March 31, 2011

Anna Noelle

Well, since it's past midnight and Anna is still going strong and it's about time for my once-every-6 months entry, I'll regale you with a short bio on Anna, my one and only. By the pound (only 4 lbs, 14 oz or so thus far), she's the most inquisitive creature outside of the feline family that I know. Her midnight blue eyes roam the room as she tries to take in absolutely everything. Even when she's sleeping, I sometimes catch her eyeballs hard at work, bouncing up and down and side to side. Tonight, she's my little lip-smacking inchworm as she tries to wiggle herself into a better vantage point of the room. Annababe, why are your dark eyes so wide? Aren't newborns supposed to spend most of their time sleeping? You know, like you did in the hospital a short time ago? Anna is so inquisitive. It appears she is not going to fall asleep until she has her new digs (home) figured out. I guess I can't blame her.

Let's see...what else about Anna? She's a voracious eater. Instead of the "suck, suck, suck, swallow" pattern of normal breastfeeding, Anna is swallow, swallow, swallow, suck, swallow; when she feels like it, she's all business. She put the other L & D babies to shame. I tried to set up a breastfeeding tournament and get some bets going, but word got around quick about Anna and her supersucking skills. So I had to settle for a blue ribbon (w/ pink trim) Champion Breastfeeder award stuck to our hospital room door, which she won by default. (The other babies declined to enter the competition and all had the same excuse - poopy diaper.) Oh well, I'm sure there will be other opportunities to profit from my darling daughter;) Back to her habits, other times she cries wolf or plays hard to get, acting like she is dying of thirst and then sticking her nose up at the proffered meal. Sorry honey, you can have mama's milk or you can have mama's milk. This menu is smaller than you, Pintsize. Or, she sleeps on the job. Anna, I didn't teach you that. Must be my better half.

Anna's also pretty photogenic for her age (2 1/2 days old). We've already captured a smile or two on camera, as well as her pursing her miniscule yet luscious ruby-red lips. One time I caught her in the act and couldn't resist. I gave her a quick peck on the lips and she threw her arms up in surprise (the startling reflex common in newborns).

Believe it or not, Anna cashed in for the moment, so her proud daddy might as well follow suit.

March 23, 2011

Attack of the Dog

Yesterday my baby got attacked by a dog (when I say baby I am referring to Ben; my protective instinct has kicked in). More specifically by a Great Dane beast with, as he put it, "feet bigger than mine." He walks in the door and first thing he says is, "I'm ok" which of course instantly made me freak out. Then when I saw his blood covered arm I really started freaking out (I don't handle medical emergencies well, I've learned. I guess that comes from growing up with a bunch of girls and no boys). Needless to say, he had been running when this guy's dog (who was NOT on a leash) ran into the street and grabbed his forearm and wouldn't let go. The owner was 'shocked' because, I quote "he has never done that before". Well, folks, it only takes once, doesn't it? Which is why you should follow your local leash and/or fence laws, regardless of how 'safe' your dog is (and especially if your dog is bigger than a human). Thankfully, Ben was fine after some stitches, but he did have a gaping wound and we were not happy having to go through the whole ordeal. Lesson learned: keep your dogs on leashes, people, so they don't attack my husband. Thanks!!!! :)

March 20, 2011


In the midst of playing what I like to call The Waiting Game, this is the verse Ben felt God speak to him this morning (how appropriate):

As you do not know the path of the wind,
or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb,
so you cannot understand the work of God,
the Maker of all things.
(Ecclesisastes 11)

4 more days until 40 weeks comes and goes. Sleep and work are both quite difficult, but I can't complain too much, because each day is another one closer! And my doctor will be back in town from his week off on Tuesday!

March 7, 2011

In need of a Doctor

I've been meaning to write this post for a long time coming, but haven't been able to quite verbalize what it is I'd like to say. So here's my best shot..... a post about what I spend 8 hours a day, five days a week devoted to. This month marks one year of working at a hospital for the state's most mentally ill individuals.

I received my graduate degree in counseling; more specifically, school counseling. I thought I would end up in a high school or perhaps a middle school, working with kids as during my internship. Kids whose parents have recently divorced, lost a family member, kids who are being bullied, or even abused within the family. These were the types of things I dealt with during my year-and-a-half long internship and practicum. In the end, I felt compelled to take the NCE (a national exam thatcertified me as a National Counselor and made me eligible to get my license). Typically, people do not pursue this if they are going to into school counseling because it's not necessary, but like I said, I felt compelled. And of course now, two years later, I know why. I didn't end up in a school like I thought. When we came back from India, it was inconveniently the middle of the school year (not an ideal time for school counselor positions). I found that I wasn't too disappointed at the prospect of finding something else. I think deep down, working with school teenagers wasn't as close to my heart as I had once anticipated.

When I applied for, interviewed, and accepted the position of a counselor at a state-run hospital for the mentally ill, I had little idea what I was getting myself into. I did know there is a big difference between counseling the "worried well" (psychology slang for those who are in many ways well-off but struggle with typical issues like finding meaning in life, anxiety, insecurity, etc) and the seriously mentally ill. I wouldn't say I was quite prepared for the type of population I was going to be working with, but I was drawn to it. I had this inner peace about taking the position. I knew it was where I was supposed to be. And despite the danger associated (yes, actual danger, as in people get hurt!) I knew God was in it.

Without getting into too many specifics, the forensic population I ended up working with consists of mostly adult men (some women, but mostly men)... many of them come right off the street, some are addicted to drugs, some have done minor things to get them into trouble, others have done really terrible things (of which I often have to read about in detail). Most have little or no social support. Others have been completely abandoned by their families. All are considered a danger in some way (sort of a pre-requisite to being admitted) and many are in such a state that they are unable to care for themselves safely in the community. I didn't fully believe it until my year spent with this population, but I have come to realize that these people are probably the most marginalized in our society. I have been surprised at how little value is given to their lives by the outside world. At first it bothered me when I would go to a doctor's appointment and the nurse would glance at the "Place of Employment"  section on my record. It never failed: her eyes would get wide, she would look at me and say "You work there?" with this apprehensive, slightly judgmental tone of voice. Or when students from the medical college here would ask where I work and I would immediately sense their disapproval or judgment for 'that place' and 'those people.' Sometimes they would try to hide it, but it usually came through.  At first, I wanted to shake them and say "What's wrong with you? These people need help and care more than anyone else! Are they not worthy of it?" After a while, though, I recognized my own judgment and prayed that God would change my heart. He has in a lot of ways.

I know I've changed from working in this type of environment. When I started, I would say that two of my biggest weakness were 1) Fear of the disapproval of others and 2) Over-sensitivity.  Lack of compassion could have come as an easy third. Not surprisingly, all of these have been significant changed through my year at the hospital. I have learned how to be insulted on a daily basis without losing my sense of self worth and compasson. Sometimes the words are from patients who are so sick they don't understand or have false beliefs (like someone with schizophrenia), sometimes from patients who are angry at their situation or that you cannot do what they would like you to do for them. Despite the reason, their words can be painful and personal (often they know just how to get you where it hurts). God has taught me to let the comments roll off and see the person underneath, usually in desperate need. He has taught me how to let go of my judgments about a person's past and the crimes they've committed and to love them because they are a child of His. In counseling, we have this thing called "unconditional positive regard." It's very similar to unconditional love, and you're supposed to display it to your clients at all times, regardless of their personality or treatment of you. It's not that difficult when you're working with kids, but men who have abused kids? A little harder.

Every week, the counselors run a token economy store and I serve coffee and snacks to the patients. While a lot of my time is spent in groups or individual counseling, the weekly store is one thing the patients look forward more than anything else. Despite their love of this weekly event, only some express thanks... others are indifferent, some are rude and insultive. Some make demand like to get them more sugar or cream or they get upset because they think I got some information wrong on their point sheet. Though I hate to admit it, there was a part of me in the beginning that would sometimes cringe deep down, serving certain men who had done such terrible things (especially if they were rude to me). It's as if our heart tells us some people don't deserve love for what they've done. But slowly God changed me. Even the men who came in with terrible charges and with whom, after reading painful details and witness statements, I would think "There is no way I can even look at this person, much less work with him"..... with time, eventually only days, God would soften my heart and change how I saw him. Someone who is broken, just as we all are. Someone who is sick (whether mentally, emotionally, or spiritually) and needs the true Doctor, just as well all do. He has helped me get past my own pride, judgment, and expectations and learn to love and serve the "least of these." I am weak, and often I fail at this... whether I give a curt response to a patient asking me the same question for the 10th time that day, or whether I hold judgment for a patient's past sin, or even just in withholding some measure of love and kindness, I fail often. But despite that, I know I am gifted with the opportunity to at least try to love those that are viewed as undeserving or unworthy of love.... or those who are simply overlooked. Eight hours a day for the last year, I have been able to pay attention to, serve, and simply love these people who have no hope, no family, and nowhere to go. While staff members are often hit, hurt, or in some way involved in a dangerous situation, God has protected me from harm and removed a lot of my fear. Now, while many people look at the place I work as a sort of "mud hole," I can't help but look there and see beauty. I think if Jesus were here today, he would run to this place, wrap his arms around each and every person there, and call them beautiful.

I was reminded tonight of a verse from Matthew that has much more meaning to me now than it did a year ago:

The Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Thank you Papa, for the opportunity to serve the "sinners" of society and I pray that you provide many more opportunities in the future. Thank you for saving me from my sins daily and from pulling me from the same miry pit.

March 3, 2011

Dear Baby,

I know you are having lots of fun in there, but it's now 37 weeks, your Mama is tired, and she hopes you come out soon!
See you then,

Your Mama