Sunday, October 7, 2018

Liturgical Living with a Newborn

As we look at October stretch before us, we can also see the liturgical year begin to wind down. Before we know it, Advent will be here, and with it a new liturgical year. As I sit here with my huge mug of coffee, I'm taking a moment to think about the next couple of months. While I love articles about liturgical living and the huge variety of ideas out there for marking the liturgical year, the fact is that I am currently thriving off of prayer, caffeinated beverages, and bits of sleep snatched between nighttime newborn snuggles...and I just can't keep up with everything (In fact, I originally started writing this post last week, but here we are, a week later, and I'm still typing it out).  

So, as much as I would love to write a bunch about some of the wonderful saints this month and hold fabulous celebrations with treats to commemorate all of the just isn't going to happen. Instead, I'm trying to incorporate small steps to stay in  tune with the liturgical year during the chaos that reigns during life with a newborn and a toddler. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Late Night Viewing Parties with the Newborn: My Watchlist

Life with a teeny-tiny newborn (well, not so tiny-I've already had to start putting away his size "newborn" clothes!) is an adventure. One of the big, unpredictable experiences that comes along is nighttime wakings. Some nights he sleeps really well, and other nights have been fairly terrible. Currently, he likes to stay awake for an hour or two during one of his wakings! I previously talked about how I've been using these nighttime hours to dive into prayer, but let's be honest: I also have been using them to watch shows. I think there is definitely a place for both prayer and "Netflixing."

When I had my firstborn, my main three shows were Doctor Who Season 6, The Walking Dead, and Downton Abbey. This time, I've been trying out a couple different things. Let's see, shall we? 

Friday, September 28, 2018

What My Homebirth Taught Me

I loved my first son's labor and birth. We had a great experience at the hospital, and I cannot think of anything bad to say about the team we worked with. Everyone was very kind and respectful, and our wishes were well-respected. I know that some people have horror stories of birthing in hospitals, but this was honestly not our experience.

Just a month ago, I gave birth to my second child. This little baby was born at home. While the labors  of my two children have striking similarities (you can read the birth stories here and here), there were also some drastic differences because of where I gave birth. 

Even though out-of-hospital births are on the rise, only a very small percentage of women choose this path. So, many people may not be familiar with some of the reasons behind-and benefits of-planning for this type of birth. Before I even became pregnant with my second child, I knew a bit about homebirth. I had seen a homebirth or two in a video we watched during a childbirth class before I gave birth to my firstborn. I had read lots of homebirth stories in various books dedicated to natural childbirth. I had spoken with several women from my parish who all have experience with homebirth. Still, even with my prior knowledge, there are some important lessons that jumped out at me in the days following my labor. 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

On the Bookshelf: A Postpartum Reading List

Hi, everyone! As I've been stuck under the baby quite a bit this past month, I've been reading a lot. Some of the books I've picked up are really deep and profound and/or lengthy and have taken me weeks or months to get through. Other books only took a few days and were much lighter fare. 

So, let's chat literature! I'm also linking up with Carolyn Astfalk for An Open Book, so please head on over there to get more book recommendations! 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Disheartened by the crisis in the Church? Reflect on this wisdom from Flannery O'Connor

Several months ago, I acquired The Habit of Being, a volume of letters by Flannery O'Connor, a Catholic author from the South. I eagerly began reading O'Connor's letters, but then the volume wound up back on the shelf as I became distracted by other books. In the past few weeks I picked up The Habit of Being yet again, and I grew amazed. Although Flannery O'Connor wrote these letters several decades ago, many of her words fit so well during this current crisis that the Catholic Church is experiencing.

O'Connor was a lifelong faithful Catholic who steeped herself in the rich treasures that Catholicism offers. From using her breviary and attending Mass to reading works of Catholic fiction and non-fiction, this "hillbilly Thomist" imbues her stories and her letters with her faith and a profound recognition of how God pours down His graces through broken and imperfect vessels. Here are some quotations from her letters that particularly resonate with me.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

It all comes back to the human person

The din of murmured voices combined with the clatter of the kitchen. My toddler excitedly picked up his pancake as his brother, all of two weeks old, silently slept. "Our waitress has a cool accent," my husband remarked. I munched on my "country fried steak" skillet and nodded in agreement, relishing the blend of voices, colors, and activity that swirled around us. Two weeks of "taking it easy" and trying to not "overdo it" made me grateful for the change of routine when my husband spontaneously drove us down to Denny's after Saturday morning Mass. 

Our waitress sailed by again to check on us. As she moved past our table, I spoke up. "By the way, you have a really cool accent. What country are you from?" 
"Persia," she responded, a smile stretching across her face. 
"Wow, that's so cool! I've never met anyone who moved here from Persia before," I said. 
Smiling all the while, she began telling us how long she has lived here in the United States, and how several of her family members were already here when she came. Then, she added that the only person left behind in Persia is her husband. "He can't come over because of President Trump's travel ban," she noted. "It's very hard." 

I have no desire to argue politics or public policies today. Instead, this short conversation at breakfast reminded me of a factor that we need to bring into every decision, political or not: The reality that it all goes back to the human person. That the laws we vote on, the decisions we make, the beliefs that we stand for-they all affect human beings with names, faces, lives, stories. 

When I was younger, I thought that most decisions were fairly black and white, and rather simple; for example, "vote for whatever seems to closely align with one's political party." With just a glance at issues, I'd check boxes off quickly without further thought. When I reached college, though, I began to see things differently. Some of my good friends-devout Catholics-held stances that were on a very different end of the political spectrum from myself. Sometimes I agreed with their views, other times I disagreed; but regardless, they showed me that the world of politics (and decision-making in general) is a lot more complex than I had always thought-because everything we do affects other people. This reality is not to be taken lightly. 

Whether we're preparing for local elections or simply deciding where to take our business for Saturday morning shopping, I think we all would do well to recall this more often. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

A Birth Story

As I moved through my third trimester, I was utterly clueless about a couple things. For one, when this baby would come. My firstborn came a week before his "estimated due date," but I didn't want to count on this child coming early, since each baby is different. And I was still trying to hold out for giving birth on September 8, when we celebrate the Birth of the Blessed Virgin. I was also clueless about contractions; namely, the reasons why I had been experiencing more Braxton-Hicks-type contractions with this child than I did with my firstborn. Furthermore, around my 38th week of pregnancy, there were one or two days when I experienced a few hours of mild contractions that almost had me wondering could this be really early labor? before they faded away. However, early in my 39th week, I determined that the baby must be cozy, with no labor in sight. As nice as it would be for the baby to come out, I decided that it was fine for him to stay put-he was still angled off to the side a little bit, and I wanted him to be in an optimal position for birth. 

With all of this in mind, I stayed up late at night on Wednesday, August 22, researching a term that I had recently heard: prodromal labor. As I read about prodromal labor signs, I decided that this must be a little bit of what I had been experiencing. I read that some women have weeks of prodromal labor, and as I walked off to bed, I tried to mentally prepare myself for about two or three more weeks of periodic contractions and exhaustion.

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Opportunities in Newborn Nightlife

For the past week, as I've gotten acquainted with our newborn baby, I've also become reacquainted with the range of nighttime activities of little babies. The first night, I guess he was so tired from childbirth that he slept soundly, waking only a couple times to eat. Another night, he didn't "go down for the night" until 6 a.m.

As much as I love sleep, though, I've found this easier to bear than I thought it would be. Perhaps it's due to the newness of it all, and after another week I'll pulling out my hair and drinking all the coffee. And perhaps it's because I'm rediscovering the opportunities that having a nocturnal newborn provides. In all honesty, one of the activities I can now do is actually watch shows without my toddler constantly running over and trying to touch my laptop! Plus, I don't like watching shows while my toddler is awake and with me anyway, so it just works out better this way.

However, I've found myself not spending as much time with my "watchlist" as I thought I would be-because I've decided to adapt a bit of a monk's lifestyle. In this, I've rediscovered the beauty of praying in the deep stillness of nighttime. While reading Cardinal Sarah's wonderful book the other day, I came across this passage:

Friday, August 24, 2018

My morning view

"Silence strips man and makes him like a child: pure but frail, innocent, and without provisions. Silence shapes us as the blacksmith works metal." ~Cardinal Sarah

My view this morning:

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

How I'm Stepping Forward in Hope

The hard wooden pew supported my back and blue lace framed my face as I looked towards the ambo. My pastor spoke earnestly about the need to ask Mary for her intercession during this time of crisis, his voice piercing the early Saturday morning daze. A hushed silence filled the church as we lifted our hearts in prayer together. And then it came. A song that I have not thought of in months sprang into my mind: 

Take my love.
Take my land.
Take me where I cannot stand.
I don't care,
I'm still free.
You can't take the sky from me.

The theme song of the TV show Firefly captures well the resiliency and determination of a rather motley crew of individuals as they fight to stay out of the government's grasp. The words manifest a sort of courage to keep going in spite of difficulties and sufferings. And as these verses moved through my mind, I gazed at the altar; the place where Christ Himself was present, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. A long line of people snaked down the center aisle of the church.Words kept pulsing through my mind as we walked in humble anticipation, preparing to receive the King of Kings into our bodies. 

You can't take the sky from me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

When I live for signs

I have a confession to make: I have a tendency to focus on signs (or potential signs) from God. You know that part in the Gospels where Jesus reprimands the Pharisees and Sadducees for a preoccupation with signs in the visible world while they completely miss the message of the kingdom of God and Jesus' mission (Matt 16:1-4)? That passage is basically directed to me. 

I like to think that this is only something I did when I was a teenager. Like all those times when, while discerning my vocation, I'd take one small event and say OH! It's a sign from God! Of course this is the path He has for me! Sometimes this is a perfectly valid thing to do, and it can be reassuring when God gives us small signs of confirmation which console us that yes, we're heading in a good direction. But I would practice this overzealously, anxiously taking every single instance, every single breath, as a "sign from God" that I should do a particular thing.