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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.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Brains of a sheep...

Once again I feel compelled to write a blog entry in response to a comment left on my blog:

Some anti-spankers claim that the 'rod' in the Bible was never meant as a means of 'hitting' the sheep but of 'guiding' them. A shepherd would never hit his precious sheep, they say.

Now I have never owned sheep, but I did grow up on a dairy farm, so I know something about herding animals. When you herd cows, you bring along a stick or a whip. You use it on a cow who strays from the herd or gets out of hand in any way. That doesn't mean beating the animal into unconsciousness but 'spanking' her, if you will. No sane farmer would injure his cow with a stick or whip, not only because she is worth a lot of money but because most farmers love their animals (I did).

Again, I don't know too much about sheep, but my semi-educated guess is that a farmer might have to sometimes use physical force against them with his rod. So so much for the view that the 'rod' in the Bible was merely a means of guidance.

Then again, some of those anti-spankers appear to have the same amount of gray matter as the sheep do, so don't expect them to understand this!

The last paragraph is meant to be a joke... well, sort of!


Hmmmm...well for starters, I'll readily admit to being a "sheep" in some respects...I mean after all, God often uses the sheep/shepherd analogy in scripture to describe his relationship with us, so I must be like a sheep, right?

None the less, I think the "same amount of gray matter as the sheep do" is a disrespectful remark, and the "well, sort of" is very telling as to how "joking" it is meant to be. Lovely, just lovely...very edifying.

Now as to the issue of hitting sheep, yes, sheep and cows are VERY different. I lived on a beef cattle farm for a while as a child (my family rented the main farmhouse, while the farmer lived in a smaller house on the other side of the barn), and I've conversed with people who've worked with sheep. Cows (cattle) are very docile and "steadfast" creatures (well, unless you run up against an angry steer...), where as sheep tend to be skittish.

I've got to wonder where it was that Emily was herding those cows...my experience living on the farm was that all the farmer had to do was open the barn gates for dinner, and the cows came mooing right along to get their grain. Actually--they were usually all grouped around the gate long before the farmer would arrive to open it--even if they had been in a far field for the day. Getting them to the field was accomplished with a dog--a collie--that would run along behind the herd barking up a ruckus while the farmer led the herd on his tractor.

Sheep would generally be herded in much the same way--the shepherd LEADING, with some dogs in the rear to keep the group together. The rod would be used to nudge a sheep back to the group...but not to strike the sheep. I'm told that because sheep are very skittish, striking a sheep enough to cause pain would cause the sheep to panic and run most likely in the opposite direction of what you want--if the sheep did run toward the herd it would probably be so excited it would set off the rest of heard.

One of the major problems with the sheep analogy though is that most people who try to make it (not Emily in this case) actually go with the myth "the shepherd might have to break the leg of the sheep, then carry the sheep around his shoulders while it healed..." Beyond the idea of this spooking the rest of the herd, there are other flaws with this idea:

  • The sheep is not potty trained...nuff said on that one?
  • Sheep are grazing animals...you can't just put the sheep down for three square meals a day and expect that to be sufficient
  • The sheep could weigh 100 lbs or more
  • Breaking the bone would make the animal worthless as a temple sacrifice, thus greatly reducing its value in Biblical times
  • Quality of medical care may have been such that this could easily lead to an infection that could actually kill the sheep.
  • What happens when sheep #2 "needs" to have a leg broken for discipline before sheep #1 is healed?

And I've gotta say...as I said, I lived on a beef cattle farm. There wasn't a lot of love lost between the farmer and the average cow...because the cow was going to be shipped off to slaughter. A bit more of a "relationship" was allowed to develop with the bull, who was expected to stick around for a few years doing his part to keep the population up. Maybe things are different at a dairy farm where the cows stick around longer, and Emily lived at a dairy farm. But barring that, I do question the idea of "loving" the cows.

In closing, I've got to hand it to the spanking advocates out there. You are doing more to convince my husband not to spank than I have been able to...he's been saying for a while that he wants to keep spanking in his "back pocket" as a possible tool to use...but just look at his comment in response to Emily:

I'll remain lost in my little brainless, whoops... I mean sheep for brains non-spanking little world.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Life Action, Part III

When I last left this topic I was discussing my growing unease with the Life Action Ministries seminar held at my church late last fall. I had attended one Sunday morning service and one Monday evening service, then did not attend the rest of the week until Sunday morning...which is where this post picks up.

The second Sunday morning…the sermon was about knowing if you were saved. I wish I saved my handouts, because I had some interesting notes written on them. But alas, I didn't--well, if I did they are lost somewhere in the sea of random papers that is my house! I did compose a few e-mails to friends about it though, so I can refresh my memory with those.

The sermon started with something that was completely irrelevant and unnecessary…spanking. The speaker set out to explain how his spanking of his children is an act of love to protect them. One example he gave was that if his 4 year old daughter was trying to stick a fork in an outlet, he would tell her to stop. If she didn’t, he would spank her because he didn’t want her to become a “crispy critter.” Now aside from the fact that standard household electrical supply will not produce that kind of injury (perhaps a few small contact burns—I know from personal experience—I stuck a bobby pin in an outlet when I was 3, burning my fingers that were holding the pin and my elbow that bumped it as I jerked away), my husband and I both glanced at each other thinking that there are other ways to deal with the situation. First of all, why not just go over to her and take the fork away saying “you can’t put that in there, it is dangerous!”? Why is there a need to test our children’s obedience in everything? If the child is too far away to get to in time, a directive of what to do is often much more effective than what not to do—“You need to take the fork to the table, it is for eating dinner.” And even if she didn’t do that, but rather paused and contemplated what to do with the fork (generally giving the parent enough time to get to the child and then turn the child toward the table and gently encourage them to start moving in that direction) is it really necessary to spank? He said that spanking in this situation is to teach the child not to put stuff in the outlets—it is for her safety. Hmm…we never spanked our 3 oldest children even when they were curious and tried to imitate us in plugging stuff in, but rather just emphatically told them “No! Owie! Owie!” and then redirected them. Despite our "failure" to spank, shortly after this sermon our then 2 year old—who really isn’t incredibly verbal—spotted our not quite 1 year old trying to stick his finger in an outlet and he called out “No Seany! Owie! Owie!” Apparently he was able to learn without being spanked...but then again, I've always known I have exceptionally smart children--after all, my lost brain cells had to have gone somewhere. ;-)

But he didn’t stop with just that. He then began joking about spanking. After the “crispy critter” comment he made a joke that my husband and I could not remember after the sermon. Then he said “children are like canoes, they are best steered by paddling from behind.” There was a smattering of laughter from the congregation. My husband and I—unknown to each other—both sat there thinking we should get up and leave. While we understand that some parents think that they need to spank to parent effectively, we believe it should always be an extremely serious undertaking. It should never be “funny” to intentionally inflict pain on another person, whether you perceive that the pain is necessary to their well being or not.

Then like I said, he got into a sermon about determining if you are truly saved.

He said some things that we thought were astounding…like that he believes that 90% of people attending a typical evangelical church are not actually saved! Remember now…all week people have been being set up to accept what he says without question—whether that was a deliberate intent by the design of the schedule or not. He went through about 6 or 7 points that you could use to determine if you were truly saved.

Several of them he did not justify using scripture, but rather extra Biblical materials. Now to be sure—he cited scripture in his discussion of almost every point, but the scriptures did not always prove his point, but made some other slightly relevant point.

An example of a “point” he had on his list was one that stated that just because you regularly read the Bible, even reading over the entire text over and over and perhaps even memorizing large portions, that did not mean you were a Christian. He seemed to ignore verses like Hebrews 4:12 which states that the Bible is a double-edged sword, piercing to the heart of man and Isaiah 55:11 which states that the Word of God will not return empty, but will fulfill God's purpose. Now I will agree that reading the Bible is not a proof of faith—but I do believe those passages I referenced indicate that it will break down barriers! Think of all the people like C.S. Lewis who set out to disprove scripture and became wonderful warriors of the faith.

But the part that got me was that he sited Kruschev in making his point, stating that this dastardly leader had memorized the entire 4 gospels. He stated that he had done so solely to “know his enemy.” This to me smacked of “Christian urban legend” so I attempted to verify it on-line. I found a couple of different versions of him memorizing the gospels or the entire New Testament, memorizing it to get bread with jam or candy—all were presented in the flavor of “this is something that I have heard” rather than really being authenticated. Some had points that seemed implausible—like reciting the entire 4 gospels in one Sunday sermon. How long would it really take to recite the Gospels? Surely a good many hours, perhaps well more than a day! But the stories all had one thing in common. He memorized it as a child to get a reward, not an adult bent on using it against his enemy.

I have to wonder…why was the speaker using this story in his sermon? In some of the handouts I picked up from sessions I did not attend I noted that the ministry he is with views even exaggeration as lying…did he exaggerate the story, or did he hear it exaggerated? Given that he is using it to make the primary justification for a point in a sermon that he likely gives several times a year as he travels from church to church, has he done anything to authenticate the story to make sure it is truthful?

Some of his points he sited some scripture in making his case, but the scripture really did not always fully support the points. Like I said, I wish I still had my notes so that I could give specific examples. By the end of the sermon he likely had many of the people believing they were not truly saved. He began an alter call, and it seemed that hands were not coming up as fast as he would like. I admit—I peeked. I think he did some of those “yes, I see that hand on the right side” when there was no hand. But 30 or so people did go forward—out of a sanctuary that seats around 400 and was filled to capacity.

Oddly enough, the Monday evening session was canceled, we don’t know why. Steve and I chose not to attend any more of the sessions—including the 3rd Sunday. We just felt it was becoming a hinderance to our ability to whole heartedly worship God. We did “home church” that Sunday, which the kids greatly enjoyed, and have asked us to do again since then. People who attended many or all of the sessions continue to speak very highly of the experience, and I do trust that there were many things of value presented.

Most do not give examples of what they gained. This can be reflective of the setting of discussion not encouraging the sharing of specific examples…but it can also be indicative of the psychological concept I presented in the beginning where the high “cost” of attendance resulted in a belief that it must be worthwhile—even if they can’t put their finger on why.

Every time someone brings up a specific example of some “wonderful” thing that they gleaned, my husband and I discuss it later and agree that it doesn’t sit right with us. Want an example? That's in my fourth and final installment.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Holiness of God

My cyber-friend Tulip Girl recently won a book give-away. How fun!

This month they are giving away a new Study Bible and RC Sproul's classic "The Holiness of God." Maybe you will be February's winner. ;-)

Study Bible

Monday, February 07, 2005

Life and death

Saturday as our son's 3rd birthday party was wrapping up, our telephone rang. My husband answered it, and being that he could barely hear (a family room is NOT quiet when there are 8 children under the age of 6 in it!), he walked to another room with the phone. I could hear snippets of what he said.."doula"..."I'll let her know"..."she will call you back."

After the guests had left he told me that I needed to return the call, but he didn't know the name of the person calling (it had been too loud for him to hear what she told him at the beginning of the call) or what she wanted. She seemed young he said...he recognized the voice. She said it was very important that I call back. I looked at the caller ID. The name was vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place it.

I called, and C. answered the phone--recognition was instant--the name on the caller ID was her grandfather's, as she lived with her grandparents. I had been her doula at her birth 9 months ago today. A young single woman, she was very brave in facing the birth, and then some complications that occurred immediately after the birth. I saw her a couple of times after the birth, including at the annual "Labor Day" picnic that I host for my clients each year. Her daughter was an adorable and smiley baby.

C. was calling to let me know that her baby had died on Wednesday. She'd had RSV, had spent over a month in the hospital, including being transferred from a local hospital to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The calling hours were Saturday, funeral Sunday. Could I come?

Of course I went. I started Saturday with a celebration of young life...ended it with a memorial. I've never gone to the funeral of a child before. The young woman bravely greeted the visitors, a box of tissues at her side.

It was a sobering experience. Over the last week I've been a bit on the weepy side, mourning the loss of something precious to me--my job. I received notice that on March 14 my job will be eliminated, and having been with my employer for 10 years, I'm saddened by this. But during this time C. was making the very difficult decision to turn off her daughter's respirator. I was reminded once again of how blessed I am.

How about you? Have you reflected lately on the blessings in your life, even amidst the difficulties and struggles? Take a few minutes today to do that.

Friday, February 04, 2005

AAP Breastfeeding Guidelines

Why is it that I'm learning about what the American Academy of Pediatrics is saying from a mother who is currently living in the Ukraine? You'd think I would have heard about it before her...

So anyway, the AAP has released an updated set of breastfeeding guidelines, this replaces those that were released in 1997.

Given my involvement in the Ezzo debate, I found two points very noteworthy in the guidelines. The first involves the frequency of feeds:

During the early weeks of breastfeeding, mothers should be encouraged to have 8 to 12 feedings at the breast every 24 hours, offering the breast whenever the infant shows early signs of hunger such as increased alertness, physical activity, mouthing, or rooting.170

* Crying is a late indicator of hunger.171 Appropriate initiation of breastfeeding is facilitated by continuous rooming-in throughout the day and night.172 The mother should offer both breasts at each feeding for as long a period as the infant remains at the breast.173 At each feed the first breast offered should be alternated so that both breasts receive equal stimulation and draining. In the early weeks after birth, nondemanding infants should be aroused to feed if 4 hours have elapsed since the beginning of the last feeding.

* After breastfeeding is well established, the frequency of feeding may decline to approximately 8 times per 24 hours, but the infant may increase the frequency again with growth spurts or when an increase in milk volume is desired.

"Crying is a late indicator of hunger." Ezzo would have his readers believing that the typical demand feeding mother responds to crying routinely by offering the breast. This simply isn't true. Its not that a demand feeding mother would never offer the breast in response to crying--I certainly do if I think the crying indicates a need for comfort. Its that we generally do not associate crying with hunger and thus we respond to crying by looking for things like a dirty diaper, something causing pain. We learn other cues for hunger in our children--little sounds they make, rooting, waking up from a nap...

"The frequency of feeding may decline to approximately 8 times per 24 hrs, but ... may increase ... with growth spurts...." Hmmm. So does that mean that 6 nursing sessions per day typically would not be expected with an exclusively breastfed infant? My experience with 4 children has been that they do not drop below 8 nursing sessions in a 24 hr span until well after they start eating solid food. But here again, Ezzo would have his readers believing that 4 feeds per day is sufficient.

Mother and infant should sleep in proximity to each other to facilitate breastfeeding.

The reference to support this reccommendation actually indicates that babies who sleep in a bassinet next to the parent's bed (called a "cot" in this research, as it was done in England) have the lowest risk of SIDS. Babies who sleep in the parents' bed have a similar--but slightly lower risk of SIDS as those who sleep in a separate room. The most dangerous place to sleep for the infant is on a couch with an adult. After 14 weeks of age, the risk of SIDS seems to level out in all the groups. The article concludes by saying "There are certain circumstances when bed sharing should be avoided, particularly for infants under four months old. Parents sleeping on a sofa with infants should always be avoided. There is no evidence that bed sharing is hazardous for infants of parents who do not smoke."

Hmmm...so should I take the inclusion of this reccommendation to mean that the AAP is NOT against bedsharing? ;-)

So I wonder...will there be a 2006 edition of Babywise so that Ezzo can continue to claim that his advice lines up with the AAP?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Challenge to Proponents of "Biblical" Spanking...

Okay...I'm laying out a challenge here. Many folks believe that spanking is Biblically mandated, or at least Biblically reccommended.

Using commonly accepted rules of serious Bible study (a.k.a. "Hermenuetics"), I would like to see an explaination of how the Bible supports or condones spanking. Here is a brief primer on hermenuetics that you can use to get you started...please address each point in your explaination. If you learned a different form of Bible study, please explain that form and the references for Biblical scholars who endorse it (i.e. the particular format for hermenuetics in the linked site is what is taught at Bible colleges).

I'm waiting...I've posed this challenge to a couple of people from my church, and they all suddenly quit conversing with me when I do. I posed a similar challenge in the 5th comment in response to a previous blog I posted on this topic.


Selling Birth

I spent the better part of yesterday attending a birth as a doula. I got the first call from the expectant mom a little after 5 a.m. Just a "heads up" to let me know that she'd been having contractions since 3:30 and they were 5 minutes apart. A follow up call around 7:20, then her husband calling back about 5 minutes later to let me know they were headed to the birth center. I finished my morning routine, drove to work to quickly cancel some appointments, then drove to the birth. It was a long drive complete with backed up traffic, so I arrived around 10:40 a.m. I left the birth center around 10 p.m. It was a long day. I was incredibly honored that they chose to allow me to do this, to participate in this holy and sacred part of their lives.

Imagine my surprise when I read today of a mom "auctioning off" the chance for someone to attend her birth, which was scheduled to be induced this past Friday--for the bargain starting bid of $5000.

I wonder if she got a taker...there were no bidders. She seemed very assured that a high number of hits on the sale meant it was certain to draw a high bid.

As I said, I attended a birth yesterday. But I didn't have to pay them, and I wasn't a stranger. I was their doula. I was their childbirth instructor. I was a trusted adviser. They paid me to attend the birth.

I hope this Ebay-mom had a birth that she enjoyed. But I'm sad that she didn't understand that what a sacred event it is--that she thought it can be auctioned off to the highest bidder. But I suppose that is part and parcel with the society that we live in. Unlike most birthing moms in America, the mom I was assisting was giving birth in a birth center where she likely had met every person who assisted in her birth prior to the actual event. As a doula, I've attended births where the only person the parents had met prior to the birth was me. A parade of nurses, resident obstetricians, and on-call obstetricians that they have never met are in and out of the room. They are exposing the mom's most private parts to bright and shining light, they are insisting that she allow people to touch her in these parts that she would normally not allow anyone but her most intimate partner do.

I wish I could explain to every pregnant couple that birth is a sacred event, and they should guard it as such. Invite only those people that they know, trust, and love. I can't reach every couple. But I can reach some...so I'm doing it, one couple at a time.