Walking Tall

This month I’m traveling around the country to check out fellowship positions. It is exhausting, trying, lonely, and often confusing. Most of all, I miss my kids.

I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how fellowship and moving to one of these places would fit into the current, ideal, little life of mine, but it’s hard to do.

This morning, as I walk to the clinic, I am in awe of my own strength. This is not an easy task

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Hiatus Reveles

If you’ve ever lost yourself  amidst the chaos of daily life, then you might understand why I stopped blogging.  There was a long stretch of time where I felt that the person I use to be was missing, or maybe stolen… and that was the person who loved to blog.  I gave up when the posts I wrote felt forced (you should see the number of drafts collecting dust in that folder) and blogging wasn’t fun anymore.  That person who opened up her soul to an online world of similar soul searchers was slowly choked away; It started with the abrupt demise of The Cranky Giraffe and culminated with the realization that I no longer wanted the life I was living.

Today, I admitted to someone that I used to blog.  It hurts when I say “used to.”  She asked me why I stopped and I didn’t have a good answer.  Maybe I did have a good answer for why I stopped: “Because I wasn’t anonymous anymore and I lost my mojo and I was unfairly judged.” But the real reason was because I wasn’t the person I used to be.  I was sad and lost, and I wasn’t recovering.

In obeying the rules and expectations from some external force, I watched as my very essence slipped through my own fingers.  However, I grasped the last fray before it was completely gone; as if I could see in slow motion that the last piece was falling to the ground.  What started as an epiphany has progressively blossomed into a path of courage, strength, and disobedience.  I’ve let that last fray grow back and intertwine through my fingertips and up to my chest.  I breath it into my lungs and pump it out through my body.  I feel like I am finally recovering.

I’ve found myself called back to the blog.  I’ve found myself called back to many things I used to love and I have slowly been re-discovering the person I am (not used-to-be).

Daily Post

 

A Break From Authenticity

Last night I picked up my copy of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. This book has been sitting on my shelf, unread, for almost three years.  My mandate to begin “Living Authentically” started shortly after I read Brené’s earlier published book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Since moving, starting residency, and having another baby, my goal to read Daring Greatly kept getting pushed to the bottom of my list.  Within the midst of my current existential life crisis, I decided it was time to pick up the book and stare Wholeheartedness right in the face.

I didn’t even get through the prologue before realizing that I no longer live, or even embody, the qualities of wholeheartedness and authenticity.  Maybe I used to, but in the struggle to keep up and keep going, I’ve let these important aspects of my life fall to the side.

Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection

~Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

The one thing I know for sure is that right now, I have no clarity of my purpose.  I am filled with fear and disconnection from my life and my purpose.  I feel confused and I lack direction because my viewpoint on life is clouded by outside expectations, judgement, and comparison.  My internal dialogue is lost and disguised by everything that defines fear and vulnerability.  These definitions were very well delineated by Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection and I know that reading that book changed my life.  I blogged about that change on the old blog and I will find that post to re-post here in the coming days.

Ironically, The introduction to Daring Greatly literally reminded me of these imperfections and what needs to be shed from my life:
1. Letting go of what people think
2. Letting go of perfectionism
3. Letting go of numbing and powerlessness
4. Letting go of scarcity and fear of the dark
5. Letting go of the need for certainty
6. Letting go of comparison
7. Letting go of exhaustion of a status symbol and productivity as self-worth
8. Letting go of anxiety as a lifestyle
9. Letting go of self-doubt and “supposed to”
10. Letting go of being cool and “always in control”

Each of these ten imperfections, every single one of them, comprise the mental roadblocks that I am struggling with right now.  These imperfections are preventing me from committing to the decisions I am faced with in my life today.  I need to lean-in to my fears and rediscover my vulnerabilities.  I need to embrace them and re-discover my own authenticity

 

First Steps

Today I was supposed to be at a conference for work.  Initially, I was determined to go despite being on maternity leave; I wanted to show that I am hard working, committed, and engaged.  I also worked very hard all year to plan an important even that is happening at this conference – today actually.

Going to the meeting, however, would have meant travelling by plane, alone with baby El.  It would have meant staying in a hotel room alone for 4 nights and single handedly taking care of the baby, while also trying to attend the meetings and give off the vibe that I have it all together.  It would have likely been far from enjoyable.  So, I decided to stay home and enjoy this time with my family.

Staying home also means that instead of spending over $1000 to attend a conference, I can save that money and use it towards a family vacation.

Despite the overwhelmingly good reasons to stay home and not attend the conference, it was a difficult decision to make.  This is the first decision (I guess the second decision, if you count having a baby and taking a maternity leave) I have made in my career that puts my family ahead of my desire to be “the best I can be” in my work life.  This is like the first step in “retraining” myself to put my family and my role of Mother ahead of work and my role as Doctor.

This was not a hard decision to make, but it was difficult to execute, mentally.  I knew the right thing to do was to not go and stay with my kids and baby at home.  But I feel sad and I am mourning: I feel like I have thrown away an opportunity to show myself off as a dedicated, hard working, and committed resident.  Likely, it wouldn’t have made a difference to anyone but me.

Hopefully these steps get easier as the time goes on.  I feel it is imperative that I make this change in my life

MEternity Leave? Really?

Over a week ago, on June 1, I sat down to start writing a blog post.  I wrote one sentence of that post and I have not been back to WordPress since then.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to blog, and it’s not because I have nothing to blog about… it’s because I’ve quite literally had no time to myself – at all.

This phenomenon of having no time to myself, despite being home from my 80-100hr+ work week, reminded me of the MEternity fiasco from a few months back.  For anyone to think that a maternity leave is a “sabbatical” or “vacation” or anything that resembles an opportunity for “me time” has got something seriously wrong.  If I’m going to be completely honest, I would say that I haven’t really been enjoying my maternity leave that much.  Before I divulge all the reasons I’m not enjoying it, I’ll state the few things that I do enjoy about maternity leave (just so I don’t seem to be complaining all the time):

  1. I love baby El and I love to spend time watching her grow and change.  I want her to stay small forever, but I know she won’t.  I’m cherishing the time I get to spend with her now.
  2. I get to see my other kids more often than I did when I was working.

Yes, I think that’s about it.  Here are all the things I dislike about my maternity leave:

  1. I am always tired – I am lucky to get 6 hours of broken sleep a night, and the sleep I do get is far from quality as I am paranoid about my baby and her ridiculously low risk of SIDS (this is where I say that, contrary to all advice on how to reduce SIDS, I can’t abide by t all.  Baby El refuses to sleep unless she is right next to me, with easy access to her precious boobie – All. The. Time.)
  2. I almost always have a little human being attached to my body.  This is either in the form of breastfeeding or babywearing.  Baby El usually needs to be nursed to sleep.  And, she doesn’t really like to stay asleep unless someone is carrying her.
  3. I am always yelling at the boys: Either they aren’t listening to the Nanny, so I get mad at them for that.  Or, they aren’t listening to me, so I get mad at them for that.  Or they are too loud and running around every part of the house and waking up the delicate baby that I just FINALLY GOT TO SLEEP.  I feel like all the time I spend with my kids involves yelling.
  4. I miss adult human interaction.  You can only text message people so much before you get bored.  Plus, everyone is working while I am home, so there is no one to go out with during the day.
  5. I have fleeting thoughts of finishing that book I started weeks ago, or working on the cross stitch birth announcements (for E first, before I can start El’s), or blogging, or even getting some exercise.  However, those thoughts are vanquished by one of the three kids that are demanding my attention at any given time of the day.  If I’m lucky, I can get outside for a walk with the baby in a carrier (she won’t even stay settled in a stroller)… but not before getting the 10th degree from A, who wants to know where I’m going, when I’ll be back, why he can’t come, am I sure he can’t come, and what kind of punishment I will get if I’m not home when I say I’ll be home.
  6. I miss my job… dearly.  If it wasn’t for my baby, I would go back tomorrow.
  7. I’m sure there is something I’m missing.

So there you have it… My maternity leave is far from relaxing, enjoyable, or a life changing revolution.

And, I’ve gotta go… baby El is awake!

Half-Marathon Year

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On a Friday at the end of last May I went into the OR to have my IUD removed.  That same night I drove 4 hours to the mountains to run my first half-marathon the next morning.  On a Saturday at the end of last May I ran my first half-marathon (see old post below).

I almost did’t run the race – I had encountered a few obstacles in my training and I didn’t think I was prepared.  Despite everything, I made the choice to run the race and enjoy the experience.  As I ran through the mountains and enjoyed the views of the nature around me, I remember wondering what the next year would bring:  I daydreamed about pregnancy, and about hopefully welcoming a baby girl into my family… I let my mind relax and reflect on what everything in my life meant to me, where I was going with the different paths in my life, and how I was going to try and “let things go” and enjoy the little things in life.

When registration opened for this race again back in January, naturally I felt inclined to register.  I didn’t want to commit myself to something that wouldn’t be reasonable or healthy so close to giving birth, but it was important to me to go back to this place, participate in the race, and reflect on the last year.  Therefore, I chose to register in the 5Km run/walk that takes place the day after the half marathon.  I figure that is reasonable for 3.5 weeks post-partum.  This coming weekend I will be walking this 5Km with one of my very good friends, and hopefully, with my baby girl strapped to my chest.  What a way to mark this little anniversary!

Posted on The Old Blog, May 25, 2015

I did it.

I ran my Half-Marathon.

For weeks I feared that I wouldn’t be able to finish the race.  I worried that my disrupted training schedule would make it utterly impossible for me to survive the distance, especially since I read that it was a challenging course.  Right up until the day before the race (I’ll write about this day in another post), I contemplated changing my registration to do the 10K race instead.

There was a part of me, however, that knew I had to run the half marathon. No. Matter. What.

I have been working hard since the beginning of 2015 to make positive changes in my life.  Most of those changes have been working well, but there have been a few set-backs.  With those setbacks, I’ve been beginning to feel like I’m not as strong, determined, or capable as I thought i was.  I feared that if I gave up on my goal to run this half marathon, I would only be letting myself down and reinforcing the negative thoughts and attitudes that I’ve had recently.  So, I had to run this race… even if it meant that I walked most of it… even if it meant that my goal of completing it in under 2 hours was no longer a goal… even if it meant it was just an excuse to spend a few hours with myself in the beauty and splendour of the mountains…

On Saturday morning I showed up at the race site prepared to run (or walk) the half marathon as planned.  My new goal for the race was to complete it… no matter what.  My other new goal was to enjoy being out in the mountains, alone, and with my own thoughts.  I decided to run the half marathon without any running apps to tell me my distance, pace, or interval to ensure that I didn’t get distracted from my goals, push myself too hard to keep up to my usual pace, or to feel disappointed in myself for being too slow.  So, I shut off the little voice in my ear and set off running with some good music and beautiful scenery.

As I crossed the start line, I felt a wave of emotion come over me and I almost started to cry.  Right then it was confirmed that running this race meant more to me than just running 21Km straight; it had everything to do with proving to myself that I could do something that I set my mind to and that I am not someone who gives up.  Throughout the race, I walked when I needed to, I looked up at the mountains and trees around me.  I watched the water in the river flow past me.  I felt the trails and pavement under my feet.  I even stopped at a port-a-potty around the 15Km mark… because after all, this race was about being comfortable!

The last 6Km was the greatest challenge because it was almost all up-hill.  The start line was on the side of a mountain, which I ran down in the first part of the race to get to the river path.  I was sure I had nothing left in me when I saw the last sign on the route: “1 Km Left to Go!”  Ahead of me, it was still an incline.  I pushed through and when I saw the pink arch that marked the finish line, I picked up the pace just a little more.  I saw my boys shaking their white cowbells and my husband poised with the camera.  I saw the chip readers above my head, and then I watched my foot strike the ground on the other side of the finish line.  After the flurry of people putting a medal over my head, congratulating me, handing me my swag bag, and giving me a refreshingly wet towel, I finally looked at the clock.  Somehow, I had completed the race in less than 2 hours and 15 min.  Later, when I looked up my official time, I was in awe: 2 hours, 10 minutes, 21 seconds.

Without proper training, on a mountainside course with a 300m elevation change (150m down and then 150m back up), and with a goal to “just finish” the race, I clocked in at only 10 minutes and 21 seconds past my original goal time.  Unbelievable!  I still cannot believe that I accomplished this amazing goal.

I am so proud of myself.

I needed to do this, and I am so glad that I didn’t give up on myself.

A Good Tree Cannot Bear Bad Fruit

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of “the perfect storm.”

I was still pregnant and close to giving birth to my (first) daughter.  I had just received yet another insulting form of rejection from a person whom I have kept in my life for far too long.  I spent that week’s therapy session discussing the role of this person in my life, the emotional importance her relationship served, and how welcoming my daughter into the world would likely change how I felt about that relationship.  Then, at the end of that week I attended our new church where the message of the sermon was about Matthew 7:18 – “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”

I listened closely to the pastor that Sunday.  He said, “When things aren’t what they used to be, you have to change what you’re used to doing.” 

People love truth, and people love authenticity.  There is a low tolerance for the inauthentic in our society.  The tree that bears fruit is the perfect example of the difference between the authentic and the inauthentic.  Just as a tree grows and develops fruit over time, we as people grow and develop our habits and behaviours.  Just as a person would stop picking and eating rotten fruit from a bad tree, they would also stop dealing with or interacting with a person who routinely showed poor or inauthentic behaviours.

I used to think that I was the person with the poor our inauthentic behaviours: Why would someone be so hurtful towards me and make such an effort to exclude me from their life?  I have worked hard over the years to overcome this thought, attributing it to my low self-esteem that developed from my difficult childhood and poor relationships with my parents.  It may have taken years to believe this truth, but I am not a bad tree – I am a good tree that bears good fruit.  I really am.

However, even good trees have branches that are heavy and burdensome – branches that are overgrown and don’t produce any fruit.  These branches take up the resources and energy of the tree and prevent it from producing abundant fruit.  This idea reminded me of the advice I received from a fellow gardener last summer when I asked her about her fruitful tomato plants.  She told me to trim off all of the branches on my tomato plants that were not growing tomatoes.  This way the plant would stop wasting energy on the branches that weren’t growing fruit and instead would use that energy to grow bigger, more healthy tomatoes.  I used her advice and sure enough, my tomatoes grew bigger and faster.

If a tree is a metaphor for my life, it is only natural that I would have these heavy, burdensome branches that are weighing me down.  It is only natural, then, that I should need to prune my own boughs with the hopes of removing those parts of my life that are only causing me grief, so that I can concentrate more on the best parts of my life.  The pastor continues on in his sermon, addressing the need for pruning in our lives.  Like the gardener’s advice for my tomato plants, he quoted another part of the scripture: “The farmer cuts off branches that bear no fruit and prunes the ones that do bear fruit so that they will be more fruitful.”  He continued on, addressing all of us and saying rather matter-of-factly: “Most of us know exactly what areas of our lives need to be pruned.”

Despite all this advice, pruning is not easy; It is the targeted removal of something from our lives.  It isn’t fun – it cuts to the core, it is invasive, painful, and it is cutting something out of your life that needs to be removed.

For 18 months I have let myself hold onto the idea or illusion that Kay would come back into my life and that we would, gain, have some kind of friendship.  The timing of this sermon immediately after the mix-up/rejection from Kay was nothing more than perfect.  And, what better time to prune something so heavy and fruitless from my life than right before I prepare to welcome my daughter into my life.

My relationship with Kay initially sprouted from a need to fill in the missing mother-daughter relationship in my life.  It may have worked for a small while.  But there is never a replacement for the real thing – and now I am at the beginning of the best most real opportunity to develop this type of relationship… With my very own daughter.

 

 

The Birth of Baby El

I shouldn’t be surprised that El came into the world with a relative fury – she is my third baby, after all… and my first girl.

She came early on a Tuesday morning, but her decision on when to arrive seemed to be a few days in the making.  For the entire weekend preceding her birthday, I experienced contractions that would start and stop every few hours.  Sometimes they would get worse, but they would always just stop.  When Sunday night came, I was anxious about whether or not to work the next day – or even for the rest of the week, given that my maternity leave was scheduled to start the following Monday.  After weighing the options, I opted to listen to my body and I sent an email to the necessary people advising that I would not be in the next day.

I spent Monday feeling guilty about my decision to stay home from work.  I moved my prenatal appointment to the morning with the hopes that talking with my Doctor would make me feel a little better about my decision.  She didn’t seem phased by my decision to take  the day, or even the rest of the week, off work.  I was, for goodness sake, 38+ weeks pregnant.

She checked my cervix and told me it was 3cm and 50% effaced.  “Do you want me to strip your membranes? ” She asked.  I gave her permission (I preemptively took  two extra strength tylenol before my appointment, in anticipation of this possibility).  It was more painful than I remembered and I made more noise than I expected myself to make.  Then, I left her office with hopeful anticipation that labour wouldn’t be too far away.

The day passed uneventfully, with nary a contraction to bring up my hopes.  I went about the usual business of taking the kids to their activities, and given the beautiful weather, we even walked the short distance to get where we were going.  I took the boys for frozen yogurt after taekwondo, and if I could go back now knowing that would be the last thing we would do together without the baby in our lives, I would have been kinder and more patient with them.  We went home, prepared for bed and I tucked them in as usual.

I was getting ready for bed around 10:00 and the same contractions that had plagued my weekend showed up again.  They were mild and not even painful.  I shrugged them off as more of the same, non-productive, braxton hicks.  Thirty minutes later I went to the washroom and noticed a significant amount of “show,” and for a second I though that maybe these contractions were different.  Regardless, I made an effort to go to sleep.

Sleep didn’t work for me that night.  By midnight the contractions were still coming regularly and they were starting to get painful.  I suggested to my husband that, “maybe it’s time.”  He groaned in his sleep and rolled over.  By 1:00, things didn’t seem to be improving, so I made the decision that we needed to go into the hospital.  I called my nanny and woke up my husband, who begrudgingly had to go and pick her up.  By the time she arrived at our house and we drove across the city to the hospital where I was checked in, it was 2:30.  Somehow, Baby El got the memo that we were at the hospital because contractions started getting a whole lot worse!

The nurse I had was kind enough.  She didn’t immediately recognize me, and I was okay with that… until she presented a rather inappropriate plan to observe the progress of my labour before admitting me: “You’re only 4cm, so maybe we’ll get you to walk around for an hour and then we’ll re-assess. Do you want anything for pain?”
I turned down the morphine and said I would wait for my epidural.  She tried not to raise her eyebrows at me, but she didn’t do a good job.  When she disappeared behind the curtain, I expressed my frustration to my husband:
She obviously doesn’t recognize me… This is a stupid plan. She didn’t even look at my prenatal sheets.  I would never send a para 3 woman who is obviously contracting and uncomfortable away to walk, especially when her last labour was only 5 hours.”

The nurse came back after a few more contractions had come and gone.  The contraction pattern on my NST was impressive, to say the least.  Thankfully, one of the other nurses must have told her who I was, and maybe also discussed a better plan with her.  The new plan was to admit me right away and get me an epidural… Oh, and she also mentioned that she “realized how she knew me…”

I walked down the hallway to my labour room, stopping twice for contractions.  I placed out my arm eagerly in anticipation of my IV start… step one to my epidural acquisition.  The nurse missed.   She couldn’t find another good vein, so she decided to wait for the anesthetist.  He couldn’t find a good vein either and it felt like an eternity before he finally decided to retry the hand where the original attempt failed.  My contractions were close now, and more intense than I could tolerate.  I asked for the gas – I needed something and I didn’t even have an IV yet – I began to fear the possibility that I would be delivering this baby without any pain medications on board.  Breathing was barely working. I may have swore.  That moment reaffirmed for me that women who gracefully deliver their babies without pain medication are my silent heroes.

The IV was finally in and we wasted no time in positioning for my epidural.  I was starting to feel pressure and the sounds I made with the contractions were the audible evidence of that.  Whatever was going on behind me didn’t matter, but I had seen so many of them done before that I could picture the steps as he was doing them.  I knew when he was threading the catheter into my back, and despite the pain of a contraction, I was relieved to know that the medication would come soon.

It took a few contractions to feel the effects of the epidural, but once it was effective enough, my nurse checked my cervix again.  9cm.  It was 4:15 and it was time to call my doctor.  I didn’t know who would arrive first: my doctor, my baby, or my mom – who was driving frantically from 3 hours away.  Baby El held out- I could feel the pressure of the contractions and waited for my water to break with each one.  My wonderful doctor arrived after 15 min, and my mom was 15 minutes away.  I asked her if we could wait to push until my mom arrived – and as wonderful as she is, she obliged.

Baby still held on and by 4:50 the party was ready to start.  My epidural was fantastic – maybe too fantastic – because I couldn’t feel a single thing, not even the urge to push.  But with great coaching and some determination, baby El came into the world at 5:15 Tuesday morning. With her tiny little peanut body, her head full of black hair, and her tight double nuchal cord (which we would have never guessed from her heart rate strip, but explained my need to push for 20 minutes), she was placed on my flattened belly for me to see.

There is no way to put into words that moment when you see your new baby for the first time.  She was beautiful and I loved her immediately.  Her cord was cut and I slid her up onto my chest, where she stayed for the first hour of her life.  We took many pictures while my placenta delivered, and I received the final piece of wonderful news: no tearing at all.  I could finally sit up in my bed and I cradled my beautiful baby El up against my breast.  She was eager to suckle and I helped her latch.  It was so surreal to be nursing my baby only 10 minutes after she was born.  After only 4 hours of strong, active labour.  Just barely longer than a day after I decided to listen to my body tell me that it was time to take care of myself and my baby.

Tomorrow Baby El will be a week old and my mind is mixed with one paradoxical feeling: it has only been a week of having her in our lives… but how has it only been a week?

 

Nearing the End

This afternoon I will be writing the first part of a two-part surgical exam.  This exam is the reason I haven’t been around blogging and reading other blogs much in the last few weeks.  I just want this exam to be over.  The saddest part about this exam is that I don’t even need to pass it – it is the biggest waste of money and time away from my kids and my life ever.  However, when is a Type A personality like me ever going to be okay with failing a test?

Don’t ask me too much about the reasons why I need to write an exam that I don’t actually have to pass – it’s all “politics” within my residency program.  Let’s just say that after tomorrow, it will be over and I can stop feeling guilty about being poorly prepared for it and for spending time away from my kids to prepare so poorly.

I am also nearing the end of pregnancy.  I have, though, reached that point where I wish the end was here now.  I have begun suffering from the “pregnancy insomnia,” to help round off the extreme fatigue I had before that. My poor pubic symphysis is ready to tear apart and my left SI joint is in collaboration with the pubic symphysis to make all daily activities a living, painful nightmare.  My physiologic dyspnea is getting worse and I am starting to have tachycardic, bordering on pre-syncopal episodes every day.  However, I don’t want to start medication for this because I am so close to the end, and I remember from my last pregnancy that the medications just made me more tired.  Plus there is all the other non-pleasantries that go along with the end of pregnancy.  Almost 35 weeks!  The end is close!

I am stressing out about the end of work, as well.  I am still having a hard time accepting the idea that I am taking off the next 5 months of my training – and postposing the completion of my program by as much.  I feel lost with the idea that I will fall behind my cohort of residents, but that i won’t actually be part of the new cohort – I will be floating in this in-between, neverland space, like I already feel I do in most of my life.  I know I am taking this time to be with my baby and with my family, and I will never get it back, but I can’t seem to get over that right now.  I am also supposed to be starting a new, 4-week rotation next week and I am uncertain as to how it will go.  Will I be able to finish enough of the rotation that it will be considered complete?  Will I be able to stand all day in the OR?  Will people just wonder why the heck I decided to try and work right up until I go into labour, instead of taking time off to relax and prepare for the baby’s arrival?  I just don’t know!  I am motivated to finish this rotation because it means that I don’t have to do it when I come back from my maternity leave (and I don’t have to do call right now, so that makes it more pleasant).  However, I just want my pregnancy to be over and the change over from one rotation to the next seems like a good time for this baby to come!

Despite wanting this pregnancy to be over, I am actually really nervous and scared about the changes that come along with bringing home a new baby.  Like most people, I hate change.  I fear change.  I feel like I am in a holding pattern, waiting for this monumentous change to happen so that I can stop fearing it.  I am beginning to feel sad that the life as I know it, with my two boys, will be over soon.  I remember feeling this way before E was born, but he came only such a short time after A and there wasn’t much of a family routine at that point.  But this baby… she’s coming after 4 years of us being a family of 4.  We have family vacations, traditions, memories, and a large family portrait of the four of us over our mantle.  This is a really big change and I’m not sure I’m ready for it.  I feel very out-of-touch with the reasons why I wanted a third baby; now that she is almost here, I fear that having three kids won’t be what I expected it to be.  Obviously, there is nothing I can do to change this now, which leads me back to the beginning of my circle: I just want it to be over so that I can stop worrying and fretting and just live!

 

Unexpected Revelation

It was the Friday before Valentines Day and my Husband forwarded me an invitation over text message.  The invitation was from his clinic partner for his daughter’s “Dedication” on that Sunday at their Christian Assembly Church.  My husband asked me if it was something that we should go to.

We are not a religious family by any stretch of the imagination.  I was raised Catholic and I consider myself educated in the tenants of Christianity, as well as the basics of other major World Religions from classes I took in university.  My husband would identify himself as “agnostic,” although I would argue he falls more on the side of strong atheist.  We have had many arguments  discussions about how to raise our children when it comes to religion and I eventually just gave up on him.

In response to my husband’s question, I told him that it was something important to his partner and that it would be a nice gesture for us to attend.  So, he sent the RSVP to his friend and we prepared to attend a Sunday Church service together… for the first time ever.

It just so happened that on this weekend, my Mother was visiting us from out of town.  My Mother is on the complete opposite end of the religious spectrum from my Husband: She is a prophesied born again, Evangelical Christian who belongs to circles of self-proclaimed prophets and the likes.  I have worked very, very, hard to establish boundaries around religion when it comes to my Mom – and these do fail at most opportunities.  As you can imagine, my Mother was beaming when I told her we were attending a Christian Service that Sunday, and Of Course she would be honoured to attend the service with us.

Sunday morning after filling up on a rather rushed breakfast, we all piled into our SUV to drive across the city to the Christian Assembly Church.  I could feel my Mother’s smugness emanating from the back seat of the car and I was already beginning to worry about the conflict that would certainly arise following the service.  I hadn’t been to Church with my mother since I was a teenager and I had no choice but to go with her after the weekly reciting of the “My House, My Rules” speech.

I signed up the boys for the pre-school Sunday School class and we found ourselves some seats half-way down the congregation.  We stood during the Worship – My Mother on one side of me swaying to the music, with her arms open and giving praise, and my Husband on the other side, shifting his weight uncomfortably.  I felt a strange surge of emotion, knowing that my Mother was in her element while my Husband was just using every ounce of energy not to leave the service.  For me, the worship was exactly what I expected it to be: not foreign but not familiar.  Not uncomfortable by any means.

After the Worship we sat down and listened to a guest Pastor and his wife talk about Marriage.  That was the theme of the day – Marriage in the Bible, and how to apply it to the modern day marriage.  I found some of the information presented to be interesting and inspiring.  I resisted the urge to look over at my Mother, who was contently listening despite the fact that she has never been remarried and still hold significant resentment towards my father and her divorce from 25 years ago.  I was beginning to predict the criticisms I would hear later from my Husband.  Finally, the service was over.  We collected the boys from preschool class and piled back into the SUV to drive to the Dedication Brunch.

Silence.

We drove for a little while before my Mom started: “That was a beautiful Service, wasn’t it?  So much interesting information.  What did you guys think?” Why does she have to start these conversations?  I’ve been through this with her before.

“It was nice.” My husband replied.

I quickly shifted the conversation to ask the boys about what they did at the Sunday School – They talked mostly about crafts and playing with toys.  I was relieved that this strategy worked.  I said my own little prayer hoping that this would be the end of the “church discussion” between my Husband, my Mother, and I.

Thankfully that was it.  We enjoyed the brunch together, congratulated my husband’s co-worker on their daughter’s dedication, and proceeded to go on with our Valentines day.

Later that evening, as my Husband and I drove away from the house on our way to our Valentines Day date, he started the conversation:
“That Church service was interesting today.  I’ve never been to a Church that plays live music and has such relevant and modern sermons.  I think maybe I’ve misjudged the role of church.”

I tried to keep my eyeballs in their sockets!
This, coming from the man who absolutely refused to entertain the idea of sending out kids to Catholic school for fear of indoctrination!  Even with my efforts over all our years together to explain to him that religion/faith has a lot of offer, even if it is just learning the stories and parables in the Bible.  I told him, many times, that “God” can represent anything you want it to – it doesn’t have to refer to the Omniscient Creator, if you don’t want it to.  He never seemed to care… Until that Valentines Sunday, that is.

“As I was listening to the Pastor, I realized that even though he talked about God a lot, God can be anything you want it to be.  When I thought of it that way, what he said about Marriage seemed to be really good advice.”

So I can tell him that numerous times over the years of our courtship and Marriage, but he won’t believe it until we actually go to Church???

“I think there is a lot of value in what they were saying today.  I think, maybe, our family could benefit from doing something like this every week.

!!!

I almost fell out of the car!  “You mean, you want to start going to Church, every week?” I asked my Husband.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.”

And so, at the request of my beyond atheist, cynical Husband, we have been attending the Christian Assembly Church every Sunday since Valentines Day.