Category: My Life

The Dark Side of Motherhood

Mental illness still has a stigma in our society. People who struggle with mental and emotional health problems are seen as crazy, or weak. Their problems may be seen as exaggerated, made up, or “all in your head.” Some people may suggest that these problems, such as depression and anxiety, can be easily solved with a few simple steps. Even the term “mental illness” is loaded. It sounds serious and scary and abnormal.

The reality is that psychological health is not always easy to maintain, and struggling with mental illness doesn’t make a person weak or crazy or strange. It also doesn’t mean that the person needs medication or that they are going to have a mental breakdown and do something extreme, such as harming themselves or others.

I say all of this because I struggle with depression, and I’ve always been uncomfortable sharing that with people. I still am. But I feel that I need to share it, to help other people out there who are struggling, and to make myself feel more normal.

For me, depression and anger have always been related somehow. I didn’t recognize it until recently, but I think I’ve struggled with a come-and-go type of depression for a great deal of my life, and even as a child I had a hard time handling feelings of anger and frustration.

I’ve heard it said that having children can be very cathartic, because it brings to light problems that you haven’t dealt with and forces you to deal with them. For me, this is definitely true. Since Cody was born, my anger problems have been brought to the surface and I have had to really work on learning to manage my anger better. Children can be amazingly aggravating in ways that push you to your very limits, but as a mother, I know that it is my job to act like the adult no matter what my child does. I have to hold myself to a certain standard, and I do not want to be a mom who yells or loses her temper at her children, especially at my baby who doesn’t even know any better.

My depression has also been an increasing problem since Cody’s birth. I read that it can be common for stay-at-home-moms to experience depression, and the reason for this is clear to me; it’s an incredibly difficult job. It is too easy to become isolated, bored, and monotonous. Add that to the likely sleep deprivation that many moms (and sometimes dads) experience, as well as the hormonal changes that come with and after pregnancy and with breastfeeding. Then, throw in a tiny human who can’t communicate properly, refuses to cooperate with naptimes and other necessary activities, throws frequent tantrums, and is constantly demanding things from you. It’s enough to make anybody want to hide under a blanket and drown themselves in a bucket of ice cream.

In my case, I definitely feel the effects of this stressful job, and my depression and anger can be overwhelming at times. I tend to become irritable and snap at the smallest things, I lose my patience with Cody, and I feel trapped and hopeless and just plain sad about life. It’s really the strangest paradox I’ve ever experienced, though, because at the same time that I’m feeling all of that on a regular basis, I also feel the most unbelievable joy over my little boy. I love him in an inexpressible way, and I would never, ever in a billion years want to change the fact that I have him. I also still believe that I was meant to be a mother, and a stay-at-home-mom, and to have several more children after Cody. It’s confusing at times to feel these two seemingly opposite sides of the coin at the same time.

Another interesting part of my mental struggles is that I don’t feel depressed all of the time. I really only feel that way during the work week, when it’s just me and Cody all day. On the weekends when Cory is here to help and we’re all together, I usually feel perfectly content and happy and excited about life. Friday nights usually feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of me. Saturday mornings I get to sleep in and that extra hour or two of sleep does wonders for me. Then of course on Sunday nights, like tonight, I start to dread the week to come.

Even though I feel pretty confident that my feelings of depression are not healthy or normal levels of sadness that should accompany the ups and downs of life, I have never been officially diagnosed with any form of depression. Part of the reason for this is that I have not sought it out. I have seen therapists twice in my adult life, for specific problems that I had at the time, but I haven’t asked to be diagnosed with depression or stayed in therapy long term. Honestly, I didn’t find it very helpful either time, and it was too expensive anyway. Another reason I haven’t been diagnosed is because I feel like I don’t fit into the parameters of what depression and related issues are supposed to look like. For me, it comes and goes on a weekly basis, and I don’t think I usually look depressed. I get out of bed in the morning, go about my day, and even get out of the house on a daily basis. Yet I still feel an overall “down-ness” that is a bit hard to explain.

Right now, I am doing what I can to work out my issues in the best way I can. I have things that I do to help alleviate the difficulties of stay-at-home-mom-hood, and I have tools that I use to handle my anger. I’m finding little things here and there that help me feel better in general, and of course I’m praying for permanent relief from these feelings of depression. I know that ultimately, God is my healer and he can deliver me. Sometimes, he uses medical and professional help to accomplish his healing, and I know that too. It’s something I am open to if it comes to that.

I hope this post is helpful to somebody. I know that I often feel like it has to be a secret, but it really doesn’t. It’s okay to feel the way I feel, and it’s okay to admit that I’m not perfect and that I’m working on it and that more importantly, God’s working on it. He’s always working to heal and improve me. And I know that I’m okay, even if I don’t have it all together.

Life with a High-Need Baby

When Cody was a newborn, he slept a lot and nursed a lot. That was pretty much all he did, and he spent the majority of his time in somebody’s arms, usually either mine or Cory’s. I didn’t consider him any more “high-need” than any other newborn baby would be. From about 2 months and on, though, he’s become a textbook high-need baby. Obviously, all babies have a lot of needs and are demanding, but there are some babies who are even more demanding than others. Dr. Sears describes a high-need baby as one who fits many of the following criteria: intense, hyperactive, draining, feeds frequently, demanding, awakens frequently, unsatisfied, unpredictable, super sensitive, can’t put baby down, not a self soother, and separation sensitive. I wouldn’t describe Cody as intense or hyperactive, but he definitely hits the mark with every other characteristic on that list.

Cody is draining, in that he takes every ounce of my energy and time. He is my job right now, and doing anything else that doesn’t include giving him my full or almost full attention is out of the question. I can’t volunteer at church right now because I can’t leave him, and I’d be too busy holding him to be of any help. I canceled my gym membership because, again, I can’t leave him. I don’t write anymore except when he’s napping, like right now. All of my activities either have to be flexible enough to be put down at a moment’s notice, so I can do them while he’s napping, or they have to include him. By the end of the day, I’m usually drained, especially mentally.

He also feeds frequently, about every hour and a half. This is the best timing for him to stay relatively in a good mood; if I wait longer than that, he gets fussy and when I do feed him, I have so much milk built up that he chokes on it and has a hard time nursing. He’s also uniquely demanding- he doesn’t just sit on my lap or play with his toys, he needs near-constant input from us. We have to change how we hold him every few minutes, change scenery, change activities, etc.

Awakens frequently is a mild way to describe his sleeping habits. Lately, for the past few weeks, he wakes up 6 to 10 (or more) times at night, and I can get him to nurse back to sleep about 75% of the time. The other times I have to put him in his swing, which thankfully works nearly every time. Even so, it’s hard to get a good night’s sleep waking up so frequently!

Unsatisfied means that there are times when nothing I do or Cory does will work to calm Cody down. Sometimes it’s all we can do to just rock him while he cries in our arms, until he falls asleep or something miraculously changes. Unpredictable means that what works to keep Cody happy or get him to sleep changes frequently, and that his schedule is not very consistent. Sometimes he enjoys an activity, other times he doesn’t. Sometimes he takes a 30 minute nap in the afternoon, other times it’s 2 hours or occasionally even longer.

Cody is super-sensitive, especially after his naps and when he’s tired. Loud or unexpected noises startle him and make him cry. He is easily distracted while nursing, and may not be able to concentrate if I’m talking to somebody, or even eating a snack with noisy packaging.

Generally, he needs to be held or within arm’s reach at all times, except when he’s sleeping in his swing. He does not like being put down or left alone for more than a few minutes. He’s not a self soother who can be put to sleep in a crib; even in his swing, he often needs me or Cory to sit next to him and shush him or lay a hand on him until he’s asleep. And lastly, he’s separation sensitive, meaning he needs to be with me or near me, or Cory, almost all of the time.

I share this all with my readers not to complain, but simply to share my experiences as the mother of a high-need baby. Some people may not understand what it’s like, or they may think that we’re overly indulgent parents, but the truth is we are just being the best parents we can be to a baby who needs a lot from us. I think it’s fortunate that Cody was born to us, parents who are willing and able to meet his needs. I came into this adventure with the mindset that I would give everything I have to this baby, and so I was prepared for a high-need child. It’s still hard and tiring, but it’s the best job for me in the world. Meeting Cody’s needs fulfills me and gives me motivation and challenges me. I love it, and I wouldn’t ever trade him for an easier baby.

And on that note, when Cody’s happy, he’s the sweetest and most wonderful baby around. He’s curious, interested in his world, interactive, silly, and so much fun. I take every day with him as it comes, savoring the perfect moments and praying and thanking God for him in the hard moments. He is such a gift, and I love him more than words can express.

Plus, as Cory said the other day, “he’s so cute, I just want to rip my face off!”

Living the Dream

Lately, in the quiet moments of the day, I’m often hit with a wave of gratitude as I realize that I’m living my dream life. When I sit back and look at my life, I’m amazed at how blessed I am. God has been so unbelievably good to me, and I’m so thankful.

Crazy as it may seem, I, like most humans I’m guessing, still often forget to thank God for what he’s done in my life. Something small will go wrong and I’ll get so caught up in it that I lose my attitude of thankfulness and start to complain. My life isn’t perfect, and I don’t expect it to be without challenges, but even in those challenges I want to be thankful for everything good in my life.

Because of that, I made a “Thankful List” that I keep easily visible on my phone. I wanted to take a moment today to share it, and remind my readers to be thankful for the good things in your lives. And in the areas you’re unsatisfied, keep praying!

Here’s my list:

-I have a wonderful, responsible, sweet husband who I love and who loves me
-I have Cody, the best gift ever
-Cory, Cody, and I are alive, healthy, free, and safe
-We have a beautiful house to live in, good food to eat, instant access to clean water, electricity and plumbing, clothes we like to wear, great cars to go places
-I get to be a stay at home mom
-Cory has a job that he likes that can support us
-We have an exciting future ahead of us with more children and big plans
-We get to spend a lot of time together (Cory, Cody, and I)
-Cody sleeps, eats well, and is generally happy; he is healthy, smart, and developing well!
-We have friends and family who we love and who love us
-We have a good church
-We enjoy many things in life
-Most importantly of all, we have an amazing God who loves us, cares for us, and promises us a perfect life with him forever in Heaven!

Dear Breastfeeding, I Love/Hate You

Cody is now almost 11 weeks old, and we’ve established a comfortable routine together. We know when and how to feed, change, sleep, and play, and most of our days go very peacefully. In the beginning, though, breastfeeding was a big problem. Considering that Cody spends a huge amount of his time nursing, our issues with breastfeeding were a daunting challenge.

I wanted to write this post because when I was pregnant, very little was said about the true nature of breastfeeding. Yes, I heard all about the wonderful, magical qualities of breastmilk and the beautiful bonding experience of breastfeeding. I heard about all of the benefits, for example, how it can reduce the risk of certain cancers for mom and how it’s the perfect, natural way to feed a baby. I even took it upon myself to study further, and read books about how to get a good start with breastfeeding. I knew what a good latch looked like and I truly believed that as Dr. Sears and La Leche League assured me, “breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.”

Well, that’s just plain B.S.

The truth is, breastfeeding almost always hurts in the beginning, and often continues to hurt for months. For all I know, it can continue to hurt for as long as I do it. In my case, I experienced severe pain in the beginning as a result of cracked and bleeding nipples, caused by a “shallow latch” supposedly. I saw a total of three lactation consultants, who helped me marginally, but in the end the only real help was time. By about 6 weeks I was able to nurse without severe pain, although to this day I still wouldn’t call it painless or completely comfortable. It’s more like I’ve developed the ability to ignore the discomfort. Fortunately, I go numb after the first minute of him sucking and then it doesn’t hurt at all. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? 😉

In the beginning I hated breastfeeding. I felt that I’d been misled into believing that it was easy and wonderful, when in reality, it’s kind of terrible at first. Even after the pain in the beginning wasn’t as big of an issue, I struggled with new problems. Cody is an avid nurser, and for the first month or so he wanted to eat pretty much every hour. That was obviously exhausting! Even now he tends to eat every 2 hours, except at night when he thankfully can go up to 5 hours in between nursing sessions. It can be difficult being the only one who can feed him. Then we went through the writhing and yanking stage, where Cody started to wiggle around wildly during nursing sessions for no apparent reason. I eventually discovered that he tends to do this when he’s gassy or when he runs out of milk.

I’ve struggled with other breastfeeding problems not related to Cody’s behavior as well. I experienced engorgement, which is when the breasts fill with milk to the point of being hard and uncomfortable. I still become engorged at night when Cody sleeps longer. I also have had to deal with severe leaking and overactive letdown—in other words, my milk really wants out! For a few weeks, I literally had to wear a prefold diaper in my shirt to soak up all of the milk. Now I’ve discovered disposable pads which are much more comfortable and magically absorbent. Still, it’s annoying to have to wear them all the time, and I have no idea if or when I will ever stop needing them as long as I’m breastfeeding.

So basically, breastfeeding has not been the magical, beautiful experience that I expected it would be. It’s been hard, and I’ve wanted to give up. The truth is, I probably would have given up or at least switched to pumping and bottle feeding if only Cody would take a bottle. He really doesn’t like anything but the boob, though, and that has been a blessing in disguise. Because now, even though it’s still not perfect, I kind of love breastfeeding.

Yes, all of what I’ve said is true and I would never lie and say that breastfeeding is easy or painless. But despite all of that, it’s still pretty awesome.

It’s true that nursing is a wonderful bonding experience. Sometimes when Cody’s nursing, I literally feel the warm loving bonding hormones coursing through me. It’s like a wave of love that I suddenly feel for him, even stronger than usual. It’s also super convenient to always have his food ready to go. I can literally feed him any time, any place. I nurse him in bed every night without having to fully wake up; I can nurse him in the car when we’re out (when we’re parked, of course); I’ve nursed him in a restaurant, at family parties, even on a Disneyland ride. Sure, a bottle could be used in any of those situations with just a little bit more preparation, but there’s something really cool about being able to feed him without any special supplies. All he needs is me!

When I have my next baby (which in case you were wondering, we are not planning to happen for another 3 years or so), I will definitely breastfeed. I will most likely experience all of the pain and new challenges all over again, and I will most likely hate breastfeeding again. But at least now I know that eventually, it does get better. No, it doesn’t happen after the first few days, or even the first few weeks like they say it will. And no, it doesn’t become painless and easy and perfect. But it is worth it!

For now, I plan to continue to breastfeed Cody until he weans himself, which may not be until he’s two years old or even later. I plan to restrict it to only at home once he’s over a year old, and then only at night once he’s over two years old, if it comes to that. I’ll offer him a bottle with breastmilk for as long as he wants. Although some people find it strange or even creepy to breastfeed for that long, I believe that my baby will wean when he’s ready to, and there’s nothing wrong with giving him what he needs to feel secure and to be healthy. If I start to feel uncomfortable with it, then we’ll stop. It’s important that I have boundaries for my own well-being.

Which brings me to another point I wanted to make: breastfeeding is optimal, but it is not the only option. Bottlefeeding breastmilk is not a bad alternative, and even formula feeding is not going to destroy your baby. Formula is not poison. I feel that many breastfeeding advocates have become insensitive to mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed, for whatever reason. Yes, breastfeeding is God’s design and it has many benefits, but you know what? God also enabled the invention of the bottle and formula. When you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, it’s a blessing to have these available. It doesn’t make you a bad mother if you don’t breastfeed.

Knowing that there are mothers out there who are uncomfortable or unhappy with breastfeeding or who have struggles that they cannot overcome makes me feel thankful that I have the privilege of feeding Cody this way. It’s not for everybody, and not everybody can do it, which is why even though it’s challenging in many ways, I am grateful for it. Breastfeeding is hard, but it’s also one of the best things I’ve ever done.

A Cruise, a Baby Bump, and Kicks from Cody

Hey readers, it’s time for an update!

Over the past 6 weeks, I’ve been feeling much better and starting to enjoy my pregnancy more. Starting around 16 weeks pregnant, I began to feel Cody moving around in my belly, an experience known as “quickening.” Though at the time I wasn’t confident about what exactly I was feeling, I’m now familiar enough with the sensation to know that it’s Cody practicing his wiggles, somersaults, kicks, punches, and stretches!

Then, last week, Cory and I went on our babymoon vacation, a 5-day cruise in the Caribbean. My appetite had returned with enthusiasm by that point, so I was able to enjoy the plentiful food available on the ship. As a result, I gained about 4 pounds (which is a lot for me, for just one week!) and filled out a bit more. Although some women dislike the idea of gaining weight during pregnancy, I’ve always been criticized for being too thin, so gaining weight is actually something I celebrate. Even though I know my natural build is perfectly healthy for me, it’s nice to be able to prove that I can gain weight just like anybody else, when I’m growing a baby.

Now that I’m looking more and more pregnant every day, things are feeling even more exciting! It’s such a crazy experience to look in the mirror and see my shape changing so dramatically. Goodbye waistline, hello baby bump! Cory’s equally amazed to see my belly growing, the proof that his son really is in there. Not only that, but last week Cory and I experienced perhaps one of the most thrilling parts of pregnancy so far—feeling Cody kick from the outside! I was resting my hand on my belly after feeling the baby wriggling around in there, and suddenly felt an unmistakable nudge against my hand. It took my breath away, and still does every time I feel it! Cory has been able to feel a few nudges, too. Right now, it’s harder for him because he can’t feel Cody moving like I can and know when to put his hand on my belly, plus his hand is warmer than mine and it seems to put Cody to sleep whenever he holds his hand there. Soon, though, little Cody’s kicks and punches will be stronger and I know that his dad will be able to feel them more easily.

In other news, I’m now two days away from reaching 20 weeks pregnant, which is the halfway mark! The first half of my pregnancy has seemed to pass quickly, yet so very slowly at the same time. Honestly, looking back I’m sure I’ll feel that pregnancy flew by, but in the middle of it, it feels like a lot of waiting. What a process making a person is! At the same time, it’s mind-boggling that God can create a whole human life from two single cells, in just 9 months. A miracle, indeed!

My main job right now is, of course, growing Cody. Since that doesn’t take a whole lot of conscious thought, however, I’ve found myself left with a lot of free time. I’m spending this time enjoying it while I can, since I know that once the baby’s born, it will be a rare commodity. I’m also trying to keep busy and productive by doing more things outside of the house. I’ve gotten involved serving in my church’s nursery, started doing a weekly book club with some of my Godly women mentors, and began taking karate lessons with Cory twice a week. It feels good to have things going on in my life to keep me motivated. It’s also nice to still have a lot of time to just relax, read, write, and enjoy the quiet spring/summer days at home while I can. Life is good!

Lastly, I’ve attached some photos from our babymoon cruise below. After taking a red-eye flight and grabbing a few hours of sleep at a hotel, we boarded the cruise ship in Miami, Florida, and spent the rest of that day and the next at sea, on our way to the first destination. We sailed to Grand Turk, in the Turks and Caicos Islands, where we enjoyed the beach, fed stray dogs, and went on a semi-sub tour of the coral reefs. Next we visited Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, a private island owned by the cruise line. There we enjoyed relaxing on the picturesque beach and floating in the crystal clear water. Then we sailed to Nassau, in the Bahamas, and took an excursion to a private beach in order to avoid the craziness of the urban tourist-y areas. Finally, we sailed back to Miami, where we went on an airboat tour of the everglades and spotted a few alligators. Overall, we had a very relaxing and mellow trip, which is just what we wanted. It was truly a blessing from God, and we have memories we’ll always treasure.

DSC01714   DSC01739   DSC01742   DSC01781   DSC01821   DSC01855   DSC01899  DSC01898

Changing Gears

In January, I started a Life Coach training course with the goal of becoming a Professional Christian Life Coach. A week later, Cory and I found out we were pregnant! In the two months since then, I’ve come to understand why people say that pregnancy is hard. I’ve been dealing with near-constant nausea, food aversions, headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, heartburn, and for the past few days, congestion. My time now is mostly spent laying on the couch, and playing the ever-changing game of trying to figure out what my body will allow me to eat. The dishes, vacuuming, and laundry have been sadly neglected. Meanwhile, my class has continued, and I’ve done my best to keep up with the assignments.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was reading a book for class called Visioneering. The book is about finding and pursuing God’s vision for one’s life. Visions can often be specific to a particular time in one’s life, of course. A teenager’s God-given vision may be to show the love of Jesus to as many students in his or her high school as possible. That same individual will have a different vision as an adult, and possibly different visions as he or she moves through life stages.

As I read through this book, I spent some time thinking about what my vision is—in other words, what God is putting on my heart to do with my life. I know that one vision I have is to raise a family for God’s glory; a family full of love, grace, acceptance, truth, and obedience to the Lord. That vision includes what I want for my marriage, which is deep trust, intimacy, self-sacrificing love, and commitment to growing together with God. It also includes what I want for my children: strong relationships with Cory and me and with each other; balanced, joyful, abundant, and purpose-driven lives; and ultimately, meaningful and lasting relationships with Jesus Christ.

Other than my vision for my family, I wasn’t sure whether or not God wanted me to pursue another purpose. As a life-coach trainee, I thought that I should have a vision for my coaching practice. I did have some ideas about what I would want to focus on as a coach, and yet I also felt that I lacked the passion that many of my classmates seemed to exude. One problem was the inevitable fact that I most likely would not be able to start my coaching business anytime soon. Graduation is in May, and after that, the process for completing certification would likely take me at least another month or two. That would leave me with about three months to start my business before the baby arrives. Then my business would need to be put on hold, at least for a few months, and if I wanted to resume working after that I’d need to figure out how to balance baby-care and work. The picture started to look less and less realistic. I began to wonder whether I would really be able to work as a life coach while caring for a baby, let alone whether I’d even have the inclination.

Then I came to a chapter in Visioneering that made everything clear to me. It was about how we often need to say “no” to good opportunities that will not benefit, or may distract from, our vision. The book follows the story of Nehemiah, a man in the Bible who had a God-given vision of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The wall had been destroyed and left in ruins for a long time, and it was a perfect metaphor for the spiritual health of the nation, which had likewise deteriorated. Rebuilding the wall was the first step in restoring Israel’s purpose as a light to the rest of the world, and Nehemiah was the one whom God wanted to use to accomplish this. As the project began, Nehemiah faced many obstacles, including threats from surrounding nations and corruption within Israel itself. At one point, a group of his enemies approached him and requested a meeting. Hypothetically, it could have been a great opportunity to make peace. Yet Nehemiah knew that it would take time away from his work rebuilding the wall. He also had a feeling that they were intending to harm him rather than reach a peaceful agreement. So instead of going to meet them, he sent a message. He said “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”

These words hit home for me. I believe with all of my heart that raising children for the Lord is a great work. Building a family that honors him is a worthy and important ambition. This is my great work! As much as I may feel that becoming a life coach is a good opportunity for me, I have come to realize that it will not support my vision for my family. In fact, it seems likely that it would distract me from doing my absolute best in this area. I understand that not everybody was designed to stay at home with their children and not work; not every mother or father desires to do so, and in many families, it is not possible financially. In my case, though, God has blessed us incredibly and I am both able and willing to be a stay at home mother. This is what I am passionate about. I don’t want to spend any of my time or energy doing something else, at least not at this point in my life.

After spending a lot of time reflecting on this, praying about it, and discussing it with Cory, we finally came to the decision that I should not continue the class. I talked to my instructor about it, and she understood. She was also very kind to offer a spot in a future class, should I ever want it. It made me happy to know that I have an open door to revisit a career in life coaching later on. For the time being, Cory and I are planning on having a large family and I also want to homeschool all of our children. With that in mind, it may be over 20 years before I even consider starting a career! But only God knows what path my life will actually take, and I’m glad that I have options.

After making this decision, it’s now time for me to change gears. I’m saying goodbye to Coach Heather and hello to Mama Heather. Although my baby’s not born yet, or even big enough to make me look pregnant, she (or he) already looks like a tiny baby and has a heartbeat, fingers and toes, and a constantly-growing brain. This baby is a person, whom God already knows and loves. And I’m a mother! I couldn’t be happier to have the honor of that title. This is what I was designed to do.

Project Baby

Hello readers! It’s been an exciting (and challenging) month for me since my last post. If you didn’t catch my social media announcement, Cory and I are expecting! I’m 11 weeks along now, and starting at about 6 weeks I’ve been experiencing the joys of morning sickness (AKA nausea and food aversions to nearly everything, all day long in my case) and some other not-so-pleasant pregnancy gifts like headaches, stomachaches, and fatigue. It’s been a bit rough, and I really think I understand now why people say pregnancy is hard. Yet at the same time, I still believe that it’s all 100% worth it. I’ll happily take all the discomforts, knowing that I’m doing it to give life to a new baby. That being said, I’m looking forward to the second trimester, which frequently offers relief from some of these unpleasant symptoms. For now, I’m taking it day by day.

Last week we had our first ultrasound, and it was an amazing thing to see! Around 9 to 10 weeks, babies in utero start looking less like reptilian creatures and more like tiny people, so we chose to have our sneak peek at 10 weeks. We saw baby’s tiny arms and legs moving and baby wriggling around, which was an incredible sight. Then we were able to hear (and see) baby’s heartbeat—it was music to our ears! It really fascinates me that all of this activity is going on in there, while on the outside everything looks the same. You’d never guess that there was a tiny, almost fully-formed baby inside! Most of the time I don’t feel like I’m pregnant, just ill. So seeing with my own eyes that there is in fact a baby in there was really a wonderful moment.

This week, we have our second prenatal appointment and we will be able to hear the heartbeat again, this time with a fetal Doppler. Then we plan to get our next ultrasound at 14 or 15 weeks, which is when they can often determine the baby’s gender. Cory and I are both convinced that it’s a girl, and we’re eager to find out for sure. Finally, we’ll have our last ultrasound at 20 weeks, which should give us a really nice picture of the baby, who at that point will be around 10 inches long and counting. Other than that, we’ll have our regular prenatal appointments about once a month until later in the pregnancy. I’ll post updates from time to time to share our progress until the exciting day of arrival! We’re due on October 12th, so we still have a long journey ahead, and we have a lot to look forward to.

We’re so thankful that God has blessed us with this baby, and kept his hand of protection over her or him. God is so good, and so faithful. We couldn’t do this without him! We’re also so thankful for your prayers, which He really does hear. A few months ago, we didn’t know if we would get pregnant anytime soon, or if we had a long wait ahead of us. But God made it happen, and now here we are, expecting a baby in 2014! How awesome the Lord is.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us and for your continued prayers.

 

“Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”

Psalm 36:5

2014

Hooray for a new year! It’s 2014 now and I am excited about what God has in store this year. There have already been some big changes in my life and I love the freshness of it all. I wanted to write a quick update post about what’s going on in my life, and where I see things going in this next year.

In December, I finished my torturous statistics class, which was a huge relief. I passed with an A, a satisfying ending to four months of hard work. This was also the last college class I’ll be taking for possibly a long time. I am two classes away from earning my Associates degree in Liberal Studies, but those two classes will probably have to wait. I have other plans for the next four months, and after that it will be summer, which means a very limited class selection for online students such as myself. Since I’m hoping that Cory and I will become pregnant soon, we will hopefully have a baby next fall! If that’s the case, I won’t be taking any classes in the fall, and it might be several years before I have enough time or the inclination to continue my education. Eventually I do plan on completing my Associates degree, but at the moment I have no plans to go further than that.

But back to the present. My plans for the next four months are related to a new dream that I haven’t told many people about yet. Back in October, I felt a call from God to pursue a career in life coaching. What is life coaching, you ask? One simple definition is “enabling others to get from where they are now, to where they want to be.” A life coach helps clients to define their ideal selves and lives, set goals for reaching those ideals, and work through the process of achieving those goals. Secular life coaching focuses on what a client wants for him or herself, and it can be very effective for helping people live more satisfying lives. For me, though, it was clear that I needed to pursue a career in the field of Christian life coaching. Essentially, Christian life coaches enable clients to step into the lives that God planned for them.

This week, I started a course that will train and prepare me for a career as a Christian life coach. I’m going to be doing a lot of work learning how to coach and completing my requirements for the course. In May, I will graduate and be equipped to begin practicing as a life coach. Later, I can submit my portfolio to be awarded the title of Certified Professional Christian Life Coach (CPCLC) and apply for my Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF). It’s a lot of acronyms, I know. But the point is, I’m starting an exciting journey to become a professional and accredited life coach, and I’m eager to learn and see what’s in store!

I’m still planning to be a stay at home mom when the time comes (hopefully soon!), but now I will also be able to work at home when I have time. Christian life coaching is, for many people, more than just a job or a way to make money—though it certainly can be a high-paying career. For many, it’s also a ministry, a calling that God gives them to use their lives to help others live abundantly. I feel that calling myself. I want to become a life coach because I believe it is one of God’s purposes for my life. It has given me a renewed sense of meaningfulness in my life, knowing that I can do more for God before, during, and after I fulfill my other major calling to raise children and be a stay at home mom.

Aside from beginning my life coach training, there are also some other changes happening in my life, both big and small. One of the small changes is that I switched up my look with a new haircut—something that I always enjoy doing. I’d been growing my hair out for quite some time, and finally decided to cut it short again. My sweet husband gives me tons of compliments and says he likes it either way, long or short—lucky me!

A bigger and much more important change is a recent decision that my husband and I made to switch churches. We have often been outspoken and passionate about the church that we were attending for the past year, and for good reason. We think it’s a great church and it’s doing a lot of amazing things for the Kingdom of God. That being said, it’s a young church with a small congregation, and we have recently begun to feel a lack of belonging, due to the fact that there are not many other people of our age or in our life stage there. That, combined with a gut feeling that something just wasn’t clicking anymore, had led us to search for another church. After a lot of prayer, we found a church that seems like a great fit for us, and God confirmed that we should make the move. I am both excited and somewhat nervous to join this new church community; it’s always a bit scary to be the “new kid,” but I trust that God will bring me into some awesome new friendships at this church.

For the year ahead, I have a few goals. First, the biggest goal that my husband and I share, is to have a baby! That is our hearts’ desire, and we feel hopeful that God will bless us with a child in 2014. Second, I want to become a life coach, as I’ve already shared. Third, I want to continue to mature spiritually by maintaining a strong prayer life and reading my Bible regularly, as well as finding an awesome Biblical community that will help me grow.

For the blog, I’d like to start posting more frequently, and I’m considering adding a few new topics to my repertoire. Particularly, I’m thinking of adding a “book review” category to the blog to share my love of reading with the world. I’d also like to make more use of the many categories already on the blog, which have very few or no posts in them, including Parenting, Caring for the Planet, Health, Frugal Living, and For Women Only. I have a lot of thoughts and interests in these areas, and I’d like to share them. My vision for I Do… Now What? is for it to be a blog, not just about marriage or God, but about many areas of interest that all fit into my life, which I live with God at the center. We’ll see how far that vision takes me this year!

So there you have it, a summary of my life right now and my vision for the year ahead. I hope your new year has started off well, and I pray for blessings in your life in the many months (and years) ahead. Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year!

She’s Alive!

I’m back! Obviously, it’s been a while since my last post. Getting through something in life as emotionally painful as a miscarriage is not easy or quick. And although I’m ready to share my recovery process with my readers, I also want to be clear that I’m not “over it.” Losing a child, no matter how early in a pregnancy, is not something to get over. I will never forget Sam. At the same time, though, I’m ready to move forward with my life. I can confidently say that I’m okay now.

It wasn’t a straight path, getting to “okay.” When we first got the news that we’d lost the baby, my immediate reaction was disbelief and shock. There was a lot of sadness, too. But after a few hours, I started to feel like I was alright. I felt oddly peaceful about the whole thing, and though I was still sad, I didn’t feel like it was swallowing me up. That didn’t last long; the next day I really began to feel a deep sense of grief.

For about two weeks, I went to a dark place. I felt hopeless. For all I knew, I would never have children. Even though I knew that miscarriages are sadly common, I also couldn’t help but think that it was a possibility that I would never be able to carry a baby to full term. And I wanted a baby more than anything else. If I didn’t have that, then what was the point of anything? I felt depressed, and I didn’t want to talk to or see anybody except Cory. I kept going to church, but I tried my best not to talk to people there. Other than that once-per-week excursion, I tried to stay in the house as much as possible.

Soon, my depression turned into anger. I was angry at God, but more than that, I felt betrayed by him. Why would he let this happen? More importantly, why should I trust him if he lets things like this happen to me? It seemed just plain stupid to believe that he would protect me and always stay by my side, in light of losing our baby. If that was the result of God loving me, then his love really didn’t seem very valuable. I began to question all of my beliefs.

I was lucky to have family and friends who stuck with me during this time. Many of them seemed to understand perfectly what I needed; they let me be, and gave me subtle love and encouragement. The reminded me that they were there to talk if I needed it, and that was perfect for me. Others were well-meaning, but I’ll just say this; when somebody is grieving, one of the worst things you can do is to tell them how to do it (and for me, one of the others is to act like nothing is wrong). I’m very thankful that most of the people in my life were wise and gracious enough to just let me feel how I felt.

After my two weeks of grief, anger, and confusion, I reached a place where I wanted answers. I started googling some of the “tough questions” to see what other Christians believed. Around that time, my pastor called me to see how I was doing, and offered to meet with me and Cory if we wanted to. We decided that it could help, so we set it up.

Before that meeting, I found some answers through my own research that I thought were good enough. Basically, I came to the conclusion that although God is good, we are still subject to bad things that happen to us in this lifetime. I explained that to myself by reasoning that we are in a broken world; right now, the devil is running things on planet Earth. Things are this way because the human race has chosen sin instead of choosing God. My hope came from the knowledge that Jesus died and rose again, which broke the power of sin in the lives of all people who believe in him. Unfortunately, that apparently didn’t mean we were saved from any of the bad stuff in this lifetime.

When Cory and I went to meet with our pastor, he gently presented a different view. It was simple; God is good, and he only wills good things. When something tragic like a miscarriage happens, it isn’t God’s will, not directly nor indirectly. (Although he will still use it for the good of those who love him.) Yet these things happen, even to believers. Why? Because we have an enemy. One of my favorite Bible verses is John 10:10, and it sums this up pretty beautifully: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

I didn’t fully grasp what my pastor had meant until later that night. He and his wife had gotten me a book called Supernatural Childbirth, which he gave it to me at our meeting. I was still processing what we’d talked about when I sat down to read it that night. Although the book is primarily about using faith during pregnancy and childbirth, it was easy for me to see how the concepts could be applied to every area of my life. Suddenly, everything started to make sense.

The Bible is full of promises from God, for those of us who know and love him. And it all starts with this one key fact; Jesus broke the curse of sin and death when he died and rose again. Because of his amazing sacrifice, we are free. The Bible makes it pretty clear that our freedom involves not only our souls, but our bodies and our lives in this world. Yes, the most amazing gift that God gave us was the gift of eternal salvation through Jesus. What gift could be better or more important? Yet he didn’t stop there. Jesus died to give us even more; he came so that we could have life, and have it abundantly.

For the past two weeks, Cory and I have been learning what this means. We’re learning how to fight using our faith and God’s word. I plan to write a more in-depth post about this concept later, because there’s a lot more to it and I’m still learning more all of the time. But I want to end with the simple idea that God is good, his will is good, and through Jesus, all things are possible.

I have an amazing sense of hope now, because I know that God will meet me where my faith is. The sky is the limit. For the time being, Cory and I are aiming for babies, and I know now without a doubt that we will be parents. The only question is when. Of course, that doesn’t worry me one bit because I know that the answer is “in God’s perfect timing.”

The Unthinkable

Yesterday, Cory and I went to our ultrasound appointment and received heartbreaking news. Unfortunately, I had an early miscarriage and I am no longer pregnant.

There are many things I’ve been feeling since then. For the most part, right now I just feel like I’m in some kind of nightmare. This can’t be reality, because this was not supposed to happen. I had complete and utter faith that everything was fine, and hearing the ultrasound technician tell me that there was nothing in my uterus was like a sick joke. It was impossible, she must have somehow made a mistake because I was eight and a half weeks pregnant and that was the only possibility I thought existed. But then I didn’t wake up, and I knew that somehow, beyond my understanding, this was the new reality. When I went home and took a pregnancy test just to make sure, I was slapped in the face with a big fat “not pregnant.” Somehow, the unthinkable had happened.

After our initial shock and disbelief, Cory and I spent some time just crying together. Since then, I’ve noticed that it comes in waves. For a while, I’ll feel fine and optimistic about the future and at peace with the situation. And then I’ll start to think about it, and it all comes rushing back; anger at God, a feeling of betrayal, despair, grief, confusion, and a sense of hopelessness. The realization that I will never fully understand God’s ways, and that for all I know, it may not be in his plans for me to have a baby at all.

Yet through it all, I do know one thing, which is that God loves me and he has plans for me that are good. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t suck sometimes (understatement) or that I won’t feel incredibly gut-wrenching pain in the process. But I can still hold on to the small sliver of hope in knowing that he will use it all for the good, somehow.

When I decided to publicly share that I was pregnant so early on, I knew that it was a theoretical possibility that I would have to publicly share news like this, too. I decided that it was worth it, because I want to let God use my story for his glory, whatever that story looks like. Sharing this sad news with my friends and family has been helpful and relieving, in many ways. Knowing that I don’t have to carry this pain all by myself gives me strength to face it. Knowing that other people are crying with me gives me the strength to grieve. Cory and I appreciate all of your prayers, very much. Other than that, we just need time to heal.

Even though our baby was only a few weeks in the making before God decided to take him/her to heaven early, we know that he/she was a person with a soul. Our baby is now living out his/her eternal life, at God’s side. Since we didn’t know the gender, Cory and I have decided to name the baby Sam. We want to honor Sam as our first child, even though we will not get to meet him or her until we go to heaven ourselves. We’ll never forget our baby.

Support and encouragement in the comments is always welcome. Thank you for sharing the pain with me; it truly does help.