What Matters More Than Comfort

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I hate pain. Seriously. Ask my husband. He hears about every stubbed toe, every cramp. I pop Advil at the first sign of a headache. I have the tiniest pain tolerance. Really tiny.

I heard about labor and delivery from a few friends, and everyone I knew told horror stories of pain. There was no conversation to be had, really. I am a pain avoider. So I will get the drugs. Duh.

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But halfway through my last pregnancy, something happened, something strange. After watching The Business of Being Born, freedom to move and avoid unnecessary labor interventions became more important than comfort. And I decided to do a natural birth.

[Perhaps you should know that I assumed labor was akin to a migraine, and I’d had plenty of those. I figured I must have a high pain tolerance with how many migraines I’d experienced. Oh, if I only knew. Well, I was about to find out.]

My labor ended up being rather intense, as labor tends to be, between the nausea and dehydration and getting hooked up to cords and tubes I never intended to need. The pain was other-worldly, if you want to know the truth, but my body did me a favor by putting me into a trance during the most intense part. After that experience, I knew exactly why around 80% of US women use an epidural during labor.

However, when I got pregnant this time, I knew I would do another natural birth. Because I am crazy. Well, it was easy to say because it was months away. But as the weeks turned into days, I could feel myself tensing with fear, the anxiety of birth and pain overwhelming even my desire to meet my son.

I didn’t know if I could do it, that intensity. The feeling of no-going-back. The Pain Avoider in me didn’t want to do it again, and yet, I felt like choosing the epidural was not being honest with myself.

The question hung out in front of me, and I had no answer: if I hate pain so much, why would I choose a drug-free birth? No one is forcing me to do this.

As I fought with it, I realized that there was something that mattered to me more than comfort, something bigger than my fear. I wanted a natural birth because I didn’t want to look down at my legs and not be able to move them. I wanted mobility, freedom during labor, even if there was pain. I wanted freedom to choose. And I had that.

And somehow, there was something beautiful and compelling in the knowledge that I would be rendered somewhat helpless, in need of God and the support of those around me. My body would know what to do every step of the way, but more than that, the intensity of labor and delivery was an invitation to trust God completely. To lean into him. And I couldn’t say “No”.

Well, I could. There was no pressure. But I knew I wouldn’t.

The choice to pick pain over comfort isn’t offered only when birthing humans. Pain and vulnerability are always part of any delivery process. Any time something is coming out of us creatively, whether it’s art or a new business idea or a child, there is pain in the delivery.

We have hold on to the idea until it is fully formed, and then we have to push it out of us. We have to overcome inertia. We have to lean on others to help. And then, we have to open up and let the thing out, terrifying as it may be. Even with the advances in modern medicine, even with the drugs, childbirth is not totally pain-free. There’s always an element of discomfort, sometimes even temporary misery, in delivery.

We can’t hold onto a baby, an idea or a dream, forever. Birth becomes an inevitable part of holding onto an idea or a created thing. And although it may cause pain, or rather, might be very intense, the release becomes a necessary thing. It becomes a thing I choose to overcome because to have the new child, idea or project in the world matters more to me than staying where I am now.

Are you holding something in, afraid to release it? A book idea, an business model you’ve been sitting on? Sometimes the idea has to germinate for a while, but there’s a point when we need to let it out. So what’s holding you back?

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When Life Makes No Sense, Neither Does Peace

Ever feel obligated to be anxious? I do. It’s a strange pressure, but it’s one I feel when I’m in a situation that makes no sense. When the uncertainty mounts, and there are no clear, settled answers, it’s time to cue the worry.

Surrounding the birth and health of my son, I’ve fought with and for peace, while wrestling with two realities: 1, It makes sense to feel anxious. And 2, God’s peace does not make sense.

We all crave peace and calm, but what we usually mean by peace is lack of conflict, an absence of things to be concerned about. But that’s not peace, that’s just, well, I don’t know what to call it because it’s certainly not my life.

Peace that matters is the kind we experience in the middle of the questions. It’s an Anyway Peace, not a Because Of Peace. Peace in spite of, not explained by, the circumstances.

God continues to offer Anyway Peace to me, in the quiet, yet passionate prayers of friends and mentors, and when I bring my concerns back to him, just the two of us. I can sense there is nothing to worry about.

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Yet I feel compelled to stress a little. People feel more comfortable when I am stressed because it’s easy to draw a line between a life in question-mark mode and our natural insecurities about how everything will turn out.

So sometimes I throw them a bone. I’m a recovering people-pleaser, after all, and I don’t want to let them down. They need to see my emotions match my situation. I want them to know I am human too, that a baby in breech with the possibility of a kidney problem makes me squirm in nail-biting anxiety like everyone else. 

But I don’t really believe my own anxiety. In the moment, I just don’t know how to communicate my calm in this storm.

The simple truth is I’m living under the umbrella of “the peace that transcends understanding”. In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul slides an alternative to anxiety across the table. “Don’t be anxious,” he says.” Instead, pray and give God thanks for what he has done and is doing. Then make your request. That’s when God’s peace comes, blowing right past logic and all that makes sense.”

God’s peace is funny like that. It doesn’t promise to come in and tie bows on things. It comes right out and says, “This kind of peace won’t feel friendly to your logic”. But if it’s peace we want, then we can have it. Just spill your gratitude, ask for what you need, and let him do the calming.

When was the last time you felt peaceful when you should’ve felt stress? Share in the Comments below.

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You Have to Fight for Peace

It might seem odd to say that peace, or the state of peace, requires conflict first. But in my life, that’s been true.

Recently I’ve had to fight extra hard for peace. Especially with the health of my son and me. The problem is I don’t want to fight. I just want to sleep. I will go ahead and blame pregnancy, but I don’t have much energy mentally or physically anymore. Some days I just want the pregnancy to be over and my son to get here already.

But there is growth and work left to be done in the season so I can’t abandon it yet. And so, the fight for peace continues.

There doesn’t seem to be an exact formula for peace, although I would love to give you one. I adore input-output formulas that allow me to know exactly what to expect. But in real life and in real relationships, there is no such thing.

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For me, the fight for peace comes through two main practices. When I first get serious about peace, I need to look at the worst case scenarios and decide if I will survive them or not. This is the practice of Telling Myself The Truth. As I churn through the various catastrophes, I discover with surprising regularity that I will survive. Every time. That I won’t find myself alone, and that I will be okay.

Once I’ve examined all the worst-case scenarios and discovered that I can survive them, I do feel better. It’s relief, but not contentment. It doesn’t keep me afloat.

But the next part of fighting for peace is the part that keeps me there. Gratitude is my real liferaft. Recognizing all the good in my life and God’s intervention in the past tense is the discipline that lets me stay in this place of peace for more than a few hours. Gratitude is a home I come back to when I feel displaced or out of sorts, when I feel discontent or fearful.

The practice of thankfulness and gratitude keeps me oriented to all the ways God has helped me, blessed me, giving me far beyond what I thought I needed or deserved. It reminds me that I walk on this path for his namesake, his reputation, not my own. He has staked his own name on how I how well I do and how things go for me. So I can calm down and relax because I know that he is invested in how my journey turns out.

Last night I whined to a few friends in the group that meets in my home Tuesday evenings. I told them about how I feel blimpy and elephant-like, slow and plodding, and I don’t much like this version of myself. But I don’t really want to gripe. I don’t just want to be done with pregnancy. I want my peace back.

This morning, I know I need gratitude more than anything. And more than usual. Although I am not fearful for the future with my son as much as I was a week ago, I still feel worn out and in need of a lift.

So here is what I am thankful for, in no particular order:

– I am thankful for two healthy children who bring me great joy, even while one of them is still living in my womb

– I am thankful for a husband who accepts me, loves me and encourages me 

– I am thankful for a job that I like, with great health insurance and lots of opportunities to be creative

– I am thankful for a church community that embraces me in my weirdness and authenticity without making me feel like I need to change

– I am thankful for a God who relentlessly pursues me, despite my attempts to disconnect

– I am thankful for words, to speak and to write them, to read and enjoy them, and my ability to communicate

– I am thankful for laughter, and the people who bring it to me. Usually that’s my husband and my son. And of course, Jimmy Fallon

I’m telling you, gratitude has magical powers. Or something like that. It’s impossible to stay cranky and frightened when I actively engage in remembering all the good swirling around me in abundance. So try it out. Start your fight for peace simply and quietly, with a short list of who and what you love. Then watch what happens.

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We Don’t Need More Reasons To Be Afraid

I don’t watch scary movies. I don’t need to. My life has enough fear and drama. I don’t feel afraid for my safety or anything, but there is plenty of unpredictability and anxiety to go around – I don’t need someone else’s imagined fear adding to it.

For example, two weeks ago, I went to a routine OB appointment. Everything was fine, except I was measuring small. The doctor sent me to ultrasound for another look. Baby looked good during the ultrasound, and the doctor said she wouldn’t call unless there was a problem.

But the next day she called. I braced myself. “His kidneys were dilated…we want to get you seen by a specialist.” My doctor calmly explained the risk factors associated with dilated kidneys, and I scanned her tone to determine how anxious I should get. Then I did my own Google search, which is usually a terrible idea because you know you’re going to find out you’re terminal. But this time it brought me helpful news.

As I browsed the reputable-looking sites, I sought nourishment for the anxiety. But all I found were a handful of risk factors and low probability of catastrophe. Anxiety squelched.

As my appointment with the specialist approached, I knew there was nothing to worry about. My imagination, while quite the thespian, cannot be relied on for any sort of accuracy.

“It’s probably nothing,” I assured myself. “His kidneys are probably normal. I’m sure it was a fluke.”

But at the ultrasound Tuesday, his kidneys had not changed. It was not a fluke. And although he was in head-down position two weeks ago, he was now breech.

I tried to be one of those really calm moms who doesn’t worry too much about things, but I suck at it. I lay there on the ultrasound bed, my chest and muscles tight. The ultrasound tech asked if I was going to be sick. I wasn’t, but I sure failed at giving the “I’m chill” vibe.

The specialist told me his current symptoms did not warrant any changes to the delivery process. They just need to keep an eye on his parts before and after birth. Then she had to go and undo the peace she planted with words like possibility of “reflux”, “blockage”, “infection” and “increased risk of Down Syndrome”, tempered by, “We see these symptoms a lot in little boys.”

So can someone please tell me if I should panic here? 

When we left, I sat in the lobby with Josh and cried giant tears. He handed me his handkerchief, and I forgot to ask if maybe he was scared too. It felt like the doctor just told us our child would be disabled with life-long kidney problems. I figured I would survive it all, but I wouldn’t like it.

The more I thought about it, I discovered new reasons to hold onto peace. After all, risk factors can’t determine future history. They only give an indication of what could be.

And we are all well-acquainted with risk.

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Every day we live on the wire, running risks of car accidents or plane crashes, risks of losing our jobs or health in a matter of seconds. Every night when we go to sleep, we risk our homes being broken into. When we start a new friendship or relationship, we risk our hearts being broken.

Yet we still fly and drive and sleep and date and play.

Why? Because risk is not a predictor. Risk is not fact. If it was, we would all stay home and wait for our own personal apocalypses. We all know risk doesn’t mean a diagnosis, but sometimes it feels like it does. Especially when you’re lying on the table in the doctor’s office. When the news is new, and we feel helpless. That’s when risk can feel like destiny.

Ah, but it’s only risk. It’s possibility. Potential. An educated guess at likelihood. And in my case, although the potential for health issues with my son increased from what I knew a few weeks ago, the risk is still low.

There is no diagnosis. No stamp of doom. Only risk.

In the face of these health risks and the real-life anxiety accompanying it, I am learning to tell myself the truth:

There is still a high risk that my son will be perfectly healthy.

My son is at risk for normal kidney function and a life without disability.

My son is at risk of changing positions from breech to vertex in preparation for a normal delivery.

I am at risk for being a delighted mother to a second baby boy who is perfect in every way.

Those are the biggest, most real risks at stake. And all I can do is celebrate them.

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The Right To Be Whatever You Are

I need to tell you something: I’ve been lying. Or at least shrinking the truth.

It took me until Sunday night in a room full of Christmas carols to realize it. I stood up for the chorus, “Sing Joy”, but I didn’t feel joyful. And I finally knew why.

I have so many reasons to sing Joy. But I’ve been silent for months now. Silent in order to respect my friends who aren’t married or have fertility issues or who aren’t living in the moments they wish they were.

Although our fertility road hasn’t been smooth, and this has been one of the most difficult years on record, I find myself this December in a plentiful place with so much to be thankful for. So much to be joyful in. A baby coming. My first book releasing. Dreams coming true.

But I’ve been swallowing it. Shrinking down the goodness of it all to make it “manageable” for the torn ones around me. 

No one asked me to do it. I assumed it might help. But the guilt of my blessing is now a burden, and no one asked me to carry that.

I just haven’t given myself permission to feel happy when my friends are grieving. It felt selfish, and I feared being perceived as flaunting what I have.

We so rarely give ourselves permission to feel whatever we feel, to refrain from judging one emotion as good and another one bad.

Most of us are stifling our anger, grief and joy because the people around us don’t know how to handle it. They can’t enter into it with us so we all do each other a favor and pretend the feelings aren’t there.

But it’s a lie, and it’s toxic for our relationships and our souls.

When my friends mom died a few years ago, everyone wanted her to hurry up and get over it. But she wasn’t “over it” – she still needed to grieve. As I drove down the highway to home one night, I whispered permission to her. Permission to be, to feel, to not squelch or quiet or diminish the pain. She had the right to feel exactly how she felt. 

For our souls to be healthy, we need honesty, but first we need permission.

So I am giving you permission to feel however you feel. I will trust that you are not arrogantly flaunting your happiness or wallowing in self-pity. Unless you clearly are. 🙂

I need you to give me permission too. I want to enjoy this season of expectation and a longing fulfilled with you without feeling the scorn of your judgment. I want to know you are happy for me, that we are welcoming a long-awaited baby, that doors have opened for me to chase a dream down. 

I’ve not felt an ounce of judgement from anyone, to be fair. I’ve only felt your celebrated encouragement. I am so thankful for that.

I want you to know, though, I’m hurting with those who hurt. And I am angry at injustice and sickness that steals from all our lives. But I can manage all that empathy and still feel overwhelming gratitude that I am where I am. Finally.

So let’s be in this together. Let’s support each other, not assuming the worst but the best. This life and all the disappointment and waiting and grief is hard enough without having to pretend the joys don’t matter.

Besides, what if my joy is someone else’s hope?

Or what if your sadness expressed resonates perfectly with someone else, still gathering the courage to share their heartbreak?

Humble honesty is what I want from you. And I will do my best to give it.

Thank you.

So without further ado, pictures of me and the baby growing from Week 12 and 24. I am 24 weeks today, and as you can see, we’ve given our guy a name and everything. James Wesley. Another revolutionary boy. I am so honored to raise these fiery men who will certainly turn the world upside down.

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When It Seems Like God Can’t Be Trusted

It’s already been three weeks since I announced my pregnancy with our second baby. I’ve been thrilled about the news and the process – pregnancy is such a crazy mystery to me. But this has also been one of the most difficult seasons of my life. I’ve had to fight so many times to believe everything would be okay.

It started with the strange circumstances around the pregnancy. I shouldn’t have been able to get pregnant when I did. I didn’t expect to be pregnant when I took the test. It seemed like a fluke, or just a giant gift from God. And I’ve spent the last two months since I learned the news trying to decide which one it was.

I remember trying to guess how far along I was, and I had no idea. Since I work in a hospital, one of my co-workers offered me an ultrasound. I took her up on it. But as I laid down on the bed, I prepared myself for a blank screen. Sad news.

Instead, this is what I saw.

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Relief washed from head to toe. The size of a blueberry, or some tiny fruit, the ultrasound said baby was about seven weeks along. Close to my estimations.

Two weeks later, we visited the doctor for our first official ultrasound. We brought John along to see the baby. Again, fear rushed into my mind. What if the baby’s gone? What if there’s no heartbeat? I wouldn’t even have symptoms.

The wand glided over my belly, and we saw a tiny body, with the teeniest arm and leg buds, swimming, spinning, moving so fast. I couldn’t believe it. Still there.

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Then the bleeding came. It wasn’t much according to medical terms, but it felt like my insides were going to fall out. Stunned, I sat in the bathroom and envisioned how I would announce our loss to our excited friends and family, how they would be disappointed, and we would want to be left alone. How I would finally understand grief in a new way.

Isn’t miscarriage a rite of passage, I thought? Don’t I have to go through this somehow? It’s happened to your friends – what makes you think you’re exempt?

I sent a text to a few friends for prayer, but my heart was pounding. It was hard to breathe. I crawled in bed, a less than subtle act of surrender.

And then something happened. I decided to fight. I had to fight the anxiety, but more than that, I had to fight for the baby. I had to change my inner monologue.

NO. I prayed for this baby. I prayed for over a year. I held up my seedling of faith and the answer came at an unlikely time. This is not some fluke. This is my baby. This is a gift. And I’m not just going to let him or her go that easily.

I whispered all the protection prayers I knew, and over the phone, I let my mom and one of my best friends breathe them over me with power. Prayers like life flooded in through text as I tried to ignore the cramps.

Breathe.

But in the back of my head, I always know God’s not obligated to give me what I want, that Yes and Amen to my every wish aren’t always the best way to tell my story.

When it seems like my dreams might delayed or dissolve completely, I’ve learned to tell myself the deepest truths. I remind myself so gently of the three essentials to my existence, and that no matter what I give up or who I lose or the ache in my heart, these three things will always be true. So when the doubt crept in and the prayers lost hold, I said to myself:

1. Sarah, if we lose the baby, you will be okay. You will survive. You will not die.

2. No matter what, you will never be alone. That’s a promise. You can lean on it.

3. God is good, even if the baby dies. Or even if there’s a problem. Or something goes terribly wrong. God is good. He will always be good.

These little phrases floated up from the summer of 2009. That’s when I read The Shack and found myself arguing with God. I can’t trust you unless you protect me from pain. I don’t want life to hurt. Tell me it won’t hurt, and I will let go.

But he reminded me he didn’t even protect his son from pain. He never promised a life free of pain. He just promised he will never leave me.

So these three reminders, that I will survive, that I will never be alone, and that God is good, these come from the reality that life is pain at times, but it is also beautiful.

And it is safe to trust in God and life because of these things. These are what I hold onto, even when everything I know fails to stand.

So here are pictures from this week – the story and the baby are still being told. The amazing thing is, my fear didn’t ruin anything. I had another ultrasound at work this week. And this tiny, lovely body is what I saw, curled up inside me although I rarely feel it.

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I absolutely love this picture. It looks like the baby is rolled over, away from me, like s/he’s saying, “Five more minutes, Mom.” All the detail here with the little arm, leg and ear and the spine are so wonderful.
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A slightly less clear profile shot, but quite clearly a baby. Such a good, good thing.

It matters what we tell ourselves when things are going badly. What do you tell yourself when the world feels like it’s caving in?

 

 

 

 

Why “Working Mother” Is A Redundant Term, Part 2

Hello there, and welcome. This is the second part of my conversation on the incredibly redundant term, “working mother”. If you are just joining the read, it might help you to catch up by reading yesterday’s post here, where I left off talking about my journey out of self-righteous feminism.

When one of my best friends, someone who vigilantly linked arms with me in our efforts to empower women, decided to leave the workforce and stay home, we both had some philosophical wrestling to do.

One of the primary goals of feminism is empowered and educated choice for both genders, not just one. So when my friend chose to stay home, not because of an imposed feminine ideal, but because of her own desire, this resonated with me. She retained her choice, and therefore her identity and calling. This was massively important to both of us.

But the real truth of calling surfaced: no longer was a life purpose relegated to participation in the workforce. I’d always known this, but now here was the tangible evidence. My friend, a former workforce laborer and social worker, was now a stay-at-home mom. No more business cards. No more work hours. No more titles. Her calling was going to manifest in her new role, in her home, as a parent and a wife.

Suddenly, calling myself a “working mother” felt like an edgy face-slap to my friend. Phone conversations about her day and mine revealed who had the more challenging gig. It wasn’t me.

I listened as my friend explained her new schedule: consoling her infant daughter, rocking her daughter to sleep for literally hours, only to realize she didn’t know what to make for lunch, or dinner, educating her almost preschool-age son, wondering when she would fold the never-ending load of laundry, all while trying not lose a body part navigating Lego landmines and trying to remember where she left the binky. Nevermind alone time or date nights. When would that ever happen?

She never once regretted her choice to stay home – the rewards were far too many. But as far as challenges go, she’d reached the max.

Who’s working harder? Who’s doing work that matters more? Those aren’t the right questions. Both of these moms are making sacrifices, but we have to stop overlooking the challenges and contributions of stay-at-home mothers.

Being a stay-at-home parent sounded impossible. In fact, my day job felt like an escape. I got to run off into my area of competency all day, got to look knowledgeable and pretend to be “the expert”, with opportunities for acknowledgement for all my contributions.

Meanwhile she woke up to the same rewarding yet difficult labor, day after day. She wanted to do it, she chose it, and she didn’t miss her work. But she’ll tell you – this mommy life is not for sissies.

Yup, her job is way harder than mine.

So back to the “working mother” business. This term has got to go. It not so subtly implies that stay-at-home moms like my friend aren’t working, that they are just sitting there catching up on 30 Rock episodes while their Roomba vacuums and a nanny totes the children about to various activities. Hardly.

And what’s worse, I’ve heard many women answer the question, “So what do you do?” by saying, “I’m just a mom.” AACCCKKK! No! Just a mom? Come now.

From now on, when someone asks what you do for a living, you should answer, “I’m just doing one of the most difficult and thankless jobs on the planet every day because I really wanted to be the one to educate and empower my children for the short time I have them. I was fortunate enough to have that option so I chose it, and it’s hard, but I wouldn’t do anything else.” 

Yes, that’s what you should say.

So stay-at-home moms, and part-time stay-at-home/part-time work-out-of-the-home moms, I’m sorry for being a hater. I’m sorry for being so myopic and committed to my cause of feminism that I failed to see your empowered choice in your life. I hope you’ll forgive me.

I commend every man and woman who makes fully-informed choices to work or parent their children. I know some parents like me have no choice but to work outside the home, away from their kids, although they would love to stay home. And they are making giant sacrifices too.

But I especially want to honor the women who shirk off the social pressures to “matter” or “lean in” into the workforce and instead stay home with their children so they can be the ones to educate and raise them.

You are powerful people.

You are pioneers.

You are awesome.

And you have my sincerest respect.

Now I need your help: instead of using the term, “working mother”, what are we going to say if we work outside the home instead of inside the home? And while we’re at it, I wonder if we need to rehabilitate the stay-at-home mom term too. What do you think?

For more on this subject:

If you feel like you don’t matter any day, or most days, or every day, visit Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog. She talks about motherhood in the most honest yet noble way. She has a gift to infuse life back into your weary mom soul, and help give you back the vision for the great, great thing you’re living in motherhood.

And if you want to hear what a guy thinks about women who “just” stay home, you better hear from Matt Walsh. This guy holds nothing back in his opinion of those who misunderstand stay-at-home moms. I love what he has to say. It’s all Bam! In your face!

A Little, Tiny Announcement

Today is one of those days where I know God is extravagantly kind because my life is proof. Today is my birthday – I turn 32. And today, I am 12 weeks pregnant with our second, long-awaited child.

The details of how almost impossible this particular pregnancy seemed to me are a little too graphic, so I will skip it. If you remember though, I wrote about the disappointment of negative tests here, and it wasn’t long after that post that we got pregnant. I was nearly certain we couldn’t get pregnant when we did so the news shocked Josh and I when we saw the two red lines.

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A few weeks ago, my friend, the extraordinary image-capturer, Emma Wheatley of RoseWheat Photography, took us out into a little field of Kansas sunflowers to snap a few pictures of our happy news. I’ve been wanting to share them with you, but I made myself wait until my birthday when the little one would be 12 weeks. It was the best birthday gift I could think of. Here are a few of my favorites from our shoot with Emma, including a little ultrasound of the bean, at this time only 7 weeks.

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I don’t know all the reasons why we’ve had to wait and fight for both of our children, but I know God is with us through it all, and he has been so impeccable with his timing. John will be three and a half when this baby comes, and in many ways, I’m happy he’s had this time to be the beloved only child. And he will be more ready to be a big brother and help, rather then getting jealous. Although I’m sure he will have his days. He’s already praying for baby with us at night. Those prayers have got to tickle God just as much as they do us.

Thank you for reading and sharing my joy. And thank you for supporting me in the disappointment and the waiting. I am so thankful for community out here, as well as my church family, married and birth families and my friends, who all lift me up. You all are a Godsend.

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Negative tests and practicing my poker face

{I’ve been leery of sharing these thoughts and stories about our journey to have Baby #2. I don’t want to get pegged as an infertility writer cause I will feel guilty for getting pregnant when my readers are still trying. But more than that, letting strangers see the longings in my heart has been just too much. Way too much vulnerability. But two weeks ago, I was freaking out in a waiting room, hoping for certain test results. And I watched myself fight transparency and cover up emotion. It was weird. I didn’t want anyone to know. So this is the first time I’ve really talked about it. Here goes.}

Two weeks ago, something strange was happening to me, something “not normal”. I hoped maybe the weirdness was pregnancy, but home tests read negative. I ran out of homeopathic options and patience so I called my doctor. My regular, non-hippie medical doctor.

“We may have to run some tests, but we have to wait,” the nurse informed me. Of course. Tests. And waiting. Dislike.

“Can I rule out pregnancy?” I squeaked in the most non-neurotic voice I could muster. “I just want to be sure I’m not so I can make the necessary adjustments.” Yea, adjustments, like curing my racing mind and my feverish curiosity. The nurse humored me.

Less than 24 hours later, I left work early for my appointment in the lab. The drive to the clinic gave me 20 minutes to remember the last few times I sat in the lab waiting room, doing what you do in a waiting room: waiting. Trying to sit still, distracting myself with newsstand magazines, pretending to breathe.

The lab tech would call me back and draw my blood, and we both acted like it was no big deal, that I was just there for the Band-Aid, and I didn’t really mind at all if there was only one line on that test.

They would send me back to the waiting room for more discomfort and squirming. There I’d become spiritual.

I would try to imagine all the things I could do to make the test positive. Cross my fingers, blink five times fast, forgive all the people I’m mad at. I land on the best make-things-happen action step: surrender. Not real surrender, of course. Fake surrender. Super-spiritual apathy.

I tell God that I will be okay and he is still good and I trust him, not so much because I do, but because that’s how you get what you want around here, right?

I want surrender, but I would rather just be pregnant. That would save so much time.

After I wave my faux white flag, the lab tech inevitably comes out with the poker face and no voice inflection. “Tests are negative today.” Whoosh. Out goes the little flame of hope.

I am always surprised, but I pretend I’m cool. “Okay, thank you,” I half smile back, feigning confidence. So the results are only negative today, right? So maybe tomorrow they will be positive? Okay, I will be back. Tomorrow. And there’s always next month.

But I don’t feel confident at all. I’m disappointed. Something must be wrong. I wish I’d stayed home and let the white stick tell me the answer, but I had to come in. Just had to know. I can’t let the lab techs, the bearers of sad news, see that look on my face. I can’t let the strangers know my sadness.

After lab room flashbacks on the drive to the clinic, I decided to practice my own poker face. I knew the tests would probably be negative, but maybe not. That’s what I was there, right? I was ready for anything, and a positive result wouldn’t be hard to deal with. I just had to protect myself from the Messengers of Negative, ensure they don’t see even a change in eyebrow posture. Remember: stone-faced. Be prepared.

They draw my blood, and I wonder if I’m wasting my time. I don’t say that. I tell the lab tech I like the wall decor. “It’s so colorful,” I cheer.

Back to the waiting room, where I pull out my iPad to write. But I can’t write because I’m calculating my due date and how old John will be when his sibling is born and what if it’s a boy and I don’t think I can handle another boy, but I will just be happy if it’s a baby at all and I can always adopt a girl…

And then the lab window slides open. “Tests are negative today,” the blond lady announces. I’m alone in the waiting room, but I feel alone in the world. I will go home and tell Josh, and he won’t understand what it feels like to hope your body is growing a human life, only to find out it’s just messed up instead.

“Okay,” I stutter, but I wasn’t prepared like I meant to be. “I guess I’ll have to do something different.” What? Something different? What ever does that mean? My secret was out. I sounded drunk, but it was just the sadness. The out-of-controlness. The I’m-trying-everything-so-what-else-do-I-need-to-do?

I shoved my iPad back into my tote, wishing I’d been prepared to leave, hating the moment I lingered there helpless. She knows I’m sad. She knows I wanted the baby. She knows something is wrong with me. She knows.

I still don’t really understand why the lab techs scare me. They are only messengers. They don’t make me un-pregnant with their words. I just hate to hear it. It feels vulnerable. I don’t want the first person to know of my hope deferred, the person who tells me my body can’t do it, or just won’t do it, to be someone I’ve never met.

I walk to the car, texting my friends the news. On my way home, I call my cousin in Texas. “I’m not pregnant.” I try to sound optimistic.

I don’t say it, but I think the pregnancy tests should have a sad face for the negative. Then maybe it would feel like someone understands.

A friend recommended this book to me for those of us struggling with infertility at any level. It’s not advice. Lets be clear. Just journal entries, thoughts and prayers from a woman who was waiting. The book is called Moments for Couples who Long for Children. It sounds immensely helpful. Thank you for the tip, friend.

9 reasons I like being a mom

There are many days where I feel like a strange version of a woman. Being a working mom will do that to you. It can be confusing.

Mix in the fact that my son does not go to childcare but stays home with his dad, which is great and I am thankful, but this complicates things a bit since Josh is the primary caregiver.

Sometimes Josh is more nurturing and intuitive to John’s needs. And then I feel like some mutant mother who apparently is lacking oxytocin or maternal instinct, and I think maybe I should just stop having kids now before I mess up more people.

But there are many things I like about motherhood. Most of them aren’t really about me at all, but about this little person I am loving, training and enjoying. But then, motherhood isn’t about me ever. And I think that is what is most liberating about it: finally being able to really love someone more than myself.

So without anymore ado, here are a few reasons I like being a mother:

1. I like my son. I like him more than all the other kids in the world, even though there are some great kids out there. I also love him, which does not go without saying. I love him a lot.

2. I like seeing my husband be a father.

3. I like the unconditional love my son shows me. We are both punks, but he is more forgiving and resilient than me. I learn a lot from him.

4. I like knowing that my life extends beyond me, not just in time but in impact. Everything I give him and teach him lives in him. That is just so cool.

5. I liked pregnancy and the crazy mystery of human inside a human. I will never get over that.

6. I like all the hilarious stuff my son does. He is a genuinely amusing person with an engaging personality. He is a little bit me, a little bit Josh, but all his own person too.

7. I like watching him learn, knowing I taught him something.

8. I like the fact that no matter John’s life span, or mine, being a mother is something no one can take from me. I may not always be a writer or a social worker or even a wife. But somehow being a mother once means I am always a mother. It’s some kind of indelible branding that’s never lost, even if a mother outlives the child.

9. I like the fact there is an entire future inside of him: calling, destiny, talents, vision, proclivities, idiosyncrasies, a certain way of speaking, a unique charisma. There will be things I can teach him, and as he assimilates all he learns, I will be so proud. I will be amazed. “I can’t believe this is my son.”