"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Monday, October 25, 2010


"Mom, I'm glad Patrick was born because now Eva's not special anymore," said Maia.

"What do you mean? Eva's still special, only now she's special in a new way because she's a big sister!" I answered, quoting Joann Cole's book I'm a Big Sister.

"No, Mom, you know what I mean. Eva's not special anymore, and I'm glad about that."

In case you're wondering, Eva hasn't noticed that she's not special anymore. She's not so gentle with Patrick, but I have not seen any signs of jealousy. She's had to share attention her whole life, so she seems to be taking Patrick's appearance in stride. Maia, however, was an only child for almost her first three years of life, and she's clearly still recovering from that.

Maia has been celebrating Eva's not being special by antagonizing Eva non-stop. This has become Maia's number one favorite activity - whether it's telling Eva that there are monsters in the basement or taking away whatever toy Eva has or chasing Eva or insulting Eva or, well, you get the picture. Her behavior has been so poor that Jeff and I have really been at a loss for what we could do - send her to Grandma's for a week? It's too hard to spend all day punishing her, and neither of us seems to have the time that she seems to require in terms of attention.

I was at the park today with Eva and Patrick while Maia was at school and a mom there asked me how far apart the kids were, and when I said 22 months, she smiled kindly and said that her kids were 17 months apart: "It gets easier," she said sympathetically. I was thinking to myself, "Easier than this?" Patrick was sleeping in the stroller and Eva was running around happily, playing on the park equipment. If all I had to deal with all day was Patrick and Eva, my life would be pretty easy.

But as someone (I forget who) recently said to me, the challenging, strong-willed kids are much more interesting to raise, and much more rewarding in the end. I still have high hopes that a difficult early childhood will be followed by an easy teenage time period. But anyway, I think parents get their parenthood points by dealing with kids when they're being difficult - not just when they are sleeping in a carseat all day.

Boring Baby

Patrick's life, by the hours...

8:00 a.m. "I am SO tired after all that sleeping last night. Better take a nap."
11:00 a.m.: "That morning nap and nursing session really wore me out. I better get some sleep."

2:00 p.m. "My sisters are so loud; maybe if I sleep I can just tune them out."

5:00 p.m. "Must be getting close to dinnertime. I can smell the onions cooking... and it makes me so drowsy."

8:00 p.m. "Well, now that the girls are in bed, let me just stretch out on the couch and get a little shut-eye before bed."

Yes, I've been calling Patrick "Boring Baby" because it really seems like all he does is sleep, sleep, sleep. Not that I'm complaining. It does make my life with three pretty easy. I guess a boring baby is God's gift to a busy mom.

A brief video from the life of a boring baby.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Patience and Its Reward

As I've written before on this blog, parenting involves a lot of patience. This is especially true for mothers, I think, and it all begins with the pregnancy - nine months of waiting. As Patrick's due date approached (October 4th), I started getting the usual questions and comments from friends, neighbors, family, and complete strangers: "So, are you ready to get this kid out?" "I bet you're ready to be done being pregnant!" and the like. Actually, this was my most comfortable pregnancy yet - no swelling, for one thing, and no real problems at all other than some nasty acid reflux. So I prided myself on being patient.

Then my preferred birthdate passed. Granted, that was the 1st, the Feast of Therese Lisieux, so it was a bit of an early shot. Then my second choice, the 2nd, the Feast of the Guardian Angels passed. As a bunch of other good liturgical choices passed, including the due date (St. Francis), I began to hope for at least a fun secular date: 10-10-10. Then that passed as well. Ok, I was doing great at being patient... but how late could this kid possibly be? Especially since I was having contractions off and on for about two weeks, I thought for sure he was going to come out any time! In fact, there were three separate times that I really thought I was in labor and got ready to head to the hospital.

For the last few months I've been reading Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection, and I happened to read her thoughts on the Our Father, specifically "fiat voluntas tua" about the time of my due date. So this became my prayer over the last few weeks. In the end I had a good delivery with Eva, in that it was unmedicated and my sister got to catch her. But I also think I ended up having a premature rupture of membranes and having to get pitocin because I used castor oil to try to induce labor so that my sis would be there for the delivery. I wanted to have a better delivery (no pitocin!) this time around, and so I knew I needed to be patient, patient, patient and just wait for the labor to happen naturally.

Since Patrick was eleven days late, "fiat voluntas tua" became a daily struggle. Again, I wasn't particularly uncomfortable, but I did feel a bit of pressure, not just from the friends, neighbors, and strangers who kept asking... but also because my parents very generously came out to be with the kids while we went to the hospital. They had planned to be here about one week before the birth and about two weeks after. But with Patrick being eleven days late, they ended up being here for two and a half weeks before and only five days after. They had to cancel their visit to Niagara Falls, and my mom had to reschedule several doctors' appointments. The other pressure was that my husband had a wonderful fall break that would have been perfect if Patrick had been born on his due date or just a few days late. Instead, the break passed by with no baby (but still some good quality time with the husband).

As a planner who had two other late babies, I knew I could go late - but really, eleven days late? Who would have thought that! Even Maia was only about five days late. Some people say it's because this one was a boy, but I think it's because we gave him an Irish name. Next time, we'll pick a German name, and I know that baby will be punctual.

Anyway, the reward of this patience was that I did go into labor naturally, right as I was on the verge of taking castor oil (facing a 42-weeks post-date induction on Monday anyway). I had heard many stories of Mom's having really quick labors and deliveries with their thirds, but, true to my style, I managed to have contractions beginning Friday around midnight, and then he wasn't born until 11:34 at night! So basically it was a 24-hour labor, with some more painful times than others. When I went to my midwife appointment in the morning I was four centimeters and 70% effaced. But although I was having contractions, the midwife made me feel like I wasn't really in labor... she said things like, "Well, if you haven't had the baby by Monday, then we will need to set up the induction for that day."

I think it kind of psyched me out, so Jeff and I went to noon Mass (we had missed the 8 a.m. because I thought my labor was going to pick up soon), had lunch out, stopped at Trader Joe's, etc. all while I was having really painful contractions every few minutes. When we came home I attempted to take a nap because then I was scared that my contractions would pick up right at rush hour and it would take us an hour plus to get to the hospital. I didn't eat dinner, but I did help put the girls to bed, and I think it was nursing Eva that finally put me over the edge and full swing into labor.

Even then, though, we were debating just going to bed. It was 8:00 at night, and I hadn't slept the previous night at all (due to those contractions). My contractions were painful and pretty regular, but for all I knew they were going to dissipate again, since they seemed to be doing a lot of coming and going.

Anyway, I called the midwife on call, and she advised us to come into the hospital. When I got there, I was six cm and 100% effaced. But of course when they hooked me up to monitor my contractions, they slowed down, and I thought - here we go again. I had memories of being in labor with Maia and spending literally hours in the middle of the night walking up and down the hospital hallways. But this time it only took a few laps, and not even two decades of the Rosary until I told Jeff I just couldn't do it and I was going to go lie down because I was just too tired.

My mom (who got to come because the girls were both asleep) gave me a back massage, and when they came in to check me again, I was having body shakes and was 8 cm. I agreed (with surprisingly no hesitation) to have my water broken, and they let me get into the tub. This was by far the coolest part of my delivery. After two foiled attempts at getting a waterbirth, I was blessed with the coolest waterbirth tub ever. It was huge, with beautiful tile around it, and they filled it up with wonderful warm water. As soon as I got in my shaking stopped, my back felt better, and, although my contractions were still painful, they were much more bearable.

Then we discovered the buttons on the tub - one of them made lights turn on. Then it turned out if we pushed that button again that the lights started flashing and changing colors. Wow - what a great distraction for hard labor contractions! But of course, the real challenge was figuring out how to turn on the jets. That took a few contractions and asking a techy nurse, but what a reward! Massaging jets on the back during a contraction was amazing! At some point they seemed to turn off and we couldn't get them back on, but at that point I was feeling ready to push anyway, and - one push to bring the baby down, and two to get him out! A long labor, but definitely my fastest (and least harmful) delivery ever!

Other than the cord being tight around his neck, and the midwife almost falling into the tub as she caught him, the birth was pretty uneventful (although exciting, as these things always are). My first words to Patrick were, "Patrick, you look like a smurf!" And indeed, his Apgar was only a four and he had to be given a little oxygen. By five minutes, he was pinking up and meriting a nine on the Apgar.

I was really, really, really, hoping and praying for Patrick to be born on the Feast of Teresa of Avila. But I have to admit that when we went to the hospital at 8:30 at night, I didn't think it was very likely. And when we were still walking the hallways at 10:50, I thought it was pretty impossible. And when I was in the tub at 11:16, I didn't think it was very likely. The midwife and nurses probably got a kick out of me constantly checking my watch. I gave it a glance at 11:21. Jeff started praying "Nada te turbe." And he was out by 11:34. Thank you, St. Teresa.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Introducing Patrick Benjamin

The professional big sister.

Family photo.

Eva holds her brother.

Mom's first kiss.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bon Voyage, Uncle!

Back to Benin for an additional ten months with Peace Corps, this time teaching music! We'll miss you, JM!