Shae O'Brien is an English teacher, writer, wife, and mother to three beautiful girls. She takes life with a grain of salt and two spoonfuls of sugar! Please be sure to follow her on www.facebook.com/catholicmamablog.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This prayer is for YOU.

Yes, you read the title correctly. This prayer is for you. This prayer in my heart that I've been holding close in contemplation...I realized it is for you. Yes you who are reading this. You, who were tagged in the sharing of this blog. You, who some loved one believed really needed a prayer right now. You, who stumbled upon this page wishing someone had cared enough to tag you. You, who wonder if anyone has noticed the quiet sadness in your eyes. You, who thinks a prayer couldn't save you.

This prayer is for YOU. Yes you, who is completely content with your life right now. You, who thinks it couldn't get any better. You, who can't wait to get to work or come home or hang out with your in-laws. You, who sings while you do the dishes and offers to put the kids to bed. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who dreams of a day when someone will love you enough to promise you in-laws. You, who sits in the bathroom wondering through tears if your marriage will last another year. You, who never thinks your marriage will become like "those people". You, who believes love is out there and you've almost found it. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who can't even find the nerve to anonymously post the need in your heart for this prayer. You, who doesn't believe you are worth the breath in my lungs. You, who wishes someone would remind you that you are. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who pray night and day and night again for the pink line to appear. You, who is holding your breath until you are sure the test is negative. You, who secretly feels disappointment when no line comes. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who can't stop weeping as you hold on to the teddy bear that still smells like him. You, who can't bear to have another child without her there by your side. You, who don't think life will be able to carry on tomorrow without that incredible presence that has fled your life. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who doesn't remember the last day you lived without pain. You, who remembers and keeps begging for those days to come back. You, who doesn't think it's enough to complain over. You, who just got your test results. You, who are still waiting. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who counts pennies and cuts coupons and still wonders how you'll eat. You, who is working two jobs and taking classes on nights and weekends. You, who posts questions on webmd since you can't afford a doctor. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who is satisfied with where you are right now. You, who feels like you should give your prayer to someone more in need. You, who is questioning if you do enough for others now. 

This prayer is for YOU. You, who isn't even catholic. You, who is kind of offended that Catholic wasn't capitalized just then. You who believes God is one of many. You, who believes God is a woman. You, who believes God is our imagination. You, who doesn't have a clue. You, who has more important things to worry about. 

This prayer is for YOU. I will be praying it, from my heart to God's ears for your situation. Whether it be good or bad, blessed or desperate, a desire or a need. I require nothing of you...this isn't about me. This is about knowing someone is in your corner. Knowing that you are not alone. Knowing that somewhere near, somewhere far, someone close to you or a complete stranger is taking a moment to...Hope with you. Dream with you. Beg with you. Cry with you. Doubt with you. Keep faith with you. Love with you. Love you. 

This is not an empty promise. This is a sincere offer. This prayer...it's for you. 

Please feel free to share this prayer with anyone else you think needs it. I will be happy to give it again and again. God bless. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

An Easter Blessing

Although it is a little late, this is an Easter blessing I wrote for a dear friend of mine. I hope we remember this truth throughout the joyous Easter season. He is risen!

The old wooden cross was not always a symbol of faith. Before the first Good Friday over 2000 Years ago, the cross stood for grief and mourning. They did not know there was an Easter coming. That is the beauty of the cross today. We can see it and rejoice, because it reminds us of life after death, not only for the Lamb but for all of our loved ones who have gone before us to share in the blessed dwelling of God. And so it is that we celebrate Easter in springtime, among the budding tulips and the new grown leaves atop the trees. For death is not forever; it is only for a season. So let us celebrate this beautiful Easter for the truth it teaches, the offering it represents, and the life that continues to go into the ground of our spirits only to be born again in our love for one another. May we live our lives in daily remembrance of the old wooden cross...and the blessed symbol of faith it humbly reflects today.

A Joyous Announcement!

As a Catholic, I have heard many couples vent about the frustration of trying to announce a pregnancy and receiving less than enthusiastic responses by their loved ones. It seems that after three children (or when two pregnancies seem very close to one another) people tend to start the N.O.P.E.s (nosey, offensive pregnancy examination). Questions/statements that fall into this category include:
  • Do you know how to use a condom?
  • You know how those are made right?
  • Was this planned?
  • Are congratulations or condolences in order?
  • Apparently NFP isn't as practical as you thought!
  • Are you finally going to start using birth control?
  • You must be crazy!
  • Your hands are going to be full!
I'm sure my fellow Catholics will post many more possible NOPE's in the comments. While these statements may be offered with a light-hearted or good-willed intention, they also sadly cause couples to stress and cringe over the process of sharing what should be considered joyous news! 

For those couples out there looking for a pregnancy announcement that shares their joy while also--gently--reminding the recipients to respond in a positive manner, I have written the poem below. Please feel free to share it, along with a photo of your new little blessing, to offer your wonderful news to the world! God bless you and your growing family.

A Joyous Announcement
Congratulations are in order!
For a gift is in the making.
Something priceless, something special,
From God's bounty we're partaking.

Whether boy or maybe girl,
We will love this bun a'baking!
So please offer prayers and blessings
For our gift that's in the making.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Gift of Love

Good Friday...I know not all of my friends share in Christian faith, some in no faith at all. In fact, you may be one of them, and this post is not intended to change your mind...but you do not have to believe in a savior to appreciate what happened on this day, thousands of years ago.

There was once a man who believed He could change the world, through two simple things: faith and love. And so He prayed and He loved, day after day, through His words and His actions...even if it meant going against the laws of His faith or the teachings of the Pharisees...He refused to let His life stand for hate or for judgment. And so, as it often ends, hate and judgment found a way back to Him. While He could have chosen to live, He instead chose to love...love through His faith that His selfless death would serve a greater purpose than a life of deceit. 

And while in that moment we had no way of knowing if He would truly live again, it did not matter. Because how often does another human being love us enough to give their life for ours? 

This Friday is Good because of a man who chose to love. Simply love. No matter what title you may call Him in your life, it doesn't change the gift He was willing to give. So, I pray today that you find peace in your soul and joy in your heart that someone loved you so deeply...and maybe you will find faith that He still does. 

God bless you. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Power of Boobs

Boobs. Breasts. Milk Jugs. Milk shakes. Money makers. Ta-Tas. Titties. Boobies. Breasticles. The list of names goes on and on for this one little (or big) part of a woman's anatomy. As a single woman, I was naive to the power they truly hold, ignorantly assuming their greatest worth was found in an attracted suitor's eye. But this all changed on August 4th, 2011, when I gave birth to my first daughter...

Breastfeeding is an incredible experience. It truly does bond a mother and child together like nothing else I've ever experienced. However, most of what media, society, and other mothers portray about breastfeeding is...well...a lie.

Breastfeeding is not always easy. Yes, it gets easier with each child, but only in the way that changing a tire gets easier the more you do it. The task doesn't suddenly become a less painful or difficult experience, you just happen to be more knowledgeable and prepared for it the next time around. Nobody told this to me. As I grew closer to my due date, women started to mention that my nipples might be tender at first until I get used to it. If you have had the blessing to experience breastfeeding then you know...tenderness is nothing compared to the cracked, bloody nipples, the throbbing, engorged breasts, or the itching, aching, fever-inducing, supply dropping, sickness of mastitis.

But women continue to breastfeed, and I am one of them. I have breastfed all three of my daughters, because I have never felt more bonded to them or more power as a woman than in that moment--that miraculous moment when I, and I alone, am able to give nourishment and life to another human being. I would suggest that all mothers try it, not out of obligation to some mothers' code, but to get the chance to experience that awesomeness that only mothers are capable of creating.

I wanted to write today about my story, because I want other mothers out there to stop feeling like failures. I felt like a failure once. And I've learned that we, as a society, have somehow turned breastfeeding from a bonding experience to a motherly competition. I know I am not the only mother out there who has shed tears over breastfeeding, and I hope by sharing this story, I can stop other mothers' tears from falling as well.

So, back to August 4th, 2011. The day my daughter E was born. E couldn't latch on to my breast. Within five minutes of her being born, my nurse introduced me to a Medela nipple shield. She said it would help her latch since my nipples were small. It worked.

However, she misjudged my nipple size and gave me a shield one size too small. Within an hour, my nipples were bruised and bleeding. The Lactation Consultant realized the mistake, and a new shield was offered, but the damage had already been done and breastfeeding was already causing more pain than joy. I fought through it because I was determined to breastfeed, but I could tell E responded to my flinching and groans every time she latched. It was a struggle. A struggle I had to fight through every two to three hours, every day of every week. And this struggle was not being fought by a prepared, sane person. It was being fought by a sleep-deprived, insecure, hormone-ridden new mom who thought she had already done something wrong and was fighting the urge to resent her newborn child. I remember one night, as she cried from hunger but was unable to latch, yelling and weeping, "What do you want from me?" This was not the breastfeeding experience everyone said it would be.

Then came pumping. As a working mother, not only did I have to face the fear and pain of feeding my own child, I also had to train my body to feed a machine. I had to suction plastic to my breasts, listen to a loud groaning as this machine painfully groped me, and "relax" so I could produce more milk. If you have done this, then chances are you are laughing along with me at the irony of being told to relax or you'll fail at feeding your child. The stress only grew with each passing day.

Oh, and might I add that I had to find time to pump. Yes, the laws support our right to breastfeed, but as many mothers will testify, that doesn't mean we won't be treated differently by our coworkers or bosses for asking for special treatment. So, I used my 30 minute lunch period to pump. It isn't a surprise that 30 minutes a day of pumping is not sufficient when your baby eats at least three times during eight hours. And because of that, I soon realized that I would not be able to make enough milk to feed my daughter. So I pumped on weekends too. I even suggested we try to distract her from being hungry. I became ridiculous and cried often.

Then came mastitis. I woke up one morning with chills, my entire body aching, and pain shooting through my breast when I fed E. I immediately called my doctor and had to take an unpaid day off to go in. (Another perk of mothering, my job--like many--requires me to use up all my sick/personal leave before starting maternity leave, which left me with no sick days for the rest of the year.) I had to take antibiotics and rest, but I also had to continue to nurse E so my supply wouldn't drop even more than it would from the illness. I fed through the razor-sharp pain, but my supply still disappeared by the time she was three months old. My frozen supply got her to four months of age, but then I finally had to admit defeat and buy my first can of formula.

With my second daughter, A, I learned from my struggles. My husband and I bought a new pump (a Medela Pump-In-Style, which I recommend to anyone looking to buy one) which was gentler and quieter. I refused the nipple shield so I could give A time to get used to latching on my nipples. (Small nipples do not mean breastfeeding is impossible!) I started pumping in the hospital so I could build up a larger frozen supply. I even found more time to pump during the day. But even with all the changes, I still found myself shaking the night before I had to return to work. What if all the changes didn't work?

They did work....for a while. But eventually, being unable to pump throughout the day took its toll on my supply. I was proud to have made it to six months instead of four, but I still wished I could have done better.

And why? Because formula is poison? No way. I am grateful for the incredible advancements our society has made in the nutritional value of formula. Because I would someday win a medal for my incredible mothering skills? Haha! Not likely. So why the feeling of failure? For some reason, it seems that we as mothers set ourselves up for failure the moment we begin to compete with the mother next to us.

So let's stop. Breastfeeding is incredible. Do it for as long as you can. Don't let someone else define "can" for you. If you find that breastfeeding is causing you more mental, emotional, or physical stress than you can handle, then stop. And don't feel bad for stopping. "Failure" does not exist in mothering, because it would imply that there is only one best way to do it. And....regardless of what some mothers believe...there is no "best" way to do it. There's just a love-filled way to do it, and that is to give your child your very best each day and to say I love you each night.

I am still currently breastfeeding my third daughter, C. She is two months old. My husband and I bought a car adapter, I cut holes in my bra so I could pump back and forth to work. I drink multiple glasses of water an hour. I let my daughter use my nipple for meals, for a pacifier, for anything she wants as long as she reminds my boobs to do their job. This all has increased my supply so much that we have signed up to donate milk to our local milk bank! Does it mean I'll make it to a year this time? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm not stressing this time. Because simply loving her enough to try is what makes me a success. The success is in the love.

Be blessed.
The Catholic Mama