Tag Archives: motherhood

Obeying Out of Love or Fear?

Obeying out of love or fear?

My eldest daughter, Maya, is the guinea pig for our different parenting styles.  Our bedtime routine for her is a good example of that difference.  I would classify my wife’s style as “obedience out of fear.”  I generously call mine “obedience out of love;” whether it’s truly love or just plain spoiling the child is something my wife contends.

For many months, I’ve been responsible for putting Maya to bed.  The routine after dinner is simple: take a bath, drink 8-oz of milk, read 2 to 3 books, brush teeth, read 2 to 3 more books, pray and then get tucked-in by 8:30pm or so.  Maya also has two 8-oz bottles of water on her nightstand that she would ask me to refill before she even finishes with one of them.

Obedience Out of Fear or Love?

Not surprisingly, Maya needs to potty three to five times before finally falling to sleep.  This means she’s not sleeping until 9:30 or 10pm on some nights.  Often, around 2am or 4am, she would wet her pull-up diapers completely, cry, and ask me to change her into a new one.

I do all of this without complaining.  I admit it’s a bit inconvenient for me.  Occasionally I put my foot down (i.e. refusing to tuck her in three times in one night), but I usually do everything she asks because it’s our idiosyncratic bedtime routine.  I know that this behavior will eventually pass and all of it would make a great story when she’s older.  Also, quite simply, love means self-sacrifice — giving up my preferences for the benefit of another.

When I went on a week-long business trip several weeks ago, my wife had to put Maya to sleep.  She was surprised by how spoiled Maya was.  Since she also had to take care of Hana, our youngest, at the same time, my wife changed the routine to accommodate the extra burden.  No water refills.  Change your own pull-up diaper.  Go potty only once or twice.  And, no tucking in.  Maya, of course, threw a tantrum, and my wife would threaten to close her bedroom door completely — an act that Maya sees as heavy punishment.

Coming home, my wife still wanted to put Maya to sleep because she had to “re-train” her.  So, every night was a scream-fest with Maya and mommy.  While I agreed with my wife that we should ween Maya off from her peculiar bedtime requests, I disagreed with her use of tactics that we usually employed only as a last resort.  I also threaten to close her bedroom door for time-out, but only for major infractions (i.e. repeated rudeness, throwing a hysterical tantrum, etc.)  Most of all, I disagree with my wife’s tone when reprimanding Maya.

Don’t get me wrong, my wife is a sweet woman.  So, even her deeply disapproving reprimands are like lovely feminine frowns.  She’s exhausted and needs to tap me in, like a wrestler in a tag-team match.  Yet my wife insists on staying in the ring.  Her willpower to resist Maya’s demands only gets stronger the louder our daughter screams.  I love my wife for devising punishments Maya fears that doesn’t involve spanking.  They’re effective and I use them, too.  But, a parent’s threats to induce fear will need to get more severe as the child grows older.  Sure, right now, Maya fears time-out with her door closed.  She’s only two, now.  What happens when she’s nine?  Or fourteen-years old?  We need to use the heavy punishments sparingly.

I take a different approach, normally.  I want Maya to love me so much that it is my absence that she fears.  She usually complies with what I want her to do if I threaten to walk away.  My nuclear option is mommy, as in, “Okay, mommy will [feed you/give you a bath/brush your teeth, etc.]”  Yes, I realize it’s unfair to leverage my own wife this way.  It’s ironic, though: throughout history mothers would threaten their children with “Wait until your father gets home.”  Maya would probably shout, “Yay!”

When my wife and I are calmly talking about our different parenting styles, I point out how her “obedience out of fear” is like how the Church gets people to behave and my “obedience out of love” is like how our Heavenly Father gets us to behave.  This is the Father that Jesus reveals, of course.  The God in the Old Testament is pretty scary at times.  It’s from the Father that Jesus reveals that  I take my parenting cues.  I don’t spoil my children; I am merciful as Our Heavenly Father is merciful.  Doing God’s will out of fear leads to resentment, like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  In my spiritual life, I seek to love God so much that I want to do His will as a loving response.  So, my Father is to me, I am to my children.

I observe that this “obedience out of love” is incredibly inconvenient for me.  I need more patience compared to the fear method.  Sometimes it doesn’t work and Maya still disobeys.  This is no different than God’s experience.  Torture and death on the Cross is pretty inconvenient.  We still disobey quite often despite God’s infinite love for us.

I’ve come to conclude that both obedience out of fear and out of love have a place in parenting, just like we need the Church’s doctrine and God’s mercy in our spiritual life.  My wife may be harsh at times, but just like how the Church’s moral prescriptions may be harsh, they’re good for us.  She may be too strict, but they will always find mercy from me.  The Church’s doctrine may be too strict, but God’s mercy is greater.  Our children’s first experience of God will be through us.  Mommy’s discipline and Daddy’s forgiveness will build their character.  The Church’s discipline and God’s mercy will build their spirit.

Ode to Sleep Deprived Parents

My wife found this hilarious YouTube video that took the classical symphonic piece Carmina Burana and changed the lyrics.  There was a contest for the new lyrics and a father, Matthew Hodge, won with his entry.  Being parents ourselves, my wife and I really appreciated this:

Story of Hana’s Birth

Hana Therese Chiang was born on a rainy evening, November 29th, 2012.  We barely made it to the Methodist Hospital in time; my wife already felt the need to push as we went down the elevator to Labor & Delivery.  All told, we were in the hospital less than 30 minutes when our second child came into the world.

[instagram url=http://instagram.com/p/TkE_mDQKJ3/ width=400]

We didn’t intend to cut it so close.  We wanted to put our two-year old, Maya Elise, to sleep at my parents’ home before going to the hospital.  Maya wouldn’t fall asleep even after an hour.  We could hear her voice faintly in the cool and calm evening, screaming abandonment at our sudden departure.  I wiped the sad raindrops from our windshield as we left Maya with my parents.

We should’ve gone immediately to the hospital after Maya’s dinner and bath.  The contractions were getting closer, but still manageable at that point.  Had we done so, the hospital staff would have had time to get my wife a proper bed, prepared her with an IV solution in her arm, filled out the standard intake forms and Dr. Morrison would not have already gone home for the evening.

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.  There was no sense in beating ourselves up.  The contractions were doing a fine job of that already.  Our immediate task was to divert attention away from the pain with breathing and visualizations.  Think happy thoughts.

It’s not exactly hypnosis, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  I didn’t use a gold watch and ask my wife to follow it with her eyes as I swung it back and forth.  I did use my most calm and soothing voice and insist that she look at me and breathe with me.  “Take a deep breath and moan when you exhale,” I’d say.  The contractions were hitting her hard while we were on the road.  My wife was getting nervous.  “We’re almost there, sweetheart — breathe with me!”  Her sweaty hands clenched mine tightly as I drove the wet roads with my other hand.  “Don’t worry, my love, we’re still an hour away from active labor.”  That, of course, turned out not to be true.

The nurses were scrambling for a bed and equipment while I tried to keep her from pushing.  My wife dropped to her knees in pain.  She held onto my hands, but gave me a look of fear.  “I want to push!”

One of the nurses stopped what she was doing, “Don’t push, dear, the doctor’s not here, yet!”

“Deep breath… Moan!  Uhhhhhhh!”  I moaned right alongside her.  “Relax… Deep breath… don’t push, relax the muscles — moan, uhhhhhhh!”

The water broke.  The nurses came into the room with a delivery bed and my wife immodestly ripped off her clothes and slipped into the hospital gown.

“There’s myconium,” a nurse said as she checked my wife’s labor.  I looked between my wife’s legs: yes, that looks like baby poo to me, too.  This means fetal distress and usually calls for a C-section.  Fortunately, we were too far along active labor for that.  There was a real emergency, though, because Hana could end up breathing the myconium into her lungs.  The nurse will stick a tube down Hana’s throat, suck out the afterbirth, and check to see if there’s any signs of myconium in the lungs.

“Where’s Dr. Morrison?”  My wife a asked.
“He’s on his a way,” replied a nurse.
“Should we get the epidural?”  she asked me.  Her brow was already covered with huge drops of sweat.
“Dr. Morrison is almost here,” I replied.  “Only a few more minutes.  The epidural will delay for an hour or more.”  My wife nodded in agreement.  The need to push came again.

My wife is literally a hero.  Courage, endurance and patience against an onslaught of pain.  Between each contraction, I tried to focus her on breathing, relaxing and preparing for the next wave.  I described visuals of Guam, Hawaii, and Moganshan.  I reassured her that Hana was okay.

Her eyes would bulge as she stared into mine.  I smiled, “You’re doing great!  I’m so proud of you.  You’re amazing!  Breathe with me — deep breath, uhhhhh!”  We kept that up for over 20 minutes.

When the doctor finally arrived, my wife only needed a few pushes and Hana was out.  We didn’t need to push with Maya.  The doctor we had then, Dr. Fong, insisted that we not push and let the uterus do the pushing.  Perhaps there was more of an urgency this time because of signs of fetal distress.  The pushing caused a bit of tearing.  Hana was also bigger than Maya at birth: 7lbs, 6oz compared to 5lbs, 3oz.

Hana latched on quickly.  I was back at my parents’ home before midnight to put Maya to sleep.

Story of Maya’s Birth

I thought I almost couldn’t make it.  I was in the City of Chino, giving a presentation to 30 companies about the export market in China.  I received a few missed calls around the time Anne Marie had our appointment with the OBGYN.  I have gone with her with every visit, except for today.  Of all days, it had to be today.  But, I made a commitment to Erica and the City of Chino.  If I didn’t show up, then I would have been disappointing a lot of people.  I spoke.  Everyone learned a lot and felt the China market was scary.  Many people complemented me on my presentation.  All I cared about was Anne Marie.  I checked my messages.  Anne Marie was crying, saying she had to be admitted to the hospital.  I couldn’t make out anything else she was saying, except that she wanted me to come immediately.  So, I left.

I didn’t know how to get there from Chino.  Driving in the general western direction, I was going through many country roads.  I was hesitant to use the GPS on my BlackBerry, fearing that the battery would die out again while Anne Marie needed to reach me.  I took the risk and found the 60 West.  While driving from the 60 to the 57 North to the 210 West towards Huntington Drive, I prayed.  I prayed and prayed and prayed the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Glory Be, the Fatima Prayer.  Over and over again, I prayed.  I asked my saintly friends in Heaven to join me in prayer: Saint Thomas More, Saint Joseph, Saint Jose Maria Escriva, Saint Therese de Liseux.  I was afraid that Anne Marie would give birth before I arrived, but not my will, but God’s be done.

I arrived and Nurse Skye was taking Anne Marie’s blood pressure.  It was in the 170’s over 110’s.  She was at risk of a seizure if she did not find some way to lower her blood pressure.  Oddly enough, her blood pressure started going down soon after I arrived.  It was down at the mid 160’s and high 150’s.  Dr. Fong eventually showed up and explained the situation.  We would have to induce labor, but we can still have a vaginal birth.  No episiotomy.  We would try to have as natural a birth as can be.  Even the magnesium sulfate would be held off until the last moment, so it would have the least affect on the baby.  But the IV drip would be necessary, as well as continuous EFM and the monitoring of Anne Marie’s blood pressure every 30 minutes.

My mother-in-law was with Anne Marie the whole time that I was not there.  After I arrived, she stayed in the background, brought us dinner.  She was a godsend.

Anne Marie took the Cervidil at around 10pm.  She ate her last solid meal at 9:30pm.  Bad choice.  She threw up later in the night.

The Cervidil was a low 25gram dosage that is inserted much like a tampon.  It slowly releases a chemical directly on the cervix that would “jumpstart” contractions.  At around 2am, Anne Marie woke me up saying she was having severe menstrual-like cramps.  They were non-stop.  So, it couldn’t be normal contractions.  Besides, we were told in our childbirth classes that contractions start at the top of the belly and moves down to the cervix.  These cramps were strictly located in the groin area.  Anne Marie’s menstrual cramps hit her like a constant rush of painful waves.  If they were contractions, it would have been pointless to keep track since there was no telling apart when one ended and another began.

I helped Anne Marie detach her cables, get out of bed and hold on to her as she walked to her own private bathroom.  I stayed with her to help her sit down and get up.  The doctor wanted a 24-hour sample of Anne Marie’s urine.  So, each time she peed, it had to be caught in this plastic bowl in the toilet, where the contents would then be transferred into this one gallon orange jug.  I did the honors.  Anne Marie filled up two gallons from the time she was admitted at 10:30am on Thursday, Sept 9 until delivery the following day.

It turned out that Anne Marie’s non-stop cramps at 2am were actual contractions.  Those three hours before then was the only sleep I got.  Anne Marie had not slept at all due to nervousness.  From 2am until 7:38am, I was by my wife’s side, coaching her breathing, massaging her, reminding her to relax her muscles.  We thought that the cramps were the result of the Cervidil.  If the cramps were this painful, then the real contractions would be horrible.  As it turns out, a little after 6am, Anne Marie said she couldn’t take it anymore.  I was torn: on the one hand, we had hoped to avoid an epidural; on the other, I did not think Anne Marie would be able to survive the real contractions if these cramps were hurting her so.  I agreed and we asked for an epidural.  The nurse came in and checked her cervix.  It was dilated at 6cm.  I was confused.  How could this be?  Does this mean we were going through the contractions after all?  I told Anne Marie if she was sure she still wanted the epidural since this could mean we were in the transition period, less than an hour until the actual pushing stage.  We weren’t confident that we were in the transition period.  So, we still wanted the epidural.  We were still waiting for the epidural when Anne Marie said she wanted to push.  I was confused, but I knew she shouldn’t push at just 6cm.  We could delay labor by hours or more.  So, I desperately coached her to breathe and relax.  One of the nurses turned Anne Marie onto her side.  I continued to help her breathe and relax, but she was pouring sweat.  I thought someone poured a glass of water on the side of her bed.  Every few minutes, Anne Marie would tense up, look at me desperately in the eyes and said she wanted to push.  I would immediately take a deep breath with her, rub the hair stuck to the sweat on her forehead and remind her not to push.  She could not help but push.  One of the nurses said she saw miconium.  That’s bad news.  I hoped Anne Marie did not hear that prognosis.  I did not want her to get more nervous and increase her blood pressure.  By the time the technician came at 7am, Anne Marie’s cervix was already fully-dilated and effaced.  There was no time for an epidural.  The baby was coming.

Anne Marie continued to get uncontrollable feelings to push.  I asked her to look at me.  Our faces were only inches apart.  When we heard that she was fully-dilated and effaced, I smiled at my wife and happily said that we would soon see Maya!  I told her how much I loved her and what an amazing job she was doing.  I held her hand and cupped her face and looked deep into her eyes each time she got a break from wanting to push and smiled at her.  My love smiled back.  I couldn’t believe she could smile back in spite of all that pain.  One of the nurses called for one of the ER doctors to prepare to come down in case our OB doctor couldn’t make it.

Dr. Della Fong arrived at around 7:20am.  She was cheerful and reassuring.  All the nurses were busy around us converting the bed that Anne Marie was laboring in into a delivery table.  There were soft plastic stirrups that were designed to support the calves.  There was a table covered in hospital linen with all sorts of tools and scissors.  Bright lights turned on in the ceiling from wells that I never noticed before.

Dr. Fong asked me to hold on to Anne Marie’s left leg.  A nurse held Anne Marie’s right.  As I changed position from my intent connection with my wife, encouraging her not to push, I noticed that there was a pale sliver of hairy growth protruding from my wife’s vagina.  It was Maya’s head.  She was crowning!  I saw Dr. Fong massaging Anne Marie’s perineum.  I saw her pour buckets of this thick clear goo that I assumed was lubricant.  I held Anne Marie’s hand and kissed her forehead.  I continued to coach her in her breathing and relaxing.  Dr. Fong said not to push, but let the contractions push the baby out.  Every time the desire to push came, Anne Marie’s legs and arms would tense up.  I reminded her to relax and my wife tried her best not to kick the doctor in the face or pull herself up from the bed while holding my hand.

When Dr. Fong announced the head was out, I took a brief glance and returned to my wife, exclaiming with joy that Maya’s head was out.  As I finished saying it, Maya was out completely and the doctor handed this pale, gangly and wobbling baby onto Anne Marie’s belly.  The nurses came and covered them with a cloth.  They wiped Maya down and somehow got Anne Marie completely naked so the baby could be skin-to-skin with her mother.