The answer is no…

Normally, I am the one saying, “Not yet boys…”, “Not right now…”, “You’re going to have to learn to wait…” or some variation of those phrases. They rarely hear these words without somehow letting me know that they oppose what I am telling them. That it makes them angry, sad, frustrated, etc. I try to work up the patience to explain to them why the answer is some version of “no” or “not now” and although it may be very logical, no matter how little their bodies may be, their feelings are big, and they don’t see the logic at the moment. If I’m lucky, my four year old will eventually come around and let me know he understood my reasoning and then for that moment I am not “the worst mom EVER”. (My heart is lucky enough to not have heard those words yet but I am sure at some point in raising these munchkins I might and I will try to be prepared so I don’t break down hysterically crying.)

Well, what happens when I am the one that is told that I will have to wait. That despite my perfectly planned hopes and dreams, the answer is “not right now Natasha”.

I am well aware that social media is somewhat of a highlight reel and that mainly only snippets of peoples lives are posted, and some of us can fool an entire Facebook world with the illusion that we have it 100% together. I love that there is awareness starting to arise about the reality of what a hot mess express motherhood really is. I don’t share a ton on Facebook, but I like to believe I have shared some of my most meaningful moments on there. And although I am sharing this mainly for my own healing and grieving, I also share for all the moms that need to hear this, the moms that mistakenly think I may have it all together, the moms that don’t know if its okay to talk about the very raw and big feelings that come with this thing called motherhood.

To start from the beginning, I should share with you all that on February 13, 2018, I found out that after 2 months of trying, we were expecting baby Proto number 3. It was the perfect Valentines and birthday gift wrapped into a tiny little sweet pea sized babe. We waited a couple weeks to announce to our family and friends. Eventually we told our oldest and he was over the moon excited to be a big brother again. I have his whole reaction on video and at that moment I was oblivious to how close to my heart I would hold that video. From the beginning, Jonathan and I decided that we wanted to have a home birth this time around. We knew that this was only going to be accomplished and that we wouldn’t back out if we did A LOT of research. So we dove in. We found what we thought at the time would be the perfect birthing center, we would go to bed watching water birthing videos and planning it all out. It took awhile to find a place that would do a home water birth so I ended up not getting my first appointment until I was 7.5 weeks along on March 15th. At this point, we realized we had a cruise planned out for the next week and I was afraid of traveling to the Caribbean with the risk of exposure to the Zika virus. I just wanted to know everything was okay before going on the trip. I was searching for some peace of mind that this was a healthy and strong pregnancy. Looking back now, I realize I  was tricking myself into thinking I could control something about this entire process. I took God out of it. I was following my plan, my way, and got so caught up in thinking I could do this on my own that I forgot to pray. Just to be still, and pray. Don’t get me wrong, I still went to church 3 times a week and prayed with my husband and kids before bed, but I was desperately trying to control this whole process, birthing out of all things which by now I should know is the most unpredictable experience. In the midst of this, my youngest needed bilateral tube surgery and got tested for Celiac and tested positive for a Celiac allele. This meant a radical lifestyle change for us in what we ate on a regular basis. My momma heart was really being forced over and over to just trust that God had this in His hands. On Easter, I remember being greatly impacted by our pastor’s quote, “If God never answered another prayer for the rest of your life, you would still have everything He’s done up until this point to be grateful for.” This made so much sense. Even if another prayer was never answered, I had everything up until this point to be eternally thankful for.

On March 16, our midwife reluctantly ordered us an ultrasound and the day before our cruise we got to see our little baby. There is nothing quite as satisfying during the pregnancy process than to either see your baby, or hear your baby’s heartbeat. That day we got to do both. We saw a thriving, healthy baby, measuring 8wks3days, with a heartbeat of 167bpm. The boys got to see their baby brother or sister for the first time and we left thinking “the chances of anything going wrong is 20% but after detecting a heartbeat through ultrasound those odds go down to between 1-5%. Were good. We can go on our cruise. Everything is going to be fine.” On the cruise I did everything I could to repel mosquitos. Once again, confusing my productiveness with a false sense of control. I am not saying that there are not things we can and should control, I’m saying that I recognize that I was completely forgetting to seek out God’s will. I was obsessed with researching and implementing different routines to try and make sure I was doing everything “right”. Even though I had already had 2 healthy pregnancies and deliveries, I was still so worried that THIS one wasn’t going to have the same happy ending. One night on the cruise I remember having a heart to heart with Jonathan and sharing with him that I had cried in the shower because I had a moment of complete self awareness where I realized that I was at a point in my faith, where I felt like I could handle more than I could maybe 6 years ago. I felt like my faith was more unwavering and that years ago I could’ve never gotten through a bump in the road without falling down a deep dark tunnel of depression and anxiety. Keep in mind, at this point I still thought my pregnancy was healthy so this as a completely ‘random’ thought that came during some prayer time.

We came home from our trip, I kept feeling pregnancy symptoms, my belly got a little bump, my breasts were sore. As far as I knew, this little babe was thriving. The research continued, the home birthing studies, the note taking on hypnobirthing, the planning. We built a wall to make a designated space for the nursery, and I printed out some props for a formal pregnancy announcement. Those props sat on my dining room table for weeks. I would tell Jonathan, “Oh! we need to take that picture!” and then we would continue and never take it. I believe now it was God’s way of protecting me and my mind knowing what my body and heart did not want to acknowledge. I also kept listening to the song “Peace Be Still” over and over. I weep almost every time she sings “Peace be still you are here and it is well. Even when my eyes can’t see, I will trust the voice that speaks….Im not going to fear the storm, You are greater than its roar.” The whole song is about being still. About not having fear. Even when you don’t understand, leaning into God’s truth that He’s got this. He understands what we don’t. At church we were going through a series called “What’s the Point?” where we are studying the wisest man, Solomon, and how he pours out the answers to the question, what is the point? Of this life, of the pain, of our work here on Earth.

Eventually our 12 week appointment came up and it was the day we were going to be able to hear baby Proto’s heartbeat! What a milestone! We were all there, the boys, Jonathan and I. She had trouble finding it on the doppler but assured me it was probably just because I had eaten a large lunch beforehand. She wrote me a script for another ultrasound and off we went, with the heaviest feeling on our hearts. Confusion, anxiety, fear. We were full of fear. I left that office at 4:30 and called over 15 ultrasound doctors begging them to get me in before they closed at 5pm. This was April 10. I found a place that was open until 6pm! I made an appointment online for 5:30pm and we rushed there. Only to be confronted with a very matter-of-fact front desk receptionist that let me know that there must have been some mistake but that they could not see me despite my appointment. I explained my situation, with my eyes tearing up and she simply said “We can’t help you.” We called the manager who handled the situation extremely well and squeezed us in first thing in the morning at 7am. This would mean I would wake up at 5am to be there by 7am but this was my only choice and it was already agonizing enough to have to wait the night on pins and needles. The next morning, I drove alone to my ultrasound while Jonathan stayed home with the boys. I was excited to see my baby again. I was shaking in the doctors chair. The ultrasound tech kept trying to make light conversation but she and I both knew, that this appointment had the ability to wreck my world that day. She sent me off with no information. Said I would have to wait for a radiologist. The radiologist sent me home and said my midwife would call me. I sat in my car, cried, called Jonathan, called my mom, and with a pit at the bottom of my stomach told them “I think I lost the baby and nobody wants to tell me.” I sat there for 20 minutes and then finally called my midwife at her personal number. She confirmed. My worst nightmare had come true. Baby Proto measured to be 9wks and I was suppose to be measuring 12wks and there was no cardiac activity. They called it “fetal demise”. I hung up and then called back with 50  questions on what would happen next. She explained that what I had had was a missed miscarriage and that my body had not yet recognized the death of the baby. I felt like my body was failing me. I felt pregnant. I looked pregnant. But for 3 weeks my baby’s heart had stopped beating. She advised me to wait for my body to recognize the miscarriage and let the process occur naturally. I was on board with this for about 2 days. It was agonizing. It was complete torture to stay home, afraid that at any moment, something awful could begin to take place. We had a falling out with my midwife and I sought out the practice that I had used with my pregnancy with Shiloh. I only didn’t choose them this time because we wanted the home water birth, but as soon as I called they assured me that I would always be a patient of them and that they could get me right in the following week on April 16th. That whole weekend, I dreaded the whole process starting. I was in a way soaking up my last moments carrying my baby with me everywhere I went. (This is the first of a long list of thoughts that I had through the whole miscarrying process that I considered “weird”. Not because I thought I was weird, but because it felt weird not knowing if I was doing this right. I was STILL trying to even control this process.)

Finally, I was still long enough to hear what God had been trying to not so subtly drill into my heart. Jonathan had the boys outside, while he ripped up our landscaping. This was his therapy and it was a project we took on together to keep our hands busy and the kids busy while we talked, thought, cried and had this time together. I went inside for a break and I looked outside on the lake. I remember last year when God really spoke a strong message to me and laid a verse on my heart. Then the song “Sparrows” came out. I had studied the book of Matthew and fell in love with Matthew 6:26. Two years ago I saw a piece of art with the paraphrase “Look at the birds” on it because I wanted that reminder. It was hung above our bedroom door because I wanted to remember that if God provides even for the birds, He is more than capable and willing to provide for me. Then that song came out and it was an easy way to be reminded every time it would come on, every time I saw the artwork. I stopped believing in coincidences a long time ago. This was God sending a message. So there I stood, staring at the birds that line our property shoreline by the lake. Reminded once again, that God has been preparing me for this for awhile. He provides for the birds, He will provide for me. I went into my room and just wept. I begged God to protect me. That this wouldn’t affect my faith. I didn’t want to let the voice of the enemy fill my head. I prayed and I asked God to help prepare me for what was to come, for wisdom in telling my oldest son what had happened, for reminders that my husband lost a baby too and he needs me just as much as I need him. I reached out to a doula that pointed me to some resources where I found myself looking for the perfect baby burial box. If there was one thing Jonathan and I knew, was that we were going to do everything possible to try and be able to bury our baby.

I thanked God for the my two boys that were playing outside in the yard and I specifically said “God I have always known that these are your kids. That you knitted them in my womb and entrusted me to take care of them, but I surrendered them to you a long time ago. I prayed that the day would never come that I would have to outlive one of my kids, but that they were ultimately yours, and that you knew how to care for them better than I.” That is a prayer I had prayed many times, but this time, it wasn’t hypothetical. This was where the rubber met the road and I prayed for Him to please provide resources to help prepare me, people to help guide me and peace to help me not lose my way. I remembered that day on the cruise when I said that I felt like I was close enough to God to not spiral downhill if there was a bump in the road. He was reminding me of my strength, how far I had come, and to not let myself go there. (Later on, my friend stopped by with a piece of art that said ‘His grace is sufficient’ and explained to me that that verse held meaning to her when she lost her baby because even though there would be times of sorrow and sadness, there was a deep dark tunnel that she could see but she couldn’t let herself go down. And that was God’s grace.) Even though I felt pressure to not ‘go there’, even if I did, God’s gift of grace would be sufficient to make it ok.

On Monday, April 16, I met with my old OB. He explained to me very scientifically that at this point in my pregnancy, the baby was “merely tissue”. That the only certain choice would be to have a D&C because with the inducing medicine or waiting naturally, there was risk of infection. I felt zero peace about having a D&C. I had already had one after birthing my youngest because I retained placenta, and I knew the risks of having another one in less than 2 years and knowing I wanted future pregnancies. I had read so much that weekend prior about natural miscarriages just in case it happened before my appointment. I knew what to expect. I knew that I couldn’t wait for the natural process because it was the most mentally agonizing process I had ever put myself through to even wait the one week that I had. I knew that there was the option of the inducing medicine, that it would come with pain that could be as potent as labor contractions. I knew it would be graphic. That there was a chance that I would still need a D&C after. But Jonathan and I both just felt a gut feeling that we needed to let this happen at home, and to bury our baby. My OB warned me that a lot of people can’t tell the baby from a clot from a placenta and that I could very well “miss” it. I went home with the prescription and prayed and prayed. This was not the home birth I had prepared for, but I felt prepared. Scared emotionally, but also prepared with all of the facts of what to expect, when to head to a hospital. I took one of the four pills at 6pm, hoping it would all happen during the night so Jonathan and I could have time to ourselves without having to worry about the kids being there. Then, God provided two amazingly brave women that texted me and shared with me encouraging words about their experiences. One of them, had experienced a missed miscarriage and chose the inducing medicine route as well. Y’all this is not someone that HAD to share the details that she did. It was probably painful to relive those details. But she was open vulnerable and wiling. She talked to me throughout the night until about 11pm when I took my second pill. It was moments after that I passed the baby. If I told you that it was anything short of a miracle I would be lying. God showed up so much during the worst moment of my entire life. There was no mistaking the baby from a blood clot. It was not “tissue”. I am not sure if they miscalculated the date that the baby stopped growing, but to me, this was God showing up. Allowing me to meet my baby. Two eyes, two hands, two feet, all ten toes and fingers.

Friends and family, I can not emphasize enough how amazing that moment was. After my initial shock and weeping, I just looked at Jonathan and said, “It is amazing that that little baby turns into a fully functioning newborn that we picture when we think of a full term baby. There is no way that something like this is created without God. Life is fragile. How many people get to see this? I can not believe that doctor said I should expect to only see tissue measuring 2mm. This baby is the length of my pinky. Its a fully developed baby. Its our baby.” We wept. We talked. We followed the instructions on how to preserve and prepare for burial. We said goodbye to our angel baby. It took hours. And then we laid down to try and get some rest. We woke up to the boys normal morning routine, and we were in a haze. It’s like we knew what had happened but it was so raw and emotional that all we could do was just be still. To be proud parents. To know we would meet our baby again in Heaven. I saw a quote that said “how great to know that the first face my baby will see will be the face of Jesus”. I had a hard time letting go. All that talk about surrendering my kids to God, and here I was deep down wishing it was all a terrible dream.

From then on, it was waves of grief. I would hear my 4 year old’s innocence shine through in his nighttime prayers when he would ask me if God was going to heal the baby and put him back in my belly. One time he asked me if he can go to heaven to meet his little brother or sister and I replied and said, yes that he could, but hopefully he gets to stay here with mom and dad a little longer, but if he ever feels sad and wants to talk, he can talk to me about anything. His reply, “or I could just talk right to God and ask him how the baby is doing.” My heart would sink. I felt so many dichotomies during this while process. Fearful but hopeful. In shock and in awe. Worn down and renewed. Hurt and taken care of. I felt pressure from myself “Natasha you said you wouldn’t lose it. You said you wouldn’t go there.” I felt like I needed to prove something to myself. But again, his gift of grace means he loves me anyways. I can very vividly see in my mind about a hundred different ways I could handle this loss, a hundred other ways that I could release my anger and pain. But I just can’t. I can’t let myself sit in the dark spot for too long. Whether it is because the kids need me, or a friend checks in through text, or  my husband walks in the door form work early. Anytime I feel like am losing the battle, something happens. God happens.

God placed exactly who needed to be there around us. Jonathan was able to stay home for a week. We finished our landscaping project. I had a follow up ultrasound that confirmed I didn’t need the D&C after all. He was in awe when I told him about the baby’s appearance and he just wanted to here more. God has showed up time and time again. Through my husband. Through friends. Through people who dedicate their lives to helping parents that have lost their babies at any stage. I was warned that some people might make comments that sting, while having only good intentions. But please let me tell you, there is nothing lucky about losing a baby at “only 13 weeks”. I realize different losses come with different types of pain and grief. But for me, acknowledging my baby and our loss, talking about it like it the big deal that it was,  has been the only way to move forward. We are parents to 3 kids. 2 here on Earth and 1 in Heaven. I am not sure why God allowed this to happen the way that it did, but I try and remind myself regularly that He knows things I don’t know, things I’ll never know. A friend reminded me that here on Earth ‘is the place where we combat suffering and good times almost like a roller coaster- a constant reminder that where we started is not where we will remain- that our exit is heaven bound.” But what I do know, is that he planted seeds to prepare me. He held me and my husband and kids. He guided me towards the right resources and the right people. Not everyone will understand why we chose to do things the way that we did, or why I felt the way I did. But I’ve learned that we will never know how we handle something unless we experience it for ourselves. W.”e can say “if that ever happened to me……” but we never know. Some days will carry a lot of painful memories now. Mother’s Day being one of them. At least for this year. This year, things did not go as planned. And holidays will not be how I expected them. I may not be all smiles on Mother’s Day, or October 23 when I would’ve held my baby in my arms. You might run into me on a good day or you might run into me on a painful one.  Just know, everyone carries something we know nothing about, love them anyways. Just because I chose to share my story, that doesn’t mean everyone will. I have learned miscarriage is a very taboo subject. Some understandably don’t talk about it because of the pain and grief that comes with it. But if you are carrying this alone because you feel people don’t want to hear about it, or that you’re not suppose to bring it up, please know that I’m here. And God provides. I have had more than a handful of women that have shared their “I have felt your pain but never told anyone about it” stories, and although I am sad for what we all share in common, I am thankful that you let me know that I wasn’t alone. That I didn’t do anything wrong. That the darkness does not have to have power over me. That God is good. Even when the answer is “no”, or “not yet”, God is good. He is close to the brokenhearted. And His grace is sufficient.

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Can I Get Through Phase Two?

The moment that one decides to become a parent. . .actually, I am going to go out on a limb and say that the moment one decides to become a mother. . . okay, I’ll speak for myself. The moment that I decided to become a mother, I felt like I gave myself over to the “experts”. The best way to breastfeed. The best way to get my infant to sleep for more than an hour straight. The best way to communicate with your husband about parenting, household duties, etc. The best way to lose the baby weight. I no longer saw myself as a reliable enough source. And although sometimes I did a pretty good job filtering the unsought advice, and my son is still alive, sleeping through the night, and showing promising evidence of me not totally messing up this whole parenting gig. . . I now realize, that was only Phase One.

Phase One was the “keep him alive” phase. Where in all my sleep deprivation and new parenting confusion, I kept myself motivated by uttering the phrase, “just keep him alive”. This tiny little human that depended on his parents to, well. . .KEEP HIM ALIVE! There was lots of prayer…Lots of crying…Lots of happy tears… And now I can proudly say that I have made it through Phase One! Only to come to the realization that, there’s more! Phase Two!

Sometimes in my anxiety and worry-filled days, I wish I could go back to Phase One. Where my biggest worries were: should I introduce green veggies first or orange ones? Or whether my newborn’s poop was the right color and texture. I was totally not mentally prepared for my little baby to be his own little person so fast. He knows just enough to have his own personality and opinions, but not enough for me to know that he is unaffected by my choices, and sometimes my mess ups. Phase Two is completely just as stressful as Phase One, not only because I still have to make sure that he stays alive, but that I don’t totally mess him up in the process!

I know that my influence will only be, well . . . influential, for a designated time, until he becomes his own person, with his own life. But Phase Two was way more stressful when I hadn’t accepted that my son, is also God’s son. He has me, and he has his dad, but he also has a Heavenly Father, that loves him way more than I ever could (which was hard for me to come to realize). That I could only do so much and there would come a time when my faith would be put to the test in this area of my life, and I would just have to trust God. Trust God that I did the best that I knew how, and trust that although there would come a time when my child wouldn’t have his parents, constantly aware of all his choices, attitudes and life changing decisions and milestones, that he would always have that relationship with God to hold him accountable, praise him, discipline him and influence him.

There’s always this verse:

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

And then there’s always the worrier in me saying. . . But what if he does stray? Phase Two is critical in developing my child’s faith, his character, his personality. He is not even two, guys. And I’m stressing out about the type of person, husband, friend, father, worker, he is going to become and how I only have a designated amount of time to influence him and teach him. I think the stress I put on myself comes from wanting my children to know God their whole lives, the way I came to know him in my 20s. Oh, how it would’ve impacted many decisions I made based solely on my own foolish understanding. But hey! I am right where I am meant to be, living the life that I am meant to live, with the people that I am meant to live it with. I believe that with my whole heart, mainly because earlier this week I was encouraged to study how my life up until now, has been preparing me for this exact life that I am living.

Luckily, I have learned, I don’t have to do it alone. I am not perfect, but He is. I have messed up in my past, but He hasn’t. I have been wishy-washy in my faith, but He remains consistent and true. I haven’t always been this faith filled (and there is way more room for improvement!) Yes, I was raised knowing God, but I didn’t put all my trust into Him. I didn’t rely on Him more than my own understanding. I didn’t understand the power of prayer. I didn’t see His plan or me as more valuable than my own plan for myself. Some have seen this change in me as a “brainwash”, but I like to look at it more as a growth. A transformation. An evolution. An enlightenment. A complete renewal that is helping me get through all of these phases of not only motherhood, but life. And if I try to spend my time now, worrying about all the phases to come, I will be sacrificing precious time. Precious time with my child, to share with him this overflow of love that I feel from my “brainwashing”. Precious time with my husband, who was given to me, for me to walk beside as we take this life on together, and enjoy it. For us to do our best through these parenting phases where we rarely have alone time and cherish them. Because one day, it will be just the two of us in our home again, and although I would like to say that I hope we would be beaching it up somewhere, soaking up the sun and relaxing, I know that there will be times when we will wish we were going through Phase Two again, and we will never get this time back.

So back to my original question. . .Can I get through Phase Two (without being overcome with anxiety)? Yes! But not alone. And not only will I “get through” it, but I will LOVE it, CHERISH it, PROTECT it and NURTURE it because before we know it, we will be onto the challenges of Phase Three, looking back on Phase Two and thinking it was a piece of cake.

My Children are my legacy.

Often I feel like the decision to put my faith first might not be understood by people that I thought played a big role in my life, or like I am constantly finding myself explaining why my family and I have made this choice, as if we need others approvals. Some people think that people seek faith for some kind of structure, for others it may be a way of finding hope, but for me, it was purely about love. In my short 24 years of life, one thing I have learned to be true is that there are many different types of love and many different ways to show love. And starting a marriage and a family, we had to decide, “how were we going to love?”

Looking around at our old lifestyle, it seemed that a lot of love we were witnessing was based on performance, or a “what can you do for me” type of attitude. That kind of love is more temporary than what we have found. And when that love would fade, I would feel a hole in my heart that I would seek to fill with all of the wrong things. My mom was always great at showing me unconditional love, as most mothers do, but it was hard to carry over that principle into a relationship. Undoubtedly, I would love my son unconditionally when I became a mother, but what about my spouse? Could I love another imperfect human being UNCONDITIONALLY? What did that even mean? Yes its true, that in our vows it said, through the good and the bad, through sickness and in health. Those are words that I had seen over and over again in movies, weddings, and just two years ago I had recited those same vows myself. But to truly live in unconditional love, and see it portrayed and played out in a relationship that wasn’t a mother/child relationship, was new to me.

It is no surprise, that THAT is exactly why my faith is so important to me now. I realized, I had a “God shaped hole” in my heart (as the song says), that I couldn’t fill. Not friends, not relationships, not even family. And once I started exploring my faith a little more, I realized that it was God’s unconditional love for me that I was missing. When I would hear in Catholic school that “God is love”, I never could grasp what that truly meant. It was too abstract for me. But now, I fully understand. Forgiving us, time and time again after we disobey Him, is unconditional love. Being transparent with Him and ourselves, and being humbled enough to listen to advice that God might have for us, despite what we may want for ourselves, is unconditional trust. Having a place to be able to go and seek advice, friends, comfort, laughter, and not only all of those things, but Godly advice, friends, comfort, and laughter that would keep my family close and safe from the broken world that we live in, THAT is why we raise our family around our faith now. We very quickly learned as a new married couple that there was a big difference between getting advice from faith filled people, and nonbelievers. Not because their advice didn’t make sense, or wasn’t logical, because most of the time it surely was very logical, but there is a difference in logical advice, and biblical advice. And trust me, it was a hard lesson to learn but the biblical one has your family’s best interest at heart 100% of the time, even if it may not always be easy or comfortable. It doesn’t taint your heart, nor have bad or selfish intentions. And guarding your heart from things that may cause you to stumble in your marriage, is something that we weren’t doing enough. Sometimes that includes not listening to certain music, or not seeking advice from certain people. Sometimes it means dressing just a bit more modestly, or surrounding your kids with people that will have godly influences on their lives.

Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Becoming a Christian, hasn’t been about becoming a new person. I am still the same girl I was 5 years ago. Still have the same humor, ambitions, values, etc. It is as my good friend said, “It is not about transforming, it is about being transparent.” That couldn’t be more perfect. Yes, some parts of your life will be transformed as an effect of being stronger in faith, but I am not perfect, nor do I think I ever will be. I do not think I am better than anybody else. I do not look down on those that aren’t Christian. But instead of seeking approval from others in my educational success, in my mothering, in my relationships, in my financial success. Instead of comparing myself to others, or seeking self worth in the wrong things, and valuing myself based off of that, I am transparent about my problems with everyone. That includes myself, and my spouse. But, I am also transparent about my faith in that I know that with God’s help and the people that he has surrounded me with, He WILL get me through anything. He has made me for a specific purpose, that only I can fulfill. I believe that we each have a role in this life, that only WE can fulfill. We are not replaceable, and there are no small roles. I believe that with my entire being. And as I struggle with not focusing on my degree or career. As I struggle with sacrificing it all to be “just a mom” (as some may say). As I struggle with being in a town where none of my friends or family live nearby. I realize that this person that I am becoming, is way more valuable and important to my husband and son than anything I thrived to be before. My income may be $0. My life may revolve around sleep schedules, household chores and potty training. But I’ve realized that my children, are my legacy. Who I am today, impacts who they will grow up to be. And the values that I instill in them through my lifetime, will help them get through theirs. And hopefully, without seeking approval in the wrong places, or putting their hope in the wrong people, or trying to find self worth and value in the wrong things, would help them to feel self worth, happiness, peace and LOVE. I am not saying they will not struggle because of their faith, I am saying that they will have the confidence to know that although God may give us more than we can handle, there is nothing He gives us that is more than He can handle.

I may not be an expert in my faith yet. Even four years in, this is still very much the beginning of my investigation into my faith. I can not answer all the questions that people may have about the “why”s of life. But nor do I seek to ever be an expert, or know things beyond my control. I am focused on the now, and how right now, my marriage is the best it has ever been, I have the most trustworthy friends I ever had, I love my life as a stay at home mom more than ever, and most importantly, I have the most peace in my mind and in my heart, than ever before.

He did it again . . .

It happened…I had a meltdown. I woke up, nothing seemed different. Noah hadn’t woken up yet, it was probably 8am. My husband had already left for work. There was nothing in particular that set me off. It just….happened. “Was THIS going to be my life from now on?” That’s all I kept thinking over and over. Changing laundry loads, waiting for the baby to wake up to begin my seemingly endless journey of diaper changes and temper tantrums, while getting smacked in the face and beat up by a toddler? Who was this girl that was staring back at me in the mirror? This wasn’t the woman I knew three years ago. Actually, three years ago I would’ve thought I hit the trifecta of disappointment. Pregnant out of wedlock, dropped out of college and wedding pictures of myself 7 months pregnant. Not the fairytale I had envisioned. Everything that I knew, had gone down the drain. My education, my career. Was I going to be JUST a wife from now on? JUST a mom? Don’t get me wrong….NOW I have come to love my life in its entirety, the beautiful, unpredictable, mess that it is. But for this split second in an ordinary day, I was having a serious moment of identity crisis. I had lost myself.

I called my husband, unleashed an unforeseen tidal wave of emotions that there was no way he could have been prepared for, cried a bit, then brushed it off and went on my with my day. Never truly dealt with the not so minor meltdown I had just had, but duty called and there was a screaming toddler that needed me to get it together and take care of him. But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking: Is this my life now? Just holding myself together for the sake of my son? My husband?

Then of course, the next day was MOPS at my church. The meltdown that had just occurred the previous day was long off my mind by now. Until this verse was read,

Isaiah 43:1 “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

It caught my attention. Made me think of my moment of hysteria the day before, but then I brushed it off again and continued talking to the other moms at my table. It wasn’t until the theme of the day was revealed and the video started that I knew, “today is for me”. The theme was, The Courage to be a Mom, and it started off with “Do you ever find yourself thinking, is it enough? What do you find your self worth in, and what happens when you no longer have that? Do you still feel value because you know that you have God by you?” It clicked…. Isaiah 43:1, “I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” God was speaking to me that day. Putting my mind at peace, because this motherhood gig, IS enough. People don’t praise motherhood as much as they praise educational achievements or career promotions. And that is where my self worth use to lie. In my educational achievements, my independence, my ability to do life on my own and not rely on anybody. And when I gave it all up to stay home with Noah, I was JUST a mom. JUST a wife. But there is the problem. It is NOT a ‘just’. And I was losing my way that previous day, because I lost sight of the value that lies in what I do every day.

The woman in the video was right. Nobody says, “What you’re doing is changing the world,” even though the world would fall apart without moms. It sounded a little drastic to me when I heard it. One thing was to try to relate to this woman in order to make myself feel better, but another, completely different thing,  was to say that I was “changing the world” by being a mom. But that’s besides the point. It absolutely takes courage to be a mom because it IS more significant than what society is telling us is praiseworthy. I didn’t get my degree yet, I rely on my husband to provide for us, I live far from my friends, my mom and brothers, and my hometown, my life rarely even remotely resembles my life three years ago. But yes, it is all worth it to be JUST a stay at home mom. Mothering matters. And I’ve always wanted to be a mom. Why was I letting something like a job or degree take away from the blessing that is being able to be not just a stay at home mom, but a mom in general? I wasn’t throwing away my potential, or all of the money that I had spent so far in college. I wasn’t ignoring my talents, or missing my calling. I don’t need those things right now in order to be the best version of myself. And I will not allow the shallowness of the society that surrounds me to belittle that.

There IS meaning to what I do every day. It is my calling. And while I may never receive monetary praise for what I do, or even verbal praise for that matter, there is a little boy whose hugs, smiles and kisses outweigh any of those things. My son relies on me, my husband relies on me, and God relies on me, to do the best job that I can do in raising my children. And just like that. He did it again. When I almost spiraled down an out of control, emotional ride, He stopped me right on my tracks. At that meeting, the woman on the video was basically in my head and my heart. Some may call it coincidence,  I call him God.

“Mom-esque”

Sometimes, I will have sporadic thoughts fly through my head and I literally wish I could chase after them and catch them with a butterfly net, and release them once I’ve sat in front of my computer. However, that sounds like a very trippy world to live in, and it is certainly not the world I currently live in. I say this because I had one of these moments this past weekend. I thought to myself, “Wow, that was a good one,” and I’ve been waiting for three days and can’t remember. I had all intentions of remembering. But then my toddler probably climbed up onto something that made me fly over to him before he cracked his head open, or threw his food all over the floor because I probably had JUST mopped it, or some other “mom-esque” situation that you all can relate to fellow moms. Isn’t that hilarious? I think that’s how life works. You want to make it work your way and on your time. But that’s just not the case. At that moment, maybe that thought is just what I needed. But only for that moment.  So for now, I just have to wait for them to to come back to me. If they ever come back to me. And if they don’t, I’ll just have to hope I have something to jot down my witty thought next time before it flies away into the colorful world of escaped thoughts that never return.

“Mom-esque” by the way is my new favorite phrase  that my friend Ciara came up with in random conversation. I think its what all non-mom friends refer to when they are describing their friends that are new moms. For example, “Oh, you have spit up on your shirt and your hair looks like it hasn’t been washed in days, how mom-esque,” or, “How cute, you use to carry cute purses and now you carry a semipermeable backpack full of what looks to be, a first aid kit, a kitchen and a changing table all in one, you’re so mom-esque,” and so on. Kind of like burlesque, but the complete, entire, polar opposite.

A Big Circle of Love and Learning

Right now, life is pretty darn great. I think I finally have this mom thing under control. My son just turned 13 months. My husband and I have gotten over the “hump” that having a child made us go through in our marriage. Not necessarily a terrible hump, but definitely, a hump. I reach out to great friends when I need them, and I know how to feel close to God in my every day choices. I can filter out opinions that I don’t really care for and I seek advice from those that I find wise. However, it was not always like this.

I recently found this letter in my desktop. I must have been 6 months pregnant when I wrote this. I had just come to the very real, yet scary realization that I might have fallen in a slight depression. I had heard, read, done everything to prepare for the postpardum depression. But this was not POST, this was PRE. I was anxious about the type of world that Noah was being born into. I was stressed out about all of the “best” things professionals recommend for my child. Was it going to be a natural birth? an epidural birth? Would he get vaccinated? Would we breastfeed? How long if we did? Would we co-sleep? Everyone had very convincing opinions on THEIR way of doing things, but quickly I realized that, we would have OUR way of doing things. And neither one would be better than the other.  Before I go on, let me explain, that I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with God. I didn’t always fully understand his role in my life. I didn’t know how to pray, or how to seek his guidance, but I wouldn’t have made it without Him. So….in my despair….I prayed for comfort and peace, and I finally let it all out of me. Oh yeah, did I mention that all of these conversations and questions, I was having with me, myself, and I? Never did I actually think to ask someone for help, or their opinions. Never did I voice my thoughts to anyone, even though they were consuming me, day and night. I told myself that it was “normal,” And in all of the anxiety, I found myself only thinking about one thing: my beautiful baby boy, and what I genuinely, from the bottom of my heart, wanted him to know most. I tried to gather all of my feelings. I only knew how to express myself through art and writing, and having a little bit of overdose of art from art school assignments,  I sat down and wrote this letter:

To my dearest Noah,

I can certainly start out by saying, that your momma is far from perfect. I have a big heart that sometimes leads to foolish decisions. But the one thing I will never consider foolish, was the decision to make you with your daddy. We are so in love. Crazy in love. Just as he said we would be since the second week that we met.  We always knew that we wanted to create a little miracle made from the both of us, a little piece of him and a little piece of me. And I can only imagine that you are going to be more perfect than I could ever imagine. As a mom, I always wanted to be able to keep my kids safe. And I fear to fall back on that promise with you. Being that your daddy and I only dated for a year and a half before having you, and we hadn’t planned out all our little side steps yet on how to run a family, I want you to know that you were made from pure love. And that is a gift that I hope becomes a part of you and you get to share it with the rest of the world. Because it needs more people with big hearts. Big hearts of truth. To care for the needy,  be insightful and considerate of others feelings, and always have sympathy for the hurting, as you will remember what it felt like when you were in pain. I often worry that I won’t be a good enough mom, even though people seem to have more confidence in me than I have in myself. But I do know one thing, being your mommy is the ONLY thing I have ever wanted with my whole heart for as long as I have lived. I pray to be your best friend, your secret keeper, your partner in adventures, and your safe place. I pray that you feel safe in my arms, your daddy always said he always wanted me to feel safe in his and believe me it worked! I pray that people don’t take advantage of your good heart and that you always stay close to family. My mom has been my strength for as long as I can remember, and she has a heart bigger than anyone I know. She is the most selfless person and the most giving and I hope if you ever need to turn to someone for comfort and love, you seek hers. She has been looking forward to meeting you since the day that I found out you had been created as a little bean inside me. Every day since, watching and feeling you grow has been a joy greater than I ever imagined. When I actually was able to sing to you and feel your reactions, it seemed that all the adult worries of the world went away and it was just me and you in a bubble. Even though I always told your dad there was no such thing as living in a bubble, I believe it now. I don’t know how a tiny little triumphant baby boy could keep me going in my darkest of days, but you did it Noah. I love you so much already and I can’t wait to meet you and see what a wonderful man you turn out to be.

                                All my love,
                                    Your momma

God teaches us that we can always be forgiven. I have learned to be more forgiving with myself and my family. I have learned the true meaning of unconditional love. Real, imperfect, raw, sometimes tough, love. And patience. Lots of patience. And these are things, that I learned from God, and then my children will learn in return. And that’s how it works. Its all a big circle between God, my family and I. A big, giant circle of Love and Learning.

Until next time……