Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth (Part 5)



The weather was beautiful - a cool, but not cold and rainy November day.  My mom and I got up that morning, took Aviel to preschool and then decided to go eat breakfast at the Coffee Bean on Jaffa Street. 

Feasting on a French Fritatta, I noticed that my normal Braxton Hicks began to come on a bit more strong while we were eating.  A group of ladies, obviously christian volunteers were sitting inside the restaurant, and commented that I looked ready.  I was more ready than they even knew! 

After we ate, we decided to walk around City Center for awhile to see if things might pick up.  At this point, I had pretty well decided that I was feeling early labor contractions, and they were about 10 to 12 minutes apart.  Around 11 am, I thought it best to get Aviel from school, so that we would not need to make another trip in, and go home to rest. 

I called Devin and let him know, as well as the Doctor, since he would be making a lengthy drive in.  I also updated my doula, Sarah, and my friend Natalia, who would be joining us.  Sarah had flown in from California to be with us for our second birth.  I felt so blessed by her commitment to be present.  Natalia, I prayerfully asked to attend, for a few different reasons.  While I was preparing for Aviel's birth, I remember reading that in Modern/Western culture, most women do not experience their first birth until they actually go through one.  Historically, and even at present in the developing world, women were exposed to real birth through helping their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends, go through this life changing experience.  How amazing it would have been to have been part of culture where birth was simply part of being a women, whether you were doing it or helping.  I wasn't ready with the first one, but I decided that a way to better our birth culture would be to invite a women to be with me who had not yet gone through this one her own.  Natalia was a perfect fit, because of our already established friendship, she already had a positive attitude toward child birth, and she could provide the gift of playing worship songs while I was laboring.  Since she was coming in on more than an hours worth of buses, she decided to join us rather early, and prepared to spend the night. 

Devin came home late in the afternoon, and cancelled plans to attend parent/teacher forums at work.  I felt so much more relaxed once he arrived home.  The doctor made it around dinner time, at which point my contractions were around 6 minutes apart, but not strong.  He checked me and I was less than 3 cm, so he went to a friend's house for the evening.  I felt a bit discouraged, because I was hoping that I was farther along, and just coping *really* well. 

I felt someone conflicted through the rest of the evening as to how to progress.  Should I go to sleep, or keep moving?  My head was telling me to move, but my body was telling me to sleep.  Eventually, the body gave in and I laid down to rest. 

Sometime after midnight, my contractions began coming closer and stronger, around 3 minutes apart.  Devin called Sarah and she arrived around 1:30am on November 12.  They had again slowed down by her arrival, so I went back to sleep.  Natalia was sleeping on our couch and Sarah slept in our purple papazan chair. 

We woke up early that morning, around 6 am.  I was in a funk.  My contractions had really slowed down at that point, and while I remember waking up the morning Aviel was born, and my body needing a little time to pick up again, this time, since my team had arrived to help me, I felt as if I had let everyone down, and taken up too much of their time!  I was concerned that labor was going to stop and everyone had made their way to be with me for nothing!  Boo! 

Sarah suggested a walk to help things get going.  We went to the pedestrian stairs in our neighborhood and climbed those, walking up and down the hills.  I shared with her how hard the last year had been, how hard the pregnancy had been, but also a lesson the Lord had been teaching me how to be free fro perfectionism and being performance driven.  I was born a failure, so that wasn't something I had to fear.  Yeshua did the work for me, so I could rest in that.  Something of my own words let me release this laboring processes to Him, as I realized I wasn't a show, but doing doing a job with him. 

When we arrived home, Sarah suggested that the house clear out, expect for Devin and I, so we could be alone.  My mom took Aviel out, and Natalia and Sarah met with friends separately.  I actually needed this quiet privacy to get mentally into active labor.  My contractions were somewhat "shy" as Sarah said, and having a hard time picking up with all of the activity. 

I got in the shower while everyone was away and had a real conversation with the Lord. 

I think I've been more afraid than ready, but I'm ready now.  Please bring on my active labor.  

Upon getting out of the shower, things picked up rather quickly.  Devin and I labored together, alone, in the kitchen for quite awhile.  I sat on his lap and worked through the more regular and stronger coming contractions. 

Sarah was the first to arrive back to our house, around 11am.  She tried to check my fundal height externally, but my shy contractions got a little scared off again.  I went back to my bedroom and labored totally alone for a while as the house slowly filled up again.  Devin called the doctor at this point and when he arrived, I was very pleased to be measuring 6 cm!  Fully in established active labor.  He recommend another shower, noting my progress. 

Again, the Lord and I had a conversation. 

Lord, I've been afraid of transition.  I know you will carry me through it, though, let's pick things up a little more. 


After getting out of the shower, Sarah suggested, "Why don't you put on something a little easier, like a dress or a skirt." 

I put on an orange sun dress and then walked to the living room. 

Natalia said, "Wow.  You look beautiful." 

Everyone noted in agreement, Devin coming over to give me a kiss.  I didn't really believe them, but trusted that my hormones must be giving me a glow. 

The contractions pick up stronger and stronger.  This time, I was negatively affected by loud noises.  Aviel's playful sounds, for some reason, made it hard for me to cope.  Even at one point, I remember hearing my mom looking through the video drawer, and having to ask her to stop, though she was trying to be quiet. 

Interestingly, though, music was helpful. 

I moved to the couch and labored on my knees.  Sarah pressed my hips through the contractions while Devin helped the doctor set up.  Natalia was paying mostly english songs on the couch next to me at the time and all was peaceful.

Then there was a sudden gush as my waters broke! 

The next few contractions were a bit harder, and then I had a small pause. 

I cried the most peaceful cry.  It was as if I was releasing the hardship of the last year all to the Lord.  I gave him over the stress of the Cushing's Disease, the surgery, being so sick from the pregnancy...  doing all of this alone without family support, on the bus, feeling like I had been a horrible mom to my sweet son, who had needs I could not meet through such a long time of sickness.  I gave it to him.  I laid it at His feet. 

Then transition set it. 

It was much stronger than what I remember going through with Aviel, but I was encouraged.   Knowing that it would not last long, and I was near to the end, I oddly also remembered the story of Perpetua, a young mother who was martyred in the 3rd century AD.  I had studied her story after my surgery, and felt such inspiration in her courage.  It might sound as an strange thought to have during birth, but I trusted fully that the Lord would carry me through this work I needed to do.   

Interestingly, Natalia switched from English to Hebrew worship at that point, fully directed by her own leading of the Holy Spirit. That change brought on a strength in my spirit as well, as I remembered how much prayer had been poured in to Lydia's sweet life long before she was conceived.  Our congregation prayed us through that hard season, and I felt the power of their prayers with me. 

Sarah coached, "tell that contraction where to go." 

So I told the contraction to leave through my bottom parts and began gently pushing them out in that direction. 

Devin was in the bedroom with my doctor and has shared a few times that they could notice a change of pace even from down the hall. "Oh... She's pushing."  The doctor said. 

Them met me in the living room and asked if I wanted to stay where I was or move to the bedroom.  I honestly felt conflicted because I knew they had done so much work to get ready!  Devin and Sarah both encouraged me, that I could stay where I was if I wanted.  That's what I choose, so the men set up the plastic on the couch and Devin helped me move over a little bit. 

I felt a release from transition and started pushing harder, staying on my knees, facing leaning over the back of the couch. 

The baby was moving well, but I still found pushing to be good deal of work! 


Then....  POP! 

We didn't know what it was at the time, but it sounded like a shot gun. 

"That's just your bones and ligaments moving" Sarah comforted.

My mom had once told me she fractured her tailbone while she was pushing me out, and I suspected that I had just done the same.  Oddly, as loud as it was, it actually didn't hurt, so I pushed on. 

As the baby's head began to crown, the doctor switched places with Sarah, and helped guide her sweet head out. "Its blonde."  He said. 

I remember giving a big push and her head was born.  The doctor instructed me to pause for a moment.  At that point, I suspected that the chord might be around her neck, after having read that a small pause in pushing can allow it loosen naturally.  Sure enough that's what was going on, but it was not medical emergency whatsoever.  Just a natural process of birth.  After a moment, he freed me to push again, and Lydia passed through very easily, almost as if she fell out of my body. 

Looking at her between my knees, I pulled off my dress and laid down on the couch. They picked her up and placed her on my chest as we bonded. 

"Oh I love you so much."  I said to my beautiful girl. 

Her hair looked a bit more gingy than blonde, to me.  It was wavy but not as thick as Aviel's had been. 

She was so tiny and small and I could hardly believe she was finally in my arms. 


"Get Aviel."  I called out. 

He had so wanted to see her be born, but I just could not labor well with him around, nor was I sure he would do well to hear me working so hard at pushing. 

He was blessed to see his tiny baby sister, still connected to the chord.  That's something we had talked about during he pregnancy and he was quite interested to see it in real life. 


As it was time to birth the placenta, I asked my mom to take him in the other room again.  It was a little slow to detach and I had a little more bleeding than the doctor liked.  He gave me a pitocin shot to help the process along, and everything was fine.  Aviel emerged from the room again, this time with a plastic toy for the baby.  I suggested something softer instead.  His little hear just so wanted to welcome her with a toy, though!  It was precious! 

"Aviel, can you share the baby's name?" 

I had prepared him in advance to make the announcement, but he felt a bit shy.  Devin and I introduced her as Lydia Yael, the first time our family and friends had heard her sweet name. 

We then worked at nursing, knowing that my GD might make for some low blood sugar.  She latched on surprisingly well.

Our petite little Princess weighed in at 2.8 Kilos, or 6 lbs 6 oz. 


Devin dressed her in her first little sack, and snuggled with her while I showered off.  The entire time I was in there, I just wanted to be out holding my little baby girl.


Our doctor stayed with us for several hours, as is the normal protocol for homebirths...  just making sure everything was fine with both of us.  Lydia's sugar was a little on the low side, but nothing alarming.  A few hours after he left, we decided to check in to the hosptial just for extra care in making sure her sugar was fine.  It was a little hard for us to know for sure, so we took some precautions.   I had packed some milk that a friend had pumped for me, just in case she needed some treatment, rather than formula at the hosptial.   Once we arrived, her sugar was was totally normal, and she did not require any extra care.  A little hosptial stay for about 12 hours after a homebirth is very normal in Israel because it allows us to get our "birth grant" and accomplish paperwork a little easier.  It wasn't what I had in mind, but it had its blessings. 

***

In remembering Lydia's birth, I think what amazed me so greatly is how the Lord used that experience to bring a great deal of healing to what had been a hard year or two.  It was hard on our marriage, it was hard on my heart.  The way He brought the story together, and made provision for a homebirth, then the way He moved in my own heart to let go so much of what was painful from the previous season was a true gift. 



Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.  1 Timothy 2:15

Saved, here is sozo, which is a salvation that brings a healing.  While birth is an intense experience, the Lord is so present, and He will meet you with every contraction, and in every rest in between. 

For my readers, Lord, I ask that you would grant this sozo healing salvation as they bring forth new life, even as they go back and remember their own stories.  I ask that you would meet them, and show them how present you are, or were, as they birthed their children.  For all who have suffered, may they not look to this experience with fear, but with hope, that they will come forward with renewed and freed hearts, full of confidence in your ability to be powerful in their lives.  May you bless all upcoming births with peace, joy, and the freedom of surrender.  For all who have suffered, let this day be a marker that "It is finished."  May they go forth as more than conquerors.  Amen. 


Related Posts:
A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Something Special (Part 3) - Aviel's Birth Story 




Friday, November 4, 2016

A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth (Part 4)

The grapes gave me hope that we were entering into the promises the Lord had for this coming birth, yet I was still waiting on Devin to have the same peace. 

That same evening, our doctor stopped by for his initial meeting with us.


He came over with a very casual, straight of the kibbutz sort of look, and he was much more quiet in his demenor than I expected.  Carly had described him as a "caring and grandfatherly" and I found that to fit. 

We started our meeting sort of getting to know each other.  He shared a little about his professional history, and why he left the hosptial to develop a homebirth practice.  Basically, it amounted to no longer wanting to practice out of fear of his patient.  The liability concerns in risk-based obstetrics led to some ethical concerns on his part, such as not desiring to implement unnecessary procedures if a mother or baby did not really need them.  Also, well studied in the physiology of birth, he believed strongly that women birth best where they feel most safe and secure, whether that's at home, a birthing center, or a hospital.  His desire was to make home a more available option for women who wanted to be home. 

He also asked us some about about why we were thinking of a homebirth. 

For me, I was coming to this decision from a positive place, rather than negative.  Aviel's hosptial birth was a great experience for me.  I did not fear the hospital or feel that I had been mistreated in anyway, although, I could not deny the reality that the two small interventions I had were based on hospital policy and not what my body actually needed to birth the baby.  My acceptance of that was simply based on fact, not on any anger or disappointment.  Also, however, I knew that I labored so well at home.  It was a loving and safe feeling environment and my labor progressed really quickly.  It all went so well, that I often wondered how it would have been to have simply stayed, rather than changing locations!  This time, I wanted to keep that same peace flowing from beginning to end, to have my team join me, rather than changing locations while my hormones were flowing, and then come under a clock again.  On top of that, I had also experienced an intense year of testing for Cushing's Disease, even a brain surgery.  I really just did not want to be in the hosptial any more! 

I was blessed that the doctor did not fear my medical history, whether after learning about my recent surgery, or the Gestational Diabetes. 

We talked through what GD meant in regards of a pregnancy and birth, particularly at home, and he looked over my sugar charts.  We decided to submit my weekly records to him and decide in a few weeks time if I seemed to be managing well enough for a birth at home. 

The doctor left, giving me a some reading from Active Birth by Janet Balaskas about the physiology of birth, and based on the reading, I did some further study on articles by Michal Odent.
 
***

I'm not sure exactly when it was that Devin got fully on board, but he did feel very comfortable with the doctor after our visit.  It was several more weeks before we would nail down a decision for sure though, as we were watching my sugar.  Eventually, the we reached a point where I knew I needed to have an official answer for the sake of my emotional and mental preparation.  The doctor felt I was managing well, so we made a commitment. 

That decision was confirmed a few days later, when a friend graciously donated to cost of our homebirth.  As we skyped, she shared, "A few weeks ago, the Lord gave us a specific amount of money to give to you for your birth.  We wanted to wait until you had decided so that it wouldn't influence your choice.  And I don't really know why it was this amount, because I know it doesn't cover the full cost, but this is what He led." 

When she told me how much they had decided to give, I was awed by God's goodness.  Around this time, I had been working on a graphic design project and decided to commit my earning to our homebirth.  The amount my friend heard to give was exactly - to the shekel - the difference we needed to cover the expense.  If she had given the full amount, I would not have seen the Lord's handiwork so clearly behind this entire decision! 

***

So there are grapes, and there are giants.  Next, we faced a doozy of a Goliath. 

The Ob/gyn I had been seeing through our kupat cholim (insurance clinic), had been on vacation for the last month, which spaced out my pre-natal care with him a little more than what is preferred.  During that time, I had strong reason to believe the baby was head up.  My tummy was much more uncomfortable than I remembered with Aviel.  I could feel a big bulge right under my rib cage that I thought to be her head.  Sure enough, when we had our 5 minute long appointment at 36 weeks, plus a few days, the Kupat Ob/gyn confirmed that our baby was head up, my water was low,  and he believed her to be very small for her gestational age.  He gave us a hafnaya (order) to go the emergency room at the hospital for further testing. 

While it was all a bit distressing, I had a peace because the Lord had granted me a promise from scripture during that same time. 

So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.  Acts 27:25

I trusted that He was leading this way, and we would defeat the giants, for His glory. 

We went in the next morning for further testing.  She was measuring small, but not as small as the other doctor presumed.  Personally, I was not worried, because, well, at 5'2", I'm small!  The staff was rather discouraging about the possibility of being able to turn her, though, due to my low water levels. 

We called our homebirth doctor once we arrived home, and he was very calm about the entire situation.  He recommended that we contact a colleague who had a great record, a world record, actually,  for turning babies for a second opinion.  Meanwhile, I did spinning babies exercises, ate tortilla chips, and drank coconut water, to help increase my water levels, and get the baby moving.  I also spent a lot of time praying for her, and really believed I heard the Lord say that she had not turned because she was fearful!  I prayed against a spirit of fear, and you know what, that little girl is one brave toddler today!  She's also a bit of a gymnast who loves to do flips!  I look forward to seeing the long term fruit of those prayers in the future! 

We made an appointment for our External Cephalic Version (ECV), a few days later, since my reading suggested that it was most successful at 37 weeks, exactly where I was at the time. 

I went into the hosptial, met with the doctor, who told me "drink a lot of water and do not pee" before sending me on to an ultra sound.  The baby had moved about 45 degrees from the spinning babies exercises, but was still well breech.  My water was lower that what I read online that most doctors look for, so I fully expected him to say it wasn't even worth trying.  I was surprised, however, when he said, "Its a little low, but it either works, or it doesn't!"  He was totally willing to try. 

An ECV isn't as earthy as it might sound, someone using their hands to manually re-position your baby.  Its a full on medical intervention.  I was connected to a monitor and given a muscle relaxer.  The doctor told me I'd probably feel nervous as a side-effect.  That was an understatement.  I remember laying there overcome with fear about whether or not this was the right choice.  Devin was extremely reassuring and reminded me that some of my nervousness really was a side effect of the meds.  The doctor came in, and distracted me with conversation. 

"When did you have your appendix removed?"  he asked noticing a scar on my tummy.

"My appendix? Ohhhh.  I didn't.  I had an endoscopic transphenoidal surgery and that's where they removed that fat pad.  I had Cushing's Disease." 

"You had Cushing's disease?!"  Both him and his assistant were shocked and asked a number of questions while he went about turning my baby.  It was quite uncomfortable, but he was successfully able to get her into the correct position.  And for the first time in weeks, I could take a full breath!  It was amazing.  


I stayed in the hosptial for about an hour for observation, and was given instructions to do fetal monitoring the next day, to ensure that the baby was doing well.  At that appointment my water had greatly increased, bu I was having contractions about 10 mintues apart.   I could feel them coming.  I called our homebirth doctor and he recommended napping and calling him if they continued on.  Everything slowed down, and sweet Lydia rested peacefully in her new head down position for another two weeks.  

We faced a giant, but we feasted on grapes.  :) 

Related Posts:
A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Something Special (Part 2) (Aviel's birth story)



Monday, October 31, 2016

A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth (Part 3)



"Devin, if my glucose challenge comes back positive, what do you think about doing a homebirth with Carly's doctor?" 

I remember exactly where we were, crossing the street near the Jerusalem's Shuk (market). 

My husband was silent. 

"Ok.  You don't have to answer right away.  Think about it and let me know." 

I had not thought much about our birth plan much until it was time to do the test.  Early in the pregnancy, I contacted a homebirth midwife, and she suggested waiting until I got my results before coming under her care, so that I would not be disappointed if I could not birth at home with her.  At that point, I decided to lay the issue aside until later. 

Going in for the test was quite disappointing, in itself.  In the time since Aviel was born, I had been studying and found an number of sources that questioned the accuracy, and even safety of of Glucose Tolerance testing.  Since Aviel was born with such great blood sugar, and a normal size, I honestly wondered if I had been misdiagnosed and was open to alternatives, such as the A1C, or checking blood sugar for two weeks, even substituting jelly beans for glucola.  I went in prepared to talk to my doctor about other options, and was shocked to learn that since I had a previous diagnoses on my records, I'd actually have to jump straight to the 3 hour Challenge.  He was not willing to write a hafnaya (order) for anything else. 

We weighted options - refusing all together, fighting and trying to find a doctor who would world with me...  In the end, I was still sick from the hyperemesis gravidarum, which (for me) is aggravated by stress, and it was not going to improve my birth choice options to refuse the test.  The only benefit would be not drinking the nasty and not good for us glucola. 

So I did the test. 

While I was sitting in the lab, I remembered the day Carly told me about the homebirth doctor and had hope that my options might remain fairly open if I "failed" the test.


And failed - did I. 

My numbers were higher this time, than they had been with Aviel. 

I was frustrated, and my husband still wasn't sure about the homebirth option. 

Lord, why do you let this happen to my body?  If I didn't have this condition, we could go to the natural birthing center at the hosptial, and not have tension in the marriage.  It would be so much easier.  He whispered... 

Because I have something so much better for you.The Lord's response to me was clear, so I clung to Romans 8:28, trust that he would work all of this to the good of our family and our baby! 

***

Being third trimester, it was time to start making some plans.  With Devin's agreement to at least have a meeting with the doctor, I made a phone call - and one that circumstantially held two confirmations that we were headed in the right direction. 

"When are you due?" The doctor asked on the phone. 

"November 15."

"You are exactly 30 weeks today.  That's when I usually first start working with my patients."  That was number 1.  And number 2.  "I'll be in Jerusalem tomorrow, how about if I stop by?"  Said my out of town doctor.   

I was elated.  And that much more so when Devin returned from the Shuk (market) that day with these babies:







On Sep 15, 2014, I posted this caption with the photo on my Facebook Status:  "Devin brought home grapes yesterday and I had not seen them until I packed Aviel‘s lunch box this morning. When I opened the bag and saw these huge huge grapes, it did something in my spirit... Joshua and Caleb style... I am full of belief and hope today!"

Its hard to tell exactly how huge the grapes are, but they are certainly the largest we had ever purchased.  I was awed.  What I didn't share with the world is that I had been praying over this baby's birth, the grapes gave me a great deal of hope that we'd have a wonderful homebirth. 

Following along with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth's series on Joshua at that time, I also had an indication that if the Lord was good to grant grapes, then we might also face giants.  As the giants arose, so would my faith, as I trusted the Lord that this was His plan. 

Related Posts:
A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth
Part 1
Part 2


Something Special (Aviel's birth story)

A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth (part 2)

Waiting for Lydia to form in my womb was a much longer, and dramatic process than we could have ever imagined.

Falling pregnant by happy surprise with Aviel, I never once thought I'd face infertility, but when Aviel was three years old and had well since weaned,  I was still not menstruating and I knew something was wrong with my body. 

It wasn't just the lack of cycle, but a number of strange changes to my quickly morphing appearance that caused me to wonder. 

I embarked on research and learned of Cushing's Disease, a condition caused by a tumor either on the adrenals, lungs, or pituitary gland, which seemed a perfect explanation for the problems I was dealing with.   Most notably, my face swelled up round and full, but I was also loosing hair on my head, growing body hair, developing a hump on my back, and gaining weight in my upper body and stomach.  After seven months of tests, we finally were able to determine that I did, in deed, have a pituitary tumor.  It was a Beauty Theif, that secreted a hormone called ACTH, which in turn stimulated an over production of cortisol in my body.  The excesses of cortisol  halted all ovulation, but with the removal of the tumor, fertility was likely to return. 

My surgery was successful, and three months later, my endocrinologist cleared us to start trying for another baby. 

It took a little longer than I expected, however. 

On one particularly disappointing day, when we had learned naturally that we did not have a baby from the month before, the Lord blessed us with hope.  During Shabbat services, our pastor was speaking from Acts 16.

One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. (v. 14)

As he read through the passage, and spoke the name Lydia, I remember thinking...

Lydia...  our daughter.  I need to tell Devin.

No sooner had the thought passed through my heart before Devin leaned over and whispered in my ear...

Lydia...

I knew my husband had heard the same!   He then showed me how lovely the name presented itself spelled in Hebrew - as the two words L'yad Yah, meaning next to God.
Exactly 4 weeks later, we learned that we had a new baby on the way!  Joyfully our news was confirmed on Aviel's 4th birthday.  We were blessed to share with our little son that the Lord has placed a baby in my belly for his birthday present!  All three of us were thrilled.

The pregnancy was medically confirmed at my 6 month post-opp Endocrinology appointment a few days later.  I'll never forget the look on my Endo's face when he saw my numbers!  Lydia was celebrated all around, even as pea-sized womb baby! 

***

It was only a matter of weeks before joy gave way to discouragement, even some depression.  If I had thought the nausea and vomiting was hard with Aviel, this was a new giant to face.  I had a severe case of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG).  This is nausea on steroids.  I could barely eat and nothing stayed down.  I vomited at least three times a day, if not more.  The vomiting continued on until week 36, and by the end of the pregnancy I had only gained 12 lbs. 

Besides the physical strain on my body, I was plagued with constant mom guilt, knowing Aviel was not receiving the care I felt he needed.  

On top of the HG, again, I received a Gestational Diabetes diagnosis. 

This was a severe disappointment because I was hoping that the neuro surgery I had to remove my pituitary tumor would have corrected my body's glucose intolerance, since Diabetes is a secondary symptom of Cushing's Disease.  The Lord would soon turn this disappointment into a blessing! 

Related Posts:
He Gave Me Lydia - Kindred Grace (for more about Lydia's Name story)
Beauty Thief - Kindred Grace (about Cushing's Disease)

A Story of Grapes, Giants, and Homebirth (part 1)
Something Special (Aviel's Birth Story)

A Story of Grapes, Giants and Homebirth (part 1)



Lydia's birth story has been slow in coming.  That's the struggle of two children, lots of writing adventures, and a year of 4 hours worth of daily bus rides.  As I'm preparing for the birth of number three, the Lord has laid it on my heart to write it out, remembering the sweetness and the love. 

Her story really begins years before she was born,  in the Lord's provision for her birth plan, healing my body of Cushing's Disease that caused secondary infertility, and prophetically downloading her name four weeks before I knew she was in my womb. 

I remember the day I was sitting on Carly's couch (yes, the same Carly from Aviel's birth story, my brand new friend at the time, due a week before me, who graciously threw our baby shower), when the Lord began moving my heart toward a homebirth.

Carly had planned for a natural birth and due to "Failure to Progress" ended up in a cesarean.  I will not tell all the details of her story here, but unconvinced that this took place for no unknown reason, she set out to get answers, and answers she found.  Not only answers, but also a man whom she referred to as "the homebirth doctor." 

We sat and talked, as she shared her heart over her disappointment that the surgery could have been prevented through a few changes prohibited by hosptial policy, and that she was planning a HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean).  This doctor was willing to take her on as a client. 

My eyes swelled with tears.

While I was happy for her, the tears were pouring from a place in my heart much deeper.  I felt she had found something for me, as well. 

My first birth went amazingly well, but having gestational diabetes, my options were limited.  Being granted a high risk status (more on that later) was devastating.  It was scary news for a first time mom.  God was so good, however, and whispered that He would give me Something Special and that He certainly did, which is why my own strength of emotion was so surprising at the news Carly had shared.  The prospect of this doctor caused me to feel quite safe and free, and as if the Lord might have something different for us next time.    Little did I know it would be a few more years before I'd even carry my next child, due to secondary infertility (find a series of posts about my story of Cushing's Disease here). 

Carly went on two have two babies at home with the homebirth doctor during the time span that I waited....  and waited....  and waited... 


Related Posts:
Something Special (Part 1) Aviel's Birth Stroy

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Big Box

I shared the following as a Facebook Status March 12, 2015, on Aviel's 5th Birthday!  It came up in my memories and I thought I'd move it to the blog! 





Do you see this big box? This the best I could do as a selfie to show its 24"x16"x10" gimongous size. My 5'2" self (almost) carried this all the way home with a baby wrapped in the front and a backpack on my back.

I had been waiting for this package for more than a week. It was late, which wouldn't have been a problem if it wasn't Aviel's 5th birthday party in a box. Finally, yesterday, the day before his birthday, the package notice arrived. I planned to stop by the post office with Lydia while Aviel was at preschool. What I didn't plan for was a cold rainy day.

We arrived at the post 15 minutes before opening time. The baby was having a rather fussy morning... she was cold, and wet, and hungry. She cried and I bounced her, and she kept crying. (I hope its obvious that I didn't stop to nurse her because we were standing in the rain.) Finally, the doors opened. A large group of Israelis had gathered by that point, but I was able to go first since I had a now screaming baby. I gave the clerk my receipt, and he retrieved the package.

"Uhhm... How are you going to get this home."

I looked up and saw its gargantuan size and wanted to cry.

"Uhhmmmmm... I don't know. Let me nurse her and then I'll figure it out."

I took the box and the baby and found a place to feed her and in a great deal of frustration, I prayed,

"Lord, I could live in the States and be so much more comfortable. I could have a car not have to stand in the rain... in the cold... with a baby... and a giant box... this craziness is for You... so the gospel can go forth and it better darn well go forth today because that's why I'm here."

Lydia finished eating and I put us back in order, her in the wrap on the front, and the backpack on the back. I picked up the box and decided to head to the bus stop. Just as I got a few steps away from the post office, I heard feet behind me. Then a tap on my shoulder.

"Can I carry this for you?" He asked in Hebrew.

I turned around and saw an old gray haired man that was sitting in the post office next to us. I answered back in Hebrish with a big "Yes... I'm going to the bus stop."

He threw that big box on his shoulder and hoofed it. While he walked, I heard the Lord speak to my heart, "The gospel will go forth today. Let Me give you grace, first." As I looked at that man carrying my box, a man I didn't even know, who left his spot in line at the post office to help me, I saw Yeshua, Jesus, carrying my cross.

He took the box to the bus and help us load. I gave him a big "Toda!" (Thank you), and road the bus home, in awe of his selflessness. He did something that is so characteristic of Israelis. They are a tough people on the outside, but they will stop everything to care for someone in need. Its unlike any society I've ever seen. And really, its a manifestation of the how the Lord has chosen this people to uniquely point to Him. If you feel jealous or insure about that, don't. Just don't. They've endured more persecution than any other people in the history of the world, and it will keep on until His feet touch the Mount of Olives, He takes His thrown on temple mount, and they look upon the one whom they have pierced.

I'm sad to say that I wouldn't have done what he did. I wouldn't have left my place in the post office line.... not with two small children and no car. I wouldn't have... and I know the one who gave His life for me.

I did end up carrying that big box up 6 flights of stairs... but I didn't complain. Instead, I did it in thanksgiving for the kindness I received, in humility for encountering my own selfishness, and for the blessing of being able to walk these days, that I do believe are end times, with these amazing people. They point me to my savior everyday, and I hope with my whole heart, that I can point them to their Messiah... The God of their fathers who came down in the flesh of a Jewish man, carried a burden heavier than my big box, died as their passover lamb, and defeated death raising again to new life.

The Lord answered my prayer. The gospel did and will go forth today!

Related Post:
His Time-Out Chair was the Cross

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Cushie Files

Few people in the world can say they had a One in a Million disease...  but I can.  During the summer of 2013, after years of strange symptoms, and seven months worth of test, I was finally diagnosed with Cushing's Disease.  This is a rare condition that forms when a tumor, in my case, on my pituitary gland secretes a hormone called ACTH that then stimulates the body to produce too much cortisol.  the cortisol takes over and does major damage, the worst of which is infertility. 

My diagnoses was followed by a neurosurgery two months later, to remove the tumor.  The Lord was so good to heal my body and we were blessed with a baby girl just over a year after the surgery. 

I've collected the various posts I wrote about Cushing's Disease, some more directly related to the physical condition, and others, lessons I was learning during that challenging season.   I'm still processing all that took place, so this compilation will certainly grow as I feel led to share my heart more and more.  Enjoy! 








Thursday, March 3, 2016

Made New by the Rain

This year, my post gets to kick off the annual March of Books over at Kindred Grace! More about that, but first, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to any KG readers who might be visiting Growing and Olive Tree for the first time!    This is a place where we go deep into God's word as I share the insights gleaned, the battles fought, and the victories won, while walking in blessings and enduring the trials, of raising a family in the Jewish state of Israel as believers in Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah! 

For this years MoB, I have two posts coming up!  This one is what I call an unreview, or maybe a living review (read it and tell me what you think fits better) of a simply beautiful children's book that I found on the adult non-fiction book shelf where our Kehilah (congregation) meets for services on Shabbat, and I tell the story of how it ministered to my heart in a profound way!  If you a regular to my blog, please stop by Kindred Grace and check it out!  Its one I'd recommend for your home library, for sure! 

 Made New by the Rain

A review of Come On, Rain!  By Karen Hesse with Pictures by Jon J Muth
 





Related Posts:
If you liked this review, you might also enjoy Perpetua, a Bus, and a Vow 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

Originally Posted on My Facebook Status on Feb 28, 2016
I am so blessed to have a community of such brave and passionate friends. Last night, our Kehilah (congregation) service was so packed that we didn't get our normal seats. Instead, we sat in the very last row in the back, where I had a view of everyone (on that side) who was there. I looked at the audience and saw men and women, young and old, who had all made tremendous sacrifices to walk with their Messiah.

At shabbat dinner the night before, I learned the testimony of one who wrestled with betraying his people by receiving Jesus, until Christians began sharing about the Jewish Messiah, YESHUA, while he was working at a Dead Sea booth, in a mall, in a different country. Another brave young women told me of her decision to train as an officer in the IDF. As a new immigrant, she gave up an easier life in the US and has taken on the responsibilities required by this nation, and now she's moving above and beyond. Yet another friend is preparing to leave Israel to serve the Lord in an unreached nation.

 I looked at all the people worshiping the Lord in front of me. I counted young people in or recently out of the IDF, and realized that 5 of them came from 1 mother, who still has children at home! Oh how she prays! I saw another young woman who grew up in the south under the pressures of constant missile fire. I saw families who had overcome weaknesses of the body, paralysis... cancer... Others who I know road bikes or walked more than an hour to be part of corporate worship, and to sit under sound biblical teaching, when it would have been easier to stay home -- some of these Israeli citizens and some, volunteers from the nations.

What I was seeing before me was a small glimpse at the great cloud of witnesses. I was seeing overcomers with hands lifted in praise, fighting the good fight -- not allowing the circumstances of this fallen world to harden their hearts, praising the risen King, no matter what.

I left encouraged to press on toward the goal and to pick up my cross daily as more than a conqueror through Messiah Yeshua, Jesus my savior.

When you go to church, I'd like to encourage you do the same. Look at the people the Lord has called you into fellowship with. Remember their stories, if you don't know it, ask. In courage, share your own testimony. Its God's story that He wrote through you. Let iron sharpen iron and be blessed by His hands and feet, in the form of your friends!

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Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...  Hebrews 12:1



Sunday, February 21, 2016

Was Paul an Intactivist?

This is yet another post where my love for Israel, and Gods word collides with my mom heart.  This is a parenting topic, but it certainly expounds on Jewish roots themes!

Circumcision is a loaded parenting topic for our generation.  If you are unfamiliar to this issue, a political and parenting movement has formed called "intactivism" - combining the words "intact" and "activism,"  which is exactly as is sounds, activism against circumcision, in favor of leaving the foreskin intact.

Can a parent choose to not have an infant son circumcised and not be an intactivist?  Certainly.

The personal and individual parenting choice is not what I'm concerned about,  rather this discussion is related to the movement seeking to ban circumcision options.

This is a study on Paul's position on the issue of circumcision, and why I do not believe intactivism as an ideology is supported by scripture.  This is not a discussion of whether or not parents should circumcise their sons. 

In a previous post, Intactivism, Anti-Semitism, Bullying and a Loving GodI share a some general theological concerns that I have about the intactivist position,  which I believe to be in opposition to a biblical world view.  The harsh stance involved with intactivism comes against something God commanded the nation of Israel,  and calls good in His word.  Also this movement has a strong foundation in antisemitism, which runs counter to scripture.  What I didn't delve into in depth was the New Testament perspective on this issue and seek to do so in this post. 

***

It is not uncommon within the intactivist movement to see the argument, "Paul was an intactivist."  But is that true according to God's word? 

First, let's understand where this view of Paul as the intactivist comes from.  

In Galatians Chapter 2, Paul describes a scenario in which he needs to address a problem regarding coerced circumcisions of new gentile believers.  Paul states clearly that Titus is not forced to be circumcised through his instruction (v. 3):

Paul continues on in that chapter and upon noticing that Peter, "who used to eat with the gentiles" changed and  "began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision" (v. 12) offers Peter a public rebukes:
“If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (v.14).
Later Chapter 5 brings his teaching to its thesis:  
5 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
If we were to let this passage stand along, v. 2 above causes this passage to sound as an eradication of the practice of circumcision, and keeping any measure of the law.  In sound bible study practice, however, we want to look at the whole of scripture to understand the Lord's heart on an issue, and when we place this particular issue within the whole of scripture, a more clear truth emerges. 

Was Paul the first intactivist? 

I can confidently and firmly give you a clear "no" which we will look at in God's word as it relates to 1) Paul's actual practice regarding circumcision,  then we will 2) evaluate Paul's ideology as compared to the intactivist both in terms of a) procedure and purpose, and b) Paul's view of the natural world.     

1) Paul's Actual Practice Regarding Circumcision

After Paul gave the the teaching to the church of Galatians that is used by the intactivist movement to support their perspective, with the example that he instructed Titus to not be circumcised, he actually circumcises Timothy with his own hands.  See Acts 16:1-3:
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.
It is taking strong liberties with God's word to taunt the teaching that Paul was an intactivist, based alone on this decision to circumcise Timothy.  And, to view the Galatians passage as support for intactivism as an ideology presents Paul as making contradictory or hypocritical decision between how he related to Titus and Timothy.  This is where (and why) we need to be honest to the spirit of God's word presented in these passages.  An incomplete presentation of the text gives a wrong presentation of the spirit behind the text, and the greater principle the Lord wants us to see, which we'll address in the next section.

No matter what your personal parenting choice might be, or your position on this issue as a healthcare provider, anyone who professes Christ needs to show integrity (like how I did that?) to rightly divide God's word. Its important to be honest that Paul did not eradicate circumcision in one breath, and then break his own law by circumcising Timothy in the next. 

2) Evaluating Ideologies


The next issue to evaluate in understanding that Paul was not an in activist is that of ideology.  Paul held to a biblical world view and his reasons for presenting teachings on circumcision different from the intactivists in a) procedure and purpose, or b) how he views the natural world. 

a) Procedure and Purpose


Intactivism is a movement founded on the principles of keeping genital integrity,  for the sake children's rights, parent's rights (as they relate to hospital policy), sexual pleasure,  and the risks associated with a procedure they believe to be only cosmetic, both physical and psychological.   The extreme end of of this movement believes circumcision to be genital mutilation and an abusive practice and even advocates for legislation banning this procedure.  In all, the intactivist position takes strong offense at the procedure of circumcision.  

As an ideological issue, Paul does not address any of these concerns.  No where in the bible does Paul discuss the procedure, which he would have been trained in performing as a Pharisee.   And while the bible, at large, does have various passages that discuss the actual procedure,  it is never presented in a negative light, throughout the whole of God's word.  No where in the bible, including the Paul's specific teachings, is there ever any offense at the procedure of circumcision. 

In the case of his teachings on circumcision, Paul was only concerned about the purpose behind the decision, however, not as it related to health care, but solely as it related to the gospel! 

In context, we need to look at what is happening with the early church as revealed both in how he related to the issue of circumcision regarding Titus, and then his decision to circumcise Timothy.  

Galatians 2 opens by telling us that Paul returned to Jerusalem after an interval of 14 years, because of a revelation he had received in which he needed to go and explain what he had been preaching to the gentiles. 

In the time that he was away, we learn that a confusion was present:
 "because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage."  v. 4
The "false brethern" were either non-believers posing as "brothers" in the faith, or those who had fallen into a wrong teaching.  Either way, they brought a false message:   
"Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1)
The idea was that the gentiles must first become Jews in order to receive the Jewish Messiah, which was a distortion of the truth.  We are saved by grace through faith, and the false brothers were bringing a false teaching that said justification was found in keeping the law, hence his charge in Galatians 5, about falling from grace by coming under this false teaching.  

In fact, this false teaching was not even biblical truth prior to Yeshua's death and resurrection.  In Romans 4,  inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul tells us this about Abraham: 

For we say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.”  How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.  Romans 4:9-12
Circumcision was never God's plan for salvation.  Abraham was credited or as some versions say, justified, by faith and faith alone.  Circumcision was an act of obedience for the Jewish people, but even under the law, it was not a precursor for being saved.  

The teaching presented by the "false brothers" was well beyond the truth of scripture, and the circumcisions taking place were coerced as noted by the language in Galatians 2. Yet, Titus was not compelled or forced by the false teaching to be circumcised through the instructions of Paul (v.3).  He nor Paul submitted to this teaching,  and this was for the full purpose "that the truth of the gospel would remain with you." (v.5).  In the case of Titus, it was for the sake of the gospel that he was not circumcised. 
 
Obviously, the teaching being pushed by the false brothers stirred up a great deal of trouble in the early church.  This resulted in "The Counsel of Jerusalem" in which the elders determined by way of the Holy Spirit that the gentile believers needed only to 1)
abstain from things contaminated by idols  2) abstain from fornication 3) abstain from what is strangled 4) abstain from blood (Acts 15:19-21).
 

Those points are the only measure of the law that the gentiles were to be held in account, so clearly,  it is not commanded for Gentiles to keep the law of circumcision, clarifying the distortion presented by the false brothers.  The elders did not, however, prevent the willful choosing of joining in with their Jewish brothers in Yeshua by keeping any further measure of the Law that helped to grow their faith in the Messiah, or aid in spreading the gospel.  

Paul's decision to circumcise Timothy, after The Counsel of Jerusalem, is indication of this.  


Ultimately, his choice to do so was inspired by the same spirit that led him to instruct Titus to abstain.  Titus was Greek by birth, through both of his parents, and to be circumcised  would have presented a confusion to the gospel, particularly in light of the false teaching in circulation.  Timothy, on the other hand, had a Greek father, but was Jewish through his mother's lineage.  Even though she raised him as Jewish, he had not been circumcised, which Paul presumed to be a possible stumbling block for the non-believing Jews with whom they would interact on their travels. 

Often when relating to the non-believing Jews, Paul took a more conservative approach to the law in order to show, as a living example, that the New Covenant in Messiah Yeshua, Jesus Christ, did not contradict the Torah or Tanach, the Law and the Prophets.  In the case of Timothy, it was for the sake of the Gospel that he was circumcised.

Also, what I find significant is that this measure brought Timothy fully into Paul's life as a "spiritual son."  According to the Torah, the command to circumcise was one the Lord gave for parents to provide for their sons.  If a Jewish man was uncircumcised it was through the disobedience of his parents. (Visit the link on Intactivism in the intro of this post for a fuller discussion on this as it relates to Moses).  In the New Testament, we have examples of both Mary and Joseph living in obedience to this command by circumcising Yeshua, Jesus, in Luke 2: 21-39, and Elizabeth and Zechariah circumcising John in Luke 1:59-66.  Paul carried out an act of a very Jewish life by circumcising Timothy. 

In terms of ideology, 
Paul was not offended by the procedure of circumcision. He was solely concerned about the truth of the Gospel, and moved in that spirit of freedom and truth, both in his instruction for Titus to remain uncircumcised, and for Timothy to become circumcised.  The heart of the matter was the same in both contexts.  Therefore, Paul did not share the ideology of an intactivist in terms of the circumcision procedure.   

 b) Paul's view the natural world. 

Within Natural and Attachment parenting and the birth choice movement comes the basic idea, in an un-nuanced form that natural = good and unnatural = bad.  This concept is only accurate to a point, which as believers we should understand.  The bible does not support the idea that the natural world is intrinsically good at present.  Rather, we learn in Gen 3: 17-18 that because of Adam's sin: 

Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
What was good at creation was marred by sin and no longer in perfect conditions.   This applies to all creation, our bodies and all that grows and lives on the earth.  We are in a position that is broken and imperfect, until the time of Messiah Yeshua's return when He will make all things new.  Meanwhile, we have been charged with the creative commission, to be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the  earth, learning and using the Lord's natural systems to their greatest potential, and using our creativity to innovate.  (Gen 1:28).  That charge was given before the fall, and labors of the our efforts intensified afterward, but also our acts of innovation can be an expression of grace in best using a broken system.

When the Lord gave the law, He did so through the prophet Moses, admonishing His people: 
40 So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” (bold emphasis mine)  Deut 4:40
The Law was part of the means the Lord granted to the nation of Israel to subdue the earth and bring order to the Land that He had promised the decedents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

If I could interject this teaching on Paul for a moment to share my own opinion, I believe that the command to circumcise was part of this plan for subduing the earth, both in a natural and super natural sense.  Its very presence in scripture is the essence of critique on the notions of the natural ideal, indicating that we are more than flesh, more than mammals, but unique in all creation.  

The Lord created the male body from the dust of the earth.  He blew His own breath into that body for life.  Yet in Genesis 17 He commanded that something natural, the foreskin, be removed as a sign of His covenant, in order to set apart a people who with birth His son, who would, through his shed blood, fulfill the command to subdue the earth by redeeming us from sin - an intervention on the natural progression of creation - a plan formed before the foundation of the world.   That the Creator God would command a natural part of the body, that He created, to be removed is offensive if our view of the natural world is out order.  Perhaps, though, that is exactly why He purposed that flesh: to be removed, unveiling a plan to set apart a people to birth His son.   

Besides the spiritual implications, in preparing a people to birth His son, the Messiah, there are natural implications as well. 

The Lord knew about that natural body and He knew how to protect it from disease.  The command to circumcise is the oldest command given the nation of Israel, granted *before* the Lord brought forth Isaac from the womb.  Just four generations later, they fled to Egypt during a famine where they grew into a large and numerous people over a span of 400 years.  For 400 years, they circumcised their sons, they grew into a nation, and then they were granted the full portion of the law. 

To restate from the previous section:  Even under the Law, they were not saved through the law,  or by being circumcised.  It was through faith in God that Abraham was justified, and then his circumcision followed.  The flesh was not removed before his justification, but after.  (See Romans 4) (This does not mean the Jewish people are saved today through faith that does not recognize Yeshua's work on the cross - another discussion for another time).  The Torah practice of circumcision does not contradict any of the words Paul spoke to the Galatians in the 5th Chapter.  Again, In no time in history was circumcision ever a means of salvation, yet the Creator God commanded thus forth.

If this practice was as harmful, risky, and dangerous as the intactivist proponents claim, then why would a loving God command His chosen people to do something that was harmful?  And why did they thrive?  Especially in conditions that were far less sanitary that we have today.  If natural is better, thus an uncircumcised penis is better, then why did a God who desired that it may go well with you and with your children command his people to remove the foreskin?  Does He not know what is best for the bodies that He made?  All of this is not to say that every parent should circumcise their sons, but do you see how this idea moves away from a biblical world view, in how it speaks of something the Lord our God commanded? 

Paul does not discuss the law as a means of health and wellness, but he does speak forth:
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.  2 Tim 3:16-17
And this, he spoke under inspiration of the Holy Spirit before the New Testament was canonized. In context, this passage is speaking of the Old Testament.  Here, Paul upholds the law as purposeful even within the new covenant. 

Likewise, Paul upholds the understanding granted in Genesis, affirming this in Romans 8:19-22:
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, [i]in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
That natural is not intrinsically better than the unnatural, post the fall of man, the present era in which we dwell.  All creation waits in corruption to be freed from sin and restored to its original state.   And Paul also admonishes that it is not to be worshiped: 
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (bold emphasis mine)  Romans 1:20-25
Paul is essentially explaining here that when human kind neglected to see God through creation, and filled their understanding with their own false speculations, this led to the worship of nature - this is the birth of animism, paganism, new paganism, pantheism, etc.  The resultant curse is that their bodies would be dishonored among them.   This perspective relates directly to the curses for disobedience found in Deut 28, of which I explain in my Placentophagy post. 

It is critical for believers in Yeshua, Jesus, to keep creation and our ideals about the natural world in their appropriate place as it relates to God, and always...  ALWAYS...  worship the creator, and not the creation. 

This perspective on the brokenness of the natural, again, is a biblical world view held by Paul, an ideology not shared within the intactivist movement. 

Where Does This Leave Us? 

The intention of this post was not to determine pros and cons of circumcision, or to make a statement as to what choice parents should make.  You have to decide that on your own.  When looking at the word of God on this matter, its evident that we have freedom to choose.  Even as the mother of a circumcised son, I believe with my whole heart that the Lord can be glorified through either decision, just as He was gloried through both Titus and Timothy.  We are free to leave our sons with their foreskins, and we are free to have them circumcised.  The only place of problem would be for a parent who believes circumcision = salvation.

When it comes to adopting the intactivist perspective, however, I do think its clear that this does not align with a biblical world view.  While Paul's teachings, as well as the decision at the Jerusalem Counsel, certainly grant freedom to remain uncircumcised, one can not use the teachings of Paul to justify an intactivist perspective on this issue any more than one can use the teachings of Paul to say that every baby boy should be circumcised.  In doing so, it is not taking the whole of scripture into consideration, and imposing a concern on the scenarios in scripture that doesn't exist, thus presenting a false teaching. 

Can you have an uncircumcised son or husband and not be an intactivist?  Absolutely. 

Where it veers off into a difference of ideology is a slippery slope, but I would charge that you can ask the Lord to show you if your opinion is appropriately submitted to His word, or if you have allowed another world view to shape your perspective.  He will speak to you.   

The danger of holding a wrong world view on this topic is that it can allow for, or indicate, a distortion in an understanding of scripture, an understanding of the character of God, and it has had a history of inflaming anti-semitism.  Likewise, to hold the intactivist perspective means that one is likely infringing on the biblically granted freedom of others to make a wise and prayful choice of their own.  What I've experienced is that often those who hold this view speaking out in a way that is abusive and coercive to those who hold a different position or made a different choice (its happened to me).   Unfortunately some even end up manipulating God's word in order for it to fit this perspective rather than allowing scripture to stand alone.  In that case, the intactivist is operating out of the same spirit that Paul rejected in the "false brethern" from Galatians -- the ones who were coercing circumcision.  Think that through a little.  

Whatever your personal choice is on this issue, it is imperative to let God's word stand alone. 

But DO make a prayerful and informed decision.  I'd like to suggest that if you are unsure what to do, ask the Lord to show you if your family is to go in the way of Titus or the way of Timothy.  Study them in the word, see how the Lord speaks to you in scripture.  Also, look at evidence.  And what I mean by that is to make sure you are evaluating scholarly academic research studies that are credible, not just mom-blogs or websites that have "circumcision" in the URL.   

I do believe we are free to be uncircumcised, but I do not believe the intactivist position originates from a biblical world view whatsoever.  Because of that, I'd also like to suggest that parents issue discernment when evaluating material that comes from that movement.  If its root is anti-God, then its fruit will be deceptive.  Source check and weigh facts, and in the end, make a decision that you feel comfortable with all around.
Also, I would like to note that Christian and Jewish  sources that hold to an almost mystical understanding of health benefits should also be discerned properly.   The bible gives freedom to choose on this matter, and does so for a reason. 

I hope this has been helpful for you, in clearing out some confusion by looking at God's word.  In this lengthy study, I did not even breach the concept of "circumcision of the heart" which is a beautiful discussion worth blogging on another occasion! 



He admonishes Timothy, "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching…" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Likewise, to the Romans, he explains, “through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."  (Romans 15:4) - See more at: http://www.etzhazayit.blogspot.co.il/2016/01/pharisees-in-land-look-at-paul-and-law.html#sthash.EWJn6fPM.dpuf









Thursday, February 18, 2016

What does the Bible say about Eating Plancenta


For those of you stopping by to learn about Israel and the Jewish roots of your Christian faith, the title of this post might seem really strange!  I am a mom, however, and one who has a huge love of babies and birthing babies, so sometimes I like to share what I'm learning in this area.  When it comes to the particular topic of ingesting placenta, I can say that living in Israel and being passionate about the word of God has influenced my own personal choice on this issue.  If you are here to learn about Israel and Jewish roots, then you won't be disappointed if you keep reading! 

Growing in popularity within my generation, and the natural childbirth and natural parenting movement is the practice of placentophagy, or eating the placenta post childbirth.   Many women insist on its benefits of renewal after childbirth, but in all intellectual honesty, out side of anecdotal evidence - word of mouth from other women - this topic has not been examined in double-blind placebo controlled research studies to indicate whether its truly safe for mothers and their nursing babies, and the few studies available are not proving any real benefit.

Also, in my vast searching on the web, I have never come across any sort of scriptural study of this practice, so I did one of my own! 

As a believer in Messiah Yeshua, Jesus Christ, I believe it is imperative to not only allow medical research and the experience of other inform my choices, but I also desire to make choices that are inline with a biblical world view.  

Often this submitting to God's word will involve making some spirit led deductions based on principles found in scripture.  Other times, commands are clearly stated.  In the case of placentophagy, you might be surprised to learn that this practice is actually clearly mentioned in scripture.  Its found within the context of moral code, but not with the regulations of a moral code. 

Another way of saying it is that the place where this occurs in God's word is a descriptive passage, not prescriptive, mandating a law in which to abide -- but it is located within the broader context of the Torah, which provides the prescribed law.

With that in mind, I will provide some teachings from scripture, and explain how they shaped my own decision.  I hope to bring about some biblical insight that can help women decided if placentophagy is compatible with their faith expression and relationship with the Lord.  I will tell you in advance that after studying, ingesting the placenta is not for me, nor do I believe it aligns with a biblical world view.  According to how I understand the whole of scripture, the biblical text does challenge this practice, and I want to be clear about that upfront, while noting that I understand that we all have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.   Pray through what the Holy Spirit has shown me, and have a clear and honest conscience before the Lord in your personal decision.    

Also, I am not a health care provider so I will not delve deeply into those arguments. I hope to rightly divide God's word, and clarify with honesty where the spirit is leading me as an individual, as opposed to what should be universal for all believers.  

Where is Placentophagy Found in Scripture?

The book of Deuteronomy, the second law giving text in the Torah, is described by my NASB study bible (which I will use unless otherwise noted), as "the constitution of theocracy in Israel."  The book recounts the telling of the wandering in the desert, and the giving of the law at Sinai.  It then specifies the law, for the second time in scripture, with the reminder: 

"So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time."  Deut 4:40
 
Just before concluding, this book offers a description of the blessings for obedience, followed by the consequences, or as scripture says, the curses for disobedience in chapter 28. It is within this section of blessings and curses, that we find the practice of placentophagy located in scripture.

The Blessings and Curses of Deuteronomy 28

Over the past few years, I have learned to view Leviticus and Deuteronomy as the Lord's instructions for wellness.  This chapter begins with a detailed list of the blessings of wellness and prosperity on the nation of Israel, for keeping His commands.    The Lord describes the many ways the offspring of the body, the offspring of the beast, and the produce of the ground will be blessed (v. 11).  

Many charismatic believers often claim a popular verse from this passage: 
13 The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath...

In context, this "blessing to be the head and not the tail" is contingent on obedience: 

... if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully, 14 and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Even today, under the blood covenant of Messiah Yeshua, we can trust that there are always blessings for obedience, even if not immediately. 


The next section, beginning with v. 15, begins the consequences or curses for disobedience. 

This section basically inverts the beginning portion of this passage, illustrating curses on offspring, agriculture and produce.  The tone of the passages suggests a continual downward spiral, as the Lord hands the people over to their own sin.  Sin lends towards consequences and the consequences beget more sin, which follows more consequences, and so forth.   See verse 20: 

20 “The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.

The passage further describes this nation as taken again into slavery, and being struck with the diseases of Egypt, the place and position from which they had just been freed. 

As the people of Israel continue to degrade to utter desperation, they fall to the most vile and carnal practices of the surrounding pagan nations.   Once we reach v. 53, we find that Israel has begun engaging in the diabolic practice of child sacrifice and cannibalism, common in Molech and Baal worship of the time.  This was a practice that was punishable by death according to Lev 20: 1-5.  In the Deuteronomy passage, it might be said that the children are sacrificed on the alter of survival before being consumed as food. 


53 Then you shall eat the offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you. 54 The man who is refined and very delicate among you shall be hostile toward his brother and toward the wife he cherishes and toward the rest of his children who remain, 55 so that he will not give even one of them any of the flesh of his children which he will eat, since he has nothing else left, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in all your towns.

In my own study, I was first brought to this passage once learning that the placenta actually has the same genomes, or DNA structure, of the baby.  This means the placenta is an organ belonging the the baby, or the flesh of the baby, which made this passage applicable; however,
I have not formed this teaching on placentophagy in the bible around on a interpretation alone.  This passage does not stop with eating the flesh of the children but the following is the only location the bible mentions eating the placenta.


56 The refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and refinement, shall be hostile toward the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter, 57 and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her legs and toward her children whom she bears; for she will eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will oppress you in your towns. (bold emphasis mine)

The Hebrew word for afterbirth in this passage is shilya, which also means placenta.  It is the only place in scripture that this specific word is found. 

When reading this passage through in my ESV bible, the margin notes reference passages Lev 26:29, Jer 19:9, Eze 5:10, with sub-references 2 Kings 6:28-29, and Lam 2:20, 4:10.  All of these passages convey the same sense of carnal degradation that has come though the pressures of being under siege.  The Lord has handed them over to the very demonic and defiling practices of idolatry from which they are commanded to abstain.  In some of these passages, the word "wrath" appears.  

Needless to say, the only time the idea of placentophagy occurs in scripture, it is in a highly negative context. The woman described is acting out in hostility toward, not only her husband and children, but also her placenta, by eating it.  This is not a picture of health and well being.  Rather it is at the very bottom of a downward spiral; one of fleshly pursuits, selfishness and utter desperation, causing the nation of Israel to engage in the most carnal of practices.  In “Notes on Placentophagy,” William Ober describes the course of events as if the Lord had reduced them to "the level of beasts" (souce). 

When reading this passage in isolation, I find it clear that it was not a biblically sanctioned practice to eat the placenta as part of post postpartum recovery.   I do think we can deduce, further more, from various passages that this certainly was not something ancient Israel participated in. 

To provide some fuller context, we need to consider Israel's relationship with Egypt. 

For four hundred years, the nation of Israel lived enslaved in Egypt, where they grew great in number.  In the opening chapter of Exodus, we learn that their strength became threatening to the ruling Pharaoh of the time, who issued a degree to kill all male babies upon their birth.  Through their "fear of God" (v. 17) the ancient Jewish midwives acted in great courage to defy the edict.  They spared the lives of many and were blessed with households of their own (v. 21). 

I often pause and contemplate the beauty of midwifery expounded upon in this passage as they are upheld with the calling to protect life.  Besides the mention of birthing stools,  little is given in scripture in terms of understanding their practice.  There is no indication as to how they might have treated and cared for the needs of a women through pregnancy birth and the postpartum period. 

This was pre-law.

During the time of slavery in Egypt, the only command given the nation of Israel was that of male circumcision.  The rest was prescribed during the time of wandering in the desert after the Exodus, granted through the Lord to Moses on Mount Sinai.   

While it is known that Egyptians of the time certainly practiced placentophagy in relation to rituals of their polytheistic belief system, it is not known whether the Jewish midwives would have followed suite and served the placenta to their birthing mothers.  However,  knowing that the midwives had a "fear of God,"  I personally think it is possible that they might have abstained from including something associated with idolatry within their own practice.

Perhaps the nation of Israel abhorred this practice even while in Egypt.  Deuteronomy 28 was intended to convey a very strong and shocking message to the nation of Israel.  Its not by happen stance that the Lord chose the imagery of a women eating the placenta along with her children to be at the lowest point of degradation.

Israel was commanded to abandon all practices of Egypt at the point of the Exodus, explained once the Law is given, in Leviticus 18:

You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the Lord your God. 

This indicates that even if eating the placenta occurred in Egypt, surrounded in pagan beliefs and idolatry, it was likely to have been abandoned once receiving the law.  The God of Israel is a jealous God and we are to have no other gods before Him. 

In my own curiosity, after reading the Deuteronomy 28 passage, I wondered what happened to the placenta, after birth.  I knew from previous studies that it was not mentioned in the Laws of Motherhood from Leviticus 12.

About ancient peoples across the world, William Ober suggests that women in patriarchal cultures would exclude men from the "mysteries" of childbirth, often leaving many archeological writings inaccurate.   In our case, we are speaking of  God-breathed scripture, not merely archeological writings.  The Lord did not have to ask women how these processes unfolded, because He created them!   Yet, in in His detailed law,  He did not specify instructions for the placenta.  In my opinion, I think it is because unlike pagen religions, the one true  God  who created the placenta knew good and well that it didn't have any mystical powers.  Instead, it was most likely treated as any other unclean thing and discarded outside of the camp.  

And being something unclean is one point we can be sure of. 

The Placenta as Unclean

Firstly, let's clarify the biblical position on eating human flesh, since we're dealing with the ingestion of a human organ.  It might be shocking to learn that Leviticus does not give a clear command against cannibalism.  My opinion it is because this is so obviously not the plan of God's heart, that it seemed almost outrageous to include. 

When looking at scripture, we know that man and woman is made in the image of God, thus set apart from all other creation.  Because of this, we should hold the sanctity of human life in very high regard. This reason we are given the command, Thou shalt not kill

In case our set apart purpose is not enough, we know that human flesh does not fit any of the categories of permissible food from Leviticus 11.  The human body is that of a mammal, and the only permissible mammals were those who had a divided hoof and chews the cud (v. 3).  Any mammal that did not fit that description was unclean. 

The eating of human flesh is also bound by the procedure involved in eating meat.  In order to be consumed as food, the animal must be killed, with its lifeblood poured out and buried (Lev 17: 10-13).  It was unlawful to eat the flesh of an animal, even a permissible animal, who had died of natural causes, or had been killed by another animal (v. 15).  It was unlawful to kill another human being, so one could not have eaten human flesh that was killed by another man, or flesh that was was found dead.  Even in the case of stoning, that person was considered unclean due to the nature of their crime.

In no case is it permissible to eat the flesh of another human being.

Human life was to be set apart, and the nation of Israel was to be set apart among the nations. 

Further indication could be derived from the Laws of Motherhood in Leviticus 12.  While this passage does not give us clear instructions on handling the placenta, upon reading, I think its clear that they also would have deemed a placenta unclean. 

After childbirth, a woman is unclean as in the days of her menstruation. As I wrote in Blessed Laws of Motherhood, from Leviticus 15, we learn that anything an unclean woman touches becomes unclean.  The placenta would have become unclean through the birthing processes, if it was not unclean in and of itself.  (Please see the above link for a fuller teaching as to the blessings of rest granted through this process). 

With this foundation from the Levitical Law in mind, even if the Jewish women would have joined in with their Egyptian neighbors in eating the placenta post birth, which I find doubtful based on the vile imagery from Deut 28, once the Lord brought them out of Egypt and gave the Law at Sinai, I don't think it is something that would have been permitted within their culture. 

The placenta is a human organ that basically died after childbirth, when it was no longer needed. It does not meet the requirements of a permissible meat, either in species, nor in procedure of death and preparation.  It is also an object that passes through a women giving birth.  In association with the blood of her purification, it would have become unclean.   Because of these passages, it would not have been lawful for the nation of Israel to eat the placenta.

The Lifeblood


There is a greater spiritual symbolism in why I don't believe the placenta would have been ingested in ancient Israeli culture, and this also moves into my own personal convictions on this issue as well, and that is the issue of the lifeblood from Leviticus 17

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’ 12 Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.’ 13 So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. 14 “For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’
Levitcus 17:11 is one of the most important verses in the entire bible.  This truth of the lifeblood was to be taken seriously.
 
Ultimately, Messiah Yeshua, God in the flesh of a Jewish man, fulfilled this law when His blood was shed on the cross.  His lifeblood became our atoning sacrifice, once and for all, freeing us from sin and covering us from the wrath of God.  Fulfillment of this law did not do away with the law.  Rather, His shed blood elevated the importance, as in the way that Yeshua describes the sin of lust, something in the thought life, as adultery.  Even within the New Covenant, we are to yield to this law of the lifeblood as instructed to the gentile believers in Acts 15:19-21,  in which we are called to abstain from blood.  It is because He would shed His blood that ancient Israel was to abstain.  It is because He did shed His blood that believers today are to remember this law. 

The placenta is a lifeblood factory.  It cleans the babies blood, enriching in with oxygen and nutrients, while separating it from the mother's blood.  In utero, it served a beautiful and important function in the early stages of the Lord knitting together the life of a new child, a new human person, made in His very image.    While ancient cultures did not have the scientific knowledge we have today, I think they understood profound nature of this organ, which led many gentile nations to worship the creation rather than the creator, and mystify the properties of the placenta.  The fledgling Jewish nation, however,  would have recognized visually that the placenta was both covered and filled with blood, subjecting it to the laws of motherhood, and  lifeblood laws. 

The New Covenant and Present Day Application

Those of us under the blood covenant of Messiah Yeshua, Jesus, are no longer bound to follow the letter of the Law.  However, all scripture is God breathed and suitable for instruction.  There is much we can glean from the passages above and use to make decisions based on revelation that will lend towards greater knowledge of God, and living in the abundant blessings of dwelling in His presence. 

Many moral truths from the Law still stand today.  The greatest of these commands,  being elevated within the New Covenant is that of God's holiness among all the nations.   The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end;  the God who was and is and is to come, His heart burns with an eternal jealous fire.  We are to love Him with our whole being, and have no other before Him. 

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ Matt 22:37

This command is so strong, that even as the Yeshua declared all foods clean, the Holy Spirit still breathed through the leaders of the early church, to abstain from things polluted by idols (Acts 15:19-21)

19 Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, 20 but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (bold emphasis mine)

Freedom and Sanctification for the Sake of the Gospel


In my own life, ultimately, it is the Deuteronomy 28 passage that feels as a double edged sword.  As I read, the stark imagery and the carnal degradation that fuels to the tone of the passage is enough for me to make my own decision on the matter.  In context this practice only happened under the wrath of God and only as a curse for sin. 


I live in the nation of Israel among the Jewish people and often feel called to a different external expression of being "set apart" than many believers in the nations.    However, the more I've studied this issue, the stronger it is in my own heart that I want to honor the Lord and my children, not just my Jewish neighbors, by not participating in the postpartum practice.

I will not willingly bring myself under a curse, or willingly participate in something portrayed as the consequences of disobedience when my freedom was bought and paid for by the blood of my savior.   And since this practice has been associated with idolatry through out the nations, I am laying it aside as a personal statement to the Lordship of Yeshua, Jesus Christ, in my life. 

This is something I personally feel very confident about, especially in considering that there is not medical research to support it as being healthy in the short or long term, and there are currently no studies to evaluate risks (see a few articles here here, and here all commentating on the same study)  

We do know that humans are subject to fatal diseases from eating human flesh.  After studying through Deut 28, seeing disease following sin and flesh and carnal practices, I have personal concerns about how our bodies (and souls) are truly responding to ingesting the placenta.  The Placenta is not sterile and we don't know if its harmful or not.  At present, it is not an evidence based decision, and that's simply being honest.  Since those questions aren't answered in medical research,  as of now,  I personally see wisdom in being cautious about this practice.  My biblical world view also tells me that in light of the negative description found in scripture, there is further reason to take caution. 

While I do not believe Placentophagy to be inline with a biblical world view,  I recognize where this could be an issue of liberty and prudence, from a theological standpoint, as it crosses over into some broader issues of bio-ethics as well.  Since this is not an evidence based decision, something has to influence every woman's choice on this matter.  For me, ultimately it has been a study through God's word.   Because of the freedom passages, in the likes of 1 Corinthians 10,  it is not my heart to tell you what to do.  Rather, my hope is that this post provided a greater understanding of the scriptural perspective, which does not support or encourage placentophagy.  I hope that readers will take away a sense that God does care about this specific choice, and  I do hope it will be helpful for others who desire to make an informed decision, even if that decision is different than my own. 

If you want more science, go here:
Placentophagy: A Pop-Culture Phenomenon or an Evidence Based Practice?
Placentophagia in Humas and Nonhuman Mammals:  Causes and Consequences (The section on Humans begins on p. 187 of the text/ p.12 of the pdf document)

After my post went live, I found this well done Biblical World View approach, holistically covering issues that I did not broach, as mine was just looking at scripture.  Go here:
Eating the Placenta, a Christian World View Approach

Related Posts:
Earth Worship and Child Sacrifice 
Pharisees in the Land:  A Look at Paul and the Law