Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Math and Miscellaneous Updates

Eric and Math

This school year, Eric has joined this AWESOME math team for other smart kids who are homeschooled. I love it. I'm a very verbal person, but even I have difficulty explaining just how great it is. Smart math peers. Social interaction. Teamwork. Friendly competition. Public speaking skills (when it's his turn to demonstrate a solution to everyone else at the board). Intellectual stimulation. Basically, it involves academic, social, and life skills all piled together.


It's also nice that Eric wins a lot. (Although the times he hasn't won, I have been pleased at his sportsmanship.)

Every week, about twenty kids meet at a public library for ninety minutes. The leader, Brook, is fabulous. She is an ER physician who got involved because of her son. Her son is grown now, but she still volunteers her time to help other "mathy" kids. She has told me that Eric reminds her of her child and she keeps wanting to hug him. I said she could go ahead, since he's not anti-hug like some autistic kids, at least not with people he knows and likes. And who would he like better than an awesome math coach?

In terms of format, Brook does announcements and then dismisses most of the adults. I can't stay in the room since I instruct Daniel during that time and occasionally chase toddlers. I believe that she divides the kids into tables of four apiece (grouped by ability) and assigns them problems. Generally, they see how far they can get individually, and then they compare answers and solutions, sharing ideas for how to approach the nastier problems. Occasionally the kids do practice versions of specific math tests or rounds of competition. Some parents and high school students are scattered throughout the room to help facilitate and proctor as necessary, but they try to let the kids work through things themselves.

Humility and Rivalry

I am rejoicing that Eric has found some math peers. Hopefully he and some of the other really talented kids will become good friends and sporting rivals. Whether they get to be buddies or not, I expect they'll be seeing quite a lot of each other over the next several years. At a minimum, they will need to work together for team rounds at competitions.

(After his very first math practice, Eric stumbled out of the room looking dazed. He had gotten perhaps a fourth of his practice questions correct, and this was an innovative experience for him. "Well," I said, philosophically when I saw his paper, "Perhaps this will help to build character. Keep you humble." Eric answered wryly, "It's working.")

Event 1

In late September, Eric entered his first math competition. Generally, these have several individual rounds, like "Target," "Sprint," and "Number Sense" (which has brutal enforcement of its stupid formatting rules, like marking an answer wrong if it contains a comma or a leading zero before a decimal place). Then groups of four kids compete in the team round. All the kids answer the same problems and receive an overall score, but compete against other children from their own grade.

Competing at the elementary school level, against kids in 3rd through 6th grades, he placed 1st in 5th grade and 4th overall. Since they award trophies by grade, he got an individual 1st place trophy. His "B" team also placed the highest of the 5th-grade teams and 2nd overall. (The homeschoolers' "A" team had the highest 6th-grade and overall scores.) It was a nice, gentle introduction for Eric.

Event 2

A month later, he attended his first middle school competition. This time he competed against kids in grades 6th through 8th--plus a few outstanding kids, like himself and a profoundly gifted fourth-grader who competed "as" 6th-graders.

(Note: You're allowed to jump up like that in mathleague contests, but not mathcounts. If Eric had tried to claim he was a 6th grader at a mathcounts event, he would never have been allowed to compete at the 5th grade level again. Yes, it's all rather confusing and overwhelming at first. I'm still learning the systems and am very grateful for the experienced coaches who just tell me what to do.)

At that first middle school event, Eric placed 3rd in 6th grade and 8th overall. He still got an individual trophy, again because trophies are awarded by the top three scores per grade.

It was at that event I saw the "countdown" round for the first time. It is rather like Quiz Bowl or Academic Olympics. The moderator flashes a math question on a projector. Two kids at a time face off and have ninety seconds to ring in. The first kid to achieve a majority out of three or more toss-up questions advances to the next round. Paper and pencil are allowed, but not calculators. It was glorious to watch the little fourth-grade genius whomp kids twice his grade and twice his size. (Eric advanced to the second round and then froze. That's okay. I think a little experience will do wonders.)

Events 3 and 4

In early December, Eric competed in middle and elementary events back-to-back. I signed him up for the middle school one and only registered him for the elementary contest later in the day after I determined that he was doing okay. (I didn't want him to commit to eight hours of math and then be exhausted and cranky.)

Well, he did great at both.

I helped out a lot in the scoring room, and got results on my laptop. (I used them to help me write out certificates and make power point slides for the awards.)

In the middle school competition, he came in 2nd in 6th grade and 3rd overall. This is against kids in grades 6 through 8.

But in the elementary contest later that afternoon, Eric came in 1st place, overall, in every category except number sense (which is the one with the idiotic rules). He had the highest total score for the competition.

People kept crowding around, asking to see their own kid's results, and they would see Eric's scores and say "Wow. Look at that kid who got a 70 in the target round!" And I would smile and say, with abject humility--never mind. I would grin and say "Yeah. That's MY KID!"

Jon and I are practically arm wrestling each other for who gets to take Eric to these meets.

For the team rounds, he also competed with the "A" team for the first time. (I think a regular 8th-grade kid wasn't there that day, and Eric was the natural replacement. Member ship on the "A" team appears to be a little fluid, depending on each contest's age eligibility rules and which kids attend.

Also, they used my laptop to hook up to a projector to display the power point slides showing the results. This means that in both competitions, a hundred-odd people got to see an adorable photo (from last year) of baby Jeff in a Christmas stocking and Santa hat. (Cue lots of spontaneous "Awwwwww"s.) They stared at that for several minutes before getting the drumroll of "And in eighth place, fourth grade..."

Oh, and Eric's homeschool "A" team totally won the team event. Are you surprised?

Too Many Trophies

So, the breakdown for the semester goes like this:

September. Competing against kids in 3rd - 6th grades. 1st in 5th grade. 4th overall.
1st place 5th grade team team. 2nd place overall team.
October. Competing against kids in 6th - 8th grades. 3rd in 6th grade. 8th overall.
December. Competing against kids in 6th - 8th grades. 2nd in 6th grade. 3rd overall.
1st place 6th grade team. 1st place overall team.
Same day. Competing against kids in 3rd - 6th grades. 1st in 5th grade. 1st overall.
1st place 6th grade team. 1st place overall team. Top individual score in 3/4 categories.

Two of those team trophies now live at our house. Apparently the protocol is that each team member who cares gets a chance to take the trophy home for a week. After it has circulated, they decide where it will end up permanently. If they can't agree, Brook awards it to the kid with the highest individual score. Eric's teammates have been gracious about letting him keep the hardware. I think the next time they win, I will coach Eric in advance about demurring.

So we now have four individual and two team trophies living on our mantle. At this rate, we'll need a much larger space soon. It sounds like a good math problem. "Eric earns an average of one individual trophy per month. Each trophy occupies a volume of approximately 9" x 3" x 3". At this rate, how large of a trophy case will Eric need after eight years?" (Also, I'm thinking that making such a case might be a great project for Grandpa Berry the next time he visits.)


Now, it seems unfair to devote all my time to bragging about Eric. After all I have FOUR brilliant boys.

Recently, Daniel built a complicated creation and he explained all the internal circuitry to me. It was a top-secret base, powered by three "super-charged" batteries. On it's lowest setting, it could generate an invisibility "cloak" which extends a few feet. At it's largest setting, it could shield several neighborhoods from view. He cranked it up to its full setting, and I worried that Daddy wouldn't be able to get home.

I thought I had some video of this, but apparently not. :( That makes me sad, because it was an awesome creation, and his explanation was even more cool. I loved the way his batteries plugged in smoothly to the base. It was a lot like the ZPMs of Stargate: Atlantis.

He's also a fantastic big brother. He's so kind about volunteering to play with Littles or offer sympathy for bumps. Here's a picture of him helping his younger sibs on a wicker swing from India. (We were in the backyard of some friends who had lived there.)


I just posted about Sammy grappling dramatically with scary monsters. Here are a few other cute quotes:

"I not a baby. I a Sammy!"

Sam: What is that?
Jon: It's a CD spindle.
Sam: Does it spin?

He's working on counting to ten. One, two, and three are pretty solid. Also eight and nine.

A Swaggering, Staggering Pirate

Let's not forget Jeff. Here is some cute video of him walking while wielding a sword. Pirate attack, eeek!

He has also taken to playing "peekaboo" with me, and following directions. If I tell him to crawl over to the diaper changing area, he understands me. He even generally obeys me. Yay! Sweet boy. Also very snuggly. I don't care if he's walking; he's still a baby, not a toddler.

All too soon, Jeff will be winning math contests. But right now, I am focusing on enjoying the pros of each stage and minimizing the cons. I know they grow too fast, and I'm trying not to waste too many minutes.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sam, Melodrama, and Scary Monsters

Sam has taken to waving a foam sword around a lot while shouting "Ha!" Imagine combining fencing with karate and you'll get the right idea.

His older brothers are generally happy to spar with him, which is sweet. (As far as boys trying to decapitate each other goes.)

Yesterday, Sam was playing by himself in the living room. Vague sounds of bouncing on the couch and overturning the piano bench registered distantly in my distracted mind.

Then, abruptly, he rushed into the office. "Mommy! Da scawey monstow got me!" he announced.

"The scary monster got you?" I asked, concerned.

He nodded solemnly.

"But you look fine," I noted. "So it can't have been that bad."

Realizing his error, Sam immediately dropped to the floor, grunted, flopped about like a dying fish for ten seconds, and then lay still, clutching his chest with a final, dramatic groan.

I concede that he likes his daddy better, but he is so totally MY kid.

I also realized that I think of him as a three-year-old, even though his birthday is three months away. He's making up stories, playing with people, not in parallel, begging to go to friends' houses, and speaking in complete sentences. See? He's acting like a three-year-old. He is, he IS. Granted, he threw a huge tantrum today when I put him down for a nap, but I am dismissing that data point as irrelevant. The terrible twos are over. La la la... (I am singing both in joyous triumph and to drown out your ignorant protests that I am deluding myself.) Zippity doo dah...

You deal with the scary monster of the Terrible Twos your way, and I'll handle it my way. Denial is a perfectly legitimate coping strategy.

Three. Three is generally a good year. Granted, it might involve monsters under Sam's bed, but we'll whomp 'em with foam weapons as necessary.

Here is some similar footage from Christmas morning:

I especially liked it when Eric offered to be beaten upon, and Sammy said "No, Eric's not a target."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


In September, I may have created a small political incident in my book club.

I've been trying to get a book club to read Ivanhoe for years. I was never successful in Raleigh, but I had higher hopes for this one. 

After a routine vote to select the next half-year’s titles, our co-ordinator, Tressa, sent out an email saying we had a last-place tie between Ivanhoe and Les Miserables, and she encouraged us “since it IS an election year, feel free to CC the group to stump for your favorite if you think it will swing the vote. This could be fun!”

First, I pointed out that Ivanhoe contained “knights, castles, adventure, historical fiction, Robin Hood, and a tiny amount of social commentary. What's not to love?” Then I asked, “Can we stoop to low chicanery, like bribes? If Ivanhoe wins, I' something drastic. Make a castle cake with little Papo figures besieging it? How does that sound? Sing and tap dance and allow you to post the video on youtube? I am willing to pander to the electorate, provided y'all tell me what it is you want. I draw the line at running up the deficit, though. A girl must have some standards.”

Then I went a little crazy:

I want to go on record as saying that I, personally, have nothing against Les Miserables and even voted for it in the preliminary rounds. A 529 organization wholly disassociated with my campaign, however, has this to say about your choices for the coming fall:

"Les Miserables. The name says it all. A sleazy French novel about corruption and suffering. Victor Hugo portrays thieves and prostitutes as sympathetic characters. Is this the kind of book you want corrupting our morals?

"Ivanhoe stands for virtue. One leading but unattributed newspaper editorial calls Ivanhoe "A moral parable."

"Besides, do you really want to read a 1,500 page novel? At 500 pages, Ivanhoe is smart without being obnoxious. Adventurous without being preachy.

"Let's get back to our Anglo-Saxon roots. Ivanhoe was produced and published in English, helping to keep English-speaking editors and typesetters employed here at home.

"Ivanhoe is about the French conquest of England and the English language. It's bad enough we now derive almost half our vocabulary from French roots; do we need to read books composed completely in that foreign frippery?

"Call Victor Hugo and tell him to take his packet of pretentiousness back to Paris.

"The choice is clear. Ivanhoe. Good for our book club. Good for America.”

--Paid for by The Council to Protect English Independence and Morals.

It worked! Lots of people “flipped” on the issue. My next email ran thusly:

Haha! Negative campaigns really do work!

[Gail does a happy dance. Given that she's trying to do disco to the tune of "Greensleeves," it looks ridiculous. Ah well, you missed your chance to demand youtube rights. Tee hee.]

I'm off to research twelfth-century Norman castles. May I request that we hold the meeting at my home, since even the most over-engineered edifice might crumble in transport? (My rule for a lego castle is that it should be able to withstand moderate stress tests, like abuse by a toddler. My rule for cake castles is don't perform stress tests.)

I'd also be happy to lead the discussion, carefully including points about Anglo-Saxon stock vocabulary and Rebecca's moral choices.

Now that Ivanhoe is the declared victor of this historic election, I can afford to be gracious. I'd like to reach a hand of friendly bipartisanship across the aisle--well, chunnel--and invite Les Miserables to participate in the process. Perhaps I could offer it a cabinet position. Something suitably "socialist," like Secretary of HUD. (Or its British equivalent.)

Nah. I'll just promise to vote for it next time.

Then, because of the surprising number of people I convinced, I felt compelled to issue a small warning:

Oh dear. Now I'm worried about an over-hyped roll-out leading to disappointed reviews.

Perhaps I should publish a disclaimed in small print:

Ivanhoe is not for everyone. Ask your doctor if it is right for you. Reading this novel will not help you to master Middle English. Possible side effects include monomania and the commission of creative anachronisms. Only trained athletes should attempt jousts. A very small percentage of adolescent girls may attempt to jump out of a window after reading this book.

After all that, only three people came, and one of them hadn't read it. :(  But they all agreed the cake was cute.


Castle cake! Unfinished, but we'll just pretend it was undergoing renovations. It should have a maiden in one tower and a fire in another....if it was fated to burn, there was no point in painting the turrets or widening the moat, right? I ran out of time for some features, and I forgot the "kit kat" bar battlements.

My plan now is to wait five years and then re-besiege the group with plaintive requests that at least six people read and discuss it.

As a plus, Sam wandered in and saw the picture on my screen. "That's a castle!" he said, and added "Mommy made da castle." And then, when I minimized the screen, he insisted I bring it back.

I have trained him well.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Doorbell Doom

Many months ago, I had a bad week where various solicitors and visitors interrupted naps over and over.

Irritated, I decided to Take Action.

I only wish I'd had the wit to write this when Jeff was first born. I vaguely recall instances of interruptions then, too, but I was lucky to tie my shoes and drive without getting arrested those first three months, so this would have been beyond me.

Initially, I was going for a parody of "Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight." I couldn't get the meter to work, though, and didn't fancy living on the front porch, interposing my bloodied hands between the doorbell and random visitors. 

Now both my babies are toddlers, but they also still nap most days. So far, the poem, now taped firmly over the doorbell, has a 95% success rate. People opt to knock and then, as a bonus, also tell me they like it.

Doorbell Doom

DON’T! –I beg you—ring the doorbell
‘Twixt the hours of ten and five.
Here be babies, maybe napping,
And a mom but half alive.

Whether you are selling cookies,
Peddling better pest control,
Petitioning, repairing roofs,
Or simply seek to save my soul,

Whether you are long-expected,
Or are merely dropping by,
STICK TO KNOCKING!--Else the babies
(Plus their mama) start to cry.

“If you wake ‘em, then you take ‘em”
Is the cardinal rule ‘round here.
Do you court the dubious doom
Of cleaning poopy baby rears?

Though they can’t be napping always,
It’s a risk too great to take.
DON’T!—I BEG you—ring this doorbell,
Lest a baby you awake.

--Gail Homer Berry

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas, Childbirth, and the Cross

              [Due to popular demand, I am posting the text of the talk I gave in church today, with slight editing. My only request is that if you quote it, please also attribute it to me.] --Gail Homer Berry

              Every Christmas, I think about childbirth. Baby Jesus. Young Mary, “great with child,” and her terror, sorrow, and joy. My own experiences with labor and how they relate to the atonement.

Childbirth is a transcendent act, replete with the drama of every human emotion. A woman, in partnership with God, brings a new life into the world, full of purity and potential—a life that will, eventually, end in death. Mary epitomized this balance when she delivered the Savior into the world he would one day redeem.
Every mother cuddles her baby protectively and says “Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. The world out there is scary.” I can imagine Mary’s feelings at the prospect of what her own baby would, all too quickly, face.
Childbirth is such a transformative experience, the scriptures frequently use it as a metaphor. The second coming and millennium is compared to birth: a short, intense season of suffering, followed by long years of joy. (Isaiah 13:8) Isaiah likens labor to the atonement when he describes “the travail of [the Lord’s] soul.”  (Isaiah 53:11)
Although childbirth cannot compare to the infinite agonies of the atonement, it is the closest I can come to understanding what the Savior suffered.
I am not trying to exclude men, or women who don’t have children. I am just “likening the scriptures” unto myself as best I can, and sharing my personal experience with you.

The first time I gave birth, I was young and terrified. We had recently moved to a new city and I did not know many people. September 11th happened shortly before my due date, and I worried that travel restrictions would mean that relatives couldn’t arrive in time to help me.
I thought about a young Mary, travelling to an unknown city, surrounded by strangers, and scared by the uncertainties of a first-time delivery.

The second time I went into labor, we headed to the hospital promptly. Sadly, Daniel was in a hurry and I simply didn’t have time for any pain medications.
I would have done anything to make the pain stop—even reveal top-secret nuclear launch codes, if I’d known any.
As C. S. Lewis said, however, pain does teach us a great deal. My hour of agony gave me a much better appreciation for how the Savior suffered.
I had some experience with the process, and the nurses were experts. For Jesus, it was unique. Although my nurses yelled at me a little, trying to cut through my hysterical screaming and get me to focus, at least they were trying to help. Jesus endured soldiers mocking him and making the situation worse. There were things I could do to shorten the process. When the nurses told me to push, I did. I wanted it to end. The Savior could not “cut corners.”
In our modern society, a woman in labor usually has some control over the situation. If she requests an epidural early and often, she’s more likely to get it before the pain grows too bad.
She might say “I’m going to try going natural. We’ll see what happens. The pain isn’t that bad yet…” Eventually the pain gets bad enough that she “breaks” and beg for meds. Then she discovers a problem: she’s in the back of the anesthesiologist’s queue, and the pain, which has already progressed to “I can’t stand it!” continues to get worse for the next half hour.
If she waits too long, the window closes. No matter how much she begs, she can’t get drugs and must  endure natural childbirth. She is powerless to stop, slow, or mitigate the process. At a certain point, her options end.
Epidurals are a recent innovation, though. For thousands of years, childbirth was unavoidably painful and usually dangerous. The mortality rate for mothers and babies was high. It was called "the valley of the shadow of death" frequently, and with good reason. 
          We frequently say that parenthood gives us perspective about Heavenly Father's infinite love. People who are parents find that explaining the unconditional love we feel for our children is rather like riding a bike: if you've experienced it, no explanation if necessary, and if you haven't experienced it, no explanation is possible. Our feelings are dwarfed by our Heavenly Father's, but it's the closest we humans can come to understanding. 
          Similarly, women who endure terror, pain, and even death to bring a new life into the world have a unique perspective on the atonement. Labor pains may be miniscule compared to the agonies of the atonement, but they are not insignificant--they are the closest we can come to understanding that supreme sacrifice.

After Daniel’s birth, I had an epiphany.
When I am fasting, it turns my thoughts to God. An internal conversation sounds like this:

BODY: I’m hungry. There’s some bread in the pantry—
SPIRIT: --Right, but I’m fasting.
BODY: Still hungry.
SPIRIT: I’m trying to obey the Law of the Fast.
BODY: Still hungry.
SPIRIT: This is an exercise in self-control. I need to prove to myself that my spirit is stronger than the flesh.
BODY: Still hungry, and pride doesn’t help.
SPIRIT: I have a specific purpose for this fast. I need to know if I should homeschool again this year. I want my children to thrive, and I don’t know which situation would best accomplish that. Getting an answer to my problem is more important than food right now.

When I focus on someone other than myself, the hunger abates.
The Savior did not have a single moment of decision where he, metaphorically, waved away an epidural. Yes, in the Garden of Gethsemane, he committed to the atonement, but throughout his hours of torture, he had options. He could have rescued himself, or allowed himself to die early. He did not suffer merely the sins mankind; nor did he endure only our pains and afflictions and sorrows; he also survived the ultimate, constant temptation—to make the pain stop. To quit.
No addict could possibly suffer a more intense craving. And yet, as his physical agony asserted itself minute after terrible minute, he chose, again and again, to continue. I imagine that he thought of me, envisioned my face, and thought of my need for forgiveness. His desire to help me not only thrive, but achieve eternal life, helped him to keep going—a little bit longer. I believe he considered each individual soul he was saving. And he hung on the cross for six hours.

After my travail with Daniel ended, I collapsed, exhausted and shaking. Labor is hard work. Suddenly three months of no sleep seemed like minor inconveniences to pay for the relief of delivery being done.
Alma the Younger spent three days “racked, even with the pains of a damned soul…while…harrowed up by the memory of…many sins.” (Alma 36:17) He too was fervently grateful when it ended and he received forgiveness: “My soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36: 20)
When the Lord had completed his Great Intercession, he proclaimed in relief, “It is finished!” and rested.

The third time I gave birth, I did so in the sorrow of emotional, not physical, pain.
Eve brought forth children in sorrow because physical pain and death were conditions of the Fall. I can imagine her in labor, thinking “Maybe I should never have eaten of that fruit…this was a mistake!” She would also have been saddened because some of her children chose wickedness, as evidenced by Able dying by the hand of his brother.
Mary sorrowed because her baby would not only suffer the normal trials of mortality, but the infinite and eternal torment of the atonement, on behalf of all humankind--including herself.
I brought forth a child in sorrow because I knew the baby was already dead. Five years ago, I bore a stillborn baby girl. Last month we marked Marian’s bittersweet fifth “birthday.”
It was surreal to undergo all the negative aspects of labor without the compensating joys. There is currently no formal revelation about the status of stillborn children. While I have no doctrinal reason to believe she will not be a member of my eternal family, I also have no prophetic assurance that she “counts.” (Though in my personal opinion, she does.)
I would do almost anything to get her back—even endure natural childbirth, if that would help. The Savior was willing to do everything to get us back—even endure an infinite atonement.
Jon and I cannot control the outcome. We can only do our best and live worthy of our temple covenants—and rely on Heaven for hope. Similarly, our Heavenly Father cannot completely control whether he will be re-united with us. Jesus provided the path, but each of us must follow him.

           Great leaders motivate by example. During WWII, King George VI and his wife earned true popularity among their people by choosing to stay in London during the blitz. They voluntarily followed the rationing programs for water, food, and fuel. After Buckingham Palace was bombed, the queen said that she was grateful, because now she felt less guilty when she commiserated with citizens in the East End who had lost everything. Almost fifty years later, when the royal family was being rocked by repeated scandals, and British and international media were criticizing The Royals constantly, everyone still treated the Queen Mother with deference, because she still commanded their devotion. King George and his wife had shared the dangers and deprivations of common citizens, and they did it calmly and cheerfully. The people loved them for it.
Jesus chose to share the dangers, deprivations, and disappointments of the whole world. He does not ask us to meet any challenge which he has not mastered a million times over.
Alma  7:11-12 says “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind…and he will take upon him…their infirmities…that he may know…how to succor his people.”

In ASL, Jesus does not die “for” me, but rather “in my place.”
“Travail” is perhaps the closest human experience to the atonement, since both involve pain suffered in behalf of a newly born, or newly reborn, soul. Birth, baptism, and the atonement all involve blood, water, and Spirit.
My pregnancies have left visible changes in my body. With each successive pregnancy, I managed to lose fewer pounds, but even though I shed all the weight after Eric, I still couldn’t fit into some old clothes; my ribs had stretched several inches.
“For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” (1 Nephi 21:15)
I will never forget Marian, but it is infinitely less likely that the Redeemer will ever forget any of us.
My stretch marks serve as a constant reminder of how pregnancy and childbirth have transformed me. Similarly, the Lord has “graven [us] upon the palms of [his] hands.” (1 Nephi 21:16)
He understands the physical pains of childbirth or illness. He understands the grief of parents in Connecticut today. He understands the enslavement of addiction or the hopelessness of depression.
Jesus suffered an infinite and eternal atonement. Any heartache you have, he can heal. Whether you have committed sin or are its innocent victim, he “gets” it.
He was born in the lowest conditions. The King of Kings shared in the sorrow, the suffering, and the sins of his people. He “descended below them all” and I worship him for it. His sacrifice "gave birth" to my salvation.
I am grateful for the birth and death of my Savior, and my understanding of my own role as a mother. I am profoundly grateful that his travail made membership in his eternal family possible for me and my earthly family, and I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Other relevant posts include: 

* (about immediately before the stillbirth) 

* (about immediately after the stillbirth)

 * (about the births of all my kids except Jeff)

* (a really long exploratory essay I wrote about questions and uncertainties surrounding Marian's eternal status)