Baby Isabella Marie

Baby Isabella Marie

Dom has already written the story of the birth over on his blog. But I wanted to add a few words of my own. It’s been hard to do because every time I sit down to the computer a bunch of emails beckons or I just have to read a few blog entries to catch up or else the baby needs to be fed. Mostly I’ve been sleeping, feeding the baby, eating, and sleeping so even those stints at the computer have been few and far between since I came home from the hospital last Monday.

I knew the first weeks would be hard, but I’m overwhelingly grateful to my parents who flew in the Saturday after she was born and will be here until Wednesday. My mom has lost as much sleep as I have, sleeping on the couch many nights so she could take the baby after the feedings, burp her, change the diapers, and soothe her to sleep. This means I’ve been getting much more sleep than if I had to do things all myself. (And it means Dom’s been very spoiled because I’m sure if grandma wasn’t here he’d be doing much of that.) My dad has taken the baby too and changed many diapers. He’s great with playing with her and he’s also painted her room for us. Mom’s done uncountable loads of laundry and both of them have helped with food prep and cleanup, fetching me cups of water and juice and snacks as I’m chained to my rocker…

The other thing I’ve been most grateful for in the past week is all the prayers that have been said for us. I felt them in the operating room as I lay there, arms outstretched on my own cross. I had just finished praying, Father into your hands I commend my spirit when I realized how I was laying and that realization was such a gift as I was truly able to unite myself with Christ in his passion. Despite my anxiety and the confusion I was able to pray throughout the operation, especially when I started to panic. The Liturgy of the Hours stood me in good stead as I worked my way through the psalms and canticles I’ve memorized: Psalm 95, the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and others.

When I heard them announce the arrival of my little girl and heard her first little cough on the other side of the blue drape, I began to cry and cried even harder as I turned my head to see them cleaning her off across the room. I couldn’t believe that little baby was my daughter!

Dom, who sat by my head and held my hand, was able to hold her for me for a little while. Then when he couldn’t decide whether to stay with me or go to the nursery with her, I sent him off to be with our girl. Bad enough she was out of my sight, at least her daddy could be with her.

I started to feel pressure on my chest after she was born, though the anesthesiologist assured me I was fine, my blood pressure was good and my oxygen levels normal, it made me panic quite a bit. Here again I clutched at prayer to see me through.

All the doctors and nurses were wonderful. .The anesthesiologist, Dr Nick, I forget his last name, was especially great. First he came in to my room and talked me through the whole procedure so I’d know what to expect and thus he was a familiar presence when I walked into the cold, bright operating room. The nurses were also very personable. They made sure I knew who everybody was and what they were doing, which removed some of the fear of the unknown. The ob who delivered Isabella, Dr Malloy, was not my doctor, but a partner in the same practice, and my sister-in-laws doctor. She was very friendly and reassuring at all times. I might even switch to her if we’re still in the area for my next pregnancy.

The hardest part of the process, after the very icky spinal anesthesia, was the recovery room. I’d thought it wouldn’t be so bad waiting there because I’d assumed I’d be woozy from the drugs. In fact I was very alert and bored, staring at the walls, and anxious to hold my baby.
Finally they did bring her into the recovery room, they’d said I wouldn’t see her until
I was taken to my private room. I can’t recall that moment too well, I guess I was pretty woozy after all. But it was joyful. And the joy hasn’t ebbed, it just keeps mounting. I can’t believe how blessed we’ve been with our perfect, healthy little girl.

Everyone says she looks like me. I guess I can see that. To me, though, she looks most like herself and I can stare at her for hours trying to capture all the secrets of those features.

It has been frustrating the last week. She’s had problems latching on properly and breastfeeding has been a trial. Made worse at times by the fact that every expert gives different, contradictory advice. I had a breakdown one night when it just hurt and I was frustrated and the nurse came in and ignored my concerns and told me to just eat dinner. I’m sure she meant well and it was actually not bad advice. But she had no empathy and didn’t try to address my emotional state. And let’s face it, at that point I was all emotions and raging hormones. I was frustrated because the nurses kept changing with evey shift and as we went to the weekend shift I never saw the same face twice. I’d come to feel warm towards one woman, a feeling of connectedness, and she’d go off and another would come on. I never did warm to that particular nurse, though all the others were very friendly. The best was the lactation consultant at the hospital who told me that all the contradictory advice was frustrating to her too and who told me that in the end it was a matter of discovering what worked for me and for my baby.

Things have been getting better, but I suspect it will be a while before we reach smooth sailing. Motherhood so far has been a great experience. I keep looking at this long, skinny girl and wondering how she fit inside of me. It doesn’t seem possible. I have had a couple of moments at the foot of the cross, where only blind trust in God kept me going forward as exhaustion and frustration and pain knocked me off my feet. But I felt then all the wonderful prayers of family, friends, and even strangers. And God’s great grace has always reached down, an anchor for me to grasp in times of trouble.

Dom has been a rock of calm, making me laugh while the baby wailed in the early hours of the night (a mixed blessing as it pulled my incision!) and listening to him sing to our daughter brings tears to me eyes.

Isabella already has the most beautiful smile in the world. Although she does have a good set of lungs and knows how to wail, she is more often calm and collected, taking in the world with her large dark eyes. Everyone at the hospital kept remarking on how alert she was, and how quiet. She’s already quite the charmer.

I think my bed is calling me, but I’ll write more in the blog as I feel able.

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  • Melanie,

    I know there are many guides out there, by Protestant and Catholic authors, for using Mason’s methods in homeschooling.  While many of the *tools* of her method are fine (and used in other methods of education), such as the use of “living” books and dictation, Mason herself concerns me.  Just scanning the following webpage gives me the distinct feeling that she may say a lot of   things that sound good, but are off the mark.

    Mason knows Rousseau was a villain, but lauds his genius-why did she not look for a better guide in her philosophy of education, especially as she supposedly was a Christian? 

    I am not a great thinker (something I hope to help my children achieve), but I do not think it is wise to rely only on someone else’s distillation of a method.  I would encourage you to get back to the actual works by Mason before you let her influence you. 

    The frustating thing about all these wonderful sounding theories of homeschooling is that, as a Catholic parent, we are obliged to evaluate methods for spiritual influences as well as academic soundness. 

  • Melissa, I think you might be interested in the next book review—Real Learning by Elizabeth Foss—I’ll be posting because the author’s approach combines much from Charlotte Mason with philosophy from Edith Stein (St Theresa Benedicta of the Cross.)

    In my approach to homeschooling I’m not looking to buy wholesale into any one method or philosophy of education. Rather, I’m seeking to find the best of what’s out there and deciding what accords with my own beliefs about education (which are quite strong). In any case, I will be tailoring what I do to the specific needs of each of child and to my own temperment and abilities as a teacher. And everything, of course, will be done in a spirit of prayer, always asking the Holy Spirit to be present in our home and to guide me to do what is best for Isabella and her future siblings.

    As far as Rousseau’s influence on Charlotte Mason or for that matter Mason’s influence on my thinking, I don’t think one need be absolutist. The Catholic Church has a long tradition of incorporating from pagan philosophy that which suits her needs while rejecting that which is foreign to her. St Thomas Aquinas was greatly influenced by the pagan Aristotle but I hardly think one can accuse the Angelic Doctor of being corrupted by Aristotle’s spiritual influence.

    If Mason found something worthwhile in Rousseau does it necessarily mean she embraced all of his ideas? ( Note that I say “if”; I haven’t read enough Mason or Rousseau to make a judgement either way on the matter.)

    But even if Rousseau is a negative influence and I find on further study that there is objectionable content in Mason’s writings; if I also find much that is worthwhile in Miss Mason’s methods, can I not incorporate that which is useful to me while rejecting that which is foreign to my philosophy? To reject her methods outright because she was a Protestant or even because she embraced some wrong-headed philosophy would be to throw out the good with the bad and is not at all in keeping with the Catholic intellectual tradition. 

    Can you point to anything in Charlotte Mason’s methodology that contradicts Catholic ideas because the way you voice your reservations seems very vague. I’m unclear what you mean by”spiritual influences.” So far what I’ve seen from Catholic homeschoolers who borrow from Charlotte Mason’s methodology seems quite in keeping with Catholic principles. I like the idea of “living books” (though I’m not as excited about the terminology) I like the practice of narration, I like the idea of nature study, of studying artists and composers. So far I haven’t seen anything in the methodology that is objectionable.

    I do intend to read some of Mason’s writings at some point because my curiosity has been aroused, but I don’t see why I should be wary of implementing ideas derived from her thought without doing so. If the method works does it matter what philosophy underlay the originator so long as I find the actual practice does not contradict my own philosophy of education?