Friday, September 7, 2012

An uncommon pregnancy

This is a raw and honest mix of thoughts right now. It's long, it rambles and jumps around, but I hope in the end you will be encouraged in some way. I don't want to to paint a 'proper' and rosy picture of my emotions and experiences, but I do hope you see God's hand through it all.

If you were to take a peek in my world at 23 weeks pregnant with my firstborn two years ago (almost to the day, actually), things at first glance would look awfully familiar to what you would see right now. Hello bedrest, hello weekly progesterone shots.
However, the Lord has been faithful to our prayers for a distinct change in my second pregnancy. Though things on the outside look pretty much the same - plus the addition of a little guy running around the house, and a tornado of toys in the living room - there is one very important detail that is different. No longer are we fearing from day-to-day if our little one will stay put inside the womb. At this point in my first pregnancy, I had no cerclage (cervical stitch), no experience or education, and was dilated at 1cm with no idea when things would change. Thank the LORD that I had my weekly check up on the morning I started going into labor (which I was completely oblivious to, mind you). 25 weeks and 5 days into my pregnancy, and all of a sudden I was 3cm dilated with mild contractions. After a whirlwind of helicopter rides, monitors, fearful discussions and decisions, and some hurried desperate prayers, my tiny son was born via c-section that evening.

Being only two weeks from that mark again, you would think I would be fearful again. But miracles happen daily in my life these days it seems. Our check-ups have all been 'uneventful', with no surprises or concerns. And much to our awe, my cervix has fully lengthened to 37mm (the lowest it got was 25mm about a month ago)! The trends have certainly changed, and I can't help but laugh that God, perhaps, is showing off - you might even hear Him saying, "see, I am ALWAYS in control. I was with your son, and I am with your daughter!" God is predictably unpredictable in the way He shows Himself. He showed Himself in many ways through our son's preemie journey, and now He is showing Himself through this pregnancy.
He is so faithful, through difficult trials, sorrows, frustrations, and also through miracles both big and small, surprising joys, and when things are going well. We are trusting this baby and pregnancy in His hands, regardless of what happens. But we have faith that our little girl will be healthy and full term this time!

I joke with my doctors and friends that two weeks from now I will be in uncharted territory again. It will be a first-time pregnancy experience once I hit 26 weeks. People have warned me of the miseries of going full-term, and how uncomfortable and anxious you get at the end... but I usually respond, "If I get to 40 weeks, I will be happily miserable!" I would take that kind of misery over an early birth full of unknowns and endless hospital visits ANY DAY.

Even though this is my second pregnancy, I have no idea what contractions, or even Braxton Hicks contractions, feel like. I have never taken a birthing class, gone through labor, or enjoyed those first bonding moments with my newborn fresh out of the womb.
I don't even know what it's like to truly 'enjoy' being pregnant, and am admitting I sometimes get jealous of that woman who walks (or waddles) around with a glow on her face and a beautiful round belly, as she carries on her daily life with her biggest concerns being what color to paint the nursery, and if she can tie her own shoes.
I've concluded that I don't handle pregnancy well. I'm miserably sick the first 3 months, then tolerably uncomfortable for a short window of time where I feel like leaving the house and smiling again, and then comes the drama of bedrest and doctors appointments, not knowing from week-to-week what we will find.
I find myself saying things like, "why did I want to go through this again? How did I forget so quickly how awful morning sickness feels I'm so tired of feeling this way." and just wanting to be done, but reminding myself to try and enjoy it. I've held on to the thought that, "this, too, shall pass", and my hope lies in the fact that pregnancy doesn't last forever. Whew! I've gained sympathy for those who are terminally or acutely sick, those who lay in hospitals and nursing homes for weeks and months unending. I have to remind myself that it could ALWAYS be worse.
I don't want pity, for this is where God has me, and I have learned countless lessons through these moments. Really.
I find it funny when people ask how I'm feeling on bedrest. The answer is, "I feel fine!" and that's what's so frustrating. I KNOW I need to be here to care for the baby, but I "feel" normal, so it's hard to remember that I'm sitting here for a reason. I'm not sick, I'm not hurt, I'm just... waiting. I've learned to be patient, with myself. I've learned to accept help, which is hard for the control-freak in me. I've learned to humble myself and admit that I can't do this alone. I've learned a lot about myself, and where I find my worth. Not making my family meals and caring for the house makes me feel useless. Can I just BE a wife and a mom without DOING wife and mom things? How can I show my love and appreciation? 'Thank you' seems so inadequate. How can I contribute? With my attitudes and words alone... and boy, that takes work (especially when you're already pregnant and hormonal). I've learned self-control, to NOT get up and do a load of laundry when I know I am technically capable of doing so. I've learned that I am NOT in control, and that is a good thing, because it allows me to rest with the peace that comes from God, who IS in control. But it's not always easy.
...Just for the record, bed rest is not all its cracked up to be. It is not restful, nor is it all that productive. No, I don't have all the time in the world to read books because books make me sleepy when on bedrest. If I read, I fall asleep, and if I fall asleep, I won't sleep at night. Being up at all hours of the night (and not being able to walk around and do things) is NOT fun. At least this time I have my son to keep me entertained (and ocassionally annoyed) ;)

Ok, ranting of self-pity aside, I do know it's hard to see the forest through the trees. The end result will be a beautiful one. We're having a baby! And in the grand scheme of things, a not-so-fun pregnancy, a few months of bedrest... it's such a short time in our lives. We can learn to see the beauty in small things. Like the generosity and servant-heartedness of my family and friends. Having time to reflect on the Lord. Getting ultrasounds and pictures of our healthy little girl frequently. Watching my son grow into the little man he is becoming, with his silly antics and contemplative personality. Being grateful for a supportive husband, who selflessly picks up the slack without so much as a complaint or grumble. He is truly a blessing to me. I am blessed.

And one look into that precious little girl's face on her birth day, and I'm sure I will say, "that was SO worth it."

And you know what's ironic about all this? You know what I call God's sense of humor? The miracle of pregnancy amnesia. Give it a few weeks, months, perhaps a few years... and I will have forgotten all the silly little annoying things I had to go through. I will consider it pure joy, I will look back and remember only the best memories, and then I will say, "let's have another one!"
So THAT'S how God ensured we would be fruitful and multiply... sneaky ;)

Monday, May 14, 2012

reflections on the first weeks of pregnancy with baby #2

-morning sickness hit hard literally the day after I took the test, though I'm managing it a bit better than my last pregnancy. hoping it ends quickly so I can function again.
-it never ceases to amaze me how much one tiny little pea-sized baby can affect my bladder so dramatically.
-cravings are also in full swing, and are similar to my last pregnancy: anything mexican, watermelon, chips & dip, waffles, and ice cream cake to name a few ;)
-I fully expected to be thrown on bed rest or given all sorts of restrictions right away, but so far I've been told to treat this pregnancy as normal, and I will just be monitored more closely. There may be some adjustments made in the second trimester, but I am SO THANKFUL I can still take care of my son, travel, and do everything I normally do (while still being cautious of course).
-I think judah suspects things are changing, but the true test will come after the baby is here. I predict some jealousy and obvious adjustments, but I think in time he will become an loving and protective big brother :)
-judah and baby will be 26 months apart, though they were conceived exactly two years and two weeks apart ;) ...that was unplanned but sort of cool how God worked that out!
-we get to see the baby on Wednesday! I've never had an early ultrasound, so I am excited and hope we can hear a strong heartbeat, and witness such a tiny miracle of life :)
-incredibly blessed and thankful for God growing our family, and we're trusting in Him for a healthy full-term pregnancy and a safe labor/delivery in His perfect timing! please be praying with us that things go a bit smoother and less traumatic this time around. we would love to ease into being a family of four without complications. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

My cloth diapering journey...

I've been meaning to write all this down because I've had people ask about cloth diapering in the past. There seems to be so much information I find important to share that it's not a simple two sentence answer.
I want to start by saying this is just my experience. You will get a completely different opinion from every other person who does cloth diapering. This is what makes it challenging but also unique and exciting! It's something we can get passionate about (or at least feel good about). For me, I decided to cloth diaper because it seemed the most economical decision and I felt like I was doing our family and baby some good by saving money and keeping my little guy's bum in good health.
It's easy to get overwhelmed in the beginning when you're doing preliminary research, but once you get some hands-on experience -- and lots of it ;) -- it will soon feel more natural and comfortable as you get settled in a routine and find what works for you and your baby. I hope this information is a good jumping-off point for your journey into cloth diapering! I'm still a bit of a newbie and learning little by little as I go, but if anyone has more questions, I'll do what I can to help!

Basic Reasons to Cloth Diaper
  • Saves money: if you average $40+/month on disposables, times 12 months, times 3 years, that's almost $1500. Average conservative cost to completelycloth diaper from 0-3+ age: $250-$350
  • Using average of 20-25 cloth diapers total for 3 years, or throwing out 150+ diapers each month... that's a lot of diapers NOT in a landfill
  • Cloth is much easier on the skin - little to no diaper rash (especially those with sensitive skin).
  • Yes, you will do a few more loads of laundry a week, but it's not a huge cost for extra water and electric. *Maybe* $5-$10/month if you do 2-3 loads a week.

Types of diapers
All-in-one - these are no-fuss diapers. no inserts or pockets, just a diaper all ready to go. the downside to these are they aren't very customizable to your needs, and take a long time to dry.
All-in-twos (covers and inserts separately) - there's the cover, which contains the wetness, and then the insert, which absorbs everything. you can also use disposable inserts or prefolds with most covers. this is the most customizable and requires less folding/stuffing like with the pockets. these also tend to dry the fastest.
Pockets - this is a diaper with a lining that has a pocket where you slip the insert inside. this is probably the easiest system for beginners (or dads/babysitters), because you can stuff them ahead of time so they're ready to go. they are also customizable so you can add a 'doubler' (a second smaller insert) for heavy wetters or overnight. you pull out the inserts for washing so they dry faster.
Prefolds - this is the 'old school' diapering with the square cloth you fold around the baby. you can use the rubber elastic pants or the more modern covers. most people use a 'snappi' to hold the cloth together (much safer than a 'safety pin'). some people love this system and it is probably the cheapest route if you're on a tight budget.

Velcro ('hook and loop')

One size: usually fits birth-3 years (though it's hard to find cloth diapers that fit really well on a tiny newborn). I usually get one-size because I feel it's less hassle and probably a bit cheaper in the end, but sometimes it's hard to get a good fit.
Multiple sizes: depending on the brand, you'll have two to three different sized diapers, usually by weight. (for example, Thirsties has a size one: 6-18lbs and size two: 18-28lbs - those aren't the exact weights but you get the idea) you'll get a better fit, spend a little less per diaper, but won't get quiet as much use once the baby outgrows that size, so you'll have to buy more over the three-year span (but if you plan to have more kids may be worth buying because they'll last longer).

NEWBORNS: From experience, I'd recommend doing either a one-size cover and insert or a small-sized pocket diaper for newborns if you plan to start with cloth right away (one-sized pockets and all-in-ones are likely to be too bulky). Some brands offer a lower rise setting for the umbilical cord too. However, I did disposables for a while just for convenience and because you're changing so frequently... with a newborn the last thing you want to think about is more laundry ;)

Brands I've used
Fuzzibuns - Pocket diaper - A bit expensive so wait for a sale if you can (or buy used). nice features are adjustable/replaceable gussets (elastic around the legs). good for skinny-legged or small babies. also super soft and trim.
Econobums - Cover and pre fold - The most inexpensive cover I've found that works really well. if you're on a budget I recommend these to start if you want to do covers and inserts separate. the covers are really trim. the prefold inserts are pretty bulky, though. I hardly ever used them. I'd recommend either just buying the covers only and buying inserts somewhere else, or cutting down the prefolds and sewing them so they're smaller. Wait for a B1G1 sale and they're $5 each with free shipping at
Bumgenius - Pocket - Hold up well over time. velcro tends to get worn after 3-4 years of constant use. very soft and absorbent. this is a good brand if you like pockets.
Kawaii - Pocket - Great for the cost, inexpensive. it's a good starter if you want to try pockets. they are a bit bulky and tend to leak if left on for overnight or heavy-wetting.
Flip - Cover - I just have a few used ones. They are comfortable and trim.
Grovia - Cover - I just have a few used ones. These are also comfortable and trim.
Thirsties - Cover - These are my new favorites because of the inner additional gussets around the leg. the only brand I've found with that feature, which helps with leaks. they are trim and the velcro holds well over time, not too expensive either.

Some other brands I've heard good reviews from: Charlie Banana, Rocky Mountain Diapers, gDiapers, Bummis, Kissaluvs, Happy Heiny

There are a ton of different brands as well as homemade ones. I would steer away from homemade for now only because they are usually more expensive and may not hold up well over time.
some brands come with guarantees (as long as you use them properly - read the fine print).

Washing diapers
You can find a lot of instructions of washing your diapers online. These tips have helped me:
  • Hot water rinses before and after washing
  • A small amount (a few tablespoons at most) of free-and-clear (no perfumes or dyes) detergent or cloth-diaper-specific detergent
  • Sunshine! It's true that line-drying in the sun will actual reduce smells and stains!
  • Baking soda, occasionally
  • White vinegar, occasionally
  • I like the Rockin' Green ammonia-bouncer "Funk Rock" for when the diapers build up an ammonia smell on occasion. It's a bit expensive but really does work.
  • Strip them before first use and as-needed (for smells, leaking, etc) - "stripping" is basically adding a little dawn dish soap (teaspoon at most) and then rinse rinse rinse in hot water until the soap bubbles are gone. or
What I do is put all my dirty diapers in a lidded pail, with a pail liner (a waterproof bag that stretches around pail). some people like to soak them immediately and wash more frequently, but I usually only do about two loads a week. If the diaper is soiled, I have a diaper sprayer hose attached to the toilet, and I spray off the poo into the toilet. some people just use rubber gloves and wash off in the toilet water. either way works, but I love the sprayer!!

Other accessories and tips I've found useful
  • Coconut oil - When diaper rash does surface, be careful not to use mainstream diaper cream. it will cause build-up and leaking in your diapers. I use organic coconut oil (from the grocery store)... that's it! it clears up in just a few days. Coconut oil is great for many other things - skin, hygiene, cooking, and yes, even for intimacy ;)
  • Diaper Sprayer - check ratings before buying - some are cheaply made. I have a bum genius sprayer that was used when I got it, so it's been working for about 5 years with just a minor leak that was fixed easily.
  • Wet bags / pail liners - Great for travel and containing the diapers without a mess. is a good brand.
  • Cloth wipes - I go back and forth between using these. it doesn't add much to the laundry when I do, but it's nice to just wipe and toss disposables, too. withcloth wipes (I made my own by cutting up fleece/flannel fabric from goodwill clothing), I mix a solution of water with a spoonful of baby wash and a spoonful of baby oil, but water works fine by itself, too. change out the water once a week or so to keep it fresh. I keep mine in the little squirt bottle they give you at the hospital for postpartum needs... but a little spray bottle from the travel section of walmart or target would work too. you can either put a stack of wipes in an old plastic wipes tub and pour the solution over them so they are already wet, or spray as you need them.
  • Disposable diaper inserts - if you're interested in more of a 'hybrid' diapering system, some people use these when they travel or if they have a busy lifestyle. it can make clean up a little easier and less laundry to do, or if you're not ready to commit to full-time cloth diapering this could be a happy medium.
  • Drying rack - I have one that folds up- you can also find them used. there's quite a variety out there. you *can* dry diapers on low heat in the dryer, but I like to think they'll last longer and work better by line drying (and it doesn't have to be outside) - keep in mind that you can dry inserts on low heat in the dryer.
  • Rubber gloves - For prepping diapers to wash - pulling out inserts, etc. Or, if you don't have a sprayer, rinsing them off in the toilet.

Buying diapers
sometimes even websites like zulily will have a deal on cloth diapers

Harrisonburg and surrounding area retailers:
Simple Little Baby - Harrisonburg
Abbys Lane - Manassas
On the Turtles Back - Harrisonburg
Sugar Snap Consignment - Charlottesville
Nature's Child - Charlottesville
Queen City Diapers (Diapering Service) - Staunton

  • there are TONS of websites out there... these are just the ones I used most frequently.
  • "like" different cloth diaper stores on Facebook and wait for sales! it could save you quite a bit if you're patient :) *cottonbabies often has free shipping, B1G1 free, or buy 4 get 1 free on certain brands.
  • don't forget to check for any promo codes to make it an even better deal.
  • find a local cloth diaper store or retailer so you can see things in person and talk with someone who is familiar with the different brands and has a lot of experience. if you don't have one local, I'd encourage you to visit a mom or two to see her routine and explore her 'stash' of diapers to get an idea of what you like best. You're welcome to visit and change Judah's diaper any time! ;) haha!

Helpful websites for troubleshooting and more info

My best advice is to remember that:
  • every family's needs are different. what works for one family may not work for another. a lot of factors can change the type of diapers you use. travel, babysitters, dads ;), daycare, housing arrangements, etc.
  • every baby is different, too! and it is likely they will change and grow and you'll have to adjust your diapering habits with them. one brand/style may work for a newborn, but not work well 3 months later. legs get skinnier as they start crawling, etc.
  • try a variety of brands and styles before committing to anything. it's ok to start of slowly and use disposables too for a while until you find something you like. what you think you might like may not work at all... I discovered I liked covers and inserts separately, even though I thought for sure I'd like pockets best. I have quite a few different brands I've tried. some I like more than others, some work better during the day than overnight.
  • cost does make a difference when buying diapers, but you CAN cloth diaper on a budget. buy used/pre-loved or 'seconds' (minor manufacture defects), borrow, buy a 'trial' pack to see what you like and return what you don't. buying used or borrowing will also give you an idea of what the diaper would look like after some wear and tear. it can show you its 'true colors' of whether or not they're worth investing in.

Monday, November 21, 2011

vision forum review

have you discovered the vision forum yet? I feel like a kid in the candy store whenever I go to their website or get their free catalog in the mail! so many awesome resources! from family friendly audio and video, inspiring Christian books and curriculum, and awesome toys, too! we've especially enjoyed the Amazon DVD's and audio books and teaching CD's.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baby/toddler book reviews: My Top Ten Favorites (so far)

I love books. Growing up, we went to the library every two weeks and brought a milk crate to fill up. I loved to read! I hope to instill a love of reading in our children, too. And already have accumulated quite a collection for Judah. In fact, it's probably a borderline hoard of books. I suppose if you're going to have an addiction/hoarding problem, children's books are lower on the scale than cats or dirty plastic bottles. ;)

One thing I've noticed about reading to Judah is, if you don't like the book, too, then don't read it! I've gotten a few books through gifts or thrift store shopping that after reading through a few times realized it's either extremely obnoxious or just plain weird. However, there are quite a few books I probably love to read more often than Judah can tolerate me reading it!

Here's a list of my top ten baby/toddler finds, in no particular order:

1. I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak and Caroline Jayne Church
I read this to a little boy I nannied a few years back and just think it's the sweetest book that you can get animated about, and start to identify different parts of the body like hair, eyes, nose, etc. and different emotions. Very cute illustrations, too!

2. The Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton
Ok, who can read a book about hippos having great pride in their belly buttons without giggling a little? Such a cute and fun read that will probably get your little one giggling, too!
Every one of this author's books are extremely fun and interactive. And the rhyming also helps develop baby's speech skills!

3. Over in the Meadow by Michael Evans
Does anyone remember this song? It helps teach counting and fun to sing! Brings back memories for me :)

4. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw and Margot Apple
I love how simple this is, and the illustrations are wonderful. A bit of a tongue-twister, at times, which makes it all the more fun ;)

5. Baby Baluga by Raffi
Anyone who remembers Raffi from back in the day (or a certain Full House episode) will remember this song, which they turned into a book. I love singing this to him while he looks at the pictures of whales and other arctic creatures. I think it could become educational as you learn more about Baluga whales and the environment they live in.

6. Are You My Mother? by PD Eastman
One of my all-time favorite books!

7. Turtles Take Their Time by Margaret Wang
I picked this one up in a Target dollar bin, but it's so cute-- teaches about being patient and enjoying things instead of rushing through them.

8. Fred and Ted Like to Fly by Peter (PD) Eastman
Alright, got to incorporate the planes for Daddy, here. Plus, I loved Fred and Ted growing up! All the Fred and Ted books are great for teaching opposites, colors, etc. And all the author's other books are easy-reads with loveable characters and cute illustrations.

9. A Father's Song by Janet Lawler and Lucy Corvino
I got this one for Jonathan to read to Judah and it's such a sweet example of the love between a father and his son. :)

10. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond
My all-time favorite book as a kid. This one brings back sweet memories of my mother reading it to us, and even incorporating baking cookies! Can't go wrong with that! I recommend the "Mouse Cookies and More" Treasury Book that has about 4 of the stories (Pig a Pancake, Moose a Muffin, etc) and recipes/crafts/songs to go with each one.

And some of my other favorite authors (I decided that there's too many individual books to list, so I'll let you choose ;)

Richard Scarry

(My 3-year-old niece loooooves Busytown right now, and I do too!) Such adorable characters and very educational and fun!

Dr. Seuss
It's Dr. Seuss! Need I say more?

Shel Silverstein
Ok, so some of his poems/books are not extremely young-child-friendly and a bit weird/hippy-ish, but I love how his poems flow and are fun to read. Judah sits for quite a long time when I read them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

entrusting our family 'talents' to God

I wrote about the topic of birth control back in November, simply to share what issues we had been facing as a couple over the past several years, and the conclusions we had come to (and the questions that still remained).
I never dreamed that I would get the responses I did, even months after I posted it. I can only give credit to God for the aftermath of that blog post, because I honestly assumed I was writing that for myself and it would fade into internet oblivion without a drop of influence on anyone's lives. However, quite the contrary has been taking place! God is moving the hearts of married couples as they begin to discuss and pray about what the Lord might have for them regarding birth control, sex, children, and surrendering that area to Him completely. I commend those couples for taking that leap of faith, as scary as it may be... because the Lord knows us best, and will never give us more than we can handle.

I am reminded of this passage...

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.

-Proverbs 3:3-8

First, a quick recap on where we left off in the last post: After asking some questions to ourselves about how God sees conception, and what our culture has been telling us about birth control... we were left with one resounding thought: the God of the Bible is FOR LIFE. Now, this blog post is not a debate on abortion, pro-life, etc. But simply digging into some issues that have been left unquestioned for too long.

At the end of the post, I left you with a question we were still struggling with:

How much of this do we leave up to God and have faith that He will care for us and our future children, and how much of this is our responsibility to take certain precautions for health reasons and to allow time for healing in my body to prepare for the next pregnancy?

Although the answer is not perfect, after seeking advice and prayer, we came to the following conclusions:
1. Our hearts must be in the right place. Our decision to prevent a pregnancy should be with legitimate reasons, not merely an excuse, and not done out of fear.
2. Although we should always consider His perfect providence in our lives (if God wants us pregnant, He can certainly make that happen despite our efforts to prevent), He gives us freedom and wisdom to make personal choices, within the context of the Bible
3. Wisdom seemed to clearly say that regaining health needs to be priority; both for myself, and for giving the next pregnancy the best chance at full-term success.

So, all that to say, we are back to using the calendar charting method and condoms for the time being. We are not trying to prevent children, we are simply waiting things out until the risks diminish.

Through this, I'm beginning to understand why the topic of sex is so crucial in marriage. When I was first married, I couldn't fathom why couples let sex become a point of argument and debate, and even sometimes a reason to divorce. I mean, hello! Sex in marriage is awesome! What could we possibly disagree about? But as issues such as birth control, fertility, and other complicated matters arise, I can see how it could cause a great divide and stress in a relationship.

I wish there were perfect answers to this. I wish there was a passage in the Bible about the Ten Commandments to Sex and Baby-Making that would ensure success and provide the 'perfect' family size and timing without fail. But the truth is we live in a very broken world, and even our own minds and bodies betray us at times.
We live in a world where people who should have babies prevent or even murder them.... and people who should NOT even be having sex let alone making babies are popping them out in droves... and people who want desperately to have babies sometimes can't or have great difficulty in doing so.

Life isn't fair, and there is no three-step program to success. However, the Lord is gracious and loving, and somehow always makes a way to redemption... either by changing circumstances, or changing our hearts. He is constantly working and moving in our lives in many unseen and miraculous ways... God is still very and completely good.

Let me say that again:

God is still very and completely good.

So, I have another question... why is it that often children are viewed as a hindrance or inconvenience in our culture? What are we so afraid of? It's understandable to fear the unknown. I was terrified of getting pregnant because I had never experienced pregnancy or childbirth before. Even though I feared all those things, I still wanted the end result: having a child and being a mother. So, we take a leap of faith with all the variables and uncertainties in the package.
But children should not be seen as negative distractions, but
positive ones. A wonderful interruption in our lives. True, we will be inconvenienced because of them... all the time! But not without rewards and benefits.
Parenthood will not come without challenges or struggles. Being a parent will completely wreck you and rebuild you daily. Having a child is an automatic mirror and spotlight into all the flaws in our own lives. God uses children to mold us and settle us and refine us--in everyday issues and in monumental occasions both beautiful and sorrowful.

In His great mercy, He shows us that children are for us to enjoy just as much as they are for His ultimate glory:

Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

Blessed are all who fear the LORD, who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.
Yes, this will be the blessing for the man who fears the LORD.

-Psalm 127:3-5; 128:1-4

How intriguing that the Lord desires us to obey him... and one of His rewards for our obedience is having children! The more, the merrier, God seems to say.
But ultimately, even above and beyond all those things, God desires Christ-centered families to raise up God-fearing and Christ-loving children as an inheritance for His Kingdom.

I know I am at the beginning of our journey as a family... it is easy for me to say all of this, with only one baby to care for so far (though what a journey even one child has been!). I am aware that adding one, two, or four more kids changes things dramatically, and I won't pretend to understand how difficult parenting a large family can be.
But in my observations, larger families just plain seem happier and more loving. Every family has their dysfunctions and problems, but I think God knew what He was doing when He encouraged being fruitful and multiplying.

Families thrive in environments that require sacrificing and sharing for the good of the family unit.

Every family is different, and we are not all called to have a Duggar-sized family, or even a family of four or five. I am certainly not trying to break any world records, here, either! Also, not all couples are called to have their own children, or are called to adopt/foster/mentor other children instead. Not one is greater or less of a calling than the other.

The point is, God is all about community and family. It keeps the Body of Christ centered and unified. It reminds us that we need Him even more than we need each other. It helps facilitate the Gospel. It motivates and encourages our hearts and souls.

Families can be a city on a hill, a light of Christ for all to see.

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
-Ephesians 4:15-16

I understand that everyone is in their own unique situation. I will not condemn anyone who has chosen to plan out their families differently than we are choosing to. My purpose of this blog is simply to reinforce what God seems to be saying throughout His Word...
  • That children are to be seen as a blessing and inheritance, not a hindrance.
  • That the family unit is important and essential, whether by blood or through Christ.
  • That we need to trust God in every area of our lives.

These are the things I think about, I talk to God about, I ask myself about often...
Let me end with a few thoughts:

Have we considered that God is calling us, as parents (or future parents) to raise up the next generation of believers? It is so much more than just having a baby, being a parent
, or caring for a child...
God is entrusting us and asking us to be a part of the big picture: Using ALL gifts, talents, and blessings to further His Kingdom. That includes our fertility, parenting skills, mentoring abilities, or simple willingness to be used however He sees fit.

Have we ever considered our children (current and future) to be a part of the 'talents' God has entrusted us with? [See the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25]

Additional articles and books I've found helpful:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

a rite of passage

This is something I've thought a lot about since October, when Judah was born.

I was looking at pictures of Megan Hutching's birthing experience (beautifully done by Kali Park, by the way. And congrats to the Hutchings on Eric's arrival!). And I know this sounds weird, but seeing those intimate and beautiful moments of labor and delivery makes me feel like I missed out on something amazing with my son. I know I shouldn't be complaining because in the end he is here with me, and he is healthy... but wow, this just got me thinking...

I really wish I could have had a natural birthing experience. I feel like I haven't gone through a rite of passage as a woman and mother because Judah was born premature by c-section. Even though I was 6cm dilated, I never felt contractions, and even though we made the best decision we knew to make at the time... I feel as if someone stole those precious memories from me... moments where my husband could support and encourage me through each wave of pressure and contraction. Where we can work as a team through the pain-- very intimate moments as we grow closer, minute by minute, to parenthood. Moments where I work my son through the birth canal and push him with my strength (and the strength of the Lord) to bring him into this world. Feeling, at the end of it, a great sense of accomplishment, relief, and overwhelming joy to finally see my son. My son. My son that I struggled to bring into this world. My son, that I met with sweat and tears and laughter.
I'm being a bit vulnerable here. I'm sure some who read this would throw up their hands and scoff while saying, "consider yourself blessed that you got to skip to the end without any pain!" But with pain comes a myriad of things that you might not otherwise see: A challenge to face and overcome, to see myself at my most difficult moments and see how I respond and handle the struggle. To become a stronger person, to persevere.
They say that you don't appreciate the mountaintops unless you've been in the valley, where you see them in their most glorious state. I feel like someone took the "skip" button and jumped over something I truly wanted to experience: climbing that mountain, if you will. Something that was robbed from me, and I am left to instantly become a mother, having carried my child more than half-way to term, but without that struggle to bring about the joyful end of his birth. Without that series of events that are naturally supposed to take place. My birth experience seems out of order, mixed up, half-done. There's a sense of guilt that I couldn't make it to the end, that I didn't have to go through the pain, that I took the 'easy way out'. I know most of those feelings aren't logical, but the creep up from time to time.

I don't blame God, and I'm not looking for pity. I know we had more than our fair share of struggle having a premature infant in the NICU for 3 months. But still, this is different. Perhaps a bit more personal than even all that.
Believe me, I am appreciative that things turned out the way they did. My son is a miracle, and I wouldn't trade these experiences for anything because they've made us better people, better parents, and gave me the opportunity to see God's provision and protection firsthand in Judah's little life and in our family.

You may think I'm crazy, but if I had the choice, if God had asked me how I wanted things to look at the end of my pregnancy... I would have chosen the pain of childbirth. I want to go through that experience, that rite of passage, that feeling of accomplishment, that miraculous and challenging moment.
And I pray and believe He will give me that chance some time in the future, if He blesses us with more children. I pray fervently that our future children will be full-term healthy babies, and I hope they come about naturally in His perfect timing.