Thursday, February 14, 2013

Questions and Answers

Happy Love Day, friends :) I should probably post something festive (I do like love!), but it's not. Sorry (and all the Valentine's Day haters rejoice).

This last week(s) has been decently trying for me. I think a lot of it has to do with pregnancy and physical limitations. I've noticed a definite slowing down in my body as I've entered into this final section of pregnancy. I've felt overwhelmed by the smallest of things both physical and emotional, by the preparations needed for Abram's birth and arrival, by parenting my toddler, certain that every day I have a hard day with her is a predictor of my inability to parent Abram well. I've had this longing to stop everything that I'm committed to, because I just want to sit down and think about this little boy-- not about other people and other things-- just him and who he is. In all the chaos of daily life, I've been fearful that I'm missing moments that should be about him. But life rarely offers us those time-stopping opportunities. We just have to engage in the midst of the busyness.

As I get closer to April, my thoughts have settled on a few things in particular, questions about how our family will change, concerns with parenting and life. I don't have too many concerns with Abi Kate loving Abram. Maybe I should. I am completely certain there will be a transitional period with her and that she will have days of acting out. But she's a helper, and she much prefers to be in the presence of other children instead of alone. She's never shown any real jealousy over Tommy or I holding other kids/babies-- she's normally just been curious.  My heart knows her heart, and I think she'll love him just fine. I fear I'm not going to explain myself well here, but I'll do my best...

As Abram's arrival inches closer my own doubts and fears of the unknown inch closer to my heart, making me question my ability to mother two children. I've reached the point of vulnerability in this pregnancy where the pessimism of others has the ability to permeate my thoughts in a way that is typically easier for me to reject.  I don't mind truth, even truth that's harder to embrace. I can appreciate truthfulness for all that it holds. I don't like cynicism and martyrdom. It's been difficult to escape the "you better get ready" comments in regards both to parenting more than one child and in regards to having a boy. Cultural as those comments may be, they really don't serve to encourage the listener or to help prepare them for anything specific. They just seem to be a way to "one-up" (which I personally think derives from insecurity). Kind of like when I hear people tell first time parents, "Oh you better sleep now because you'll never sleep again." That's not true. Of course there will be times where you'll lose sleep, but I think most expecting parents are pretty aware of that. It just feels like fear-based commentary, sweeping statements made to make the hearer feel less significant and unprepared. Usually, I can just acknowledge comments like that for what they are. But as I've struggled with my own concerns, those comments have found a wedge into my mind. There have been a lot of uplifting comments too which I'm so grateful for, but I guess within the last two weeks the others have just been louder. I've been very thankful in recent weeks for the close friends surrounding me that have encouraged me with honesty about the harder realities of parenting multiple children while also balancing it with all the wonderful things that happen with adding new life to the family. It's good to hear truth, and it's even better to see it displayed in their lives-- the way that they very clearly love mothering, even on hard days.

This weekend, I made a trip to GA to see one of my favorite mothers, and while my hips still have not forgiven me for those 8 hours in the car, when I made mention of what it would be like to parent two instead of one, her response was simply, "You will do beautifully. It's great. It is." It's funny how some people know just the right thing to say. I needed to hear that. I didn't need to hear a heavy dose of someone else's vague reality-- I will be getting my own experience with that in a few months. I did need encouragement. She didn't know that, but as usual, her love for motherhood shone clearly in her words and her actions. I felt the same way when I told my midwife, a mother of boys and girls, that all I've known is girls and I hear boys are really different... she said, "Nah. You'll figure it out." To her, it was just a passing comment. She probably doesn't even remember saying it, but I do. Because it implied that my ability to parent well rests much less on the gender of my child and more on my knowledge as a mother... and I so deeply appreciate that. 

I appreciate it for all that it awakens in me. We didn't enter into Abram's pregnancy lightly, and I don't hold a unicorns and rainbows theory about parenting multiple children. While I won't share our very specific prayers after our miscarriage, I will say that I believe his life has heavy purpose, otherwise I do not believe I would be pregnant. And in giving us this child, God in His wisdom obviously knew we'd be raising two young children. It's easy to forget His calling and His anointing. But these people reminded me of that-- just with their words. I am insufficient on my own, but in my weakness He is strong. Strong enough to equip me to mother two children.

But the deepest concerns that have laid on my heart most heavily is the change that will inevitably take place with Tommy and I. I've always been protective over my time with him because I believe it's vital to successful marriage. These days, I feel that pull even more, wanting to spend every second I can with him and shut out everything else before this big change happens in April. It's funny how our culture has a way of rushing things, urging us on to the "next big step" as soon as we complete the first one. It's a rare event to stop and cherish the moments we're in instead of anticipating the ones that will arrive. I'm guilty of that. Tommy and I were married for 4 years before having Abi Kate, and we dated for 4 years before getting married. 8 years of just us. At the time, I definitely thought about having a family often, finding myself ready to move to the next level, dreaming about it and how sweet it would be to have a big belly, to feel  a baby move, to watch Tommy snuggle a tiny one- our tiny one. I'm thankful for the people around us that said, "Take your time" and I'm thankful that God's wisdom overrides our own perfect plans. I look back on those years with just the two of us, and they are so precious to me now. I cherish them in a way that I wish I would've had the knowledge to do back then. I wish I'd spent a little more time savoring the days of us, and a little less time dwelling on the potential future. It wasn't because we were young that we needed years together. Younger or older, I don't think it has a ton to do with parental preparedness. I've seen great young parents and less than stellar older parents. But I'm glad we had them, because even in my own naivety of the transformation that was taking place, our hearts were so ready for Abi Kate and the changes parenting brings to a marriage. We found pleasure in the sacrifice of releasing time with just the two of us because we had waited for her as a bonded unit for 4 years. We communicated more easily about parenting issues because I knew him as husband and he knew me as wife so very well. Marriage is different than dating, and parenting inside of marriage is different than marriage alone.  It's not a bad thing at all-- it just requires more intentional effort. There is a spontaneity that must be sacrificed, the ease of independence as a couple to do whatever whenever that shifts. The simple tenderness of just the two of us fully investing in only each other to investing in another life, a life that is needy of love and direction and time from us both... It is a change. This new season, as we wait for another child to enter our home, I know that things will again change and be different. Getting away will be harder, staying deeply connected in the midst of two age two and under won't flow so easily as it does with just one. And sometimes, I find myself just missing the ease of those earlier years. Don't misunderstand--I don't think there's special as parenting with the person you are in love with, the person that really is your closest friend. Period. It is precious. The relationship evolves to new depths that could not happen without the experience of pregnancy and parenting. And Tommy and I are closer now than we were back then. But the knowledge of how children shift things has made me aware of my need to live in THESE moments, something I don't do well naturally. Not to dwell on the past, but to appreciate it for all that it was and all that it brought us. Not to dwell on the future where fear of the unknown permeates, but to rest in the assurance of our very deep love for each other. Not to long for easier moments that we will one day do again when these selfless days that we will surely miss slip by, leaving us as just us two once again. I want to simply enjoy THIS moment. The one where I'm at. The one where it's too hard for me to lift the toddler after prayer time at night. The one where we share our lives with just one little girl. The one where I feel a little boy kick me from inside. I'm a planner and a preparer, so staying in the moment is often hard for me. I want to fully appreciate these moments, and to anticipate the rewarding things that await our family instead of the difficult ones that society brings reminders of- the way it will be when Tommy and I see Abram for the first time. The first hours that we will spend with just each other and our new baby. The moment that we watch our little girl see her little brother for the first time. The way we will watch him sleep together at night, completely mystified that we ever lived a moment without him. The way we will value time with just each other when both our babes are asleep. The way our love will grow for each other and for our family as new life joins us.    

I'm convinced  the reason pregnancy lasts so long is because there's so much work to do, inwardly, before a baby arrives. There's still so much of myself that will have to die in the face of childhood needs. There's a great amount of sacrifice that my heart will have to yield to so I can lovingly respond to both Abi Kate and Abram. Every late night, every busy morning, every selfless moment where I must put them heart is still being readied for those things. I can feel it. And I think the chaos of the previous weeks has been a quiet urging from God-- to recall my own insufficiencies and rely on His abilities instead. To make a practice of relying on Him for the easiest of things, things that would likely be easy targets of frustration when there is more than one child who needs me. I can always tell a difference when my efforts are of my own.

In the still moments, I remember that at some point between birth and these last two years, I've become a mother. I learned how to mother Abi Kate. I learned to pay attention and be sensitive to her individual needs. And I will learn with Abram the same way. It will be busy but that's what these years have been preparing me for. I won't do it in and of my own accord. I will do it with the calling that Christ has laid over my life to do it. And no matter what fears I have or what fears are spoken over me by strangers or people, that will be enough. There are worse things than little boys that scale furniture and two young children that need everything I can give at the exact same moment. I can think back to May and remember things that are worse indeed.

There are big changes on our horizon for sure. Some will be hard and some will be better than we dream. And in the waiting time, I am doing my best to treasure these days for all that they are-- even when they overwhelm me. I'm going to stop letting one hard day with one child make me certain that I can't mother two. I'm going to close my heart and my mind to the cynics. I'm going to spend time with the man that I adore and rest in the knowledge that we were designed to raise these babies together, even if life gets busier with the addition of Abram. I'm going to place my certainty in the One who equips me, the One who has knit these lives together,  instead of in my best efforts. Because the truth is, this was never about me anyway... these little lives and these days are always about Him.

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