The greatest crisis moms are facing today

I still remember the feeling I had when I walked through the doors of my first newspaper job, a fresh college graduate. 

As I took my seat in the lobby, waiting for my editor to lead me to my desk, I wasn’t nervous or intimidated or uncertain. I was bursting with excitement, eager to jump in and get started, ready to face the challenge of racing against a looming deadline with the goal of producing a published work.

For as long as I could remember, I had been preparing for this moment.

Seriously though. As a third-grader, I had created and published my own newspaper, “The Old-Fashioned Press,” which was then printed and distributed in my public elementary school. 

Yes. I was THAT kid.

From that point, my career path was extremely focused–and I worked very hard to make my dream a reality, from entering writing competitions in high school to serving as yearbook editor my senior year. I never hesitated when it came to deciding my major; it was always going to be journalism. In college, I had three media internships before graduation and during my final semester, I was the editor-in-chief of the school paper. 

So before my first byline as a full-time staffer ever hit newsprint, I was as prepared as I could possibly be.

It seems a bit crazy, right? All those years of work to lead up to this role?

But I soon found why this meticulous–and at times arduous–preparation was worthwhile. When breaking news happened minutes from deadline, tearing up the front page to write and edit fresh copy with notonesecondtobreathe was no problem. When the two top editors of one of the magazines in my group quit within days of each other, only to find barely any work had been done on the next issue due that week, no worries. When I found myself accepting a publisher role I never saw coming, it was OK. 

I just looked at the challenge square in the face and quickly got to work because I knew what to do. I had been trained for this. 

And no momentary setback was going to stand in my way.

That, my friends, was then.

Years later, I was now in a new role. My most important one yet. 

Mom.

And as I stared into my toddler’s tiny face screaming so loud I couldn’t even think, I had NO IDEA what to do. I didn’t know how to deal with my white-hot reactions triggered by some of her tantrums. I had no clue how to cope with what can be a mind-numbing monotony brought on by a repeating loop of diapers, dishes, and discipline.

Bumps in my parenting road sent me on detours full of isolation, frustration, and discontentment. I was sidelined by the obstacles. I lost sight of the end goal.

baby and mom

I wasn’t prepared for how exhausting these little lives can be.

It wasn’t till earlier this year while reading the book Desperate, written by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson, that a lightbulb went on.

I had spent nearly all of my 30 pre-parenting years focused on doing well in MY life, and yet, I had invested comparatively very little of my time on how to guide and mold a future generation.

After listening to other women over the past few years–even those whose only desire was to one day be a mom–I know I am not alone. 

You want to know what I think may be the greatest feminist crisis of our generation? I don’t think it has anything to do with politics or the current president and his policies. 

The crisis we are facing is this: Increasingly, we as women are not adequately prepared to be moms. 

I’m not talking about developing a birth plan or pinning the perfect nursery to your board or reading baby books or even reviews about what products to buy (though I was pretty clueless about those things as well). 

I am talking about preparing our hearts and minds for the long haul. About forming a foundation to do the work of eternity. About being ready for the soul-shaping job that doesn’t get deterred by the crisis of the day, brought to you only as little ones know how to do best, in a way that keeps your eyes fixed on 18 years down the line and addresses the challenges you know you will face–not with annoyance or anger but calmly and confidently and with Christ.

sick baby and mom

The cries of sickness and sighs of sleepless nights are not as challenging when viewed through an eternal lens.


I think anyone would agree that parenting is a job of utmost significance. So why are we not better prepared for it?

Because, as Sally writes, we are not looking at it that way.

“Unfortunately, many moms have entered the battlefield of motherhood and are totally unprepared, untrained, and ill-equipped for the job. I know I was. And many have not understood that the home is a battlefield where sin and selfishness must be overcome, and that the taming, subduing, and civilizing of a home will be to a woman’s honor,” Sally writes. “I believe that if moms understood how strategic their roles were in this battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation, they would grow in excitement about this great job God created them to fulfill …”

She continues: “For me, it changed my whole perspective to understand that this was a job for which I was designed before the fall, and that I played a key part in God’s plan of redeeming this world back to Himself … Had I captured earlier the great call to train godly children, who would live righteously and invest in God’s kingdom work, I would have been much more prepared and excited to face the challenges along the way.”

Her words pricked my heart.

In every other job I can think of, it would be incredulous, and foolish even, if you took it on unprepared. Imagine a reporter entering a newsroom without first learning how to write an article. Or a nurse treating a patient without knowing how to administer medicine. A teacher standing before a class without ever forming a lesson plan.

Then why would it be ok to enter into parenting without much more than a box of diapers and some onesies? With the thought that we would merely figure it out along the way?

Why aren’t we treating the preparation for this job with the urgency and importance it deserves?

Maybe you have always loved babies and with your eagerness to cuddle a squishy bundle, you thought child-rearing would come naturally. Or you focused solely on the fun parts of playing in parks and having someone to love and love you back.

squishy baby

There’s much more to being a mom than just a desire for a squishy baby to hold.


Or, like me if I were to be completely honest, you viewed parenting as secondary to something else in your life, whether it is a career or talent you possess. That it was an asterisk to who you are, not quite as worthy to spend as much time developing it.

I’ll agree, at times, being a mom isn’t always as thrilling as chasing a big story. Its inherent selflessness may not be as rewarding as holding a finished product in my hands.

But with these little fingers laced in mine, I am holding an eternal product-in-the-making in my hands.

Before I was a journalist–before I was a thought in my own mother’s mind–I was designed by God to be a mom.

Moms, we were purposed for this work.

So what can we do to get ready to face our roles with the proper focus? Particularly if you lacked examples of biblical parenting in your own childhood?

I think we as the body of Christ could be doing a better job in helping other Christ followers along in this area, through both pulpit instruction and discipleship. The authors of Desperate encourage moms of young kids to find an older, godly mentor–someone who has faced the same struggles and can provide Scriptural solutions and support. I think this is a great idea and have been praying about finding such a mentor myself. Or if you as a mom are past the stage of raising littles, maybe you can seek out a new mom in your church and offer to help guide her from God’s Word and advise (not tell) her about how to do a Christ-honoring job.

Personally, since I have been striving to view my daily functions in light of the greater work taking place in my children’s hearts and minds, many of the challenges haven’t seemed so … well, challenging.

So when they disobey, or whine, or scream “No!”, with the long-term view in mind, I’m better equipped to step back and take a deep breath and say to myself, “this is part of the process–you knew this would happen–this is why you’re here.” And then ask the Lord to help me with my response.

Now I still have much to learn, and I fail more than I would like, but with this focus, I can gratefully say God is allowing my work to become more satisfying. He is expanding my view to show me how important it is what I am doing. And it is my prayerful goal that through my actions I can in turn raise my daughters with the knowledge and experience that if God also has this role for them, it can be the most fulfilling work they will ever have–even better than seeing your name in print.

girl and dad at sunset

baby reaching at sunset

My treasures–my greatest work.

Because my newspaper clips will continue to yellow and fade. But my most exciting work … well, they are growing a little bigger each day.

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.” (Ephesians‬ ‭6:11-13‬)

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When this year wasn’t what you hoped for

This wasn’t the New Year’s Eve I had planned.

When I thought about the start of another year, and the days leading up to it, a visit to our family from The Most Dreadful Stomach Flu Ever just wasn’t on my agenda.

We had things to do. Projects to accomplish. My husband had specifically taken vacation days during this time with the hopes to tackle them.

But at 6:15 a.m. the day after Christmas, my alarm clock jolting me awake was a sudden urge to run to the bathroom and stay there for quite some time. Oh, the sickness.

On top of the nausea and stomach cramps, a strange, pressing, hot pain started creeping into my chest, rising under my ribs, filling the space in a consuming way. The pain grew so bad that by the afternoon, I couldn’t take it any longer. I couldn’t escape it no matter how I tried. It got harder to breathe. Something seemed really wrong. I told David we need to go to the hospital. I felt like I was going out of my mind from the pain.

At the ER, the medical team found my heart was beating far too quickly, and I was dehydrated. After some IV fluids, along with nausea and pain meds, my heart rate started to come down and the worst was over.

I spent the next couple days recovering in bed, sapped of energy and my intestines still in torment, though the meds kept everything in check. By Friday though, the bug had spread to my youngest daughter and then David, who also got a fever and back pain to go with it. This was not your average stomach flu. This was the Grand-daddy of All Stomach Flus. (It also dropped in on many other Scally family members, making love and joy not the only things we shared on Christmas.)

I have to admit, besides feeling sick and in pain, I was frustrated as the days dragged on, and disappointed–and truthfully, a little bit angry–when we had to cancel our annual New Year’s Eve plans. This was not how this week was supposed to go.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. I mean, this wasn’t how this year was supposed to go. As was the case for many people I know (some with far more significant reasons), for us, 2016 left a lot to be desired. I was ready to ring in 2017, with its unmarred calendar and a starry-eyed optimism that this was going to be The Year that we take on our list of goals with gusto and get things done. This year couldn’t possibly be as lousy as the last.

Yet here we are, ringing it in with Gatorade and chicken soup, the four of us quarantined by ourselves within these four walls.

Wah. Wah. Wah.

Then, that still, small voice whispers powerfully in my head, “When are you going to realize that your plans may not be MY plans.”

sick babe

A closer look at my full hands reveals a full heart.


Sigh.

This seems to be the lesson of my life that I struggle so desperately to grasp.

I mean, let’s take a look at my list of what I hope to accomplish in 2017. It tends to be full of temporary things. Organize the office. Finish the basement. Clean out the garage. Decorate the great room. Pick up more work. Write more. Read more. Travel.

But what if His plan for this year has nothing to do with my well-meaning checklist? What if it is, in 2017, to simply grow closer to Him, however that may be achieved? To be a godlier wife. To be a more Christlike mom. A more humble servant and a more proficient sharer of the Gospel.

Why is it so easy to get so short-sighted?

(I’m blaming the nausea. Kidding! Sort of.)

A few days ago, a post on Facebook caught my eye, about how to remember the blessings of the new year by writing down something you enjoyed or were grateful for on a slip of paper and put it in a jar at the end of each day. And then next New Year’s Eve, open the jar and be overcome by the joys experienced.

It’s a great idea I realized I don’t need to wait till tomorrow to start. As I look back on 2016, though kind of blah at first glance, it’s actually filled with ways My Lord met us in the darkness, took care of our needs, and continued leading us by His light.

With nearly nine months of health challenges for myself, we have never worried about paying one single medical bill. And that’s saying something, considering we lost nearly all my income due to not being able to work during those struggles, and MRIs, CT scans, ER visits, blood tests, and specialists aren’t cheap.

Though currently dirty, unorganized, and unfinished, we live in our dream home.

Though we get on each other’s nerves at times, I am married to my dream man.

And though they have added more gray to my head than I would’ve ever imagined I would have at 33, I am privileged to parent the daughters of my dreams.

Still, there’s more:

We have been honored to find new ways to serve at our church.

We are surrounded by family and friends, who have held us together with prayers and sustained us with support.

And one of the most notable as 2016 closes out for sure: since August, for whatever reason, I have not woke with daily, debilitating headaches.

I take that “whatever” back. He is the reason.

Suddenly, 2016 is not seeming so bad. Instead, I am feeling so blessed.

Christmas tree

May your reflection on the beauty of another year find more blessings than you can count.


He has met our every need. And He knew exactly what we needed and when we needed it to draw us closer to Him. I can say this with confidence even if my health hadn’t improved or if my year had been marked by even harder, more painful circumstances, because I know from His Word (and He has proven it repeatedly) that He is for me.

Bring on 2017. Count down the clocks and drop that ball. As long as my main goal this year is to pursue Him, nothing can go wrong.

And that’s truly something to celebrate.

“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:10-11‬ ‭from The Message‬‬)

I have loved my younger child differently

This year has been a whirlwind. 

When I say whirlwind, I mean there is still a box of maternity clothes sitting on my bedroom floor that I haven’t managed to find enough time to put away. (And if I’m going to be totally honest, there may be some pregnancy apparel still hiding in my dresser drawers, too.)

Whirlwind as in there are even some newborn clothes hanging in my own closet from those early weeks when the baby needed changing often, and I couldn’t yet climb the stairs following my c-section. 

Whirlwind as in when I stop to let my mind focus on the fact that today that baby has lived on this Earth for one full year, I feel I need to catch my breath.

We have been racing through this year. Sprinting towards survival. Carried along by the busyness of each day, filled with all the things it takes to enable more than one tiny human entrusted to your care to make it successfully until the next sleep. Diaper changes. Outfit changes. Meal prep. Instruction. (More instruction.) Discipline. (More discipline.) 

Then the forceful current of our daily routine pushed us through time even faster as we dealt with my own health issues for many of those months. Each day’s cherished prize: our heads hitting the pillows.

I cannot believe that last night, I put to bed a baby, and today, in this house, another toddler wakes.

first birthday

And just like that, a year has flown past.


I hadn’t stopped to really let myself think about it until last night. (You know, with the racing through life, and all.) The end of summer blurred into my eldest’s daughter’s birthday and its preparations, suddenly dropping us off to this day. But last night, it hit me. (Trust me, my husband will tell you.) It’s something about laying a child down to sleep, knowing they will have crossed that milestone the next morn of passing through another year that makes the floodgates open. And even more so that first year. I’ve come to realize–having been through two–that first birthdays are more of a celebration for the parents than the child, because you are rejoicing in the fact that you’ve successfully kept alive another soul for an entire 12 months. 

Not only have you cared for that little person for all those days and weeks and months in ways that stretched your abilities, you have learned to love another  in a way you didn’t know you were capable. An unstoppable, breathing, beating love that flows through your heart and mind, coursing through your veins and out to your actions. A love that everyone tells you will happen, but until you experience it, you can’t completely comprehend. 

And after your first child, you wonder how it would be possible to be filled up with the same love again, because you are already pretty convinced your heart in its current state is at capacity. 

Now that a year has passed after the birth of my second, let me tell you a secret. The truth is, for me, it hasn’t been the same.

My love for my younger child is different.

Before you think I am a terrible parent, publicly proclaiming my favoring of one child over the other, allow me to explain. 

I have already told the story how in the hours before my youngest’s birth, I was an emotional mess, sobbing in triage as my bewildered husband looked on. Not wanting to go through what I was about to experience because I was scared out of my mind. Scared not because of the pain of impending surgery and recovery, but because I knew the depths of what was to come. 

This time, I knew about the impossible love. And it was overwhelming.

reaching child

With this child, I already knew how far my love would reach.


Earlier this week, grandchild number 13 on my husband’s side joined our family. After he had a short NICU stay, my sister-in-law asked how I was able to stand being separated from my first daughter after her birth, since she also took a turn in the NICU. My answer was partially that I was so drugged, after a long labor followed by emergency c-section, I barely knew what was going on. But mostly the reason was that I had no frame of reference of what to expect as a mother and for me, hadn’t yet experienced that bond between parent and child. Now on the other side of that, knowing what it’s like to hold what you held inside you for 40 weeks, it would be much more challenging to go through something like that again.

And why is that? Well, you know how when you’ve done something once or you’ve been training to do something for a long time, and that moment comes to perform, your body kind of just takes over? That it acts on impulse, moving faster and more confidently than previously thought possible? Similarly, I have learned that once you’ve experienced the love of a child, the next time around, your heart responds accordingly. It knows what to do. It’s been here before. 

And because your heart knows what to expect at each new stage, it’s like it fills to overflowing before milestones are even reached. Gone are many of the uncertainties about what’s ahead, replaced by confidence that you know every new development is better than the last. You think newborns are great? Nah, wait till you see them smile. Love those 6-month-old giggles? Wait till a toddler whispers, “I love you, Mommy.”

I felt this love differently because it ran over what are now well-worn paths in this Momma’s heart, deepening the marks left by my first, pushing the boundaries to make room for more. Prayerfully cutting off the selfishness that clogged it before. Helping me better grasp just how My Father loves me and how far He’d go to reach my soul. How He’d send His Son in exchange for it.

Last night, my toddler helped me put the baby to bed. She recited our traditional nighttime story and then asked if she could pray. As I listened to her words and watched as my baby pushed her arm through the slats, spreading her fingers to touch her sister, I could feel the familiar tug as my heart stretched again.

Because now I know the miracle of a child is not only about new life. 

It’s about how it transforms yours.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.” (John 3:16, The Message)

Recovery is not what this mom needs right now

Confession time: I have squandered the majority of this year.

Not in the mom-guilt, I-should’ve-done-more-with-my-kids sort of way (though there have been plenty of internal battles about that, I assure you). 

I look back at the last several months, filled with some of my most challenging times as a mother thus far, and realize now what I wasted was my perspective.

It’s taken a long time to write about what’s been going on lately, but not for lack of trying. I have started and stopped dozens of attempts in my head. Truth is, I couldn’t write. I didn’t have it in me, mentally or physically. Which only added to my personal frustrations. A writer who can’t write is like a caged animal, repressed and tortured.

It was back in December when the first signs surfaced that something was wrong. By January, things had gotten so bad that I picked up the phone to make an appointment with my doctor.

I wasn’t myself. I woke each day with pressure headaches, some so severe that I couldn’t leave my bed all day, and my migraine medicine wouldn’t touch them. I was shaky despite constantly eating. My arms ached as if I had moved heavy boxes for hours. I had no energy. At times, I was nauseous and dizzy. I struggled to think clearly, and I was irritationally irritable (and irritable is a kind way of putting it). 

Since I was only about four months postpartum, I thought it was most likely something askew with my hormones. My primary doctor initially agreed and thought I may start feeling better the further out I got from my pregnancy. Nevertheless, he ordered a full panel of blood tests, acknowledging that my symptoms were not normal. 

Those results were the start of my seemingly endless quest for answers. Soon, my calendar filled with appointments, tests, and specialist visits. By this point, it was April, and I was not feeling any better. In fact, I was worse. I’ve had migraines since I was 12, and these were not anything like my “normal” migraines–nothing seemed to help them, and they felt very different. My doctor sent me to the ER for one headache that lasted over two days, where I received the generic diagnosis of “complex migraine” and heavy painkillers to get through the worst of it. He also ordered an MRI. 

He called with results the day after I had it to tell me that it showed what was thought to be a cyst about the size of a penny, deep in the middle of my brain, and due to its size in that area, it could be the source of my headaches. After a disappointing visit to a neurologist who clearly didn’t know much about them, he referred me to one of the top neurosurgeons in our area.

It felt a bit ominous walking down a long, dark corridor in what must be one of the oldest sections of the hospital to the office of a man who cuts into people’s brains for a living. David and I listened as he explained that the MRI I had did not show enough views of the area, and he couldn’t say with certainty if the mass was solid or cystic. I tried my best to follow along as he shared how if additional imaging showed solid portions, I would need to have a lumbar puncture to see if it was secreting any hormonal markers to better tell what type of tumor it was and that radiation was usually the first course of treatment for tumors in this difficult-to-reach location. Surgery, he warned, would bring many risks due to its “delicate” location, as he put it–but he said sometimes surgery is necessary. 

My new MRI was set for 9:30 p.m. the Wednesday before the long Fourth of July weekend. I asked the tech to stream my favorite Pandora station, and I breathed in deeply as comforting words of Truth filled the tube as the machine began its work.

“Be still, my soul, The Lord is on thy side …”

The hours between the MRI and the call from my doctor seemed to infinitely suspend in time. I think waiting to hear important news you know is coming, especially related to health, is one of the hardest things for the human mind to process. You try not to think about it–yet then you only think about it more. I can honestly say I did not fear the outcome, but that did not stop the screams of “I JUST WANT TO KNOW!” pounding inside my head.

The radiologist and neurosurgeon agreed: the lesion inside my head was fluid-filled. 

Exhale.

However, the neurosurgeon went on to say, this could still be the source of my headaches, and there are times when even a cyst of this size and in this location can pose life-threatening symptoms, and sometimes surgery is still required. So he told me what to watch for, and he ordered a new MRI in six months to check for any changes. 

brain MRI cyst

The “friend” inside my head, as David calls it.


So now, I return to waiting. 

And it’s in this twisted journey of waiting wrapped in pain where I recently realized all that I’ve wasted over the past nine months.

Yes, I’ve not been my normal self. 

Yes, I’ve not been able to do as much as I would like. 

It dawned on me though that during this time, my singular focus has been on “when this is over, then I can …” and “when I feel better, then I will …” and nothing else. The light at the end of the tunnel. The sure diagnosis. The treatment that will eliminate the pain. The capability to pick life back up where I left it. 

But what if the “when this is over” never comes? 

Then what?

And how will I account for my time spent?

I have been waiting for my “life” to start again, but, I realized, I am living my life right now.

A few weeks ago, I downloaded a copy of a book written by my college friend, an award-winning journalist turned pastor, released earlier this year. “I Am Strong: Finding God’s Peace and Strength in Life’s Darkest Moments,” by John S. Dickerson, answers the questions of “why does God allow bad things to happen?” and “where is God during my pain?” by chronicling the journey of the apostle Paul and his “thorn in the flesh,” and through John’s own discovery of Truth as he deals with debilitating, stroke-like migraines.

Though Scripture never tells us what exactly the “thorn” was that afflicted Paul, a missionary dedicated to telling people about Christ despite many obstacles, we know it was awful enough that he begged God to take it away three separate times. And the answer God gave this man who poured his whole life into serving Him was “No.”

“No,” it is My will that you function with this pain.

“No,” it is My will that you serve Me with this pain.

“No,” it is My will that I have more good for you than you can imagine with this pain.

It was not with cruelty that God gave this answer; it was with a loving care that an all-knowing Power provides. It doesn’t make sense to us, but He sees how He could use His infinite strength to do more with our weakness than we could ever do without it, if we allow Him.

As I digested this Truth, I realized God’s will for my life doesn’t pick back up again with a yet-to-be-determined start date in the future that is free from pain. God’s will is to use my surrendered pain to complete His perfect work in me.

And when surrendered, I will accomplish more for eternal good through Him. 

Over the months of pain, especially on the days when I had no ability to get out of bed, I had been so consumed by the thoughts of how I wasn’t doing enough with my girls, how I had nothing left for my husband, how I couldn’t serve at my church the way I wanted to, and how I was prevented from fulfilling my personal hopes and dreams. And I was missing it. 

It wasn’t recovery I needed to be able to be fulfilled and joyful and satisfied again. 
It was a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. It was a surrendering of self to trust that God knows better than I do. That it is part of my journey, not something to get past.

It was the realization that, as John writes, my “greatest contribution in life may result from [my] greatest pain or weakness, surrendered.”

Mind. Blown.

I was telling a friend recently how I know through experience and God’s promises in His Word that He uses the challenges and trials in my life for His good. I have seen it, time and time again. And yet, for some reason, I still find myself kicking and screaming when pushed down a painful path. When I could be allowing myself to be picked up and carried by Him. 

This morning–a “good” day health-wise–my eldest daughter and I were dancing and running around to music, and my younger daughter was crawling around as fast as she could, desperately trying to keep up. I noticed her frantic attempts to join in on our fun, so I reached down and scooped her up. She squealed as I bounced her on my hip, a smile stretched across her face as we zoomed through the house. In my arms, she found abundant joy.

It wasn’t that all of a sudden she was physically able to fly past her own limits. It was that, in my arms, she could. 

In our Father’s arms, whatever our pain, we can too. His strength can lift us up. 

baby in Daddy's arms

Life is always better when held in a father’s arms. I am learning to let my Heavenly Father carry me.


I don’t know how many reminders it will take for me to keep my focus fixed on Him when the days here on Earth get tough, instead of when the painful part of this journey will end. Because I know I have hope and assurance that it WILL indeed end, dropping me off in the arms of my loving Savior. And it should be my goal to spend this ever-so-brief time in the dark pursuing Him in a way that when I see Him, and He pulls me tightly in to His secure embrace, He whispers gently in my ear, “Well done.”


“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9-10‬)

Why I’m glad I’ll never be a pro at parenting

It’s 7:46 p.m., and I’ve been snuggling and rocking my second-born for over an hour.

I’m listening to her soft snorts as she breathes out her nose, silently willing her to just. go. to. sleep. as she fights it with every fiber in her now overly tired body. As I stare at her features barely visible in the dim light of the nursery, I wonder how I could find something so sweet still so incredibly … terrifying.

 

baby held by God not us

Her life is not held in our hands.

 
It’s been more than three months now since she entered our lives. A span of time that has mystifyingly stood still and yet passed so fast. The terror I speak of started the morning of her birth. Well, I’m sure it started before, but that was the moment it became so real that I wanted to run screaming from Labor & Delivery triage.

“I don’t want to do this,” I sobbed to my husband, who looked at my tear-stained face completely bewildered, as I lay shaking on the hospital bed in preparation for my scheduled c-section. 

“Can we just go home?”

He paused a second before carefully responding.

“Hon, I think it’s a little late for that.”

This was not how I pictured the birth day of my second daughter. I had thought we would talk and laugh and wait in excitement until they walked me back to the OR. Instead, my stomach was a tangled mess of knots and my heart was thudding and my mind was spinning. I don’t think I had ever been so nerved up about anything more in life. 

I wasn’t scared of the surgery. Or of the recovery pain I knew was coming. What had me so horrified was what I had wanted every day for nine looooooong months: the thought of this new life entering into the world.

This new life we had to bring home. To care for. To raise. For at least the next 18 years, Lord willing.

And it absolutely freaked me out.

I didn’t feel this way before the birth of my first; at least, I don’t remember feeling it so strongly. Maybe it was because I now knew what I was getting into and the significance of it all. 

My husband was right–there was no turning back. And as scared as I was, when the time came, I didn’t run. Actually, once I scooched my very pregnant self onto the operating table, I was at peace. 

Minutes later, at 9:01 a.m. on September 15, sweet Aurelia Ruth made her debut.

 The minutes and days and weeks that have followed already have blended together into an indistinguishable twist of time, as we try to figure out how to best meet the needs of this precious little soul.

Our second-born is definitely more challenging than our first, but that is not saying much, because I think I somehow birthed the World’s Easiest Baby with her. I have joked that wolves could’ve raised Olivia, and she would’ve turned out the same. So when it has become clear that I don’t have all the parenting answers (not that I ever thought I did), the terror starts creeping back in to lurk in the corners of my heart.

But that terror, I have learned, also cracks open a door to turn to God. To seek Him, instead of run in fear. To cling to truth, instead of listen to the lies of the Great Deceiver. To realize finding the “right” answer doesn’t rest on me, or in some book, or on some mommy blog, but in the Creator and Provider. For if He cares for the lilies of the valley and the birds of the air, He surely cares so much more for my children. And for our marriage. And for me.

That’s why I am glad I don’t know it all when it comes to being a parent. If it were totally easy, it would also be easy to think “hey, I’ve got this,” puff out my chest, and leave little room for God. 

I am sure there will be bigger challenges ahead than how to get my baby to sleep. And I pray He uses those challenges to keep me humble and on my knees, asking for His direction and help. 

As I lay my finally dreaming babe ever, yet ever, so quietly and carefully down in her crib and tip-toe backwards through the darkness of her room, fingers silently wrapping around the doorknob, I am not leaving the terror behind. I am simply choosing to let the Almighty wrap us both in His powerful arms.

He is there in the darkness.

He is there to conquer my doubts.

He is there in the late-night feedings. In the cries that cannot be soothed or explained. In the exhausting yet oh-so-rewarding moments that each new day brings. 

He.

Is.

There.

And I’m so grateful He’s got this, not me.

gift of a  child

Thank you Lord, for this most precious gift.

“My help comes from The Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 101:2)

What to do when waiting robs your joy

It’s amazing how quickly you can turn to despair when you are physically spent.

After about a week’s reprieve from the nausea and vomiting that returned at the 32-week mark of pregnancy, I was completely caught off guard when it came roaring back yesterday. Add this on top of my already-depleted energy from 3- to 4-hour stretches of contractions less than 5 minutes apart for the past few days, and I rapidly spiraled downward.

I have just two weeks left at most in this pregnancy, and yet, it’s as if time was standing still. And it’s like the lack of physical strength in my body also drained any mental capacity I had to cast reason and perspective on my present circumstances.

My thoughts grew increasingly dark and hopeless as the hours dragged on, knowing that it’s not exactly going to get any easier dealing with a newborn, toddler, and c-section recovery once this uncomfortable gestational period was over. While I knew I had many things to be grateful for–an incredibly helpful husband, a generally easy-going toddler, a healthy baby growing inside me, and the end of pregnancy just around the corner–it was like I could only focus on what I couldn’t do. That I couldn’t get off the couch and play “get you” with my girl. That I couldn’t muster enough strength to make it to the grocery store. That I couldn’t enjoy our last days as a family of three the way I wanted. That I couldn’t make the clock go faster.

Behind the smile, I’ve been masking my despair.

As I laid there wishing away each overwhelming hour, desperately wanting to be done with this miserable stage of limbo, I knew I was being short-sighted … and yet, too exhausted and numb to change my thoughts. Even that seemed like too much.

But I also knew my despair, anxiety, and impatience was destroying any ability to see the joys of each day. I never have cared too much for the well-meaning phrases of “it’s just a season” and “this too shall pass,” because I know that when you’re focused on simply speeding to the end destination, you can miss many moments of wonderful along the journey.

So I started to pray for The Lord to renew my thoughts, instead of just replenish my strength, and I knew others were praying too. This morning, I woke in a haze after a night of intermittent sleep to find this Scripture someone had shared on Facebook as encouragement, and it was just what I needed.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people, trust in Him at all times. Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭62‬:‭5-8‬)

As I meditated on His Truth, I prayed that God would help me wait quietly during this time of turbulence and calm my soul enough to see all that is praiseworthy. I got up, turned on the bathroom faucet, and immediately the lyrics of “Great is Thy Faithfulness” filled my mind: “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.” Yes, Lord. You promise that. And I can cling to it.

Pretty much all I want to do these days …

Instead of solely focusing on how tired I felt and how much I wanted to crawl back in bed and for the day to already be over, I decided to write down every time I encountered a blessing, starting with the fact that the sun was shining on this first day of September, the month we would welcome our new daughter into this world. I didn’t want the moments of wonderful to pass me by, unseen and uncherished. As my list quickly grew, I saw just how much I had to be thankful for.

  • A toddler who slept in
  • Coffee
  • Greetings of “mommy, up?” when I entered her room, her invitation to come snuggle in bed and read a book
  • Her sweet request to read “Sister,” and how she talked about the different ways she can help with baby after we read each page
  • Her polite, sing-songy “all done” when she finished with breakfast, followed by a request for a “cloth cloth” to wipe her crumbs
  • Daniel Tiger (!!!)
  • Her eagerness to help me make banana bread and the feeling of her small, soft hands wrapped in mine as we stir, stir, stir
  • The songs that bubble freely and tenderly from her tiny voice
  • Feeling baby girl stretch inside, despite the discomfort it brings
  • Her spontaneous chorus of “clean up, clean up” as she puts the Play-Doh back into the container
  • Her quiet, steady breathing as she concentrates on transferring popcorn from one cup to another
  • Witnessing her imagination at work as she mixes and bakes in her play kitchen 
  • Opportunities for me to learn patience and show grace when I instruct her after she throws her toys on the ground in frustration
  • The way she crosses her ankles while she eats peanut butter and jelly in her booster seat
  • When she goes potty without any protest before nap (over a month now without an accident, though I may’ve just jinxed that … )
  • Carrying her to the bed with her head cradled on my shoulder as I hum a verse of a lullaby and rub her back
  • The privilege to read her a story from God’s Word (today about the boy king Josiah)
  • Kissing her soft, smooth forehead and thanking The Lord she goes down for a nap easily 
  • A long shower while streaming my favorite Getty hymns station on Pandora and praising God for helping me get through another morning 

Clearly, my blessings were bountiful, and this day was only halfway done. I knew I would long for mornings of these magical moments in the years to come. How could I wish this away? 

She can’t wait to meet her baby sister.

Yes, this month may get harder. And I imagine it will, with sleepless nights, and surging hormones, and cries that won’t easily be comforted. But I’m praying that God will not help me survive it–that He’ll instead show me His goodness and sustain me with His grace. That He’ll quiet my heart enough to see His beauty and blessings. That I won’t be able to deny the waiting was all worthwhile.

“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭73‬:‭26‬)

Today’s parenting struggles won’t seem as bad tomorrow

I have been lying here for over an hour, desperately wishing for sleep that won’t come. It goes without saying that it is incredibly frustrating when you get the chance to rest, but you can’t. And so I am thinking and meditating and praying through my jumbled thoughts amid waves of nausea.

The last two weeks have been hard.

This pregnancy has not been without its challenges, though nothing abnormal when it comes to what growing a human for 40-ish weeks might entail. First, it was the nausea and vomiting that hit the day after I took my pregnancy test at 4 weeks–but anti-nausea meds helped me manage that until about 20 weeks. Then, at 26 weeks, I started having sciatica pain, at times making it extremely difficult to walk, sit, or sleep.

Just as that started not to be an all-day, every-day kind of thing, my old friend from the beginning of pregnancy dropped back in for a visit. Oh, hi, nausea. No, I really didn’t miss you, but thanks ever so much for stopping by. Unfortunately, the vomiting quickly led to dehydration, which led to contractions that came every 8-10 minutes for hours, which led to a trip to the hospital for IV fluids at 32 weeks. I am now 34 weeks, and the nausea and vomiting seem like they’re here to stay, regardless of the medicine this time around.

And so I’m tired. And sick. And just want to get up and go play with my daughter when she reaches and calls out “Mommy, hand? Outside?” No, baby, not today.

girl on swings

My baby girl is learning to let go, and so am I.

Instead, I am focusing on just getting through each day, and most days, each hour. I am trying to not grow weary, though the hormones admittedly cloud my judgment, and I cry over the box of spaghetti noodles I accidentally spilled across the floor.

The one thing that helps is to know that my present challenges are temporary; they have an end date. This storm will pass. In less than five weeks, I will be holding my baby girl. And I am positive I will like her a lot more on the outside than in.

Since I’ve spent much of the past two weeks lying down, lost in my thoughts, trying to distract myself from the nausea, I’ve been reflecting on the past two years as a parent and the challenges that don’t have an end date marked on the calendar, when you don’t know when the cloudy days will cease. And how soon, we’ll be revisiting some of them. How there will be days of struggles and weariness with no light piercing through the fog at times, and how it will be easy to get discouraged, if we take our eyes off the Master.

First, it may be the rollercoaster of feeding and sleep with a newborn. Trying to navigate the twists and turns of latching correctly, getting her fill, eliminating those pesky gas bubbles, and hoping she keeps at least most of it down. For as “natural” as feeding my firstborn was proclaimed to be, I was shocked by how physically difficult it was. Natural yes, easy no. I remember one night, a few weeks in, sitting on my bedroom floor with her, uncontrollably sobbing and sweating and miserable while my bewildered husband stood by, wondering what he could do to help.

And while sleeping for Liv is perhaps what she’s always done best, the initial weeks of disrupted cycles can easily leave you in a haze, regardless. But since we’ve only known a sleeper, it’s quite possible that our second daughter could turn our world upside down.

girl on slide

Parenting is quite a ride, full of twists and turns and the most exciting outcomes.

The weeks will pass, and then the developmental milestones will be upon us. I’ve seen these consume otherwise-stable moms with concern: When will she roll over? Sit up? Eat solids? Crawl? Teethe? Walk? Talk? For most of these, Liv was on the later end. She didn’t crawl or get her first teeth till 9 months; walk till 15 months; talk more than a few words till 20 months. I quickly learned that focusing on these too much was pointless, unless there was a medical reason to do so–eventually, she would do them.

Then there’s the meat of the parenting struggles: the instruction, correction, and discipline. The wondering if they’re ever going to get it. When “no” becomes the word you say most and you feel like you repeat the same handful of phrases day in and day out. Where you have long stretches where no noticeable progress is made. And you wonder if anything you’re doing really matters.

But then, as with all of these challenges, you’ll wake one day and realized your baby slept through the night. You’ll put away the bottles for the last time. You’ll walk in the door, and your baby will run into your arms. You’ll prepare to move on to the next task and realize she is cleaning up her toys behind you, unprompted. You’ll sit down to a meal and distractedly begin eating, while your little one folds her hands and begins to pray.

And the storm clouds of yesterday will seem distant and fleeting, quickly fading in the rear view mirror of life as it speeds on ahead.

I had this moment recently with my nearly 2-year-old daughter. In a span of just a few months, she went from a baby sitting in a highchair, shoveling fistfuls of food into her mouth, largely dependent on us for everything. Now, as I watched her seated at her own kids’ table, she carefully and methodically stabbed each strawberry with a fork and asked for a wipe when some juice dribbled down. I passed her a napkin and wondered where my baby girl had gone. This precious gift that once curled inside my belly was a (mostly) potty-trained, sleeping-in-a-twin-bed, thoughtful and sweet little girl. As I paused and looked deep into those breath-taking hazel eyes, I saw a tiny person staring back.

Tomorrow was here, and it had brought a rainbow.

I know there will be new parenting challenges ahead, paling at times in comparison to yesterday’s struggles, but I also now know that today’s seemingly insurmountable obstacles won’t seem that bad tomorrow–if we keep our eyes fixed on the One who controls the present storm, the One who the winds and waves obey. For if we do, before we know it, He’ll have guided us over the turbulent waters into the safety of the boat. If we consistently keep treading water, He’ll keep our heads above it. And when the waves start to swell again, and we brace for the crash ahead, I want to remember to stop and be still. And wait for His peace to wash over me. And remember the beauty that waits at the end of the rain.

reading Bible in chair

“Reading” her Bible in her new big girl room. I hope I have many years of catching her doing this.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)