Maternity Leave Musings- Month 1

This past month has felt very long.

Spending all day, every day, with a newly born human and being “off work” has given me more space to reflect, listen to podcasts, read, pray, and examine my own life, in addition to LOTS of TV show binges and mindless scrolling on my phone. A few thoughts from month 1 of life with a newborn:

Currently grateful for:

· My body. In the last month, my body has undergone a version procedure, induction via every intervention imaginable (misoprostol, Pitocin, cooks catheter, membrane sweep, intentional water breaking), an epidural, a C-section, wonky blood pressure issues, and 24-hour magnesium treatments. I spent close to 150 hours in the hospital, via 2 hospitalizations and 2 ER visits. And somehow, my body has managed to recover fairly well from all that (minus still needing to take blood pressure medication) while also managing to begin lactating and creating magical milk that has helped our baby grow rolls and a double chin in the past month! I know not everybody’s csection recovery is easy, and I am grateful for a strong, hearty, and resilient body. I don’t take it for granted.

· The gift of a “village.” This last month has been filled with community love and support that has overwhelmed us at times. From unexpected donations to support our hospital bills, to lots of yummy meals, to packs of diapers, to help with watching A, we’ve been able to survive this past month with a decent level of sanity and sleep due to all the help from our friends and family. It truly takes a village, and we are so grateful for ours and for the outpouring of love and support that we’ve experienced this first month.

· Explorations in the vocation of “pastor.” I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s memoir- The Pastor- during maternity leave, and it’s been really good and life-giving, especially as I enter into my work at Bethel Community San Leandro. There’s so much wisdom on the vocation of pastors that I resonate with, especially in the era of “influencer pastors,” flashy church plants, and capitalism-driven ministry culture. I have a lot of underlined sections and there are many punchy quotes, but here’s one as

“This is the Americanization of congregation. It means turning each congregation into a market for religious consumers, an ecclesiastical business run along the lines of advertising techniques, organizational flow charts, and energized by impressive motivational rhetoric. But this was worse. This pragmatic vocational embrace of American technology and consumerism that promised to rescue congregations from ineffective obscurity violated everything-scriptural, theological, experiential-that had formed my identity as a follower of Jesus and as a pastor.” (Eugene Peterson, The Pastor)

· Seeing A become a big sister. It’s been a mix of curiosity, tenderness, over-eagerness, aloofness, and confusion. No real jealousy yet, which is a gift. But it’s fun (and tiring at times) to see how she processes these changes, and we are excited to see how she will continue to grow as a big sister. Some highlights include naming many of J’s anatomical features, giggling when she realized that J had some hair on her ears, speaking in a high-pitched “baby voice” every time she’s near her, asking to read the Hello Baby book (about welcoming a new baby into the home) almost nightly, and adding baby J’s name into some family songs that we have.

· Teamwork and partnership in creating family. Michael has been a huge gift this past month. While there are a lot of ways that he has to put in a lot of effort to love me (due to completely contrasting love languages), he has faithfully served me, our kids, and our family this past month in ways that I know are exhausting and unnatural for him. I’m grateful for the ways that he’s bonded with A, for all his expressive and outward affection for J, for all the dishes he’s done and diapers he’s changed, for holding and soothing J during the “witching hours” so I can sleep more, for constantly asking me “what do you need?” and for impromptu cuddles and tender touch at 3am while I’m in zombie-mom mode. I’m so thankful for a partner in all this.

Currently lamenting:

· Our news cycle, and how easy it is to choose numbness . Every time I’ve felt like I needed to write/post on something terrible that’s happened in our world (Botham Jean, Joshua Brown, Syria, impeachment scandals, the SCOTUS decisions, Hong Kong, the PGE fiasco, Atatiana Jefferson, to name a few) something else happens. I feel torn between wanting to just shut off and ignore it all, and feeling guilty for not speaking out or engaging, especially because not everybody has that privilege. But I also believe that as human beings, we were created to be embodied, local, and limited human beings — all realities that are challenged by technology and our social media age. I’m wrestling with what healthy engagement with the world (and social media)looks like in this season of life.

· The complexity of raising mixed-race kids. With all that happened this past month, with Botham Jean’s case and now the senseless murder or Atatiana Jefferson, I’m grieving the reality of what it means to be black in this country, while also reflecting on the complexity of raising mixed kids whose own “blackness” might be interpreted and ascribed in different ways, based just on their appearances. With many comments on how light baby J is and how “Asian” she looks, I’ve had all kinds of questions about what her life might be like- just because of how she looks. How will people perceive her? How will she perceive herself? How will her experiences potentially differ from her sister, just because of appearances? How would the police potentially see/perceive her? It’s strange that at just one month old, I’ve had so many thoughts and questions already just based on physical appearance and phenotypes. I’m not sure how to feel about it all.

· Our health care system. I am not an expert on this and I don’t have clear solutions, but our health care system is terrible. The fact that I have to pay $3600 to bring a child into the world, especially considering that I was pushed to have an induction and then be re-hospitalized for magnesium treatments (both things I DID NOT want) really sucks. Considering that the actual hospital bill was over $50,000 is also crazy. It’s so sad to think about those who experience bankruptcy because of medical issues, or go into massive medical debt for things outside of their control. And that’s not to mention that I will now be paying around $1,000 month for health insurance (via Kaiser) for my husband and two dependents! Health care needs to be a basic human right, not a commodity that only the rich can afford.

· The brokenness of being an Enneagram 3. Being a 3 means that maternity leave has been a constant struggle to feel “productive,” even after I spent over 40 weeks developing a small human inside my body and am now healing from having that same body cut open, with organs removed, and a human pulled out. I’ve listened to several podcasts about being a 3 during this last month, and one of the most interesting things that somebody said about 3s is that when they actually take time to stop and to acknowledge their true feelings, the primarily emotions are sadness and grief. I’ve related with that, and have been surprised at the unexpected feelings of grief that have come up for me in this first month.

· My lack of true Sabbath rhythms. Recent conversations with friends, as well as inspiration from the model that folks around me are setting, has made me realize that despite many years of “trying” to Sabbath, I still haven’t figure out a real Sabbath rhythm that makes sense for me. I’m realizing my lack of awareness around what is actually “rest” for me (esp. as an Enneagrm 3), and what truly restores my soul. I am hoping to reflect more on this and want to explore a more consistent and meaningful practice of Sabbath in the life of our family.

Some snapshots:

Swollen feet and a newborn in the ER
Tired and more tired
When big sister hangs out with mama while she’s nursing baby sister
Little Koala

Co-Pastor @bethelcommunitysl | Director of Advocacy @fphayward | pastor, activist, writer | married to @eubanksme | co-author of @lentenlament | she/her

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