not worrying about Christmas gifts, or making my house spotless
(3 kids and 2 large dogs tracking snow in all day…clean house…hahahahaha…) or doing anything more useful than making lunch and dinner, then retrieving our oldest from school. Today is a day for enjoying my vocation as a wife and as a mother to 3 beautiful little girls. I am going to chill out with my family and enjoy my bliss. Is anyone going to join me in this most excellent activity?

After all, it’s the appropriate weather for chilling. ;)

content Jimmy

Forgiveness Friday… The begininng of an attempt to forgive myself.

I’ve said it before, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

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I’m not going to lie. I struggle with this.

I struggle to forgive humanity for being human.

I struggle to forgive my friends for misunderstandings that happen between us.

I struggle to forgive my parents for things they have done.

I struggle to forgive my siblings for their wrongdoings.

I struggle to forgive my kids for being kids and making mistakes.

I struggle to forgive my husband when he does something wrong.

I struggle to forgive God (seriously) when life doesn’t go the way I need it to, the way I have it planned.

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Most of all, though, I struggle to forgive myself and I have a LOT to forgive myself for.

I have to forgive myself for being a doormat to my parents for the first 15 years of my life.

I have to forgive myself for rebelling against the Broncos and maintaining allegiance to the Green Bay Packers, then rebelling by starting to wear lots of black (a heretofore parental unapproved color) after the Packers lost THE GAME. Brett Farve, you let me down, man.

I have to forgive myself for falling in with the wrong crowd at my job and letting them influence me (Mom, Dad- I’m still innocent of your perceptions and certain fictional journal entries. Love you, but get over falling for a lie in my journal.)

I have to forgive myself for losing my faith.

I have to forgive myself for wasting my last precious moments with my Pop-Pop and not speaking to him for the 2 years before his death.

I have to forgive myself for hurting my aunt and uncle and for being a burden to them when they were kind enough to open their homes and hearts to me when I desperately needed the love of family.

I have to forgive myself for a mostly wasted trip to the United Kingdom.

I have to forgive myself for hurting my Ma and Grumps over the gift of that trip and the time that they lavished on my ungrateful self.

I have to forgive myself for cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

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I have to forgive myself for dropping out of school (I still think my senior year was a complete waste of my academic time. Freshman classes for a super-smart senior? Yeah, no. (I’m not humble about my academics. Yet another thing to work on…)

I have to forgive myself for being raped, beaten, and living a very shameful life worrying more about my next party, my next drink, my next hit, than my body, my soul, and my general well-being..

I have to forgive myself for delivering my oldest daughter so early. For being in shock at her birth. For having to leave her at hospital, hooked up to tubes.

I have to forgive myself for having to go on Food Stamps and Medicaid, and making a withdrawal from my future Social Security deposits.

I have to forgive myself for losing our first apartment.

I have to forgive myself for spending such little time with my oldest as I worked 2-3 jobs to make ends meet once we got off state assistance.

I have to forgive myself for not meeting and falling in love with my husband sooner.

I have to forgive myself for a second unplanned, premarital pregnancy.

I have to forgive myself for marrying outside of my Church.

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I have to forgive myself for struggling with strong depression, anxiety, and soul-chilling fear through the last 2 pregnancies. (#1 doesn’t count since I didn’t know I was pregnant.)

I have to forgive myself for the meds that I had to take to make it through those pregnancies and the potential damage that the meds did to my daughters.

I have to forgive myself for losing my job.

I have to forgive myself for choosing to be a stay-at-home-mom.

I have to forgive myself for going back to school (it really does feel selfish, in spite of the benefits that I know it will bring to my family in the future).

I have to forgive myself for the time and effort that my school work takes, which takes time away from my family and other responsibilities (like cleaning and spending time with my friends).

I have to forgive myself for the days I’m too exhausted to take my children to Mass (ohhhhhh, I have to work on that one. YIKES.)

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I have to forgive myself for the nights that I don’t make dinner for my family, for the housecleaning pushed to the side (yeah, literally, especially on my desk and my dining room table), for the times where I promise to make my kids favorite granola bars but push it off because I don’t have time, for the books I forget to read to my kids, for the times I can’t stop to play Polly Pockets.

I have to forgive myself for my temper (especially when it comes to helping my teenager with her homework).

I have to forgive myself for not taking care of myself properly.

I have to forgive myself for being a struggling human being, who is slowly, but surely, learning how to be the best mother, the best wife, and the best child of God that I can be.

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Photo Credit: Scarymommy.com

Whew! That was a long-winded confession. A priest would tell me to get over myself, to forgive my past, get over my crappy relationship with my parents and let it be whatever it is, to get my marriage blessed by the Church (it’s complicated), and to get my tuchus to Mass every Sunday along with those of my children. He would say to stop and read books with my children more often, try sweeping the floor before I go to bed, and to stop stressing out so much about graduating summa cum laude (totally my goal but I guess wouldn’t magna cum laude isn’t soooo bad…sigh).

So what prompted this confession? Well, one, it’s Forgiveness Friday, here on this blog. Secondly, I watched this amazing video of a premature baby’s journey through his first year. He was 2 ounces bigger than my oldest, and went through many of the same things. The technology is slightly more advanced (ventilator tubing is no longer hard and too stiff to move with less than 2 nurses and a respiratory therapist on hand just so Mommy can hold her baby). However, the emotions, the fear, the sadness at leaving your child overnight (parents, in my experience, are not allowed to sleep overnight in the NICU), the fear of breaking your fragile baby, are all expressed in this film.The fear of the unknown, the disbelief that such a thing could happen to you, the terror of falling O2 sats and heart rates. The inexplicable joy of hearing their first cry, of giving them their first bottle (it’s really difficult to breastfeed micro-preemies), and the unbelievable disbelief, joy, and renewed terror when your NICU doctor tells you that your baby can go home, then gives you the GINORMOUS list of therapies and cautions for the further well-being of your precious miracle.

This video gives a beautiful peek at the preemie experience. I caution you to have a box of tissues nearby.

http://vimeo.com/benjaminscot/wardmiles1styear

I was 18 years old, a depressed and troubled teen, and my experience with motherhood, the NICU, and my beautiful baby, gave me the strength to struggle, the guilt of the last 32 years, and the wisdom to realize that I need to work on my life, continually, until my Final Judgement.

It’s Forgiveness Friday, folks. It’s freezing. My advice is to bake some chocolate chip cookies, watch this video, engage in some self-reflection, and cuddle with your kids.

I will be stressing out over my homework with some fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.

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Photo Credit: annies-eats.com

Overcoming the Fear of Life

IMG_5794Birth is a mysterious event…

It seems so oddly related to death, with the blends of emotions and sufferings and hopes and… fears.  At least for me.

We recently welcomed our 9th little blessing into the world.  Matthew Michael Augustine was born October 30th at precisely 10:00 p.m.  As with each pregnancy and birth, each one is different, even though I always think the pregnancies and births will be similar… Nope.  They are each as unique as the person being born (even if most of them look like my husband… what happened to my gene pool? ;) )

Matthew’s birth was no exception.  Well, unless you count the fact that the older I (and my uterus) get, and the more babies I have, my exhaustion remain…  But except for that little “norm” and the usual morning sickness and heartburn with each baby, Matthew’s birth was unlike any of my previous 8 birth experiences, which is why I feel compelled to share it with you.

At this point, I know what to expect.  I don’t even write a “birth plan” because I know the drill.  When contractions are 3 – 5 minutes apart, blahdy blahdy blah, get thee to the hospital.  Or call your midwife.  Whatever.  Then push the baby out.  Done.  Yeah.  (Right?)

I suppose there are a few things I should clarify here:  I have had two military hospital births, two home births, and five civilian hospital births, 4 of the babies being born posterior (backwards) (in other words, ouch).  I always “said no to drugs” with the first 4 babies (satirical chuckle).  By number 5, I started becoming deathly afraid of the labor pains… well, not so much the labor, but the whole pushing thing.  I have had lengthy arguments with God, reminding Him (and Eve) that I have taken Anatomy and Physiology, and that hole is NOT 10 centimeters wide.  So what the heck?  Each time I push out a baby, I feel as if I will surely die, or at least my body will rip in two.  I wondered if any of my friends had this same feeling (since women are typically rather silent on the whole “painful birth” issue.)  One friend I frantically emailed told me that labor wasn’t that bad for her, and she had home births.  I was actually devastated when she told me this… Why can’t I be a pioneer woman like her?  Am I a wimp?  And then there are ALL the friends who say things like “Oh, I get the epidural at 3 centimeters and my husband and I are telling jokes when the nurse comes in and tells me I have to push… hee hee hee!!”  So seeing as I wanted to irrationally smack women who told me things like that, I decided with my 5th, that’s it.  I’m gettin’ that epidural and I’ll have a painless labor like the rest of y’all!  So there.  Woo hoo!

No such luck.  Turns out my scoliosis is so bad that epidurals don’t take.  Or if they do, they numb my left leg or something.  But not any remote location in my body that has something to do with childbirth.  So I guess I’m one of those “lucky ones” that knows what’s coming, and there’s no getting out of it.  (Either way, Eve and I will be having a serious discussion one day.)

So, I figured that a particular phenomenon that happened with each of my first 8 births had to do with an incredible fear of pain.  Each and every time, when the baby was getting close to being born, I would cry.  It was uncontrollable.  It even turned into a signal that I told my doctors and nurses: “When I start to cry, that’s the signal to go get the doctor, because I’m getting close.”  And then, when the nurses would “go get the doctor”, I had been known to actually stop the pushing urge in absolute terror of what was about to happen… and friends, family, and medical staff would have to convince me to push out the baby.

But something different happened with Matthew.  My obstetrician (an amazing man of God), came into the labor and delivery room where I was in active labor, and my husband and parents were relaxing and waiting excitedly for the upcoming events.  Now, for those of you who, like me, have been blessed to have a midwife at your birth, one of the most amazing aspects is that she typically joins the mother for labor and stays with her throughout the entire birth process, and even afterwards.  I loved that.  But with typical OB’s, they seemed to show up for 30 seconds, catch the baby, give the baby to the nurse, and they were outta there before you could find out their name.  Not so with Matthew.  My doctor did something different…

He sat on the far edge of my bed, and asked if we would like to hear about his recent mission trip to Haiti.  He was coming in the room, not to just “find out how many centimeters I was so that he could dash off again”, but he was coming to stay until it was time…  I had never seen or experienced anything like this before in a hospital with an OB.  We all said yes, of course… and in dim light, before me and my closest family members, he told of his recent experience (as in a few days before) as a doctor visiting a third world country with his family… He verbally painted images of thousands of people just waiting around in the street hoping they would have dinner, people without proper medical care, youth hungering to know about Jesus who had never heard of Him before, his own children ministering to other youth, cardboard houses and poverty we cannot imagine, lack of running water….  My labor increased with each story, as I focused intensely on his voice and on the images… His voice blended with quiet “oohs and ahs” from my family, and the sounds of transition labor I was making as I gripped the bed rail….  I felt holiness in that room, and my doctor stayed and waited with us, until my time suddenly and dramatically came to push.

I was shocked that it was time, because I had been waiting for the “urge to cry” that I had always had.  But it never came.  And it was then that I realized… I hadn’t been afraid of the pain.  I had been afraid, terrified, to bring life into the world, right at that last moment.  I had been afraid of the power that is given to a woman’s body to push out new life.  I had been afraid of the responsibility suddenly upon me… I had been afraid of new love, and new life, and the feeling I had that I could die…  And the crying I thought was a surge of funky hormones had not been hormones after all.  It had been raw fear.

But this time, this time, I sat up in the bed, and all that was going on in my mind was “Bring it.  I am ready.  Let’s go.”  And with all my might, I WANTED this baby.  I wanted to push him out.  I wanted to meet him.  And I was not afraid.  I almost welcomed the unexplainably painful “ring of fire” as the baby’s head crowned.  I worked with my surge of energy…

And after he was born, I cried… a cry of pure joy and victory, completely different from a cry of fear.  With my ninth child, I had accomplished something new, when I thought there was nothing new to experience at this point.  I had conquered fear, finally.

And I will say, this was not MY doing.  I truly believe it was pure grace.  That GOD Himself entered that room and worked through the doctor and the nurses and my family, and let me know, right at the moment of most intense labor, that there is real REAL suffering in the world.  Real and raw.  And that what I was going through was an incredible blessing and incredible wealth.  I was so grateful at my moment of birthing Matthew, that there was no place for fear.

And really, there never is a place for fear.

Thank you to all our beloved friends and family who prayed for us during the difficult month of October…  We felt your prayers, and we are grateful and blessed beyond belief!

And so, I introduce to you, the newest member of our family: Matthew Michael Augustine, born at 10:00 p.m. on October 30th at 7 pounds 7 ounces, 20 inches long, and lovingly welcomed by his 8 siblings and smitten parents.  Please enjoy the following slideshow of Matthew’s birth story in pictures!

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Love and blessings,

shalimamma