Thoughts on Life and Loss

Today, October 15, is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. I have many friends who have lost babies, and I grieve with them. I cannot imagine the pain they feel, and my prayers are with them. Sweet friends, (and you know who you are,) I love you and I can’t wait for the day you when will be reunited with your babies in heaven.

But today, on Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, my thoughts have turned to loss of another kind. My mind has been occupied not only with those babies we mourn, but with the babies we do NOT mourn.  Because how can we mourn the loss of children through miscarriage and still celebrate their loss through abortion? How? If this life that is lost through miscarriage is indeed a life to mourn, then isn’t the aborted baby also a life to mourn? Why does one life matter when another one does not? What is the difference between the two? Certainly, it isn’t gestational age. Many of these miscarriages we mourn occur earlier in pregnancy than abortions do. Is the only difference that one baby is wanted and another one is not? And can we not see the fault with this reasoning?

This language of life and loss is not just evidence of a divide between Christians and non-Christians, or the pro-life and pro-choice crowds. It is even evidence of a great inconsistency in secular culture and media. Why is a celebrity pregnancy referred to as a baby but the language is changed to fetus if the conversation is about abortion? If our culture is truly persuaded that life does not begin (or does not count) until birth, why then do the headlines rave about the latest celebrity baby bump? Shouldn’t they say “fetus bump?” Can they truly not see the inconsistency of their language, or their logic?

The bottom line? Please, please do not post a status or make a comment grieving Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day if you believe that abortion is morally acceptable. Either it is a baby to mourn or it isn’t. Either it is a life that has ended or it is not. You cannot mourn miscarriage yet support abortion. Ever. Period. End of story. And if you are pro-choice yet have experienced a pregnancy or infant loss, I believe you need to take a sober, careful look at what you believe. If abortion does not take a life, then what are you mourning? What have you lost?

I believe our culture is quickly losing its grip on the value of life. Another example of this has been in the news and all over social media recently. Brittany Maynard is a 29-year-old with terminal cancer who has chosen to end her life on November 1. Through doctor-assisted suicide, which is legal in Oregon, she will take her life and go on to “whatever is next.” And reading that sentence broke my heart. Because I know that “whatever is next” for someone who dies without a relationship with Christ is an eternity in hell. I have been praying fervently for this girl, who is about my own age, and for her heart. I have been praying that the Lord would intervene. That He would send Christians to her to share the Gospel with her. That He would bring her into a saving relationship with Himself. That He would give her new life — life eternal — even as she is facing death.

My heart is not only broken for Brittany and the state of her soul, but it is broken for our culture and our disregard for the sanctity of life. I have been absolutely appalled at the Christians I know who have applauded her decision and celebrated her “bravery.” Dear Christians, do you realize what it is you are applauding and celebrating? Have you forgotten the VALUE of life completely? Have you forgotten God’s Word?

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39

“The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.” 1 Samuel 2:6-7

GOD gives life and He gives death. Who are we to think we can control life and death? Who among us is qualified to decide who gets to live and who does not? Is the doctor administering euthanasia? Is the mother choosing abortion? Is the politician pushing an agenda? Are you? Am I?

My heart is heavy tonight as I pray for my friends who have lost babies, and I grieve for the 56.6 million babies who have been aborted in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, and I intercede on behalf of Brittany Maynard, and I mourn for our culture which has lost the understanding of the value of life.

To those of you who hold a different worldview than I do, I beg of you: Spend some time examining your opinions about miscarriage, abortion, and euthanasia. If you believe in the value of life in one case, can you not see the value of life in every case? If one lost life is to be mourned, is not every lost life worthy of mourning? Is not every life valuable?

And to my fellow Christians, I beg of you: As people who believe God is sovereign over life and death, let’s fight for life. Let’s fight against abortion and euthanasia. Let’s fight for the unborn and terminally ill. Let’s fight for the sanctity of life at birth, at death, and at all points in between.

Meet Millie

I haven’t updated the blog since May, but I promise I have a good excuse!

Blog, meet Millie.

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(Bella Baby Photography)

 

Amelia Ann was born on Friday, June 28th at 1:47 pm, only three days past her due date. After a relatively easy labor and delivery, she arrived weighing 7 pounds 8 ounces, and measuring 20 inches. We were surprised by how big she was, considering her big sister (who was also overdue) weighed only 6 pounds 6 ounces. But what surprised us even more than her weight was her head full of black hair.

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Piper was very excited to meet her sister, and even though she had gotten up at 4:30 that morning and then skipped her nap, she was very sweet. I had taken her to most of my prenatal checkups, and after seeing the doctor listen to Millie’s heartbeat, she would practice putting her toy stethoscope on my belly to check on Millie. So the first thing she did when JD brought her into the delivery room was borrow a stethoscope from a nurse to listen to Millie’s heart. It was so sweet and funny, and I wish I had a video of it!

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(Bella Baby Photography)

 

Millie is pretty vocal, and is a lot noisier than I remember Piper being. She can scream like a banshee, but more often grunts and grunts and grunts until she is gets her way. She doesn’t cry excessively, but she makes lots of noises and little sounds. Lately she has been cooing, laughing, and squealing. Piper will say, “Millie’s making noise!” like it’s the most amazing thing in the world.

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At her two-week checkup, Millie’s doctor asked, “What are you feeding her, fertilizer?” And I really don’t think she could grow any faster if I was! She is in the 90th percentile for both height and weight, and has grown so very fast. While Piper was always petite, Millie is a chunk. She has wonderful rolls and several chins, making her so squishy and fun to hold. Dressing her is challenging, however, as she grows out of her clothes as fast as I can put them on her!

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Overall, Millie is an easy baby. While it used to take Piper 30 minutes to nurse, Millie is done (and full) in 5. And Piper never liked the swing, but Millie loves it and naps in it several times a day. I knew Millie would be different than Piper, but I just couldn’t imagine how. Now, I often think that she is trying to prove just how different she is from her sister.

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(Britt Farris Photography)

My big sweet girl is three months old now, and the time is flying by. She is a joy and an answer to prayer, and our little family is so blessed to have her.

Piperisms (Volume 1)

My two-year-old is really funny. She makes me laugh all the time, and I’m constantly amazed by her active imagination and growing vocabulary. Here are a few of her recent “Piperisms” that I want to record and remember.

IMG_2773(While taking a post-dinner walk…)
JD: “Piper, we live on a pretty street, don’t we?”
Piper: “Yeah, it’s gray!”
(Two year olds are nothing if not literal!)

(Britt Farris Photography)

(Britt Farris Photography)

One day as we were driving to church, Piper noticed a bandaid on my leg.
Piper: “Mommy, you got a bandaid?”
Me: “Yes, I’ve got a bandaid.”
Piper: “Did you fall down in the street?”
Me: “No, I cut myself.”
Piper: “Mommy, you fell down in the grass?”
Me: “No, I cut myself with my razor.”
Piper: “Oh. Mommy, you fell down on your razor?”

IMG_2576While looking at animal flash cards, Piper came across a llama. “Look, Daddy, it’s a tall cow! It’s a giraffe-cow!”

……….

Piper, seeing some overripe bananas in the kitchen, said, “Mom? Those bananas got dirty?” I replied, “No, they just get brown spots when they get old.” I started to peel one to show her that it was fine, but she screamed, “No, Mommy, don’t eat it! It’s dirty!”

IMG_3085As we were walking out of church one Sunday morning, Piper stopped in the middle of the parking lot and said, “Where’s my shadow?” She was distraught and wouldn’t move. We tried to explain that it was cloudy, that it would return when the sun came back out, etc., but to no avail. She just stood there repeating, “Where did my shadow go? I can’t find it! I lost my shadow. The sun took my shadow away!”

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I was in the kitchen one afternoon when Piper walked up to me and the following conversation ensued.
Piper: “Hey, Mom!”
Me: “Hey, Piper!”
Piper: “Guess what?”
Me: “What?”
Piper: “Sea turtles!”

……….

One day she started walking backwards out of the room and yelled, “Oh no, Mom! I’m drifting away from you!”

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JD: “Piper, it’s time for bed.”
Piper: “I want to play in my big girl bed first.”
JD: “Okay, you can play for a little while.”
Piper: “No, a BIG while!”

……….

She’s started calling her piggy bank a penny pig. It’s so cute and I’ll never correct her!

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Every night at bedtime, JD tucks Piper in. (It has to be Daddy, not Mommy.) When he leaves, I go in and tell her goodnight. Lately, every time I go into her room she asks, “Mommy, you got teeth?” I have no idea where this came from, but she asks it over and over again. One afternoon we were in her room playing, and she said, “Daddy, are you happy? Daddy’s happy. I’m happy, too! And Mommy’s got teeth!”

(Britt Farris Photography)

(Britt Farris Photography)

Piper calls her toy stethoscope her “doctor ears.”

……….

I was suffering through a fall allergy attack and told Piper I was sick. She said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I want to feel you better!” How sweet is she?

A Mother’s Day Confession

Yesterday as I told my mom, “Happy Mother’s Day,” she said, “You’re the one in the trenches of motherhood right now!” And you know what? I am. I am deep in the trenches of motherhood. I have a two-year-old daughter and I’m 33 1/2 weeks pregnant. Temper tantrums and meltdowns? I deal with those. Scraped knees and bumped heads? Check. Third trimester insomnia and exhaustion? Yep. Heartburn and an achy back? You bet. And while this may not be the easiest stage of motherhood, it is so blessed. Sloppy kisses and spontaneous hugs? I get those. Giggles and little girl squeals? Constantly. Baby kicks and nudges? Happening right now.

What do I, from my post deep in the trenches of motherhood, need to hear to be encouraged this Mother’s Day? I’ll tell you what I don’t need to hear. I don’t need to hear a to-do-list in the form of a sermon based on the Proverbs 31 woman. I don’t need to hear about perfect mothers who never make mistakes. I don’t need to hear about those saintly women who never lose their cool. I definitely don’t need to hear about moms who have it all together all the time. I don’t need to hear perfect. I need to hear real.

So many times we moms hide the mess, sweep it under the rug, and present a “perfect” face to the world. Social media seems to exaggerate this — I mean, who instagrams their sink full of dirty dishes? Or their filthy toddlers wearing mismatched clothes? Who tweets about their parenting failures? Or posts a Facebook status about their fight with their husband? We try to present our “perfect” families to the world, but all the while feel guilty that our real life doesn’t match the perfection our friends are presenting. Comparing our behind-the-scenes, un-aired footage with others’ highlight reels leaves us feeling inadequate and guilty.

So here is my confession this Mother’s Day: I don’t have it all together. Not in the least. My sink is almost always full of dirty dishes. I never catch up on laundry. (Sometimes I even forget a load of clothes in the washing machine only to find it wet and smelly a few days later.) I definitely don’t mop my floors often enough, and I only dust before my weekly piano lessons so my students’ parents don’t judge me. My bed doesn’t get made up every day, and my sheets don’t get changed every week. The inside of my car is filled with discarded toys, empty cups, and lots of crumbs. I sometimes find smelly milk cups under the couch or in the toy box. I occasionally let Piper eat popcorn for breakfast. She doesn’t eat many vegetables, but she gets a popsicle almost every day. If she’s not cooperating when we’re out shopping, I bribe her with a sucker. Sometimes I overreact to something she does and make her cry. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing when I discipline my child. In our battle of wills, she often wins. I don’t bathe her every single day. She gets away with more than I should probably let her. I allow my two-year-old to watch TV (maybe more than I should.) I haven’t made sensory bins or busy bags for her to play with, and I don’t plan to. Her baby book is still unfinished, and I never did get around to mailing out her birth announcements. Instead of boutique and handmade outfits, I dress my daughter in clearance rack and consignment sale clothes. I love to cook, but I’m lazy and don’t put much effort into it. I get excited for summer so that JD can grill and I don’t have to cook as often. I cook with real butter and sugar, and don’t care about the calories. I don’t buy organic apples. I eat dessert at least once a day (often twice). I don’t enjoy exercising, so I don’t do it often enough. I feed my unborn child sugar, french fries, and the occasional caffeinated drink. There are unfinished sewing and craft projects in almost every room of my house. My closets and bathroom cabinets are a mess. Most days (at least lately), I take a nap during Piper’s nap time instead of getting my house work done. I spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, where I see the “perfect” lives others are presenting to the world and start to feel guilty about the mess I live in.

Whew. How’s that for real? And trust me, I could go on for days.

But despite my mess, my failures, and my short-comings, I know I’m still a good mom. I always have time to cuddle. I stop what I’m doing to read a book or play a game with Piper. She is happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. My husband and I have a great relationship and enjoy spending time together. Somehow we’ll manage to add a newborn to the mess and chaos in a few short weeks, and we’ll make it. It won’t be perfect, but it will be blessed. Because it’s here in the middle of dirty dishes, temper tantrums, and morning sickness that God speaks to me. He teaches me about his patient love and forgiveness as I patiently clean up yet another spilled drink. I learn to rely on His strength when I’m exhausted and at the end of my rope. I realize the depth of the grace He has shown me as I try to show grace to my toddler. Motherhood is sanctifying me, and while I’m far from perfect, God is molding me to be more like Him little by little and day by day.

This Mother’s Day, let’s stop pretending to have it all together and admit that motherhood here in the trenches is hard and messy. Instead of seeking encouragement in Hallmark cards and empty platitudes, let’s find encouragement in the real-life messes and successes around us. It sure is freeing to admit that I’m not perfect and don’t have it all together, and I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. Won’t you join me in celebrating the real and shunning the “perfect” this Mother’s Day?

Ode to Tums

You’d think I would know better; you’d think that I would learn.

I just can’t eat some dishes without feeling the burn.

Lasagna, how I love you; and pizza, you’re my fave.

It’s spicy or Italian food or garlic that I crave.

I love my chips and salsa, and feel I need the heat

of hot sauce or Tabasco almost every time I eat.

What’s salad without dressing, and that sweet, sour bite

Of vinaigrette, balsamic, or Italian that I like?

These foods don’t go down easy, and they put up a fight,

Making me sick at bedtime; keeping me up all night.

It starts with a full tummy, and then a little burp,

Next thing you know I’m belching, and re-tasting my dessert!

It’s not ladylike, I know; but it just can’t be helped!

This baby in my belly makes herself known with a belch.

A glass of milk may be helpful; home remedies I’ve tried:

Pickle juice and papaya can’t keep the burps inside.

‘Cause when I’m really struggling with bad acid reflux,

Milk just isn’t strong enough, all the home remedies suck.

In that moment I turn to a tried and tested source,

of relief (and calcium – it’s good for you, of course!)

I reach for the blue bottle, and when I hear the sound,

Of rattling pills I know that relief will soon be found.

Oh, Tums, I dearly love thee! Now let me count the ways,

You help me out and soothe me, and get me through hard days.

Sometimes I just need two pills, and sometimes I need four;

Many days the heartburn keeps me coming back for more.

Peanut butter sandwiches no longer pose a threat,

With Tums fighting off reflux, the challenge can be met.

I take them after dinner, and often before bed,

No longer am I tasting burps – it’s chalky Tums instead!

With a bottle in my purse, and one beside my bed,

I no longer have to fear the food that lies ahead.

So bring on the spaghetti! Please, someone pass the wings.

With joy I read the menu, and eat my favorite things.

So whether you are pregnant, or just have bad heartburn,

Please take this advice from me; heed the lesson that I’ve learned.

Indigestion can be cured, acid reflux can be fixed.

Go buy yourself some Tums – they always do the trick!

A letter to Baby #2

Dear Baby,

Your mommy, daddy, and big sister are so excited to meet you. We love you tremendously already. You, sweet little one, are an answer to prayer. (Many, many prayers!) We can’t wait to add you to our little family.

Well, I take that back. We CAN wait. You see, Baby, God is already teaching us and sanctifying us through you! And one of the things He’s teaching us is to wait. We waited months for the news that you were on your way, and it was hard. Every time I realized we had to wait another month, I grieved. I grieved for a potential baby that was lost. I grieved for the time that was lost. I grieved (more selfishly) because I wanted something and I didn’t get my way. I know many families wait and grieve like this for months and years, but I’ve learned that it’s hard whether it’s a month or a decade. God had a plan for our family, and His timing was specific. While we were waiting, He was teaching us to trust Him and rely on His plan. God didn’t want to just give us a baby; He had a specific baby for us. This specific baby required specific genetic material, and any different timing would have resulted in a totally different baby! God had us waiting for you, Baby, and you’re absolutely worth the wait.

The waiting wasn’t over, however, with a positive pregnancy test. Oh no, the waiting had just begun! We had to wait for the first doctor’s visit, the first ultrasound, hearing the heartbeat for the fist time, and finally feeling you move. We’re still waiting to find out whether you’re a boy or a girl, and we have months to wait before we can meet you. But I’m learning to enjoy the waiting. Instead of being impatient and looking forward to the next milestone, I’m trying to enjoy the here and now. I’ve loved every minute of being pregnant, and I want to enjoy it without rushing through to the end. I know now, as a second-time mom, that it all goes WAY TOO FAST! If I rushed impatiently through this pregnancy, I would also be rushing through your sister’s toddler phase. While I may be anxious to have you in my arms, I am in no hurry for her to grow up. So we’re taking things slowly, enjoying milestones as they come, and focusing on the present instead of keeping our sights set on a due date.

Waiting patiently is a valuable lesson, but it’s not the only thing God has taught me in the last few months. I’ve been learning to trust His sovereignty more and worry less. I’m not a worrier by nature, but motherhood has changed that! I never spent too much time meditating on Jesus’ teachings about worry, because I needed His help with other sins more. But lately He’s shown me that I do harbor worry in my heart instead of trusting Him. When I was expecting your sister, I didn’t have as many concerns and anxieties as I do now. Now, several years later, I know much more about miscarriage and infertility. I have close friends who have experienced loss. I’ve read more about pregnancy and potential complications. And this increased knowledge has increased my worry. It doesn’t help that my children (I’m talking to you, baby!) like to scare me senseless. At twelve weeks, both you and your sister hid from the doctor so she couldn’t find your heartbeat. Do you know how long the walk to the ultrasound room is when you’re not sure if your baby’s heart is still beating? Do you know how long it seems to take for the ultrasound tech to get everything ready? Do you know what a relief it is to finally hear that heartbeat? No, I guess you don’t, or you wouldn’t have put your mother through that! At least those long minutes leave plenty of time for prayer. It’s not easy to choose trust over worry, Baby, but God is teaching and I’m learning. And you’re helping with that process, for which I’m grateful to you.

Baby, we are praying for you. We’re praying that you will grow strong and healthy. We’re praying for your character, and that you will value honesty, kindness, integrity, patience, diligence, and perseverance. But, Baby, most of all we’re praying for your heart. You see, in our family, Jesus is most important. We’re praying that you would grow up knowing and loving Jesus, and that you would trust Him as your Savior at an early age. Baby, we want you to have a heart that above all else loves and treasures Jesus. We pray that you would grow up to care about God’s kingdom and His mission. We want you to live your life for Jesus, and not only for yourself. Baby, God has you in his hands and He has an amazing purpose for your life. Follow Him. Love Him. Serve Him.

Your parents are so thankful for you, and the blessing you have been to our family already. We love you and we’re so excited that God chose us to be your parents. In only a few short months your mommy and daddy (and sister, and grandparents, and aunts, etc!) will get to hold you in our arms and kiss your cheeks. Until then, grow strong; and thank you for teaching us and drawing us closer to our Father.

Planning to be a Stay-at-Home Mom

When I was five and someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would tell them about my plans to be a missionary/movie star/artist. (I wanted to travel to distant places to film movies, where I would paint the sets and tell people about Jesus while I worked.) When I was in sixth grade, I thought that maybe I should look into becoming a courtroom artist. (I still laugh about that one!) In high school, I wanted to be a doctor. By the time I got to college, I was smart enough to realize that I had no idea what I wanted to be. I considered international relations, nursing, and law before I finally settled into the education department and began preparing for a teaching career.

But all along, from the time I was young, there was a tension and a conflict that kept me from deciding on a future career. You see, what I really wanted was to be a mom. A stay-at-home mom. And I knew that my desire to stay home with my children was in conflict with all of those careers I was considering. But high school teachers and college professors don’t think much of a girl’s desire to prioritize a family over a career, especially if that girl is an honors student with a bright future ahead of her. I was told that I needed a high-paying job and a prestigious career to fulfill myself. I needed to be able to support myself. I needed to “do something meaningful” with my brains. I needed to make something of myself.

When I was a freshman in college, my dad, my sister, and I drove to Macon, Georgia to meet with a scholarship counselor. She was supposed to help us find other sources for scholarship money, but instead it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad experience. (A different blog post for a different day.) However, as we talked with her, she asked me what I wanted to do after college. When I told her that I was leaning toward teaching, she asked me why. In that moment I had a quick internal debate – should I tell her what she wants to hear, or should I be completely honest? Against my better judgment, I decided to be honest. I said that I wanted to be a teacher because I really just wanted to be a mom, and teaching was the career that seemed least in conflict with that desire. Well, boy was that the wrong answer! She went off on a tirade against my reasoning, told me I could do better than teaching, and mocked me for wanting to be a stay-at-home mom. I just sat there and tried to hold back my tears.

Her attitude, however offensive, was not abnormal – I encountered it everywhere. No one seemed to think that motherhood was a “career” to plan for. Everyone tried to push me toward a career that entailed years and years of school and long hours of work. At the time I didn’t realize that the battle I was fighting was actually against our post-modern culture. Feminism has spread so far and so deep, and it has greatly devalued the role of wife and mother. Few modern mothers prioritize their children over their careers. Call me old-fashioned, but I didn’t want to compromise in this area.

So, I kept my ultimate goal of being a stay-at-home mom in mind as I made decisions in college. When faced with the option of taking on a lot of debt or transferring to a different college, I transferred. I continued with my plan to become a teacher. JD and I got married, I graduated, and I wanted to go to graduate school. But grad school meant debt, so I put it off. I taught for a few years in two different schools – one job I LOVED and the other I HATED. And when we were ready to start a family, nothing was standing in our way. We didn’t have any debt. No student loan payments, no credit card debt, nothing. We were able to live on JD’s salary. And I was able to stay at home with Piper, which I wouldn’t give up for all the money or prestige in the world.

My best friend, Chrystal, has taken a different path but is still working and planning to be a stay-at-home mom when the time comes. When she finished college, she wasn’t dating anyone and honestly thought she’d never get married. So she started pharmacy school, but before long was dating a great guy and making plans for the future. They got married a few years later, and Chrystal graduated from pharmacy school in May. Most young couples with two (very good) incomes would be living it up – vacationing, buying cars and a house, enjoying the fruits of their labor. But Chrystal really wants to be a stay-at-home mom as soon as possible. She and her husband are living modestly off of his income and throwing all of her salary and any extra money they have toward her student loan debt. In a few years they’ll be debt free, accustomed to living on one salary, and prepared for Chrystal to stay at home with their children.

I write all of this as a reflection on my journey to becoming a stay-at-home mom, but also to encourage other young women. If you desire to be a stay-at-home mom, plan for it. Keep yourself out of debt. Make college and grad school decisions with your end goal in mind. Don’t listen to anyone who thinks motherhood is not a good career choice. Ignore the pressure to find success and prestige in a degree or a salary. Our culture says motherhood has little value, but don’t listen to that. It’s the most important job, and the most rewarding. I promise you, if being a stay-at-home mom is your desire, you won’t find fulfillment in any other career.