Author Archive for Michaelyn Hein – Page 2

Carry On!

Michaelyn updates us on what’s available in the world of baby carriers.

The first time I “wore” my infant son, I was desperate. He wouldn’t sleep anywhere – except on me. I loved the cuddling, but resented feeling so stuck. I couldn’t get dishes done, couldn’t change or fold laundry, and really couldn’t do much of anything very easily. I should have relished my forced relaxation. What an excuse! “I’m sorry, I couldn’t iron that shirt; the baby was sleeping in my arms.”

But, as much as I enjoyed my reason for sitting on the couch and reading a book instead of vacuuming, I just couldn’t stand that carpet anymore. Or those dirty dishes. Or the backed up laundry. At some point, things just have to get done. But, how would I do them with a child in my arms?

About that time, my sister introduced me to the world of baby-wearing by handing me a carrier she’d received, saying, “Here, maybe this will help.” Did it ever! Suddenly, I could do things a bit more easily with my son cradled against me, my arms freer to do whatever needed to be done.

It’s been five years since then, and as I neared my daughter’s due date this past June, I looked forward to wearing her, too. This time, though, I would give the carrier more thought. As I looked at the old one, I began to recall its drawbacks. It was a one shoulder pouch sling – great for ease of use, not so great for security. I recall that every time I bent over even slightly when my son was in it, my arms couldn’t be totally free. Any slight bend risked him tumbling to the floor.

So, I spent the months before my daughter’s birth testing out other options in baby-wearing. Here, I share how things changed, even as they stayed the same.

The Sling

Interestingly, in the five years since my son was born, basic pouch slings have become quite hard to find in stores, at least in my area. When I questioned a sales clerk about their disappearance, I discovered that many of the slings they carried were recalled due to suffocation and fall hazards.  Hmm . . . exactly what I worried about when I wore my son in the sling I used to use.

pouch sling

Michaelyn with her newborn son in a pouch sling

Still, some updated slings were available, mainly the ring sling. Unlike my rigid yet basic sling from half a decade ago, the ring sling is typically made of soft, stretchy fabric that allows the wearer to adjust to fit the baby as needed. And, friends who swear by their ring slings rave about how easy it is to breastfeed in them. Though they were around five years ago, ring slings have certainly gained popularity – and style – over the years. I found myself drawn to them because between the various ring colors, vast choices in patterns, and flowing fabric “tail”, they were just so pretty.

Zolowear Ring Sling

Zolowear Ring Sling

Some popular ring slings: Zolowear, Sleeping Baby, Sakura Bloom, Kalea Baby

Buckle Carriers

Gone are the days of Baby Bjorn reigning as the “in” carrier, as it did when I was pregnant with my son. It’s the one I registered for and received as a gift . . . and the one I never used. Why? Personally, I found all the clips and buckles too cumbersome. Still, buckle carriers have a devoted following, and for good reason. They’re super secure and dads seem to like them best. On the surface, the Ergobaby Carrier (the one that was quite prevalent in each store I recently checked) resembled my Baby Bjorn, but with many improvements. Its seated positioning is better for babies, the waist belt keeps Mom or Dad from an aching back, and it comes with pockets and a “hat” to protect your baby from the sun. Still, since I had a summer baby, I wasn’t fond of the heavy weight of the material. I imagined my baby and I both getting sweaty pretty quickly! As we head into cooler weather, however, I may just need to give this one another chance!

ErgoBaby buckle carrier

Ergobaby buckle carrier

Some popular buckle carriers: ErgoBaby, Tula, Beco, Boba

The Wrap

Not the popular carrier the year my son was born, the wrap has since gained attention for good reason. The soft material is comfortable and giving – and free of buckles. It allows full control of how loose or tight the wearer needs the carrier to be. Also, the baby is fully secured, easing nerves about the baby’s safety or his dislike of anything getting between him and Mommy or Daddy! Some are turned off by the fiasco it can be to get the wrap on in the first place. To combat that problem, some brands, like Infantino, have made “wraps” you can pull on like a t-shirt, or you could actually buy a pocket wrap shirt that you can tuck your little one safely inside of. Still, once the traditional wrap is on, I haven’t found a better carrier for allowing both my hands complete freedom while my baby nestles securely against me. Bonus: some wraps are now made with built-in UV protection, so you can enjoy the rays while your baby’s skin stays safe.

Moby Wrap

Moby Wrap

Some popular wraps: Baby K’Tan, Moby, Wrapsody, NuRoo

While none of these types or brands is exactly new, where all these carriers have made great strides is in their fabric and style options. From tie-dyed to paisley, organic cotton to linen to silk, there is sure to be one carrier to fit every parent’s taste, not to mention outfit! And despite the differences in carrier types, I have found one common theme in baby-wearing: a parent’s preference in carrier is as unique as the many carriers themselves these days.

So, get out there and try some on! Then, enjoy both the closeness and freedom – and new, chic look – your purchase affords you. Don’t worry – there will still be time to snuggle on the couch with your baby and a good book…while the washing machine is cleaning your pretty, well-worn carrier.

Play Ball

“And it was simple. For my son, his love of t-ball wasn’t about the performance or the competition. It wasn’t even about playing with friends. It was about simply spending time with his father.”

Ever since we heard the words, “It’s a boy,” my husband has had a dream. It’s a dream most fathers share, I think. I imagine that just as we mothers envision one day helping our daughters choose a wedding dress, fathers envision themselves on the field, coaching their son’s sports team. At least, that seems to be the going dream in my household.

baseballWe started to realize this dream as the long-awaited spring weather began to reveal itself. Baseball gradually filled our television screen and thoughts of summer plans began to fill the mouths of the moms at my son’s preschool. “Are you putting your child in anything this summer?” they questioned as we waited for our kids to come to the narthex at the end of the school morning. “Are we signing him up for anything this spring?” my husband asked me as he pondered the launch of our four-year-old’s athletic career.

To be honest, I hadn’t given much thought to these kinds of plans. My plans included enjoying the warm weather in lighter clothes and imagining our family road trip down South in a few months. Signing up our son for organized activities wasn’t a thought that had crossed my mind. That part of his life, I imagined, would come when he was old enough to share with us his desire to participate in some activity.

So, the idea that we, his parents, would enroll him in something he had not asked for was a foreign one. Given how often I ran into this conversation, though, I began to believe that by neglecting to put my son in an organized sport, I was neglecting some significant aspect of the stage of life he’s in. I began to buy into the idea that my husband and I had to sign him up for something.

“Honey, do you want to play t-ball with other kids on a team?” I asked our son one day. Considering his love of playing t-ball in the backyard with his dad, I was actually surprised when he wailed, “Nooo, I don’t want to!”

Soon, though, I began to see images on Facebook of friends’ preschoolers happily donning their own baseball and soccer uniforms, or friends’ daughters proudly showing off their dance recital costumes and gymnastics leotards, and I panicked. My husband and I really were holding our son back from his full potential! Why had we waited so long to join the activity bandwagon?

So, ignoring my son’s voice (and a voice inside me that knew better), I registered him for t-ball. My husband and I took him to our local Little League’s outing to a nearby minor league baseball game, and we all had a great time. My husband took him out back for extra t-ball time in the yard, and they both had a blast.

We took him to his first t-ball practice, and it was a disaster.

Our son refused to walk onto the field. He cried. He begged us to go home. Ultimately, he found me in the bleachers, clung to my lap and wouldn’t budge from it. My husband and I argued over me coddling him too much, and we went home frustrated, while my son, once we left, went home relieved.

My sister, I realized, has dealt with similar issues with her eldest daughter. A similar personality to my son, my eight-year-old niece has long been more of an introvert. She’s been content to hang back as other kids run forward.

Recently, however, that seemed like it might change. My niece fell in love with Irish step-dancing, and my sister signed her up for weekly classes. Soon enough, my niece was hopping all over the house, any house, eager to show her family and relatives the latest moves she’d learned. She seemed to have turned a corner in her shyness. It appeared that she’d finally broken out of her shell.

And then, with the onset of spring, came recital season. My niece’s costumes came in, and my sister took her daughter to her first performance at a nearby nursing home.

And her daughter refused to dance.

It was baffling. My niece had become a constant step-dancer these days. We joked that she danced from place to place more than she walked. So, why the sudden refusal? Hadn’t she spent months getting ready for these performances, especially the big recital, which she also, ultimately, decided not to do?

My sister and her husband found themselves in a discussion similar to the one my husband and I were having. Should we force our children onto the stage or the field? Are we inhibiting them by allowing them to choose not to participate?

As I pondered these questions, my son enlightened me one day as we drove form one errand to another.

“I thought you love to play t-ball,” I said to him.

“I do,” he answered.

“So, why don’t you want to play on a team?” I continued.

“I don’t like a team,” he responded. “I don’t like people watching me.”

“But…”I cut in, and my son cut me off with an explanation that quieted my words and got me thinking.

“Mommy, I just like to play in the yard with Daddy,” he said simply.

And it was simple. For my son, his love of t-ball wasn’t about the performance or the competition. It wasn’t even about playing with friends. It was about simply spending time with his father.

I realized something, too, about my niece. For her, dancing wasn’t about the recital or the stage. It wasn’t about an audience. Her love of step-dancing was simply about the dance.

While most of us engage in activities with an end goal in mind (a competition, a recital, a game), my son and my niece wanted to engage in something for the sheer love of doing it.

After that realization, I began to look at this rush to put our kids in organized activities in a whole new light. I wondered if, perhaps, we as parents might do our children a disservice by taking them out of the yard and putting them on the field too soon. Or by placing them in organized activities where they interact with peers and other adults instead of nurturing their love for an activity with us, their parents, the people they really want to share their love with the most.

But, I think the greatest lesson God wants me to take from this is a reminder that our children are individuals. Indeed, as Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” As individual personalities. As unique human beings. He doesn’t view us as a collective whole but as distinct and very separate souls from one another.

Likewise, our children shouldn’t be treated as carbon copies of each other. Some of our children can’t wait to get on stage or be a part of a team. Others will never want an audience and are content to play just because it’s fun, or to dance just because they can.

So, as I watch my son play t-ball in the backyard with his father and hear his laughter as he runs imaginary bases, I’m glad I’m not sitting on bleachers, his laughter drowned out by other voices. I’m content to just sit here, right now, watching my son play with his dad.

My Body Given Up for You

madonna nursingI recently overheard a fellow pregnant woman comment to her husband words that saddened me. I chalked up my sadness to my hormones (the ones that have me constantly crying at television commercials). I told myself I had taken her too seriously; quite likely, I had. After all, she was very pregnant, too. And achy. And tired. And round. I know. She said so.

As we shopped nearby one another, I couldn’t help but hear her say, “It’s not fair. I’m the one who has to have my body change. I’m the one who has to work it all off. And if I’m punished like this now, it’ll be your turn later.” She didn’t say it with laughter; she said it with bite.

I assume “later” meant after the baby is born. A time when she can force equal “punishments” on her husband in the way of middle-of-the-night feedings and messy diaper changes. And before it seems I’m picking on this poor, soon-to-deliver mother, I realize it’s not just her.

I hear similar words often from friends, acquaintances and strangers. This need to “even the score” when it comes to childbearing or childrearing. I’ve been guilty of it, too. A couple of weeks after my son was born, my husband decided to go for a run. While he was gone, I sat in our house, fuming as I breastfed our infant.

“Sure, he gets to go for a run,” I thought angrily. “I would love to go for a run, but this body won’t let me! I have swollen, aching breasts that are glued to my child, and I’m still recovering from an extremely difficult delivery!” When he returned, I let him have it, telling him at one point that if I couldn’t run, then it wasn’t fair that he could. Yes, I was that childish.

And here I am, five years later, very happily pregnant again. But, I noticed that I, too, have slipped into slight self-pity mode at times during this pregnancy: about my weight gain, about my inability to exercise like I used to, about the completely blocked nose I had for two months, and about the gestational diabetes I’ve been diagnosed with for yet another pregnancy.

But, as often happens when I’m starting down a path to wrong thinking, God sets me right. He did so a few weeks ago as I sat in morning Mass. I knelt down in my pew as usual and listened to the words of Consecration.

This is my body given up for you.

These words, the words I hear at every Mass, struck me differently this time. Because this time, I was pregnant. And this time, instead of staring at the priest or gazing at the bread-turned-body or bowing my head during those words, I was staring at Mary, who was to my left and to whom I suddenly felt an urge to turn to.

As I heard those words, I found new meaning in them. I saw our Blessed Mother as a teenage girl, giving her fiat to God. “Let it be done to me according to your will.” In other words, This is my body given up for You.

I saw Mary as a mother, her son leaving home to dedicate himself to the world. A mother, unlike others who try to keep their children close to home, or who have difficulty giving their sons over to another woman in marriage. Mary, giving her son freely to the world. Talk about letting go!

I saw our Blessed Mother years later, walking her son’s path, watching him be tortured, and then keeping vigil at his cross. I saw a mother giving her needs up for her son’s. Freely and without complaint.

And I saw myself in a new light. As I looked at my bulging belly and felt the tightness of my pants, as I imagined stretch marks and the stack of sweets I can’t eat, I whispered to my unborn child, “This is my body given up for you.”

As I thought ahead to delivery, one that I have been terrified about thanks to the arduous delivery of my son, I changed a prayer I’d been reciting for much of my pregnancy. Instead of pleading with God for a quick, easy birth this time, I began to ask for strength to endure whatever type of delivery I will have. And then, I ended that prayer with, “This is my body given up for you.”

I’ve even begun to find greater peace in the daily grind of raising my son. I recently sat with him in the middle of the night as he whimpered about his belly hurting. Bleary-eyed, exhausted, and desperately wanting sleep, I thought, “This is my body, my sleep, one of my body’s greatest needs right now, given up for you.” I thought it not in a way that patted myself on the back for such little sacrifice, but simply, with gratitude that God would grant me the gift of motherhood so that I could offer such tiny, humble sacrifices.

So that I could, as St. Therese of Lisieux pointed out, follow a small but no less important path to God.

 

Choosing to Make the Coffee

God presented me with two choices this morning: to start the day without love or to start the day with it. Some days, it’s hard to force ourselves to begin the day with love. But, if we follow where God leads, it’s bound to lead us somewhere good.

This morning I did something that last night I promised I wouldn’t do.

164196725Because last night, I was angry with my husband. Our argument sneaked up on us seemingly from nowhere.  It had been a pleasant night. We enjoyed “family playtime”, as our son likes to call it, during which my husband and I smiled at each other over our son’s head as he said something adorable–something I can’t recall now.  We worked together to get our son ready for bed; my husband helped him get his pajamas from the top drawer and I read books with him in bed. We worked as a well-oiled machine.

But after our son fell asleep, our machine broke down. Maybe it was exhaustion. A running out of steam. It had been a long day for both of us, a slightly later than usual bedtime for our son, and it would be followed by another long day tomorrow.  My husband was probably stressed. Tomorrow he’d have another long afternoon of coaching after a full day of teaching teenagers, followed by parent conferences, and then a one hour commute home.  I wasn’t looking forward to him being gone for another full day this week. So how did we share these frustrations with each other? By getting angry.

We lay in bed, chatting casually, when I said something that got under my husband’s skin. I didn’t intend for it to; in fact, I didn’t even see it coming. But, there it was, out there and festering. And then he rebutted. And we kept it going, volleying cutting remarks, getting the occasional one-up with a spike, until, tired of it all, we went to bed – angry. Really angry.

I promised that I would not get up with him in the morning to do my usual routine of making his coffee, packing his lunch, and blending his breakfast shake. “I wouldn’t want you to,” he retorted, eyes shut and back turned towards me. When his alarm sounded at the usual 5:45 a.m., I turned over, pulled the blankets around me tighter and stubbornly repeated in my mind, I am NOT getting up. He does NOT deserve it. I am NOT getting up. He does NOT deserve it.

God has a funny way of talking to us. Sometimes, when things are going well and I really want to hear His voice, I don’t hear it. More often, when things are going terribly, and we’re just being awful, the times when I’m usually not even thinking about God, well, those are the times I hear Him clearly. And this morning, He made Himself heard.

As I lay there, repeating my “lacklove” sentences – a word I learned from Archbishop Fulton Sheen – a thought invaded my angry mind. Would I want my son to learn to be as resentful as I was being? Don’t I try to teach him that even when we think people don’t deserve our love, that’s when they need it the most? I sighed and loosened the blankets around me a little. Still, I determined not to get up – yet.

Then, another thought. I show my son love even when I’m frustrated, even when I’m not feeling very loving or very giving, so what message does it send my husband that I do that for our child but I won’t do that for him?

And the final, most powerful thought. I don’t deserve the love Christ showed when He submitted Himself to the Cross, but He did it anyway. He loved me anyway. And I certainly wasn’t very deserving of His love as I lay there, resisting. I sighed a heavier sigh and loosened the blankets a bit more.

I opened one eye and peeked at my husband, bustling around, pulling socks from his drawer, then escaping to the shower. I opened both eyes and looked at the crucifix above the doorway to our room. And I got up.

I trudged into the kitchen and plugged in the coffeepot. I pulled out the blender and mixed a shake. I took bread from the fridge and made a sandwich. And when my husband finally entered the room, he smiled. He put his arms around me and I hugged him back, the abrupt and stiff movements of my body softened.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “If my spouse won’t do for me, I won’t do for my spouse.” Of thinking we will give only what we get. But, what would happen if we all started giving even when we don’t get? Especially when we don’t get?

Back when we attended Engaged Encounter, my husband and I heard the truth repeated that “love is not a feeling; it’s a choice.”  An action, something we do. Generally, we do it pretty well with our kids. After all, they need us; they demand our attention in a real, in-your-face way. And we act. We do change that diaper, give them a drink, kiss their hurts.  But, our spouses don’t come to us with such obvious needs. Often we have to seek them out, and more often, we claim we’re too tired – or too annoyed – to do so.

At Engaged Encounter, my husband and I also heard that “marriage is not a day, it’s a lifetime.” As such, we must keep making our choice to love our spouse, day in and day out, on good days and bad. When it came to my husband, I’d recently forgotten these truths.

This morning, I went into the kitchen intending for my actions to affect some goodness in my husband. Instead, getting up, doing something for him when I didn’t at all feel like it, had a huge effect on me.

Before my husband got out of the shower, before he had a chance to discover that I was up as usual, and as I stood there, scooping coffee grinds into the coffeepot, I actually felt better. The anger I was holding onto, even as I made my way out of our bedroom, dissipated and I felt at peace. I no longer needed – or wanted – an apology from my husband. This morning, I understood the words read on our wedding day, that love “does not brood over injury,” because doing so not only hurts the ones we profess to love but also hurts us (Corinthians 13:5).

God presented me with two choices this morning: to start the day without love or to start the day with it. Some days, it’s hard to force ourselves to begin the day with love. But, if we follow where God leads, it’s bound to lead us somewhere good.

Image Credit: Nautilus Shell Studios (photos.com)

Our Rugged Rosary

RuggedRosary“Mommy, is that a necklace?” my four year-old son asked.

“No, it’s a rosary,” I explained.

“But, it looks like a necklace,” he answered. “Can I try it on?”

“No, honey,” I responded. “It’s not for wearing. It’s for praying.”

“Is it for girls?” he asked.

I was a bit taken aback. “Yes, and for boys, too. It’s for everyone.”

“But, it looks like a necklace. I think you’re wrong. I think it’s just for girls.”

Just for girls. How did he come to such an idea? It’s not hard to understand. In our home, he has seen his mother pray the rosary. But, his father? No, not his father. Obviously, the belief that the rosary is just for girls is not a thought particular to my son.

It’s a thought, I think, in many minds. In my immediate world, I see the fruits of such belief. After daily Mass, the vast majority of people who stick around to pray a rosary together are women. At church, we have an active Rosary Altar Society that, of course, consists entirely of women. So, where are the men to lead my son in praying the rosary? Where are the men to teach him that it is not just a prayer for elderly ladies to recite after Mass, not just a prayer for girls, but a prayer for all people?

In my immediate world, I also see hope. An attempt by grown men to change that thinking. For there, on my mother’s dining room table, lies a book entitled Real Men Pray the Rosary. A strong fist decorates the cover, and that fist clenches a rosary.

How do I get my son there? How do I get him to want to grasp a rosary as tightly? My thoughts immediately turn to my husband and his responsibility. If only he would be turned onto the rosary, if only he would start to pray it, if only my son would witness this, then maybe there’d be a chance of my son finding an attraction to it.

But, maybe putting the bulk of responsibility – the bulk of the blame – on my husband isn’t so fair. After all, I pray a daily rosary, but how often do I do so in front of my son? With my son? Typically, I wait until after he’s asleep to pray it, because then I can do so uninterrupted. Typically, I don’t even consider taking out his oversized, colorful wooden rosary – the one that hangs on the wall in his room – because, I tell myself, he’s too young to last even a decade.

And yet, I have patience with him as we work to clean up his toys, when it would be so much easier and faster to do it myself. I have patience with him when he wants to help me bake cookies, even though the cookies risk having egg shells or a bit too much salt in them. I have patience with him when he insists he can vacuum the living room, and so, even though I really just want to get the cleaning done, I hand over the vacuum and find myself amused rather than annoyed as he covers the same tiny corner in the time I could have done the entire room. So why do I lack such patience when it comes to praying the rosary with him? Why do I shy away from inviting him to join me?

The fault, then, is in many ways mine, and I decided recently that if I’m part of the reason my son thinks the rosary isn’t for him, then I needed to do something about that.

My son’s an active one. He loves to hike, so I decided to use his love of the outdoors to prove that he could enjoy the rosary, too. Days ago, we set out on a hike, just the two of us, and my son carried with him a rugged bucket. I explained to him ahead of time that we were going to go on a rosary hike. I brought along my wooden Medjugorje rosary to offer him an example of what we would make at the end of our hike. Along the way, my son had a blast collecting rocks, pine cones and acorns. As we came to the end of our hike, we found a cement slab on which we used our treasures to create our own rugged rosary. We laid out my wooden one and set to task, my son deciding which objects would be the Our Father beads, and which the Hail Mary beads. As we put our rosary together, I explained to him the various mysteries and we said an Our Father and Hail Mary for each one. In the end, only one thing was missing: the cross! My son noticed flowers nearby, which we picked and formed into a lovely pink cross. But, the best part? As we went to leave our rosary behind, my son begged, “No, someone will mess it up!” So, we packed up our rosary “beads” and brought them home, where my son and I glued them into another rosary on poster board, which now hangs in his room.

We parents, as I learned, can’t rely on our children to come to us desiring the rosary. We need to make it tangible and alive to them, to use our knowledge of what they enjoy to make the rosary appealing to them. In doing so, we can change their perceptions of the rosary. At the end of our hike, my son no longer saw the rosary as “just for girls” but a prayer for him, too.

As for my husband? Well, I’ll keep working on that. But he’s a book sort. Perhaps I’ll leave a copy of Real Men Pray the Rosary on our dining room table, with that wooden rosary not too far away. And then, perhaps, I’ll invite him along on a hike.

The Amazing Grace of the Rosary

“Because though Mary couldn’t give me my baby, she could give me her heart. Though she couldn’t give me my child, she could give me her Son. And that day, I’m convinced she did.”

My first adult attempt at praying a full rosary wasn’t a good one.

I was nearly three months pregnant for the first time, and my husband and I were in the car on our way to a friend’s birthday party.  It should have been a beautiful time.  It should have been a rosary of joy and thanksgiving.  Instead, my first rosary was one of desperation.

rosary buttonI hadn’t been feeling well the previous few days.  I had lower back pain and cramps.  And my pregnancy symptoms, the ones that had been apparent from the start, had gradually disappeared over the course of the week.  “You’re reaching the end of your first trimester,” I was told. “That’s normal.”

It didn’t feel normal to me.  Not that I’d been pregnant before.  Not that I had anything to compare it to.  At my eight-week prenatal visit, the midwife had tried in vain to find my baby’s heartbeat. “No worries,” she said. “It’s still quite early to hear a heartbeat. You’re so small, though, I thought we might. We’ll hear it at the 12-week visit.”

But the lack of a heartbeat two weeks earlier, together with my lost pregnancy symptoms but gained premenstrual ones worried me. My husband tried to allay my fears, repeating the encouragement we’d been given by nurses, doctors, family and friends. But, in my heart, I felt something wasn’t right. On the way out the door, as we prepared for the one and a half hour drive to the party, I grabbed my rosary beads.

Though I rarely prayed a decade, and could not remember praying a full rosary in my adult life, I usually had beads around. Sometimes, they just sat on my dresser. Other times, they hung out in a pouch in my purse. But, they rarely made it to my hands.

On that day, though, the day of the birthday party, I held them tightly. In the car, I talked with God. I prayed the random Our Father or Hail Mary, but though I had the beads in my hand, I didn’t pray a single decade. Until we got within a half hour of the party and we passed a Catholic Church.

“Pull in!” I begged my husband.

Within minutes, he parked in the empty lot and I raced into the church. The abdominal pains were coming stronger now, but I still held out hope. I knelt into a pew and began to pray the rosary. I prayed it fervently, if slightly incorrectly, saying only the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be, not even knowing about the Hail, Holy Queen or the Oh, My Jesus prayers. I’m not even sure I said the Apostles’ Creed. But, I did pray five decades, the first time I remember ever doing so.

And, as I neared the final Glory Be, the miscarriage began. I was lost. Confused. I thought this could save my baby. In my immature faith, I clung tight to that hope I’d had.

 As we turned around and drove back home, towards the emergency room of our local hospital, questions raced through my head. I thought the rosary could bring miracles. Why do this? Why take my baby while I pray a rosary? What is that supposed to tell me?

Here’s the funny thing, though.  I could have had a crisis of faith.  I very nearly did.  But, I think, in retrospect, that the rosary I prayed as I began to lose my first child gave birth to a love of the rosary within me.

Because though Mary couldn’t give me my baby, she could give me her heart. Though she couldn’t give me my child, she could give me her Son. And that day, I’m convinced she did.

Because as I lay in the emergency room bed, there was a moment when I very clearly felt arms around me, hugging me from behind, even though the only thing behind me was a wall. And I was sure that was Jesus.

Because while I was losing my child, I, who am always emotional, was somehow calm. Even more astounding, I worried not about my comfort but about comforting those around me. When my husband looked white as a sheet and had to sit with his head lowered, I encouraged him to take a walk outside. To take a breather. And I didn’t resent him in the least when he did. When the young medical intern fumbled her words and was obviously nervous and upset, I soothed her, “Don’t worry. It’s okay. Really, it’s okay.” Where did that come from? I wondered. Because that wasn’t me. That calm, more concerned about everyone else than my own current sorrow, wasn’t me. It was Mary.

I have prayed the rosary (almost) daily since then. It is a prayer that finds me no matter where I am in life and teaches me how to be more like our Blessed Mother. How to be more like our Lord. In the Joyful Mysteries, I find the beauty of life. In the Sorrowful Mysteries, I find the beauty of strength in suffering. In the Luminous Mysteries, I find my Jesus, the beautiful God-Man who moves me. And in the Glorious Mysteries, I find the hope of our Father in heaven.

The first time I prayed the rosary, I prayed for an obvious miracle. But the power of the rosary works deeper miracles:  not one-time shows to which we can say a quick thank you to God and be on our merry way, but subtler, slower-forming miracles, the kind that take deep root and have the power to change our lives, to change us, from the inside out.

And that’s what pulls me back – each day – to the rosary.

Why I Let My Son Drop Out of Preschool

michaelynPlease welcome our new staff writer, Michaelyn Hein!  Michaelyn lives in New Jersey with her husband of 8 ½ years, and is a stay-at-home mom to their 4 year-old son. After earning a B.A. in English, and M.A.T. in Secondary Education, she taught high school English for seven years. She left her career when her son was born in order to raise her family. She blogs at Thoughts from the Pew in the Back.  In her inaugural essay, Michaelyn takes on a tough issue:  whether to place small children in preschool.

I have a confession to make: I am the mother of a preschool dropout.

I’ll admit, it took me a little while to get used to the idea. For months, I’d anticipated the start of his education, evidently with more excitement than him. But, a year ago, things didn’t go as planned. In my four years of mothering, I’m finding most things never do.

That’s how I became an “accidental” attachment parent. When our son was born, my husband and I planned to have him sleep in his beautiful, brand new crib my mother gifted us. But, our son, even in infancy, had different plans. I soon found the only way any of us could get any sleep was if he was in our bed. So, we began co-sleeping, and we were all much happier (though maybe not my mother – it was an expensive crib). The same thing happened with nursing. I planned to try to squeeze six months out of it, but a year later, my son and I still had a happy nursing relationship. I figured why ruin a good thing?

See, I had these plans for how it would all go, because I listened to the suggestions coming from the world around me. But, when I actually became a mother I found that listening to my own intuitions (and my son’s own voice) made my home a much happier place for everyone.

So, why I threw that intuition out the window when our son turned three, I’m not sure.

I could say it was because I felt left out of the conversation when all my friends discussed the preschools they were sending their kids to. I could guess it was because I thought the backpacks lining the shelves of every store we entered were just so cute. But, whatever the reasons, and despite a voice deep down inside whispering not to do it, I did. I enrolled our son in preschool.

As my mother always said, man plans and God laughs, right? And I’m beginning to think that God tells us His better plans through the laughter – or cries – of our children.

Because our son wasn’t ready for school.  At all.  The first two days, he muddled through, and I lied to myself that only ten minutes of crying was an indication of success. But, I guess our son wasn’t happy that his mother suddenly seemed not to be listening to his needs. I imagine in his innocent mind, he didn’t get why his mommy, who’d spent every day at home with him since his birth nurturing, guiding and teaching him, was suddenly abandoning him, even if it was only for a few hours two days a week.

Still, I tried to convince myself that all was well with him entering preschool. However, our son, who suddenly felt silenced by my ignoring his looks of dread when I left him in the classroom, found a way to make his voice heard. On the third day, he cried.

Well, sobbed, really, and he’d done so for an hour straight, the teacher said. I shudder to think that on the fourth day, I brought him back. What was I thinking? I, the mother who’d been horrified by even the idea of making my son cry it out in his crib as an infant, took my preschooler back to the place where he’d just “cried it out” in the classroom.

57280720It took him clinging to me that morning – literally latched onto my leg so that I’d have to pry him off like a leech – for me to realize that he still needed me more than he needed any school. In their book, Hold Onto Your Kids, Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D., and Gabor Maté, M.D., explain that “the more children are pushed, the tighter they cling” (188). By how tightly my son gripped me that morning, he was obviously being pushed too hard.

And, I finally got the message. We pulled him out of school, but friends were concerned. Weren’t we worried our son would be a social outcast? Well, though he was an only child despite our hopes to give him a sibling, not really; more time at home with us would make him more secure in relationships. Didn’t we fear he’d be academically behind his peers? It couldn’t be that hard to teach basic counting, or number and letter recognition. Weren’t we worried we taught him to be too dependent on us by giving into his tears? I couldn’t fathom that at three he was too old to have his tears acknowledged. In fact, I couldn’t imagine that any of us is ever too old to benefit from having our fears validated. It was pondering this last question that, in the end, convinced me we’d done the right thing.

Well, that, and the Bible. In the Gospels, Jesus asks, “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread?” Our Lord then goes on to acknowledge that we know how to give good gifts to our children (Mt. 7: 9, 11, NABRE). I was reminded that as parents, we do know how to give our kids what they need, and that we don’t need society to guide us. We have God to do that.

It’s been a year since we allowed our son to drop out of preschool, and in that year he’s learned valuable lessons. We played together, and he learned to expand his imagination. We made crafts together, and he learned to create. We read books together, and he learned his letters. He helped with the cooking, and he learned how to measure. And by having his needs responded to when he was most vulnerable, he learned that he is respected, that he is heard and that he can depend on the people he loves.

But, really, I think the greatest lesson has been mine: that if we want our children to honor us, then we first need to honor them.