{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

Does Your Husband Buy You Flowers?

IMG_8751One of the many things I’ve learned from being married is that no two marriages will look the same, nor should they. Our culture paints idealistic cookie-cutter pictures of romance and love, but reality is often far from what we have seen in movies or read about in books. (By the way, I’ve found that reality is different, yes, but far deeper, richer, and more wonderful than the culture’s portrayal of it.)

Romance is one of those words that can encompass a million different things, but often gets squished into a few ideas: flowers, a candlelight dinner, hand-in-hand walks on the beach at sunset, etc. Those are all romantic and special ways of showing one another love, but romance can mean so much more!

Andrew is, in general, not a flower-buyer. He is not one of those guys who will randomly stop by the grocery store on his way home and pick up a bouquet of roses “just because” more than once or twice a year. This has never been a “hard” thing for me, but I have teased him over the years about it because he predictably buys me flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The summer I was expecting Caleb, I was dealing with a really difficult situation related to my apartment management job at the time. I left home in a puddle of tears for an errand. When I returned about 45 minutes later, Andrew was just washing the last of a huge stack of dirty dishes in my kitchen. I started crying again because it meant so much and it was such a relief to come home to a clean kitchen. (Dishes hang over my head like no other chore!)

“I was going to go buy you flowers,” Andrew explained, “but then I thought that washing the dishes would mean more to you, so I did that instead.”

In that moment, I realized that every time he voluntarily washes the dishes for me or speaks my love language in another way, it is like his “version” of bringing home flowers. Not only does it take the same thoughtfulness and love, but it really does mean more to me than flowers. I don’t particularly love flowers for the flowers’ sake. What I love is that they mean Andrew has thought about me and chosen to do something to tangibly convey that love. But he does that in a million other ways that are actually even better (to me) than flowers, and when I recognize that, there is no room for jealousy when I hear about a hubby who brings home bouquets on a regular basis.

I drafted this post about a year-and-a-half ago, and finally publishing it today ironically comes on the heels of a surprise bouquet of flowers from Andrew after a hard day. But the message I hope to convey is the same.

Don’t let the world’s definitions of love and romance make you miss out on the ways your spouse is already showing affection. Never play a game of comparison, and wish your hubby would be as romantic as your friend’s is. Observe and appreciate the “unconventional” ways he romances you, and treasure the reality that your marriage is uniquely yours, and your husband is uniquely him. He may not buy you flowers, but I’ll bet you can find his thoughtfulness in a hundred other gestures, if you’re just willing to stop and look.

 

{Marriage Journal} Four Years

Four years ago today, I said “I do” to my best friend. I never could have imagined how wonderful marriage to Andrew would be. There’s no one I would rather do life with. God has been so gracious to us and I am beyond grateful to Him.

Happy anniversary, my love! Here’s to many more!

Photos courtesy of Ben Bender Photography.

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{Mommy Journal} Fun Times in the Postpartum Ward

baby4-001There’s so much I want to blog so I don’t forget!

After Caleb was born, Andrew and I spent a few minutes adoring him and crying while I got some minimal tearing stitched up. I texted a photo of me and Caleb to my mom with the message “You can come in shortly! Will call you!” They took Caleb to get his weight and measurements and give him the Vitamin K shot.

A few minutes after delivery, Rachel brought my mom in from the waiting room. I cried and said something about how hard it had been and how sorry I was she had waited for so many hours . Of course, she was nothing but a puddle of happy tears and was so thrilled to meet Caleb.

Eventually my wonderful labor and delivery nurse got us baby2-001ready for postpartum. I rode in a wheelchair and held my baby proudly as we made our way through hallways and onto elevators, eventually reaching our cramped but private postpartum room.

In my opinion, hospitals have committed an enormous oversight when it comes to their postpartum procedures. If ever there was a patient who should be left alone to get rest during the night, it’s a woman who has just been in 19 hours of active, unmedicated labor and now has a new baby to feed every 2-3 hours.

My nurses were sweet, but the first problem was the plural: nurses. There were two, and neither knew what the other was doing. One would come in to give me a Motrin or take my blood pressure and the other would show up shortly after, just as I was finally settling again, to do the same thing. They always turned on the light and used loud voices despite the fact that Andrew was sleeping.

They announced that they would come and weigh Caleb at midnight. I asked if they could come at 11:00 and they agreed. But after one nurse did so, the second nurse popped in at 11:30 to weigh him. When I told her it had been done, she said, “Oh good. Get some rest!” Yeah. I was trying. 

The first time Caleb cried that evening, Andrew sat up and said, “Where am I?”

“You’re in the hospital,” I replied. “We had our baby!”

baby3-001Andrew stared at me. “Really?”

“Yep.”

“Oh,” he said, and laid back down with the blankets over his face. That’s when I realized how exhausted he was after being my physical and emotional rock during labor.

Around 11:30 PM, my mom, who had bedded down in the waiting room, walked in with her suitcase because she had been kicked out. (Keep in mind that she, too, had been up the whole previous night in the waiting room awaiting baby news.) She wasn’t allowed to stay in our room, so we considered finding her a hotel, but I didn’t know where our car was parked and it would have taken a bucket of ice water to bring Andrew to full consciousness. Fortunately, our nurse decided to turn a blind eye to my mom’s presence. After trying to explain the situation to Andrew, who was still in another world, I (literally) drug him off of his cot and into the hospital bed, which comfortably accommodated both of us, and my mom settled onto the cot.

baby1-001Of course, by this time it was midnight and Caleb was hungry again. I had gone through the hardest ordeal of my life and hadn’t slept for 40+ hours (except the tiny cat naps I took between some of my contractions), but I was so in love with my new baby, I almost didn’t notice the exhaustion! The nurse showed up again with a Motrin and said she’d be back at 4 AM.

“Could you come later?” I begged. “I’d really like to get some sleep.” She agreed to return at 6:00 AM. How gracious.

The next morning, we all had a good laugh about my poor mom’s predicament, as well as the fact that she’d been wheeling her suitcase everywhere and wearing the same clothes for three days. She jokingly called herself a refugee and described going for coffee with her suitcase in tow. I also pointed out the irony of the situation: I, the one who had given birth, was busy interfacing with the nurses and arranging accommodations for my mom and husband in between feeding the baby. It was all quite amusing.

Our Sunday in the hospital was filled with visits from all kinds of professionals, some of whom I had not agreed to see. Hearing tester, hospital photographer, lactation consultant, pediatrician, birth certificate official…it was an endless stream of strangers that made rest impossible. I was thrilled and relieved when Andrew informed me that he would be fully supportive of a birthing center delivery next time. I hope that will work out and am already looking forward to a quieter postpartum experience!

Bottom line: we made some humorous memories, our baby survived unscathed, and home never felt so wonderful. =)

{My Pregnancy Journal} 18 Weeks

DSC_0542Well, I came into today’s post thinking I wouldn’t have much to share. But then the 18 week mark turned out to be a pretty exciting day!

I hadn’t felt the little Yaffster move since the ultrasound day over a week ago. Today during both special music numbers at church, I felt him wiggling. And I cried.

When we came home from friends’ this evening, I lay in bed and played a few Michael Card songs fairly loudly. The little guy started playing again! I called Andrew into our room, but after a minute or two of trying, he wasn’t able to feel any of the movements and went back to homework. But then Caleb got a little bit more excited and I called Andrew again. This time, he distinctly felt him move three times in a row! (Yes, I teared up again.) It was a breathtaking experience for both of us and my favorite moment to date, besides when we found out he was a boy. photo (12)

Nothing can top that, but in the health department this was by far my best week yet. I am absolutely beyond grateful to be feeling so great. The gags come few and far between and my energy is increasing, although I could still take a nap every afternoon if I had the time. =)

Caleb Mark is the size of a bell pepper and is pumping a lot of blood through his little body every day. I am getting more and more excited to meet him in person. We are almost halfway there!

{My Pregnancy Journal} 15 Weeks

photoSorry for the selfie. On Wednesday when I was working at the church, I walked by the bathroom mirror and realized that, without a maternity shirt or a big meal or my hand over my tummy, I really looked pregnant. It was an exciting moment. =)

This week, my app said that Yaffie is the size of an apple! I am not sure why, but the jump from nectarine to apple seemed huge to me and I was SO excited! The highlight of our week was hearing Yaffie’s little heartbeat thumping away at the doctor’s Friday. It was incredible, even better than the ultrasound. Andrew videoed so we can listen to it anytime.

Now I am eagerly awaiting feeling the first movement. My app said that some people feel their babies as early as 15 weeks, but with my first pregnancy it is likely to be a little later. I literally get tears in my eyes just thinking about feeling a little flutter inside me. (Yeah, I get suuuuuper emotional about happy/sentimental things these days.) Andrew thinks it’s so cute that no matter where I go, Yaffie is “just hangin’ out” with me. It’s the only time in my life when our baby will never be out of my sight.

We opened our stroller and unfolded it just to get a look. It’s perfect. I’m watching Craigslist for a changing table with drawers now. We have room against one wall in our bedroom for that.

I’m sleeping a little better now and getting up less at night. My jeans/pants, which were all about two sizes too big before the pregnancy, barely snap now. I guess there are perks to being too skinny for your jeans. =) If I’m seated, bending over (like to grab my purse during church) is extremely uncomfortable. Yaffie doesn’t like being crowded. =) The last few days the nausea has been generally less and easier fixed with food, and although I still gag a lot and very easily, it is more bearable. Hopefully this means I am finally headed out of this long season of sickness! Yesterday marked 10 weeks since I first threw up my prenatals. Whew. I’m glad I didn’t know then how long it would last.

Again, there is SO much to be thankful for! I was looking (and of course, bawling) over the photos on the Facebook page for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. It’s a nonprofit that provides professional photography to families whose babies are not expected to survive past birth. I am reminded that nothing should be taken for granted. God is so gracious to have given us Yaffie for these 15 weeks!

{Seminary Journal} One Year DOWN!

10342448_10152463688788109_3686387471429485253_nTwo semesters. One (school) year. Done. It’s crazy! I can hardly believe how quickly that FLEW by. One moment I was crying ten gallon buckets of tears as we hugged our families goodbye, and the next, Andrew is finishing his second semester and we’re getting ready to watch dear friends graduate…friends we didn’t even know nine months ago. Three years sounded really long when we first made plans to move, but now I feel like if I blink, it will be Andrew’s turn to graduate. That’s not to say that some of the days didn’t feel long; they did. But overall, the weeks and months sailed by.

There is much to be grateful for as I reflect on these past two semesters. Andrew has certainly grown, not only in his Bible knowledge, but in his passion for it. How could you not, when you spend hours and hours immersed in it each week? I love to get a window into his experiences when he gets home from class and spills over highlights from his day. I love when he is so excited about what he learned, that he can’t tell me sitting down. I love when I get a mini off-the-cuff sermon and a tiny taste of what it might be like someday to sit under his preaching. I love to meet in person the guys he raves about to me at home. I love to hear about the conversations he is having with fellow students who love Christ. There is so much to love, I could go on and on!

Andrew has been not only an exemplary student thus far, but also an A+ husband. While somehow pulling off amazing grades, he has not neglected to care for me and see that my “emotional cup” is full. Sure, there is give and take. I have to be content with homework-filled weekends and evenings, and days when we don’t get to really connect the way we’d like to. But overall, despite a ton of homework, work, and other ministry responsibilities, Andrew chooses to make time for the two of us, usually at the cost of sleep or some extra studying. Not only does he spend time with me, he serves me in so many ways. Today when I got home from work, for example, he’d taken a break from his last homework assignment to wash the dishes, clean out the fridge, make the bed, and start two loads of laundry. With my current state, he’s a better housewife than I am! ;)

I don’t say this to brag, I say it to build up my husband and “publicly” thank him for being such a servant-hearted guy. I am immeasurably blessed to call him mine.

The next two years will be more challenging than the first, as we juggle this apartment manager thing with harder classes and a baby. But God’s grace is truly sufficient for all things, and I am confident that it will be another sweet season to treasure Christ and each other as we grow in new ways. Praise the Lord for His many undeserved blessings in our lives!

{My Pregnancy Journal} 10 Weeks

DSC_0363First, sorry for the messy hair and sleepy eyes. I just got up from an amazing Sunday afternoon nap!

At 10 weeks, we are 1/4 of the way through the pregnancy! Pretty crazy!

Yaffie is definitely still growing. I have had some pretty intense nausea this week. It is not uncommon for me to walk around the house gagging audibly. I tried to stifle it for awhile, but it seems just a hair easier to handle if I “let it go” in a gag instead of swallowing every three seconds. Don’t worry, I’m still exercising self control in public. But along with higher levels of nausea I also got some extended breaks from it, like Wednesday and Friday afternoons. It is nice to catch a glimpse of what life might be like again in a few weeks. I’m still so thankful not to be throwing up!

Toward the beginning of the week, I was having a hard time eating anything at all. But the past few days I can’t stop, despite the queasy tummy! I’ve downed SO much. I don’t know if Yaffie’s on a growth spurt or what, but I am definitely putting away more than 300 calories of extra food per day (which is what is recommended at this stage).

By the evening I look a lot more pregnant than I did in the morning. I read that this can be due to a number of things like bloating or just the back muscles loosening up and stretching out over the course of the day. I really haven’t felt bloated or constipated (fresh lemon water daily is warding off those issues) but clearly my prune-sized baby isn’t the reason for the “bump” yet. My abdomen area feels really tight and I guess partly, being short means everything has nowhere to go but straight out as my uterus grows. For once in my life, my jeans fit just right without a belt.

Tomorrow is our first “real” doctor’s appointment. I’m hoping the ultrasound I got in the ER at 6 weeks was accurate in estimating a November 23 due date.

We are pretty much set on our baby girl name and have narrowed our boy names down to three options. This is probably one of my favorite topics of discussion as we fall asleep at night. Meanwhile, Andrew can’t wait for Yaffie’s hearing to develop so he can start talking to him at bedtime. These are sometimes long but amazing days that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!