Tag Archives: Motherhood

The-almost-end-of- pregnancy-freak-out

I might be feeling a little overwhelmed…

About four months ago, one of my co-workers jokingly told me, “So, you’ll need to call me when you really start to freak out about pregnancy.” At this point, 20 or so weeks into pregnancy, I was past the morning sickness phase, had seen images of a healthy baby on an ultrasound screen, and I was feeling pretty good. It’s not that things weren’t sometimes stressful, but a large freak out didn’t seem particularly imminent. So, I laughed along with this co-worker and agreed to let him know when – and IF – that happened.

But now – at 37 weeks pregnant and careening quickly towards the eventual conclusion of this pregnancy – the freak out has officially arrived. Sometime in between washing Baby H’s clothes, readying her room, figuring out how to use a Moby Wrap (seriously: way more complicated than you might think) and being told that our little girl might be a bit on the larger side of normal, healthy baby weight, I’ve officially entered freak out mode.

It’s not that we haven’t gotten educated. For the past 12 weeks, Justin and I have been faithfully attending Bradley Method classes (if you live in SoCal, I highly recommend our teacher),  where we’ve learned about the physiological phases of labor, learned and practiced healthy nutrition habits, and been challenged to learn new techniques for relaxation and stress relief, prior to and during labor. We’ve hired a doula and met with her to learn a variety of techniques for massage and movement during labor, to help the process move along smoothly and naturally.

But for some reason, all these things seem to pale in comparison to the realization that my body is about to undergo something that it has never experienced before and over which I have little to no control. Right now, it’s just a waiting game.

And it’s not that I’m not super excited to meet Baby H. On the contrary, I’ve spent the last 37 weeks talking to my belly and wondering about who’s in there, what she’ll be like, what she’ll look like, what kind of personality she’ll have, etc. I can’t wait to meet her.

But there is also a sort of sinking sense of dread that comes when I think about the very real responsibility that comes with raising a child once they flee the womb and enter the world in a new way. I mean, who are we Heinzekehrs kidding?! We love to hold babies, and we’ve watched kids every now and again, but the occasional babysitting stint is way different than being responsible for a little newborn 24/7.

We are going to have one of these in a short amount of time…

In the midst of this freak out, which my co-worker tells me is apparently inevitable and strikes most first-time moms right about this time, I attended some meetings. One of the best parts of working for the church is that work and worship are often blended, and these meetings were no different. We opened our time together by dwelling on scripture, and specifically on Romans 8. As the passage was read, we were asked to focus in on a word or phrase that jumped out to us.

Not surprisingly, I was struck by the following phrase: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now.” Labor pains! Ha!

The passage goes on to describe the longing of all creation that waits in hope for the coming of the Spirit and the revelation of God. Later on, the chapter reads, “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”

I was struck anew by this passage. I have certainly never been one for redemptive suffering, and I’ve been hesitant to ascribe a purpose to any form of pain or suffering. I think these theological trajectories have too often been mis-used and/or misconstrued to condone abuse of all sorts.

However, as I think about pregnancy and the labor that will eventually come sometime over the course of the next few weeks, I was struck by the ways that pregnancy, and probably labor itself, can prepare one for parenthood. It’s part of the inevitable waiting process that must be undergone. And it’s certainly not a process without hope, because at the end, if everything goes smoothly, we’ll have a healthy little girl to hold. And we’ll take her home and figure things out (with lots of help from friends and family, I am sure).

But, as Romans 8 notes, the waiting over the next few weeks may not be without its groans and its eventual labor pains. These are

A very pregnant me.

inevitable parts of the pregnancy process.

So, in the midst of my “almost-end-of- pregnancy-freak-out,” I am grateful for the reminder that the waiting is really an exercise in the spiritual practice of cultivating hope.

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Every Woman Strives to Keep it All Together

Anna Yoder Schlabach, another Mennonite in a little black maternity dress

Guest post from… Anna Yoder Schlabach graduated from Goshen College in 2007 and from Iliff School of Theology in 2011 with a Master of Divinity. Anna and her husband Brian currently live in Albuquerque, NM , where they serve as leaders for Mennonite Mission Network’s Service Adventure program. They currently live with four teenagers, four chickens and one dog. They’re expecting twins in August.

The other day I received a Thirty-One catalogue from my sister-in-law who was hosting a Thirty-One party (think Mary Kay but with tote bags instead of make-up). Since I’m about six months pregnant, I flipped through the catalogue hoping to find an affordable diaper bag. And although I didn’t find what I was looking for, the content proved to be a surprising source for a little self reflection. Each page of the catalogue had a catchy slogan on it, certainly created not only to inspire women to buy bags, but to inspire women themselves. Phrases like “Smart virtuous women have goals, right?” and “Be yourself, be confident, be independent” are splashed across the pages.  These slogans were ok, but the one that really got me thinking was, “Every woman strives to keep it all together.”

While every woman may strive to keep it all together, for me the task has recently seemed more daunting. Somewhere between moving to Albuquerque to lead and live with a group of four teenagers, weathering a house fire in December, and getting pregnant  and seeing an ultrasound with not one, but two babies on it, things may have spiraled out of my control. Some of these are challenges, and some of these are gifts from God. Either way, I can’t keep it all together and I don’t think a tote bag is going to help. I may have to ask my community for help. But I’m not happy about it.

A decade ago (when I at least thought I had things under control), I was a senior in high school and considering becoming baptized.  A huge part of what eventually sold me on getting baptized was the way I saw my community responding to someone who needed help. A person in my congregation shared one Sunday morning about a medical condition that would likely leave her in a wheelchair for life. People in the congregation got up and embraced her, creating a circle of support around her in a moment of communal despair and lament. That image compelled me to join this community – a community of people asking for and receiving help. Community is one of the things that Mennonites do best.  We are a people who believe in living out the life of Christ through

I think I'll need more than a tote bag to hold it all together...

our relationships with each other. I believe that the church is the perfect place to seek help, but then why am I so reluctant to appear weak or vulnerable or like I don’t have it all together, particularly in front of my church community?

I think part of what bothers me about asking for help from my congregation is that I like being up front at church, this is part of what drew me to seminary; I enjoy leading worship and being involved in public ways.  But I always like to be prepared when I’m going to be in front of people. I like to appear that I have it all together, not only because I think it makes the worship service flow better, but because I like to present my best self, which is maybe antithetical to what worship is all about. It’s not about me, it’s about God. And it’s about following Jesus, a man who probably didn’t give a lot of thought to how his hair looked when he was speaking to the masses, or about appearing “in control” when he washed his disciples’ feet.

The real Jesus never would have done this

Plus, Jesus was always receiving from other people. He was hosted in peoples’ homes all the time and he rarely shied away from people who clearly couldn’t keep it all together. As followers of Jesus, we are called to both accept hospitality from others, and to seek help, allowing the community to respond as Jesus would to our myriad needs. Come August, I hope that I have the grace to allow others to care for me (and forgive me for showing up to church with my hair unwashed and spit-up on my shirt). This isn’t shameful, this is what it means to live in a way that recognizes that we all rely on God, that we can’t do it all by ourselves. No woman can keep it all together by herself. Thirty-One suggests that the solution is just the right combination of tote bags and motivational quotes, but I’m trying to trust that the answer is more likely found in opening myself up to the care of my community, trusting that at some point, I’ll be on the other side of the helping again.

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Mennonite in a (not-so-little) black (maternity) dress

About three years ago, the book Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home, by Rhoda Janzen made a surprising rise up the non-fiction book charts (all the way to #1). My guess is that part of this book’s popularity was due to the fact that, for most mainstream United States citizens, the idea of a Mennonite woman wearing a little black dress feels like something of an oxymoron. It’s not that the book wasn’t well-written: Janzen is funny and has a knack for stringing together honest vignettes that paint a compelling picture of rebuilding a life, and the book was lucky enough to follow on the heels of the über-popular travelogue Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

When this book came out, I found myself equal parts amused and annoyed by it. First, I was amused because, like I said, Janzen is funny. And part of writing a good, humorous memoir (and probably a blog, too, for that matter) is embellishment and hyperbole. And, frankly, there were parts of her story, especially those about the ways cultural traditions become intertwined with church, that totally resonated with my own experience. But I was also annoyed, because every time I encountered someone new who had read this book, they assumed that my Mennonite heritage automatically equaled a certain type of conservatism that could never affirm women in leadership, wasn’t kind to divorcees, and would find it inappropriate or, at the very least, shocking for a woman to be cavorting around in a little black dress.

For some reason, since I found out I was pregnant five months ago, this book has been popping up in my mind’s eye again. As I’ve thought about it why this has been happening, I’m guessing that part of it is knowing that people wouldn’t find the same shock value in a memoir entitled “Mennonite in a Maternity Dress.” A cynical part of me wonders if there isn’t something about this image that makes sense to mainstream Christianity, who, if they know anything about Mennonite women, likely picture us as rural, barefoot and pregnant in a kitchen somewhere (and, frankly, the barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen thing hasn’t been that far off over the past few months: pregnancy cravings have led to many baking sprees). This is probably extreme, but pregnancy definitely has made me think about what it means to be a woman, and as Baby H grows, it becomes more obvious to the world around me that I am preparing for motherhood, too. I’d like to think that any faith tradition I would adhere to, Mennonites included, should have a picture of what it means to be a woman that is broad enough to include little black dresses and maternity dresses, too.

And, ever since last Monday, when I found out that Baby H is a girl, I’ve also been wondering what it means to raise a new little Femonite (although she will definitely have to choose her own labels and names for herself when that time comes). I don’t exactly know what or how I will be able to convey to her adequately my hopes and dreams for her, both as a potential new little Mennonite and as a young woman. In fact, you should pray for this child: she has two parents studying theology, and she might be doomed to overthink the church and its trappings from her very beginnings.

I do know that, even now, when I have my little nightly chat with her (yes, I speak with my belly often), I’m dreaming big dreams for her. Dreams that are bigger perhaps than I can even fathom for myself. Her future seems limitless.

But, someday, somewhere, she will certainly rub up against limits: either her own or those imposed on her by others. And it’s my hope that, when this happens, she will have a faith community to help her sort through these pieces and to love her back to wholeness.

Last week, I went to hear Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors, speak. As she was talking about the ways that she teaches Sunday school to children, she said, “I teach each of these kids that they are loved. That they are chosen. And then we have a snack.” A simple message, but oh so profound. If I can teach these things to my daughter, I would count that as success. And maybe, as a bonus, she’ll even be able to wear a (hopefully-not-too-) little black dress and be a member of a faith community, Mennonite or not, without feeling like a walking contradiction, too.

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When parenting your children, how did you talk about faith? About womanhood? About Mennonites? What advice do you have for us new parents-to-be?

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