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4/5: Being Present

I’m not one for cheesy lines or jokes. I cringe often internally (and externally) when people say them. The  subversively annoying thing about cheesy jokes, is that they always contain a nugget of truth. And often the truth is so obvious that you don’t feel the need to hear about it, especially when it’s wrapped up in some kind of Mickey-Mouse type body language of a huge wink, a massive thumbs up and an enormous smile that is dripping with sentiments of “oh, let me tell you!”

No. I certainly do my best to avoid cheese (haha, literally and figurtively..#irony #DifferentTopic)

To me, one of the cheesiest lines in the whole world is, “your presence is presents enough”. And, unfortunately and fortunately, It is one of the cheesiest yet truest sayings I have ever heard. Because really ,that is what this journey of walking with friends in tough times is about: being present, being available, giving of yourself in some way to show your love.

In my last 3  blog posts, I talked about very specific ways you can be present to your friend during this time of sadness and confusion. Like I’ve also mentioned in all three, there is no cookie cutter mould for grief. There is no cookie cutter mould for what someone may or may not like, and there is no perfect friend. All anyone can do is their very best, have a willing heart, and love like no one’s business.

One of the biggest aspects of being present to someone is to just allow them to be where they are at. I remember there were several instances during my intense grief period where I just cried. I cried all the time at Church, I cried at the store, I cried at home, I cried every time I hugged my son. It was an emotional time, with alot of irrational feelings and ideas. Everything mattered to me, and some of what mattered, didn’t make sense.

Some of the most wonderful people in my life simply allowed me to cry when I needed to cry, even though it probably made no sense to them. When others thought I should be passed the allotted grieving time, they were there …letting me cry. Never before had I felt myself feel so empty and yet so full at the same time.

As I’m sure many of you know, readers, sometimes words are not necessary. Sometimes touch is not necessary. Sometimes gifts are not necessary.

Sometimes it is simply the loving presence of someone being willing to sit with you and, if even for a moment, shoulder the burden you are carrying. 

And sometimes, dear griever, it is immeasurably hard to share your burden with someone else. I promise you, even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment, letting someone who loves you into the depths of the darkness can create even just a peephole of light and love in your heart.

Jesus, who even if you are not a believer you could probably admit was a noble person, carried the heaviest burden. And even He knew he couldn’t shoulder it alone.

Go and be present to someone today!



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What is your child learning in their Ottawa Catholic School?

“My teacher said the Catholic Church has changed its teaching about masturbation. They say it’s healthy now.”

A sweet high school girl said this to me after hearing a chastity talk at her school. She wasn’t trying to get a laugh from her classmates. She was genuinely confused.

My little sister came home from school one day with a similar story. Her religion teacher had told his class about the time he and his 3-year old daughter saw a same-sex couple at the mall and he took the opportunity to teach his daughter that same-sex unions are good.

The problem is not simply a few rogue teachers. Actually at this point, the “rogue” teachers are the ones who do present the truth.

I’ve personally talked with teachers who have been reprimanded for bringing students to the March for Life, for presenting authentic Church teaching about sexuality, and for even having too many Christian posters on the walls of their religion classrooms.


The school board is greatly influenced by parent feedback, and right now the loudest voices are the liberal ones.

When misguided parents complain about their kids being taken away to the March for Life, the school board concludes that everyone wants ‘Cafeteria Catholicism’. So they oppose faithful teachers and support the politically correct ones.

That is the situation we are facing. More specifically, that is the world your child is facing every day at school.

Here are 3 things you can do about this:

1. Give feedback to the teachers and to the school board: You can contact the school board from their religion department page .) Build a positive relationship with them by thanking them every time a Mass is celebrated at school, a canned food drive is organized, and definitely if your child is taken to the March for Life. They’ll be more willing to hear you out when they’re considering inviting a pro-choice guest speaker.

2. Suggest great resources for the classroom.

3. Become more influential by joining the school’s parent council, the School Board Parent Association, or by supporting PAFE.




Submitted anonymously to Mama Activist by a fellow concerned mama.

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Okay, what? seriously…. what?

A few months after I had my baby, William, I decided to hit the mall for some new clothes/I was bored and what else is there to do except shop (or pop some tags as the kids are saying.. and by kids, I mean me.). I popped into one store and after picking out some clothes I headed to the change rooms. To my disappointment, there were no benches, chairs or anything in the change rooms. I approached the cashier and asked politely if there were any benches around so that I could put my baby down while I try on the clothes (W was only about 3 months old- no rolling or sudden movements..). Her response? “No, we don’t have benches.. but we have a stool.”

A stool? Seriously? I almost laughed at her right then and there. Instead, I politely said, “okay no that won’t work, he’s still little see?” while I pointed at the obviously tiny form snuggled in the carrier. And then I left.  I remember thinking to myself, “why do they make it so difficult?”

A little while later, I flew on my own from Calgary to Ottawa to visit family. Upon arriving at security with William in the carrier at 7 AM, the security guards asked me to take him out of the carrier, which basically meant taking the carrier off.  I also had to take off my shoes, and do the normal thing of pushing my bags through- all while holding my baby, my passport and boarding pass and unpacking a laptop. While everyone stood around and watched. William was naturally fussy from being woken up so I was bouncing him a bit trying to juggle everything. The oh-so-helpful-not-helpful-at-all security guard then said the following, “No no!! Don’t rock your baby!! You shouldn’t rock him, you’ll have to rock him forever, it’s not good for him! No no!!”. I was dumbfounded….seriously?!  Paralyzed with embarrassment and feeling unable to say anything, I nodded and managed a weak smile and continued trying to get my act together. Thankfully, the woman behind me was stronger and told him off for me. She also held W for me so I could get my stuff together. I was soo grateful, but still so embarassed! How did he get off thinking he could say those things?!

Around the same time, James and I went to Valoo Veelage (Okay, it’s Value Village- I was trying to be fancy). Upon entering the doors, we were faced with a conundrum: there were metal poles that were creating a barrier between us and the store, making it impossible for us to get our stroller through. We had actually take William out, take all our stuff out of the stroller, collapse it, and put everything back in order on the other side of the barrier. Any parent knows how frustrating this is when it takes you like half an hour to get out the door in the first place. All that I could think of at the time was, “what if I was a harried single mother coming here and now there is literally a barrier between me and getting what I need? It took me ages to get here in the first place, now I have to what? Put my child, who can’t sit up, on the floor so that I can collapse my stroller and get through the barriers? Forget it, this is way too hard. I can’t do this.”  Le sigh.

Lastly, during a Calgary winter, I attempted to take William down the street for an outing and nearly got hit by a car because there was snow piled up against each entrance and exist onto the sidewalks making it nearly impossible to smoothly get off the street when the lights changed. Upon calling the city to complain, they told me likely nothing would change. Upon telling other mom friends about this, I found out that this is a common problem across Canada- even to the point of mothers and babies actually getting hit as a result. SERIOUSLY?!

These are just four examples of experiences I have had as a new mum in our progressive 21st Century society. I know many mums who have had similar experiences, and who have had even worse comments made to them about the number of children they have,  how they look too young to be having children etc etc. In the opposite way, I received a surprising number of comments from strangers about William being in a baby carrier with me, or him as a newborn, or when I was heavily pregnant.

Bottom line, people’s surprise towards seeing babies and pregnant women tells me something: Seeing children and pregnant women is  becoming something of a rarity. And because it’s rare, individuals are no longer familiar with the proper behaviour that goes along with seeing stressed out mothers, with having mothers with strollers who need clean sidewalks, with having mothers who are just trying to make it through the day and don’t need parenting advice, or weight comments or comments about how you look dead tired.

It is as though our society is no longer use to having children as an essential part of our societal norms that negative comments are said, ignorant advice/suggestions are given, surprising remarks are uttered and store policies are made thoughtlessly. Children are becoming such a rarity in our culture that society is forgetting how to operate with them. Children are no longer seen as a vital, and essential part of our society. We make policies that do not reflect their existence or value.

Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “well these are unfair expectations”. Well, I’m n

ot so sure about that and this is why: Other societies do it better. Much, much, much better. Here is one example: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22751415

Finland policy makers say they do this to show that families matter to the state. That the state recognizes the value and importance of children in the culture, and that children are important.

By Canadian cities putting up physical barriers between couples and a store, being accomodate at the airport and generally thoughtless when it comes to parking (i can count the number of stores that have family parking), and family-friendly environments, they are communicates a message: Children are not that important to us. You

having a child, being pregnant, perhaps single and alone as well.. not important to us. Survive if you can with us, and if you can’t.. well that part we can help you with.

How? So far, I have seen far more thought put into the abortion debate than I have seen put into implementing family-friendly policies in this country. So far, I have seen that the Canadian government and Canadians fight harder to make abortions available, than they fight for families and children. So far, I have seen 100,000 children killed every year in this country and 100,000 women hurt by abortion. The reality is that Canada does not cherish it’s families, thats why there is no fight for them from the state. 

Mamas, do not accept the status quo! If you do not speak up and say, “ My Canada should treat me better” then who will?? No one. You can fight.

 Here is what I suggest you do:

– Write a short editorial to the newspaper relating your experience.  Sometimes public opinion is the only thing that helps things change.

– If you are treated negatively by a store clerk because you have a child, tell  them that their behaviour is not okay. If you don’t, maybe no one will..  maybe one person at time we can start to change things.

– Talk to your MP about advocating for family-friendly policies and what  that could look like. MPs fight for things they know their constituencies care  about.. so again, if you don’t show you care, then neither will they, then neither will the government and there you have it.

– Lead by example for your children and for other people. Be extra thoughtful, extra thankful, extra compassionate. This rubs off on people. Let’s make it so that it’s not a huge surprise for a mama every time someone is thoughtful to them!

It’s the age of saying of treat others as you would like to be treated. In short: YOU be the change!

help wanted sign

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I’m keeping all four!

By Luke Salkeld

Pregnant with quadruplets, Emma Robbins was told again and again that she should terminate two of her babies to give the others a better chance of survival

Again and again, she told doctors she had no intention of sacrificing any of her boys, who were conceived naturally at odds of 750,000 to one.

Now she has all the proof she needed that her instinct was right: four happy, healthy and utterly adorable one-year-olds.

Zachary, Joshua, Reuben and Sam had their first birthday party yesterday.

The brothers are even more remarkable because they were born on February 29 last year – at odds of 3.5million to one – so will celebrate their true birthday only once every four years.

Mrs Robbins, 31, and her husband Martin, 39, already had a son, three-year-old Luke, when they tried for what they thought would be their second child.

Mrs Robbins said: ‘Never in a million years did we think we’d have four babies at once. I’d be lying if I said it was easy, but we’re so glad we never gave up on our babies.’

She added: ‘At ten weeks I was a lot larger than I’d been with Luke and I was suffering from horrendous morning sickness. I was worried that something might be wrong.

‘The sonographer looked at both of us wide-eyed, turned the screen to us, then said she could see three amniotic sacs and not just two babies but four. And not just quads but identical twins as well.’

Mrs Robbins said her husband, a sign-maker, ‘looked numb and just laughed’. The next time they visited St Michael’s Hospital in Bristol, the consultant congratulated them – but then warned the couple they should consider terminating some or all of the babies.

Multiple pregnancies, where a woman becomes pregnant with two or more embryos, can cause complications including miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, cerebral palsy and death.

 ‘He [the consultant] told us the risks were so high it would put me in danger and the babies too,’ she said.

‘He said we had three options. We could terminate the pregnancy, reduce the pregnancy by terminating some of the embryos, or carry on. Instinctively I clutched my bump. An overwhelming sense of love rushed through me and I told him that we were keeping all four of them.’

Left to right, mother Emma Robbins with her sons Reuben, Joshua, Zachary and Sammy and husband Martin at home in Bristol

Happy family: Left to right, mother Emma Robbins with her sons Reuben, Joshua, Zachary and Sammy and husband Martin at home in Bristol

The former project manager, who lives in Bristol, said the same advice was given after her 12-week scan.

She said: ‘I’d just been scanned and had been told everything looked fine but now he was pointing out the risks again and asking me to consider aborting the twins for the sake of the other two. I was beginning to feel pressured and it didn’t feel fair. We’d already made our decision.

‘All our babies were doing well. We’d seen their tiny outlines on the screen and we’d already begun to think of them individually.’

Once again, at 16 weeks into the pregnancy, the couple were told to consider aborting the twins. Mrs Robbins said: ‘By now I felt under immense pressure and I was getting angry.

The quadruplets were conceived naturally at odds of 750, 000 to one

Mummy’s little miracles: The quadruplets were conceived naturally at odds of 750, 000 to one

‘Each time I went to the hospital it was all about the risks and asking me to consider aborting the twins to save the other two babies. But I knew that each time I looked at my surviving babies I’d also be thinking about the ones I’d lost. The thought of it broke my heart.’

At Mrs Robbins’s 18-week scan the consultant warned her again, saying 20 weeks would be the last time a termination or selective reduction would be possible.

She said: ‘By now we’d found out that all our babies were boys and as soon as he’d finished I told him it wasn’t an option and that was final.

‘We didn’t know how we’d manage financially and practically but I felt it must have happened for a reason. I decided I’d do everything in my power to give birth to four healthy babies.’

On February 29 last year, two months before her due date, Mrs Robbins went into labour.

Reuben was the first to be delivered by caesarean section, weighing 2lb 14oz, followed by Zachary, 2lb 8oz, and his twin Joshua, 3lb 1oz, and finally Sam, 2lb 13oz.

After two months in hospital, the boys, whom Mrs Robbins calls her ‘little miracle Peter Pans’ were strong enough to be taken home – where they soon made their presence felt.

She said: ‘Each night the babies would wake up one after the other and start screaming, which would wake Luke up, too.

‘We had to turn our lounge into the nursery and would take in turns to sleep down there. With four breastfeeds to coordinate every four hours, day and night, as well as bottles, 30 nappy changes and endless baths, life was exhausting.’

And as the boys get bigger, so do the challenges. Mrs Robbins said: ‘When they’re all in the buggy together it weighs ten stone. Pushing it is a serious workout.’

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