Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Lie of "Super Mom"

There are so many emotions that come with motherhood.  Love, joy, fear, and the list goes on and on.  One emotion I wasn't expecting and has at times felt crippling, is guilt.  Guilt that I am not being a good Mom.  There is this idea of the ideal Mom, but no one even knows what that really means.  In America we have this term "Super Mom" and it's like a badge every Mom would like to wear.  It shines of independence, self-assurance, self-sufficiency, and this "I've got it all together smile."  (not to mention nursing, cloth diapers, organic food….on and on).

Where did this come from?  Why do we beat ourselves up when we can't live up to this?

This past Sunday, I was at the home of a new friend.  She is a little different than most of my friends because she lives only with her husband and son.  Usually after marriage a women moves in with her husband's family.  Anyways, I was very curious what is was like for her after she gave birth to her son. What was life like for a women who lives alone in this culture raising her child.  You know what she told me?  She went to her mother's house for six months!!

Living in another culture gives me the opportunity to view motherhood not only through my American lens, but also through the eyes of women in India.  Here when a woman has a baby, she is surrounded by a group of women.  Her mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-laws…not to mentions aunts, cousins, and grandparents.  This idea of figuring out motherhood on her own does not exist here. The idea of reading a book to know how to take care of your baby doesn't exist here.  Why would you read a book when you are surrounding by women who have done it themselves, often multiple times. The idea that a women should be able to hold a screaming baby, make a bottle, and cook dinner all at the same time…is frankly CRAZY and overwhelming.

Of course, this happens much more naturally here because most people(or at least most people that I live around) live with their extended families.  So, there are helpers already built into your life.

So, what is the point you ask?  The point is that there is no "Super Mom."  You may see her Facebook statuses or pictures of her looking beautiful and holding her equally beautiful baby…but she is struggling, just like every new Mom that has wondered when she will ever sleep or shave her legs again.

Independent, self-assured, and self-sufficient might have been the old face of "Super Mom," but I want to learn from my Indian sisters and embrace interdependence, vulnerability, and community.  So, all you new Moms out there(mostly the ones living in the West feeling like you can't "do it all")  most women in the world frankly…don't.  They don't do it all, and neither should you.  Forget "Super Mom" and just love the heck out of that baby and ask for help…a lot!

*here is a selfie of my beautiful self, with my beautiful baby, haha ;)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ava Lily's Birth Story

I am just two (ahem now that I have returned to this blog, 3.5) months late, but I thought some of you might want to hear Ava's birth story.  I like reading people's birth stories, so maybe some of you do as well.

**Disclaimer, if you are a man this might not be your favorite post, feel free to stop reading**

The day before Thanksgiving I went to the doctor for a check up.  I was 38 and a half weeks along, but they had been saying Ava might come early for the last couple weeks.  I had given up on the thought of her coming early and decided she would probably be late.  Oh, those last weeks of pregnancy….so ready to get something going.  I know y'all know what I mean!  So, nothing had progressed and I saw a different doctor than my normal doc because she was on vaca all week.  The doctor I saw said the same thing, "she could come anytime.. but if you have her tomorrow, could you wait until after Thanksgiving lunch?"

I went home a little bummed that there hadn't been any progress, but decided to just enjoy some Thanksgiving the next day.  We were staying at my Mom's house and Ryan's parents and brother were coming over on Thanksgiving day for all the festivities.  Little did we all know how many festivities there would be :)

Thursday morning I woke up and helped a little (not much) getting things ready for lunch.  Ryan's parents, bro, my bro and nephew, and my Memee all came over for lunch.  Up until this point I wasn't feeling like anything spectacular was going to happen anytime soon.

I loaded up on Thanksgiving lunch and then we were all sitting around talking.  I started feeling some pains, kinda like cramps.  I went to the bathroom for a minute and didn't say anything to anyone.  I came back and told R (and everyone else there) that I was feeling some contractions…maybe.  It is so hard to know when you are really having contractions at first.

We all decided to go on a walk around the neighborhood and that is when I realized something different was definitely happening.  Like I had to take a little break from walking because of the contractions.  Anyways, this kept on for a few hours.  Not the walking…just the contractions.

It was all pretty crazy and exciting to be in labor while both your family and your husband's family are all in one house.  I would go in the back room and rock in the rocking chair a little.  Different people would come in and chat.  Everyone that is, except my brother.  He doesn't do so well with people in pain, especially his little sister.

I had all these ideas of how I wanted labor to go and what I wanted to do during labor.  Stretches, take a bath in the jacuzzi, let R use all those massage techniques we learned at birthing class, and wait until I was having steady contractions to go to the hospital.  I didn't want to be one of those girls that went to the hospital and then got sent home.

I did get in the jacuzzi and was feeling pretty good about myself and how well I was handling this labor thing.  My contractions where getting stronger and closer together.  They were still only lasting about 45 seconds, but after getting a shower I decided we should head to the hospital to check things out. That was around 9pm.

Well, R, my Mom and I loaded up in the car, while R's dad(the photographer took pics of us) and headed to the hospital.  In my mind, I was totally a 4 at least!  My contractions were getting so strong it was getting hard to walk, but I was determined to walk to the labor and delivery floor, not go in a wheel chair.  So, R and I got to the room while my Mom parked the car and I changed clothes and all that.  Then the nurse came in to check me.  She told me I was still a 2 and my effacement hadn't changed.  She said I was dehydrated some and that probably my uterus was just aggravated, maybe I wasn't really in labor.  SAY WHAT!?!  She suggested I walk around the hospital for an hour and she would check me again.  An hour later…no change.  By this time, I was having to breathe through contractions and all my ideas of R and I doing this together where out the window.  I had to breathe and I didn't need any help doing it!!  So, she sent us home.  I was so upset.  For one thing, I thought, "if this isn't labor, oh my goodness…I am going to die when I really go into labor" and for the second thing, how was I supposed to know when to come back.  She told me to go home and try to sleep and drink a lot of water.  That was around 11pm.

We headed back home and everyone rested while I rocked in the chair and breathed through contractions.  After a few hours, I went to the bathroom and realized we needed to head back to the hospital.  Although, I was kinda nervous about going back and nothing being different.  That was around 2am.

Once we got there the same nurse checked me and I was a 4!!  Woo hoo, I really was in labor!!  Praise God :)  I knew I had to  be!  My labor progressed and it pretty much consisted of me keeping my eyes closed and breathing and trying to relax.  Every once and awhile I would open my eyes and see R and my Mom looking exhausted and watching the contraction monitor.  I had decided before everything that I wanted an epidural, but I wanted to wait until I was at least a 5 or 6.  Turns out the anesthesiologist had a little trouble getting out of bed and making it to my room until around 6am, when I was a 7.  He strolled in with his cocky self and said, "wow, glad I got here, we almost missed giving you an epidural."  I said, "I'm glad you got here too."  I secretly wanted to smack him in the nose!  I got my epidural and it was fabulous.  I was so exhausted because my contractions where about a minute apart.  One minute is a really short time to try to relax before the next one comes, so it was a really peaceful time to be able to relax and focus on getting ready to push.

Around 12pm my doctor, well not my actual doctor, but the one who was on call, showed up.  My doctor was still on Thanksgiving vacation, so sad.  I really love her.  Anyways, she broke my water and I started pushing.  Forty six minutes later, Ava Lily Hartsfield was born.  It was beautiful.  I think during labor I was so focused on each phase that I didn't have much time to really imagine what I would be like when that baby girl was laid on my chest for the first time.

She was perfect and chubby and had good lungs.  I held her to me and cried and looked at R with his teary eyes and my Mom did her cry squeal that she does only about her grand babies, and everything all the pain of the last 20 hours made perfect sense.  Of course, I was still numb from the epidural…I don't wanna lie…that was nice.

We spend the night in the hospital and headed home the next day with our 7lb 14oz beauty.  Birth one of the most painfully, beautiful things I have ever experienced.

*walking around the neighborhood

*we played a game where everyone tried to guess how big my belly was, Boston won!

*loved having all these people in town for Ava's birthday :)

*just a few hours old

*Naani and Grandaddy

*family picture

*sweet cheeks

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Are Muslims Dangerous?

There are some posts that I love to write and there are some posts that seem to write themselves in my head.  I don't want this to come across as a rant of some sort, but I feel like a few things need to be said and said clearly.

If you have been reading this blog or know anything about our lives, you know that we live in India and live in a neighborhood that is majority Muslim.  We are learning language and researching business ideas that will be what we like to describe as, "a blessing to the community."  We believe God led us to India and we believe that small sustainable business can help communities.  We also follow Jesus and know that he has called us to love our neighbors and share his love and the story of what he has done and what his Kingdom is about among our neighbors.

We have been meeting with a lot of people to share with them about our experiences in India and one question seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue.  Some ask it in curiosity, some ask because they really just don't know, and unfortunately some ask in animosity.  What is this question??  In some form or fashion it is something like this:

"Are Muslim's dangerous, are you in constant danger?"

Uggh, where to begin.  I don't even know.

As a disclaimer, I write this blog as a follower of Jesus.  So the things I say and believe are rooted in the teachings of the Bible.  So, if you are reading this and are not a Christian, I can't say how you should or shouldn't see Muslims(although I have my opinions), but if you are a follower of Jesus, it is time for some heart change.  It is time to re-read the message of Jesus and realize that this idea that Muslims are bad or horrible is really not okay, in fact it is sinful.

So back to the question, "Are Muslim's dangerous, are you in constant danger?"

The quick answer is no and no.  There are estimated to be around 1.6 billion Muslims in the world.  Are some of them dangerous, sure.  Are enough of them dangerous to justify the claim that ALL Muslims are dangerous, absolutely not! Does the media portray them as dangerous and violent, yes.  Some of you may read this blog and think, "okay, Kristin likes Muslims and thinks they are nice people.  So what?"  So my challenge to you is instead of feeling fear or apprehension when you see a Muslim family walk into your grocery store, or your school, or your favorite coffee shop go talk to them.  America is full of refugees, many of them are Muslims.  I can assure you, most of them come from cultures that are much more relational than America and it is likely they would love to see a friendly face that wants to get to know them and not just clump them into a category of dangerous or violent.

Do it, live differently!

I promised my Muslim friends I would speak for them and I do and will.  But, learn for yourself.  It is so easy to judge when you just watch the news (or pass along emails that are filled with false accusations and facts) and live separately from everything going on "out there."  Get to know Muslims, share your life, share your table, share their table(it will be tasty for sure!), ask questions and watch your heart and assumptions begin to change.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"What is it like being back in America?"

People keep asking what it is like being back in the States after being gone for (almost) two years.  Honestly, I am not sure I can even write about that yet.  Or at least write very well on the subject.  Yet, here I am writing a post...hmmm weird.

It is kind of like in, "The Lion, the Witch and Wardrobe."  The children all go into the wardrobe and experience these great adventures, joys, and hardships and when they come back to England they realize life is the same as when they left, yet they are profoundly different.  They have met Aslan, they are Kings and Queens of Narnia! (thanks to Steve Husmann for the Narnia reference)

Obviously, we are not kings and queens now, nor has time stood still in America...yet it seems strangely the same. Almost as if it was all a dream in a way. We have been living the last two years in a world that is extremely different from the one in Texas. We dressed differently, spoke a different language, and functioned differently in society than we do here.  

I feel a bit as if I have been wondering around in a fog, trying to piece together these two very different realities that are now make up who I am.  I am sure as time goes on here, the processing will continue and as the journey into motherhood unfolds my identity will transform even more.  What will it mean to be a mother in Texas and then what will it look like to be a mother in India?  All I know is that grace and patience are greatly needed on this journey....

On a lighter note, here are a few weird things we have done, or things that have seemed strange to us:

1.  Ryan and I went to a store in Tyler to get a birthday present for my brother.  At the counter there was one woman who I guess was trying to check out.  R and I walked right up to the counter and started asking for a gift card(totally not acknowledging that there was a women there).  We weren't trying to be rude, but this is just how you get things done in India.  You walk to the front and try to get the person's attention.  The guy behind the counter, nicely told us he would help us as soon as he helped the lady who was standing in line in front of us....ooops!

2.  We have a scooter in India and R is the only one who drives it (although I think when we return, I would like to learn).  In our area, women don't really drive that much and let's be honest, Indian traffic still scares me.  Anyways, I was going to visit my Memee the other day and it was my first time to drive in two years and I was alone.  I drove out of the neighborhood then I had this total freak out about which side of the road I was supposed to be driving on.  India is opposite of America.  I sat there until a car came down the road so I could make sure I was on the correct side.  Oh dear...

3.  I have been amazed by how much space there is everywhere!  There is so much open-ness and I keep wondering where all the people are.  Even people's personal space is so much bigger.  I know that Indian's have a different meaning of personal space, but I didn't realize how weird it would seem to me now that people give me so much space.  I was coming out of a public bathroom the other day and there was a girl about 5 FEET away from me and she crossed to the other side of the hall and said, "oh, excuse me."  I was like "really"???  There was FIVE FEET, we could have fit about 5 people in between us with no necessary "excuse me" or "I'm sorry for walking so close to you."

4.  America is so extremely quiet.  We have been staying with our parents who both live in peaceful areas (not big cities), but still everything seems so quiet.  The first few nights, I felt like I could hear my heart beating in my ears due to the silence.  Also, everyone has central AC here in Texas so it clicks on and off as needed.  For the first few days, everytime the AC clicked off, R and I were like, "oh man, the power is out."  Nope, it's not.  

5.  There are Christians and Churches EVERYWHERE.  I mean seriously, as we drove from East Texas to Austin I thought about counting how many churches we passed, but I don't think I could have kept up.  There is Christian music on the radio, Christian signs and posters everywhere, and we keep overhearing conversations by Christians in public places.  It's all very different for us.  

I think this is what they call, reverse culture shock and it is strange :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What's in a Name?

I have been dreaming about kid's names since I got married.  It is hard to pick a name, it seems so weighty.  This is what this kid will be known as forever!  That is a lot of pressure.  R and I both assumed our adopted child would join our family first and so the names we picked out where for him or her, then we when found out we were pregnant and started thinking about names, it just seemed like we were supposed to save those names.  Which means we started back at square one.  The meaning of names is important to us, we want it to be a type of prayer or declaration over our child, if that makes sense.  Also, living in India has made the meaning of names become even more important.  In India (at least among our Muslim friends) names all hold very special meanings and everyone wants to know what your name means.  With all that in mind, and now that we know we are having a little girl, we are proud to announce our baby girl's name will be:

Ava Lily Hartsfield

Here is the breakdown of her name:

Ava-  As I was searching names, I just loved Ava.  I had no idea it is really popular these days, but oh well.  The name Ava comes from the name Eve.  Eve was the first woman ever created and her name means "life" or "living one".

Lily-  About a year ago, I read a book called, "The Language of Flowers."  Great book!  It describes how in the past as men were courting women they sent messages through flowers.  In the back of the book there is an appendix with flowers meanings.  After I read the book, I became a bit obsessed with naming our future daughter with a flower name.  Lily means, purity.  We loved the way Ava Lily sounds together and the way life and purity go together.

Ava Lily.  We pray that our sweet girl will be a fresh breath of life and purity in everyone's life that she comes in contact with.  The kingdom of God is a place full of life, newness, beauty and purity.  May her precious life make people long for God's Kingdom.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Pieces of My Heart

Before R and I moved to India, we committed to staying here for two years before going back to the States. Well,  three weeks from today we will be leaving on a jet plane.  To say we are excited is an understatement.  We are counting the days!  To be able to have our first baby in America with our family and friends all around does something amazing for this "mom-to-be" 's crazy heart!

However, R and I have both been experiencing some torn-ness we didn't quite expect.  We have moved into a new house and love our new neighbors, we have been plugging along in language, and we finally have a sense of belonging here.  Don't get me wrong, there are still up and down days, but something has clicked for us and we feel like this exactly where we are supposed to be.  I wrote a blog post about HOME recently that talks a little about this.  How strange it is that we feel like Texas is home and India is home. In a million ways, they are worlds apart, but we have given pieces of our hearts to people in both lands.  When we are in India we long for Texas, and I am sure when we are in Texas we will long for India.  I wonder if all people who live in such different cultures feel this way.

I know these last two years, living in India has stretched R and I, changed us, made us more compassionate, made us more angry,  and perhaps made us skinnier than we have ever been before.  But, right now, as I think about traveling to Texas in a few weeks, I feel grateful.  Grateful to be going "home" to my country, my family and friends, my Tex-Mex food ;).  Grateful that God has allowed us to live in a city where there are relatively no foreigners in a neighborhood full of Muslims who know more about hospitality than I could ever hope to learn.  And most of all, grateful that we know and follow a God who is not just for one culture, or one people.  His kingdom is made up of and continues to grow into a kingdom of people from every country, every language, and every beautiful skin color on this earth.  So although my heart will always hurt when I am on the other side of the world from those I love, I'm grateful that this is the life God has given me.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Do I feel at home?

A few days ago, Ryan and I were skyping with his sister and she asked a question that I have been mulling over the last few days.  She said, “Now that you have been in India for a while, does it feel like home?” 

  What does home feel like?  Home feels like a place where you can be yourself and know that you are loved.  Home feels like laughing with your best friend, crying with your Mom, joking with your brother, eating your favorite foods, going on dates with your husband, praying, singing, and dancing with people who have grown up in similar way as you have. 

  Home is always some kind of illusive place we all want to go back to.  Like going back to the garden, before the world went wrong.  It is a place where all is right.  We walk with God in truth and vulnerability when we are truly at home.  There is only beauty there.  That home doesn’t quite exist here on earth, but it will.  God is recreating the garden and he is doing it in Jesus, so I will continue to wait, long, and hopefully be a part in some small way of bringing the new garden, the new kingdom to this earth. 
  Here in India, I will always be stared at and misunderstood simply because I am from a foreign land.  In that way, no I do not feel at home.  BUT, I am “making a home here.” There is a difference.  It doesn’t always look the way I expect it to look, or feel the way I expect it to feel, but it is slowly happening.