A Letter To The New Mom…

Momma and baby 2

(This is a revision of a letter I recently wrote to a new mom.  I decided to post it as I am sure that there are many new moms that are feeling overwhelmed and may need this encouragement today.)

Dear New Mommy,

I remember those early days with three little boys, ages 3 and under. I tried so hard to put on a brave front, to be cheerful, patient with my boys, and hopeful, but I remember at times, I was screaming on the inside.

How could I meet all of their needs — when they needed me all at the same time?  They were too young to understand the need to be patient and to wait.

I didn’t know motherhood could be so incredibly difficult! I didn’t know it would bring me to the “end of myself” and would make me wonder if I would ever find myself again — whoever that might be.

BUT GOD…

God was not immune to my struggles…

Later, I asked God about those dark days. I asked Him with trembling and tearful words, “God, where were you when I felt so alone?” God answered me with this picture of me sitting in the rocking chair, holding my two babies (a time I remember very well when I felt so alone and overwhelmed). I was not sitting there alone though because what I didn’t realize at the time was that He was there, right there with me, and holding me. My little boys and I were cradled in His arms.

I asked God about this picture He was giving me: “Lord, I have a great imagination. How can I be sure this is You and not me?” God then brought these words to my mind, “As a mother comforts her children so I will comfort you.” I looked it up, and sure enough, there is a verse in the Bible that mentions this.

Isaiah 66:13: “As one whom his mother comforts,
So I will comfort you…”

These days are overwhelming, but as a mother who has been through a lot of the same struggles, may I tell, “You can survive.”  

Why?  Because you have courage, a heart of love for your kids, and you have a God who does see, care, and hear. He doesn’t ask you to walk this alone. His grace truly is grace for the moment…

Someday, you will look back on these days, and you will remember the lisping voices of your toddler, the toothless baby grins that melt your heart, and the inquisitive questions of a child that believes you know all the answers to the universe.  Someday, you will truly know that it was all worth it.  Yes, even the most soul-wrenching and physically-draining day was worth those moments when you had the privilege of being someone’s mother… to hold the heart of a child within the embrace of your arms.

Hugs, dear one…

The “Mommy Martyr” Vs. The “Sisterhood”

Copy of IMG_1660The last few days, life as a mommy of five children with a newborn was difficult.  Yet into the emotional vortex and challenges of my life, some beautiful people transformed my days into something lovely.  Help from the sisterhood arrived!

Wednesday evening, I had spent time finishing the last of this week’s Bible studies on the life of David.   Beth Moore made some important observations in the studies.  She mentioned that God orchestrated events in David’s life so that he was dependent on others at times in his life.  Dependency was to reveal his need for others in the plan of life, to bring humility, and to bring compassion towards his fellow mankind.  Beth Moore indicated that God never intended us to live life as solitary units.  We are most importantly meant to live in the delightful fellowship of a relationship with God, based on His grace towards us.  We are then secondly created to learn to walk this life with the rest of humanity.  This walk can involve lots of trials and suffering, but it can also help to purify us, bring about a greater humility, and hopefully create a greater sense of compassion and awareness of our fellow mankind.

I was reminded of those lessons as this week unfolded.  This week had presented me with quite a few challenges, and I was quickly feeling “submerged” by life.  It was then that God began to bring the “sisterhood” into my life that revealed to me that I am not alone in this event called life.  It reminded me again that I don’t have to become the “Mommy Martyr”.

Sometimes, it seems like as women, we feel that we have to be invincible — a combination of hero, warrior, and martyr.  We feel that we have to do everything and be everything for everybody.  Anything less than perfection, we feel is not good enough.  We walk around with feelings of failure and as a result have simmering frustration which can then lead to anger towards ourselves and those closest to us (our children and spouses).  We transfer our unrealistic expectations upon our children and our spouses and then react when they don’t measure up to our standards of perfection.  Perhaps this lack of reality and truth stem from a false perspective of God and His dealings towards us.

Perhaps it’s a lack of recognition or personal awareness of how God is constantly working in big and little ways to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His love towards us!  Perhaps, it’s not understanding that God desires a personal relationship with us — a close and intimate friendship with Him.  He wants us to personally know His heart for us and His plan and purpose for our lives.  God wants us to discover that His love for us is not circumstantial, limited, or performance-based.  His love is based on His own nature — not reliant on ourselves or who we are or aren’t.  Our relationship with Him changes only as we change — as we move closer to Him or further from Him, based on our own tolerance of sin in our lives.

When we correctly understand the merciful nature of God and His great love for us, we are able to more readily accept His grace and forgiveness into our lives and then extend that to others.  We are also able to more readily accept love and grace from others as well.

As humans, we are created to depend on God and even others to fully live this life.  This is where the “sisterhood” is meant to exist and serve.

This week, I personally experienced how the “sisterhood” beautifully serves and assists and how dependent I am at times on them.  I had dear “sisters” who brought me meals twice this week.  I had a mother, sister, and father who helped pick up my kindergartner from school since I didn’t have a vehicle.  I had a cousin drive a few hours to spend a day, watching my kids so I could get a much-needed nap and then to help me grocery-shop and get some Christmas-gift shopping done.  She also made supper for us and brought toys to share with my kids.

I had a newborn baby who smiled at me!

I had a two-year-old daughter who sang a delightful song to her baby brother.

I had a “sister” who volunteered to drive me to a ladies’ Bible study.

Each of these actions encouraged my heart and helped me to be able to live life more fully — not just surviving but thriving under the care and nurture of love.

As “sisters”, let us not forget that even the smallest actions can encourage a heart.  We are needed!  We are not meant to live as solitary units nor are we meant to become “Mommy Martyrs” in order to live life.

A Day In The Life Of A Mommy Of A Newborn

baby damian

(FreeImages.com/MarcoOjeda)

I’ll be honest.  Yesterday was tough!  It was the first time since giving birth to my 19-day-old that I cried.

Up until two days ago, I had been feeling good.  Tired but not extreme exhaustion.  Holding a contented newborn.  Maintaining a decently clean house.  Keeping abreast of business stuff.  Generally doing well with recovery and life.

Yesterday it came crashing around me.  It’s not that anything was horribly major — like someone dying or a terminal illness or a house burning down.  It was all those “little” things that add up and when you are exhausted, make you feel like nothing is going right.

I get about 5 1/2 hours of sleep at most per night.  I know some can survive with that few hours of sleep, but I start to feel like a zombie or overly emotional after awhile if I am not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night.  We know how it goes with a newborn, sleep just doesn’t happen much — especially when you have four other children too.

With three of them in school, I have to awaken them at 6:30 a.m. and help them madly scramble to dress, eat, pack their lunch boxes in the backpacks, find gloves and hats (always by their back packs), take vitamins, pray with them, and then send them on their way with hugs and kisses by 7:00 a.m.  In the mad scramble, the boys often are too noisy and to my horror — yes horror, manage to awaken their 2-year-old sister at 6:30 a.m. also.  That means that Mommy’s day has begun — whether ready or not.  Of course, there is a newborn to be fed every two hours in there, and the feeding takes 30-45 minutes total.  This also involves a partial outfit change as the poor little guy spits up a lot.

So, I begin my day with sleep deprivation which means everything is “amplified” — the stresses and hopefully the joys too.

Did I also mention that my two-year-old has decided that naps are a thing of the past?

On top of that, I had to spend my day talking with banks, auto mechanics, sales’ representatives, the hospital where I gave birth, the Social Security office, health insurance representatives, doctors, etc…  Why all of this?

Because… our van is in the shop — thanks to a bad repair job that should have cost us around $100 but is now going to cost us at least $2000!  As a result, I’ve been without a vehicle for a week, and it will be another half a week ’til I have a vehicle again.

My husband and I had lots of decisions, research, and phone calls to make to decide on whether or not we wanted to invest more money into a high mileage vehicle or take our losses.  We had to consider what type of vehicle we would buy in its place and how we would pay for it.  So many decisions and many phone calls and research!

No vehicle means I am house-bound and have been for weeks.  Thankfully, my sister and mom have been available to pick my Kindergartner from school, or we would be in trouble.

Then, there are all the insurance issues.  My husband changed jobs — a good thing — less than a month from Baby’s due date.  The new insurance plan offered would have meant we would have had to pay completely for the cost of the birth so we elected to go with Cobra, our only other option available at the time.  I did more research and found that once Baby was born, we could then switch to a cheaper plan.  I’ll spare you the details, but to get the best deal, it meant we had to go with Cobra for October, my  husband’s new insurance plan for November, and then I needed to apply for a third plan for December, that we hope to keep ’til the following December.  All these insurance changes meant time — time with a capital “T”!  I had to call doctor’s offices to get information.  I had to keep reentering information on our online application as it wouldn’t save prior information.  Lots of time involved!  I had to submit applications for Cobra and make more phone calls.  I haven’t even gotten to resubmitting bills yet.  That will come.

Then, there is the issue with our newborn’s birth certificate and social security card.  They have the wrong name.  So, I had to call the hospital, fill out paperwork, resubmit the form for a corrected birth certificate, try to reach the Social Security office to no avail, and now we have to wait for the new certificate before applying for a new social security card.

Of course, Christmas is fast approaching.  This is a season and holiday I love, but it means more work.  I have Christmas gifts to make and order, letters to write, and shopping to do.  This is not meant to be a burden, but add it with everything else, and I started to feel overwhelmed.

Boring you yet?  Probably an under-statement…

Yesterday when I started to cry, it wasn’t because of all of the previously mentioned challenges.  It was because my baby wasn’t acting like his usually contented self.  He would cry from hunger, I would attempt to nurse him, and he would turn up his nose at me.  There is nothing like holding her own crying and unhappy baby that will more quickly reduce a mother to tears.  I couldn’t satisfy him at the moment and help him, and that was “ripping my heart out.”

Thankfully, in the midst of my exhaustion and emotional stress, I remembered the necessity of prayer and began to pray for God to help my baby and I.  I attempted to nurse him again, and that time, he began to suck.  I still held him with tears rolling down my cheeks, but I didn’t feel like such a huge failure afterallThere is something about when you breastfeed your baby that makes you particularly vulnerable to a sense of success or failure, based on how your child takes to breastfeeding.  This, of course, isn’t true; but somehow, it feels like it. 

That evening, I also needed/wanted to finish the week’s Bible study on the life of David, directed by the Beth Moore devotionals.  I didn’t know if I would be able to meet with the other ladies the following day, but I wanted to stay on schedule.  As I began to read more of the lessons, I began to “hear” what God was trying to teach me through His Word.  It’s amazing how the Lord always brings exactly into our lives what we need to hear and when we need to hear it!  His timing is perfect!

I began to be reminded by reading David’s life story how God had time and time again shown a desire to be loved, to reveal the immeasurable greatness of His own love, and to have a close, intimate friendship with David.  I was then reminded of the many ways that God has worked in my own life and the truth of Who He is.  I was reminded to praise God for Who He is and what He is doing!  This was such a good reminder for me — something I needed to read that very day.  I was feeling so tired, so completely worn out, and overwhelmed.  God reminded me of how much He loves me and of how He has and is working on my behalf!

I may be a sleep-deprived Mommy of five.  My house may not be perfect.  My vehicle may not be running and may empty a good portion of our savings to fix it.  Christmas gifts may not be timely this year.  One thing I do know is that I am loved, protected, and desired by a God Who is Merciful, Gracious, Just, and Loving!  I can and will survive, and I can do it even victoriously!

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Creating A Welcoming Space & Welcoming The New Baby

It was the beginning of March this year when I found that my life would change drastically.  We were expecting Baby # 5!  I was surprised, scared, overwhelmed, and excited — all at the same time!  I kept hoping we were going to have a girl.  A sister would be nice for our only girl.  I had grown up with three sisters and loved the friendship we shared.  I wanted that for my daughter to experience.  Plus, I thought it might be good for her to not be the only “princess” in our home.  She gets a lot of attention being the only girl, and I didn’t want it going to her head.

In June, we would discover that we were expecting a BOY!  Our fourth son.  I remember the surprise.  My pregnancy had felt so much like it was a girl.  I tried to imagine another son.

As July drew to a close, I had made a decision.  We live in a house with barely a total of 2,000 sq. feet.  Not bad — especially downstairs.  The upstairs though is tight.  We have three bedrooms total and the one is very small.  The other is smallish.  The third is decent.  We had to decide how to fit our five kids into two rooms.

My decision was to brain-storm ways to fit a fifth child into our already crowded rooms.  At the time, we had our daughter sharing a room with a brother — a temporary arrangement at best.  The other two brothers shared the small room.  There was no room for another child in that room.  Our closets are small since we have an older home.  We already used larger dressers that were shared by two kids.  We were maxed out in closet, furniture space, and bed space.  This bothered me.  I wanted to have a “welcoming” space for our little guy when he arrived.  I didn’t have that so I began to brain-storm for ways to create a space that was “welcoming” to our little guy.  I prayed, researched, spent two weeks pricing items in various stores, spent a day on Pinterest getting ideas, and finally presented my plan to my husband with a proposed budget, based on real-life items.  My husband approved my budget and plan.  I began the process of shopping, painting, and preparing the rooms for new sleeping arrangements.

 IMG_9359 IMG_9342  IMG_9378   IMG_9367 IMG_9368 IMG_9369 IMG_9371 IMG_9388 IMG_9380 IMG_9381 IMG_9383 IMG_9385 IMG_9386 IMG_0179 (Large)   IMG_0178 (Large)Here are all the before pictures.

I spent August painting like crazy.  I repainted a bunch of our furniture, repainted both kids’ rooms, replaced carpet in the one room, cleaned, organized, and shopped.  The final outcome was pleasing to the entire family.  It was especially rewarding to hear my oldest sons praise their room and express their delight.  I had involved my sons by taking them on shopping trips to help pick stuff for their room.  Even though they didn’t have their own rooms, all three sons seemed genuinely happy with the final outcome.

Our daughter’s room would also serve as the nursery so I picked a color scheme that would be gender neutral and would be easy to decorate for both.

Our daughter moved into her new room and made the transition to a toddler bed.  She also seemed delighted with her new room.  I, for one, loved the new colors in both rooms and how relaxing they had become.  It was delightful for me to keep them clean and organized and to motivate the kids to do the same with their rooms.

After seeing the outcome of the nursery, I decided that I wanted a crib to match the nursery colors.  I also couldn’t justify the extravagance of buying a second crib just so it matched.  I spoke with my husband about it, and he said that if I could sell our old crib for enough to buy another one (would cover the cost) then I could buy a different one.  So, I began the process of trying to sell our crib on online sites and then to find one in our price-range off Craigslist.  It took a few weeks and patience because twice I had buyers “fall through” on us.  Finally, I was able to sell our crib.  My mom also decided to surprise us by purchasing the new one I found off Craigslist.  I was thrilled!  The new crib matches the nursery beautifully and will be perfect for when our son outgrows the bassinet we are borrowing from a friend.

My husband set up the crib.  I washed the baby clothes.  I organized, cleaned, and got rid of stuff so we had closet space for our baby.  I also found a dresser off Craigslist that was paid for by a generous relative on my husband’s side.  I finally felt that we had created a “welcoming” space for Baby. I finally felt ready to welcome Baby and eagerly anticipated his arrival.

IMG_0227 IMG_0227IMG_0202 (Large)IMG_0204 (Large)IMG_0176 (Large)IMG_0174 (Large)IMG_9814   IMG_9811 IMG_9812 Here are the after pictures of both kids’ rooms.  I love the colors and themes!

By the time I was finished renovating the kids’ room, I couldn’t wait to meet our little guy.  I couldn’t imagine having anything other than another boy.

I had spent so much time preparing for our new little guy and working so hard to get ready that two weeks before my due-date I had run out of ideas to keep me busy.  I had never previously experienced the anxious feeling of awaiting a baby’s arrival.  With this guy, I did.  I was so prepared that I had nothing to distract me any more.  Plus, my body had started preparing at least 5 weeks before, and I had two false starts to labor.  Not to mention, I had daily contractions that would last for hours and would come regularly every few minutes.  As the time drew closer to our baby’s arrival, the contractions continued to build in intensity.  I was starting to tire of interrupted sleep, the pain, and the questions of whether today would be the day that the contractions would finally send me into the “real deal.”

Finally, I got to four days before my due-date.  Once again, I lost a night’s sleep and we trekked to the hospital.  We were there 1 1/2 hours before going home because once again my body decided to stop labor.  My husband and I were able to laugh about it, but I was definitely feeling discouragement.   A few hours later, the prayers of friends and family began to be felt.  My contractions were starting to return.

In fact, within 1/2 an hour of timing them, I was clinging to my husband, broke down crying, and told him that we had to leave for the hospital immediately!  My contractions were still just four minutes apart, but I knew that their intensity meant that at any minute I was going to start pushing a baby.  That scared me.  We rushed past my napping dad, told him we were leaving for the hospital, and didn’t even get to say good bye to our children.  I was pushing to get to the hospital as fast as possible.  The hospital was eight minutes away.  Half-way there, another contraction hit.  Not fun when there isn’t anything you can do to work with the pain, strapped by a seat-belt in the front seat of a sedan.  My poor husband was trying to rub my back, but I begged him to not worry about rubbing my back but to just get us there as fast and safe as possible.

While on the way to the hospital, I called the answering machine service of my OBGYN practice to tell them we were on the way.  I was put on hold for minutes, finally heard a human voice but then was asked lots of inane questions repeatedly ’til we arrived at the hospital.  The woman never did listen to my message to please tell Labor & Delivery we were on the way and to have someone meet us with a wheelchair at the front door.

We pulled up to the front of the hospital. My husband dashed inside to grab a wheelchair.  Another powerful contraction hit.  Once again, I cried out, pleading with God to help me so that I didn’t deliver the baby by myself right then and there.  I was relieved to see my husband appear again with the wheelchair.  I stood and walked to him.  I think I could have run to Labor & Delivery if I had to; I was feeling so strongly the need to get to a room to have the baby.  The wheelchair wouldn’t open.  Finally, my husband got it open.  I sat down, and the race began.  My husband took off running and crying out for people to excuse us as we careened down the hallways, almost knocking into the receptionist desk and barely avoiding collisions with a few people.  Finally, we made it to the elevator and right outside Labor & Delivery, right in time for another contraction that held me in its vise-like grip.  With pleading eyes, I begged the front desk people to please get me a room.   As they rushed me to a room, the nurses began to gather with comments of, “We have a baby on the way!”  Nurses began to quickly prepare for the delivery and then six of them stood around waiting for the midwife to appear.  Surprisingly, I still hadn’t felt the urge to push — very unusual for me.  I would realize later the cause of this.

My midwife appeared, and the real work began.  Ten minutes into pushing, I was feeling discouraged as my midwife kept telling me I wasn’t pushing effectively.  I was surprised at this because I had never had trouble with delivering my babies.  Finally my midwife checked me again and said, “Oh, your water didn’t break.”  Um, yes.  I wish they had asked me about this earlier.  No wonder I was having trouble pushing the baby!  I was trying to push the baby and a full sack of fluid too.

As soon as the midwife broke my water, baby was out within minutes, if that.  With relief and immense joy, I beheld my son for the first time.  It was love at first sight!  I just sat there, holding my son and admiring him and showering him with kisses and words of admiration.  What an amazing moment!

I felt great too!  It was definitely my easiest delivery and recovery as well.

IMG_9716

Our son is almost two weeks old now and is starting to plump up nicely.  He is such a sweet baby — very pleasant and rarely cries, except when hungry or has a dirty diaper.

What a joy he is!  It is so relaxing to hold him in the rocking chair in our “new” nursery.  So worth all the work and the wait!

I am also so thankful for a wonderfully supportive and encouraging husband!  I couldn’t ask for a better one.

Welcome, Baby W2!  We love you!

What You Didn’t Know You Signed Up For When You Became A Mother

 

baby

(FreeImages.com/BorisLitvak)

I knew becoming a mother would be a challenge, but I didn’t know what I had all signed up for when I became a mother.

Nope.  Not even half of it.

Women imagine the pain of labor, but not many have heard of the recovery.  Then, there’s the soreness of first adjusting to nursing.  There are the sleepless nights, when you stand rocking and bouncing a screaming baby for hours when your groggy mind can hardly think of anything beyond your extreme weariness.

There are the days when your greatest wish is only a few more hours of uninterrupted sleep and when you daydream of putting your head down on a soft, downy pillow.  You glamorize the elusive activity called “sleep.”

You hear the stories about motherhood, but you can’t fully imagine it until you have experienced it.

But then, no one call tell you the indescribable joy when you feel your body give the final push and a precious new life enters the world!  No one can describe the euphoria when you hold that warm little body in your arms!  No one can explain that even when your body screams for more sleep, you manage to still jump out of bed to feed a hungry baby.  No one can explain the moment when you first fall in love with the babe in your arms — the moment when that unique bond between a mother and her baby forms.

You don’t fully understand a love that would be willing to die for another until you hold your own child in your arms.

Dreams of becoming a mother don’t normally include the temper tantrums, the potty-training nightmares and messes, the melt-downs at the grocery store, the broken furniture or marker writing on walls.

Prior to motherhood, one doesn’t comprehend the heart-break, the tears, the fears, the bravery, the selflessness, the sacrifices, the exhaustion, and all the prayers that go into mothering.

Prior to motherhood, one can’t experience the laughter and shared giggles over tickles, cuddles, books, and picking buttercups with your child.  One can’t imagine the contentment in holding a Wooly Bear Caterpillar so your toddle can feel the soft “wool”.  One can’t imagine the laughter that bubbles up when you see the berry stains on your child’s face from snacking while berry-picking together.

One can’t imagine the sadness when your little one comes running to you with tears making streaks down a muddy face while blood runs down a cut knee.  One can’t imagine the pain of holding your screaming child while the doctor gives a shot or sews stitches into a gash.

One can’t imagine the joys and fears of the first time you send your child off on the school bus or the anger you feel when your child comes home in tears because of the cruelty of other children.

Parenting books can’t totally prepare you for the difficult questions, the perplexing personality conflicts, and the discipline infractions.   There are no easy formulas for parenting.  There are no “cookie-cutter” children.  There are no perfect parents.

Photo albums don’t fully capture the joy and the wonder of watching your baby grow from toddler to pre-schooler to middle school age.  Not even graduation and wedding photos capture the significance of watching that same child who once screamed in a grocery store aisle and wrote on your best furniture with markers standing tall and strong and beautiful while reciting forever vows to their beloved.

Parenting is an oxymoron of pleasurable and painful moments.  It stretches you physically and emotionally and spiritually.  Parenting reveals the limits of your own abilities and the weaknesses of your own personality.  Parenting takes you to the heights of joy and plunges you to its depths.  Parenting tests your willingness to grow and to be challenged.  Parenting challenges the depth of your convictions and the height of your faith.

When you first watch the ligaments and skin stretch around the growing life within you, you never knew that the very essence of who you are would be stretched as well.  You didn’t know that the pain while bearing down to deliver a baby and the euphoria afterwards would be just a foretaste of the pain and joy you would feel as you watched your child enter each new stage of growth in his/her world.

When you imagine parenting, you can’t imagine the exquisite beauty of it nor the pain that prostrates you to the floor.  Becoming a mother means you not only surrender your body to stretch and grow in ways formerly unchallenged but you surrender your heart to be stretched beyond what you could have imagined.

Becoming a mother means you “sign up” for more than you envisioned, but it means you have the potential to grow beyond what you can foresee.

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My Million Kids

Baby goats

(FreeImages.com/IrumShahid)

If you have more than the typical two kids and for sure if you have more than three kids, you have probably heard some bizarre comments.  (I am being kind when I say “bizarre.”)  I am amazed how people think they can negatively comment on the size of your family.  Truly, it is a personal decision for each couple.

A friend of mine is in her ninth month of pregnancy with her fourth child.  She just received an extremely rude comment from a bystander.  My friend responded well on the spot but later shed a few tears.

I too have personally heard many comments that are definitely not polite.  I’ve heard everything from, “You kept going ’til you had your girl (more innocuous but definitely not nice around my sons),”  “Good thing they had a girl, or they would have kept going,” “Do you have any more at home?”, “Are these all yours?” and my family has been introduced to strangers with, “… and their million kids.”

Society currently considers two children as being the acceptable and standard number to have.   If a family really likes kids, they might have three.  Anything more than that, you must be overly religious or belonging to a specific religion (Mormon or Catholic).  In such a current state of popular opinion, our family of four children is considered excessive.  I want to laugh in response because I grew up, knowing quite a few large families.  I babysat for some larger families (six kids or more).  Some of my best friends came from larger families (7-11 children).  The families seemed happy, got along fairly well, and were clothed, fed, and healthy.

If though you want a fairly quiet and controlled environment with limited arguments, a smaller number of children is definitely recommended.  If you want to keep a higher standard of living, again a smaller number of children is recommended.

So, why do some of us have more than two children?  Are we “gluttons for punishment,” uneducated (not understanding how children are conceived as people have said to some of my friends), or insane?  Seriously, why do we have more than two?  Our home is often full of noise, chaos, and disagreements between siblings.

For me, it is partially a reaction to how society seems to dictate everyone’s lives — even to how many children they have.  I didn’t want to just do what everyone else does — as if we are the blind following the blind.  I want to think for myself and to do what is right, regardless of society’s dictates.

Is there a specific number of children that is right or wrong?  Absolutely not!

So, how do I decide on what is the right number for my family?  Do I need to even decide?  Is this my decision?  I have friends that would argue that we don’t need to decide based on Scripture that says,  “Be fruitful and multiply” and also “Blessed is the man who has his quiver full.”  They would say we just need to trust God and that He will provide for every child He gives.  There are also verses in Scripture that state that God opens and closes the womb, indicating that He is in control of the number of children we have.

God creates life.  It comes from Him.  Children are always considered a blessing in Scripture — not a curse.  Death is a direct result of sin.  Barrenness in ancient Biblical times was considered a curse.

Our early forefathers faced many challenges.  Children were the heritage, the future of their parents.  They were necessary for humanity’s survival against extinction.  Infant and children mortality rates were high.  It was necessary for parents to have quite a few children in order for the human race to survive.  There was also the issue of having more hands to do all the necessary tasks it took to survive under harsh conditions.   Children were the hope and future of their parents.

In the Western world, our culture is prosperous and can actually provide much better living conditions for future generations.  Yet, in our culture, we actually have fewer children.  In fact, studies show that most wealthy couples not only choose to have fewer children but actually are forced to have fewer children due to declining fertility levels.

The poor often have more children and greater fertility.  I could definitely argue that some of the poorer are having children for all the wrong reasons (Welfare benefits, etc…) and many are not responsibly or lovingly raising their children.  That is indeed a tragic scenario into which a lot of children are entering.

Yet, I am not one of those.  I am married to my husband.  My husband has an adequate job.  We have a decent home — not extravagant but not poverty level.  We feed and clothe our children.  We spend one-on-one time with each of them.  We do special things as a family.

So is that why we have more than two children?

Yes, I did want to have more than the average two children — just because I seriously dislike having my personal life dictated by society.  I also wanted to have more than the average because I do believe children are a blessingI also believe and have personally witnessed how God does provide for each of them.  We don’t live prosperously but we live comfortably.

To be perfectly honest, my comfort level would probably be more like two children.  I rarely ever, if ever, get stressed when I have just two kids with me.  They are so much easier to handle/manage.  It’s much more peaceful.  Yes, I love my peace and comfort and quiet and order!  So, why did I have more than two?

One reason I have more than two is because I realize that two is my comfort level, but four is my grace level.  It is where God shows and teaches me every day to walk in grace.  Grace is found in the imperfections of life, in the messy chaos.  Grace is found when I am able to laugh when my natural and selfish response would be to be annoyed and angry.

Two is my comfort level, but four is my grace level…

My children have a way of teaching me what it means to walk in grace.  I don’t think I could have learned grace any more perfectly than in walking through life with my kids.

All children have a way of teaching us about God’s grace.  Any number of children we have — whether one or eleven have a way of teaching us more about God’s grace.

I may have more than two children, but my friends who are expecting Baby # 7 would think that I have very few children.  A specific number of children doesn’t equate to a specific level of spirituality or spiritual maturity.  I am not more spiritual because I have more children or because I have fewer children.  I am not a better parent because I have more children or because I have fewer children.

Do my husband and I need to decide on how many we will have?  Perhaps…  Perhaps not…  The issue is really our hearts.  How do we perceive our children?  Upon what do we base the number of children we will have or do have?  Is it about control, fear (because we still think we are in control), selfishness, legalism, pride, etc…?  None of these motivations are right.  Neither will produce the fruits of the Spirit or are the fruits of the Spirit.

Christmas is drawing close, and I am reminded of the Christ Child, lying in a manger.  I am also reminded of the verse in Scripture that says that whatever we have done to the least of these, we have done to the Lord (paraphrase).  How much more “least” can we get then children — especially in a society whose laws rule them as “expendable”?  As we gaze at the Babe lying in a manger, perhaps we can “welcome” Him by welcoming children into our own lives.  They might be of our own flesh and blood or perhaps they will be through adoption or foster care.  Perhaps, it will be by sending Christmas gifts to needy children in our own country or other lands.  Perhaps, this year the miracle of Christmas is to be a miracle within your heart and my heart — the miracle of opening our hearts and our homes to some of the least of these.  In doing so, we are doing it unto Him, the Christ Child.

Perhaps, this year the miracle of Christmas is to be a miracle within your heart and my heart…

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The Mommy Identity

Five Minute Friday: Identity

May 11, 2012

On Fridays over here a group of people who love to throw caution to the wind and just write gather to share what five minutes buys them. Just five minutes. Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

Your words. This shared feast.

If you have five minutes, we have a writing challenge <—click to tweet this!

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. Please visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments.

http://thegypsymama.com/2012/05/five-minute-friday-identity/

 

 

[I wrote an entire post on this topic.  WordPress decided to have some quirks in their system and lost my post.  I am quite disappointed.  I will attempt to write it again, but you can never quite write the same thing.  Here’s my second attempt:]

I always wanted to be a mommy.  I played with dolls until I was 11.  Yes, I was a “girlie-girl.”  In spite of the stigma that seems to be with that term, being a “girlie-girl” doesn’t equal weakness.  But that’s another subject…

I used to keep a diary that had my favorite names that I hoped to name my children.  I wanted kids — a lot of them!  I dreamed about being a mommy.  My dreams were full of a smiling mom with happy and obedient children.  There were giggling babies with chubby cheeks.  I couldn’t imagine anything better than being a mommy.  My dreams were of perfection — the perfect mommy and the perfect kids.

Life happened.  I married and then 1 1/2 years into my marriage had a miscarriage.  I was devastated!  Miscarriages are never in our dreams.  Neither is infertility or still-births.  Neither is cancer or other diseases.  Neither are job losses.  For some women, neither is singleness.  What happens when life happens, and our dreams don’t?

A little later, I conceived again.  Nine months later, a healthy baby boy was born.  My dream was happening, right?!  Yes, except in my dreams, I didn’t have a rough post-partem recovery due to a severe tear and then developing Thrush.  Eight weeks later, my dream seemed to be happening.  The months passed.

Into my baby’s eighth month, changes and surprises came.  My husband switched jobs, we moved to a different state, and I found out I was pregnant again.  I had two babies 16 months apart, and life was busy!

The delivery of my second child was challenging.  My babies come with large heads.  More brains, right?!  Except, large heads make for painful deliveries, and pain is never in our dreams — only nightmares.  I remember saying that I didn’t want to think of having another baby after that.

With two babies demanding my attention, I found myself exhausted, struggling to change out of my pajamas before the afternoon was gone, and definitely not the mom in my dreams.  Who was I, without the perfect Mommy dream?  I thought I was a failure.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had a thyroid disorder which contributed to my extreme fatigue and feelings of inadequacy.  What kind of a mom am I, if I don’t match my dream image of motherhood?  I struggled with that a lot, for years really.  I wanted my dreams of perfection to be reality.  Reality was very different.  Reality has its joys, but it also has its struggles.

Six years later, I now have four children plus one in Heaven!  Seems like a dream, doesn’t it?!! It is in many ways.  I have four, healthy children.  We do laugh and play a lot.  I also have a baby with chubby cheeks that I love to kiss a lot.  Yet, I have experienced that life is full of challenges.  Children aren’t perfect.  Moms aren’t perfect.  We have lots of messy days.  If my identity as a mom is all about perfection, then who am I?  I am a failure.  If my identity as a mom relies on how my children perform, and they have to perform perfectly, then my kids are failures.

Seven years and a few months into my parenting, I am learning that my identity as a mom is not based on a perfect performance.  Nor, does God require that of me.  Rather, it is based on God’s grace.  God allowed me to experience brokenness so that I might see His grace.  I thought that I was relying on Him to be a godly mother, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant.  We can’t fully know it until we know what it means to be broken.

Brokenness is not in our dreams, but it is through brokenness that real joy occurs. 

It is through brokenness that God’s grace is revealed. 

I experience His grace as I allow God into the vulnerability of my weakness. 

God’s grace has been poured out upon this life!  As I open the “cracked and parched lips” of my heart to His grace, my thirst for identity is quenched.  My Mommy identity is found in grace rather than perfection.

I am a Mommy through grace!  I am a Mommy of grace!

 

 

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Miracle of Motherhood! Miracle of Manhood!

As a woman, there are times we think we have it so hard.  There are so many physical discomforts and inconveniences we have to face.  There are all those emotional whirlwinds and roller-coasters.  So, we complain.  We forget about our men who quietly go to work every day without complaining.  I have a man like that; he goes to work every day, getting up in the dark and returning home to the dark, after a long commute.  He doesn’t complain.  He is greeted frequently by a messy house, a wife trying to get supper ready, a fussy baby, fighting kids, NOISE!  He doesn’t complain.  He takes the fussy baby and changes her.  “Dives” right into restoring peace between the boys, gives his wife a hug and kiss, and then finally changes from his dress clothes to comfortable wear.  That’s my man!  I know; I do have it so good!

As a woman though I can focus on the discomforts and inconveniences, or I can focus rather on all the blessings and miracles of motherhood.

How incredible it is to feel new life growing within.  Amazement!  A tender little life being shaped within my body, nurtured by my body.  Tenderness and awe feel my senses as I gently caress my belly and speak loving words to a child growing within yet unseen.  What a miracle this thing called life is!  A miracle to think that within my body can grow a new and separate life!

Then the day comes when labor pains hit.  Anguish and waves of pain roll over my body.  My body works to bring new life into the world.  Agony gives way to exhilaration.  I hold a new life within my arms.  I gaze in wonder at each perfect little finger and toe.  I run my finger gently over my baby’s downy head.  The wonder of motherhood!

There follow the sleepless nights and soreness.  Even in that, I am filled with delight as I hold someone so tiny and yet so amazingly “perfect” in my arms!  I am in love!

Soon my little one begins to reach her hands to touch my face.  She gazes in wonder at me — even if another is holding her.  She loves me too!

Each day as I repeatedly nurse her, I can only describe it as exquisite and precious.  What wonder it is to cradle my babe within my arms, to hear her suck  and know that my body is once again supporting her life!  What delight it is to watch a drop of milk roll down her cheek as she pulls off to look up at me and gives me a smile that can only be described as pure joy.  My heart melts as she cuddles against me and tries to hug me.  Laughter bubbles over as she giggles while I tickle her.  Gentle love warms me as I run my finger across her plump cheek.  Thankfulness fills my heart as I watch her look of complete delight as her daddy cups her face in the palm of his hand.  How she loves him!  How he loves her!

What a miracle it is to be a mother!  What a miracle it is to be a father!  Such tender gifts we have been given.

Bathroom & Baby Blues

I am very excited about meeting our little girl!  I just wish that the timing for everything was a little different.

I got our garden in — worked in 90+ degree weather for hours to finish it.  The bathroom though is another matter.  We are at a bit of a stand-still, waiting on the plumber, than our contractor, and for Jonathan to be able to get everything done in between.  So, my house is dirty, furniture is out of place, and yet, our Baby is coming very soon.  I know the men can’t “get this” totally, but other moms who went through the “nesting stage” know how discouraging this is to a new mom.  The thought of bringing my baby home to a messy and dirty house is going to really “tax” me.  I have always brought my babies home to a clean and tidy house.  That way, I can just take it “easy” for a few days and do nothing but enjoy my new baby.  The way things stand, I am going to want to push myself and clean and clean and clean after I have just had a baby.  I know you all can tell me it doesn’t matter.  It does matter though — to me.  I am the one who has to live in this house and stare at dirty floors, thick dust on my furniture, and my house in disarray.  Thinking about it, I had to shed a few tears this morning.  I don’t feel relaxed and ready for our Baby’s arrival.

I had my midwife apt. yesterday.  Sure enough, things are progressing along, and it doesn’t look like it will be much longer.  I have been experiencing a lot of crampiness and contractions too lately so any day now.  I put a few more things in my suitcase today.  I am trying to at least be ready for the hospital.

I did pray about this but told Jonathan I didn’t want to complain and express my discouragement to the Lord.  I did finally tell the Lord last night, which of course He already knows, that I am just plain frustrated and overwhelmed by this all.

We’ve had people ask us why we waited this close to the Baby’s arrival.   Well, we didn’t, but we didn’t put our lives on hold to do the bathroom either, which I guess we needed to do to have finished this sooner.  We also had to wait ’til we had the $ to start on the bathroom.   Plus, we were working around Jonathan’s schedule to rip out walls.  So, here we are with 12 days ’til my due date or sooner, and there are no walls, ceiling, lights, doors, plumbing fixtures, or permanent floor.  We are a far cry from being finished.

Jonathan’s had such a workload too that he’ll be there for the Baby’s birth, but that’s it.  I know, so many of you ladies have had that happen.  Still, I really want  my husband to be there to help me and savor this time with our baby while I am in the hospital.  I am going to be very sad to have him away at work.

I know, by now, you are all tired of reading my complaints.  I just thought that I would blog my honest feelings at this time.  I am exhausted and feeling emotionally drained as well.  The heat took its toll on me as well.  I am thankful that today is glorious weather!

I also realize that God will get us through this stage.  Somehow, it will all work out — even though it may be very different than I would choose.  I refuse to become bitter over this; and maybe some day, I will see how it has made me better as well.

Questions Concerning Baby

We told our boys a few nights ago that we are having another baby.   Since then, the boys have said some of the following things:

Drew: “I can’t believe there is a baby in your belly.”  “Mommy, can you sometime show me the baby in your belly?”

Luke: “Is there really a baby in your belly?”