Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ringing in the New

It's been a while since I've written here. 5ish months maybe? I could say that I do not have the time to write anymore, and while in some sense that would feel like truth, the reality is that it's something I've chosen to let go as this season of my life has much less available time for myself. I regret that much of Abram's growth hasn't been documented in the way I hoped (especially since my memory is just really stellar these days), but my daily demands with two little people age two and under has been sanctifying to say the least.

The impending New Year has everyone considering resolutions and changes and challenges. And up until the last few hours, I can't say I've really thought much about it. It has had me look back over the last year and reflect. 2013 was good to us and hard for us in so many ways. It brought us Abram, which is undoubtedly the best of the best from the last 365 days. It brought job change and life change too, and I'll be really honest that I do not love transition (the kind that happens in life or the kind that happens in labor ha!)

About 4 weeks after Abram's arrival, Tommy's job demands changed drastically from what we've been used to these seven years, and he began working 6-7 days a week 10-12 hour days. In an attempt to simply survive adding another child while also having my husband gone about 20+ hours more per week than we were used to, it became necessary to let the writing go. Those were and have been hard months, draining in the most extreme ways as motherhood and its demands has genuinely not stopped for months at a time.  God has been faithful to use that time to cultivate lots of areas of my heart, to point out the difficult things that need change, and to show up and show out in His sovereignty.

We learned at the end of the summer that some friends we've really cherished for years will be leaving... keeping us a continent apart for the sake of the Gospel. And there is no better reason to go. I've rejoiced for them and cried for myself and thought about how that will look in my life and in theirs as 2014 will bring their departure.  It is always nice to have someone who just gets you... understands you to the core and has a life that looks really similar to yours and never needs an explanation of why you do what you do. It is hard to let those people walk out of your everyday life. It's hard to anticipate that upheaval as well.

 I don't really have a lot of specific goals for this year... just a few. And they really aren't any different from what I'm doing now, except maybe it's just a refreshing of them. This year has taught me about the exhaustive joy of motherhood. I could emphasize exhaustion and I could emphasize joy because it has truly been both ways. It has brought me to the end of myself in many of the same ways that my labors have. It has revealed where I am most selfish, with my time or my giving or my sleep... and it has demanded that I put the needs of my children above my own in new ways. I have so many friends who are expecting their first baby right now or have recently had a new baby. And I've spent the last month thinking back to where I was 3 years ago and I just laugh when I think about how much I "knew".... How I thought, "Oh when I'm a parent I will not be doing that." or "If they would just do this, they'd have much happier children."  Even with all my early childhood experience and child development knowledge and a degree in little folks, parenting is just so different than all that and I just laugh and think, "Oh self, you knew nothing." (If you're reading this, remember I'm talking about myself here. Not you ;) You might know a lot!) And I feel confident that in five years I will be looking back on where I'm at now saying the same thing. And these last twelve months have made me ok with that not knowing everything position. I think back on all the advice given to me and the five thousand opinions (my own included), and as I found myself reentering the newborn phase this year has simply reinforced one of my parenting mantras-- Trust yourself. Trust yourself when you feel like you might be screwing it up and when you feel like you're doing ok. And don't trust yourself because you are all knowing and without flaw (because you're not and you will make mistakes), but trust yourself because God did not make an error in giving you the specific child He gave to you and He also gave you instincts- whether you grew up with parents who loved you big and taught you how to nurture or whether you grew up with just the opposite.  God knows I've done my fair share of reading, and while I often feel like I don't fit into any parenting camp or type or book (anybody want to hang out in the middle with me?!), I do know why I do what I do. But I learned with Abi Kate not to put my stake in that, and I've found a similar understanding with Abram. Don't let a book or a method or a person tell you how to parent your kid. There are 5 million books on parenting and 5 million theories with 5 million cited sources for each about children and the real reason is because everybody is just trying to figure it out. My best wisdom has come when I've just stayed on my knees and asked God for discernment for my individual child-- about big and little things. Raising two little ones instead of just one has driven this home to me over and over again this year-- Trust yourself. You are going to make mistakes, no matter how much you don't want to. Big ones and small ones. Let grace bridge the gap and press on with your best, God given intuition.

That concept is not always easy for me, even though I'm opinionated and decently "self-assured" for lack of a better word... because I genuinely care far too much what others think about me, and I also genuinely like most people and want to be friends with everyone. As a result, I question myself and overthink and spend far too much time mulling over the opinions of others. In the past, I've steeled myself against that and written those opinions off (and honestly not in a good way). This year, I felt undone by those things and thought, "maybe they're right" (and not in a good way here either).  Both responses are equally as wrong. It's been an area that Christ has put the pressure on this year, to let my pride fall and to keep finding my identity and sufficiency inside of Him alone. A lot of my Dad's lessons to me growing up have found roots in my life within the last year or two also-- he used to tell me, "Katie, you can't win 'em all." He's right. And I think that largely this issue I've wrestled with spiritually this year is exactly what he meant by that-- stop finding your value in people who like you and wasting time over those who've hurt you or don't like you. Love them both. Forgive them both. And find your value inside the one who purchased you when you were at your worst. He is enough.

It's funny because two years ago I wouldn't have cared a lot about any one else's opinion. Probably because I wouldn't have given much care to those people in general. While God has used the last two years and its events to soften my heart towards others and to extend mercy,  I've often fallen too far this year on the opposite spectrum--- Instead of writing people off, I raised them up. Both are dangerous and wrong grounds to be on.

So much of my parenting this year has exposed my flaws and weaknesses as a person.... and every year that I'm a mom I'm just more and more convinced that this is the point of parenthood. Even though it's the American way to put make kids fit into our lives and our schedules and our world, the truth is kids are rarely convenient. They will cry when you need them most not to. They will have to go potty at the worst time ever. They will wake up when you need sleep most. And I can't help but think that's why Jesus welcomed them when everyone else did not... He knew they were little refiners, capable of refining grown ,stubborn people in big new ways.  

I've learned that in this part of motherhood, I need time away and alone to reconnect and to refresh my mind and spirit. A few weeks/months (how sad is it that I don't remember?!) I got a coffee alone and sat in a movie parking lot and read a few chapters of a book in my car. I spent some time praying and while everything in me wanted to scream, "God, please stop pushing me to grow. Let me just be where I'm at for awhile." My prayer came out in opposite fashion, that He'd keep pressing into me and keep pursuing me and not let off me even when the growing hurt. And I'm pretty sure He'll see that through in 2014.

Abi Kate will turn three in a month, which literally I could sob thinking about that. Where did my baby go?! She's lively and literally never stops talking (she lost her voice one day back in November and it was SO QUIET in our house. So. Quiet.) She's all girly girl and loves her brother so hard, that I get overwhelmed at how good God was to answer that prayer of mine- that they'd be friends.

Abram is 8 months old (as of yesterday). He's much more mobile than Abi Kate ever dreamed about being at this age-- he's cruising and walking with his little dinosaur walk and ride toy, and he started calling me "mama" with intent a few weeks ago (that's right, folks. I'm two for two in getting to be the first word! I'd like to give my boobs the credit for that one.... my kids know their food source. They owe it to me.;) )He is much like Tommy-- long suffering, though he's got a temper that goes beautifully with his red hair if he's pushed long enough (or if he's tired or hungry)  ;) He's gentle and mild mannered but not as fiercely independent as Abi Kate was at this age. And he's tiny. He looks hilarious standing up because he's so small to us in comparison to Abi. I've now had one kid bringing up the 90% in weight and now I've got another holding down the 10%. He looks chubby but pick him up and hes a feather. Crazy! We call him our hollow bunny. ;)  

This year has been a whirlwind in so many ways and in the coming year as we've hit our stride, I hope I am more intentional in just simply enjoying my children while I'm at home with them. I've officially surrendered the ideal that my house will be clean and pretty while they're small... so now that that's out of the way... ;) And more than anything I just want to give them the Gospel.  I've learned that good parenting in does not equal good kids out. And nor does bad parenting equal bad kids. We want it to, so bad. That way, we can pat ourselves on the back when our kids are well behaved and smart and shake our fingers when other kids don't behave... It makes us feel good and makes parenting seem less complex and less difficult. But that's not real and that's not truth. There's no doubt that the responsibility of parenting is high and should be considered as such, but kids are sinners who need a Savior. And they will act as such, in spite of great parenting. So more than anything, I just want to give my kids Jesus. I want our parenting to exemplify that. I don't want to give them self-esteem or great independence (as if my two year needs help with that anyway- ha!) I don't want to tell them how good and perfect they are. And I don't want to give them a watered down version of biblical obedience.  I want to give them so much more than that. I want to teach them how good and perfect Jesus is. I want to teach them how He walked in close relationship with others, not how He was good enough on His own without humanity (though indeed He was). I want to teach them  how He did not worship self value  but He worshipped God.  I want them to feel the weightiness of the law of God so they can fully grasp freedom of the Gospel. And I want them to know they are fully loved, deeply and wildly by their parents and by their Creator, in spite of every great choice or poor choice they might make. I have prayed so much in the last two months that God would pursue my children. Now. While they are young.  And even though I make thousands of mistakes  as a parent, I see His work unfolding in their lives, in spite of me.

 I did another interview at 33 months with Abi Kate. Funny the difference 5 months makes in answers....
Can I ask you some questions? No. I'm building a tower.
What makes you happy? A tower. I make my house.
What do you want to be when you grow up? I want to be the lighter.
What makes you mad? Nothing
What does mommy do with her friends? You push your friends.
What is the funniest word? Nothing!
What scares you? Storms
If you had lots of money what would you buy? A cupcake
What's the hardest thing to do? Take a nap
Who is your best friend? Olivia

What is the best thing in the world?
What do you like to do best/what's the best part of your day? Friends!
What do you think about Abram? He's my Abram-y! He's my best friend in the whole wide world!
Are any of my friends concerned that she thinks I push you?! Like physically?! A drug pusher?! What does this mean?!)
And I'll leave you with some of our most memorable moments from 2013.
 Turning Two at her Tea Party
 First TN snow! Weird as ever... half covering the ground and the other part totally uncovered.
 Waiting for babies with friends... Due 3 days apart. They were born 7 days a part :)
 The brief attempt we made at painting Abram's room at 35 weeks pregnant. About 10 minutes after this, I got down from the ladder, said we needed to hire someone. And it had to be painted the following day. Totally irrational. My huz (and a random painter off Craigslist) made it happen for my crazy pregnant self.


Love these two.

The due date that came and went
 The labor that finally started
 The boy who finally arrived

 We found her in her closet one night after putting her to bed. Asleep. Phone in hand. Walls colored. It's cool to be 2.
 When Abram was 7 weeks old, we went out as a family of four on an impromptu ice cream run. Everyone was sad. Except the adults. We had to laugh.
 This was found on my bedroom wall. Abi Kate came running out and said, "Oh Mommy I draw Doc McStuffins!!" (Don't worry. She was corrected. And had to help clean it off.... after we hid and laughed.)

And we became a minivan family.... and I don't even hate it! Oh my word...
 That's what trying to take your own picture with 2 kids looks like...Ridiculous. ;)
 Dedicating our boy.
Turning Abram's Play mat into her own stage


First food
Happy New Year Friends.   

Friday, August 16, 2013

When What You're Doing is Bigger Than You.

I think it's been about six weeks since I last sat down to write, and what a six weeks it has been.... We've been in a particularly trying season around these parts. Parenting has taken all we've got, at every moment. Two is an interesting number. And by two I don't mean two kids. I mean age two. ;)

Finding myself at the precipice of motherhood with a very two toddler (hate stereotypes, but my girl has got 'em covered this time!) and a three month old alone 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week has been a teacher. A hard teacher. Some of it is the process of still adjusting to two babes, some of it is parenting a strong-willed and very verbal toddler. Some of it is just parenting in general.

Nothing gives perspective quite like parenting. I remember caring for several babies at one time, teaching 24 five year olds for 7 hours a day, even caring for friends' kids overnight while they ushered new life into their families. I remember thinking, "I can take care of several kids at one time. No sweat." But even those things, they really aren' t the same as parenting. Because there's an end to those things, and the weight of decision making for their long term well-being doesn't rest on you. And I've definitely felt the weight in the last 6 or 7 weeks.

And what I'm finding for myself is that things are just relative. I shared this with a friend earlier... that when I was adjusting to one baby, it seemed like it took a long time to get out the door. Then I fell into a pattern and that became easy. And now, I can get one kid together and get out the door with just one within a few short minutes. And then there's two and it takes a lot longer, and you're busy and stretched thin between two who both need you simultaneously. And yet that becomes your new normal... And I imagine it goes on the same. The number of kids you have and the struggles with each phase is just relative to where you're at in that moment. I've told Tommy several times that I think it would've been easier to have a 12 month old and a newborn because that first year with a baby is so easy. But then I think I'd probably be saying just the opposite if I were in that moment.  (And if you're reading this and you're a new mom and you feel like you're swamped and wondering how it could get harder, just remember-- it's all relative ;) I love 0-12 months. And it will probably be completely opposite for you-- you'll fly through the toddler years without a blink where I've picked up a permanent seat on the crazy train.) Because the truth is parenting is just hard. Motherhood is not always easy. Loving your babies- that takes almost no effort whatsoever. But raising them, that's entirely different thing altogether. It has hard times and great times if you have one and I imagine it has hard times and great times if you have four.

I've always felt very grateful to be able to be at home with our children. It is the "job" I desired for several years. And yet I've found myself in the last weeks struggling here in this place where I hungered to be. I have felt weary more often than not, worn before my feet hit the floor in the morning. I've had to battle the negative self-talk that I do within myself. And I don't recall the last time I went to bed feeling like a good mom, free of any guilt. I think it was probably when I was 7 months pregnant. Motherhood is a pretty thankless job most of the time, even when you have a very appreciative spouse. After all the work that goes into cooking dinner and timing it right with newborns and naps and including the toddler in the process, that doesn't usually equal a "Thank you, Mommy for that fantastic meal. Loved those herbed green beans you sauteed!" You don't normally get a, "Thanks for that correction, Momma. I'm really grateful you removed me from that situation so I could calm down for a few minutes and express my emotions in a more positive way." Or  "Thank you for feeding me every 2 hours while I growth spurted last night... I'm feeling full and healthy now!" Nope... looks a little more like "Dinner is yucky!" (says the 2 year old that I found eating a stick of butter who said "It's delicious and nutritious, Mommy!" Ummm....) and "NO! I don't like Mommy!" and "Wahhh!" Really those are just kind of funny ;) But it is true that you pour yourself out, fully, in complete expense over and over again until sometimes it feels like you're coming up empty. And that feeling like you've got nothing more to give, nothing left in you--- it can make you feel purposeless.  I've been at that place for a little bit now. Feeling like anybody could do this job I do, and quite honestly could probably do it better.... changing diapers, and feeding babies, washing little clothes, and reading books, correcting behaviors and desperately trying to correct a heart in the process. Many days I've felt sorry for these little lives that I love, that they're just stuck with me as a mom. That maybe I've done them this great disservice by being home with them because I keep running up on empty most days and what I hope to be for them, what they deserve, I'm not. It's been a new place for me, a place I never would've imagined I'd find myself up until I did. I love my babies and I love being a mom, so as I've passed through this challenging season I've struggled more so than in any other role, probably because this one means so much to me.

I'm very goal oriented, purposeful in my decision-making, and intentional with opportunity. And I think those of us like that can have a tendency to miss the significance of the little moments. For me it's almost easier to serve in the bigger, "hard" things... Like flying to South America to love on some tired missionaries, like investing a broken soul who desperately needs someone to love them, like gearing up for a week full of intense energy where you pour into little lives and see hard things and hear how hard family life is.... Because even though those things are hard, there's this outward purpose that's easy to see and easy to describe. And they're exciting.  You expect refining. You expect God to show up in big ways and do big things in those moments. You expect to be wowed by his magnificence and power. But what I'm finding, is that more often than not, it's not these big moments where he wants to do the biggest things in me. It's in the regularity of the every day. It's in the struggle when I feel like I'm failing, and He's reminding me that my great weakness is His great strength. It's in the 7th diaper change of the day, it's in the puzzle pieced together, it's in the morning oatmeal and afternoon snack, it's in the comfort of a crying a baby-- that's where my  deepest refining happens. It's where He's sanctifying me and urging me to lay ME down. When the exhaustion of correction feels like more than I can do, when the weight of responsibility for these little lives lays down its full strength upon me. It isn't in the excitement that He moves in the biggest ways, it's in the normal moments that feel unimportant,  in the daily living is where He's trying to teach me to truly live. And I think that's been the point all along-- He doesn't need extravagance and excitement to sanctify and redeem that hardest parts of me. Because I need to live fully right where I'm at, and where I'm at is in a home, raising two babies 24/7.  It brings new meaning to that verse, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life...." and "...in humility count others as more significant than yourself."  Because simply put, that is what motherhood is, the nonstop giving of yourself for someone else.  

The other day Mark Driscoll had a status that said, "To the mother up with a crying baby again at 2:30 am, Jesus sees your work. And it is valuable." I cried when I read it. Cried because I've always believed that raising our babies is Kingdom work, but in the weariest moments I've ever experienced as a mother, I've felt like what I'm doing is not important. And this right here, it is the reminder of the bedrock of my faith.... That Jesus loves me. He loves me as I am, not as I hope to be. He loves me when I feel like I'm failing and when I feel like I'm triumphant. He loves me and I did not miss my calling. I am where I am supposed to be. And He loves me right here. When I feel like I'm screwing it all up, He's reminding me that He works ALL things for good, even my messes. And He even loves the me stuck inside this mess.

So if you are reading this and you understand the weariness that motherhood can bring, let me give you the reminder that I have needed for weeks and still have to give to myself. What you are doing matters. If you're still growing your baby and anticipating the future, what you are doing matters. If you are a new mom with a baby who doesn't sleep, you matter (and I promise they all eventually sleep!) If you are sending your baby to school for the first time or preparing lessons to teach at home, you matter. And if you are watching babies become teenagers much too quickly, you matter (maybe even more so!). And if you are an empty-nester and your babies are all grown up, you still matter  (I promise). What you will do, what you are doing, what you have done....it matters.

I think it's significant that the entrance into motherhood begins as one of the best days of your life while also being a day that you do some of the hardest work of your life. Because that picture looks more like what daily mothering can be than any words I could offer. It's the very best wrapped up with the difficult. You can fully value how precious your role is and how precious the sweetest moments are because you've tasted how hard it can be, because you worked to get to the really good part. Parenting is funny that way-- some days are so sweet you almost can't take it and the next is one you're so glad to put in the books. And more often than not in the last month, motherhood has one-upped me. At the end of the day I've been waving my white flag. Sometimes, the roles we're in and what we're doing, they feel bigger than us. Sometimes they are bigger than us.

This week, when it has felt like more than I can do, Galatians has come to mind, "Do not grow weary in doing good...you will reap a harvest" I have to say it to myself on hard days and good days. In the best moments and in the less-than-best moments. These are long days but short years. Days and years that I am blessed to enjoy and struggle through all at the same time.  And when I let the Gospel be the goal, there is refreshing.   

"'Therefore, we do not lose heart'... preach it to yourself each morning... preach it until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for." -John Piper

Monday, July 8, 2013

Beautiful Things.

It's been a busy 6 weeks, a lot has transpired in the last month since I last blogged. I know for the next few months, I probably won't be able to write as much as I'd like. And I'm ok with that. There's a season for everything, and at the moment my season is a two year old girl and a  two month old boy. :)

Going from one to two is a funny thing. It certainly has it's trying moments.
Like this one... where she found my mascara and eyeliner and helped herself... Coconut oil makes a great non-toxic eye makeup remover... Just in case you needed to know that for your 2 year old.. :/
It has chaotic moments where everything is unraveling and you just can't do anything except sit back and laugh at the marathon that you just ran. And it has sweet moments where early bonds and budding friendship emerges and you just sit back and watch until your heart is filled to overflowing.

It's been sweet getting to know the little guy that we wondered about for so long. He is a lot like we thought he would be and yet different than we thought he would be all in the same course. I've enjoyed the first glimpses of his personality. It's funny to think back on a time that he wasn't with us. I love that. I love that he fills out our family in just the right ways. I love that he fills up my heart in so many ways.  

People always ask how the older kids transition when a new baby is in the house, and all in all Abi Kate really embraced it well. She had a regression with potty training (which we expected) and suddenly decided waking up in the middle of the night was the cool thing to do (didn't so much expect that one ha!). But after he'd been here about three or four weeks, that all stopped and she returned to the potty and sleep. She still has a few more accidents each week than she was having before, but overall, she's pretty much returned back to "normal."

She is full of life at every moment she's awake- busy and bustling about. She truly adores Abram- asking to hold him, asking to nurse him (bless it- I'd share if I could, sister!), and begging me to lay him on his playmat so she can lay with him. After about two weeks of him, every time he cried she'd run to me and say, "Mommy! Abram needs to nurse!" I'd say she definitely gets the newborn phase ;) Most of our reminders have been to not to love him quite so hard...

She's 29 months now, and in all honesty, the last several months have been more challenging-- even before Abram arrived. She pushes boundaries and tests her limits, and she's tried defiance on for size more often than I'd like to remember. Some days the exhaustion of patient correction and consistency catches up with me-- that happens more often than I'd like to admit too. Patience with her and her more challenging phases has usually come easily to me-- I expect little people to do little people things. But that same quick temper that rises up in her is all too familiar for me. It's easy for me to find discouragement in that. I hate feeling like she's inherited some of my ugliest traits. More times than I'd like to remember in the last 3 months, I've snapped at her in my response- and as soon as those words exit my mouth I'm astounded-- not by the words but the tone that I've used to deliver them, frustrated with myself that I could bruise her little spirit in my impatience. If there's anything I've learned in the last three or four months, it's to be quick to humbly admit my error and ask for forgiveness from her. I've had to preach the gospel at myself over and over again-- I will never be enough. But grace bridges that gap. We aren't and never will be perfect parents. I'll make mistakes and regret them almost immediately, and the best thing we can do is drive the gospel home to her-- not through our perfection but through our honesty and our humility. I pray that in our errors and in her errors she sees what grace looks like. That when she errs, I am quick to correct her and even more quick to offer forgiveness. That when we err, we are quick to apologize and  correct our errors. She apologizes on her own accord quite often- a lot of times saying "I'm sorry I impatient with you." (I think she's heard that a time or ten). And she is always quick to forgive. "I give you, Mommy." We don't do parenting perfectly, but we do love really well in this home. And "love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:8. I hope that stands out to her most.    

It's a fine line in parenting, not making my mess hers. At the end of the day, I often find myself unpacking the heavier parts of my parenting. I never want to take myself off the hook in my responsibility to demonstrate patience and godliness to her. I never want to pretend that my struggles can't or won't impact her decisions and responses. But I also don't want to make her messes fully mine. We want to teach her responsibility and accountability for her actions, to train her to choose godliness even when it's hard. There's a balance in there. And striking it is what makes parenting hard sometimes.

But if I've learned anything in the last two and half years of parenting, it's that phases come and go. Some are really easy and some are really hard, but they don't last forever. We just do our best to keep teaching and keep loving and keep offering grace. Almost always, the harder phases push me closer to the Cross, and that's a good place for me to be... especially in my parenting. Tommy is there already- he's normally just waiting for me to catch up!

One day, I believe her strong willed little spirit will grow her up into a strong willed woman, who isn't easily swayed by the culture. Who isn't afraid to question what is mainstream and to stand her ground in doing something different. In the deepest parts of me I truly believe that about Abi Kate.  She is beautiful and fiery.. And I know that Christ makes beautiful things out of the wreckage within us-- I'm living proof.

 I've looked at my babies more time than I could count in the last few weeks and feel undeniably grateful for them and for all they've brought me. For as trying as many moments have been with our red headed girl, she is the one who turned me into a momma. And bless her, being our first child, she gets all the "guinea pig" learning that we do as parents. Just for that, she' s incredible in her own right. ;) This time with her has really made me consider my position as a child of God- it wasn't when I was at my best that God poured out the extravagance of His love and pursuit of me. It was when I was at my worst. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:18. I can't offer her any less than what's been offered to me. That verse has been so sobering for me in recent days, in hard moments when two year old behavior is at its highest and I'm frustrated with myself. Praise God for a Gospel that keeps redeeming us.    

She can be a handful but she's also so funny. She really talks nonstop, and I love that about her. I like hearing all her thoughts (and she's got a lot of them!). The first time we were in the car together, Abram started crying. She looked over at him really tenderly and said, "Abram. We don't be ungrateful." ;) She also ran into her room the other day and said, "Mommy you 'barass me!" Isn't that supposed to start when she's like 14?!

Most of the things that make me feel like she's a baby are slipping away. She only wears a diaper at nap and at night now. She moved to a toddler bed back in February and loves her big girl bed.  And two weeks ago she gave up her paci that she still used to fall asleep with (that went much more smoothly than I anticipated!) She's just growing up.

These moments almost never happen anymore... But I love it when they do. I'm glad Tommy was home and grabbed my phone just in case it doesn't happen again for 6 more months :)

When she was 28 months, I did a little interview with her. I just asked her the questions and wrote down what she said word for word....
Interview with Abi Kate

What makes you happy? Mad (I might've thought this was just a random answer. But on this day, being mad did make her happy!)
What do you want to be when you grow up? I wish I could be a princess. No! I'm not a princess!
What makes you mad? I'm not mad
What does mommy do with her friends? Go bye bye
What is the funniest word? That sounds like a giggle fest
What scares you? Can I hold Abram? I'm hungry
If you had lots of money what would you buy? The caterpillars
What's the hardest thing to do? Hmmm.... I don't know.
Who is your best friend? Abram

What is the best thing in the world? Mommy
See those last two? She knew I needed that... :)


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

9,861 Days & 3 Weeks Later

I feel like I should start this post out with a giant thank you. Thank you to each of you who took time to one, read Abram's birth story (it was long-you should get an award) and two, liked or commented or messaged me or texted me encouragement regarding it. I told a friend the other day that his story was hard to write and harder to share. It's why I sat on it for a while. I wanted it to be a story of great faith and certainty and of our learned trust in Christ, but while I wished that's what it could be that's just not what it was. The honest truth is what it was filled with- doubt and fear and control until finally, at the very last moment it turned into something else. It's hard to share the less lovely things about ourselves, the weaknesses and the struggles. Quite honestly it's a bit embarrassing to lay out your weaknesses (or at least it is for this perfectionist). I felt like a sixth grade kid standing up in front of a bunch of high schoolers when I posted it because of that and because it's such an important story for us personally since it revolves around our child and my continued learning of grace. I felt some definite nerves when I clicked "publish" so I am genuinely grateful for the outpouring of encouragement I received, particularly while I hang out in the potentially crazed days that the postpartum period can offer. Loving words last. Thank you.

The hazy days of postpartum are where I'm dwelling at the moment. Where the days of the week run together for me and the hours dictated by "am" and "pm" don't make much difference regarding my wakefulness. In fact, I'm way more likely to be sleeping at 2 pm than I am at 2 am ;) They are filled with busy times as we all transition into the family of four.

I told myself for weeks before Abram's birth that I would be kind to myself in these early days. I would give myself time to do what needed to be done, to figure out how parenting two kids works, to figure out how mothering two of them while Tommy is at work looks. I promised to go easy on myself. And really, I have. I told myself that it's ok if Abi Kate watches TV like she did the first 20 weeks I was pregnant with him. It didn't hurt her then and it won't hurt her now. I told myself it was ok if the house isn't beautifully picked up or if I go to bed wearing the same shirt I wore all day and slept in the night before. The world won't stop spinning if I don't have it 100% together these first few weeks, when the majority of my day is spent nursing a baby. And it's been good. I've tried to do one small activity for a few minutes each day with Abi Kate- whether it's playing in her kitchen or dot painting or doing chalk with her. We've kept the living room and our bedroom picked up and that's enough for now. Dusting and glass cleaning, mopping and all that entails will come later (I swear that's why God created the nesting urge. You clean your house so thoroughly because He knew you wouldn't have time in the 4 weeks after delivery!) It's made this transitional time easier. Just don't go looking at our back bathroom ;) I don't know how to do it all yet with two kids, how to make our home run easily and run errands and accomplish everything. But I'm ok with that, because one thing I do know-- I know how to love a baby. I know how to nurture him and treasure him. I know how to love both our babes in my arms without reserve-- that I can do really well.

I was prepared for a devastating blow when we added a second child, and right after I post this things will probably change dramatically, but it really hasn't been that difficult. It's a lot busier. Most mornings my coffee sits alone for about 2 hours before I get around to taking a sip. I've missed a lot of meals because I've just genuinely forgotten to eat (and my son has a radar that he needs to nurse each time I sit down to eat. It really is funny...and being able to say 'my son' pretty much makes up for anything he needs at any time). And there are moments where it feels overwhelming-- but not all day and not every moment. It's actually been more precious than difficult-- when Abi Kate runs into our room first thing in the morning and says, "Where's Abram?" The way she walks up to him and grabs his hand and whispers, "I love you" without any prompting. The blissful event that is naptime, when I get to snuggle up with our sweet baby boy for an hour or two. But of course, I haven't left the house alone with two yet either... ;)
I turned 27 today, so I've spent the day thinking about this past year and where I'm at in life. This day last year served as the beginning of a really hard few months, and really the whole year unwound in ways I never anticipated and served as a year of growth. This year has taught me a lot about what we need and God's very present hand in that.

I think about that in light of Abram's life...It's funny how we thought we needed another girl. Thought maybe we'd let our Abi Kate down because we hadn't given her a sister. Thought maybe we wouldn't efficiently accommodate a boy...I'm glad God knows what we actually need....Because my soul, we needed this boy. Just as he is.
I'm closer to 30 than 20, even though I still feel mostly the same as I did 7 years ago. But my life is a world of different. This year on my birthday, we went out to breakfast, but not on a date with just us two as we have in the past. We each had a baby in our arms this time. I wore my pre-pregnancy jeans today for the first time, but even though they buttoned and zipped and today I weigh what I did before pregnancy, there's no going back to the body that existed at 26. I'll be up late all night tonight, but not because I'm out seeing a 10:00 movie or having a late coffee date. My night will be filled with nursing a sweet little boy, reading one more bedtime book to the "I'm not sleepy!" girl, tucking her back to bed at least two times because she's certain it's "not time for night night". I'll wash one more load of laundry and fold diapers. And I might have a coffee date with my hubs, but it will be on the couch with good old Folgers. We'll take turns switching off walking the floors with a wide-eyed baby boy around 1:00 am, pushing pause and play on our nighttime show more times than we could count. It will be low key and tomorrow my morning wake-up call will start all over again....
And while I know that sounds so unexciting from the outside, dull or probably even pitied by others, I can't help but look at my night and the ones who are keeping me busy and think --my God, these 27 years have been good to me....

Friday, May 17, 2013

Abram's Birth Story

Abram Graham came to us on a Tuesday night, slipping into the last hours of April & taking us fully by surprise as he had done my entire pregnancy. Sometime a few months  after Abi Kate's birth and arrival, Tommy and I began talking about adding to our family again, feeling certain that the Lord had laid His desire on our hearts for our family. We conceived immediately, shortly after Abi Kate's first birthday. Our pregnancy was met with excitement and rejoicing, anticipation that we'd been blessed to carry and usher new life into our arms again. But that season of happiness and growth in our family was punctuated by a very unexpected miscarriage at the end of our first trimester. To say it was a dark time for us is putting it lightly. Lots of tears were shed, late night conversations were common as we worked through hard questions and learned to embrace God's sovereignty in the face of suffering. We were sure we had not misunderstood His call on our life to grow our family, so we pressed forward praying hard and specifically that God  would give us children that would share not just our hearts but also our home. Sure enough, after a few days of pregnancy symptoms in August, we took a test and laughter mixed with grateful tears when it confirmed "Pregnant."

The better part of my pregnancy with Abram was layered with fear-- fear of once again seeing a still heart where a fluttering should be, fear of hearing that we'd lost yet another baby, fear that my body was no longer capable of sustaining life. As a result, the majority of my pregnancy was spent wrestling with God, surrendering the control I so desperately craved only to find myself picking it back up again, feeling that if I could just hold on tight enough I could keep the bad things at bay. The further I progressed in our pregnancy, the more my thoughts and doubts came under submission, the practice of putting faith before fear unfolding its rich blessings in spite of all the feeble attempts I'd made at conjuring up peace inside myself. I was finally able to soak in the anticipation of this baby, talking about him and the surprise that we were expecting a son and not a daughter as we'd been so certain of. I dreamed about how he would feel in my arms and what he would look like. Instead of the hard situations dictating our late night conversations, the topic shifted and we talked about him. We compared his pregnancy with Abi Kate's,  learning things about his personality as he was so serene in my womb where she had been so busy. We painted his room and spent hours washing little clothes and tiny diapers, and for the most part my fears of losing him stayed away, creeping up mostly in quiet moments or at times that I felt most vulnerable. Tommy was faithful during those times to point me back to Christ, reminding me of God's provision and activity in the smallest parts of our lives. I invested myself in preparing for our birth, spiritually and physically.  I spent time reading scripture I'd marked for my labor, carefully selecting and listening to worship music for our labor playlist, readying my heart for what was ahead.

As time drew closer, I thought I'd feel more prepared, more ready for his arrival. But instead as the weeks inched closer I felt more unsettled in my spirit, more worried about the details surrounding his birth, more concerned about my ability to withstand another natural delivery and the certain pain that awaited. Around 36 weeks, the need to plan out each detail of his arrival manifested itself. I was certain that he had changed his position inside of me and was Occiput Posterior. And while I knew I could deliver a posterior baby,  I just did not want to. I would check his position constantly, palpating my abdomen multiple times a day. Because he hadn't fully descended into my pelvis yet, I was sure his chin was flexed instead of tucked. I felt his hands and fingers down low quite often, and I just knew he was going to deliver with a hand beside his face, requiring lots of postpartum difficulties. Every night my unfounded concerns would arise; and again, Tommy encouraged me to let go of the details and trust the One who ordained the details already. I was so frustrated with myself. Irritated that I'd allowed fear to once again dominate my thoughts. Discouraged that my faith was so weak. Frustrated that I felt powerless to stop the worrying. Physically, I'd been contracting on and off since about 34 weeks. By 38 weeks, every night I would get in bed and feel panicky about going to sleep, afraid that I would awake in the middle of the night in labor. And I just wasn't ready. I started praying that God would grant us a daytime labor. Something about the day just felt less intimidating than the middle of the night. Physically, I was ready. The mental and physical exhaustion of weeks of prodromal labor made me long for the contractions to continue. But my heart just wasn't there yet. Finally at 39 weeks, I was done. Done with my thoughts, done with the worrying, done with the need to dictate Abram's arrival. I spent a day in prayer and reading Scripture. I spent one afternoon of Abi Kate's naptime crying asking God to take what wasn't mine to control and to replace it with peace. I felt such a release afterwards, and I felt sure that this was why Abram hadn't come yet. My doula, Gaylea,  that I'd had with Abi Kate was now apprenticing under my midwife, and so she graciously came to do my 39 week prenatal appointment. After not being checked my entire pregnancy, I felt the need to know if all my contractions were producing any progress. She checked me and confirmed that I was a loose 4 cm-tight 5 cm, 50% effaced, and at -1 station. I'd also lost 2-3 pounds that week, an occurrence that sometimes signifies labor could be imminent. Based on my physical assessment and now my spiritual and emotional readiness, I was certain Abram would arrive by the weekend, before his Sunday due date.
The days slipped by with plenty of contractions but not the kind that left me with a baby in my arms. And as we drew closer to April 28, I began to grow frustrated and discouraged once more, thinking that he must be misaligned or that my body just wasn't working this time like it did with Abi Kate. Those frustrations walked right up to my due date with me... and then went past it. I woke up Monday morning at 40 weeks +1 day, more pregnant than I'd ever been. My due date had been marked with my horrific attitude and lots of tears that he hadn't come when I'd been so sure that he would. I knew my attitude was selfish, so I spent some time praying that Monday morning, asking God to make my heart soft and patient for His timing. I had a ton of energy that day and wanted to focus it on someone other than myself. One of my closest friends had had her little girl the previous week, so I grocery shopped and got busy cooking a meal or two for them to take the following day. I felt really good the entire day, and felt truly peaceful that there was a reason that Abram hadn't come yet and that I was fully safe to trust his unknown arrival to a very known God.

My sleep was fitful that Monday night as it had been for weeks, laced with contractions and restlessness. At 5 am on Tuesday, I woke up to go the bathroom and when I stood up I felt an intense contraction wrap fully around my body. Its strength took me by surprise and took my breath. I had them on and off for the rest of the morning, so I finally gave up trying to sleep and woke up for the day. I'd planned to go to Mt. Juliet that morning to take my friends their meals. All through breakfast I had irregular contractions, much stronger than they'd been in previous weeks but with no particular pattern (or at least none that I'd allow myself to pay attention to).  I struggled to get Abi Kate dressed as every time I bent over, it triggered another contraction that required me to stop and focus my breathing. Tommy expressed his concern over my driving out to Mt. Juliet that day, but I told him Abram was probably going to hang out in me forever and this was just another tease. Besides that, my friend Lauren and Kenny had had their own natural deliveries. I knew that if I really entered active labor while I was with them, they would get me where I needed to be and they wouldn't be afraid. So, I loaded up Abi Kate and headed to Mt. Juliet. Contractions came all during the drive, but I still felt convinced that they were probably just going to stop. While I was visiting with Lauren and Kenny, I had several contractions sitting down on the couch or when I would stand. Lauren herself experienced a lot of prodromal labor, so she was familiar with the process, always granting me the time and quiet I needed when one would come. I had a 2:00 appointment with my midwife at our house that day, so around noon I got ready to head back home. Lauren told me she thought that this was different, that these contractions were going to put a baby in my arms, but I told her I just wasn't convinced. She encouraged me and told me to keep her updated throughout the afternoon. On the drive home, I had several contractions that came back to back, and I realized I was groaning through them. I went ahead and called Tommy who had already decided to stay home that day.

When our midwife Kathy arrived, I explained the intensity of the contractions and their lack of regularity. She told me that it could mean we'd be having a baby that night or it could still be a week or more away. She also said something that immediately humbled me-- she said that the longer she practiced and the more babies she delivered, she realized that there really was no predictability. That God just dictates each birth as He will and we just have to be patient and see what happens. She offered to check me and see if there had been a change. I had two contractions while she checked me that she said were "real". There wasn't much change from the previous week-- only that I was a definite 5 cm and maybe a little more than 50% and now at 0 station. Not really enough to indicate a movement towards labor. Afterwards, she sat on my bed and asked me if I had any fears, anything that might be mentally holding my body back from labor. I expressed my typical concerns- all the same ones I'd had with Abi Kate- shoulder dystocia, my fear that he was misaligned because I'd gone past my due date, fear of his size. And I told her what I hated to admit most- That since my miscarriage, I just kept waiting for the carpet to be pulled out from under me, that it was still affecting me all these months later. That my body wasn't going to go into labor or that he'd get stuck. That I was no longer capable of having an uncomplicated delivery.  Honest as always, she didn't tell me that those things couldn't happen (though she reminded me it was very unlikely). But she encouraged me to give those things over to Christ. To start praying in expectation that he would come, that he wouldn't get stuck. To just surrender. Sitting on my bed (with no pants on no doubt) it did incredible good for my soul to hear spiritual wisdom from a woman far wiser than me who fully understands birth and all its complexities. As she packed up to leave Tommy told her, "I'll see you around 6 o'clock tonight." And she said, "You just might!"

Sure enough, at 3:30, I started to recognize a timeable pattern to my contractions. I downloaded a contraction timer on my phone and realized they were coming about every 5 minutes, lasting about 50 seconds each time. Tommy was attempting to lay Abi Kate down for a nap, a normally easy task. But she was in rare form, acting like we'd never seen her act before (if I'd been following her cues, I would've known I was in labor for sure). I worked through the contractions in our living room on my knees while he settled her. I went ahead and texted Lauren about what was going on like she'd asked and she was convinced it was labor. I, however, remained unconvinced. Walking, drinking water, and moving positions didn't stop the contractions from coming, so I decided to lay down to see what happened. Around 4:15 I went ahead and texted Gaylea, my doula, to give her a heads up. Based on my labor with Abi Kate, we thought Abram's may be precipitous. And since she was about 45 minutes away and Kathy was over an hour away, she asked me to let her know as soon as I thought things might be happening. Laying down spaced out the contractions but their length and intensity increased. I was so confused by the pattern, staying glued to my contraction timer trying to discern what was going on. Again, I became certain it was because Abram wasn't lined up properly. I started worrying that my labor was going to last 24 hours, and I was sure it just wasn't in me to survive that. Kathy had told me to pay no attention to the timing of them, but only to their intensity and their length, as many of her multiparous mothers didn't fall into a timeable pattern. But my inner need for control rose up, and I relied on the timer like it was going to determine Abram's arrival. I laid in bed and the contractions became so strong I knew I needed music. I turned on our labor playlist on my phone and vocalized through the contractions that were lasting more than a minute. Gaylea texted to say she was getting ready to leave and I told her not to because I just wasn't sure it was labor, that it was probably all just going to stop. Looking back, this is totally laughable. It was literally like everything I knew about birth exited my brain. But laboring women can't be reasoned with ;) She texted me and said, "I have a feeling this train is gonna keep moving forward regardless... Pretty sure you are in active labor. And in denial..." As usual, even from miles away, her intuition for all things birth was impeccable. I told her I didn't want her to get all the way out to my house for it to stop, and she politely assured me she knew the way back home if it did. ;) Around 5:30, I told Tommy maybe we should consider calling my parents who planned to take our dogs to their house and my sister who planned to pick up Abi Kate. My mom and dad arrived a little before 6:00 as I walked the house during contractions. They were quietly in and out. Around this time, I really started to physically and mentally need Tommy's support, but Abi Kate was sound asleep on him. So I texted my sister, asking her to go ahead and come get Abi Kate. She arrived around 6:20, and I was still unconvinced I was really in labor. In fact, I asked her to hold Abi Kate while she slept so Tommy and I could walk the Greenway in front of our house to see if walking caused contractions to fall into a more regular pattern. I was so hesitant to text my friends who had offered to pray with us through labor to let them know because wasn't sure that it wasn't all going to stop.

While we walked, I told Tommy about my worries. I told him I felt like I was having a mental block because I was worried and I was sure this was going to ruin the birth of our son. He talked me through each concern, and while he talked and we walked contractions fell into a more textbook pattern. We held hands and paused when I'd have a contraction, swaying through it and leaning on him while he rubbed my back. True to form, every time I'd start to contract, we'd run into someone on the Greenway-- like a group of teenagers (my vocalizing was probably great birth control for them. Their parents can thank me later.) I had texted Kathy earlier about the change in contractions since she'd left, and Tommy decided to go ahead and give her a call to head our way. (Little did I know Gaylea had already informed her and she was headed towards us anyway). 

When we got back to our house around 6:45, I told my sister to go ahead and leave with Abi Kate and if my labor stopped, she could bring her back later (WHY was I still certain labor was going to stop?!) Tommy suggested we go ahead and prepare our room and bed for the birth just in case things picked up soon.  It was emotional for me to watch Abi Kate leave, realizing this might be the last time I held her as an only child. Tommy got busy changing the sheets and I grabbed our scripture cards that I'd made to be placed around our bedroom and lit candles. I went ahead and told my friends that it definitely looked like baby time. I told Tommy I just couldn't get my worries under control. He prayed over me while I labored on our birth ball and read Romans 5 aloud. Our worship music was playing in the background and I heard a familiar song, and the lyrics were so powerful in the moment "Seems like all I could see was the struggle. Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past. Bound up in shackles of all my failures. Wondering how long was this gonna last. Then you look at this prisoner and say to me, 'Son. Stop fighting a fight that's already been won.' "  I cried as I listened to the lyrics, praying that God's power would supersede my own wants.

Gaylea arrived a few minutes later. I asked her to check me to see if I'd progressed at all since that afternoon. I told her that if I wasn't more dilated we'd know it wasn't really labor or that we were in for a really long haul. I was a loose 6 cm, 75%, and his water sac was bulging. I was not quite as far as I'd hoped, but it was enough for me to say, "Ok. I think this really is labor." And then there was this pivotal moment for me in our labor. This entire experience was riddled with words-- words from songs and words people say that they don't even remember but that echo forever in the heart of the listener. Gaylea said, "Katie, you're over thinking this. Your body doesn't need any help from you. It can do this all on its own." I told her I was afraid it was going to stall, that I was mentally blocking myself from progressing more quickly, that I was in for a really long labor. And she said," It takes as long as it takes. Whether it's 2 hours or 2 days. And if labor stalls, then it stalls. It will start again. Either way, we are here with you. We aren't going anywhere. We're here, Katie." I felt like her words freed me from my thoughts. Tommy and I decided to go walk the Greenway again while we waited for Kathy to arrive and Gaylea stayed at the house to set things up.

When we walked out into our driveway, I felt completely different. I stopped and realized-- it was daytime, just like I'd prayed for. The sun was out. And I distinctly remember looking at Tommy and saying, "It really is a beautiful day to have a baby. He really is coming."   Gaylea had made it, Kathy was on her way, and our photographer was on her way. All three people that we'd prayed would make it in time, that my labor wouldn't be so swift that they'd miss it. My parents and sister had arrived. Tommy had been home.  Everything had fallen into place, just as we had prayed for. Standing out in our driveway I was humbled, realizing that God really was orchestrating the details. I'd just been too focused on trying to manipulate them to recognize it. A little after 7:00, out on the Greenway in the sun, with neighbors out in their yard and in between contractions, I came to the end of myself, finally willing to honestly surrender all parts of myself and Abram's birth to Christ. I took the advice I give my own students- "Cover the clock. The clock is not going to deliver your baby." I stopped timing my contractions, agreed that no matter what position he was in there was a reason for it, and felt peace that if it took me two days of hard labor to bring him into the world, I would be upheld by the Creator and by the team He'd blessed me with. I literally unraveled as I listened to the music and leaned on Tommy. I found myself delighting in the circumstances of Abram's arrival, and on cue my contractions started coming hard about every two minutes. They were so hard, I told Tommy we needed to turn around and go back home (right after running into an old woman on the Greenway who wanted to stop and chat about how it was getting dark and I may not want to keep walking 'in my condition.' And timing being what it was, the minute she began approaching, I felt a contraction coming... lovely!) As we walked home, I saw Kathy pull into our driveway.  She listened to Abram during a contraction. Her calm demeanor with birth was so uplifting, and words that she'd probably said a hundred times were exactly what I needed to encourage me, "He sounds great. Just perfect." He was good. I was good. And he really was coming.

My labor was so different with him than with Abi Kate. I had a true break between my contractions, even if it was short. I moved between laboring in the living room and our bedroom. They came to a point where I struggled to stand through them so I leaned on my birth ball while Tommy massaged my back. We laughed in between them and I joked with him that we could absolutely never have unprotected sex ever again- I was kidding...kind of. ;) I also told him that I could not believe he and Gaylea had let me do this again and that they were officially on my blacklist. Our photographer arrived and we talked in between contractions about all different kinds of things. I'm normally very private in my birthing environment, and so I wasn't sure how having a photographer was going to fit into that design. But she was a perfect match for us and our birth. The whole time I labored I felt like she was supposed to be there with us, as much a part as anyone else, talking with me and putting me at ease with the normalcy of easy conversation in the midst of pain.  I texted my friend Lauren and said, "OMG. Labor sucks so bad. I forgot!" (And her hilarious response "All those memories just come rushing back don't they?!")  I messaged a few friends to let them know of our progress and they sent back scripture and encouraging words. It  felt like such a light and easy environment that joking and laughing just came naturally.
 Kathy and Gaylea stayed busy setting up and gave us space to labor alone.  After a few minutes, Tommy encouraged me to move positions which I refused because I told him it would make me contract and I was doing that perfectly well already ;) (There was so much sarcasm flowing from my body at this moment...ha!) My vocalizations through contractions changed during that point. Gaylea heard it and recognized it as similar to how I sounded during transition with Abi Kate. She came out to our bedroom and helped me through each one, massaging my back while Tommy rubbed my hair. I started to feel nauseated and asked Gaylea to get her peppermint oil. She sprayed me with a mixture of oils, refreshing both my mind and body. Tommy helped me stand, and I leaned on our dresser, soaking in the scripture I'd written there. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" James 4:8. I silently prayed that God would be near me and strengthen me as I could feel Abram beginning to move further down with each contraction. Again, music was so important to me and it was a marked point in our labor for me as I could tell I was transitioning. Each contraction came harder and faster, accompanied by extreme pressure, and I felt my body growing tired. While I prayed that simple prayer over and over, I heard in the background- "When the path is daunting. And every step exhausting. I'm not alone... You pull me from this place. Hallelujah. You carry me every day. You carry me all the way."  I was reminded of God's very near presence to me during those moments, so intimate that the encouragement I needed right then was coming through the speakers.
We moved out to the living room where I stayed on my knees over the ottoman for the next part of labor. Tommy and Gaylea stayed on their knees with me, reminding me after a contraction ended that I'd never have to do that one ever again, telling me how great I was doing, reminding me to relax with each surge of pressure, to let Abram move down. Kathy listened to Abram's heart off and on, assuring me that all was well. I wish I could remember what was so funny during this time because there were a lot of pictures of us laughing, but my memory fails me--It's like I was busy doing something else ;)

 I'd fully lost track of time, and after awhile Gaylea told me, "I think we need to think about taking your pants off so you can have this baby." I remember looking at her and saying, "Is it time for that already?" 

 We moved out to the bedroom again and I climbed onto the bed (pants still on! I wasn't doing direction well at that point I guess!) I got on my knees and leaned my head into the pillows with the next contraction. The music played beside me and again music was so vital for me-- "The same hands that created all of this, they created you and I. What a beautiful God... What am I? That I would be called your child.... What am I?" It was such an overwhelming moment of humble worship for me, maybe the truest worship I've ever had. The contractions were so hard while I worshiped that raising my hand was too hard. All I could do was raise two fingers off the pillow and breathe the words out.  I was sure our son was going to be in my arms soon.

After another contraction, they finally convinced me that I couldn't deliver this baby with my pants on ;) And in my crazed brain I said, "Maybe I should wear a skirt? Should I wear a skirt? Let's get a skirt." I have NO clue what I was thinking...But it seemed so reasonable at the moment!  I got onto the bed on my hands and knees because that was the only position that felt right. Kathy peeked in and asked who was going to be catching this baby. There was such joy in the response that Gaylea would be catching Abram. It felt so complete to have her with me during Abi Kate's birth and for her hands to be the first to help deliver our son.  Tommy stayed on his knees at the end of the bed and we talked between the contractions.
He was so tender in these final minutes of our labor, that if I weren't already ridiculously in love with him, I would've fallen for him right there in the midst of hard labor. I was so grateful to be in our home. The comfort of laboring at home and knowing that I didn't have to get in the car to leave brought such peace. On the wall behind Tommy, I had scripture hanging up and I kept reading "Love endures all things..." It reminded me of our purpose in choosing this path and gave me the strength I needed to continue.
At 9:25, I had an extremely powerful contraction and heard a pop when my water broke. Until then, I'd been passively pushing-- not intentional, my body was doing it alone with the contractions. As soon as my water broke, the irrepressible urge to push overwhelmed me. I didn't actually want to stay on my knees for delivery. Gravity intensified the pressure of his descent so much. But I also just could not move at that point. I couldn't see him delivering at all, but I so fully trusted Gaylea and Kathy with his life that I really didn't need to see what was going on.  I knew any decisions they made would be right and in our best interest. Kathy reminded me to do exactly what my body felt like doing, as if they weren't even there, like it was just me and Abram alone. With the next contraction, I pushed and I knew from the pain that his head was almost out, but something just didn't feel right in my body to deliver at that moment so I held back. I knew I could push through it and this would be over with, which I did want, but I went with my body's urging and waited. And of course, just like with Abi Kate I said, "Ouch! That hurts." (One day I swear I will deliver a baby and not say the word "ouch" like a four year old!)  I remember the intensity of delivering his head with the next push and asking if he had hair. They said he had a head full and that he was just blowing bubbles. I waited for the next contraction to deliver his shoulders. No one rushed me. No one encouraged me to go ahead and push the rest of his body out. Both Kathy and Gaylea were so patient and so trusting of the birth process as God's design. So they waited, supporting his head. And sure enough, with the next contraction I felt his body pass fully from mine and I heard exactly what I'd been waiting for- his cry. Just like his sister, he cried before he was completely out of me. It was another thing I'd prayed for, so I could be assured he was ok. I immediately turned around and Gaylea handed his warm little body to me.

Much like with Abi Kate, all I could say was "Thank you, Jesus" over and over again... Thank you that he was here. Thank you that he was healthy. Thank you that the pain was over. I looked at Tommy and said the same thing I had with our little girl," We made it. We did it." We snuggled our sweet baby boy and took in every part of him. There was so much comfort in our home, a unity of love and joy amongst each person. No one interrupted us while we spent those first few minutes bonding with Abram, falling in love with his sweet face and who he is.  It was tender and tranquil and our home was exactly where we needed to be to meet him.  

In the previous weeks, my sister had sent me a new worship song in a message. I loved it immediately and listened to it constantly in the two weeks leading up to Abram's arrival. It spoke so much to my spirit in the hard waiting days, days filled with uncertainty and the unknown. I heard the first part of it ring out in our bedroom as I was delivering him. And as I held him the lyrics washed over me "Nothing is wasted. You work all things for good. Nothing is wasted. Your promise remains. Forever you reign." The realities of everything coming full circle struck me while I held our baby boy for the first time. Nothing was wasted. Not the sting of loss. Not the fear of losing again. Not the struggle to surrender. Not the pain of childbirth. Nothing. There was a deep comfort as I held him in the bed where his life first took form before we even knew. The place where all our babies' lives first began. The place where my labor with Abi Kate began. The place where we laid and cried while we lost our next baby. Again, it felt like the gospel pattern repeating in my life-- life coming from death- the death of my need for control bringing us the physical life of our son. Everything had been used for good by the One who sees the bigger picture. All of the months of struggling- there was purpose in each one and each moment. I just couldn't see it until 9:33 pm on April 30.

Sometimes redemption comes in big ways, sweeping us up from the depths. Sometimes it comes softly, sneaking in when we least expect it. Sometimes it comes inside a church or inside a prison. Sometimes it's private and sometimes it happens right out in front of other people. And sometimes redemption comes in a 7 pound 11 oz baby boy. It comes in the silent tears that fall during the pain of labor. It comes in the words and gentle touch of people who support you through the struggle.  It comes in the ordinary miracle of birth. It comes in a quiet bedroom while the rest of the world goes on with their evening right next door, the proof that birth is indeed a normal design.
April 30 brought us our precious son, but it brought me so much more than just that. To look back over the events of the preceding months and that day-- it draws me into such an awareness of how deep the Father's love truly is. That He would shower such favor over us in such significant ways. I am forever grateful for the support of my husband, who is so comfortable and in tune with my heart and its weaknesses that he creates pillars of safety and peace around me, even in labor. I am grateful for a doula turned friend turned midwife who made herself familiar with my struggles and knew exactly what to say, how to best show love and support to me, and humbly ushered our son into this world. I am grateful for our midwife who took time to point me back to Christ, whose comfort and humility with birth emanates from her being. I am thankful for friends and family who took time to pray and lift us up in those hours. Most of all I am thankful for a Savior who is the giver of perfect gifts and gives us strength to do hard things in His name.

Psalm 107:2 says, "Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story..." Abram's birth is our story of redemption. And as it usually is with redemption, it is sweeter than we ever imagined.