My Postpartum Prayer Life

Chaotic would be my word to describe how my prayer life looks like after the birth of my daughter. There’s hardly any structure and I am missing the consistency I used to enjoy, not to mention it is almost impossible to pray my favourite prayer – the rosary. As I reflect carefully on the word I used to describe my prayer life, other words started to emerge: raw, honest, desperate, HUMAN. Imperfectly human!!!

Although energetic by nature, I still like my life to have some kind of order. My daughter’s arrival brought great joy has also thrown me out of balance. It took me a little more than half a year to find my prayer bearing when I moved back to Malaysia; I really hope it doesn’t take too long this time round. My desire for control is pretty apparent but who doesn’t like having their lives under control?

I am basically pinned to my breastfeeding couch that face the little altar in my house. Great place to pray! I spent most of my day crying out to God for the lack of control in my life. The floor is dirty and I could not clean it; the toilet needs cleaning; the kitchen needs organization; meals needed to be prepared; the laundry needs hanging and folding and the list goes on. My honest helplessness of not knowing what to do and also my occasional meltdown from overwhelming emotions has somewhat become my prayer.

Just recently my husband asked me to pray for his work and I was almost playful when I prayed in tongue. That playfulness reminded me I have a treasure in this gift of tongue. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8: 26-27) kept ringing in my head that the Spirit helps us to pray. The day I spent edifying my soul by praying in tongue was not the easiest day. Baby was extra fussy and extra clingy, not to mention wrists injury felt worst than ever. A stark difference I noticed on that day was my extraordinary calmness. My spirit cried out in sincerity and it helped me through the day. I can only thank God for His grace upon me.

Another treasure that I was reminded of was the examination of conscience. I realized I could do that while feeding my baby especially when woken up in the middle of the night. The examen has helped me to be more aware of God’s presence in my day – more aware of my own frailty especially when frustration gets better of me. This is where the design of God is just simply awesome. One night I was woken up by my baby needing a nappy change and she moved a lot while being changed. My injured wrists were not taking it too well. In my frustration, I told my baby to stop and frowned at her. She in turn gave me the sweetest smile. My heart melt into a smile on my face. That is definitely another occasion of abundant grace of God.

Dear friends, my prayer for you is that you will appreciate the grace of your season. May you always see the beauty of God’s abundance in your life.

With lots of love,
Irene

Motherhood

Finally holding my child in my arms was a feeling that is beyond words. Our little one decided to come early and turned our world around. The idea of sleep deprivation and not knowing what to do became a day to day normal. It was truly not easy given the fact that hormones were also erratic and making my mind unclear. Tears of joy and then tears of defeat all come at once. Self doubt, spiritual warfare, lack of confidence, feeling at loss; you name it.

I thought I knew what it’s like or at least I thought I could imagine it well enough. Turned out that my imagination was not as concrete as the real experience. Never in my wildest imagination would I have seen conflicting idea of parenting would occur with my own mother. The reality of sacrificing for the sake of my child helped me to get a glimpse of what it was like for my mother to care for me as a little child totally dependent on her. I have the privilege of my mother helping me during the first few weeks postpartum; that was a great blessing as well as an opportunity for conflict to arise.

Some days were so difficult that made me say things I regretted immediately and some days were just too overwhelming that I could only cry. As I calmed down, I asked myself what was more prevalent? Gratitude for my mother’s presence or the occasional conflicts? I was overall more grateful for her presence. My husband wisely pointed out that I took most of what my mother taught me. There were just a few things that I stood my ground and not taking her way. Those were the stuffs that kept being magnified by the enemy; making me feel like a horrible ungrateful daughter.

The more I communicate with my mother, the more I see my own poverty. One instance was her suggestion to help my child sleep better. Due to lack of space in my home, I did not take her suggestion. After she left my place, there’s only me and my husband with our child. Between the two of us, I am the main caretaker and I quickly realized how valuable were the extra pair of hand. My child is not the best when it comes to sleeping, hence the idea of getting sleeping aid came into our conversation. I admitted to my husband that my mom made some suggestion but in my pride; I refused to acknowledge it.

After the conversation with my husband, I asked myself, what was happening to my heart when I refused to acknowledge that my mother was right about the sleeping aid. The words “I told you so” were sounding loud and clear. My whole being cringed to those words but how could I respond better? It was by the grace of God that I can come to a place of forgiveness, rest and acceptance. My mother was just trying her very best to be of service.

A few days after that, I told her about our decision to get sleeping aid and she was supportive; without telling me “I told you so”. That was one amazing work of grace! Threading through motherhood has taught me how much I do not know and how much I am dependent upon the mercy and grace of God. Learning from my experience with my mother I wonder if I would step on my daughter’s toes when it is her turn to be a mother? God willing, I guess I will find out when the time comes. Meanwhile, it is now time to be present in the moment.

The unsolicited parenting advice from other people is also a rather annoying thing we have to deal with. Everyone seems to be better in parenting my child than me and my husband. For this, we decided to not invest too much emotion in it. People has all the freedom to say whatever they want and I can choose to be polite and just take what is useful and chuck away what’s not. After all, my husband and I are responsible for our child not other people.

Now that my child is physically in my care, I can really say parenting is hard work. I come to appreciate every sacrifices my parents made for me. This new role of mine also opened up my heart to embrace the struggles of work from home mom. I used to think it’s the easier path until I became the main character in this story. Being so used have full control of my time, I am learning everyday to prioritize my child who is genuinely in need of me and whose survival depended on me. I want to give the best chance in life for my child and I want her (and her subsequent siblings hopefully) to grow up with our values. Hence, I am well aware that my husband and I are choosing the narrow path in such a time as this where single income household is almost impossible.

Our child has also inspired us to start a new venture with the aim to encourage parents in our parenting journey. We know now how hard it could be, so why not have some fun by seeing the lighter side of parenthood. Do check out Bountiful Potential for more info. Tell us what do you think about it and how can we serve you better.

We wish every parent grace upon grace as you raise children who are full of potential into great adults. May your journey be filled with joy.

With lots of love,
Irene

Maturing into Parenthood

“Are you ready to take care of our child?” My husband casually asked me and I responded with a nervous giggle. Part of me felt ready and part of me felt there are heaps of unknown. Part of me felt relaxed at the fact that we do not have to know it all and the kiasu (fear of losing in SEA jargon) part of me wanted to know as much as I could. Principally we have decided to raise our children being totally reliant on God and that is probably why I can be at rest.

We know for sure our baby is arriving without a manual, hence it is on the job training. In my more idealistic younger days after learning about the effect parents has for their children, I set my mind to be the perfect parent. I want to be the superhero that absolutely shield my children from any hurt. As I mature in my Christian journey, I began to understand that perfect human parenthood does not exist. How liberating is that! More so now that I am actually in parenting journey, patiently waiting for my baby’s entrance to the world outside my womb.

I get it – we do our very best as parents but the reality is that we are going to make mistakes. After all we are human and there’s absolutely no way we can control everything. We have some clue as to how tiring it will be at the newborn stage, how challenging it will be at the boundary setting stage and how difficult it will be for us to let go. I am aware of my tendency to be super protective and super tiger mom. But I also know there are times I need to step back and just allow my children the space to learn. I guess I shall find out and enjoy the struggle when the time comes. Meanwhile I am to enjoy my present journey and not miss out of the blessings of the moment.

What was really interesting recently was an assurance in my heart from God on the question of parenthood. Being in a Worship Night that focused on our identity sparked an assurance of my Heavenly Father’s protection over my life. So I asked the question: Father, how do I parent? It was interesting that the invitation was to draw my parenting from my identity as His beloved daughter.

Wow! The most logical starting point – our unique identity as sons and daughters of God. Because we are first a child, then a spouse and then a parent. When we get the order right, our priority would be right too. The awareness of this reality keeps us grounded and empower us in every areas of our lives. It is so freeing! Some of us may ask what if a person stays single? I had that question too when I was single. And I decided that should not stop me from maturing into adulthood; choosing responsibility and meaning over recklessness and instability because I do not know if young people are silently looking at my lifestyle as a reference. Besides, none of us are exempted from the role of spiritual parenthood.

Deciding to grow up and ditch my childish ways was a great decision but certainly comes with a price. It means I no longer am “entitled” to entirely blame others for what’s going wrong with my life. It means I have a part to play and I need to own up my mistakes. Without that transition into responsible adulthood, it would have been so challenging in so many areas of my life now especially relationship. As amazing as the journey of growth has been, I am even more amazed that every growing day is a discovery of areas in my life that still calls for some “growing up”.

Dear friends, how was your experience of maturing from a child to an adult? Did you find yourself with an increased desire to honour your parents? Did the desire and struggle to forgive intensify at the same time? Did you experience overflowing grace like never before? Whatever you are experiencing, I pray that you see the hands of God in all these and give your highest praise to Him. May your journey ahead be one that is filled with meaning as you take responsibility through the lens of Christ love.

With lots of love,
Irene

Remaining Hopeful in the Midst of Despair

8 Aug 2019 was one of the darkest day for us here in New Zealand when 94 MPs voted in favour of an extreme abortion bill to be passed. A day of reparation was organized by Family Life International and since I wasn’t physically present, I decided to spend sometime praying for the intention of life. I was overwhelm with a sense of heaviness when praying, knowing well that majority of Parliament was going to vote in favour of the bill being passed. It was then I asked God, how should I pray?

The answer I received in my heart was to remain hopeful, pray for hope in the hearts of the warriors of LIFE and pray for hope to fill the people. That was the moment of breakthrough and I felt the peace to declare that God’s will be done no matter how I dislike the look of it. Despite the trust, I am still extremely saddened that it happened. I could not help but to weep for countless of unborn children and their mothers (and fathers) who would fall victims should the extreme abortion bill be passed. You can read the details of the bill here.

It doesn’t make sense to me especially if we are honest with science. How to even justify when is the limit of “non-humanity” of a baby in the womb? Does changing the term from baby to fetus justify it? Certainly not! It is inherent in each one of us to want to live and each one of us started as a fertilized egg (zygote) that developed into an embryo, then a fetus. It’s interesting to note that fetus translates to little one. How endearing is that!

My pro life stance has always been based on logic and truth that God is the author of life. I am privilege now to have my conviction strengthen even further by the honour of carrying my growing 27 weeks old baby. Her humanity is confirmed from the moment my husband and I found out about her. It was a great day of joy mixed with the worries of all sort. Our lives were changed and enriched, so is our prayer life. We speak life and blessing upon our child and we pray for her protection every single day. We want to give our child the best chance in life.

Our baby’s strong heartbeat was detected at 5 weeks. At 10 weeks, she was moving actively, we can see her spine and it was a delight to see her dance literally through the ultrasound image. I started feeling her physically at 17 weeks. She is responsive to her father’s voice that every time her Papa called on her and placed his ears on my belly, she would give him a good kick. Her awareness of different noises around is really fascinating. One vivid instance was her being shocked by the sound of the vacuum cleaner when I felt a jolt while operating the vacuum cleaner (this was when she was less than 20 weeks old). My personal favourite was how she was leaping in joy whenever I spend time at Eucharistic Adoration. These are tender moments that I never thought I would share so publicly but I guess it is essential to witness to the joy I experienced and hopefully move hearts to be voice of the unborn.

The way the legislation is being drafted literally means my husband and I would have to fight hard for our child’s right to be recognized. We believe our little one has the basic right to life, so is her unborn peers. It is disheartening to know that our law does not provide such protection to the most vulnerable of our society, little ones who could not speak for themselves. These children are potentially my baby’s playmate. They are human being with potential to be great men and women who will leave lasting legacy.

With so much of emotion stirring within, I believe the best way forward is still to remain hopeful and trust that God’s will be done in the best of our interest. The battlefield would need more warriors for life now than ever. Let’s actively and boldly choose life. Let us remember that we are but a link that forms the great fabric of society. When each of us do our part is in speaking a language of life, we would actively participate in life. Raise our children to honour God and to live life to the fullest. Raise communities that would support each other in building the culture of life. Be bold about our faith and live out our faith radiantly. We are all sinners on the journey towards sainthood, so let’s love each other into being and work collectively towards a better world for our children and generations to come.

Dear friends, I pray that my honest sharing would encourage you to be the voice of the unborn and their parents. May we be empowered to do the little we can to support pregnant mothers (and fathers of the unborn). Growing a little human is really a marathon that requires heaps of strength – make it a point to encourage a pregnant woman that she has the capacity and capability to accomplish this great race, cheer her on all the way as her body is doing some miraculous work. I believe women deserve to know that they are able to mother well and be successful at the same time. Our children is often the catalyst for us to want to be better. May we leave a legacy of life for our future generations.

With lots of love,
Irene

Father – the Source of Life

Hearing those words from my parish priest on the reflection of this week’s gospel reminded me of something I read recently. Placenta is a temporary organ in a mother’s womb to nourish the growing baby, attach the baby to the uterine wall and also the means to excrete waste. What fascinated me was the fact that the father’s sperm is responsible for creating the placenta and the umbilical cord.

The father becomes the source of life for this growing baby – providing protection and bridges the mother to the child. How wonderful and awesome are the designs of God! How very reflective is this to our spiritual life! Our Heavenly Father is indeed the Source of Life. Without Him thinking about us, we would cease to even exist. It’s so humbling to realize that we are indeed loved into being from conception to natural death.

It makes me wonder how great it would be if our men are empowered to enflesh the truth of fatherhood – be it physical or spiritual. My earthly father was far from perfect – not the most faithful husband nor was he the most gentle father. I am so blessed to have started the journey of reconciliation with my earthly father the year I was baptized. The journey that involved forgiving him of his shortcomings; forgiving myself for judging him and making the best effort to rebuild our relationship. Despite being closest to my dad amongst my siblings, I still experienced hurt from him. I am very glad that I dared to walk the path of forgiveness and today I can look back at the memory of my late father with a heart full of gratitude. That’s the grace of being courageous to embrace my father in totality – his love and his failures. In fact, he was the reason I started this blog.

My heart goes out to numerous people who did not have the best experience with their earthly father. It’s my prayer that men will rise up and take fatherhood seriously. This is a path of holiness and I also pray that all of us in society will support and empower our men to be real men with authentic masculinity. One way of doing that, I believe is for women to have Christ centric standard. The standard that we set for ourselves would influence the world around us. As we help each other in our path of holiness, let us be bold to ask Our Father for His Holy Spirit to guide us.

With lots of love,
Irene