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On Newborns and Grace

It is a cool breezy morning. I walk past the hospital lawns to get to my antenatal appointment, about 30 weeks pregnant.

On a similar autumn morning two years ago, I had sat on the very same lawn in tears, after a night of the uncomfortable balloon catheter and a failed attempt to break my waters, 24 hours before Harrison was born.

Looking up from the lawns, I can see the window of his birthing suite. What a special place full of intense memories.

I have just received a text from a friend that she is rolling into theatre right now in this very same building. She is about to meet her twin babies today, and I cannot contain my excitement for her.

I walk past newborns and birthing suites to get to my appointment room. I cry every time I see a newborn lately, so I know I’m in the third trimester getting ready to meet my baby!

New life fills us with so much awe and wonder and gratitude. I’m feeling again, for the first time since Harry’s birth, an overwhelming sense of how much of a gift life is, how fragile and utterly dependent a tiny baby is, and how much love and nurture they need.

Those feelings sustained me through the first months of motherhood, and I remember them spilling over to my stepson, even though I did not birth him or know him as a baby.

Now my thoughts are turning to my next baby the way I had thought about Harry before he was born.

With her, I have two extra years of experience as a mother. My first pregnancy was a roller coaster of emotions and worry about my changing family structure, but this time it is hardly a blip on the radar. I have had two more years of struggle and hopefully wisdom as a mum, and out of that comes the naming of my baby with what’s moved my heart most deeply lately: grace.

It came from a book I read: Parenting by Paul David Tripp. The grace-laden e-pages were like waves that washed over me, soothing the frustrations and anger over difficult and disobedient behaviour.

“I need more of this in my parenting!” My heart cried. It cried for all the times I am not like this to my kid/s (it gets harder as they get older :P). It softened my heart to have more mercy…instead of calling every single bad behaviour to account because I want my orders obeyed.

I don’t know how to capture it for you here, except to say the book presented a perspective that didn’t demand more perfection from me, or the kids. It seemed to be a recipe for more patient and joyful parenting. It focused on how we are all works in progress in the loving arms of a heavenly father — a perspective I think all can share regardless of religion.

I quote from a book review (because I am running out of child free time!) the essence of what moved my heart:

“Children need compassion, understanding, patience, acceptance, forgiveness, grace more than criticism, judgment, condemnation, punishment (although they need authority, rules, enforcement, accountability).

Don’t settle for winning the battle over the behavior; fight for heart behind the behavior.

Move towards children with grace of forgiveness, wisdom, correction, rescue; don’t give way to irritation, frustration, impatience, discouragement.”

When our baby is born in May, we will most likely call her Gracie. I hope I will always be able to draw on the magical feeling of holding our new baby, to remember that our children (and any other children we get the privilege of caring for now and in the future) are priceless treasures.

May her name always remind me of the way of grace, and our home life abound with it even in chaotic desperate times…when laundry and lunches have once again cluttered the clarity of vision I have in this quiet moment.

2020: On wealth, parenting & gratitude

Reflecting on our new trading venture this year, we both haven’t been very driven to make it big. Granted, we both have other commitments taking up our focus and energy, but when we explored the whys, a reason we identified is that we are comfortable with where we are at and are not fueled by a big desire to succeed at trading.

This led me to revisit one of the big questions: what is my WHY that energises me?

Last night, Harry and I read our new Wiggles book on feelings (picked up for free from our Buy Nothing community!), and he learnt how to say “happy” and “sad”. He was so proud of himself, he kept opening his eyes to practise those words while nursing to sleep.

Despite feeling generally drained and tired, I noticed that this gave me the excitement and motivation to seize and build on his learning. So I made & stuck up a bilingual feelings flashcard at his table – I was really energised to do this, but I can’t say the same of every other mothering duty!

Motherhood comes with many opportunities for self discovery, and the above is a clue for me as I continue to seek purpose and direction. I get huge satisfaction from helping and seeing people learn & grow – regardless of whether they are my children. I truly get excited!

I think that is a part of my personality/character that has also given me drive in stepmotherhood, and made nurturing children an “easier” job. I am realising that every mother/stepmother has a unique makeup that makes some aspects of parenting easier or harder for them.

To further illustrate from my own example, I’ve realised my anxious tendency to preempt and PREVENT (instead of fix) problems tends to cause me to subconsciously interfere with my children’s days more than I need to. Before Harrison has totally (or even slightly, haha) got to my tiredness, I’ve already whipped out the iPad so I get 30 minutes of peace, instead of giving him ideas to go play with his other toys alone. The latter definitely sounds more ideal to me, but in many ways I easily fall back to my former comfortable problem-solving mechanism. You can never escape yourself, even (or especially) in parenting!

Still, back to trading…as of today, the growth in our crypto portfolio has exceeded the income I would have brought in going back to work. This is a confronting reality for me as someone still practising her new wealth mindset. It is not strictly comparable as growth does not equal cashflow, but to think my wealth grew with me doing LESS, not more, cements my new beliefs which delinks the strict correlation of time/effort and money.

My last reflection is on gratitude. One of the most memorable books I read this year is Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. It is about intentionally looking at & giving thanks for the graces in your life.

Awhile ago a neighbour commented that I must have lots of friends as she sees many people come in and out of my house. It is funny that I had the exact same thought about her, and the wonderful supportive community I imagine she has! 😂

In our struggles (which are not to be belittled), it’s easy to look longingly from the outside into an imaginary picture of other people’s lives…things you wish you had or were. But what a pity if it dims our eyes to all the good things we do enjoy.

The incident turned my attention to gratitude…all the good things in my life.

We are in a situation now where I CAN be a stay home mum, something we couldn’t imagine financially when Harry was born. We are expecting a baby girl (with 90% certainty the ultrasound technician said) in May — all of Chris’ dreams come true at once. (It is challenging to wonder if my daughter will take after me…)

I am also grateful for opportunities to welcome other children (friends and students) into my home. It is a funny thing to say — for all the joys they bring, I am often tired and frazzled, at times lost in exhaustion wondering “who am I and what is left?”, but I tend to come back to the same answers…

…if I’ve made a difference in a life, beneath everything else, that’s what really matters to me and brings me deep joy that bubbles over.

Dream houses and aspirations

Is it beautiful where you live? Have you walked in a suburb more beautiful than yours?

This year we have had to take our car to the service station several times for repairs. The station happens to be located in the beautiful leafy green suburb of Medindie — and we accidentally stumbled into a whole new world…

Walking through the streets, the fragrance of flowers wafts through the air. Beautiful houses with unique architecture (no, not our modern cookie cutter houses!) delight us at every turn and leave us with a sense of awe.

Wouldn’t it be inspiring to live here? My husband says. Yes, I agree, but I am also happy where I am. Our kids have a comfortable bed and a playground nearby. Do they really need anything more?

Am I strange? Do you think that contentment is stopping me from pursuing more materially? I do not have those dream house dream car desires within me.

However, if I dream for a minute, that I live in a large house with a pool…I’d love to have all the neighbours’ kids over to enjoy it…I’d be able to host family and guests more often. I would have more space options available to me – for business? To bless other people, and then 10x more?

Actually maybe my kids can have better play spaces. That might improve my wellbeing. And actually, if I’m not so scared of the house costing more money and needing more maintenance, or of myself not being able to manage such wealth…maybe I might even stretch my hand and pluck my dream house right off the apple tree.

Aspiring to more is going into uncharted territory, isn’t it? I don’t mean being jealous of what other people have and then wishing you have it too — I don’t see how that kind of race could be fulfilling. I mean reaching outside of what you considered normal, comfortably “within reach”, and imagining something…different. New possibilities.

That is the foreign space I find myself in when I consider what “more” looks like.

Babies grow exponentially. They try and learn one new thing after another. Can you fathom a tiny newborn walking? It’s a big transformation in a year.

What does growing look like for me now, I wonder? Where am I going to be next year that I can’t possibly fathom yet?

Celebrating a first birthday

I spoke to a few pregnant friends recently, and it was hard to contain my excitement for them as their delivery dates drew near.

I think I felt more daunted than excited leading up to Harry’s birth, but as my baby boy nears his first birthday, I feel an all consuming sense of joy at his little life.

I love his chubby cheeks, his milky sweet breath, his cheeky smiles, his babbling sounds. The way he flaps his arms when he is excited or frustrated. The way he feeds me food, gives me a kiss (more like eating my nose), cuddles into me…It takes my breath away to watch him develop new skills.

I love seeing myself in him.

I remember the tough times too, but they tend to fade: the painful wrists, utter exhaustion, boredom, frustration…

I looked at what I wrote last year when I named him with a prayer (captured in his Chinese name): that his life may be marked with a depth of wisdom, a soaring spirit in the face of life’s challenges and an abundance of generosity.

What a beautiful prayer, and while I continue playing, laughing with him (and telling him off!), by nature of being my son I hope he will inherit those things from watching me and relating to me in everyday life.

I pray son that different people who cross your path will inspire, nurture, challenge and guide you to see you uncover your full potential.

Go light your world with your life.

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