I already wrote Maeve’s birth story, and now I offer it up a second time, in photographs. Amy Carroll was with us once again, though she sadly missed the ACTUAL birth, through no fault of her own. She walked in just minutes after Maeve was born. The photographs begin after I had just collected Maeve into my arms and laid back onto the bed with her, and continue through the beautiful golden hour, and the newborn exam (which I did with my own two hands, mostly). I love these images SO MUCH. And though I do wish it had been possible to capture THE moment of her entrance into the world, caught by her daddy’s hands, I know as a birth photographer that all things turn out as they were meant to be.
I’d been saying all along that I would be “late” with this baby. There were so many loose ends to wrap up, and I could tell she wasn’t huge, and therefore I suspected she’d probably hang out a little past her EDD, packing on a bit more weight. I was cool with it, relieved even.
Until the last BIG thing on my “list of things that must be done before I can have a baby” was checked off, just a few days before my EDD. I attended the most beautiful, soulful, gratitude-filled home birth in the middle of a snow storm, present with my whole heart and my cameras to help this amazing mama tell her birth story. I went home happy and satisfied and expecting on some level that I’d immediately go into labor. I did not.
So for the next few days I was firmly positioned in that awful in-between space that one almost inevitably falls into when pregnant with a full term baby. The irritability, the suspense, the weariness and the bodily discomfort, the hormonally enhanced emotionality swinging to and fro.. something is about to happen, and soon, but soon is so darn RELATIVE.
I spent a day weeping, another day raging, all while trying to keep a schedule inclusive of both rest and activities to look forward to with people I enjoy, activities which might also include labor (going out for greasy food with my SIL, walking the skywalks downtown with two friends from my church family, a date night at home with Tim *wink*). I also engaged in some house-cleaning, both literal and figurative. I dug deep to tend to any emotional, psychological or relational hang-ups that I could clear out of the way. Whether or not doing this work is what ultimately summoned Maeve to be born, I cannot say, but all the same, it was a good cleansing process that set the stage to welcome her.
Throughout much of this pregnancy, whenever I’ve tried to imagine what her birth would be like, I kept coming back to this picture of myself, kneeling on the floor, alone at night, and birthing her in complete solitude. An interesting recurrent image, since the actual plan involved a small army of birth workers, most significantly Sara, with whom I’ve done all of my births!, but each cherished and safe people whose presence has a lot of meaning for me, as well as at least two of our kids and a birth photographer. I had a lot of tension around these two contradictory pictures of my birth, and I felt unable to choose one over the other, so I told myself just to watch and see how things unfolded, to make the call about how truly alone I would be only after labor had actually commenced. When one of my midwives said, simply, “this birth will be perfect in every way,” it made me cry when I repeated it aloud. That helped me to let go of control and concern over the details and just trust that whatever it ended up looking like, it would indeed be perfect. God knows.
On Friday (Dec 16), the day I had woken up determined to use reverse psychology by telling myself often and with confidence that I wasn’t ever going into labor and that’s just fine because I don’t even want to (so there!), I was having a pretty good day. My mom took the kids for the morning, so Tim and I got to putz around our quiet light-filled house, doing little nesting tasks, drinking coffee slowly, and switching into a more relaxed mode of being. I even ran out to the public library to pick out a few books to pass the time, and came home with titles such as “I heart my little a-holes,” “after birth (a novel)” and a collection of Anne Lamott’s essays (I find her to be the most pleasant postpartum companion).
The kids went off to school for the afternoon, and I took a nap while Walter was napping. My friend Whitney — who is a dairy farmer — texted me with wishes/predictions that my labor may begin that night as a cold front was moving in. She explained that cold fronts seem to bring on labor in their cows, to which I responded, “well then, in this regard, may I be like a cow!” and laughed. After all the kids were back home and/or up from nap at 4:30, Tim went out for a drink with his friend and mentor across town, and had plans to stop to pick up my favorite burger from The Cottage Bar on his way back around 6 pm. While he was gone, the snow started to fall and I started having contractions. But they weren’t bad and I could keep doing all the usual activities. I felt so irritable though. After the kids’ dinner (chicken nuggets and frozen veggies that they didn’t really eat), I lost my cool so badly with Hazel and Gus due to an unfortunate incident with watered down laundry detergent in the wood burning stove and on the living room floor, for which neither would admit responsibility. I found myself acting like my ugliest, raging version of myself and then had to lock myself in the bathroom for a time out until everything could diffuse a bit. More contractions.
Tim finally got home at about 6:30 and I was HANGRY. I ate that burger so fast. More contractions. I initiated bedtimes with the kids. Part of my brain knew that this might be the night, so I put each child to bed individually, to make it special, one last one-on-one time with each before their sister would be born, I reasoned and hoped. Walter was down, then Gus, then finally Hazel. And in between Walter and Gus’ bedtime routines, I found bloody mucous on the toilet paper when I went to the bathroom. I told the kids that it meant their sister would be coming soon, probably tonight.
By 7:30 they were all in bed, nice and early. I texted Sara (midwife) to tell her I thought I was in real labor, but early labor, and that I’d keep her posted. We wondered if contractions would pick up now that the kids were in bed. I timed them for a bit. They were 30-45 seconds long and 5-6 minutes apart. Nothing to write home about. So I grabbed my Anne Lamott book, went downstairs and paced from one end of our long house to the other, reading he soulful, funny words and gently contracting from time to time. Tim was wrapping up some of his own loose ends at the dining room table, writing important emails, and was largely unaware of what my body was doing. I was still hesitant to “call it” as labor because it was so erratic and not that intense. But at the same time, I could feel more pressure, I could feel my hips widen and my gait change to accommodate that. I had a few contractions that made me draw in my breath more sharply, but I was still walking, still reading.
So I went upstairs to sit on the yoga ball and timed contractions for a bit, from 8:35 to 8:50 pm. They were only 30 seconds long (and one minute-long one) and 2-3 minutes apart. Still nothing to write home about, in fact, those are lame early labor numbers right there! But I texted Tim (who was downstairs), “I’m for sure in labor. It’d be good if you could come make up the bed with the plastic sheet and the ‘don’t care if they get bloody’ sheets.” As he did that, I kept chatting with people on Facebook in between contractions, I cleaned the bathtub, I listened to Tim talk about the things he was writing emails about (until I couldn’t focus). The contractions seemed productive, but it also seemed like labor was puttering out, as the surges were so erratic still. I decided to put myself to bed, thinking maybe it had been a false start afterall (as I had had a few of these in the previous week and a half). So I texted Sara and Amy (birth photographer) to tell them that, then Tim left the room and I put on my pajamas and laid down in bed in the dark. This was at about 9:50 pm I think. By 10:02, I was texting Tim to come back, as I could tell things were picking up. So much for going to bed!
10:12 pm I’m texting Sara again — “hmmm. I don’t think sleep is going to be possible. They’re more intense and I can feel her descending. Maybe you should come now”. I texted Amy something similar. Then I laid there on my side, feeling the surges, breathing through them, feeling her move lower and lower… until I couldn’t lay down anymore and I got up on my hands and knees. Tim rubbed some labor blend EOs on my lower back, and massaged my back through the surges. We discussed whether or not to wake the kids to come watch, as they had wanted, but we weren’t sure there was time and we had no one there to tend to them, so we decided to let them sleep.
My legs were shaking. My water broke. Still I was personally texting Sara with these developments and updates between contractions. Still I wouldn’t call it pain, just mounting intensity. Yet I knew baby was coming very soon, cos I could feel her moving down. I kept saying affirmations aloud: “These surges aren’t stronger than me, they are me!” and “My baby is coming” and “I can do this.” At a certain moment I knew that I didn’t want to be alone, I wanted Sara! She was en route, but I wasn’t sure she’d make it in time. The next two contractions my body started to involuntarily push, but I didn’t start pushing with it just yet.
10:27 (?) pm, Sara appeared at my bedroom door, put on her gloves, and took her place beside Tim at the end of the bed. Becky (Sara’s senior midwife student) also slipped in very shortly after Sara. Now I began pushing with my body. The baby was moving down fast, squeezing everything out of my bowels along the way, like they were a tube of poop toothpaste (you’re welcome). I could feel her head hit my perineum, then crown. I was aware of every bit, and at one point moaned, “Remind me why I wanted to do this again?!” That was the only point it truly hurt and I was sure I was tearing. Sara announced that she had a compound hand, her arm was crossed over her lower face and that hand resting on the opposite cheek, so Sara reached in and pulled that hand out in front of her head, at which point, the rest of her head was easily born. The surges blurred together with no apparent breaks between, so it was just one long, mighty push — voluntary effort combined with involuntary reflex — before the rest of her was also born (10:32 pm). There was the instant relief of being emptied, of incredible pressure being released… followed nearly immediately by a cry from her tiny lungs, strong and healthy. “My baby! My baby!” I said through emotion, though I couldn’t see her yet. I momentarily rested my head on the pillows in front of me, filled with relief, just taking a moment before turning to meet her. “Did you catch her?!” I asked Tim, and he replied that he had, and that she was so slippery! I awkwardly maneuvered around to face her, with Becky helping me maneuver my leg over the attached cord, and gathered Maeve from Tim’s hands and into my arms and against my chest. She was here at last. We had done it!
And then Charis came in, looking joyfully shocked, followed quickly thereafter by Amy, holding a camera and looking full of disbelief that she had missed the grand entrance.
For the next hour and a half, I laid back on the bed, holding and nursing Maeve and chatting happily with my birth team. I was surrounded by strong, wise women and a supportive and engaged husband now, in these sweet moments after her birth. We laughed as we pieced together the progression of my labor and the timeline of how I’d communicated with each of them, and exclaimed how crazy it was that it nearly ended up being the unassisted birth I had envisioned. And because Sara has been my midwife with all four of my children, we got to reminisce and compare the births and features of all of them.
My placentas have ALWAYS taken about 2 hours to detach. This time was no exception. But we knew this in advance, so we didn’t even do much to try to deliver it until the hour and a half mark, at which point Becky took me to the bathroom to squat on the toilet with a chux pad beneath the seat until it decided to detach. She sat on the floor and talked with me and coached me through the tiny pushes and coughs until at last, there it was. Fully in tact, no excessive bleeding accompanying it, and I was finally done with the birth process.
I hobbled back to the bedroom where Tim had been doing skin-to-skin time with Maeve, and hopped back up on the bed to personally do her newborn exam, while Sara and Becky coached me through it! This was a first for me. But since the dream of becoming a midwife was birthed in me during my pregnancy with her, I thought that practicing this little skill set on my very own baby would be a fun little nod to that process of becoming. A few days before her birth, Sara’s mom, Anni, a midwife of 30 years and a mentor to me, had given me and Charis and Becky a little class on doing the newborn exam, so here I got to put it into practice right away. Using my own hands, I intentionally explored her from head to toe, checking sutures and fontenelles, palpating her abdomen, measuring her head (14″ and not at all moulded), chest (14″), belly (13″), and length (20.5″), rotating her hips, running a finger down her spine and looking for placement of eyes and alignment of leg lengths, feeling her reflexes respond to my touches. What a fun and intimate way to get to know my new baby. This was really special for me! And then when it was time to weigh her in the fish scale sling, Tim took the reigns. She weighed in at 8lbs, 2 oz. Becky checked heart tones and respirations. Everything checked out perfectly.
And now I see how the two seemingly contradictory visions of her birth that I had had in my heart — one including a huge team and the other of me being all alone — were reconciled in the same story. I had labored alone in body and spirit, and then with only Tim beside me, we came to very brink of birth unassisted… but then just in the final moments, my beloved Sara was with me, and soon after the rest of them trickled in. Their company through those first few hours with Maeve is really precious to me. So, it looks like I got both of my dreams.
Before leaving, I was tucked into bed with a placenta smoothie (Becky makes awesome ones!), a groaning cake muffin (I had baked them in advance), and a bowl of Charis’ homemade ice cream (she makes amazing ice cream). Adrenaline was still coursing through my veins, so it was quite a while before I was able to do anything resembling sleeping, and even then it was the light, hyper-vigilant sleep of a new mama holding her brand new baby across her body.
We let the older kids just keep sleeping until morning, but Tim went in to wake them up just a bit before they normally would, so that he could tell them that Maeve arrived in the night and sort of explain why they hadn’t been woken to witness it. Hazel and Walter came in right away, excited as they could possibly be. Gus needed a minute (and some breakfast) before he wanted to come in to meet her. But each one greeted Maeve that still-dark morning with joy and tenderness. Made my mama heart melt into a puddle.
PHOTOS by the amazing Amy Carroll can be seen in THIS POST.
dear daughter yet unborn,
today we’ve been together 38 weeks, you inside of me. and i know that soon i’ll see your face and press your soft skin against my own while we soak in the miracle of oxytocin, milk and tears that is promised us. i’m so excited for that. for YOU.
this pregnancy has been smooth and mostly easy. carrying you has felt light and joyful, in body and in spirit. but it’s been eventful, these last 9 months. it feels as though nearly every part of life has been put on the table and subject to reevaluation and upset while you float there warm and enveloped in waters and flesh.
your daddy and i have put all the pieces of our shared family life and marriage out there, sifting and sorting through it all, imagining new possibilities for how we make our life together. we’ve changed our roles, created new rhythms, busted out of boxes, and started some things we’re pretty proud of. we’ve found that we like splitting income-earning and parenting roles pretty evenly, and we hope that we can continue to arrange the pieces to make that possible, so that you get the best of both of us. we’ve been through another round of marriage counseling and emerged with a hope and depth we didn’t previously have. there’s been so much good fruit.
together with our friends and co-leaders the Coopers, we’ve taken every piece of what our ministry is and has done and have laid it on the chopping block, beginning an intentional and measured process of discerning together what God is actually asking of us as two healthy families on mission, and then fearlessly cutting off the parts that no longer fit or work. it’s been long — so much longer than we could have imagined — and emotional and challenging and also encouraging and clarifying and yet. yet it’s all still so very unsettled, at a time when i just want it all to be established. we don’t know what the implications will be for income or vocation, and if i’m honest i have a fair bit of anxiety about those unknowns, and what the outcomes will mean for our financial security, our sense of identity and the calling on your daddy’s life.
meanwhile, we the American people have elected a new president, and i did NOT see it (him) coming. his victory seemed only remotely possible, and so i will never forget the night i laid in bed watching the poll results roll in, at first confident and interested to see the first woman president be elected… and then stunned into near denial as the trend in the numbers shifted and it became evident that it would be Donald Trump that would be carrying away the title of President-Elect the next morning. and, my daughter, he is not what i would have hoped for this nation, he is not a leader i can point to with pride and confidence, happy to be welcoming a daughter into this world under his administration. in fact, there are so many things that his rise to power has stirred up in our country and in the church that at the moment it feels rather impossible to imagine how it will get sorted out into something that is okay again. i look to our King and Father and i think I can see how He is not alarmed or shocked, and that He has good purposes in spite of and through this development, but i believe that what lies ahead will be a sifting and a refining that will be both painful and long. we will be tested.
finally, my dear girl, a very personal dream has been birthed while you’ve been growing inside my womb. i will write to you more about this part later, as your name has significance in telling the story. but it’s about becoming a midwife, one who is with women through their childbearing year. it’s a calling and i’ve finally said yes to it, but the timing sure is funny, isn’t it? because you are coming — so soon! — and that poses certain limitations on taking next steps in pursuit of that calling. you will be one of my teachers and your birth and infancy will undoubtedly be part of my shaping as a midwife. i receive you joyfully in exactly your timing, yet another part of my spirit is absolutely chomping at the bit to get to work on my studies and apprenticeship, and i worry that it will be a dream deferred to the point of discouragement.
so, you see, little one, that there’s very little certain at the moment. the nest into which you will soon be born is shaky and ill-defined. i am praying that this won’t too significantly get in the way of labor beginning or your birth unfolding smoothly. i hope that i will be given eyes of faith, that my heart will rest in full confidence in the stability and unchangeable nature of the Father of Lights, the giver of all good gifts, who does not change like shifting shadows. I choose to rest in Him so that I can offer to you by His presence what I cannot offer out of my own flesh: a soft place to land, a secure fortress in which to hide, and a provision and protection that is sufficient.
i want to tell you, beloved girl, that you can come. i know i’ve told you to stay put until certain t’s are crossed and i’s dotted, but in this moment i tell you, you can come when you are ready. because as unprepared as i may feel, He is prepared for you, and I am leaning against His strong chest. you are so welcome here, and i will catch you.
There are my kinds of midwives, each who have taken unique paths to become the sort of midwife that they are. Behind each sort of midwife there is a different philosophy, differences in training, and even more differences in the personality and natural inclinations of each midwife.
Because of my birth photography work, I’ve gotten to witness first hand many unique midwives at work. And they all amaze me. Midwives are incredible women who all have self-sacrifice, passion, and skilled hands as common characteristics, whatever other differences there may be between them. They’re also usually just really soulful, fun, and interesting people to spend time with, and I feel seriously SO lucky to get to be around them as often as I have been! I’m so encouraged to know that even in my mid-size city there’s a pretty good diversity of options for midwifery care. In Grand Rapids we have certified nurse midwives (CNMs) who work in hospitals, birth centers, and even homes. We have certified professional midwives (CPMs) who work in homes and birth suites. We have direct entry midwives (DEM) and lay midwives who work only in homes (and somewhat under the radar). Each one has a specific pregnant mama niche of women who need what she offers, and who will click with who she is. This diversity is awesome, because birthing women are diverse. For the entire community of midwives to be able to celebrate and champion what her sister-midwives bring to the table will only serve the greater good for all.
So as it comes time to make decisions about what sort of midwife I will become, and what path I’ll take toward that end, I want to be clear that I’m in no way making a claim to have found the best or most ideal path, nor chosen an option higher than the other options. I most sincerely do NOT believe that.
Rather, the path and type of midwifery I’m moving toward is “right” only insofar as it authentically lines up with my values/perspective, my personality and orientation to the world (an enneagram type 4, an INFP, a Christian) and the life experiences I’ve had (holistic health lifestyle, home births for all my babies, inner city ministry and community living, etc) and the training I’ve received that may serve me as a midwife also (a master’s degree in counseling, a health coaching certification from an integrative nutrition institute, years working for a naturopath/chiropractor, being a creative entrepreneur and a birth photographer) and even the life situation I am in (married to a pastor, raising 4 very small kiddos, living in the city). My job is to look at all those pieces listed above, plus the guidance of the good Shepherd with resolution toward obedience to it, plus the direction in which my heart leans… and to continue to walk in way that corresponds with all of that.
And here I’m about to get more technical than some will care to attempt tracking with, but my inclination is as such: to pursue a self-directed distance education program designed to adequately intellectually prepare me to sit for the NARM exam for certification as a professional midwife (if I decide to pursue certification at all, which is currently not legally required in MI), while also apprenticing under a second-generation midwife with the CPM credential, receiving my hands-on experience and in-the-moment learning from the wise woman ways she is uniquely prepared to impart to me.
On a deep and intuitive level, apprenticeship-based midwifery training resonates with my core. It makes so much sense to me that elder midwives teach the younger ones through close, life-on-life “discipleship” over a myriad of experiences and across years. I’m excited to gain the kind of learning that only can come from watching and doing alongside someone practiced and passionate in her work, someone who learned her ways from the wise women with whom she herself once apprenticed in a similar fashion. Women have unique ways of knowing, and they possess secret insight into female health and birth that I frankly don’t believe men or science ever will fully “get.” So though I do not want to be dismissive of scientific study or evidence-based practices, I want to get a really healthy dose of the more womanly and intuitive way of transmitting knowledge, skills and wisdom!
Then, because I actually love book learning and research and desire to be fully equipped with vital information, I’m also going to apply for an educational program that will provide guidance and accountability as I wade through all the massive amounts of books and studies and information that there is to know. There will be text books, quizzes, exams, homework and all the trappings of “university study,” minus the degree. This more “traditional” education will be a great counter-balance to the apprenticeship. Between these two pieces, I feel like I’ll be given a beautiful training! It will work with my values, my style of learning, and my limitations and goals (both practical and financial), as well as utilizing existing relationships that I deeply value (as in the one I already have formed with the midwife who will be my preceptor/teacher and other midwives who have shown interest in and invested in my journey thus far).
And so in 5-8 years (??) I imagine emerging on the other side of that with a realization that has gradually sunk into my bones: that I have become in my heart and spirit a wise woman, a midwife… as well as possessing some standardized measurements to prove that I’ve acquired a certain standard of education.
What a feeling of accomplishment and joy it will be to walk forward into the world with those credentials — both tangible and intangible – and to offer it all up as a love offering to women and babies and their families, and to my Jesus.
I can’t wait.
But for now and for a long while yet, there’s the process. God give me patience for and delight in every step.
Typically announcements are made when something practical or tangible has already happened, like “we bought a house” or “our baby has been born” or “i just got a new job” or “we’re engaged!” This doesn’t fall into the practical/tangible category.
And yet, it feels like something worth announcing. Or maybe it’s more like declaring a college major, or setting an intention.
In any case, here it is:
I intend to become a midwife.
If you want to read some long and soul-searching details about how thing have gotten to this point, please read on.
For those who want cliffs notes, here are they are: I’ve been a birth junkie for years, and finally God brought it to the forefront and asked me to own the desire in my heart that I’d been trying to deny. My family and I are trying to sort out the timing and details of what pursuing this will look like. It will involve, I hope, a combination of apprenticeship and self-paced distance education. I haven’t taken a single practical step yet, nor made a single commitment, but I’ve explored options and hope to start SOMETHING within the next year. 🙂
Now, the long version (for those with interest and time to read)….
Earlier this week we heard for the first time the sweet sound of a strong, steady and easily-located heartbeat. The heartbeat of baby #4.
With a 4th baby we are leaving the classification of “average family size” and stepping into the classification of “big family.” And yes, we made that move intentionally. Truthfully, if you’d told me 10 years ago that I would be the mama of a big family I would have disbelieved it, would not even have thought I wanted it.
There is a not-tiny list of reasons that I may be an unlikely candidate to be such a mama. Like the fact that I didn’t even get started until I was 31. The fact that I never really much cared for kids or that I myself am 1 of 2 with all the privileges inherent therein also seem to set me up for NOT having a large family. Or the facts that I’m introverted and moody and melancholy (mothering as an enneagram type 4 has it’s own set of hardships) and have been seriously grieving since becoming a mother the loss of personal space and sense of unique identity I once found in long stretches of solitude and reflection, and that I’m easily overwhelmed and can feel like I’m drowning in monotonous ordinariness.
I’m not naive. I know (as much as one CAN know, I suppose) what we’re getting ourselves into here. I know how much harder it will be to get us all out the door for any given activity, how many more messes there will be and how many more spats and discipline moments. I am sadly aware that getting a babysitter is going to be more challenging and more costly than ever before. I know it is about to get even harder to find a little space to be alone. I realize that our grocery budget is going to suffer, that the laundry piles are about to get even more huge, and that we’re going to spend a lot of our income on kid-related things. I know that I just postponed the return of my “freedom” by a few more years. I know that it’s going to be hard work having 4 kids so close together.
But I also know this: that Tim and I both had a strong sense very shortly after Walter was born that there was one more person meant to be added to our family. It wasn’t even so much about “one more baby”, cute and squishy as they are, as it was this spiritual knowing that our family wasn’t complete quite yet. I began to experience an odd phenomenon that a friend had told me about, in which during moments of gathering all the kids together for a meal or a departure, I’d still feel like I was missing one, even when all 3 were accounted for. There is supposed to be one more. Knowing that, and not having any felt need to micromanage precisely WHEN that fourth child would be created, we simply abstained from using prevention, leaving the timing in the hands of nature and God. So in the month of March, between the birthdays of our boys, this baby was conceived. He/she is deeply wanted.
It helps to take the long view. I imagine 15 or 20 years from now, who will be sitting around our dining room table for family meals? Ever since I began this exercise, I have imagined that number to be 3 or 4 adult children plus their friends/spouses. I know that between here and that happy picture of a table full of wonderful adult children whose company I delight in there will be a sh*t load of work and plenty of really hard days and many tears of frustration and heartbreak and desperation. But I’m fully convinced that it will be worth it.
These 4 are my disciples, so may God make me faithful to mother them well and to show them Jesus in spite of all my personal liabilities and sin patterns and quirks. I’m trusting that the building of a family is ultimately and unavoidably God’s work and that He knows exactly what He’s doing here. For reasons I may not EVER fully know, I am the best mother for these children, and we’ve been put together for purpose.
So let’s do this, as Tim says. 🙂
i’m sometimes appalled at the way that i speak to myself, and the ways i think of myself. one area in which i tend to judge myself pretty harshly is in regard to my capacity to do and be all … Continue reading
after 3.5 hours of labor | 5:38 a.m. 8 lbs 8 oz | 19.5″ What follows is a very detailed telling of the story of Walter’s birth, as well as a slideshow of images from his birth. Some people will … Continue reading
each season feels like the hardest one. i remember when hazel was brand new, and how utterly in over my head i felt. the learning curve was so steep. i was grieving the loss of independence, freedom to use my time as i pleased, space to be alone with myself. and i had no idea what i was doing, so no action was simple or natural. the weight of concern and worry, with all the accompanying advice-seeking and google-searches, was exhausting. leaving the house felt like the most impossible thing. how was i supposed to plan an outing between all the naps and feedings (which were, in here case, LONG)?
this season now, and those early days with hazel feel so far away. i sometimes think that if i could go back and re-live them, it would feel easy compared to now. i would handle it like a pro, i would be so much more laid back. maybe that would be the case, if i could carry the knowledge/tricks/confidence i’ve gained in the three following years with me and apply them there, too. but that’s not how it works, is it? of course not.
Father breaks us in easy, giving us one challenge at a time, taking us deeper and deeper into responsibility and commitment. if He were to throw us right into it, we would surely drown. Or so it seems to me.
looking back even further than new motherhood, to the days when i was a young adult and single, how simple that all looks from where I now stand. bills were few and simple, taxes straightforward, freedom to use and structure my own time was enormous, i could accomplish things in a fraction of the time it now takes with small children in tow, all my decisions were my own to make (no need to seek consensus with a husband), and my parents would still help me out financially. i could have gotten up and gone to do anything with such comparative ease (travel, move, adventure). but at the time it didn’t feel so easy! there was also loneliness and longing for a mate, worry about not having enough money even for the few bills that i did have, and the downward-spiraling thoughts that often filled up all those solitary and unstructured hours. there weren’t children to anchor me, to make me get up in the morning and do the next thing that needed doing, and being single was like facing the world alone, not knowing when or if that aloneness would ever end. and though i didn’t have kids underfoot to sabotage my cleaning and cooking and errand running, i also was still learning how to cook and clean and run errands, which sometimes made me feel so young and inexperienced.
as scripture says, “each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” that’s meant to remind us not to worry also about the future, but i see it working retroactively, too: yesterday had enough of its own worries, too. there will always — in every life season — be heavy concerns, and loads to bear that feel too heavy at times. there will be moments of overwhelm. and, in each life season there will be provision. there will be enough of the internal resources, the support of community, and material needs. there will be enough of these things, coming forward as they are needed, because across all of these life seasons the one constant thing is the Father to whom we’ve entrusted ourselves.
so TODAY, when the challenges of a feisty, cooped-up 3 year-old and a 21-month-old who’s stumbling into his terrible 2s while teething his molars, combined with my achey, cumbersome, pregnant body on a gray day, with to-do lists a mile long and a house that feels impossibly messy but cannot be tended to because the children’s needs are so unrelenting and my body in such a state… today when cooking yet another meal and doing yet another load of laundry feel absolutely unrewarding and mundane… today when I feel so isolated from the comfort of close female friendships because the urgency of daily life squeezes out most of the opportunities to connect… today when our list of financial responsibilities is longer and more complicated than i could have imagined or navigated when i was 24, and when the upkeep of a house and the oversight of a nonprofit and the managing of my own business keep our minds racing into the night…. today when the challenges of being a wife with all the mutual submission, vulnerability practice, and intimacy to keep up feel like harder work that the romance movies ever would have led me to believe… TODAY there will be enough. TODAY my Father is with me, leading me gently because I am with child (Isaiah 40:11), providing for my every need out of his glorious riches (Phil 4:19).
and so for you, friend. whether you are in your early 20s, living with friends and trying to discern the trajectory of your life while avoiding being turned out on the street, or whether you are a new mother absolutely drowning in the enormity of that identity redefinition and the weight of a newborn’s constant need, or whether you are in your mid-life, about to see your youngest child off to college and suddenly there is a giant gaping hole that invites you to redetermine how you will spend the rest of your days… in all these seasons, He is sufficient, He is present, He is neither shocked nor dismayed at how things are going, and He waits to show you mercy.