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)

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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)

What’s really helped get me through this pregnancy …

Ah, second trimester. I’m so so glad you’re here.

I’m now more than 15 weeks into my second pregnancy, and the nausea has subsided, my energy is returning, and I can finally enjoy a cup of coffee again. (Why exactly does a brewing pot smell so horrific during the first trimester?? I’m sure it has something to do with those pesky hormone changes …)

But I digress. I’m really glad to put that first trimester behind me, because it was a doozy. I feel like everything about this pregnancy needs to be in bold type and followed with an exclamation point. It’s been so in your face, obvious, distinct, and pronounced. Nothing’s been subtle. I was pretty confident that I was pregnant about a week into it after having some tell-tale symptoms. Then, a couple weeks later on the way home from church on a Sunday night, I told my husband that I wanted a Big Mac. No. I NEEDED a Big Mac. (Of course, I don’t think I’ve eaten a Big Mac in probably 15 years.) He looked over at me from the driver’s side and said, “Hon, you’re pregnant.”

The next day, right at the four-week mark, I took a test. The line started showing up before I could even put it down–no need to wait the three minutes. I was indeed pregnant! And when I told David that night when he got home from work, I was surprised that he was actually surprised. I mean, I think the Big Mac craving was really the only test we needed, right?

The day after the positive test, at 4 weeks 1 day, I was fixing Olivia’s and my breakfast, and I got instantly sick. Wow, I thought, that was fast. I don’t think I even had any nausea with Olivia until about six weeks. And though I had nausea throughout my first trimester with her, I fortunately only got physically sick a handful of times the entire pregnancy.

Yeah, I think I beat that benchmark in two days this pregnancy.

I wasn’t prepared for the nausea and sickness to hit me so hard and fast this pregnancy, since that was not what I experienced with Liv. (Though my wonderful mom likes to remind me how she was sick EVERY DAY for all nine months when she carried me. Love you, mom!) I wasn’t scheduled to see my OB till I was about 10 weeks along, but at week 7, after trying nearly every trick in the book, I caved and called in for help. The anti-nausea meds thankfully gave me some relief, and they really started helping by the time we saw our little babe on the ultrasound at my first prenatal appointment.

Yes, the first trimester was tough. But what really helped get me through it–in addition to many prayers and the anti-nausea meds–was the support of David. He really was amazing, and I’m not overstating that. David truly has a gift of showing his love through his care, and I am very blessed to be a recipient of that. It was like at the first sign of sickness, he just went into take-charge mode. Now, David helps a lot around the home and with Liv under normal circumstances–I really feel we have a true partnership in our home life–but this was above and beyond.

Reading book after book after book with his girl.

Reading book after book after book with his girl.

 

Every day, he would get home from work (I was usually curled up in a ball in the family room at that point) and without even asking, would willingly and completely handle whatever situation greeted him. Getting Liv up from naps. Changing her diaper. Feeding her dinner. Seeing if anything sounded good to me. Making many trips out to fulfill whatever oddball craving I was having at the moment (and of course, when you have a craving coupled with nausea, it is the ONLY thing you can eat). Doing the grocery shopping. Doing the dishes. Playing with Liv. Bathing her. Putting her to bed. Putting me to bed.

He NEVER complained. Not once. I’m sure he was exhausted after working all day and then caring for the entire household (dogs included) once he was home, but it did not seem to phase him. Through my fog of sickness, I couldn’t help but smile as I heard him laughing with Olivia in the other room. Despite the nausea, it made me feel so good. And when I would thank him for all he was doing, he would just say “Hon, I don’t feel like I’m doing anything special. I’m just doing what needs to be done.”

Snuggling his girls. (Note: the dogs.)

Snuggling his girls. (Note: the dogs.)

 

It was a rebuke to me. If I were in his shoes, I don’t think I would’ve had the same spirit. During this time especially, he taught me through his actions what it is to live out 1 Corinthians 13. It is an honor and a privilege to be loved by him; I know I am one lucky girl.

I’ve probably embarrassed him by now, so I’ll wrap this up. As I start to feel the first flutters of this tiny babe inside me, I can’t help but be excited for this little one to meet Daddy. He’s a special guy.

All the best Dads watch Daniel Tiger with their kids.

All the best Dads watch Daniel Tiger with their kids.

 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Secret’s out: We’ve got some big news to share!

So I start a blog and then I don’t post for a month.

Not quite what I planned.

I assure you, I’ve had a good reason. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been quite busy.

Busy keeping a little secret. But Olivia says she can’t hold it in any longer.

She’s very excited to let everyone know that she’s going to be a big sister!

We’re very happy to announce that we’re expecting Baby #2 in September, not long after Baby #1 turns two. Last week, we got the first glimpse of our new Little, and we’re thankful to report all is well. Nothing quite like seeing the first images of a new miracle growing inside you.

 

So far, this pregnancy is much different than with Liv. Our Little One has been making its presence known from very early on. The day after I found out I was pregnant, the sickness also arrived, and it’s been a rough first few weeks. But thankfully, with the help of some anti-nausea meds, I have been feeling much better lately. So looking forward to second trimester!

Hopefully, as my energy returns and my sickness continues to subside, I’ll be back to posting soon. I’m looking forward to chronicling this new adventure in the months ahead!

 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” (1 Chronicles 16:34)