Are You Done Having Children?

People love to ask this question. And I’ve been thinking about my answer.

***

Uncapping the black sharpie marker, I scribble a price on the neon green garage sale sticker: $4.00. Placing the tag on the light brown maternity dress, grief suddenly tackles me. I don’t know if I can do this…

This dress was the first piece of maternity clothing I ever purchased back when my body barely revealed a bump. In the Target dressing room, I stuffed my bag under the dress to try and imagine what my body might look like with a tiny human curled inside me. It seemed so surreal.

The dress was a staple in my maternity wardrobe through the wilting heat of three summers in six years. I wore it while in labor from Monday to Friday with my son, the week we determined I was a “slow laborer.” And I was wearing it the day I barely made it to the hospital to give birth to my daughter nearly two years later. I had been in labor 48 hours, but had chosen to ignore the squeezing contractions until I couldn’t anymore. “Now.” I demanded to my reluctant husband, who was remembering the long days of labor with my son. “She’s coming now, so we need to go.”

“Let’s check how far along you are,” the midwife said just minutes after we got to the hospital, pulling on her gloves. “Oop! There’s the head! You’re ready!” she said.

“Do you want to change clothes?” the nurse asked. “Your dress might get ruined.” I let her help me into the gigantic green hospital gown just in time to push out a tiny pink stranger just 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital. My sweet daughter was born on a brilliant sunny day in Chicago in July. And this was the dress I wore just minutes before she entered the world.

Folding the dress and placing it on the pile of other maternity clothes I’ve acquired over the years, the sadness hit.

Is this stage of pink lines appearing on a plastic pregnancy test, baby kicks, musical heart-beat checks and sacred, powerful, life-ripping childbirth really over? Are these the final days of having a tiny squishy body curled against me in bed as I nurse at dawn before the rest of the house wakes? Is it the end of magical baby giggles, laughing at the grimaces babies make as they try new foods or clapping like fools when your child experiences all the “firsts”?

Are we really done having children? And how do we know when we’re done?

I’m still not sure. All my reasons for having a third child obviously still apply for a fourth or fifth or any number of children we may want to have. But here’s why I’m thinking we’re done.

Mainly because in spite of my hesitancy to have an odd number of children, I’ve been surprised by how complete the number three feels. Sitting at a restaurant, when I see a family with two children, I find myself thinking “Not enough.” But when I see four, without even realizing it, I think, “Too many.” So I think—for us—three is the Goldilocks amount of children. “Just right.”

But I also feel I don’t have the capacity—physically, mentally or spiritually — for another baby at my age (I’m 38). My last pregnancy spun me into depression and my body has felt like it aged five years with each baby. I fear another pregnancy would break me.

But having “just” three children also leaves wiggle room for other people God may bring to our home. Just as I always want to have a guest room in our house, I know my heart only has so many rooms available, so setting this limit may ensure I’ll have the space to offer a place at our table to anyone who needs a temporary family. I often pray God will give us the capacity to extend our arms around anyone God brings into our life. Perhaps not having a baby in my belly or nursing on my breast will free me to nurture those who are not my own children.

My other two children are enjoying having more of me again. My baby is now eight months old and more interested in exploring the world through his hands, mouth and however far his chubby legs will take him as he crawls from drawer to cabinet, shoving every stray cheerio in his mouth along the way. He is no longer content to sit still.

Not always having a baby on my lap means more of me for the other two. The times when I force myself to stop folding laundry, picking up clutter or organizing toys and simply sit on the floor to be physically and mentally present with my kids, a child always ends up climbing into my lap. They have missed me. I push away the guilt that creeps in, accusing me of neglecting my two and four-year-olds during the past year of being hugely pregnant or nursing around the clock. They have learned to be more independent and are discovering they have a built-in playmate when mommy is busy with the baby. But they are still little and need me.

So for all those who are asking, I’m saying I am 98 percent sure we are done. As stressful, painful, stretching (in so many ways) and difficult as pregnancy, childbirth and the baby stage have been, I have loved it. I really have. There were moments in my twenties and even as I turned thirty and was still very single, when I wondered if I would ever have children. Once I married, I convinced myself I would have fertility problems. I wanted to shield myself from disappointment. So many of my friends had miscarried or had problems getting pregnant that I wanted to be prepared.

But after five months of waiting, on a cold December morning, I woke my husband up, jumping back in bed with a huge grin on my face.

“I’m pregnant.”

And so I want to celebrate this gift and grieve the passing of such a sacred, special time of life. It has not felt like it “went fast,” but I do wish I could bottle up the magic and open it up every once in a while.

Wouldn’t you love to relive the moment you found out you were pregnant for the first time and you walked around all day with the most amazing secret you’d ever carried? I wish I could encapsulate the feeling of those first butterfly flutters and finally the indignant kicks from a silent being that drew life from my body. Or relive holding my baby for the first time, staring with wonder that there actually was a life inside me all that time. Time suspended and reality spun in those early hours of precious life.

Motherhood is a holy experience. Nothing scrapes the ceiling of the divine like pregnancy and childbirth. Giving birth and being a mother to these three souls has been the honor and joy of my life.

I place the stack of clothes with the brown dress in the large plastic bin, labeling it “maternity” and slide it over to join the pile of baby clothes I’m also pre-grieving the loss of. I walk over to the rug, plop down and grab my first son, wrapping my arms around him and tucking his long legs into my lap. “Do you know how much I love you?” I whisper. He smiles. Yes. He knows.

Blurry picture and squinty eyes, but this is the dress!

Are we really done having children? And how do we know when we’re done?

Frozen Manna {for SheLoves}

I wrote this quite a long time ago, but I still wanted to share this with those of you who missed it over at SheLoves this month.

If you asked me how I am really doing right now, this is what I would say:

“I am lonely.  I am physically weary.  I long for authentic community.  And I miss the days when I felt fulfilled in living out my calling.”

But if you then asked me to climb out of my head, open my squinched-shut eyes and look for what God could be doing in this desert season, I would confess that I feel loved, seen and held.

And I’d have to admit that sometimes God intentionally grabs our hands and yanks us straight into the wilderness.  

Loneliness is natural to the human condition and often necessary to our spiritual journeys.  I struggled with loneliness when I left my family and moved to another state for college, when I began my first job in Chicago as a teacher, when I lived on the other side of the globe as a single woman in China, when I returned home to the states to get married, and as I’ve navigated the shift of identity and calling that comes in becoming a mother.

Sometimes God wants our feet dangling in the air as we clutch the edge of the cliff so we are that much more aware when He supports us, lifting us from below.

For context, I am 39 weeks pregnant, have two little ones under four, and am used to being very capable, able-bodied and driven.  But these days, I congratulate myself if I keep everyone in our home clothed, fed and breathing.  I’ve never felt as depleted as I have in the past few months.   
Having moved cross-country over a year ago, we have few friends to walk with us during this pregnancy.  We have always found our people at church but have visited 11 churches in 16 months and are still homeless.  There is nothing that makes you feel lonelier than sitting in a crowded room full of people for an hour and a half, then walking out at the end without speaking to a single one. 

After “dating” a church for nearly a year, we reached the point where we needed to either get married or break up, and we’re facing the sad reality of having invested so much time in a relationship only to move on and start all over again.  We had hoped to stay through the duration of my pregnancy, mainly for the meals and support, but when I sat quietly asking Jesus about this decision, He seemed to say, “Don’t you think I can provide a few freezer meals for you?”

Continue reading at SheLoves…

The New Normal

He’s finally here!

Our sweet son was born last Saturday, 9/10/16, at 11:52 am, just an hour and a half after we arrived at the hospital (though after many more hours of labor at home).  The midwife nearly missed the affair, arriving at the second push.

My parents took the other two kids for the week, so my husband and I have been home alone with this new one.  We have been drinking in his soft soft newskin, curled leg cuddles and succession of suspicious looks he directs at us.  I am relieved to have him out of my body and in my arms.

The house has been quiet.  I never noticed how peaceful our neighborhood is before.  

Like childbirth, this homecoming and postpartum week has been surreal.  I remember feeling this way when we brought my other two home–like you are living outside of time, in an alternate reality.  You gaze in wonder at those around you doing normal things like having garage sales and mowing their lawn and marvel at their ignorance.  Have they not felt the cosmic shift of a new soul breaking into our atmosphere?  

Life will never be the same.

Our windows have been open all week, early fall breezes sashaying into the living room as my husband and I share the responsibility of feeding for the first time.  Our son hasn’t figured this breastfeeding thing out yet, so this particular dance of life looks like nursing a short time, then pumping as my husband bottle feeds our little one.  

I’m trying to not let it break my heart. I nurse, then watch him greedily feast on the bottle.  My offering feels inadequate.  My pride in not being his sole provider is pricked.

But my husband gently reminded me that this dance is not about me.  It’s about our son.  And he is growing and thriving under this rhythm my husband and I are waltzing together.

Our son wakes every two and a half to three hours, rolling and gnawing his fists.  For the night vigil,  I groggily scoop him up and head downstairs.  When it’s time for the bottle, I call my husband and he takes our babe to feed him while I pump.  We’ve already binge-watched the entire last season of Downtown Abbey, laughing and crying together in the wee hours of the morning.

Though this is not what I hoped for, there is goodness in it.  Unexpected gifts and new connections with this man I am privileged to love first. We are bonding in and through our exhaustion, new solidarity rising up between us.  “We” are tired, now.  “We” need to feed the baby.  “We” are his primary caregivers.  Not just me.

My other children arrive home in just an hour and our new normal will begin.

I miss them as if a piece of myself has been absent all week, not quite knowing who I am apart from them.  But I’m also bracing myself for the challenges, noise and stress.  Yet I’m thrilled for them to fall in love with their brother as we have.

I’m trusting that though God does not promise rest right now, He does guarantee strength measured out in its perfect portion.  Just as my son looks to us on an hourly basis, so we are looking to our Father to fill us, only to be emptied again…and again…and again.

He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.  Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength…” 
Isaiah 40:29-31a

***

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Previous Post: 39 Weeks~These Strange Days

39 Weeks ~ These Strange Days



Sitting here typing, the weight of my belly now rests on my thighs even without leaning forward.  My two and four-year-old get wedged between my girth and the wooden arms of the glider chair and so they now prefer to stand, or have us sit on the bed to read books before naps.  My son, waist-high, often gets belly-bumped in his forehead as I can no longer see his curly head when he’s right below me.  When he hugs me, his spine curls backward to accommodate the contour of my convex body.

Simple tasks have become comical as I can no longer bend over to pick up toys or tie shoe laces.  Hands immersed in sudsy water, I jump backward as I realize my belly has crept up against the wet sink, absorbing the water run-off.  I usually have a stain of some sort on the belly shelf and catch a draft in shirts that no longer stretch over the entirety of my new mass. I have to do acrobatics just to get out of public bathroom stalls. 
To some women, I am a good luck charm, a picture of miraculous life.  To others, I am a curse; a physical reminder of their loss or disappointment.  And to others I am a sign of their fear and dread, as they long for children, but fear having their bodies transform and never return to the thin, fit bodies they fight so hard to maintain.  Wherever I go, I am noticed.
***
And so I am trying to see and be grateful for the beauty and mystery of this experience.  It could be my last chance for my body to provide shelter, food and home to a new life; this soul that is being knit together.
The heel of my son pushes against my insides and I reach out to feel the curve of it.  It’s his way of communicating with me here on the outside.  He wakes me in the night with his turning, shifting and stretching.  Sometimes my insides pulse with the rhythm of his hiccups.
We are attached to one another.  Soon we will become two, divided and growing farther and farther apart as he learns to be a man.
I wonder what he will look like; what his personality will be.
Will he have curly hair and green eyes like his brother or straight hair and blue eyes like his sister?  How will he fit into our family and which parent will he be more like?
***
As I wait for labor, it is like waiting in the basement for the immanent tornado of intense pain, loss of control, joy, hope and love all swirling together in a powerful tunnel.  I both fear it and long for it at once.

I am acting strangely these days. One moment I am laughing with my children, the next I am crying on the bathroom floor, explaining to my son, “Mommy is praying.”  I am exhausted, but wake up five times a night and often can’t go back to sleep.  I go from wanting to lie on the couch for hours to painting the coffee table, sorting all the teeny clothes again and cleaning out every junk area in the house.
It is these mood swings that remind me that I am in good company even with wild animals who search for a safe place to have their young.  I am both special and ordinary at the same time.
I’m not sure what the next few days or weeks will look like, but I am trying to maintain a stance of surrender, attempting to trust that the One who is forming this little one’s bones, muscles, heart and soul within me knows what He is doing.  It is a minute-by-minute struggle to remember that peace is mine for the taking in these strange days of waiting.
I cling to this promise of Jesus even as I know He is holding me now, giving me life and knitting me together day by day in an on-going act of creativity:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn. 14:27 ESV). 

~~~


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" It is a minute-by-minute struggle to remember that peace is mine for the taking in these strange days of waiting."



Monthly Mentionables {August}


I’m a little over 38 weeks preggers, so that is much on my mind these days.  Yesterday it took me 20 minutes to walk a little under one mile, going at a steady pace.  I now outweigh my husband and my children can’t sit on my lap.  I’m ready to have a baby instead of a belly.

But in the midst of trying to keep cool and stay sane as I chase around two other little ones, I’ve enjoyed some really great books, have written out my angsty thoughts and listened to some new podcasts in the midst of sorting baby clothes and starting projects I usually don’t have the energy to finish.

I’d love to hear what you’re learning and being entertained by this month, so be sure to drop a note in the comments!

Next month’s mentionables post should include funny looking newborn baby pics…;-)


Books

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield

Check out my review of this book here.  If you are involved in cross-cultural work of any kind, then this book is a must-read!







Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith, by Luci Shaw

This was the first book I have read by Luci Shaw and I couldn’t put it down.  Along the lines of one of my favorite books of all time, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (Wheaton Literary Series), by Madeline L’Engle, Shaw reflects on the dissection of faith and art in such a beautiful and logical way.  It will be one of my new yearly reads, I am sure.  Very inspirational to those of us attempting to write or create.
 




Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin 

Okay, though I admit I definitely read more than one line aloud to my husband saying, “Listen to this–this is hilarious!” (usually about the “ecstasy of childbirth” or the woman’s “parts” being referred to as “the gates of life”) this is still my favorite book about natural childbirth.  This was a re-read for me in preparation for baby #3 coming in a few weeks.  What I love most is the way she discusses the mind-body connection and the way childbirth is considered as a natural, beautiful occurrence instead of a medical and scary one.


 
Podcasts

Beautiful Writers

I have binge-listened to this podcast all month.  Two women interview writers and others involved with the publishing business about how they work, what works for them and what they’ve learned over the years in the business.  My favorites were with Marianne Williamson and Seth Godin (though I seriously listened to more than half of them and enjoyed many!).


The Liturgists

#37 The Enneagram
(Just took the test for the Enneagram and I think I’m a 3. Hard to be an “Achiever” AND a pregnant mom of littles.)  This show, though probably the longest podcast I’ve ever listened to at two hours, is a great overview of what the Enneagram is if you have never heard of it before!


Global Mom Show

If I could host my own podcast, this would be it.  Love this idea and have gotten some great tips about books to read, fair trade clothing to buy and just a general outlook on life as a mom who hopes to raise kids who look past their own backyard.

Back to the Basics and Blog Posts (This gives a good overview of what this show is about!)

Fair Trade, Fashion and Global Girlfriends with Stacey Edgar

Books for Global Moms with Anne Bogel

Living Barefoot with Nancy Traversy



God Centered Mom

This podcast was also new to me this month and I LOVED it. Though I listened to at least six of these, these were my favorites:

Calmly Parenting the Strong-Willed Child with Kirk Martin

Debunking Spiritual Leadership Myths with Jen Wilkin  
 

Relief Journal

#3 D.L. Mayfield (author of the book I mentioned above, Assimilate or Go Home)

#1 Marilyn Chandler McEntyre


Recipes

Slow Cooker Carnitas (All Recipes)
This was so good and incredibly easy.  I copied some of the comments and put the meat in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 just to brown the meat a bit more after it had cooked. I also threw together a salsa made of chopped purple onion, garlic, cilantro, lime and tomatoes.  Add some shredded cheese and put in warm tortillas and you have an amazing meal.  LOVE easy food.


Zucchini Rice Gratin (Smitten Kitchen)

Our neighbor gave us a GIANT zucchini, so I was excited to find this recipe to put it to use (we only used about 1/6 of it!).  This could have used a bit more salt, but other than that it was really good.  We ate it with some Italian sausages and that really made it, I think.

Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (Pinch of Yum)
I made the mistake of doubling this recipe, thinking I would be smart and save some soup for when the baby comes, but now I have about 4 extra containers in my freezer!  It was good, though a bit richer than I would have liked.  Next time I think I’ll use less butter and try it out with 1% milk instead of whole milk.  This will be a great soup for cold weather.


Thought-Provoking Articles from the Web

An Open Letter to the Parents of Well-Behaved Children, by Jillian Lauren for Huffington Post 

Children’s Books to Help Talk about Race with Kids 

Don’t Carpe Diem, by Glennon Doyle Melton for Huffington Post

How to Make Your Voice Sound Better So People Will Actually Listen to You, by Laura Vanderkam for Fast Company  (My hubby was interviewed for this article!)

My Lack of World-Changing Extracurriculars, by Megan Gahan for SheLoves

Pregnant with God, by Danielle Strickland for SheLoves

So you’re thinking of voting for a pro-choice candidate… by Rachel Held Evans at her blog

Ultimate Guide to Keeping Young Children with You at Church, at Living and Learning at Home

5 Actions White Educators Can Take to Help Make Schools Anti-Racist, by Jamie Utt for Everyday Feminism



Published Articles

I once was (color) blind, but now… for Altarwork

How Our Muslim Student Became Auntie Boo for SheLoves

In Case You Missed it at Scraping Raisins:
(Lots about pregnancy this month now that I’m in the final stretch–no pun intended…)

What My Pregnant Body is Teaching Me

When You Can’t Quit Your Job (a reflection on my time at the Simply Jesus conference I went to at the end of July)

 

The 37 Week Pep Talk for the (Scared) Waiting Mama

What have you been into this month?

***

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Previous Post:  A Fellow Failed Missionary {A Review of Assimilate or Go Home}

Next Post: 39 Weeks  ~ These Strange Days
 

Linking up with Leigh Kramer

 
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a book and buy it through Amazon, you will not be charged extra, but I will receive a very tiny commission.

Books, podcasts, recipes and articles I've loved this month!

The 37 Week Pep Talk for the (Scared) Waiting Mama


I know you reached this point in your other two pregnancies and struggled with fear and worry, so I thought I’d ward that off with a few reminders.

Hey lady, here we go again.  You’re 37 weeks and feeling like this pregnancy has gone fast, but in slow motion.  I know you reached this point in your other two pregnancies and struggled with fear and worry, so I thought I’d ward that off with a few reminders.
1. Trust your body.
The first time around, you weren’t so sure if you could really trust your body.  You wondered how your labor story would play out and if your body would betray you.  You let others dictate how you should labor and push out your baby.  Though you had an unmedicated birth like you hoped, it was long, harder than you expected and you had some regrets.  The second time around, you were better prepared and trusted that the pain was purposeful.  You knew that slow is not bad, it is just the way God programmed you.  So the next time, you surrendered to your body and allowed it to guide you.  You sang, swayed, slept, soaked in the tub and relaxed.  You did what it took to allow your mind to get in tune with your body.  And after two days of laboring at home, you delivered a healthy baby girl 30 minutes after arriving at the hospital.  I know you can do this again—trust your body.  It knows what it’s doing.
2. Trust (and enjoy) your baby.
This little pink wriggly that they’ll place on your chest is more intuitive than you will ever know.  He already knows you, loves you and respects you.  Listen to him and find ways to be in tune with him—even when your gut goes against “the books.”  God has made YOU his mama—no one else.  He has gifted you with the ability to meet his needs in ways that no one else on earth right now can.  

Instead of “getting through” those first few weeks and months with your new one, focus on enjoying him.  Cuddle him longer than you “should,” tickle your nose with his baby fuzz hair, breathe in his newborn scent, strap him to your body to feel his warmth, nurse him in the middle of the night while you catch up on T.V. shows (without guilt) and cup his frog legs in your hands as his body still wants to be in a ball.  Blink, and he will be running circles in the living room with your other two, so enjoy these precious, fleeting days of infancy while they last.

3. You will be given what you need.
Now that you have other children, you wonder how you will have space in the inner rooms of your heart for more.  Will there be enough love, patience, wisdom, strength and time to stretch around and envelop this new one?  Will you feel the same toward him that you do toward your other lovelies?  This is where Jesus will step in, making His miracles.  Like the widow who hesitated to give up the last of her oil and flour when the prophet Elijah asked for it, you, too, wonder if you will be required to give more than you have.  But you will be shocked to find that “the bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty” (1 Kgs. 17:14).    

You will be given what you need exactly when you need it, so give freely.  Err on the side of generosity. This time of adding a needy soul to an already chaotic and overflowing life will extend you beyond your ability so that you will see your needs and your new one’s needs met in miraculous ways.  Your lack will lead to a demonstration of God’s provision.  Your scarcity is an opportunity for Jesus to lavish His excessive love on you.  Wait and see.  God will make a feast out of your simple offering of flour and oil.

4. This baby does not belong to you.
He has never belonged to you and never really will.  He has been knit, formed, made and molded in your body—but not by you.  The Holy Spirit has been at work for a long time on this little one—you have always carried a part of him inside of your body, just waiting for this egg to be picked for such a time as this.  God knew his name before he even existed and has always known the number of days he ordained for this little one.  Open your clenched hands and place him back on the altar.  This baby is not yours.  The sooner you accept that, the better you all will be.
5. Do not fear.
Before you conceived, you feared it wouldn’t happen.  You were afraid that pink line on your dollar store pregnancy test would never have a partner.  But then throughout this entire pregnancy, you have feared that you would lose the baby.  Now, you fear complications in these final weeks, in labor or that your baby will be born with birth defects that will alter his life and yours.  Fear has stubbornly clutched your skirt hem all along this road.  But here are some words of life that you wrote out for yourself on note cards the first time around.  Let these words empower you as you prepare to give birth.  Submerse yourself in them like the muscle-soothing soak of the weary who takes a bath after training for a marathon.  

Soak in these Truths: 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him” 
(Ps. 28:7).
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline” 
(2 Tim. 1:7).
“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God have I put my trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can mere man do to me?” 
(Ps. 56:3-4).
“For God is not a God of confusion, but of peace” 
(1 Cor. 14:33).
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” 
(Phil. 4:13).
“You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord is the rock eternal” 
(Is. 26:3-4).
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you” 
(Is. 43:1-2).
“Be strong and courageous! Do not trouble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” 
(Joshua 1:9).
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord” 
(Ps. 31:24).
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” 
(Ps. 27: 1).
“Peace, I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” 
(Jn. 14:27).
***
You can do this, lady.  Trust God, yourself and your baby.  This is not the first time a woman has given birth and it is certainly not the last.  You are not walking alone, but are held.  Embrace this incredible experience for all its rawness, intensity and mystery.  You’ve got this!

~~~

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Check out my other posts on motherhood and pregnancy here.

Previous Post: What My Pregnant Body is Teaching Me 

Next Post: How our Muslim Student Became Auntie Boo {for SheLoves}
 


I know you reached this point in your other two pregnancies and struggled with fear and worry, so I thought I’d ward that off with a few reminders.

 

What My Pregnant Body is Teaching Me

I just took a personality test and discovered that I am “The Achiever.”

This wasn’t a huge surprise.

I’m the type who decides and actually follows through with goals.  I wanted to be a runner, so I started running daily.  I was determined to learn to cook, so I made a weekly menu and forced my roommates to join me for our home-cooked meal every day for a year.  When I decided to start blogging last year, I jumped in the day before a challenge to write EVERY DAY for 31 days—and I did it.  And when I moved to China and saw that a friend of mine who had been there for a month was already advancing in his language skills, I found a tutor to come over EVERY DAY to help me.  And after five years, I learned to speak, read and write Chinese.

Hello.  I am Leslie Verner and I am an Achiever.

But now this achiever is also a mom.  I have two children with one on the way, and now any figurative race I run is a bit like competing with your legs tied together.  AND you’re blind-folded.  AND you have to run backwards.
So today, my major “achievements” of the day amounted to getting my children dressed, fed a semi-nutritious meal, teeth brushed, curly boy hair tamed with water and wispy girl hair combed into a tiny pony tail.  I’m even proud to admit that not only are my own teeth brushed, but I even washed my hair for the first time in a week and managed to go for a walk.

At the beginning of the summer, I had aspirations of daily Bible time with my kids, running until I was 36 weeks pregnant like I did with my daughter (I made it to 20 weeks this time), visiting a diverse park in my city once a week to strike up friendships with international student families and actually planning activities using Pinterest as a springboard (ha).

What I didn’t take into account was that pregnancy would suck the wind from my self-motivated, driven, over-achieving sails.  I sit here now, sails flapping in the wind, with my kids stuck (screaming) in my boat in the middle of a sea that I can’t navigate us out of.  And I just can’t find the energy to hoist up these sails, make a decision about where to go or even admire the scenery.

But God is beginning to show me that this hugely pregnant body of mine that feels more like a handicap than a blessing is, in fact, swaddled tightly in grace.

Pregnancy is the strong arm that forces the achievers like me to just stop.

Stop doing, achieving, scheming, strategizing and striving and just BE.  Be a mommy.  Be a wife.  Be a beloved daughter of God.  Be served, loved and spoiled.  Be simple.  Cut corners.  Accept foot rubs.  Do less. Sit on benches. Walk slowly. Order take-out. Indulge in pedicures.  Let people carry things. Take elevators. Receive.

Embrace this season of slowness that feels like weakness.  There is strength to be found there.

A year ago I was training for a half marathon, running about 10 miles in a go. I explored the city, ran trails hugging the Rocky Mountains, crossed streams and laughed at prairie dogs that warned one another of my arrival just in time to dive back into their holes, their whistles trailing behind them.  Today, it took me 40 minutes to walk less than two miles, with a brief stop at a bench at the halfway point.  At 36 weeks pregnant, I can’t go fast or far from home.  My feet pound the same steps of the same path and I’m passed by the same retired go-getters who comment that “I’m walking for two” or “Must be any day now, eh?”

But in the slowness and the sameness, I strain to hear that still, small voice that speaks to me as I pass one strong tree after another, standing stately by the stream my path parallels.  The Voice whispers, “She shall be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water that brings forth its fruit in its season.  And its leaf does not wither; and in whatever she does, she prospers.”  And the words, strangely familiar, are the first of many such songs of hope for the weary that I happen to come across in Psalm 1 in the few minutes of quiet I snatch in the mornings.

Firmly planted. Watered. Bearing fruit.

Prospering.

Without even moving?

Like the story that Jesus shares with His disciples about birds not panicking over lack of food or flowers not being frantic about finding clothing, I can sink into the soil here for a little while.  A constantly transplanted seed cannot thrive as well as one that stays firmly planted.  And so God seems to be urging me to remain as I am.  Accept this gift.  Dig deep, be watered and revel in the slow work of God.

“Cease striving and know that I am God.  I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth,” another psalm singer belts out.

My pregnant body is teaching me the beauty of diminishing, distilling my faith into a silent pool to soak in instead of a body of water to forge.

But this changed body is also teaching me about love.

It is only twisted God humor that chose women, who innately struggle more with body image than men, to be the ones to gain weight, be stretched, left with permanent scars and marks like the rotten milk ruts left under the lazy susan of my parent’s kitchen table, charted with purple veins mapping courses to unknown lands, left with too much saggy skin some places and not enough padding in others and a belly button that resembles a Muppet nose when all is said and done.  Good one, God.

Or perhaps rather than a malicious meting out of a curse on our bodies, it is God’s upside-down way He likes to hand out unexpected blessings.  A severe mercy.

Sometimes I like to stand naked in front of the mirror, marveling at this ludicrous body that doesn’t feel like mine.  I tenderly touch the too-tight skin stretched over a tiny human body and soul growing within mine. I’m in awe of this mystery.  But I also fear that my husband will laugh at making love to a body that is so deformed and abnormal—so different from the woman that he married.  And yet all he ever says is exactly what I need to hear:

“You are beautiful.”

“You are the perfect size.”

“Your body is incredible.”

And in those moments I know that I am truly loved.  Not for how fast I am, what a good cook I am, what I can achieve in school, how many languages I am fluent in, how creative of a mom I am, or how unblemished and perfect my feminine body is.

I am loved because I am loved.

Not even loved in spite of being pregnant, but loved even because I am pregnant.  I’m loved just because I’m loved.   And I will be loved even after this baby leaves its forever tattoos behind.

Pregnancy is a gift.  God gives some women the inconvenient, uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing experience of pregnancy to teach us that we can no longer define ourselves by our achievements or by our appearance.  He wants us to be weak so that we will accept help from others.  He wants us to slow down so that we will notice more.  He wants us to be needy so that we will look around for healing and find that He is already feeding, clothing and nurturing us in ways unique to us.  He wants us to cease striving and know that He is God—and that we are not.  And He wants us to change form so that we will know that we were never loved for our bodies to begin with.

And so in these final weeks of pregnancy, though I feel frustrated at being grounded when my over-achieving self wants to be out doing, I will think about those strong trees firmly planted by streams of water, calmly stretching their roots down to the stream.  They do not fear heat or cold, rain or storm, because they are nourished by the Source of everything good.  Just because they are not moving doesn’t mean there isn’t growth happening.  And they know that not only will be they be taken care of, but that they are lavishly loved, adored even.  Just like me.

Linking up with Velvet Ashes {Nest}

" But God is beginning to show me that this hugely pregnant body of mine that feels more like a handicap than a blessing is, in fact, swaddled tightly in grace."

 

Pregnancy~The Upside of Failing Your Glucose Test


I got the dreaded call. Though this is my third pregnancy, I failed the one-hour glucose test by three points.
I got the dreaded call. Though this is my third pregnancy, I failed the one-hour glucose test by three points. Three little points. I’d have to return to take the more grueling three-hour version. I wish I could say that I took this news gracefully, but you better believe I called back and begged and pleaded with the nurse to let me retake the one-hour test (yes, I’m that girl). The nurse wouldn’t budge. Ugh. She explained the test, which in a nutshell was that I would have to drink a disgusting drink, wait in the office for three hours (no leaving) and give blood all morning—oh yeah, after fasting for 12 hours while PREGNANT. Not my idea of a good time.

I ate an extra helping at dinner the night before the test, knowing that I’d have to fast all morning. Remembering a Muslim friend of mine who fasted 10 hours a day all month for Ramadan, I felt (slightly) guilty for pathetically complaining that I had to skip one measly meal. After leaving the kids with the sitter, I hopped in my car and prayed I’d pass.

The nurses all gave me sympathetic looks of I’m sorry we had to ask you back here to torture you, as I walked in the door, which I certainly appreciated. The morning started with the first of what would be four blood draws. After that, my friendly nurse handed me an even sweeter drink than I had in the previous test. But she and I chatted and laughed as I choked it down. I gave a rueful thumbs up to the nurses at the station as I lugged my bag out to the waiting area. My stomach started revolting during that first hour, but I managed to keep the drink down. Then every hour for three hours, my sweet, chipper nurse came out, apologized, then jabbed me with yet another needle and I would head back out to the waiting area. Three hours. One nasty drink. Four blood draws.

But here’s what I didn’t account for—three hours TO MYSELF. Oh my sweet Jesus, there was a beauty and silver lining to this pain and inconvenience that I hadn’t taken into account. I sat in silence. I wrote. I read. I had thoughts. It was beautiful. Honestly, by the end of it, I was begging that nurse to take more of my blood if it meant I could sit there guiltlessly for a few more hours.

By the end of the morning, I actually felt refreshed. Like I had spent the morning at a spa instead of chugging down foul sugar water and being stabbed several times over the course of the morning.

Our sitter looked at me dubiously as I bounced back home after allegedly giving blood four times on an empty stomach. “It was rough,” I said.

(Oh, and I passed). 

~~~

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I got the dreaded call. Though this is my third pregnancy, I failed the one-hour glucose test by three points.