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Knitted in the Womb Notes

Location: Allentown, PA

I'm a Christian wife and a mom to three daughters and two sons. I'm a member of the board of directors of EmPoWeReD Birth. In my "spare time" I'm a doula, and a certified childbirth instructor.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Life Action, Part II (or "Indoctrination 101, Pt II)

When I left this topic last I was discussing a concern I had before my church brought in a ministry group to do an extended period of "renewal" meetings. I was concerned that the high "payment" to attend the meetings could result in an acceptance of what was being taught without proper thought and study. I laid out how attending the meetings might work out in a "typical" family structure.

Well I don’t have a “typical” family structure. I work part time days, my husband works full time nights. So we knew going into it that my husband just wasn’t going to be able to attend the weeknight services. With 4 kids, and knowing that I had a weekly Wednesday night commitment at another church, I knew I would not attend all of the services, but I hoped to attend as many as possible. I actually submitted a prayer card on the first Sunday that God would help to make attendance at the sessions flow well. We also knew that we could not attend the Saturday service because of my previously mentioned class that I needed to teach.

Monday night things just seemed to fall into place. I got home from work on time, dinner was ready to go, the kids were very cooperative about getting packed up into the van to go. I did have a slight unease because I hadn’t told my husband I was planning to go—I suspected he would not approve since we had much to do around our house. But I reasoned that my relationship with God was more important, and I would just stay up late to get some stuff done. I got to church and distributed the kids to their various classrooms, then settled into the sanctuary to listen to the sermon. After some perfunctory introductory stuff, my pastor stood to speak as an introduction to the guest speaker. He admonished the congregation that it would be good for us to be like the Bereans who were noted as being noble in Acts because they received the message preached to them. He stopped at that point. Lets look at the passage from Acts 17:10-11:

10As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

My pastor is a man of the Word. I’m sure he knows that the Bereans were commended not just for receiving the message, but because they examined it against the scriptures. Why had he left that part out? It gnawed at me all through the evening because the lack of time to examine the scriptures was precisely one of my concerns before the series even started.

The message that evening did not sit right with me. It was about “self-control” vs. “spirit-control.” I’m sure you can guess which one was set up as the good thing, and which was set up as “b-a-a-d, just plain b-a-a-d!” The thing is, “self-control” is part of the fruit of the spirit. There are 35 uses of the word “control” in the NIV Bible, and 9 of them are references to being “self-controlled”—all of them indicating that this is a good thing. An additional 9 refer to human control of other people in a good way, while 5 are negative human control. 2 relate to God’s control of the weather and of our transfigured bodies. Only 4—all clustered in a short portion of Romans—refer to being controlled by God, righteousness, or the Spirit. (6 refer to the control of animals, or being controlled by sin or Satan to round out the 35)

I don’t want to down play the importance of that portion of Romans—it is part of the Bible and very important. The author is very passionate in his discourse, which to me indicates that he felt it to be a weighty issue. But I do not believe that the Bible supports “spirit-control” at the expense of “self-control.”

Now to be sure, the speaker used some examples of “self-control” that were not positive. He seemed to speak from the perspective of “self-control means wanting things your own way.” But even in that, I was not moved. His examples used extremes of behavior when I felt that a middle ground would be the more appropriate behavior. For example, he spoke of a wife who was upset because her husband was late coming home for dinner. The “self-controlled” wife he said would throw the dinner in the trash and sulk, treating her husband poorly when he got home. The “spirit-controlled” wife would cover the plate, and keep it ready to heat up when her husband got home, not having any expectation that he would be home “on time” any evening, and thus not allowing herself to be upset about the situation. I feel that the first situation the wife was childish, and the second situation the wife lacked proper boundaries. An acceptable middle ground to me would be to cover the food and then warm it up (or allow her husband to warm it up himself) when the husband got home, but after he had eaten dinner talk to him calmly about how the tardiness had impacted the family and ask that in the future he call home.

In giving this example, you need to remember that in my family the roles would be reversed—my husband is the one getting dinner ready, and I am the one who is potentially late getting home. I had to wonder if this speaker would have given the same type of advice to my husband about how to handle things if I were habitually late for dinner?

I gathered my kids up from their classes not feeling at all refreshed or renewed from the sermon, but rather troubled. My troubled feeling only increased on the drive home from church when I learned that my children had been told to BEG me to bring them back to the sessions. They had actually been told this on Sunday as well. While I would completely support them being instructed to enthusiastically ask to be brought back, “begging” to me implies that they were being encouraged to continue to plead after a parent had responded “no.” Further, when I started asking questions of my children to find out why they were excited about the program I found that it wasn’t because they were learning about God—which is typically what they will tell me when I ask why they want to go to Sunday School or “God and me” on Wednesdays. No, they wanted to go back because they were earning points to get stickers and candy. I’m for positive reinforcements used in moderation…but I think that went overboard if it was SUCH a motivator that it overshadowed God.

Tuesday I got held up at work, dinner wasn’t ready when I got home, I knew the kids really needed to get baths. I didn’t go to the service. I did discuss the previous night with my husband. He did not object to my having gone, nor did he say I shouldn’t go again. But he shared my unease. Wednesday night I had my previous commitment to serve as a teacher for “God and me” at another church. Thursday and Friday I possibly could have gone—actually Friday evening I did end up driving out to the church to drop some stuff off. But I did not go to the sessions. The next time I went--and the topic of my next blog in this series--was Sunday morning.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The "Latest Spiritual Gobblydeegook?"

In response to one of my recent blogs, Molly commented:

I dunno...the whole thing smacks of the latest "spiritual" gobblydeegook. I don't expect any brownie points for that opinion, so don't worry... It just ignores basic scholarship in favor of recent social trends. Because somebody abuses a truth makes the thing itself no longer true?

This was basically her response to the concept that spanking a child might not be a Biblically sanctioned method of discipline. Greg, whose comments followed hers, echoed similar sentiments.

When I was in college I participated in an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and at the end of each year I had the opportunity to attend "chapter camp." This was a one week camp to dig deeper into issues of spirituality. The first year I went I participated in the "Jesus the Lifechanger" track. We spent one week studying the book of Mark. We ripped it apart. It was awesome, and lived up to it's name--we learned about Jesus, and it was life changing. As I recall, we dug so deep that even after 7 days of spending about 6 hrs per day in Bible study, we had only gotten through 7 chapters! It was there that I was first introduced to the principles of basic hermenuetics, though I did not know that term, I just knew that I learned how to really study the Bible. I applied the principles I learned on a regular basis after that.

Saddly, after a few years I quit doing the hard work to really study and interpret the Bible, relying instead on quick study, and perhaps a cursory glace at a commentary if I felt I wasn't quite understanding something. Even sadder still, since that seminar I took nearly 15 years ago, I have never encountered a situation in church where people were actually being taught those very important principles of how to properly study scripture.

Some years ago I "met" a pastor who goes by the name of "Metochoi" on-line. He was kind enough to write up several "lessons" on Biblical Hermenuetics. These lessons parallel what I was taught back in Chapter Camp, and formed the basis of my study of interpretation of the "rod" verses in Proverbs--using some quotes from Tedd Tripp's book Sheperding a Child's Heart to make points.

#1 = Interpret LITERALLY.
Tripp asserts on pg 108 that “the rod” means “a parent, in faith toward God and faithfulness toward his or her children, undertaking the responsibility of careful, timely, measured and controlled use of physical punishment”
This rather symbolic definition of the rod violates the very first basic principle of Biblical hermeneutics--interpret LITERALLY. The word "rod" is literally a noun, and as used in scripture in places other than the verses used to justify spanking refer to a thick and heavy stick or a ruler's sceptor. Yet Tripp's definition transforms it into a verb, and then symbolically transforms it to a vaguely stated "use of corporal punishment." To be fair, the Proverbs are a collection of often symbolic passages (for example, must a husband really sit at the city gates talking while his wife conducts business such as buying and selling land as depicted in Proverbs 31?), and many interpretations of the rod passages assume that the “rod” is meant symbolically. However, to follow other principles of hermeneutics we must be able to find clear evidence somewhere in the scripture—and truly throughout the body of scripture, to support a symbolic interpretation. I fail to find support for such a specific and very highly symbolic interpretation. Further, a similar interpretation is rarely applied to Proverbs 14:3 “A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back” or Proverbs 26:3 “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back”--both verses which clearly refer to adults and have been used in the past to justify wife beating.

#2 = Understand the HISTORICAL-CULTURAL background.
It is important to remember how families were structured at that time. Childrearing was left primarily to the women, men would take over the raising of boys only when they approached bar mitzvah age. Solomon is addressing this book to his adult son (this point relates the concept of interpreting scripture in context), who would have had very little dealings with his young children. Further, the Talmud, which was essentially the Jewish equivalent of a modern day Bible Commentary, specifically forbade fathers from striking their children, as the children may lack maturity and strike back, dishonoring their parents and thus violating the commandment to honor their parents. Even if a child is outwardly controlled and does not strike back, many, if not most, children who are dealt with via corporal punishment at times wish to strike their parents. Christ states that to think in the heart of sinning is to have sinned, so the parents are tempting their children to sin. Corporal punishment of young adults was officially conducted by governmental authorities in OT times, NOT the parents (of course it is unrealistic to think that parents never struck their children, just as it is unrealistic to think that husbands never struck their wives).

Further, the use of the rod in the OT bore little relationship to modern day spanking - best anyone can tell it was used on the back, not buttocks; it was used on adults with no evidence that young children were subject to it; and by modern standards the rod beatings were often violent enough that parents would be arrested for emulating them.

#3 = Analyze the GRAMMATICAL structure.
In analyzing the grammatical structure it is important to remember that the scriptures were not written in English, but rather Hebrew/Greek. The “rod” verses use two words that are important to look at. The word “na’ar” is translated into “child,” and the word “shebet” is translated into “rod.”

The Hebrew language had several words to describe different ages of children, including words that specifically defined babies and young children. Neither of these words are used here. “na’ar” is used 238 times in the OT. 3 of the uses are in the Proverbs “rod” verses. 200 of the uses, or 85%, are used in ways that clearly do not refer to small children (lad, servant, young man, youth, 7 of 16 uses of young , 24 of 51 uses of child(ren)). In some cases the age of person being referred to cannot be determined (young-9, boys-1, child-19: about 12%) . That leaves only a few uses that clearly refer to refer to young children (babe-1, child-5: about 2%). While it would be incorrect to say that the use in these verses can’t apply to young children, it certainly seems likely that it doesn’t, especially using other hermeneutical rules.

The word “shebet” refers to a large branch, a walking staff. Some spanking advocates have insisted that this can be interpreted as a hand, while others use “flexible objects” (such as spatulas, belts, leather straps), thin dowel rods, paint stirrers, or wooden spoons. Clearly none of these fit the definition of a large branch. Another meaning of “shebet” is a ruler’s scepter. This again was a fairly thick rod, but it was a symbol of authority that was not used to strike people. It was also used in reference to a shepherds rod, which was used to gently guide sheep or to fight off attackers, not to strike the sheep.

In analyzing the grammatical structure, it is important to recognize that the Proverbs contain many symbolic texts, and also were considered to be wisdom texts rather than commandments. Whether corporal punishment—if it is indeed supported by scripture—is wisdom or a command makes a significant difference. If parents are commanded to use corporal punishment on their children, was Mary in sin since we can assume that she never used corporal punishment on Christ? How about the foster parent that is forbidden by law to use it? Dwight L. Moody, who by the accounts of his children did not spank them? The parent whose child has a medical condition (brittle bone syndrome, leukemia or other conditions that cause easy and excessive bruising) that prohibits corporal punishment? How many times must a parent use corporal punishment on a child to be in obedience to the command? Is one use enough? How do we draw the line about what age to start/stop using it?

#4 = Use SYNTHESIS [Compare scripture with scripture].

Just to start you off, consider Proverbs 23:13 and 14;
"Do not withhold correction from a child; for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, and deliver his soul from hell."
The Bible does say that beating someone with the rod could lead to death (Exodus 21:20), and parents certainly have beaten their children to death with a rod (a wooden spoon in one case I read about), citing Proverbs as evidence that the beating couldn't be the cause of death despite what doctors said.

Also compare it to Ephesians 2:8 and 9:
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
If the Proverbs rod verses refer to spanking, then they state that parents can literally save their children through spanking. Yet the New Testament makes it quite clear that we cannot save ourselves through works - is it logical to argue that God won't allow us to boast of saving ourselves, but happily gives us the right and opportunity to boast of saving our children?

If the rod in Proverbs refers to God's word, and we use the New Testament methods of discipline outlined in Matthew 18 and other passages in the NT (i.e., challenge people who are sinning with God's word), then we are following Romans 10:17 ("Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God"), and the Proverbs rod verses fit neatly with New Testament theology. But if the Proverbs rod is a literal one, then the verse is saying that parents can do what the New Testament says only God can do.

Another point to make in comparing scripture to scripture, is to consider Ephesians 6:4, which admonishs parents not to provoke their children to wrath. The Greek word used in this passage is “parorgizo” and the “Blue Letter Bible” states that this word as used in the New Testament means “to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate, anger.” Most spanking advocates would admit that spankings often provoke anger, even wrath. Tripp addresses this by stating that the parent should spank longer, which seems inconsistent with the goal of avoiding provoking anger and wrath.

#5 = THEN you can APPLY the passage!
I believe that the Bible does not endorse spanking, and a careful reading of the entire work of scripture to me would seem to actually prohibit spanking.

#6 = At every step, rely on the ILLUMINATION of the Holy Spirit.
I have sought to do this, as I honestly believe that many spanking proponents have prayed and sought the Holy Spirit. However, I believe that many spanking proponents have made the mistake of attempting to interpret scripture without doing careful work to cover the first 4 steps of proper Biblical interpretation—which is just as much of a mistake as doing the first 4 steps without relying on the Holy Spirit (okay, well maybe not…I think that sometimes the Holy Spirit will choose to supercede our short cuts…).

#7 = Interpret in CONTEX
This point is addressed as comments interwoven in the explanation above. Specifically, in understanding the “context” of Proverbs, one must understand who it was addressed to, what cultural practices were being referred to, and what the style of the writing was (often symbolic).

What NOT to do:
#1 = NEVER make your point at the price of the proper interpretation.
#2 = NEVER rely on superficial or shallow study.
#3 = NEVER allegorize or spiritualize unless the text itself calls for it.
#1 The passages in question clearly do apply to parenting, so this does not apply.
#2 I believe I have done rather in depth study of the verses in question, so this does not apply.
#3 I believe this is what spanking advocates do when they change a “rod” into “spanking with a flexible instrument”

Not all of this was my original work. Over the years I have collected quotes here and there from others that I have retained, for example, the first 2 paragraphs of #4 are borrowed.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Certified Midwives in Utah

Apparently there is some legislation pending in Utah to regulate what are known as "direct entry midwives." These are midwives who did not become nurses first as "Certified Nurse Midwives" do, but rather follow a variety of paths to learn their midwifery skills--typically involving some formal schooling and significant "apprenticship." By choosing not to become nurses first they do not have to learn about topics that are irrellevant to midwifery, like geriatrics, but instead focus on just midwifery--the care of low risk women during pregnancy, and for gynecological needs. In my state many serve the needs of the Amish and Mennonite communities. Many follow their training up by pursuing "Certified Professional Midwife" status by passing a certification exam offered by the North American Registry of Midwives, and then maintaining stringent certification renewal requirements on a regular basis.

When this topic enters the public arena, it never fails that someone who hasn't really bothered to be educated about birth beyond what can be learned from the TV drama "ER" (birth is dangerous! A pregnant woman should rush to the hospital at the first inkling that birth might occur in the next week so that she can be properly surrounded by machines that go "beep" to detect any possible problem.) has to sound off about the topic. In this case it was the editorial staff at The Daily Herald in Provo, Utah. I've given birth to two babies in a hospital (Jessica, and Katie), and two at home (Jason and Sean), as well as attending many births as a doula, and I'm also a Bradley Method of Childbirth instructor; so I think I know a bit about it. Let's look at just a few of the things they have wrong, shall we?

The article calls direct entry midwives (DEM) "low end" and states that they have a "light" training program. I disagree. The midwifery knowledge they have is on par with Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM). In some ways I'd say they learn *more* about how to promote healthy birth than CNM's. But as I said above, they just don't learn about topics not relevant to the care they choose to give.

The editorial states that the proposed legislation would require DEM's to inform patients of their credentials and back up plans in case of emergencies. The author seems to assume that this is not already done, but typically the woman who seeks out care from a DEM would either know her as a member of the community, or would have much more vigorously interviewed her than the average American mother who picks her OB/GYN out of the listing provided by her HMO, and asks very few questions.

Here's a winner of a quote:

As we've said before, it is foolhardy to forsake a hospital with its personnel who are trained to respond to emergencies and who have modern technology close at hand. But some people do it nonetheless. Home delivery seems warm and fuzzy to them -- as if a newborn baby really cares. We venture to guess that what matters most to a newborn is a warm blanket and a mother's breast, in that order.

It's foolhardy to forsake a hospital? Why? Countries with much better maternal/infant mortality and morbidity statistics than ours have higher rates of homebirth. Birth has occurred at home through the vast bulk of time, and we have still managed to survive as a specises. Ironically I would agree that to the newborn what matters most is "a warm blanket and a mother's breast," but I'd venture a guess that the baby is MUCH more likely to get those things at a homebirth than in a hospital birth. All too often in my work as a doula I see babies taken away from their mothers when there is no good need to do it.

The hospital rooms may look "cozy and comfortable" on a tour...but obviously the writer has never actually tried to lay in one of those wonderful labor beds for any period of time. They AREN'T comfortable. As much as I respect and reccommend the OB team that attended my first two births, and think the world of the two OB's, I doubt either of them would give me the coat off their back--literally--as my Certified Professional Midwife did when it was necessary to help facilitate the progress of my labor with my son Sean. And when a 3000 watt light starts shining at your private parts, there is no more "as welcoming as home" about it--its cold and clinical. As far as "actual doctors nearby"--typically when a woman is laboring in a teaching hospital, which many do, the closest she is going to get to a "Dr" being around for the bulk of her labor is a resident who may have attended 15 or 20 births so far--in comparison with my midwife who has attended over 600. I've been in the hospital when the nurses caught a baby--I myself was caught by a nurse. I've been at a birth where the on-call OB (who had never met the mother, he was not from her practice and couldn't be bothered to stop by the hospital early in her labor to at least introduce himself) didn't show up until an hour and 50 minutes after the mom started pushing--but she gave birth about an hour and 40 minutes after she started pushing--the resident caught.

To me, as I planned my first home birth, there was some aspect of "warm and fuzzy" to it. But there was more. I really do feel that being in the hospital slowed my first two labors because I could not relax as well. It resulted in more pain for me, which means more stress hormones getting transferred to my baby. But even beyond that, as a low risk mother I found that nothing happened in my first two births that could not have been dealt with during a homebirth. In my first there was thick meconium in the water (but I do question if that would have occurred with a homebirth--I had a LONG labor, which is associated with meconium--perhaps my labor would have been quicker at home, and thus no meconium?), so I would have needed to transport to the hospital. But it would not have been an "emergency transport." My water broke and revealed the meconium more than 6 hours prior to the birth, and it is really only at the point of birth that meconium becomes an issue. With my second, quite frankly, I did not need all the bells and whistles that the hospital provided. The birth cost $10,000 in a hospital, but could have been handled for less than $3,000 as a homebirth. In a country where we bemoan rising medical care costs, why do we not embrace safe and low cost options for childbirth?

Here's another one:

The most important question is safety. Childbirth is not without medical risks, and in fact can be highly risky. And it's not just a risk to the baby: There are two lives at stake -- mother and child. If things go wrong (and they can, no matter how thoroughly the mother's been screened), you need trained medical personnel to be right there, not waiting for you at the emergency room door 30 minutes after a midwife figures out things aren't working as planned.

What is so wrong with showing up at the ER door 30 minutes after the midwife has detected a problem? Generally since the midwife is offering one on one care to the mom, not distracted by other patients, she is going to pick up on problems very quickly. In most cases it isn't going to take that long (its about a 10 minute drive from my house to 2 different hospitals--most moms who choose to "homebirth" will find some place to birth near a hospital for possible transport if their home is not suitably close). The midwife will have called ahead, so the OR team is getting ready without the distraction of having to care for the mom.

On the flip side, I recently attended an attempted VBAC. This is "the birth to be most feared" for most care providers. Her water broke at 4 a.m., so we were concerned that she was laboring against a clock. She entered the hospital slightly after noon, and in the early evening her cervix wasn't changing much, so she consented to some Pitocin. That brought a constant fetal monitor. But the dang thing would not keep track of the baby's heart beat. It kept loosing it. The nurse would readjust it and the baby was just fine, so we really didn't worry. She commented a couple of times that it was picking up the mom's heartbeat when it wasn't picking up the baby's. At 4 a.m. the next morning the OB walked in with scrubs on. NOT a good sign. He took one look at the fetal monitor and seemed concerned. He did a vaginal exam. Mom was progressing. But he proceeded to give her extreme pressure about how the baby had been showing distress for 2 HOURS, and so he needed to do a c-section because the uterus might be rupturing. We managed to get him out of the room for the parents to talk alone, and during that time the monitor slipped again--picking up the mom's heartbeat. The mom, wanting the best for her baby and fearing that the Dr. might be right about possible rupture, agreed to the c-section. I went out to tell the Dr. of their choice, and he practically yelled at me "of course she is having a c-section! Her baby has just had a 4 minute deceleration!" Exasperated I said "that isn't the baby, it's the mom's heartbeat!" "NO it ISN'T! It's 95, how in the world can it be the mom's?"

I didn't argue--I had said too much already. But stop for a minute. Take your pulse. Mine is 80. When I'm standing and just walked downstairs to get a timer. Mom was laying down and relaxing really well through contractions, which would slow the pulse, but doing hard physical work and was emotionally stressed by the Dr., which would increase the pulse. Is 95 really that unlikely a pulse for the mom? No one bothered to take her pulse directly to compare.

But even after this it was a full 30 minutes before the first incision was made. 30 minutes. After 2 hours of supposed troubling fetal heart rate tracings on a VBAC, a supposed 4 minute decelaration.

BTW, mom's scar looked very healthy and pink, no sign of rupture. Baby was very healthy and had high APGARs.

Now let's look at some numbers. I love numbers.

One need only look at infant mortality rates in the past two centuries to see the benefits of medical technology. Far fewer children die at birth today. In 1910, 190 infants per 1,000 died at birth. By 1940, the number dropped to 47. In 2001 it was only 6.8 per 1,000.

Does the writer not understand that antibiotics and understanding of the need for cleanliness in medical practice lead to the vast majority of this decline in infant mortality? I suppose he doesn't realize that "childbed fever" was actually CAUSED by Dr's who would go from autopsies to births without washing their hands.

Beyond that, the author seems to think that "infant deaths" refers only to deaths at births. This is not true. These deaths are all deaths to live born children in the first year of life. Many have no connection what so ever to mode of birth.

And the author also misses the point made by the CIA...our current infant mortality rate ROSE in 2003, and currently is 42nd in the world. Babies born in Havana have a better chance of surviving the first year of life than babies born in Washington D.C. Obviously all our bells and whistles of technology aren't cutting it.

The author feels that the proposed bill would offer no protection to patients. I argue that it would! The licensing board is likely to be MUCH more stringent in investigating complaints against midwives than they typically are in investigating complaints about Dr's. So if a midwife is practicing irresponsibly, she will likely loose her liscense--unlike an irresponsible OB, who will simply settle a closed malpractice case, and continue practing with patients none the wiser.

The alleged psychological benefits of home birth seem overstated. While the idea is quaint and heart-warming at one level, it should be viewed as the emergency option -- little better than a birth in a taxi cab. The physical safety of mother and child should be the paramount concern. They'll soon get over whatever coldness comes with a hospital.

Uuuggghhh. What about the PHYSIOLOGICAL benefits? Faster labors, less painful labors, less problems for the baby. "Developed" countries with higher rates of homebirth than the US--like the Netherlands and England--have lower rates of complications than we do. Homebirth is little better than birth in a taxi cab? Well I may not be the best housekeeper in the world, but I think my house is a bit cleaner than the average taxi! And I'd really be shocked to find out that a cabbie carries medical oxygen, a doppler to monitor the baby, a blood pressure cuff to watch mom's BP, drugs to help the uterus contract in the case of excessive bleeding after the birth, sterile scissors to cut an episiotomy if the baby is in distress, cord clamps, nasal aspirator and De Lee suction equipment to clear baby's nasal passages as needed, and warm blankets to wrap the baby; not to mention the years of experience to recognize an impending complication, the knowledge to know how to deal with them (including yes, transferring to a hospital)--all things that my Certified Professional Midwife brings with her to births.

Indoctrination 101

I'm feeling chatty tonight I guess. I typed up a 4 part message on a topic before I got my blog set up, and figured I would put it on my blog when the mood struck. Part 1 coordinates with a comment on my husband's blog, so here it is. I'll put up the rest as you ask me to. ;-)

A few months back my church invited an outside ministry, Life Action Ministries, to conduct a series of “renewal” services in our church. I knew I could use some refreshing…it can become very easy in the day to day of life to loose the “zing” in our Christian walk. So I looked forward to the services.

At the same time though, I had a bit of trepidation. That came from my previous studies in “social psychology” in college. I learned in this class that when people “pay” a high price for something—whether that “payment” be in the form of money, performing difficult or demeaning activities, sacrifices of things they value, or giving of time—they will tend to believe that the “something” has high value. The latter “payments” actually will often produce a higher assigned “value” in the individual than does monetary payment. It’s that concept that makes military boot camp or fraternity/sorority hazing so successful in turning out individuals who have fierce and life-long loyalty to the organizations.

My concern with this series of “renewal” services was the time commitment that was anticipated—and this concern applies to really any activity that involves a heavy time commitment over a short time span. The congregation was slowly prepared to expect that we would have 3 Sunday morning services and 2 Sunday evening services conducted by this ministry, as well as attending weeknight services Monday-Friday during the two weeks nested by those Sundays. The evening meetings would be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Then during the first Sunday service of the series we were told that the upcoming Saturday there would be day long services—9 a.m. to 4 p.m. if I remember correctly. (We may have been told of the Saturday just shortly before the start of the event. I know that I did not know far enough in advance to be able to clear my calendar of the childbirth class I was teaching, so we did not attend.)

So lets look at the dynamics of this in the typical family. The first Sunday sermon was fairly basic. There was nothing I hadn’t heard elsewhere before, nothing that really was digging deep, nothing particularly challenging. It was a “soft sell” in my opinion. There was a Sunday evening service that we were unable to attend, but one can assume that attendees would for the most part have returned home afterward, tired from the day, and "unwound" a bit, then gone to bed--not really thinking deeply about what was taught. Then the typical family attending the Monday night session would involve Dad rushing home from work (in some families Dad and Mom rushing home from work…hope someone remembered to stop at daycare to pick up the kids!), a very rushed family meal (or perhaps the kids were fed in advance, but then Dad had to inhale dinner), then pack everyone up to be at church at 6:30. When getting home from the session at 9 o’clock-ish the kids need to get put to bed. Typically by that point Mom and Dad aren’t really wanting to do a lot of work. They want a few moments to unwind before going to bed themselves. They certainly don’t get a chance to follow the example of the Bereans and go seek the scriptures to make sure that what they just heard matches the scripture (this will come up later!).

This would get repeated each night, then on Saturday as well. By Sunday morning people who attended all of the weeknight sessions and Saturday have sacrificed close to 20 hours of their time beyond what they would normally have given (commuting and in the sessions), 5 leisurely family dinners, sleeping in on Saturday, and they are probably watching normal household chores get back-logged. Their heavy “payment” would work to create in them a belief that what they were learning was of great value, so they would esteem it as such. Their lack of free time would hinder their ability to question what they were learning, so they had become accustomed to just accepting what was dished out. While they might discuss the sermon while driving home and over lunch (in glowing terms!), Sunday afternoon would be a leisurely nap to be refreshed for the evening service…not an examination of scripture.

I anticipated these problems going into it—but tried to shrug them off as “those liberal psychologists undermining my faith.” But the thing is, though there is some psychological stuff that is counter to our faith, there is some learning to be gained from the psychological community just about the general nature of people and how we respond in different scenarios. I believe this falls under the area of “general revelation” from God just as much as what I learned about biology and chemistry in college also falls under “general revelation” in understanding the beauty and intricacy of God’s physical creation. I often state with complete conviction of its truth that two of the six classes I took toward my psychology minor in college—Social Psychology and Childhood Development—gave me more practical information that I have applied to my life since college, both socially and professionally, than all of the biology and chemistry classes that I took to supposedly “prepare” me for a professional career. So yes, given my education in basic psychological principles, I was a bit leary that this event at my church was going to be "Indoctrination 101."

Great Minds are Thinking Alike?

Well...I blogged about something on x-ATI guy's site, and now my husband, having more ATI contact in his life than I have had, is planning on blogging about it too. Be sure to check out "My Bloggy Blog!"

And while over there at x-ATI guy's site I noticed a comment from a Bryan M. (full name is on the site). I know a guy with the same name...wonder if that is him? Hmmm...

Thoughts on forgiveness

I was looking at Tulip Girl's blog, and she was looking at x-ATI Guy's blog...and well...I've just got to share a bit with you about what Karen Campell posted as a comment on his blog.

There is common teaching today among evangelicals that we are to offer what I will call blanket forgiveness to those who have trespassed against us. Look at any church conflict situation. The pastor preaches sermons on forgiveness, the church chairman admonishes all sides to forgive one another and go on, and absolutely nothing is resolved. ....

I would like to present this challenge. Does Christ offer blanket forgiveness to us? Does he say "I forgive you" and then move on? No, no, and no.
I John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I believe this is the pattern we are to follow if we really want to resolve conflict, to live fruitful lives and to really love our enemies and want God's best for them.

Forgiveness requires genuine repentance first on the part of the offender. Then we are bound to forgive that person.

There really isn't much I can say to improve upon what she wrote. Go read the rest yourself. ;-)

Monday, January 24, 2005

Women working outside of the home will stray?

Recently I read an opinion on women working outside of the home. The writer was very much of the position that mothers should not be working outside of their home. As a mother who does work part time outside of my home as an occupational safety & health specialist (and up until my 4th child was born I worked full time), I do read these articles to check myself. Is what I am doing the right thing?

My husband and I feel that we need both incomes. We make sacrifices to make this happen. My husband works second shift. For several years this meant an overlap in our working hours. His parents cared for our daughters during that overlap for a few years, then we started using an in-home daycare in our neighborhood. He got laid off just before we found out we were pregnant with our 3rd child. He went to school nights for a few years, before re-entering the workforce before the birth of our 4th child, this time working 6 pm to 2 am, so we get a brief dinner together before he is off to work. This can be difficult on our marriage, but at the same time, it is good. We are very aware of the challenges we have, so we know that we have to work to keep our marriage strong.

So anyway...back to those thoughts on working outside of the home that I read. The writer postulated that one of the reasons mothers should not work outside of the home is because in the workplace they will be exposed to men who are "younger, stronger, thinner, and have more hair" than their husband. They would then be tempted to stray.

Huh??? Does this only apply to mothers, or should all women get locked up at home for their protection? Are men not also succeptible to meeting women whow are "younger, sexier, thinner, and blonder" than their wives? Or is it just that women have so little self control that we just can't be trusted to restrain ourselves? To think that writer was a woman herself...

I have to say though, locking women up in their homes is not going to protect them. My husband quickly knew where I was headed when I brought this discussion up with him and started with the thought "it's not just physical affairs that we need to consider, what about emotional affairs?" He quickly filled in that many women who stay at home get hooked on soap operas...I added the issue of Harlequinn romance novels. These forms of entertainment can quickly lead to a type of emotional affair and a woman who judges her husband against the unrealistic portrayals of men that they make. I had in mind one couple I knew who had a decidedly unhappy marriage, with a wife that often rebuffed her husband's efforts to please her--nearly every time I entered her house I found her on the sofa reading a romance novel.

Yes, I look forward to the day when I am able to stay home with my children full time. I regret that I had to spend "quality time" with a breast pump to make sure my infants get the food God designed for them. But I will not flee the workplace out of a fear that I will be unfaithful to my husband because of my employment.

Friday, January 21, 2005

My husband needs his own blog

My husband recently saw what he thought was an absolutely hysterical website, and he was right. Ultimate Ezzo sent him on a search of what else he could find about Ezzo on the net.

He soon happened upon two news clips by the Detroit News. (clip 1 clip 2)

After reading these he told me that he wanted me to blog about Ezzo. Now it's not like I don't have my opinion about Ezzo, and haven't written about him in the past. But right now I'm not particularly feeling "inspired" to say anything that hasn't already been said at say...ezzo.info or Aware Parent or Gentle Christian Mothers to just name a few of the places you will find opinions about Ezzo on the net--including some of my own musings on those sites.

So I suggested that my husband get his own blog to write his thoughts. Even offered to let him "hijack" my blog to write something. But no...he apparently feels that I'm the writer in our relationship. So I'm being properly submissive ;-) and creating a blog about Ezzo that includes the links in it that he wanted--and a few extra tossed in for good measure. I hope you enjoyed reading it! ;-)

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

"Reasons for Not Smacking"

Sometimes the British can be delightfully straight forward. Here in America we debate whether "spanking" a child is equivalent to "hitting" the child. In Britan there is no such debate...they call it for what it is: smacking.

So on a parenting discussion forum that I enjoy participating in a mom from Britan posted to ask why people chose to stop "smacking" their children. One of the responses in particular I found enlightening, written by Palil.

Her fifth point was something I had never considered before:

5. Breaking the spirit. Every pro-spanking Christian discipline approach I know of states that children have a sin nature, and implies or directly states that parents are supposed to somehow "cure" them of this nature. We are to
break their sinful will and squelch their evil tendencies. We are supposed to train them to control their sin natures. I would submit to you that this is (a) impossible. NO matter how persuasive or abusive a parent is, the sinful
nature and willfulness will remain unless God Himself intervenes in the child's life.. and (b) not a parent's job. God alone is responsible for my child's soul. He determined before the world began who would be His chosen. He draws
the ones He has chosen. He changes their hearts, and he changes their actions. This is not my job. How do you "break" a child of their sinful will, without also inflicting emotional damage that cannot be repaired, or squelching their personhood in ways that hinder development? I do not know if that is possible.

Interesting. I've always felt uncomfortable with the notion that we are supposed to "break our child's will," but I've never been able to come up with an articulate reason for what was wrong with it. This makes a lot of sense to me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I've been "blogged"

I'm new to this whole blogging thing...but I think that's the term? I've been "blogged?" I'm so flattered...another blogger blogged about me. ;-) Thank you Tulipgirl!

Monday, January 17, 2005

Children vs. the marriage?

This past weekend I took a trip to the largest Christian bookstore in my area. While there, I took a look at the books on parenting, to see if there was anything new. My eyes fell upon First Time Mom by Kevin Leman. While I don’t agree with everything that Dr. Leman teaches, I find him to be an enjoyable author, and worth recommending. Curious about what he had to say, I picked up the book and skimmed a few pages.

I was heartened to see him strongly advocating practices such as breastfeeding on demand (though I did wonder why he settled on 6-10 feeds per day when the AAP recommends 8-12?), baby wearing, and making sure the mom sleeps when baby sleeps so she doesn’t wear herself out trying to keep a pristine house.

Then of course came the problematic part. He stated with confident certainty that new parents MUST make time to go on a date without the baby by the time the baby is 10 days old. This is to establish the importance of the marriage to protect it. Not only is this date supposed to unite the couple, I got the impression that somehow this is supposed to send the message to the baby that the marriage is important. He was specific that the couple needed to leave the newborn with a sitter and go out. With this he joins the legion of Christian parenting experts who insist on the necessity of dates without the children—these dates ranging from getting the kids to bed early so you can have a dinner alone to hiring a babysitter on a weekly basis so that you can get out of the house.

Now I agree that it is important to keep your marriage a priority after children enter the picture. I don’t even have a problem with parents going on dates. But I have a problem whenever an “expert” starts saying that this is absolutely necessary to your marriage. Especially when that message is sent in a Christian context.

I see no where in the Bible where “date nights” for parents are even discussed, let alone mandated. Given the importance that the Bible places on maintaining marital integrity, I would think that if dates are essential to that goal they would at least get a “by the way…” somewhere in the scriptures. But they don’t.

One of the problems that I see with dates nights is that folks that so strongly advocate them are pushing a “one size fits all” approach to maintaining a marriage. Obviously they have found dates nights helpful to their marriage, so they insist that they are helpful to all marriages. Well what if they aren’t? In the 6 years since I’ve been a mother I’ve probably gone on about a dozen “dates” with my husband--and probably less than half of those have been without any children. A couple of those—3 I think—have been overnight trips (New Year’s Eve 2000, our 5th anniversary, my birthday before our 4th child was born). I can’t say that any of these dates—even the overnight trips—are particularly memorable to me as bonding events for my marriage. They are pleasant events that provide a chance to relax away from the kids, yes, but bonding? Not particularly. Each overnight trip we have gone into so tired from the rigors of everyday life that we generally spend 10-12 hrs sleeping—again, a relaxing and rejuvenating experience, but hardly a time of marital bonding.

What I do find to be a bonding experience in my marriage is sharing in the joys and struggles of raising a family together. Nothing has made me love my husband more than seeing him gently hold our newborn babies, examining the contrast between their tiny hands and feet and his larger ones. The memories that we hold dear and reminisce on together are of working around our house—with kids underfoot for the most part. Often having the kids underfoot is what helps to lead to the situations that are so memorable and bonding. One time when I asked my grandmother—who raised 5 children and had been married for about 55 years when I posed the question—about the necessity of date nights she assured me that she and my grandfather had rarely gone on dates until after the kids were out of the house, and that her belief was that mature adults would find everyday life more bonding than dates away from the kids.

When it comes to date nights in the newborn period, I find them to be an unnecessary burden at best, a squandering of God’s resources at worst. They stand as a “burden” because typically a breastfeeding mother would want to provide breastmilk for her newborn. At 10 days of age she may have great difficulty pumping enough for a bottle in between the frequent feedings the baby requires. Once she obtains this bottle, she may return from the date to find out that the baby refused the bottle, and is now very upset. Since it is generally recommended that breastfed babies not be introduced a bottle until 4-6 weeks of age the mother might try to time the date so that she can be out between the feedings, returning home to nurse. But since breastfed babies often increase their feeding frequency in the evening in response to mom’s lower milk supply, this may prove difficult to manage. Since many families today are widely spaced geographically the young parents may have no nearby family to provide free babysitting services, so they may have to pay a babysitter while they go on a date. Given how portable and generally unobtrusive newborn babies can be (my firstborn slept at a bowling alley when she was about 6 weeks old!), I think it is a squandering of the money God has blessed the couple with to hire a babysitter. Ironically, one of my more memorable "date nights" since getting married was a Valentine dinner hosted by our church's Homebuilders' Sunday School class--we went with our 1.5 day old son in tow (though our two daughters were home with a sitter). It was held in the same historic inn that our wedding reception was in. I nursed my son in a room that George Washington ate in--maybe I even sat on the same chair?

A deeper problem I have with the advocacy of date nights is the underlying message behind them. Invariably the message that is clearly stated (as it was by Dr. Leman) or subtly alluded to is that children are a hindrance to the marriage, and parents must be regularly separated from the children to maintain a healthy marriage. While I do think that it is good for children to “get away” from their parents once in a while (I wish my kids could spend the night with Nana and Poppop more than they can—I know I treasured the opportunity to spend the night with my grandparents when I was a child) just as parents do need a break from the rigors of parenting once in a while, I think setting them up as adversaries to the marriage is unhealthy. The Bible states that children are a blessing. But far too often I think that in Christian society we don’t really see them that way. We see them as “in the way” far to often. We banish them from Sunday morning worship, small group Bible studies and Sunday school social events. I even heard one mother recently proudly proclaim that her children ate their dinner in the kitchen so that she and her husband could enjoy a nightly meal without being bothered by them.

It is through serving others—including our children—that we will be most blessed. May all parents be richly blessed.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

"The Good Old Days"

A friend of mine recently let me know that her husband had blogged about sex education in the Christian community. Read it here.

I was mildly amused to read one of the comments a bit down the page, which included the following:

Funny... for generations Americans had the highest academic education in the world, and not a single 'sex-ed' class was involved.
No one was sexually ignorant beyond the fourth grade, and almost no young students were ever allowed sufficient unsupervised time alone that would create a pregnancy out of wedlock. If such did occur, it was considered a failure of adult supervision.

I've got to tell you, I always find these "good old days" kind of quotes mildly amusing in their naivette. One Christian historian I know tells me that 60% of couples getting married in colonial America were pregnant on the altar. I haven't a clue where to begin to look to verify this information, but I trust her scholarship. She tells of a practice called "bundling" where young unmarried couples, fully clothed, where tightly wrapped together in bedsheets to spend a night together. This was supposed to allow them to have closeness, but not be able to do anything untoward--being fully clothed and so tightly bound and all. Apparently it didn't work very well.

I know for myself that 2 sets of my great grandparents were 7 months pregnant when they got married. I've never asked about the other two sets--one of my grandmothers volunteered this information because she thought it interesting that they actually got married the same month and had their babies the same month--not knowing each other at the time. I also know a lovely woman who is about 80 years old who related to me that she was gang-raped at the age of 9--by her uncle and some of his friends.

The "good old days" were not necessarily so good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

VBAC vs. Planned Cesarean

For those readers who may not know, "VBAC" stands for "Vaginal Birth After Cesarean." There is quite the debate about this concept in the last few years. After many years of declining cesarean rate in America, the rate began rising as we began the new century. In 2003 it hit 27.3%, higher than it has ever been. Many major health organizations state that there is no medical justification for a rate over 15%. Much of the rising rate is blamed on a rising rate of repeat cesareans. For a while there was a push to see women attempt "VBAC," however following a very flawed report in 2001 the VBAC rate has dropped sharply.

Now a new report has come out in the New England Journal of Medicine, and most of the popular headlines are once again proclaiming that VBAC is more dangerous than planned cesarean. Here's one example of a typical article about the report.

Now here's my take on this whole thing.

The media reports a 0.7% rupture rate in the VBAC group. There is no differentiation between rupture following a natural labor or an induced/augmented labor. Likewise for the other "complications" associated with VBAC, they don't differentiate between management styles of the labor. I think that we can safely assume that when labor is induced (defined as any attempt to start or strengthen contractions prior to 4 cms dilation) or augmented (defined as use of Pitocin after 4 cms dilation), the rate of complications will go up. It would be nice to see the newborn complications and maternal complications other than rupture be reported in terms of whether labor was induced, augmented, or natural (rupture rates were reported for induction vs. non-induction in the 2001 report that led to much of the VBAC-lash, but nothing else--and no distinction between natural and augmented labor). Providing this information could help women to make informed decisions about what levels of interventions they are comfortable with.

I think something that is widely under-respected in the obstetrical community is that doing a cesarean section to birth a baby is a complication in and of itself--it is major surgery for Pete's sake! This particular report mentions that part of the picture to evaluate is how many children the woman wants to have--for a woman who wants more than one child after her initial cesarean, a repeat cesarean often will not be the wisest move due to the increased risk of infertility, tubal pregnancies, placental abnormalities, and unexplained still birth at term following cesarean birth. How many of these studies consider that about 60% of women who have 1 cesarean section will have "uterine adesions" following the surgery, and 95% of women have 2 cesareans will have them? Do they consider that about 5% of women who have adhesions will suffer chronic pain from them--that one of Dr. Kavorkian's client's only ailment was adhesions that caused her so much pain that she wanted to kill herself? Given that, I find any claim that complications are higher for the mom for vaginal birth to be ludicrious. Yes, for some individual moms cesarean birth is safer. But over all? No.

Similarly, when looking at newborn complications I rarely find a comprehensive look at things. What about allergies later in life? What about iatogenic (Dr. caused) prematurity from doing a planned cesarean too soon? When they say that babies in the VBAC group are more likely to have a drop in O2 supplied to the brain, how are they determining that? Based on fetal monitoring, which is KNOWN to be inaccurate in determining fetal distress and to be worthless in lessening the rate of cerebral palsy--which is supposedly what was being caused by the low oxygen levels? Based on cord blood testing? Are they looking at long term impact on the babies? Or are these transient cases of low oxygen levels that have no lasting impact?

All in all, I'd still say for the average woman with a previous cesarean, her best shot for having a healthy birth and healthy baby is to plan for a vaginal birth, to resist induction, and to resist many of the "standard" interventions that come with birth in America.

Modeling and Explaining

As is my normal custom on Monday/Wednesday/Thursday, I picked up my 4 year old daughter Katie from preschool at 3:00 last Thursday and then returned with her to work. It was a “snack day” at work—without any advance coordination 3 people had brought in sweet snacks to work for folks to munch on. My daughter was very happy. I let her pick two chocolate bite sized-muffins—a treat.

We returned to my cube. I sat across the peninsula from her, got out my snack that I had packed—sliced cucumbers and mushrooms and some dip. She eyed my snack and said “I don’t like those.” I replied “I know, I forgot to pack some carrots that you would like. But vegetables help you grow big and strong, don’t they?” She was thoughtful as she started eating her first muffin—which was more than a bite for her.

After finishing the first muffin she climbed up onto the desk quicker than I could respond, and reached for the cucumbers. “I want to try these to see if maybe I do like them! They will make me grow big and strong!” I instructed her to sit back down, but slid the dip across the desk toward her as she went. She tried the cucumber, and was pleased with it. As she munched, she wanted to know specifically what cucumbers would do for her, so I explained that some people think that cucumbers help to clean out your insides. I could have talked about the vitamins in the skin, or the fiber in the skin, but I try to keep simple messages about food benefits, so when my kids ask what a food will do, I generally just give one or two benefits at a time.

The second muffin sat untouched as she proceeded to eat about ½ cup of sliced cucumbers. She even bravely tried a mushroom (I told her that it had iron, which would help her be awake—a simplification of the fact that iron is an important part of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood). She wasn’t impressed enough with the mushroom to eat more than one bite, but she said that she liked it. She said that she was going to tell her older sister that she should eat cucumbers “because they help you grow big and strong.”

Yes, she did eventually get back to finishing that second muffin. But my gentle instruction and example has opened up her diet to another food that will help her to grow “big and strong.” I’ve tried to make a habit of this.

I’ve gone through a recent change in how I handle “food” issues in my house. During Roshashana (I’m not Jewish…but I have friends who are) I learned about a “list of sins” that some Jews meditate on during that time. I specifically looked at the list of sins related to parenting. One of them was “expecting of my child that which I don’t expect of myself.” That hit me squarely in regards to many areas, one of them being food. When I sit down to eat, if I don’t like something, I don’t eat it. Even when I’m visiting with someone, I will only eat a “polite” amount of a food that I don’t like, or I will try to escape eating it all together if I can without causing hurt feelings. If I’m not hungry when I sit down to a meal, I don’t typically insist on finishing that food before I’m “allowed” to eat something different as a “snack” later. But I—like many parents—have in the past insisted that my children eat food that they don’t like. I have insisted that they finish all the food served at a meal before they can choose something else to eat.

But I’ve changed that lately. I’ve strived to make available many nutritious and child-friendly snacks like fruit, cut up vegetables, cheese, whole wheat crackers (my kids LOVE Triscuits), boiled eggs, and yogurt. At meals I do expect my children to try each food, but if they don’t like it, I don’t insist that they finish it. I’m serving much smaller portions so that if they don’t eat at a meal, throwing it away is not a big deal. I have already taught them how to handle food that they don’t like that is served by someone else. They will readily tell you that they should just rinse the taste out of their mouth with their drink, and not voice their dislike because it will hurt the feelings of the person who prepared the food. I’m spending a lot more time explaining why various foods are important. And I’m being more careful to model healthy eating myself.

And you know what? My kids are choosing to eat healthy food. Jessica and Katie have *asked* for brocolli, carrots, and dip for their bedtime snack several days in the last week. Yes, they like their treats too. But I see them understanding more now about why to eat foods, and taking ownership for themselves. They will choose to eat a healthy food before a junk food. This is a skill they will need to have when they are older and I’m not there to control their eating. My kids do “snack.” They eat healthy food frequently. I see a lot of benefit in that…but that’s for another entry. ;-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Happy Birthday to Sean....

OMG, how did the time fly so fast? Sean turns one year old in just 6 days, and I'm NOT ready!

The girls (Jessica, 6 and Katie, 4) were discussing birthday cakes this evening. Now not to make you think I'm some sort of cake decorating expert, but they've gotten the idea that I am! And they have decided that Sean's birthday cake simply MUST have a picture of him on it. And not just any picture of him...they want a picture of him and me nursing, sitting on the rocking chair in the master bedroom. They think he would like that very much. LOL!

So here's a question for readers...how exactly do you handle birthday parties for your *4th* child? I mean really...when I had my first it was easy. It was expected that I would invite half the world to the first birthday. But now that I'm at my 4th...well I still want to celebrate this milestone for him just as much, but I feel somewhat guilty inviting people. I mean really...it seems like I'm just sticking my hand out saying "please bring presents....AGAIN!" I really would love to have everyone come just to celebrate, but not bring presents...but realistically I know that even if I tell people not to bring gifts they still will. Sigh...