What I’d Like For You To Know: Home Birth

Whatidlike Welcome to a long overdue edition of <a What I'd Like For You To Know. If you're new here, the idea behind this series is to ask women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.

When Kate of Now There Are Three offered to explain some misconceptions about home birth, I was eager to hear what she had to say.  Though I know and respect many people who have made this birthing choice, I've always been a hospital birther myself, due partly to my tendency to deliver a little too early and partly to (let's just be honest) my deep love for the people with the pain medicine.  I know you'll enjoy reading Kate's reasoned and gentle perspective…

The What I’d Like For You To Know series has made me keenly aware of one area of my life that is often misunderstood and sparks heated defensiveness in women.  Home birth.  I have had two home births and in July I will have my third.  Here’s what I’d like for you to know about why I have chosen to give birth at home.

When my husband and I made the decision to have a home birth my family was a little nervous. My grandma was beside herself. She would ask, "Why would you want to do that without pain medication? What if something happens? Why would you want to deal with all that clean-up and the 'icky' stuff?  Hospitals and doctors are there for a reason, USE THEM!"

No matter what I said, there was no way I was going to change her mind. It taught me one thing:  There was a good chance that I wasn't going to change most people’s mind, especially my grandmother’s, and I had to be okay with our decision despite what others thought.

Here are the most common questions and comments I receive about homebirth:

Why did you choose a home birth?

It started with a friend asking me to go to her first appointment with a lay midwife.  She brought with her a list of questions ranging from newborn care to safety precautions. As I listened, my mind started to open to the possibility of birth looking different from the mainstream.

Nine months later, she had her little girl at home. Just hours after having the baby, my husband and I went for a visit. It was so peaceful, relaxing, and quiet. I was so impressed with how calm it all was. Family was there, mom and baby were resting in the bedroom and dinner was in the oven. I decided in that moment that a home birth was the best fit for our family.

Another reason was the epidural needle.  I once saw how it was done on a morning show and almost passed out. I know from many women that it is heavenly and I'm fairly certain that it is, but there is no way that gigantic needle is coming within 10 feet of my back.

I wanted to feel childbirth, pain and all. It is not beautiful and I had no expectation that it would.  But I did want that connection.  This is not to say that the connection I had with my babies was any more powerful than women who have conventional, mainstream births in a hospital.  It simply means that I wanted to experience childbirth in its wholeness.  And home birth provided a means for me to do that.

Aren't you afraid something will go wrong?

I am well aware of the risk I'm taking. Fortunately, I have had two low-risk pregnancies and births. Professional midwives will only take low-risk births and track the health of pregnancy just the same as a doctor would. I have the same access to testing and am given standard preventative care should problems arise.

A good midwife is trained to respond well in emergencies. Most are equipped with life saving devices and a “transport” plan to help deal with emergencies safely and effectively. A good midwife has about a 5-10% transport rate and any higher should be called into question. In addition, my midwife is incredibly cautious. If there is a bad feeling or you insist on going to the hospital, she is supportive and responsive.

Who cleans up? Isn't it messy?

This is always a fun one.  People always seemed incredibly grossed out by not having the “sterile” environment of the hospital.  I assure you, it still is sterile.  I do not clean up after my own birth. The midwives do this. I had a plastic sheet, spare sheets, and surgical pads down on our bed. The mess was easy to contain and quickly cleaned up before I even had a chance to notice. 

Don't you want nurses to take care of you?

Thankfully, I have a mom. She doesn’t do blood pressure checks at 2 a.m. but she makes sure everyone is well-fed, my house is clean, and my babies are loved.  My midwife stays with me for several hours after the birth or until I have successfully passed a post birth checklist.  She will then come to my home at 24, 48, and 72 hours after the birth and four more times over the next six weeks to do routine newborn and post-partum care. 

What do you love about it the most?

I love being able to walk around during labor. I love that my midwives come to my home and stay for the entire birth. And while they are there, they interact with my family and celebrate with me. 

I love the intense rush of adrenaline you get just after you push the baby out. One moment you are in the most intense pain and the next you are experiencing the greatest sense of relief you've ever felt in your life. Then you look down to find this little purplish, blue creature lying on your tummy and you’re done!

I love that my husband is able to be comfortable in his own home. He doesn't deal well with me being in pain. So I labor with women who know exactly what I'm going through and can offer support. He is able to flow in and out of the room based on his comfort level and he knows I am still well taken care of.  Then at the last minute I can call him in to witness the birth of our baby.  I love that my midwife knows this about him and doesn't put any extra expectations on him. 

Some women become defensive when they find out I've given birth at home. I find that it somehow makes them uncomfortable. I always hear, "I want the drugs. I could never do it without them". I think any woman can, but if you don't want to, that's perfectly fine.  Again, I’m so thankful we all get to choose where and how we want to give birth.

Speaking for myself and possibly for most home birth moms, we do not in ANY way think we are superior for giving birth at home or giving birth without drugs.  It does not mean our birth was more beautiful or more whole.  I know there are women out there that sometimes give off that vibe, and for any feelings they give you of being inferior, I am sorry. I can tell you for the majority of us, we are just glad we have the choice to give birth the way that we want.

To read more of Kate's posts, visit her blog Now There Are Three.

What I’d Like For You To Know: Alzheimer’s

Whatidlike Welcome to another edition of What I'd Like For You To Know.  If you're new here, the idea behind this series is to ask women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.

Today's guest poster is Carol of She Lives, one of the first blog friends I ever met in real life.  Carol has–not once, but twice–walked with a parent through the extraordinary difficulty of Alzheimer's disease, and I asked her if she'd share with us some of what she has learned.

January 21st marked the fifth anniversary of my father’s death.  He had just turned 65.  His was the rare type of Alzheimer’s, the hereditary type, found in less than five percent of cases, marked by early onset, directly traceable from child to parent to grandparent to great-grand. 

For the other 95%, Alzheimer’s strikes randomly.

A lot of people mistakenly think of Alzheimer’s as “loss of memory” and leave it at that.  Unfortunately, the disease progresses beyond the memory.   The victim regresses verbally, mentally and physically to the state of an infant.  Eventually, complications end their life. That’s the sugar-coated picture.  Each person’s journey through the disease process is different, usually taking years to reach its inevitable and tragic end.

There is no cure.  Nothing can prevent it. Nothing can stop it once it starts.  There are drugs on the market that can slow down the progression, postponing the inevitable, drawing the entire process out longer than it would otherwise take. 

There is no treatment. There is no surgery. There is no prevention. There is no cure.  Nobody recovers.  Nobody goes into remission.  Nobody!

Imagine the shock, the fear and the despair my brother, my sister and I felt this past fall, just a few short years after Dad’s death, when we were told our mother also has Alzheimer’s Disease.   What are the odds that we would face the horror twice?  

The odds, I’m afraid, are very high that you will have to face Alzheimer’s Disease at least once in your lifetime as well.  If not in a loved one, then in yourself.

Here are a few things you should know about Alzheimer’s Disease:
• It is the 6th leading cause of adult death in the United States.
• Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 71 seconds.
• Approximately 5.2 million people in the United States currently live with Alzheimer’s.
• Hereditary Alzheimer’s Disease can develop in persons as young as 30 years old.
• More women develop Alzheimer’s than men.
• By age 65 years, you have a 1 in 10 chance of getting Alzheimer’s.
• By age 80 years, that chance goes up to 50/50.
• More facts here.

Here's what you can do to help NOW:

Learn.  When dad was diagnosed, it took us a while to realize what was happening.  His doctor told us it wasn’t Alzheimer’s, it was depression.  By the time we got an accurate diagnosis and could legally intervene, Dad had been arrested twice on traffic violations (he’d never gotten a single ticket in his pre-Alzheimer’s life!) and was financially ruined (we had to file his bankruptcy papers).  

We were better prepared with Mother and obtained Durable Power of Attorney before things spun out of control.  Either way, attorneys are going to be involved.  Find a good one.  If you suspect Alzheimer’s in a loved one, do not settle for one medical opinion.  No matter what any doctor says, always get a second opinion, preferably from a good neuro-psychiatrist.

The more you know, the better equipped you will be to deal with the eventuality that someone you know will develop Alzheimer’s.  The Alzheimer’s Association is there to educate and support anyone directly or indirectly affected by this horrible disease. 

Become a Champion.  The Alzheimer’s Association is looking for five million people, one for each person who suffers from the disease, to champion the cause.  As of this writing, they were at the 1.7 million mark.   See the page of celebrity champions to get more information.

Grab a widget for your blog or other social network.  Spread the purple around!  Let others know you support the cause to end Alzheimer’s.  Everything you do to help moves us all closer to a cure.  When Dad got sick, I looked around and saw no purple.  Seeing more purple in the world can be so encouraging to those of us feeling isolated in our plight!

Take A Walk.  Each fall, there is an Alzheimer’s Memory Walk in a city near you.  Contact your chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to get on board.  One year, my small team of six scrapbooking friends raised over $3,000 – more than any other team in our county! 

Donate.  Everyone has their hand out.   Everyone wants your money.  But nobody wants Alzheimer’s Disease.  Can you set aside a dime each day?   Just a dime a day.   Involve the kids. By the 2009 Memory Walk, you will have collected over $25.00 It’s tax-deductable and you won’t even miss it.  Follow up with a purple party that includes playing the Memory Game to celebrate how good it feels to help!

Create Awareness. This past fall, my rock band, Elixir, played at the local Memory Walk for free and donated our tips and earnings from the gig just prior to the Walk. In the workplace, at school, at church, on your blog, . . . Here are other ideas you can use to keep Alzheimer’s Disease at the forefront of people’s minds.  Some of these are actually quite fun!

Adopt a Caregiver

• Visit.  Caregivers cannot leave their loved one alone.  Ever.  They could use a little company from time to time.
 Light shopping.  On your way to the grocery store, pharmacy or post office?  Call to ask if you can pick anything up for them while you’re out. 
• Elder-sitting.  Offer to stay with their loved one while they go to the hair salon or run an errand or attend church.  This is absolutely the single biggest thing you can do to help.
• Reach out.  A card, a note,  email, a phone call.  They feel so isolated and just need to know someone cares.
• Light housekeeping.  Caring for an Alzheimer’s sufferer is physically and mentally exhausting.  Housekeeping is low on the priority list. Can you do a few chores to ease the burden? 
• Listen.  You have to be Job, Mother Theresa and Solomon all rolled into one just to make it through a day with an Alzheimer’s sufferer without wanting to scream.  Sometimes all the caregiver needs is someone to listen to them vent.

And please, spread the purple around.  It helps us so very much to see it!


To read more of Carol's posts, visit her blog, She Lives.

What I’d Like For You To Know: Losing a Parent


Christmas is a merry time of year.  Except when it’s not.  For all the comfort and joy around us this time of year, there are plenty of people bearing heavy hurts.  .

Today’s guest poster in my What I’d Like For You To Know series (details are found here) is Nicole of Here’s the Diehl.  Her mom passed away this summer, and Nicole is now walking through her first holiday season since her loss.  Here’s a little of Nicole’s story, and some ideas on reaching out to others…

Thirty-one years seems like a long time. However, it’s much too short when you’re talking about how much time you had with a parent. My dad, my 3 siblings and I are gently navigating our way through our first year without Mom. She passed away on July 7th, 2 days after my 31st birthday.

My mom was diagnosed with cancer in the fall of 2004, right after I found out I was pregnant with my second son. We knew from the beginning that her odds of beating this cancer were not good; her cancer, a thymic carcinoid tumor, was extremely rare and unfortunately, very resilient to any kind of treatment. Over the course of the next 3 years, she spent the majority of the time planning for, thinking about, or undergoing various treatments: injections, chemo, radiation, surgeries. When in May of ‘08 we found out that the tumors had metastasized all over her body, including her brain, we knew that there wasn’t much time left. Quite quickly, her speech started to become more incoherent, and she wasn’t able to walk anymore. Miraculously (and I don’t mean that lightly), she was able to make it to my brother’s wedding on June 7th, even though hospice care had already begun.

My husband, (and by now, three!) sons and I live two hours away from our hometown. On June 26th, the boys and I went to stay for what I thought was one night, but turned into 15 nights away from home. When I got there on the 26th, it seemed like Mom didn’t have much time left, and I just couldn’t leave. My husband packed enough clothes for all of us and drove over with them that night. The feeling was definitely that it would not be much longer. And then the days dragged by…it’s a horrible place to be, knowing that she could pass away at any time, and literally praying for that to happen so that the pain ends for her and the agony of limbo ends for the family. My mom passed away at home, where she wanted to be, after being in a coma for the last 36 hours of her life.

So I guess this brings me to the first thing I’d like for you to know: when a death occurs in this manner, the family might be feeling some guilt over praying for the end. For me, I think I felt guilty about not grieving instantly; in the immediate days after her death, it was simply a feeling of relief that she wasn’t in pain anymore. And that just feels wrong, I guess. So know that if a friend is going through this, there might initially be feelings of guilt mingling with mourning over their loss.

We had an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from friends and extended family in a variety of ways. I thought that sharing them might give you some ideas of ways to reach out to grieving families.

The obvious answer is food, and it’s a great thing to bring! We had lots of casseroles, meat/cheese/vegetable/fruit trays, etc., and all of those were a huge help. It’s comforting to know that when you’re hungry, there’s enough food to feed a small army in the fridge, so you don’t have to cook. Some less-traditional food items that we enjoyed included breakfast food (egg casseroles, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls) and snacks (homemade salsa and chips, veggie pizza).

Now, for the maybe slightly-less-known, but still-very-much-welcomed ideas:

  • Coolers full of drinks, which was a big help, since there was so much family in and out through the week.
  • Paper products, including cups, plates, silverware, paper towels, napkins, toilet paper, and ziploc bags.
  • Stamps. There are so many thank you notes to write and it’s nice to not have to run directly to the post office. Plus, if you don’t live in the same town as the family, but want to do something to help, these slip into a sympathy card so easily!
  • A family friend brought us a gift bag of snack foods for the boys (even Gerber puffs for the baby!) as well as a new DVD for them to watch…very thoughtful, and it kept them busy for a bit while we were taking care of arrangements.
  • Books for the children about death and heaven (but be certain that they are aligned with the family’s beliefs).

Everyone says, “Let me know if I can do anything.” I KNOW that they mean well, but at least for me, it’s difficult to say, “Can you take my kids for the afternoon?” If you know the family well, instead call them and say something like, “I could take your kids to the park today or tomorrow; which would work better for you?” A friend did this spur-of-the-moment for me one day after I was back in St. Louis and feeling lousy, and it made a huge difference.

Also, please know that it’s okay for you to talk about your own mom, good stories and bad. Don’t feel bad for talking about what you’re doing for Christmas. It’s a normal part of most people’s lives. I realize, too, that not everyone has a good relationship with their mom like I did, and it’s also okay to talk about the not-so-good stuff. I would just encourage you to take the steps needed to mend whatever damage is there. I am fortunate that I was not in that situation, and that my family had the time to say everything we wanted to say to my mom before she passed away. I can’t imagine what it would be like to feel that I’d missed that chance.

More than anything, people dealing with the loss of a loved one want to know that people are thinking of them and praying for them, especially during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing. Whatever you can do to help them will go a long way towards mending their hearts.

To read more of Nicole’s posts, visit her blog, Here’s the Diehl.

What I’d Like For You To Know: Surviving Poverty


Welcome to another edition of the What I’d Like For You To Know series.  If you’re new here, the idea behind this series to is to ask women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.

This is a time of year when even those of us with our heads on straight can sometimes get side-tracked by all the stuff.  Today’s guest poster, Kate from A Simple Walk and Happy To Be At Home provided me a much-needed perspective shift. 

Here is her family’s story.

I was convinced there would be no Christmas. We did not have money for presents for the children. We were barely able to scrape together the few dollars that it cost to buy a tree. But we found a way, because no matter what, presents or not, we had a lot to celebrate. We were healthy, we had a roof over our heads, and we had each other. We were quickly coming to realize that beyond that, it did not matter what else we had.

That was just the start of what would prove to be a very long year for us.

Our annual income throughout that time put us far below the national poverty line for a family of five. In fact, our monthly income was so low, we now look back in complete astonishment. How did we do it? How did we keep our home, stay clothed and warm, fed and happy?

Here are some things I want you to know about what it is like surviving (and even thriving) well below the poverty line:

1. The children always came first. Whatever we did, and whatever we had or did not have, we made sure our kids were taken care of and that they were loved and happy. We kept all burdens and stress from them as much as possible.

2. There was no room for pride. At the end of the day, all that mattered was getting it done. We had to cast pride aside in order to go to the food pantry at church. We had to cast pride aside in order to accept offers of help from the wonderfully generous and compassionate family and friends in our lives. We realized there was actually a great deal of pride in doing whatever necessary to take care of our family.

3. We were broke, but not broken. The world wanted us to believe that because we were "poor," we should be broken, miserable shells of our former selves. That’s just not who we were though. Instead, we focused on our faith and our family. We drew together to support one another and became more whole than we could have ever imagined.

4. We coveted prayers, but not pity. We did not want anyone to feel sorry for us. Honestly, that just doesn’t help anyone. Pray for us, support us, push us, understand our position, but please don’t pity us.

5. We were not about to accept the status-quo. It’s true, we were happy throughout that whole year. That did not mean that we were naïve to our situation though. Nor were we willing to settle and think that was what our life would always be like. Not at all! We fought everyday to grow, move forward, and put ourselves in a better financial position.

6. There was opportunity at every turn for growth and creativity. We just needed the right perspective to see that. I will admit, there were times when I struggled with perspective, but they never lasted long. I saw that time as a wonderful learning opportunity. I remember one specific day when I was certain I wouldn’t be able to pull anything together for dinner. The refrigerator and freezer were empty, there was no money for more groceries until the next day, and there were only a few bags and cans in my pantry. I decided, instead of allowing self-pity to creep in, that I would face down the challenge and come out victorious. I remembered reading that lentils and rice made a complete protein. There were a few jars of tomato sauce in the pantry too. I added some frozen vegetables and spices. We dined like royalty on a very delicious lentil and rice vegetarian chili that night. We still love that meal today.

As that difficult year went on, we began to see a very small light at the end of the tunnel. We weren’t surprised though, because we had never given up hope that it was there, even though a lot of other people told us we should. We knew perseverance would pay off in the end.

We began to realize that even though we knew our situation was improving, many people were not able to see it that way. We were still treated as "that poor family with lots of kids" by many. Our struggle became not only about continuing our financial growth and improvement. We also had to struggle to prove ourselves.

Here are some things I want you to know about crossing over to the other side of the poverty line:

1. We are well aware of our current and past financial situation. We know we have a long way to go and a lot of work ahead of us. Please know that we are honest with ourselves.

2. When we turn down offers of help, it is not because we have suddenly become too proud or too naïve. We have crossed that line and now we need to forge our own way with our own means. We can do it!

3. We have learned the common sense of frugality and will not change our spending habits just because we can. We will continue to spend wisely and only on necessities. Living frugally does not mean that we are depriving ourselves or our children.

It was a difficult year, but I continue to be grateful that we lived through it and that we keep moving forward. We learned we are a stronger family when we work together. We learned God’s promises are real. And that Christmas I mentioned earlier? It turned out to be the BEST Christmas of our lives. We were blessed to be adopted by a wonderful group from our church who showered the children with gifts. Looking at the piles of presents under our Christmas tree through teary eyes, I realized that whatever the upcoming year held for us, we would survive.

We did.

And not only that — we thrived.

To read more of Kate’s posts, visit her blogs, A Simple Walk and Happy To Be At Home.

What I’d Like For You To Know: Surviving Post-Partum Depression

WhatidlikeThis edition of What I’d Like For You To Know is one that is especially close to my heart; I had my own painful struggle with post-partum depression (PPD) after the birth of my third child.  From e-mails I’ve received, I know it’s all too familiar for many of you, as well.*

Today’s guest poster is tackling this hard subject.  She’s Tara Mock of Out Of the Valley Ministries (her personal blog is Giggles-n-Gulps).  And here is what she’d like for you to know…

I laid on the floor, curled into a fetal position, in the hallway of our home.  I had given birth only eight days ago.  As I lay there with the rough carpet scratching my cheek, I knew I did not want to move – ever again.  The unending nausea and physical pain would not go away, nor the inner turmoil that was trying to convince me life could not go on like this.  I could still picture the scissors on the kitchen counter…

As hot tears poured from my swollen and tired eyes, I cried out repeatedly, "I can’t do this anymore!"  I could hear my husband in the background speaking urgently with the doctor about taking me back to the hospital.  My head was swimming.  What was I thinking, having a baby?  I could not even look at my son much less hold him, which was so heartbreaking to experience after praying for him through two and a half years of infertility.

To this day, my heart hurts when those memories cross my mind.  I was in the valley of the shadow of death and I hated that I knew exactly what that meant for me.  I was in the throes of postpartum depression.

PPD is a serious illness that affects more women than you realize.  It happened to affect me very quickly after my son’s birth, but it can affect a mom anytime within the first year after giving birth.  Postpartum mood disorders affect approximately 15% of women, regardless of whether it’s a first child or subsequent children. 

Through my journey, I learned a lot about postpartum mood disorders as well as how to help those women who come behind me suffering from them.  It is my life’s passion now to let them know they are not alone.  I share my story freely in the hopes that another woman will make it out of the valley instead of succumbing to the despair.   

What I’d like for you to know about what NOT to say:  The underlying rule of thumb in this category is to not say anything at all.  Just listen.  Here is a top ten list of what not to say:

  • "I don’t see how anyone who just had a baby can be depressed!"  (Said to me by the sales clerk when I purchased Brooke Shields’ "Down Came the Rain.")
  • "You need to have more faith."  (My faith is all I have right now and I’m hanging on to it with everything I’ve got.)
  • "You just need to pray more."  (If you think I’m not praying to even take the next breath some days, then you’d better think again.)
  • "Christians don’t get depressed."  (Oh, really?  Read Psalms, David sure did struggle a lot.)
  • "Just buck up and get over it." (Does that work for your cancer?  Your diabetes?  You try it and let me know.)
  • "It’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life!  Enjoy it!" (I’m angry that it’s supposed to be the happiest time of my life and I’m not enjoying it, but for now I am sick and do not need to hear the obvious.)
  • "You should appreciate what you have; a thousand women would die to have a baby in their arms." (We went through infertility treatments, too!  Infertility alone puts women at risk for PPD for a variety of reasons.)
  • "It’s just the baby blues."  (There is a big difference between baby blues and PPD.  See the chart here.  And its really not helpful to minimize or shrug-off what someone is going through.) 
  • "You asked for it."  (Referring to our prayers for our baby due to infertility issues.  I did not ask to go through this.  We prayed for a baby, not postpartum depression.  PPD is no respecter of persons.)
  • "You don’t need medicines for this, those are just for the crazy people."  (I believe God granted some amazing people with the gifts to create medicines that truly help people overcome and/or cope with serious illness – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, a headaches just to name a few.  If you take medicine for any of those, how is a legitimate illness such as PPD any different?  An anti-depressant helped me recover in a significant way and was a major contributor to saving my life.)

What I’d like for you to know about how to help a loved one going through PPD:

  • Listen, love, hug.
  • Practical help.   Just show up and do something.  It will be very hard for her to call and ask for help.
    Take her out for coffee, a walk or a girls’ night out.
  • Email her a Scripture-a-day or a note of encouragement.
  • Let her know she is a great mom!  Her self-confidence is shot and her sense of what is "normal" is out the window.
  • Husbands need a break, too.  Most likely, the stress and worry is taking a toll on him.  Encourage your husband or another guy to take him out for lunch.
  • Prayer!
  • You may have to be more bold in your friendship if you notice she is not herself, suspect PPD,  and need to question her and take her to the doctor yourself.  It is ok to do that, just use wisdom.

What I’d like for you to know if you are suffering from PPD: 

Please do not be ashamed of what you are going through.  This is a legitimate illness and you need medical attention and counseling if you have not already sought it out.  Talk about how you are feeling and ask for practical help with your child(ren) and around the house and don’t feel badly for it!  There is time enough later to "pay it forward" for someone else who will be hurting later.  You can find more help at Out of the Valley Ministries and Postpartum Support International.  And most importantly, you are not alone, this is NOT your fault, and you WILL get better!   

You can read more of Tara’s writing at Out Of the Valley Ministries, or at her personal blog, Giggles-n-Gulps

*I second Tara’s good advice: If you suspect you may be suffering from depression (post-partum or otherwise), I urge you, wholeheartedly, to seek medical attention right away.  If you’re too overwhelmed to seek help, find a friend you trust and ask them to help you take the next step.

What I’d Like For You To Know: Mom of a Hearing Impaired Child

WhatidlikeWelcome to another edition of the What I’d Like For You To Know series.  If you’re new here, the idea behind this series to is to ask women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.

Today’s guest is Julie from Octamom–she’s the mother of eight, and one of her daughters is hearing impaired.  (You can read more specifics about her diagnosis here.) 

Note: To keep things simple, Julie writes about her kids using their birth order number as a nickname.  "4 of 8" is her daughter.

Here is their story.

We sat, 4 of 8 on my lap, in a hard plastic chair in the confining little room.  I looked through the thick glass wall I faced, trying to discern the expression of the audiologist on the other side.  Tweets, beeps, high squeaks and low rumbles issued from speakers mounted in the corners at unpredictable intervals.

And 4 of 8 seemed oblivious to it.

I was about to be told that my child had a severe hearing loss.

Our path to this little room had begun routinely enough.  4 of 8’s language at the age of 2 ½ was not in keeping with the speech development I had experienced with her older siblings.  A trip to the pediatrician’s office yielded reassurances that my expectations were set too high, that she seemed healthy, that her ears were clear and her motor skills at age level.  At my insistence, the pediatrician decided to play along and scheduled us for a round of speech and development evaluations, with a routine side trip to the audiologist.  It never dawned on me she might not be hearing us.

Hearing loss is the most common birth defect in the U.S., affecting 3 babies out of 1,000.  Add to that number the population of children who go on to develop conductive losses (chronic ear infections, illness, etc.) and that number soars to 15% of school age children.  Obviously not all children have enough loss to warrant intervention through hearing aids or cochlear implants, but a steady population of children with hearing issues grows each year in this country.

One of the reasons for my complete shock at 4 of 8’s diagnosis was my misconception that hearing impaired means completely deaf.  Actually, 95% of all hearing impaired individuals have some level of residual usable hearing.  4 of 8 would react to the lawn mower, to a loud noise, to a telephone.  Her greatest level of loss is in the high frequency range, the levels where most human speech takes place, hence her lack of language development.

I was also unaware that the challenges of hearing loss are not just that sound is quieter, but that sound can be morphed and muffled.  4 of 8 perceives our speech as sounding something like the grown-ups in the Charlie Brown cartoons, a soft, warbling cadence in which vowel sounds are the easiest to discern and non-percussive consonants the most difficult. 

4 of 8 was just over 32 months old when she was diagnosed.  We entered a whole new world of decisions for her:  what type of hearing aids, what type of practical  approach toward her education, what philosophical approach to our parenting.  We learned that most insurance companies do not cover the cost of hearing aids, which usually run in the price range of $4000 to $8000.  Yes, you read that right; insurance does not cover hearing aids.  Viagra, yes.  Hearing aids, no.  We were hit with so much information, so many decisions and so many questions.

We also entered a political mine field of which we had been completely unaware.  To us, it seemed obvious that if there were technology and therapy available to help 4 of 8 make the most of her residual hearing, to help her learn to listen and talk, then, just as we would provide a kid with glasses to help them read the blackboard, so we would provide 4 of 8 with these resources.  But part of the hearing impaired community believes vigilantly that individuals with hearing loss comprise their own unique group, noted with the moniker of Deaf with a capital D,  American Sign Language as their native tongue. We have received criticism for choosing to use technology and Auditory Verbal Therapy for 4 of 8, being told that we are keeping 4 of 8 from experiencing her own ‘kind’.  In the midst of her diagnosis, to so passionately desire to give her every advantage and opportunity, those opinions were wrenching.  I do not pretend that I know what approach is right for every family.  But now, over seven years later, we know that we were guided to make the right decision for 4 of 8, choosing to raise her as a hearing child, with challenges, yes, but with amazing opportunities to leverage technology and therapy.  If 4 of 8 would like to learn American Sign Language (ASL), we would be happy to help her achieve that goal.  But as she has said to me, “I like to talk.”

I am often asked if we have considered a cochlear implant for 4 of 8, the bionic-esque device that taps the auditory nerve and delivers sound frequency directly to the brain.  The FDA has strict regulations on who can be considered a cochlear implant candidate and 4 of 8 at this time falls just below their thresholds.  However, if a time comes when she could be considered for the surgery, we would be delighted.  Cochlear implants, with appropriate therapy, can be considered modern magic.  We have seen incredible results amongst several of 4 of 8’s peers.

But perhaps more than the statistics and strategies, there is one truth I want you to know, a paradigm shift that I hope brings a fresh perspective.

Through it all, an incredible thing has happened.  This hearing loss has come to not feel like a ‘loss’ at all, rather, an astonishing experience for us as a family, an opportunity to meet other incredible families, to interact with a community of therapists who coach and guide and love, to have a view into a window of what I’ve called one of humanity’s most common miracles, the miracle of language.  It has shifted from ‘loss’ to ‘gift’–astounding.  And it is so intrinsic a part of who 4 of 8 is, how it has shaped her, how she experiences her world, that is has become a beloved part of who she is.  And therefore, of who I am.

To read more of Julie’s posts, visit her blog, Octamom.  Additionally, click here to see a photo-journalistic walk through 4 of 8’s experiences, and click here for more information about their therapy group, Hearts For Hearing.

What I’d Like For You To Know: A Single Adult

WhatidlikeWelcome to another edition of the What I’d Like For You To Know series.  If you’re new here, the idea behind this series to is to ask women to share something about a specific life challenge or circumstance, addressing some of the misconceptions and (most importantly) telling us all how we can reach out better.

Today’s guest poster is Tammy from Single Solitary Things.

The year I turned 30, my birthday happened to fall on Father’s Day.  A few days before the combined event, I phoned my dad to tell him I wouldn’t make the three hour drive home to visit.  I had just recently moved back to the city of my youthful stomping grounds after 3 years away, and I was the first of my friends to hit the big 3-0.

Dad graciously understood, and asked “So, how old are you this year?”

“Thirty.”  I replied.

“Oh.” He sighed, and paused. “I never thought you would be an old maid.”

I know what you’re thinking.  But coming from my dad, I wasn’t offended.  I knew that in his generation, that was the plain truth.  Moreover, I knew that he was really saying, “I can’t believe some man hasn’t snapped up my charming, smart and attractive daughter.”

Eight years later, I’m still not married, and still have no children.  I am sure that many people I encounter see an old maid.  Of course they don’t say it in as many words as my dad.  They show it instead.

They show it when they say, “Not married? Oh, you must be picky.”

I hear it when others, incredulous, refuse to take it as fact.  “Just kidding.” I want to say in such cases, “ I am married.  Don’t worry.  I’m normal.”

I think the inability to categorize me makes some people uncomfortable.  If I were divorced, they could make sense of it.  Were I a single mom, I’d find sympathy and compassion.   But by admitting my single, never married, no-child status is akin to announcing there is something wrong with me.   I’m reasonably attractive, funny and pass for intelligent, so people are only left to ponder my fatal flaws.  Some people actually ask, “So what’s wrong with you?”

Our society sort of views marriage as a given. A rite of passage.  When I read news accounts of a young woman or even a child who died tragically, her parents inevitably say “I’ll never walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. I’ll never hold her children.”  It is assumed that everyone who was born will marry and have children.  I assumed I would too.  When it just doesn’t happen, knowing that it is expected of us only deepens the pain.

That is why it is so hurtful when it is suggested to a single person that they “must be picky.”   As if we can just pick a guy and get married.  After all, did you settle?  Now you’re suggesting that you could have married just anyone.  Would you have had as successful a marriage if you had ended up with one of your exes?  As much as I long for marriage, I sure am glad I didn’t marry any of the men in my life so far.

That’s the trick about marriage as a goal. It’s not like learning to dance, or committing to losing weight.  It doesn’t take will power to find a mate.  It takes a mate. It takes a miracle.  Oh, that I could just go to the store and pick one up!

True, single for some people is a choice. For those of us who truly desire marriage and children and family, it is not.  Marriage is a vocation that two people agree to take on together.  I can’t do it by myself.  I learned, in just the last two months that I can’t make someone love me.  No matter how much I love him, or how strong in faith he might be. Not even that our shared faith made us both stronger.  No matter how happy we are together until all the Ifs and Buts step in. 

And the simple fact of the matter is, I’ve never been asked.

That alone makes me question my womanhood and my desirability. It’s a very uncomfortable place.  I am a woman who desperately desires motherhood.  My clock is tocking not ticking.   I am very aware that my best reproductive years are over.

What not to say

Please don’t remind a single woman that her chances for a healthy baby are diminishing every year she is over 30.   But also, please do not try to encourage us with stories of women who successfully bore children well into their 50s.   All of this is completely irrelevant to a woman without a husband or serious boyfriend.

While we’re on the topic, yes, I know adoption is an option.  I am adopted myself and believe that adopted babies are indeed the best kind.  If I were blessed with marriage, adoption would defiantly be a consideration.   But adoption is as far out there as infertility treatments when there is no man in your life.

You’ll find him when you’re not looking

I’m never not looking.  Yes, my life is full and happy.  But I am a mother without a child. I am a wife without a husband.  I want my other half.  Think of the loss you would feel if your husband or child suddenly were not there.    I feel, not daily, but often, that an important part of my life is missing.

And by the way… dating after age 30 is not fun.  It is a chore, like scrubbing the bathtub but less rewarding.  It’s hard to look forward to dinner and disappointment.   I want to anticipate a nice evening, but this much experience has taught me what to look for in a man – and more often than not, it’s not there.

In the meantime, sometimes I just want to dote my pent-up motherhood on your kids. It’s probably terribly inappropriate, but I will snuggle your baby and sniff its’ head to soak up that sweet smell.  I’ve been guilty of tickling and twirling a smiling baby until it spits up.  Sorry.  I will nosh on your toddlers’ chubby legs and lift his shirt to plant a raspberry, just so I can hear that throaty, from-the-gut baby giggle that makes my heart sing.  If it’s no trouble, please just indulge me.  (I promise not to do that to your husband.)

Seeing women my age or younger with kids in tow – can stir a pang of deep pain. I once called my church office to ask when Baptisms were scheduled, as I needed to avoid them.  Second Sunday of the month, I would attend a different church just so I didn’t have to see the happy couples with their beautiful babies.

That’s another point. Church is no place for a single woman.  Church is all about family. That’s why you see so few single adults there.  It’s not that they no longer believe, the fact is they don’t feel welcome.  When your pastor asks you reach out to share a blessing, do you turn to your family first?  I stand there waiting for a hand to embrace.

I worry this writing might sound all bitter and lonely and sad.  I am happy.  I am blessed with an incredible network of friends.  My family is amazing. I enjoy my single life to the best of my ability.  People remind me that marriage is not easy.  I remind them; neither is being single.

Oddly, Barb in last week’s post on Empty Nesting provided me a point to expound upon.  She wrote:

“Life is a circle. You flow from one stage to the next. And with a little time, you become comfortable with the newest stage.” –Barb, A Chelsea Morning

For a perpetually single person, that’s not so. My life is a wandering squiggly line – darting in and out of other people’s circles.  Everyone else is buzzing along on a predictable cycle but there is no circle of life in my world.  There are no ‘stages’ for me to move through, save the aging process.

I am not Less Than

I realize I may sound contradictory – as I have already pointed out here that I feel a part of me is missing.  But I am a whole person.  Perhaps I have not yet realized that God intends for me to be alone, and that to Him I am complete and not in need of a husband.   I’m still working on trusting God’s divine providence.

What I mean to emphasize is that you need not view me as pathetic and alone.  I am not waiting for my life to begin.  Marriage is not going to make my life worth living.  My life is worthy now.  I’m just a little lonely. 

Invite me over to play with your kids while you tackle the laundry.  Seriously.

Think about introducing me to someone.  Don’t wait until you find the ‘perfect guy’ for me.  It’s just nice to meet people.  You never know who they might lead you to!

If you do make an introduction, don’t make a big fuss.  Don’t tell either of us you’re setting it up.  Just put us in the same room.  If we’re interested, we’ll figure it out.  But feel free to point out after the fact, that you introduced me to so-and-so if sparks did not fly.

Pray for single adults.  There are ministries for single moms, working moms, elderly widows/widowers, and petitions for the sick.  But when does society reach out to the single?  Pray that your single friends might daily, feel the love of God and of their friends and neighbors in a tangible way.

Invite your single friends for a meal.  We’ll help prepare.  I attend my church’s weekly fish fry during Lent – even though I’m allergic to fish.  My priest teased me until I explained at home, I have to eat alone.

Keep in touch with your single friends.  They’re not out tearing it up and having orgies.   We’re not out to steal your husband.  Sometimes we just want to experience the hum of a household with a family.  Look for things in common with single adults.  We might not share your challenges, but we can still relate.

If you’d like to read more of Tammy’s posts, you can check out Single Solitary Things here.