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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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)

Stop, busy moms and dads: The best moments of your day are the ordinary ones

My niece turns 5 years old today.

If I think about it long enough, I will break down and sob … so I can only imagine how her parents feel.

She is not the first in our family to cross this threshold from the baby and toddler days into official childhood–I have three nephews who are older–but she is the oldest girl. As the mom of two younger daughters, I’ve been watching her, as she has always been a step ahead of my own.

My oldest is now 2.5, the age my niece was when she was born. And that was just yesterday.

Wasn’t it??

Because I certainly remember my sweet, curly-haired niece tenderly and cautiously getting her first peek at her “Baby Olivia” in the hospital, just like no time has passed at all.

niece meets daughter

My oldest daughter is now the same age as my niece was when she met her in the hospital.

And yet it has. My daughter now wears the hand-me-downs that my niece wore when that baby girl was cradled in my arms.

And I realize I will blink again, and my daughter will be celebrating the same milestone my niece is today.

Time, I beg you, please stop.

But since I know it won’t (sigh), I need to.

It is so easy in the never-ending list of things-that-must-get-done-right-this-second to say “not now,” “in a minute,” or “just after this” … or dream for and long for the things I want to do but can’t … and miss out on the best parts of this time with our littles. These ordinary moments that are shaping an extraordinary life that we get to watch, if we allow ourselves to do so, unfold.

 

baby smiles

Today, I am stopping to soak up this sweet baby’s smiles.

 
So today, I am pledging to not get frustrated when things don’t go according to “plan.” I am not going to focus on the “what ifs” and the “wish I coulds.” I will stop and savor moments like:

  • The smile that instantly brightens my 6-month-old’s face when I get her from the crib
  • The way my toddler throws her arms around my neck with a fierce grip as I guide her legs into her pants
  • Running the brush through my daughter’s long, “luscious” (as my husband likes to call them) waves to get her morning “tanglies” out
  • Her small voice calling out, “Mommy, help you please?” when she can’t quite do a task herself
  • Dancing in the great room
  • Baby giggles
  • Crawling under the tent we just made to eat a snack and read her Bible stories
  • The slow, rhythmic breaths of concentration as my toddler studies something new
  • The lullabies of a proud big sister softly sung to her little sis as she prepares for nap
  • The way my baby looks while she sleeps

Everyday moments that are wondrous and awe-inspiring when strung together.

snacks and tents

Today, I am stopping for a snack under the “big tent” we made.

This morning, my toddler paused at the top of the steps and said, “Mommy, can you hold my hand?”

I was already at the bottom. I turned and climbed again to the top and held my hand out. I felt it fill with hers, and we started down.

She took two steps and looked up at me. She spoke in a voice just above a whisper.

“Mommy, thank you for holding my hand.”

I swallowed the rock in my throat.

In that moment, nothing else I “had” to do mattered. In that moment, there was nothing better.

I hope I always stop and reach for her hand when extended. 

For I know I will miss it–oh, how I will miss it–when it’s gone.

“I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart …” (‭Psalms‬ ‭138‬:‭1‬)

From one mom to the presidential candidates: I wouldn’t let my kids act this way

I’m one of those weirdos who’s always been fairly interested in the political process. Probably has something to do with my love of U.S. history and the fact that I am a (recovering) journalist by trade.

So it should be no surprise to those who know me that this weirdo oddly looked forward to watching the Detroit GOP debate Thursday night. The kids were in bed. Sweats were on. I sat down in front of the TV, with a pile of laundry to fold and a slice of Achatz 4-berry pie topped with a scoop of ice cream (because everything is better with pie).

As I flipped on Fox News, I thought I was done parenting for the night.

But then, it started.

The name-calling. The shouting. The taunting. The interrupting. The dishonesty. The blame-shifting. The disrespect.

Not from my kids, though, or any others. From those vying to hold the highest office in the land. And I quickly felt my inner-momma coming out.

You know that feeling you get when your toddler melts down in public? As I felt my embarrassment and blood pressure rising while the behavior on stage fell to new lows, I wanted to throw up my hands and shout “That’s it! We’re done here!” and march all these candidates straight out to the car.

In this election cycle, we’ve seen some of the most childish, confounding, unacceptable–and in some cases, perhaps even criminal–behavior I have ever witnessed. From people (in both parties) who want to lead this nation. Heaven help us.

If my 2-year-old did any of the above, she knows exactly what would happen next.

So candidates, come here. Put your listening ears on. Look right into my eyes.

This mom has had it.

Since you’re acting like children, I’m going to treat you like one of mine. Apparently, you all need to be taught a lesson.

Speak sweetly. Seriously, guys, this is pretty basic. I am beyond appalled at the tone of the discourse I have heard. The insults. The sophomoric jabs. In our house, we have a favorite phrase that we are constantly repeating after our toddler whines, complains, demands, or shouts: “Excuse me, how would you say that sweetly?” If it’s not spoken sweetly, we don’t respond to it. And if it’s not something you can say sweetly (as in, “Little Marco,” “His ears are big,” “He sweats too much,” “His face is orange,” “His hands are small,”), don’t say it at all.

Wait your turn. If you hear that someone is speaking, don’t interrupt. If you are upset, don’t immediately react. We follow the Daniel Tiger adage around here: “If you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” (I was wondering Thursday if the Cruz family was also partial to the popular PBS program when the senator kept telling a certain billionaire to “just breathe” …)

Tell the truth. I realize this may be one of the hardest things to do if you’re running for political office. It seems like under-handed tactics and deceitful campaign ads are just part of the game. Or lying or cheating (or breaking the law) to benefit yourself. But we want to make an informed decision, so give us the facts. Like the kid with crumbs all over his face who claims he hasn’t eaten a cookie, we can see right through most of your poor cover-up attempts anyway.

Show respect. How can you say you’re running on behalf of all Americans if you can’t even treat your peers well? Or if you target and degrade certain groups of people? The office of the presidency, no matter who fills it, deserves honor and dignity. At various points during this campaign, I’ve felt like I could be watching a casting call for the latest reality show. It seems like the candidates have confused humility with performances that are humiliating.

Own your actions. If you’ve changed positions, tell us why. If you regret a decision or legislation you supported, explain what changed and how you would do it differently now. Don’t deflect (“but he’s much worse”) and point fingers (“well, he did it first”). Take responsibility, share what you’ve learned, and move on.

Life’s not fair, so stop pouting about it.  My daughter knows that she doesn’t get every toy in Target just because they’re there. That’s not how it works. Sometimes (but most definitely not in all circumstances), her right choices bring rewards. Other times there are disappointments–and we are teaching her that she has control of her reactions to those and even those trying times can bring blessings.

Follow Christ. Several of the candidates claim they are Christians, yet, sadly, many of their actions are antithetical to the truths taught about Him in God’s Word. The fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control, etc.) are scarce. I pray all the candidates would open their Bibles and seek Him–our Creator, our Savior, and our Lord–first and foremost. Because without Christ, even our righteous actions are filth in God’s eyes and our good works are meaningless; but through Him, He provides redemption for all.

We’re often told that the president of the United States is the leader of the free world. So grow up, guys. Lead. Be an example.

There will be consequences if you don’t.

 

“Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored.” (Proverbs 13:18)

 

 

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)

Mom-guilt and its second-guessing demons are from Satan

Before kids, I belonged to the confident, self-assured group of people that thought I wouldn’t let having children change who I was in any respect.

Then an 8-pound, 4-ounce bundle was placed in my arms. And my confidence was destroyed. Self-assuredness thrown out the window.

Nearly two years later, I’ll be the first to admit–I am not the same person I was before I became a parent.

The woman who could walk in the office of a CEO and boldly propose new ideas now stares inside the diaper bag, frozen in fear over whether she packed all the right things to cover any potential crisis that may arise during the hour-long trip to the grocery store. Do I have enough toys for distraction? Will she eat this snack? Do I need to bring a sweater? Should I grab some Tylenol? (You know, just in case she spikes a sudden fever.) Oh wait, Tylenol is “bad,” right? Do I have some more-natural Little Remedies?

Every time before leaving the house: Food? Check. Coat? Check. Hat? Check. Giant diaper bag? Check. And then ... is she too warm? Should I take off her coat? Is that too big of a snack before dinner???

Every time before leaving the house: Food? Check. Coat? Check. Hat? Check. Giant diaper bag? Check. And then … is she too warm? Should I take off her coat? Is that too big of a snack before dinner???

Every decision is questioned. Analyzed. Pitched to other moms on Facebook for their input. Hey, I’m all for research and preparedness and doing things as safe as possible; there’s nothing wrong with that. But then, once the decision is made, I wonder if it was the right one. I see another mom has made a different choice, and I start to measure mine against hers. Perhaps her decision was better? Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I ruining my children for life??

With the second-guessing comes the guilt. The feelings that I should’ve done better. That I did indeed make a bad choice. That my decision will have a detrimental and devastating impact on the future and well-being of the littles entrusted to my care. And this guilt can really mess with your mind.

This is especially true when you make a decision that varies from whatever’s considered the mainstream or “superior” standard: formula feeding vs. breastfeeding, back sleeping vs. tummy sleeping, organic foods vs. convenience and cost, staying at home vs. working, pro- vs. anti-vaccinations … and the list goes on. The guilt can grip your soul so tightly that you feel the need to justify and explain and even apologize for the decisions you’ve made–when you’re not crying about them. Even when health and finances and your personal household demand a decision that differs from the norm. Even when what seems “bad” to others is truly what’s best for you and your child.

Moms, I say this with all due respect: just who do we think are?

Do we actually think our actions will add one second of a day to our child’s lives? That if we had “just done this” we would’ve had the power to change an eternal outcome?

I'm so glad this little life does not depend solely on me.

I’m so glad this little life does not depend solely on me.

I’ll never forget Liv’s first serious sickness. I had to leave on a business trip right after she came down with congestion that led to a double ear infection. We had taken her to the doctor, and she had started a course of antibiotics. She was well cared for with my husband and other family members while I was away. But she wasn’t fully recovered by the time I got home, and because of a slight condition she was born with called laryngomalacia, her breathing–which could sound raspy when healthy–seemed particularly labored through the congestion.

I knew in the back of my mind that this was normal and that her pediatrician had told me she would sound worse when sick. I also knew she was getting better, and her fever had broke. That, yes, she was sleeping a lot, but she was happy, though not back to herself, when awake.

Yet the sounds of her heavy, squeaky, rattly breathing as she approached her 14th hour of sleep were too much for this momma’s heart to bear. My fears knocked me flat. And I crumpled into the floor of my closet and sobbed.

I shouldn’t have left. I should’ve been there for her. I have failed her. Another mom would’ve done it better.

The guilt was oppressive.

It stopped me in my tracks. It pushed aside my logic. It silenced conversation with my Heavenly Father. It was all focused on me.

See, I think, if we truly admit it, we moms start to believe the lie that the control abides in us. That this burden and challenge of raising children is ours alone to bear. That the weight of making the right decision is on our shoulders.

And we forget God.

We elevate our importance and ignore His power. We become blind to His leading and teaching. We think His grace for our finite, fallible human ways must not apply in this situation.

And instead we allow the great deceiver to flood our thoughts and take the reins of our fears. Oh, how he must love to replace our trust in Him and His divinity with terror and doubt.

I wrote in my last blog post about how Our Creator formed us to be fearfully and wonderfully made. But the psalm doesn’t end there. It goes on to say “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:16)

You see, the days of these little lives don’t rest solely on us; they’ve been planned out and purposed by Him. If we are putting God in the center of our decisions, we can move forward with confidence in them. Despite how you feel those decisions may look to anyone else outside your household. So fill that bottle with formula with your head held high, knowing you are nourishing your child. Head in for another day at the office, knowing it’s what God’s called you to do. Research and prepare and pray–and then leave the decision in His hands.

And on the days when you feel your choices truly weren’t the best, don’t give Satan a space to fill your heart with guilt and guessing. Instead, turn to the Almighty One who knows the beginning to the end. Ask Him for wisdom for the future–or forgiveness, if needed. Be consumed by His care. Thank Him that it’s not all up to us. And press on knowing that He’s gone before.

 

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Why this c-section mom has no regrets

In less than three months, I plan to go under the knife.

It will be a surgery with the most beautiful outcome I can imagine, resulting in the birth of our second daughter. I can’t think of a better reason to be cut open.

As it looks, birthing by cesarean section will be all I ever know. And (this may be hard for some to understand) … I’m totally OK with that.

Make no mistake, it will be painful. It will be messy. 

But it will be perfect.

You may wonder how I can say that. It’s not that I set out to have my babies by c-section. In fact, to be honest, the thought of a c-section never seriously entered my mind when I was pregnant with my first daughter. Sure, we’d attended a birthing class, and I’d read through “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” so I knew somewhere in the back of my mind that it was an option. 

And unbelievably, as a notorious over-planner, it’s not like I went into labor with an elaborate birth plan either. My plan after 40-plus weeks of carrying this little life was pretty basic at that point–please, please, PLEASE, just get this baby out of me! Yet, I still assumed she would take the southern route.

However Olivia–and God–had other plans for her debut.

About 14 hours after arriving at the hospital in labor with her, it was time to push. And push I did for over the next two hours. I was making progress and the RN was describing Liv’s full head of dark hair to me, but something wasn’t right. Liv’s head was transverse. I remember my OB made several attempts to turn her head as I pushed, but as soon as the contraction was over, her head would turn right back. It must’ve all been very stressful on her, because her heart rate kept decelerating. And so my OB gently told me that she felt the best option for a safe delivery at that point was to quickly move to the OR. 

What happened next struck me as so odd.

Everyone in the room, from the OB, to the RN, to the resident who had been observing my labor, began apologizing to me. “I’m so sorry,” they all said, with tilted heads and sympathetic gazes, as they began prepping me for the c-section to come.

“What are they sorry for?” I thought. “It’s OK,” I reassured them, as I struggled then to NOT push with each contraction as instructed. “I just want whatever is best.”

Less than 30 minutes after the decision for the c-section was made, Olivia Annmarie entered the world. But her experience of trying to find a way to greet it had taken its toll. She wasn’t breathing. Several minutes passed, and we didn’t even realize she was out of my body, let alone being bagged and worked on. I remember asking the anesthesiologist hovering at my head if she was almost out yet, and she replied that she was already out and over at the table. Then, we heard her tender little cry. 



Liv spent her first couple hours hanging out in the NICU.



After a brief look at her, she was whisked off to the NICU with David following. But thankfully, after those first few moments, she rebounded quickly and had no further issues.

I’m not going to lie–my recovery from her arrival was long and hard. It took many weeks to start to feel somewhat normal again. But through the pain, I would look at my sweet baby girl and nothing else mattered.

She was here. She was perfect. (Even with the little “conehead” she initially sported right above her ear where she had gotten stuck.) 



My perfect view while I recovered.



Not long after I got pregnant with our second, the questions started coming. Those who knew I had a c-section with Liv started asking, “So, do you think you’ll try for a VBAC with this one?”

I didn’t mind the question, and I knew the inquiries were well-meaning. But the answer is no, I am not.

Turns out, after discussing with my OB, that I have a slim chance at a successful VBAC. Liv’s birth revealed I have a misshapen pelvis, and it’s likely that if I labored again, it would end with the same result. And so, without hesitation or any regret, I scheduled my c-section for Baby No. 2.

What’s surprised me in the months since my first c-section is that I’ve learned my lack of regret regarding it is considered somewhat … abnormal. I’ve heard other moms describe how they’ve grieved over this method of birth and felt they’d been robbed of a different experience. How they’ve longed and hoped and prayed for another option. How they’ve felt their bodies failed in some way.

I’ve heard other completely well-intentioned moms cheer on those whose chance of a natural delivery is diminishing with mantras of “your body was made to do this!” Except, sometimes, it isn’t. And there should be no shame or guilt associated with that.

Because I believe that the verse we often quote regarding our tiny miracles applies to us mommas too: “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … “ (Psalm 139:14)

If God’s ways are perfect (which they are), then I am also perfectly designed, just as He intended. And since His way is perfect, I can say with confidence that my children’s entrances into this world, whatever shape that may take, are part of His perfect plan as well.

So why did my medical team feel the need to apologize as I headed to the OR? Why the shame and the guilt and the regret expressed by so many? Just because your body doesn’t “do” something–be it a natural birth, breastfeeding, or the ability to bear a child on your own–doesn’t mean you have failed … because wouldn’t that be saying that God has failed in His plans for you?

To me, a life coming into this world–and the nurturing and growth of it–is miraculous and amazing any way it happens. What’s “best” may look different for each mother and child, but that doesn’t change the perfection of God’s design for you.

So to the mom who’s pushed out that child without any medical intervention at all, let me share the truth from God’s Word: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom who bears the six-inch scar near her bikini line: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom who nurses her babe for 18 months: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom who prepares bottles of formula for her bundle of joy: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

To the mom whose child was placed in her arms by another: you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

There’s nothing to regret about that.

“God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true …” (Psalm 18:30)