Monday, October 2, 2017

12 Weeks a Mom

There are so many things that have happened in the last twelve weeks. So many things I wished so badly I could capture forever and never forget.  I've taken more pictures in the last twelve weeks than I have, probably, in my whole life. It is clearly a measly attempt to bottle this time up so I'll never, ever forget.

I never want to forget the wet weight of her warm body, seconds after she left mine. Or the blinking way she stared up at me, tongue flicking in and out already ready to eat. Or the first bleary days in the hospital where we were never sure exactly what time it was or if it was day or night. Or the way he bounced her and walked her around the hospital room, tears silently streaming from his eyes. I never, ever want to forget the transformation of watching my husband become a father.

I never want to forget how he walked her proudly into the house and straight to her nursery - a room we so desperately wanted to fill for so many years. He sat in the chair and rocked her and cried. Or that first evening at home and our first family worship time. And then our first night at home when I sat in the rocking chair in the nursery and just cried at the overwhelming task of keeping her alive.

And then all the nights that followed.

I never want to forget my mom's selfless sacrifice in that first week of Lynn's life - all the dishes, meals, cleaning, meals, and reassuring words. What a comfort it was to have my mom here.  I never want to forget watching my brother meet his niece for the first time and the way he looked at her.

Those early days were such a blur and I knew they were slipping past and I wanted so badly to grasp onto them knowing I never could.

The cracked nipples, the bad latch, the tears and formula and trips to Portland and the pumping and the tears, the tears. The healing cream and the feed-by-feed improvement.  The fight and the fight and the feeding her from my body at long last.

The lifting of the clouds sometime around week 3 or 4. The first smile where I dashed up the stairs at 6am to interrupt his workout so he could see it too, 3.5 weeks old. The way she looked all swaddled up tight, the way her crib completely dwarfed her once we moved her out of the cosleeper. I never want to forget the way she stretched her arms as soon as the swaddle was undone.

I never want to forget the way her lips pucker when the pacifier or the bottle is removed from her mouth or the way she stretches her neck and coos when she's particularly happy.  I never want to forget how engaging she finds the ceiling fan or her dad's t-shirt design.

And now it's October. The month of the anniversary of my last period - the last time I felt that kind of devastation.  The month of the anniversary of her conception. The month our world shifted on its axis.

And now she's nearly three months old and I can't quite remember life without her and I'm not sure I want to.  If only my memory could hold all of these feelings and experiences and the smell of her head and the grasp of her small (but growing so fast) hand.  My heart is so full. This mom thing is so deeply challenging and so incredibly wonderful, I can hardly comprehend it.  I catch my breath often as I consider the magnitude of this gift and the weight of this responsibility.

This tiny human - one part me, one part Cole - has been entrusted to us.  I never want to forget what an amazing gift she is.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Joy after Suffering

I haven't written much over the last ten months and I'm not quite sure why.  This has easily been some of the sweetest time we've had in our marriage as we've watched my body grow and change under the weight of this new life.  We've marveled at the kicks and rolls and punches that we've both been able to feel. This journey has been, thus far, incredibly humbling, absolutely amazing, and undoubtedly surreal.

After all these years of heartache and tears and pleading and wondering why God was withholding this good gift from us, we've been given the very thing for which we desperately prayed.  And, all of a sudden, I am not quite sure how to process it all.

You see, I'd developed a sufferer's identity. Eventually, I grew into a place where I could speak freely and easily of the ways in which God is good in our suffering, even in those times that I doubted it myself. I memorized the party line and recited it at every given opportunity.  I knew God was, at all times and in all ways, working for our good and for His glory.  That became my refrain: sometimes to share with others in encouragement, but most often preached to my own heart in hopes of convincing myself of its truth.

The night we found out we were pregnant, we had already made plans with some friends. We debated cancelling these plans only because we weren't sure that we'd be able to hide the excitement and joy of the news we'd just learned.  We kept our plans with them and made it through the evening without revealing our newest secret.  In the car on the way home, I mentioned to Cole that it had been surprisingly easy not to spill the beans. He agreed.

The suffering of infertility had become a glove that we easily slipped on and it fit perfectly. It had so become a part of our story that, even though our story had irreversibly changed, it was so normal to fall back on our old storyline.

And now, everything has changed. This little girl is due to make her appearance any day now. And, as we've walked the beautiful journey of this pregnancy, I have been shocked to discover how hard it has been to assume this new identity: the one of answered prayers and joyous news and getting what we wanted.  It is almost as if I had wrestled with God and had come to terms with our relationship being one where I suffered, but He was still good.  And now, our story has changed. That particular suffering has ended.  We got what we wanted. And He is good.

But suddenly it all begins to feel so very prosperity gospel. Like, we put in our time, cried our tears, said all the prayers, and suddenly God relented.  While I should be rejoicing with great abandon, I am tempered in my rejoicing as I try to reconcile why God has chosen to give us the desire of our hearts all while withholding it from others we know.  Or why God chose to withhold this gift for over three years, only to lavish us with the richness now.  What was the purpose of that season of suffering? And how do I live now in the reality of that answered prayer?

I never anticipated joy being a reason for a crisis of faith - yet here I stand, arms absolutely overflowing with earthly blessing, not to mention the riches that are mine in Christ.  I certainly don't deserve this. I'm not even quite sure how to receive it all - thanksgiving feels inadequate in the face of all that I've been given.  And yet, isn't that just like me and isn't that just like God and how can I pridefully think that I'd ever be able to respond in adequate thanks or praise for all that God has lavished upon me?

May I receive with joy and thanksgiving all that flows from the throne of grace - both joy and sorrow, ease and suffering - knowing that the King that sits upon it is good and just and kind and wise and his ways are so, so much higher than mine.  Praise be to God.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Sharing the News * Boboths & Friends

Once we shared the news with my family, it was painful to have to wait the six days until we celebrated Christmas with the Boboths. We had planned to celebrate Christmas with them on New Year's Eve, and we decided we would tell them then.

We both woke up early that morning, full of excitement.  This would be the day that our secret was completely out!  Once we told Cole's family, we could go on and tell everyone else. There was a slight tinge of sadness in that this secret would no longer just be ours, but that feeling was quickly overwhelmed by excitement.

We all made breakfast together in the kitchen.  Cole kept catching my eye and winking; his eyes danced with excitement. When breakfast was finally cleaned up, we settled in the living room to open gifts.  Again, as with the Schlects, round and round and round we went - opening one gift at a time.  We loved watching the kids open their gifts and try on their new bike helmets and play with their toys, but inside we were both squirming, willing them to move faster.  Finally, the time came - all the gifts had been opened and we, once again, feigned confusion at the fact that there wasn't another gift under the tree. Cole ran back to the room to grab the gift that we most certainly hadn't forgotten.

He handed it to his mom, and she began to open it.  It was his dad that realized what the frame, grainy little image was. He immediately stood up with eyes full of tears and - speechless and dazed-looking - came over and hugged us tight.  When the realization hit his mom, she was let out a squeal of delight and turned the picture frame around so the rest of the room could see.  I have never seen Everett cry so hard.  He just clung to Cole as he sobbed - and Carrie screamed and screamed.

I think the kids were pretty alarmed at the spectacle.

We called Cameron to tell him, and then proceeded to FaceTime with GramGram.  Our faces hurt from smiling.

We left not long after to get home to prepare for the NYE party we were hosting for our college friends. Instead, we spent the afternoon calling our family.  We got to FaceTime with Brian and Stacie and Von, Andy, and Megan - all of whom cried with us.  Calls to all of our aunts and uncles were so much fun. Tyler even told us that he was more excited for our news than he was when he found out he was going to be a dad.

That night, Cole used the AppleTV and put up the footage of our first ultrasound to tell our friends the news. More tears and hugs and story retelling.


The next day, we got to tell our church family. What a gift to get to share this with them too.  Adam told us on our way out of church that day, "You know what I'm most looking forward to in 2017? Holding your baby."

Sharing the News * Schlects

It wasn't a difficult decision, really, to keep the news to ourselves.  After all, there were so many points throughout our infertility journey where we felt all too exposed, all too open.  For once, it was really nice to have something that was just ours, our secret to harbor, to whisper back and forth to each other under the covers, to share a knowing smile in the midst of oblivious company.  It was easy. Funny how you can be simultaneously bursting at the seams with joy, and yet effortlessly keep the news under wraps.

The timing was such that the Christmas holiday coincided with the end of my first trimester, a logical time to share the news. My entire family, grandparents included, would be gathered together on Christmas morning - ideal. After noticing that my parents lacked a baby monitor (and noting their growing need for one), we decided that that would be the perfect Christmas gift for them - and how we would share our news.

Christmas morning came and we were both a bundle of nerves.  How we carried on normally all morning is beyond me. Stockings were opened, breakfast was eaten, and round and round the circle we went opening one gift at a time.  With a delightful two year old niece and a grandmother with a tendency to gush, the process took a bit longer than normal. My heart beat out of my chest.

Mom and Dad bestowed the final gifts, and I feigned confusion as to why there was not one more gift under the tree.  I ran downstairs to retrieve the wrapped baby monitors, and - as luck would have it - it ended up being the final gift of the morning.  (Note: we almost lost my brother and niece to a discipline moment, but were somehow able to keep them in the room.)

Mom opened the gift, sitting in a chair on the edge of the dining room.  As she pulled off the wrapping, it quickly became evident that she didn't quite make the connection we were hoping to make.  She said, "You know, we DO need one of these! Thank you!"   Shaking with adrenaline from head to foot, I mentioned, "And you'll need it even more in July."

She froze.  *At this point, I have no idea what everyone else was doing. For some reason, I couldn't take my eyes of my mom.*

"What?! Really?!" with her hand over her mouth.

All I could do was smile through my tears and nod.

She fell to her knees, tears filling her eyes, and crawled across the floor to hug me. Behind her, dad wept and came over to hug Cole. I pulled back from her long enough to see my sisters and grandparents in tears too.   We cried a lot as we filled them in on the timeline and smiled at their incredulous gasps that we were already 12 weeks along.

All the tears. All the hugs.  I don't think I stopped shaking from the adrenaline for hours.

The rest of the day was a blur of tears and awe. (Especially as Pondra arrived and shared the news that Tyson and Laura were expecting - and Dad shared with them the gift we had given them.  More tears and hugging and emoting.)  We cried through dinner as we marveled at God's generosity to our family.

It was a Christmas we won't soon forget.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

15 Weeks In...

It's quite funny really - in sorrow - I found a never-ending well of words. I sat down to write and words just flowed.  It has been fascinating to me how - in such deep joy - I am rendered speechless.  And yet, I feel this compulsion to record this whole thing, to record what God has done.  Perhaps it feels almost too sacred for words sometimes.  I don't know.
We set up the crib in the nursery last night. I am not sure I’ll ever forget that picture of Cole leaning over the side rail, still dressed in the clothes he’d worn to church, adjusting the mattress just right. His first fatherly task – tightening every bolt a little extra so as to ensure the safety of his child to come. Is crib-assembly just a rite of passage for dads-to-be?
We left the door to that room closed for so long. And now, with no heed for an electric bill now heating a room that is yet unused, we leave that door wide open and I pause almost every time I pass it – I can’t help but to smile.
My belly is bigger these days. I find most clothes to be ill-fitting and uncomfortable. When I roll over in bed, I can clearly feel that there has been growth. Though I still seem to be in the “did she just let herself go?” phase – looking more like I ate too much pizza last night, rather than carrying the baby for which we’ve prayed.
This week, the bones in the baby’s ears have nearly hardened, enabling our child to now hear.  (granted, quite muffled if anything) On Saturday morning as we lay in bed, Cole took full advantage of this newfound ability and – with his head fully under the covers – proceeded to yell at my stomach how much he loves his little one.
People like to tell us all their horror stories – both in pregnancy and birth. There is nothing that has yet been able to put a damper on our joy and anticipation. The other day, I watched a video montage of babies just minutes fresh into the world. I fought back tears the whole time thinking about how, Lord willing, we will have one too.

For so many years, I thought God’s answer to our prayers was “no.” Here we are, 15 weeks into this, and I still can’t believe his answer is, “now.”  To God be the glory.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

9 Weeks In...

Thursday, December 8

Hi Little One,

Those three simple words absolutely bring me to my knees. Your daddy and I only dreamed that we'd be here, now, calling you our Little One. And yet, here we are.  There is not a day that passes by that we do not marvel that God has seen fit to give you to us. And we pray daily to steward the gift of you well.

I want to record this here - somewhere - so that we never, ever forget. The journey to you has been long and hard and painful (and, expensive!) and lonely and hard. But here you are, wriggling around inside of me even as my insides are wriggling out of control. (I certainly hope you're getting some sustenance out of the bread-based diet that seems to be all I can stomach right now!)

We found out about you on Friday, November 4 - the day before your daddy turned 29.  I had a sneaking suspicion for  few days, but I really wanted to be sure and I really wanted to surprise your dad on his birthday. As it was, I couldn't even wait that long.  A test that morning revealed your presence and bloodwork came back the same.  As soon as I got the call, I ran to my closet to retrieve a gift I bought for your daddy two years ago.

I brought it to him and asked if he'd like to open a birthday gift early.  As he tore away the paper and opened the box to reveal a figure of a man cradling a baby, his head shot up and his blue eyes pierced me as he said, "Really?!" All I could do was nod and cry.

Little One, I have only seen your daddy cry three times as long as I've known him. Once, as he watched me walk down the aisle toward him to become his wife. The next time was when his grandfather suddenly passed away.  And the third time? Well, I have never seen him cry like the way he did when I told him that we was going to be a daddy.

He was the one that first called you Little One. I'd been walking around talking about "the baby" in general terms; he calls you Little One. Capitalized.  He prays for our Little One. Every time he speaks to God, he talks about you.

We get to see you tomorrow for the very first time. We are so excited; we've deemed the day, "Baby Day."

I had my first doctor's appointment on Tuesday. As the nice phlebotomist drew my blood and asked me if you were my first, I couldn't hold back the tears as I told her about you. And, she congratulated me.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Long Way

I heard a sermon a few weeks ago that stopped me dead in my tracks. Matt Chandler's voice boomed through the kitchen as I quickly tried to prep the appetizers for our Bible study that night. Partway through his series in Exodus, he was preaching on the actual exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, that moment when God finally ended their slavery and delivered them out from under the Egyptians.  He read in Exodus 13:17-18, where it said, "When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, 'Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.' But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle."

And it was this commentary that stopped me with my knife frozen in mid-chop: "It was the mercy of God that led them the long way."

God knew that Israel wasn't ready to see the land of the Philistines. For goodness' sake, they were quite the lot of doubters as it was. And so, in his great mercy and wisdom, God took them in a more circuitous, winding path - certainly not the shortest or most direct. He was equipping Israel as he led them the long way. He was building their faith in him and was preparing them to route the enemy and take the Promised Land. And, because of that, his chosen route for his chosen people likely made little sense to them.

It was the mercy of God that led them the long way.

It was the mercy of God that led us the long way.

Now, I am quite confident that we will never understand God's timing this side of heaven (or perhaps that side, either!), and I am also quite confident that we often seek to find meaning in the midst and the wake of our suffering. Often, we are called to rest in the knowledge that his ways are higher than our ways and we just will never know the why of things sometimes.  But, this I know: long or short, it is God's mercy that has led us on this path. It is his wisdom that has laid the bricks and his loving care that has held us every step of the way.

To God be the glory.