What I’ve Learned the First Year of Parenting

Wow. Parenting is HARD. Just take a look at that cute little child who has crawled inside the cupboard and tossed rice all over the kitchen floor, and tell me that it’s not.

And yes, I know it’s only going to get harder. I know he’s not always going to be that cute and easy to forgive. I know someday he will talk back and say mean things to me and publicly humiliate me with a temper tantrum … and do other things I don’t even want to think about!

But goodness gracious… parenting is harder than I thought it would be! Maybe for some people, it’s a piece of cake! (If so, can you share that cake with me, please?!). But for an independent, free spirit such as myself, it has been an adjustment.

So as I prepare for my cute little guy turned 1 tomorrow!, I thought I would try to summarize what I have learned during the first year of parenting:

  1. Time is different when you have a child.

In our adult lives, typically, not that much changes in the course of a year. If we keep the same job and live in the same place for years on end, the only change we might have is meeting new people, trying new restaurants, going somewhere new on vacation, etc. In a given year, our lives may not change super drastically.

But with a child, a year brings about tremendous changes. It’s insane for me to think that 1 year ago tonight, my son was still inside of me! What?! Now he is a walking, talking (a few words!), hefty little boy!

And I know the changes over weeks and months and years will just continue to amaze us.

2. You learn to sacrifice your independence.

I am an independent person. I like going places at the whim of the moment and being as random as possible. Well, it didn’t take long for me to realize that with a baby, randomness is pretty much a curse word. You have to plan out everything with a child!

Their schedules are important. As a mom, you learn to put their needs and their schedules above your own. There are times that I would love to go hang out with friends or go for a run, and I would be cool with taking little dude with me, but I realize it’s almost his nap time, and that those ideas would sabotage that nap time and thereby derail the rest of our day!

Now, I’m not saying I don’t have a life anymore. I’m still able to have a rewarding job, and thankfully, I have a great husband who hangs out with little guy when Mommy needs some time out. But having a child has definitely changed the way I live after work hours!

3. A child is always watching you.

Luke is only turning 1, but I’ve noticed he’s already watching me. Soon, he will start mimicking me by repeating words or gestures. Which words and gestures of mine would be things I wouldn’t want him to repeat?

When you have a child, you have a little sponge who will quickly pick up on the things you do and repeat them, for better or for worse!

My #2 and #3:)

4. It’s a challenge to keep your priorities in order.

I had heard it said before having Luke that it would be difficult to keep my husband as a higher priority than my child(ren). Is that ever true! And to go a step further, it is also a big challenge to keep God as #1.

I’ll be honest, my “quiet times” in the mornings don’t look like they used to before I became a mom. Now, they are spent with Luke on my lap or with “Word Party” playing in the background while he toddles around and I try to get 10 minutes in the Bible and prayer. Or my quiet times are as I’m driving to work and singing worship songs. But God knows my heart. He sees that I am still trying to seek Him and put Him first.

Babies demand so much of your attention, whereas your spouse can pretty much survive on his own. But don’t forget to feed that marriage and put your spouse #2 under God on your priority list. He will (hopefully!) be a constant in your life even after your kids are raised and moved out of the house.

Make date nights a priority. Pray together. Read marriage books together. Have fun together. By doing these things, you will solidify a strong marriage now and in the future.

I hope you enjoyed this post! What challenges have you discovered since becoming a parent?

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Cherish Your Friends, No Matter Your Seasons of Life

Recently, I’ve been doing a bit of pouting. You see, it seems that no matter what season I’m in, I never have friends in quite the same season as me.

I’m somewhere in the “in between” of all my friends.

I get to feeling sorry for myself because I don’t have anyone in just the exact season as me — married 7 years, having an almost 1-year-old, and being a working mom.

I realize as I write this just how foolish and crazy my expectations are. There are maybe a handful of women in the entire world who meet those exact criteria.

Some of my friends are single. Some of my friends are married and have kids who are elementary aged. Some of my friends are newlyweds who don’t yet have children.

But I am learning to cherish the friends I have and not wish I had more friends who are exactly like me. I am learning to enjoy the season I’m in and encourage my friends in the season they’re in. Even if we’re not experiencing the exact life events at the same times, that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. That doesn’t mean God won’t give us the exact right words to say at the exact right time for that person.

One of my dear friends, Kelly, and I are not in the exact same season of life, but we were able to encourage each other so much about a year ago when we were both approaching a season of great change. She was preparing to get married, and I was preparing to have my first child. We read the book “Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions.” Instead of fretting that I didn’t have another close friend who was expecting her first child, I was excited that I had another friend who was facing a similar theme in her life: change.

What themes are you and your friends facing? Change? Grief? Joy? Stress?

It’s becoming harder and harder to make friends in this fast-paced, technology-driven world. I’m not saying you don’t need friends who ARE in the same season as you; just encouraging you to appreciate and cherish the friends you DO have. We aren’t meant to do this life alone, so let’s love on our friends today! Send them a text or give them a call and let them know how much you love them and are happy you get to do life with them!

 

 

To the Moms… and “Not Yet” Moms

I never imagined that being a mom would be such hard work. But it truly is worth every single sleepless night and every minute that I could have spent “for myself” that I spend playing with him instead.

This Mother’s Day, I wanted to write something to encourage the moms out there… and those who are “not yet” moms.

To the Moms

To those who are lacking in sleep, who have given up the dream of “sleeping in” ‘til 6 a.m.,

Those who just wish they could get through a day without some sort of bodily fluid staining their clothing,

To those who are so tired of saying ‘no,’ ‘Don’t eat that,’ ‘Stop doing that,’

To those who are at their wit’s end from asking their teen to look up from her cell phone,

To those who are trying not to worry themselves to sleep when he isn’t home by curfew,

To those whose babies are now having babies of their own and you’re trying to figure out how much help to offer without it being too much,

To those whose babies are now taking care of them…

You’re amazing. You give of yourself selflessly day after day. Even if your kids don’t thank you…know that your impact is changing their lives, day by day.

You are planting seeds into the most valuable ground: another life! Maybe not today, maybe not even this side of heaven, but someday, you will see a glimpse of the difference you have made in those lives.

To the “not yet” Moms

You are a mom in your heart before you’re a mom according to a birth certificate or adoption papers.

You are a mom before a baby is placed in your arms

You are a mom whether or not you ever deliver a baby

You are a mom if you give of your life to a young person,

If you encourage them to be more than they are,

You are a mom if you pray for your niece or nephew like they were your own child,

You are a mom if you cherish those around you and help them live out their callings,

Be encouraged… you have a heart of a mother. Plant seeds into the lives of those you have now. Maybe not today, maybe not even this side of heaven, but someday, you will see a glimpse of the difference you have made in those lives.

 

 

 

Keeping a Grateful Heart through the Holidays

Photo by Markus Spiske
Photo by Markus Spiske

It’s amazing how much a life can change in one year. Last Christmas, I was struggling big time. I had just one thing I had wanted all year — to get pregnant — and it wasn’t happening.

At one Christmas party, a family member actually said something like, “Haven’t you guys waited long enough to have kids?!” I seriously wanted to slap her. Of course, she didn’t know we had been trying that whole year. She also didn’t know how much it stung my heart every time someone brought it up.

The holidays can be hard when you don’t have the one thing you really want. Maybe that one thing is a husband. Maybe it’s to get pregnant. Maybe it’s to have your marriage restored.

What got me through last Christmas — in a season when I was so focused on getting that one thing — was gratitude. Instead of pouting because yet another friend found out she was pregnant, and I still wasn’t, I tried to thank God for what I did have. I thanked God for my wonderful husband, my good job, my friendships.

One verse that I stood on was Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Just like a good Shepherd, the Lord knows what I need. He will give me what I need when I need it. So I should not live out of a lifestyle of wanting, but rather trust in the Shepherd to give me the necessities.

Photo by Biegun Wschodni
Photo by Biegun Wschodni

I pray that whatever your heart longs for this Christmas, you will continue to surrender it to Him. He truly DOES know what you need, and He will give you what you need. Meanwhile, give Him thanks for everything you already have, and choose to focus on what He’s already given you; not what you’re lacking.

The end to my story is a “happily ever after” one, but I don’t want to paint some fantastical picture that everyone’s story will end this way. I know sometimes we long for something for years and decades and that thing never happens. I don’t pretend to know why. I think Joyce Meyer sums up what our attitude should be in those seasons well with this quote: “If God asks us to stay in a situation, then He is going to give us a special grace, for a special season, to experience His peace and joy despite the circumstances.”

But sometimes, friends, THANKFULLY… sometimes, longings are fulfilled. “…a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12b

January 1, 2016 - 7:40 a.m.
January 1, 2016 – 7:40 a.m.

The end of my story is that I went to bed in 2015, not knowing what my future would hold, not knowing if I would ever get pregnant, but holding out hope in the Lord. I woke up in 2016, and within my first five minutes of being awake in this year, I discovered that I WAS PREGNANT and that 2016 would be a life-changing year!

God knows the seasons of your life, friend. Try to cherish this holiday season for what it is, and don’t let anyone else’s opinions rock you.

To the Future Mom Who is Scared

notcaptivetofearI have a 3-month old.

For so much of my life, I never imagined I’d be saying something like that.

You see, until about a year before my son was born, I was afraid of babies.

I’m not talking afraid like one is afraid of clowns or snakes or spiders, but more so afraid of taking care of someone so tiny and needy. I was afraid I couldn’t cut it.

This post is for the gals out there who aren’t moms yet but have some sort of fear about becoming a mom someday. Because I can relate.

There were seriously several points of my adulthood when I said and thought, “I don’t know if I can handle a baby. I’d rather just adopt a kid in elementary school.”

You see, I was afraid of that which was unfamiliar. I spent almost 15 years in children’s ministry, but it was all spent working with elementary-aged kids. Kids in elementary and I get along great… we have the same maturity level, after all:)! Being the youngest child in my family, I didn’t grow up around babies, either. And when I babysat in high school and college, it was always for elementary-aged kids.

Babies were pretty much foreign to me, and it showed when it came time for me to hold friends’ newborns. Awkward! Sorry to all those friends whose babies I held ever-so-awkwardly!

But lo and behold, my husband and I knew we wanted to try for kids of our own, which would indeed require having a baby (last time I checked… they don’t ever come out of the womb as 5-year-olds!). So about a year ago, I decided it was time to face that fear head on!

I asked my church if I could volunteer in the nursery. Folks, this was a step of faith! I seriously think I had maybe changed only one or two diapers in my life before this experience. And the first diaper I changed in the nursery… let’s just saw it was a big fail and my fellow volunteer had to help me redo it!

Thankfully, though, after a few times hanging out with the babies, I started becoming comfortable with them, and some of the fear began to dissipate. I won’t say all my fear was gone by the time my baby was born because there have still been plenty of challenges I’ve had to face and fears I’ve had to overcome, but I’m so glad I didn’t allow that fear to determine the direction of my life. Instead of dwelling in fear, I did something to try to overcome the fear. We’re only held captive by our fears as long as we do nothing to try to overcome them.

perfectloveFriend, I don’t know what your fear is. Maybe you can relate to me and my former case of baby phobia. Maybe your fear is that your future baby will be born with a condition (I can relate, and if that does happen, God will give you grace. He did that for me abundantly!). Maybe your fear is that you and your husband won’t make enough money to provide for a little one (If so, see Philippians 4:19!).

Maybe your fear is that you won’t be a good parent. If so, I pray that God will speak to your heart and remind you that you are good enough because of Him. He lives inside of you, and if it is His will for you to have children someday, He will give you grace in that season.

Whatever your fear may be, ask God to drive it out by His perfect love. As you focus on His love for you and for your future child, He will gradually cause those fears to disappear.

“Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18

May His love continue to abound in your heart and cause you to live in abundant faith instead of fear!

Joy Comes in the Morning: The Story of My Son’s Birth & NICU Stay

Just a couple weeks ago, I had one of the hardest nights of my life. But if it weren’t for that night, I wouldn’t be able to grasp the full meaning of the verse, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

img_4818Our firstborn, our sweet son Luke, was born on August 22. Leading up to his birth, we knew that fluid wasn’t draining properly from his kidneys, and three days before I was induced, a nephrologist told us that he would have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after delivery.

As much as I was dreading my baby having to go to the NICU, I was grateful to know that would have to happen even before his birth. But nothing could prepare me for how difficult it would be to have an infant — my first baby — in the intensive care unit.

It seems like we were met with challenges on every side when it came to Luke’s birth. I had had borderline high blood pressure during my pregnancy, which led my OBGYN to decide to induce me at 38 weeks. About one hour before Luke’s birth, my fluid levels dropped dramatically, which caused Luke’s pulse to plummet. They were able to pump me full of fluids, and fortunately, I dilated to a 10 shortly after that. Luke was ready to come out!

img_4803During delivery, my OBGYN told me at one point that the baby wasn’t happy and I really needed to push. I’m thinking, “I’m pushing with all I’ve got, but I can’t even feel anything post-epidural!” It turns out, I really needed to push because not only was Luke’s shoulder caught (shoulder dysplasia), but the umbilical cord was also wrapped around his neck … twice!

Thanks to the use of suction and my skilled OBGYN, Luke was delivered without any long-term side effects. I was even able to hold him for about 10 minutes before he had to be whisked off to the NICU. Being able to hold that little guy right after the intensity of labor was one of the most rewarding moments of my life, and I bawled my eyes out when Luke started crying as soon as they pried him away from me.

As challenging as the labor and delivery was, it was nothing compared to the trials that were in store for us over the next 8 days. Newborns need to be fed at least every three hours, and that’s especially difficult when your newborn is attached to multiple IVs, a heart rate monitor, a catheter, and under bilirubin lights. Trying to feed him under those circumstances while I was recovering from labor and delivery was exhausting. Perhaps the most emotional part was seeing my little man — so vulnerable and defenseless —

Chillin' under the bilirubin lights.
Chillin’ under the bilirubin lights.

having to go through so many treatments as a newborn. Granted, I realize that his condition was much less serious than most of the other babies in the NICU, and I’m extremely grateful that he spent only 8 days there.

After we had spent two nights in the hospital, I was discharged. This presented us with a new quandary. Where would I sleep? If I was to visit the baby once every three hours for feedings, how could that happen if I wasn’t at the hospital?

The NICU room Luke was staying in was tiny and contained a small sofa. It was just enough room for one person to “sleep” on. So we made the decision that I would spend the night in the NICU that night.

Daddy and Luke!
Daddy and Luke!

The NICU — with its crying, hurting babies, with the constant beeps of machines, with nurses coming in and out of the room throughout the night. As much as I wanted to be around my little guy, I couldn’t stand the thought of sleeping in the NICU.

But I did it. Because when you’re a parent, I’m learning, you put the needs of your child above your own and do a lot of things that you really don’t want to do. Parenting is a lifestyle of sacrifice.

As I attempted to sleep on that tiny couch that night, my baby cried his eyes out multiple times. This was where I reached rock bottom. I tried to feed him. And that was all I could do. I wasn’t allowed to hold him outside of feedings since we weren’t supposed to limit the amount of time he was under the bilirubin lights. I couldn’t even change his diaper, lest I mess up his catheter.

I did all I could. And still he cried. I felt helpless. Around 1:30 a.m., I texted my husband out of sheer desperation, “I don’t think I can do this.” I considered asking him to come pick me up so I could sleep for a few hours at home.

It was about that time that I put in my earbuds and listened to an old school Sandi Patty song, “I’ll Give You Peace.”

Here are some of the lyrics:

Sometimes when you’re in the valleys
All of your burdens you carry alone
Oh, but I know
I know when you need Me
Call I’ll be there
Longing to prove how much I care

Peace, I’ll give you peace
When the wind blowns on
Peace, whenever you call Me
I’ll give you peace
When the wind blows on

How I needed peace in those moments! As I listened to the music and drifted off to sleep for an hour or two, I felt the peace of God surround me and had a deep knowing that everything would be OK.

Still so cute, even with a "unicorn" IV attached to his forehead!
Still so cute, even with a “unicorn” IV attached to his forehead!

As dark as that hour was for me, God used it to show His faithfulness. The next morning, so many good things happened. First off, my breast milk finally started coming in! That is a huge answer to prayer for a momma of a 3-day old. Secondly, at 7 a.m., the door to Luke’s room opened and the neonatologist walked in. We had been waiting to hear whether Luke’s surgery would be at the hospital he was already at or if he would have to be transported to a different hospital. The neonatologist gave me the great news that his surgery would be at the hospital we were already at, saving us added stress and a bigger hospital bill.

Later that day, we got the great news that a guest suite at the hospital had opened up for us. We had been pretty low on the waiting list for a room, but the lady in charge knew we were NICU parents and made an opening for us.

img_4874
The day we brought our little bundle of joy home!

All of these great things that happened within a period of a few hours were proof to me that God was listening; that we weren’t alone. And the next day, Luke had his surgery, and it went great! We were able to discharge a few days later, and he’s enjoyed the last 2 weeks safe and sound at home.

Sometimes it really is darkest before the dawn. It’s during those difficult times, like my night in the NICU, that we must hold on with all our might to the faith that we have in our Savior. When you’re going through those difficult season, I encourage you to hold on to at least one verse or song that will get you through. Mull that song or verse over and over in your head until it gets into your heart — until it becomes more than just words — until it becomes living, active faith.

Why We Waited to Have Kids

IMG_4209I’ll be 33 by the time my first child (yes, that’s him to the left) is born at the end of this summer. By many folks’ standards, that’s ancient. Especially considering that my husband and I have been married for six years.

The thing is, I love kids. I have always loved kids. I’ve been volunteering in children’s ministry ever since I was 18. I have always dreamed of having lots of kiddos and all the fun we’d have together. In many ways, I’ve felt mentally ready to be a mom for years.

When Devon and I got married in 2010, we realized we would not be able to have kids right away. Here are the reasons we waited to have kids:

  1. classic_romantic_caucasian_J144_willyoumarryme_1We wanted to develop a strong foundation to our marriage.

The truth is, we were a bit of a wreck when we got married. Even though we’d known each other since we were teens, our entire dating and engagement was spent long distance. There’s very little real life problem solving that occurs prior to marriage when you have a couple that’s madly in love that lives eight hours apart until a week before they get married.

So, let’s just say, things were a little rocky when we first started out. We’re two people with strong, stubborn personalities. Heads butted. Tempers soared. And I’m so glad there weren’t little kids in our lives at the time. Both of us needed a few years to learn how to be a good husband and wife before we could even dream of becoming good parents.

Now, I realize this isn’t true for every couple. Some couples have a very solid foundation to their marriage before getting married. They’ve known each other for years and have worked through tough situations before tying the knot. Even for couples that don’t feel “ready for kids” when the kids come, they make it work. But for us, I’m so glad we waited.

  1. PiggyBankIt was the wise financial decision.

When we were engaged, my husband and I decided that he would return to school for five years to earn a nursing degree and a Nurse Practitioner degree. This was a big decision to start off a marriage – one that meant we would rely on my income for five years.

Naturally, the question of when to have kids came up when we discussed our five-year plan. Sure, we could have kids and technically get by on my income, but it would require even greater sacrifices than the ones we were already making. Not to mention that we were going deeper “in the hole” every day due to the fact that we had to take out student loans for my husband’s education.

We realized that if we waited to have kids until after my husband finished school, we’d be living on two incomes and we’d be at a point where we were paying off those student loans. In essence, our kids would be born into a more stable financial environment. We decided we could afford to wait a few years to not only build a stronger financial foundation in our family, but also to help our kids have even more opportunities.

  1. Negative-Pregnancy-TestsWe didn’t have a choice but to wait.

Finally, after five years of my husband being in school, he graduated last May! It was truly one of the biggest successes of our marriage. We had waited so long to have kids and were mentally ready to have our first child within months of him starting his career.

But that didn’t happen. We started trying in January 2015 and had to wait nearly a year before I got pregnant. The year of waiting was one of the most frustrating of my life. I had already waited five years for kids! I expected God would drop a baby in my womb the minute He got the memo that Devon was out of school and that we were ready to have a kid. But that didn’t happen.

I’ve learned that our timing is not the same as God’s timing. We may think we’re ready for something, but God may still have something to teach us in the waiting. In my case, it was a matter of learning to trust Him more. There came a point after about nine months of trying that I truly started to doubt if I would ever become pregnant. My doctor mentioned that I might be infertile, and it tore me apart. Why, after all this time of faithfully waiting for my husband to get through school and for us to be at a good point in our marriage, would the Lord allow me to be infertile?

I am fruitfulIt was around that time that I discovered an amazing community of women that brought me much encouragement. A gal I grew up with, Lauren Bourne, has started a Periscope channel and blog for women struggling with infertility and miscarriage called I Am Fruitful. With God’s help, she helped me realize that birthing a child was a desire of my heart that God had put there. And therefore, it would come to pass as I delighted in the Lord (Psalm 37:4).

I know there are countless families out there who have tried years to have kids and have not been able to conceive. I don’t pretend to understand your heartache or frustration. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do know that sometimes, a child who desperately needs to be adopted is the answer to that heartache. Other times, it’s a matter of praying and trusting that God is going to help you conceive at just the right time.

Whatever your situation may be, I’ve found that often times, the solution is learning to trust God. Do you trust Him, even if you don’t become pregnant? Do you trust Him, even if you don’t have children for 10 more years?

If you’re waiting to have kids at this point in your journey, stay encouraged. Whether you’re trying to develop a stronger marriage before having kids, become more stable financially, or just waiting to get pregnant, God is not having you wait to torture you. He is a loving Father and knows what’s best for you. Trust His timing and know that He will fulfill your heart’s desires in His way.