Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28, 2021
Fr. Al, OFM-Cap, main celebrant: Benedict Martin, the Church of God welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior.
Fr. Al: My dear brothers and sisters, let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ to look lovingly on this child who is to be baptized, on his parents and godparents, and on all the baptized.
Tabitha: By the mystery of your death and resurrection, bathe this child in light, give him the new life of baptism and welcome him into your holy Church.
All: Lord, hear our prayer.
Anastasia: Through baptism and confirmation, make him your faithful follower and a witness to your gospel. All: Lord, hear our prayer
Is it your will that Benedict Martin should be baptized in the faith of the Church, which we have all professed with you?
Parents and Godparents: It is.
Benedict Martin, you have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven.
Meditative Prayer: We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Or, a posterior labor natural hospital birth.
After my last baby, we were bound and determined to get to a hospital this time. When I started having slightly painful contractions at 39 weeks, we finished up the family evening prayer time at 7 pm and called our babysitter. We did not stop to put the big kids to bed or make school lunches, aware as we were that there would be a Covid-19 test I had to pass in the emergency room before they even let me on the ward. I had heard there was a birthing tub and I wanted to use it.
We arrived at the hospital and contractions had slowed down a bit. They put me in a triage bay and it became clear that laboring women did not fit into the expected patient behavior in the ER. I declined repeatedly to lay down, pacing and squatting in the narrow space between the bed and assorted medical equipment. I declined the antibiotics, IV painkillers, and anti-vomiting medicine when I threw up. My contractions stayed about four minutes apart. After two hours, I was heartily sick of that triage bay, and very glad when our Covid-19 tests came back negative and I got a ride to the maternity ward.
The maternity room did have a large, deep tub, and a shower, and a birthing ball. Things were looking up. I gave my medical history to the midwife on duty and discovered that she had been at Kudjip Hospital before. She checked my dilation and proclaimed me 4 cm. I declined to have my water broken. I had to endure 15 minutes of external fetal monitoring, laying down with the monitors strapped to my belly. When I got up my back was really uncomfortable. (Hint, hint). The midwife left us and I roamed around the room, leaning over during contractions and getting counterpressure from Brandon, or bouncing on the ball. The contractions intensified, but not to the point that I had to make noise. Around 2 am I was getting discouraged, so Brandon suggested I lie down and try to rest. We got about 3 hours of patchy sleep. When we decided to get up around 5 am, the night midwife checked me again before going off-duty: 6 cm, and no, I still did not want my water broken or painkillers.
The day midwife arrived and introduced herself, and said that she understood we wanted a natural birth (finally, someone who got it). She put the fetal monitor on my belly just for a few minutes, not even strapped on. Then I headed for the tub, and, reader, it was even more glorious than I had imagined. It filled quickly with hot water, and the sloshing over my back during a contraction was delightful.
After some time, Brandon talked me out of the tub (he wanted to go get himself breakfast, and thought I should eat mine). I moved to the shower to rinse off, and that was equally glorious. The water pressure was amazing, and with the hot water pounding on the small of my back I could barely feel the contractions. A towel finally arrived, and I got dressed and went to see the breakfast.. which was slices of untoasted bread, two hardboiled eggs, a slice of processed cheese, and a salad with onions (?!). I grudgingly ate some egg to supplement the dates I had been noshing on and resumed my roaming about the room.
Something weird about this labor was that I kept bleeding. Mostly it was just like a semi-continuous bloody show, but during one contraction there was some splashing of blood on the floor. The midwife barked, “On the bed! Do you have an IV line in your arm?” Me: “Yes, they put it in at the ER, why?” Midwife: “So we can give you medication in an emergency.” Me: “…Is this an emergency?”
After an internal exam she determined it was not, in fact, an emergency, and that I was at 8 cm. The floor was cleaned and I resumed moving about, laboring. The contractions were now painful enough that I had to vocalize through them. I was feeling low and wishing for the rice sock I had left at home, when Brandon had the idea to fill a nalgene with some of the nice hot water in the bathroom. Pressing it against my lower back in a contraction helped a lot. The heat from the water bottle helped my mind interpret my pelvic sensations as heat as well, rather than pain.
It was now about 10:30 am and I was exhausted and discouraged. I was laying draped over the birthing ball, almost falling asleep in between contractions, and wishing my water would break already so that I would be in transition and have the baby, when there was a change in the contractions. I thought, oh yeah, I remember, this is how it needs to hurt for the head to come out. Soon I was catching my breath and grunting slightly during contractions, and the midwife told me again to get on the bed.
I managed to endure being checked for dilation while having pushing-adjacent contractions, one of my least favorite parts of labor, and was cleared to assume my birthing position. I overhead the midwife explaining to the trainee doctor in the room that knee to chest was in fact a normal position for a natural labor. My water finally broke after the first few real pushes. The midwife really shone during pushing, helping me breathe through contractions, and Brandon was busy encouraging and keeping me clean. The top of baby’s head appeared, and she told me to wait and push with a contraction. Then the baby’s head came out– face up! This is why my back had been killing me for hours! After an excruciating wait for a contraction, with the midwife’s help in positioning so I wouldn’t tear, I pushed the rest of the baby out!
It’s a boy! Brandon received him in a blanket. I wanted to get off my hands and knees and hold the baby, but the midwife was doing something with the umbilical cord – collecting some cord blood to find his blood type. I reached back and touched his little foot. After the cord was cut, the baby went to get cleaned off and weighed (3.57 kg/7lb,13oz), and Brandon went with him. I was getting resettled on the bed, pushing out the placenta, and being checked for internal tearing (my other least favorite part of labor.) No tearing, or hemorrhaging, despite all my contraction bleeding, praise the Lord and pass the dates.
A nurse tried to get me to put on a hospital gown again, but I explained that I wanted to nurse the baby. He came in all swaddled up and I finally got to see his little squashed face. He latched after some licking and sniffing. I declined more antibiotics (I didn’t tear, after all), IV painkillers, and opioid painkillers. A pediatrician came by and gave Benedict a once-over. He gave me a pep talk about breastfeeding and vaccination, and I assured him blearily that I was a great believer in both.
My blood pressure was low so they had me stay in the birthing room for a few hours while I ate lunch, dozed, drank lots of water, and talked names. Benedict had been Brandon’s boy name choice for the past several pregnancies and I finally came around to it. It honors Pope Benedict XVI, and the nickname Ben reminds us of Brandon’s late college roommate. Martin is for Brandon’s father and grandfather, following our grandparent naming pattern, and honors St. Martin of Tours, one of Brandon’s favorite saints.
After another lovely shower and a discussion about when I could leave the hospital (they were shocked by the idea I might go the same day I had the baby, and we decided to stay and recover lost sleep and blood) we moved to the postpartum room. Our babysitter stepped up to the challenge and put four kids to bed for the second night in a row. In the morning, after another breakfast mysteriously containing salad with onions, I had my belly squished, hemoglobin checked, declined one last round of antibiotics and habit-forming painkillers, and we were free to go introduce Benedict to his sisters and brother.
To my friends in-country who might be considering this hospital, I would say it is worth it for the labor ward amenities and midwives. However, bring your own towels and wipes, be prepared to pay for everything the staff use down to the gloves, and above all be able to advocate for yourself.
We’re saying the Christmas Anticipation prayer daily with the intention of our transition to life as a family of seven, with a special awareness of what the hour and moment a baby boy comes into the world is like. Please pray for us too.
Dear patient readers,
Here is a post about a family hike from last November. First, is Halloween 2019:
So last November, Pacific Adventist University (PAU), which owns a huge tract of land across from CTI decided to fence their property. We decided to take a walk along the clearing made for the fence so that we could access some nearby hills.
Rebecca decided to stay at the bottom with Pippi and Tobiah. I went up the knob with Tabby and Annie and their friend Micah. The workers (with a compressor and welders) were quite happy for us to pass through and see the top. They acted like we weren’t strange at all!
When we got back to the road, we discovered that PAU was also building a fence there too, thereby closing off one of my favorite walking loops. The workers were happy to help us break through the fence that they were building . . .
2020 Update – Now that the fence is up, it would be nearly impossible to get to the knob again. I still go through the fence by the road to get to my walking loop though . . .
In this post, I conclude my (almost) summit of Mt. Giluwe from last year. My third day on the mountain consisted of rising before dawn so that we could get off the mountain in time for me to catch my plane back to Moresby.
Fr. Andrew drove us back to Hagen. After a quick shower and shave, he took me to the airport. I walked to a nearby restaurant, McRoyal, that I used to go to when I lived in Jiwaka. Alas, my favorite item, the moussaka, was off the menu. They had added a number of noble birds in a far too small cage.
On the whole, I was quite happy that I tried Giluwe despite not being physically up for it. I miss being among the people and mountains of Papua New Guinea. Spending time with my guides reminded me of the simple strength and generosity of the PNG people, which makes it such a privilege to work in their country.
Let me resume my account of my almost summit of Mt. Giluwe, which took place last year early July. We awoke early before dawn and started on our way. Once again, it was clear that I would not be able to keep up with my friend Fr. Andrew Falat SVD, who lives and works at a parish in the highest mountain range in PNG. So we split up – I went with a local catechist named Matthew.
The day began rainy and misty. We walked up through tracts of grassland between tracts of stunted rainforest. At one point there was a sizable swamp that we had to carefully navigate. Eventually we reaches a tremendous plateau full of its own ridge lines, ponds, and wildflowers. The sun came out intermittently.
Not accurately judging the distance to the summit, I asked my guide if we could detour to a prominent looking hilltop. Later I realized that there were many such hilltops. Still climbing up this one gave me a good view of landscape. We also reached an abandoned radio tower, which had apparently been vandalized many years ago by the locals.
Eventually we began going up the last hillock before the summit. You may remember that I had had dengue just a week or so before this trip. The weakness connected with the altitude and a lack of fitness mean that I was continuously having to stop to catch my breath. But the weather was good and I was determined to go as far as I could.
In the last picture with the summit in the background, you can see that the summit lies on a ridge line. Beyond that ridge line is a deep mountain valley that cuts the Giluwe plateau in two. The summit itself is also cut in two, and the guides claimed that both sides are the same height. In the local language, the side I was going up was called “place where dogs sleep” whereas “Giluwe” properly referred to the summit on the other side and may be the name of the traditional spirit of the mountain. Our side is accessible from Hagen whereas the other side is accessible from Mendi. To do both sides properly would require a three night trip and walking from Western Highlands to South Highlands.
At this point, I met Fr. Andrew and his guides. They had summitted in the sunshine and were now on their way back. It was about 1 pm. There was some concern about afternoon showers, but it had been intermittently cloudy and drizzling all day, so I still wanted to try to reach the top.
As we reached the top, it began to rain and then sleet. Visibility became erratic. I had brought warm clothes, but I had to share them with my guide who was barefoot and in shorts! The top was a series of rocky outcroppings connected by narrow and steep bridges. There were sheer drops to the left and right. I reached the second-highest point and my guide congratulated me for having summitted Giluwe. There was a slightly higher point further on, but with the cold and sleet and the vertigo of being surrounded by cliff faces, I decided to turn around. If I slipped going up to the last point, the results would have disastrous. Turning back was obviously the right decision, but it was hard for me as I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to return.
The way back was hard going, retracing our steps in the sleet and freezing rain. The only sound was our footprints and the patter of precipitation on my hood.
I ended up returning to our bush house long after dark. All told, I walked from 5 am to about 10 pm. Fr. Andrew only took about half as long. I thoroughly enjoyed our second foil meal. Despite my weariness, the smoke of the cooking fire and a leaking roof made for a rough night.
Still I am most thankful for having visited a place so close to heaven.
Last year at the beginning of July, I had the pleasure of attending the Melanesian Association of Theological Schools conference at Christian Leaders Training College, which is an Evangelical college only 15 minutes from Good Shepherd seminary. I made plans beforehand to leave the conference a day early and hike up Mt. Giluwe, the second highest mt in PNG with my old hiking buddy Fr. Andrew Falat SVD. The two weeks before the conference, I was sick with dengue fever. As my hiking plans were already made, I decided to give Giluwe a try, as I did not know when I would have the chance again.
I enjoyed seeing some old colleagues at the conference. Unfortunately, my paper on St. Thomas as a model for synthesizing faith and reason in understanding the doctrine of creation was pitched too high and many people did not understand it.
At the MATS business meeting, I volunteered to take the minutes. We elected a new executive. I turned down the nomination for President (I probably would not have won the vote, and I am happy that it is Maxon), but I ended up as Secretary/Treasurer!
Andrew picked me up before dawn on July 4th and dropped me off at Good Shepherd so that I could attend mass. I saw a lot of my former students. I nearly cried, with all the memories of having been there for 4.5 years.
We then drove to Hagen town to buy some food and leave behind the non-essentials. Then we went to the Tambul region which is a mountainous area between Hagen, Wabag, and Mendi. Our destination was an outstation at Kiripia parish, where Andrew had arranged for a guide.
The main church was quite nice. There had been a long-serving American missionary priest, Fr. Joe Bisson, who had built up the parish. He retired about 4 years ago.
An unexpected site at Kiripia parish was that some Mary statues were exuding liquids that were claimed to be tears, oil, and blood. I mostly played with the baby while Fr. Andrew investigated.
Next was the outstation itself. The people enthusiastically greeted us. A group of young men and boy accompanied us on the hike. They insisted on carrying our bags for us.
Andrew and were pretty mismatched as hikers. His parish is in the mountains towards Mt. Wilhelm, so he walks the Highlands like everyday. I’ve been living on the coast, work in an office, and I just had dengue. I got winded easily. So I proposed that we split up as Andrew walked about twice as fast as me.
We stayed in a traditionally made bush house. There is a fire in the middle, but the smoke is supposed to simply seep out the thatched roof, which makes almost unbearably smokey inside. Still it was warm and dry.
I had bought materials to make foil meals (hobo meals) – potatoes, brocoli, zucchini, canned meat. No one else, even Fr. Andrew, had prepared a meal like that before. They were a big hit. Andrew marveled at how tasty they were.
Tobiah turned 4 a few weeks ago! On the day of his birthday we went to an indoor playground, to jump in the ball pit and fix the play kitchen with pretend tools.
￼￼￼On the weekend we went to Tutu beach resort, as he requested, for a barbeque. From there we took a short but exciting boat ride to Lion island, where we explored and swam on the white sandbar.
Tobiah’s favorite colors are brown and black. His favorite astronomical objects are the moons of Mars. His favorite Aboriginal legend is the rainbow snake. His favorite food is carrots. Other favorites are the classics: sticks, tree climbing, toy cars, construction, Richard Scarry. He will be glad when his partner in crime, Tabitha, is home for summer vacation in a week. If Pippi is crying he will share a hotwheel car with her to cheer her up. He is the kid most likely to just sit and think for a while.
We love you, Tobiah! 4 will be a great year!
This is the year of the laity for the Catholic Church, so there is an extra emphasis on lay people being involved in the Sunday liturgy. About two month ago, Annie and Tabby joined the local kids in the entrance procession.
The girls have not really been in any sing-sings in Moresby, but between school and church, they are still dancing.
Today we went on a hike a Varirata National Park up in the mountains northeast of Port Moresby with our friends the Aspins. This post, however, is of pictures from our first trip to Varirata about three months ago.
The road up the mountains is a winding, narrow road with some hairpin turns. Unlike the highlands highway, it is completely paved. The views on the way up are amazing – towering cliffs on both sides of a narrow river valley. The park itself has good roads, numerous camping sites, and decently maintained trails.
We had a picnic lunch at the lookout.
This was Perpetua’s third big hike – we took her up Mt. Erima and Mt. Lalokai before.
From the lookout, we went on a 2.5 km trail that went along the edge of the ridge. I was surprised that it was a lot of up and down (I was carrying Tobiah!). We passed two other lookouts, which were nice, but not as good as the first. The third one was great and had a better view of the ocean, but it was hazy . . .
From here, it was about a 2 km walk to a parking lot that we had shuttled a car too. All in all, it was great day and hike.
This post is dedicated to our friends, April, Marco, and Hadassah, who have moved to Winnipeg so that April and Marco can train as ministers in the Salvation Army. We miss them dearly.
I’ve been buried alive by administrative work, but I’ll try to put up some new posts as a break from marking papers and course selection.
Annie turned 8 and Tabitha 5 on April 16 and 22 respectively. Like last year, we had their party at Adventure Park, a little nature/amusement part just down the road from CTI’s backside.
The main events were cake and waterslides.
It was a great day. The kids could play on these slides forever.