Tuesday, May 29, 2012

thankfulness in pregnancy

My head is tired but my heart is full.  God has been so good to me and to our family. 

I admit that I find it hard to feel thankful when the tears are a-comin' and the nausea is a-buildin'.  I forget my blessings and languish.  I become convinced that I will feel this way forever.  I gaze in dismay at the mounds of laundry, the scattered toys, the dirty floors.  I forget.

But God's mercies do not stop.  He brings me a husband who takes every chance he can to watch our daughter so that I can rest and yield to the solitude for which my soul and body are crying out.

He gifts me with the precious prayers of friends, who hold up my hands like Aaron and Hur holding the weary hands of Moses above the melee of the battle.

He blesses me with a daughter who (despite her bad days such as today) is really trying to be understanding of how tired and sick her mother feels.  Just last week, I was lying in bed with Burrito watching cartoons beside me.  She had not napped and now she wanted a snack!  I was near tears in exhaustion and self-pity.  Why couldn't everyone just leave me alone?  I got her graham crackers and snapped, "I wish someone would fix me a snack!"  Had I said that to my husband or to any man for that matter, they may have missed the request.  But my daughter is a woman in the making.  She gets hints!  (Hooray!)   "I can fix you a snack!" she said.  I requested yogurt and she went right down and got it for me.  And then I teared up again...she did care about me, the sweet girl!  It was just yogurt but it meant a lot more to me.

God has blessed me with friends who listen to me as I struggle through this first trimester, listen graciously, with compassion, and with the knowing that comes with having already walked this path.  Even my most negative feelings find a sympathetic ear.  These women understand.  They've been there.  And how precious to talk to them in flesh and blood.  Not on the computer.  Not on the phone.  They are with me.  They have time for me.  I am so grateful, for it has not always been this way.

God has blessed me with those who have offered to help.  Friends have offered to help me clean house, to watch Burrito, and one even brought me dinner (the first home-cooked meal I'd had in quite some time).  To ease my nausea, she cooked it at her house first so I didn't have to smell food cooking.  And that night the nausea began to abate.

God has blessed me so much.  I am grateful too that my friends have seen me when I was not such a basket case!  But nevertheless, they have loved me right where I am.  So has my husband.  So has my daughter.  I am blessed. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

real romance

Christopher and I celebrated our 7th anniversary last week.  Like most people, I grew up imagining romantic holidays like Valentine's Days and anniversaries spent with roses, a romantic dinner, a little kissing... And don't get me wrong: those things are great.  But it's when you can't have those things that you find the real strength of your relationship.  And you find real romance.

On our anniversary this year, all I could manage was going out to lunch with my husband without gagging.  There were only one or two things on the menu I could stomach.  I was too exhausted to write my usual love note.  I felt terrible that I simply couldn't bring myself to do any of the usual things to make him feel special.

And so later that day I cried and he held me.  And he told me that I was doing something for him that was very important: growing our baby.  He accepted my limitations.  He loved me in the midst of my lack.  I don't know about you, but I think that's real romance.  Anyone can eat a fancy dinner when everyone feels good and all is well.  But it takes a special person to love and accept his wife when she has very little to offer him.  But that's my husband.  He's a wonderful guy and I am so blessed to be married to him.  I love you, Christopher!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

why i'm so glad i told people earlier this time

In my first pregnancy, I had no idea what to expect.  At that time, I was in Christian ministry in a small town and was one of the most high profile people in the community.  Privacy was not readily available anyway and so this very personal experience of my first pregnancy was a secret I guarded and held close to the chest.  I waited until the end of the first trimester to tell most people.  I didn't know how my body would respond to pregnancy and was not ready to be public about something so personal.  I also closely guarded my ultimate birth plan to have a home birth, wanting to guard against negativity (since I knew I tend toward anxiety anyway).

In retrospect, I probably was right to hold those secrets close to the chest, but even so I am so glad and grateful to not be so controlling of the experience this time.  Heck, not only am I telling pretty much everyone I know, I'm also blogging about the ups and downs of this pregnancy.  I didn't wait until the end of the first trimester to tell, but only until 8 weeks in.

I have discovered that one of the most key times when a pregnant woman needs support is in her first trimester.  This is the most difficult part of pregnancy, complete with mono-like tiredness and debilitating nausea.  Hormones are high and tearfulness is common.  And yet, we so closely guard what we are going through from others.  It has been such a relief to open up and tell my friends and my church about what is going on.  No, I don't dump on everyone, but my closest friends and family know that I'm going through a pretty tough time right now.  We all know that "this too shall pass," but I also know that I need prayer, encouragement and offers of help right now.  I need to take a walk with a friend and pour out the good, the bad and the ugly.  I need to be able to write about what I am going through and process it in a way that carries me through.  I need my Bible study to be praying for me.  I need people with whom I can cry, even though I am not normally a crier.

Will all of this be worth it when the baby comes?  Of course it will!  Am I glad to be having this baby?  Of course I am (though the gladness is more intellectual right now)!  I feel for all of my friends who have struggled with infertility and pregnancy loss and mean no disrespect to their experiences.  Clearly, a child is a blessing from God.  But it also takes travail to bring a child into the world.  It takes suffering.  I feel tender, overwhelmed and in need of Christian community right now.

And so, Jesus shows me how He carries me when I cannot carry myself (which all of the time, but even more clear right now).  Jesus gives me grace when my house looks like a tornado hit it.  Jesus shows me love through my husband who is picking up so much of the slack at home.  Jesus is in a friend's listening ear.  He is the offer of help watching my daughter.  He is even in my absolute need to rest and be, instead of do.  I am not alone.  And this too shall pass.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

i can finally talk about it: expecting baby number two!

Last month, Christopher and I found out that we are expecting our second baby in December.  I haven't been able to blog much for two reasons: 1) Extreme exhaustion and 2) I couldn't write about what was really going on!

It's amazing how in just weeks, your body COMPLETELY CHANGES as a pregnant lady.  Circulation is affected.  Suddenly, taking a load of clothes out of the washer completely winds me.  I've been sick as a dog when it comes to morning sickness (which in my case should be called evening sickness!). 

I'll be honest...I've been struggling a lot with "receiving with thanksgiving" this first stage of pregnancy.  The exhaustion and nausea have been all-consuming and of course pregnancy brings up all kinds of self-doubt and worry as well.  And I worry about all that I am placing on my husband's shoulders (despite his gracious willingness to shoulder the burden).  I've been looking for resources online to help my attitude improve.  I've been asking for prayers for my attitude to improve.  I know that this too shall pass and I know that ultimately I am struggling with what is a difficult part of a very happy thing (a new baby), but it has been hard.  For those of you with experience in the art of weathering the first trimester, I'd love any advice and encouragement you can offer.  I will share insights I am learning as I go through as well, but for now I am not the expert.  I need to learn and grow.  (And perhaps accept the suffering that comes?)

I did begin to really embrace the joy of this pregnancy when we told Burrito the big secret on Sunday.  I'm sure she thinks that an alien has taken over Mom's body (partially true) since I've been acting so weird.  She was absolutely delighted and has been helping me get Bean's (our nickname for the baby) room organized.  She loves to hear every detail about the pregnancy and how Bean will grow and develop.  She is delighted by it all and it delights me to share with her.  It seems like throughout this time, we have gotten closer as mother and daughter.  She wants to snuggle and talk more (which I always used to wish she would do).  She wants to help.  She's even been acting a little more grown-up as we call her "big sister."  I'm so proud of the new parts of her I see emerging.

My experience with Burrito has taught me a lot.  I had many fears and worries before she was born too.  I was truly worried if I would be a good mother.  But despite some difficulties along the way, Burrito has shown me that there is truly nothing to fear.  My life is so much richer for having her in my life.  I am trying to trust in faith--believing without seeing--that the same will be true of Bean.

I'm also going to buy Creating with God: The Holy Confusing Blessedness of Pregnancy.
The author's argument?  Pregnancy is a way in which God works in us, even when it may be hard to detect His work.  The suffering we go through is not a waste but can train us in the practices of faith.  I think it will be just what the doctor ordered.

P.S. So much for the weight loss plan!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Book Review Friday: What I Did by Christopher Wakling

What if a stranger called social services on you?  What if it was all a big misunderstanding that just kept escalating until you were in serious danger of losing your child?  What if the only way to keep your child were to stay calm under the pressure of suspicion concerning your parenting?  Would you be able to stay calm?  Would you avoid the temptation to explode in anger?

These are the troubling questions evoked by this week's book review pick: What I Did: A Novel by Christopher Wakling (to be released on July 17, 2012).  This is a short, fairly fast-paced novel told in the voice of a six year old boy, Billy.  Billy is energetic and imaginative.  His family, who dearly loves him, is also often exasperated by the impulsive and foolish things his energy (which Billy describes as "the electricity" in him) lead him to do.  In the opening of the book, Billy tells us that this story "is about a terrible thing which happens to me.  But watch out because the thing you think is the terrible thing isn't really it."  He also tells us, "I...have to warn you that nobody is bad or good here, or rather everyone is a bit bad and a bit good and the bad and good moluscules get mixed up with each other and produce terrible chemical reactions."

Sure enough, one day Billy wakes up way too early, so his father takes him for a walk to try to use up that early morning energy.  They end up at a city park and Billy decides to take off running away from his father...straight into traffic.  He is not hit by a car (miraculously), but he terrifies his father who gives him a firm spanking right then and there.  A stranger sees the spanking, gives the father a tongue-lashing, follows him home to find out his address, and calls social services.

And so begins a confusing saga in which all of the adults try to figure out "what's best for Billy," but in which Billy and the adults involved all might as well be speaking foreign languages to one another.  Billy is convinced everyone is mad at him and that his father, after forgiving him for running into the street, is breaking his promise and continuing to tell everyone about the naughty thing Billy did.  He also does not understand how the social workers who come to visit (who he calls "Butterfly" and "Giraffe") will misconstrue his report of what happened and will hear him describing child abuse when he is describing no such thing.  Nobody asks enough questions or the right questions.  Nobody really knows what is going on.

Using the voice of a child for a popular piece of fiction was done incredibly well by Emma Donoghue, author of Room: A Novel (a novel as powerful and haunting as I ever read); for this reason, I regard Donoghue's novel as the gold standard for children's voices in adult fiction.  Wakling does not quite rise to Donoghue's expertise in using the voice effectively, but what he does do is show us how we may think children understand what is going on, while they are seeing reality entirely differently.  I felt that reading this book gave more empathy for my daughter and a desire to help her understand reality better.  Billy's voice also gives us countless amusing "mis-hearings" of words we use as adults, such as this gem: "A very long time is called a neon."  Also, Billy's thoughts frequently include his father's words to him, as if they were his own thoughts.  Children are so very integrated with their parents at this young age and do not really think for themselves in may ways.  This was an effective way to convey that Billy's father is inside his head, both chiding him and united with him through a bond of love.

My main critique of this book is one that will really only be relevant to Christian readers.  I disliked the frequent use of profanity (taking the Lord's name in vain) by the father.  Still, this is not a Christian book and so I suppose it may not be fair to expect the omission of profanity.  Without it, however, I would have found the book a more pleasant read.

This book will stay with me for a long time.  It is ultimately about the love between a parent and child and the fierce bond between them.  It is about how parents and children unintentionally misunderstand each other.  You will have to read it for yourself to see how it ends!

4 stars.  Recommended.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advance digital copy of this book free from William Morrow.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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