The Stained Glass People

To have a birthday where so many people reach out to you with significant feedback about your love and value is a priceless gift. To everyone who sent affirmations, it was so encouraging. Thank you from my core. You are the best gift.

I just hit 31. And if the first year is anything to go by, I love life in the third decade.

When I turned 29, I started living life without fear and it changed everything. Because I consciously stopped letting prejudice rule, I am so satisfied with the direction and quality of my life. I have material blessings,  but they do not compare with the beauty of the people around me. They are eclectic, energetic, and engaged.

Perhaps the most beautiful people are the ones like me: broken and fragmented in places.

So Un-British!

What if the parts of us we were most afraid to show people were the parts of us that made us uniquely beautiful? If you crave meaningful relationships, authenticity is essential. Stop hiding. Share your story in spaces designed for sharing. You will find connection- with yourself, God and others.  It’s the most loving and intimate experience when someone lets you really see them. Intimacy after all is being fully known and fully loved.

In the past nine months, my husband James has completely transformed. He discovered the power of revealing the unpolished places in his life to others. It is so un-British, but being vulnerable with others has produced the most personal growth in our nine years of marriage and put him on a trajectory of life fulfilment.

I’ve bought several people the book that served as a catalyst- Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. We both cannot recommend it enough. Watch Brene Brown’s Ted Talk here.

So here is to the broken people that have allowed the jagged pieces of their lives and their pain to create beauty in their life. Rearranged with light shining through, you are the stain glass window people-

Broken and beautiful. 

James and my collective dream is to create spaces where broken and beautiful people can receive healing, support and community on a journey of faith. We are apart of The Table Dallas because it is developing us into people who lean into mystery and uncertainty- creating space for the kinds of conversations where authenticity thrives and all people belong.

You are invited to join us.

cropped-TheTableLogo-1

 

 

51wVfOxEKRL

 

 

The Right Brained Mama

I had questions like:

  • Why is an international move easier for me than sticking to a meal plan?
  • How come every time I vacuum, I rearrange the furniture?
  • Why do I re-invent my kids’ bedtime schedule so frequently?
  • What makes me claustrophobic about tradition?
  • Why do I love hosting on-the-spot parties instead of advance planning?
  • How is it that when I intend to do the laundry, I end up cleaning the car out?
  • Why do I race myself to complete chores?

I wondered if I had ADD, procrastination, or a spirit of rebellion. Maybe I’m just a rubbish housekeeper, forgetful, or lazy–?

I couldn’t figure it out. The fly-by-the seat of your pants Laura got grounded with the birth of baby #4. I love living with lots of moving pieces, but this was hectic.

Plus-

1.)  Boundaries, rules, and consistency help kids feel safe. In child development, we talk about the balance of consistency and novelty. My kids deserve more structure.

2.) I can’t get help with the house or train babysitters effectively because I am always reinventing wheels that aren’t even broken.

3.)  James suggested the constant creativity feels disrespectful at times.

After percolating these ideas in my head for about a month while simultaneously developing goals for the New Year, I had an epiphany. I realised that the issues I’m dealing with aren’t signs of illness, slothfulness, or negligence. I’m just right brained.

Cue sigh of relief. I’m not mentally ill, slothful, or negligent.

I’m just right-brained.

I’m right brained– I love the big picture, colouring-outside-the-lines, being holistic, creative thinking, doing things randomly, feeling spontaneous, and seeking adventure. So if something is typically a routine task, like household chores, cooking, laundry, or child rearing, I like to turn it into something I can succeed at by using my strengths and putting a dash of sparkle in it.

My left brained friends are ordered, logical, routine, strategic, planners, cautious and safe. They have schedules for everything and take unstructured activities and make them less flexible by adding rules or scripts in order to gain more control.

Conceptualising moms as primarily left or right brained thinkers has given me an interesting insight into the patterns of parents’ strengths.

I need adventure.

Now that my family is out of major life transitions, I am starting to itch for excitement. The mundane is so underwhelming. I polled moms, “What do you do for adventure?” 

One friend said, “I clean out the garage or organise a closet.”  Many moms admitted they don’t have adventure– nor do they crave it.  I realise that the moms who have days devoted to specific household chores, grocery store lists, buy the same brands, cook the same dinners, and thrive on order are more than likely lefties.

But I shouldn’t make laundry the adventure.

Right brained-ness has served me well, but my little left hemisphere is so atrophied. I feel like I’ve gone back to motherhood preschool to learn basics: routine, tradition, self-discipline, housekeeping and consistency.

So here I am meal planning (just barely), sticking to a bedtime routine for the kids, teaching them consistent chores, making the bed everyday, putting things back in the same place every time. Gradually it’s feeling less like this-

papa-3

Now I am getting back in touch with my right brain for things that require it- blogging, poetry, photography, and figuring out if there is something else for me in this season. Theoretically if I can automate the household routines and organisation, I can have more time for the things I’m passionate about. Right?

Media & Me

My husband and I have always been cautious about media consumption with our children- or so I told myself.

We don’t like the way media makes our children act frequently. We don’t like how screens decrease their joy in other activities or how much time we spend figuring out and enforcing boundaries.

Previously, we set 30 minute limits of technology for the kids. Recently, however, we eliminated their media consumption almost entirely. It has been so, so good for our family.

I saw the negative impact of screen time with my kids, but never studied my own behaviour after technology use. So not only did I take it away from the kids, I took it away from me.

In my significantly less Internet, and Facebook life, I realised I wasn’t honest with myself about how I spent my time and energy as it related to social media.

LIE #1: Media is Bad for My Kids, but OK for Me.

My eight year old threw an enormous fit because I interrupted her 30 minutes of media time to take her to the splash park. She was totally ticked off- and I was furious about her spoiled brat attitude.

I thought this was exclusively a kid problem, but I sat on Facebook at the Splash Park that day instead of exercising, enjoying nature or talking to another human- so how was that different? Essentially, I pulled her off media, so I could escape on mine.

Occasionally, I’ll be reading something  interesting and my kid needs something. I get irritated that I have to go parent and have to halt my media to interact with these precious ones I birthed. I don’t like the message that sends my kids. I don’t want real people to feel second to electronic people.

I’m no different than the kids. My relationship with technology is unhealthy. Since I quit, I have enjoyed 6+ books. I forgot how much I loved reading. I studied ants for twenty minutes the other day, and found myself doing it again the next day. Finding wonder in and experiencing the natural world is something technology robs us of.  We play football with our thumbs instead of our bodies and watch cats on TV instead of stroking them on our sofas. I want to experience being alive, not be some person hooked up to a virtual Matrix.

Colorado-5

I potty trained my kid by letting him watch shows. I can’t believe I encouraged a two year old to bring a phone in the toilet. No wonder ADHD has increased so significantly. Our kids are never switched off- they are being stimulated constantly, and I’m apart of the problem. Wake up, Laura!

Lie #2: Facebook Keeps Me Connected to People

Facebook keeps me connected to people undoubtedly, but I forgot to ask myself an important question: Which people?

I ran into a Facebook friend that I had not seen in over a decade. It was kind of awkward because I already knew she got married, had two children, who she hangs out with and what restaurants she frequents. There wasn’t much to ask, and I felt really creepy.

The truth is I’m connected to a lot of people with Social Media, but I need to seriously evaluate this “friends” idea much more carefully.

What weird curiosity am I satisfying by looking at photos of people I don’t really know? What is this guys? Digital stalkers? What is the point? I still don’t know my motivation entirely for why I was on social media so frequently.

Escape? Distraction? Competition? Encouraging others? Celebrating with others? Connection? Compulsion? Effective communication? Spreading ideas? Listening? Understanding people? Boredom? Self-promotion?

I’m not really sure.

LIE #3:  I Am Immune From Social Media’s Pitfalls

Research correlates time on social media with increased anxiety and depression.

I don’t feel depressed, and I’m not an anxious person, so I didn’t think those statistics applied to me. I believed I was immune, an outlier, someone that wasn’t impacted by my Facebook participation.

Then I had a lightbulb moment. One study emphasized that it wasn’t being on social media that makes people anxious- it was being away from it.  Of course I wasn’t feeling anxious.  By continually checking Facebook, I was keeping the anxiety at bay.

I reduced my Facebook participation to 1-2 times per week rather than multiple times per day. I don’t feel like I have to reply to someone’s comment or follow-up with a question or rebuttal an opinion that caused conflict.

Sometimes Facebook can be a big headache. How do I show support to someone without necessarily agreeing with their opinion?

How do you give your opinion in a way that promotes relationship and conversation? I spent a lot of time figuring that out.

It can be a minefield.

It can make me feel inadequate.

It can make me sad or angry.

I just removed myself from the situation, and my spirit feels lighter.

How does your spirit feel after social media?

Are we neglecting self-discipline with our own media consumption?

What are we modelling for our children?

 

Long Time, No Post.

Baby Logan is 7 weeks old. It’s been a smooth transition to a family of six.

Well . . . mostly.

There are the moments where it gets real- but overall, it’s been a beautiful thing.

Having James home office has been the sweetest blessing I could ever imagine. Lunch breaks where he can hold a baby, run to the store, or take the kids to the pool has been such a gift. It is so nice for him to walk Scarlett to school and have zero commute time to the office.  He enjoys the stimulation of the office, so it won’t last forever- but for now,  I am so thankful!

Colorado-48

When they all play together, my heart melts.

McCarthyphoto-10

And when they don’t, they melt (haha).

McCarthyphoto

We nicknamed Meredith “Tank.” She doesn’t get pushed around. This was not the photo I imagined, but it makes me laugh.

McCarthyphoto-4

Babies, babies, babies . . . Scarlett is in love!

I’m so thankful for the friends and family members who have helped us out with meals or playdates or cuddling Logan. I have a very special lady, who we call “Granny on the Go” who spends the day with us once a week. She is the biggest blessing- she folds laundry, babysits, cooks, helps on outings, gives great advice, and is such a pleasure to have around. She is such a demonstration of love to us.

McCarthyphoto-9

Granny on the Go!

My cousin Chelsea has also been an incredible friend to all of us. I tease her that she is the only thing more popular than the IPad in our house. Who else dresses up as a Ninja to surprise the kids then wears a homemade unicorn hat to the grocery store at the kids’ request?

McCarthyphoto-13

My little brother came for a visit from New Mexico. We love you Uncle Michael! Michael’s love for God and people is incredibly contagious, and I love spending time with him.

McCarthyphoto-2

We have all made friends in the neighbourhood and that makes it feel like home. Building community is the biggest desire of my heart- that people feel connected, loved, and noticed. England really taught me the value and beauty of interconnectedness- and  it has been fun to get to know people in our new neighbourhood. I’ve met some amazing new mom friends, and I’m excited to get to know them better.

Keeping connected with time differences and newborn babies has been harder than I thought it would be. But as it goes with good friends, when we do get a chance to talk, it is as if no time has passed. The blog helps, too!

Scarlett is upside down more often than not, cartwheeling and hand standing everywhere we go. She started gymnastics last week, and she loves it. I forgot how intense Texas sports are. Some of the 8 year olds do gymnastics for 11 hours per week!

McCarthyphoto-5

Meredith will hug Logan who wiggles his arms as babies do. She gets very animated and shouts, “Baby Logan is ATTACKING me!” It’s quite cute. She also draws on her face- lol.

McCarthyphoto-12

Meredith turned two. Mom & Dad hosted a very last minute party, (as in planned the evening before). She had a house-full none the less!

 

Colorado

Colorado-3Colorado-2ColoradoThe kids and I went with James on his business trip to Colorado.  It was absolutely beautiful. My mom met us up there, which was a massive help, and we went sightseeing while James worked (thanks babe!).

We were amazed. Driving through Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado for 11.5 hours, you see such a vast array of landscape. From plains to volcanic fields, to mountains- from sunup to sunrise and starry nights, during all types of weather, the beauty was astounding.

McCarthyphoto-15

Colorado-3Colorado-4

Scarlett started second grade. She informs me that she has been chasing boys at recess and is starting a non-profit organisation with her friends to save nature.

I love her can-do attitude.

Colorado

So many people have reached out to us about Hurricane Harvey. Fortunately, we are not in the path of the storm, but for those who are, the devastation has been tremendous and unimaginable. If you know someone who needs a place to stay, please reach out to us. Having just started over from scratch (albeit by our own doing), we recognise the unique challenges facing people who are moving to a new place with nothing and want to help.

Love and miss our across-the-sea people!

 

 

 

 

A Birth Story: Meet Logan.

I love reading stories of labour & delivery. Here’s Logan’s, our fourth baby. You can read about our 3rd baby’s water birth in England here.


Pregnancy: I Finally Got a Plan

When I moved from the UK to the US during my second trimester of pregnancy, I was totally lost about what kind of birth experience I wanted. We opted for a traditional US approach and went with OB led care.  There were no practical options for midwives- they were already committed to their maximum number of patients for July.

Through readers on the blog, I found two hospitals in the Dallas Fort Worth area that offer nitrous oxide, my first preference for pain management. Both were 45 minutes from our house, and we decided proximity and practicality trumped gas and air.  My friend recommended a doctor 10 minutes from home, and I went with her.

My doctor is very traditional. I had trouble readjusting from the UK model- where birth is a natural and beautiful process not to be interfered with unless absolutely essential. I am a huge advocate for merging the art and science of birth. There are so many labs and checks and sonograms in the US by comparrison. You can read more of my thoughts on the differences between the two models here. 

Baby is Breech

At 36 weeks, the ultrasound revealed baby was in the 4% of babies who are breech. Unless I was willing to try an external cephalic version (ECV) or he flipped in the next week, my doctor said I would need a c-section. An ECV is a procedure involving two obstetricians physically rotating baby in a procedure at the hospital.  An epidural is placed for pain management, and also in case baby or Mom become distressed. In that instance, the version escalates to an emergency c-section.

I cried. Also that week, my toddler hurt her leg. The x-ray came back negative for a fracture, but she wasn’t tolerating any weight bearing. She needed me to carry her everywhere. I couldn’t imagine the recovery from a C-section. I was already exhausted and wasn’t sure if my toddler needed serious intervention or just time and rest.

Flipping Baby

The external cephalic version has a high success rate, but it is expensive and isn’t without risk. I researched less invasive options- chiropractic care, hypnosis, acupuncture, and a website devoted to positioning techniques to entice baby to flip.

IMG_8853

I got busy. I found a chiropractor who specialises in the Webster technique. I nicknamed him “Dr. Fip.” He touts a 70% success rate. His magical remedies involve chiropractic pelvic adjustments multiple times per week combined with physical therapy and home exercise.  Essentially at every available moment, I was somehow lunging or hanging upside down. I spent a week doing headstands, hanging off the couch, lying backwards down slides at the park and doing handstands at the community pool.

The neighbourhood kids applauded these handstands while their parents gave me the side eye. I’m sure it was a sight to see with my cankles up in the air. I must admit, my handstand is pretty darn good- especially considering the circumstances. Years of gymnastics came in handy.

I was relieved when my 37 week ultrasound revealed he was head down, and at 38 weeks, he had stayed down. I was 3.5 cm dilated and 50% effaced. My doctor suspected I wouldn’t make it to my due date.

What specifically made the baby flip? I have no idea, but James swears it was his summoning, “Come down here little guy!”

My Birth Plan A

I told my doctor my preference to labour at home and come in at the very last minute for her to catch the baby. She was hesitant, much preferring an induction. I gave my reasons- if I was going to be going drug free, I wanted to have maximum freedom to labour in the comfort of my home, eat and drink, and stay calm. My doctor was worried she would miss the whole shebang. She reminded me how likely I was to have a fast delivery.

My plan had to change when labs revealed I was GBS+. Group B Strep is harmless to mothers, but can be very dangerous for baby. It has a meningitis like presentation. Two doses of IV antibiotics are administered four hours apart during labour to minimise risk of transmission. I was disappointed, but stayed optimistic. I took a class on labour and delivery at the hospital to have a better expectation of the US non-medicated birth experience, and found out that as I expected, the hospital didn’t have much insight or passion for the natural birth process, but I enjoyed the class. Our bodies are incredible.

Thankfully, my toddler had started using her leg again.

The BIG Day

The morning after my 38 week appointment, the kids and I went to the lake. I didn’t recognise it as labour. It didn’t feel like labour. My back just hurt. I huddled in quadruped in the sand and murky water and watched the kids build sand castles. I suspected something was different because as adamant as I had been about natural labour, at that moment, I was fantasising about a c-section.

I just wanted the baby out of my body.

McCarthyphoto-5.jpg

When the back pain didn’t stop at 4:30 pm, I finally called the doctor. “Back labour” she suggested. “Come to labour and delivery.”

I was annoyed. The last thing I wanted to do was to sound the alarms, arrange grandparents, pack the bags and get to the hospital only to be sent back, sans baby. I begged for an office evaluation instead, but both my doctor and her partner were already at the hospital. I’m only 38.1 weeks, I kept telling myself. I can’t be in labour, plus there wasn’t any detectable pattern of contractions. It just hurt constantly. As the back pain grew stronger, I finally relented. My baby needed 2 dosages of antibiotics four hours apart, so if my doctor was right and this was labour, I needed to be admitted.

At the Hospital

McCarthyphoto-7McCarthyphoto-6

My mom drove my husband and I to the hospital. I stayed outside in the parking lot stepping on the curb with one foot and off the curb with the other, trying to get baby boy to rotate and relieve my back pain. Passersby wished me luck. I nodded. I’m sure I looked drunk walking on that curb. I kept telling my mom and husband, as soon as I go in there, I can’t eat, drink or leave. I wanted to make sure I was ready for “hospital prison” as I call it. You give up control when you are a patient. I refused the hospital gown. “I’m not sick,” I remarked. I wished I was in a birthing centre with a pool and gas and air, but I was thankful to see my doctor.

Plan B. Back Labour

My plan was no medical interventions, but back labour is something else. Essentially baby’s faces the front instead of the back, creating significant pressure from his skull on your pelvis. They gave me some IV pain meds which made me crazy- telling all kinds of stories and feeling very drunk. I dilated from a 3.5 to a 5 in one hour.

My doctor asked if she could break my water. Did I want a fast and furious or slow and drawn out labour? I picked the faster option- I couldn’t tolerate the back pain much longer. When my water broke, the contractions went full force ahead coming every two minutes just as the high from the drugs subsided. Baby repositioned and the back pain lessened.

We all laughed in the breaks between contractions. I danced through each contraction while eating popsicles.  I tried to convince the security guard that the nurses told me he was going to deliver the baby, and whistled to keep my breathing steady. When the contractions got really bad especially in my back, I crawled down the hospital corridor to the horror of my sweet nurse who kept trying to get me back on my feet. This was effective though. It helped rotate baby.

The nurse estimated only 1% of patients do a natural delivery in this hospital. They aren’t really prepared or set up for labouring mothers without drugs. I could tell my nurse didn’t have much experience with a patient in my kind of pain, but we had fun.

IMG_9063

Begging for an Epidural

I crawled into the shower. I thought I was going to bust open at the seams, so I started begging for an epidural. I didn’t want my breathing to get out of sync, so I just sang my request. “Doctor, they told me I could change my mind!” and “SOMEONE get me the anestesiologist now.” I joked with my doctor. She tried to convince me that the epidural and an induction would make for a much smoother ride, and I was pretty adamant for the last month that I wanted a beautiful natural labour. 

This didn’t feel beautiful or natural at all.

“You are just trying to punish me for all the grief I gave you about this natural labour, aren’t you?” I asked her. She told me I would be disappointed, and didn’t call for the anaesthesiologist. She affirmed me. “You can do this.”

Then she went and took a nap.

I didn’t count on the back pain. Contractions are brutal, but with the back labour which came back (no pun intended), there wasn’t a break in between to regroup.

Pushing + Delivery

The contractions kept going. My mom prayed. My husband prayed. I sang and sang and sang. Mostly to Jesus- songs of hope, songs of power, songs of claiming our dependance upon God. I sang LOUDLY. I mean soooo LOUDLY.

James says everyone thought I was a good singer. That makes me laugh. What else are they going to say?

I wonder what the other mamas down the hall thought as they tried to rest. I think I made them really glad they had an epidural, and I bet they wished I had one too.

They gave me something in an IV for pain. It might as well have been saline. I put an eye mask over my face and just pushed down when I felt pressure. I told the nurse to grab the doctor and quick.

I pushed as I sang and baby was out. A voice in the room called out, “11:26 pm.” We had arrived at the hospital at around 5:45 pm, so although it was agony, it didn’t last long.

I had my eye mask on, but I could see the whole thing happening. I could see the ring of fire, the baby crowning, the head being delivered, the shoulders, the purple colour of my baby. I saw it all.

That night, I kept wondering if what I visualised was just a memory from a video I saw in class or on YouTube, but the angle I saw it at would have been impossible to record. Is this a thing mothers experience?

I didn’t know my mom recorded the delivery.  When I watched the video, I had already seen the birth happen (in my mind), but this was an entirely new perspective. Other than the angle, it matched my visualisation in my head 100%.  Isn’t that strange/weird/amazing/odd/powerful?

I would be so interested to hear from anyone else with this experience.

Delivering the Placenta

When he came out, I couldn’t even look. It felt like glass had exploded between my legs. The baby didn’t cry right away.  To make it worse, my placenta wasn’t delivering and minutes were ticking by. I heard them shout out the baby’s weight, 7 lbs 12 oz. I asked nervously what the Apgar score was. 7/10. That didn’t surprise me. I could tell from his colour (in my mind’s eye) and the weaker cry.  I was thankful it wasn’t less.

It was agony as the doctor tried to massage the placenta from my uterine wall. I begged her to stop. I pleaded for her to let James do it instead. I cried for pain meds. I made James promise to buy me a boat for a push gift. He promised me one, then added, “from Toys ‘R Us.”

I’m still waiting for it.

I feel like I started to really panic. In my head, I was losing it. From the video, I was a lot calmer externally than I was on the inside- I just kept asking the doctor to pull the glass or the needles out. She promised she wasn’t even touching me.

The atmosphere started to shift a bit. The doctor told me pretty sternly, “You have ten minutes left to deliver this placenta, otherwise you are going to surgery.” She pushed and tugged on my stomach and it felt like murder. She told me I had to relax. She mentioned bleeding to death for the second time. I squeezed the hand of the nurse on the left and James on the right and relaxed so the doctor could push. My baby started crying stronger. It felt like an hour. Eventually, the placenta came out and everyone breathed again.

Love at First Sight

I reached up, still with my eye mask on to touch my baby being held by James. I slowly took my mask off and greeted my little bundle of absolute perfection. He looked just like his brother and sister.

McCarthyphoto-8

I’ve said this with all four of our children. It’s like they have always been here. I can’t remember what life was like before Logan. He has grown my heart a million sizes already. Welcome to our family, little person. We do adventure here, and you are loved.

McCarthyphoto-9