At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Today has been a quiet, low kind of day. I’ve just been at home, working. It’s sunnier than it’s been all week, which of course makes so many things better. But I’ve been tired – physically tired, mentally tired, and emotionally tired. I don’t think it’s anything other than the tiredness everyone talks about experiencing this late in pregnancy. But I’ve been battling my demons in the midst of it nonetheless. The old and constant temptations have been on my mind – feeling like I’m not doing enough, feeling unsatisfied with what I am doing, worrying about whether I’ve missed and wasted my opportunities to do the things I do really love, etc.
But I’m not giving into them. It’s too quiet and I’m too tired to give into them. It is ok if I am small. I don’t have to be great. God has been faithful to me over and over and over again, and he has directed my steps. Whenever I’ve experienced success in life it has come clearly from God’s direction, not my own. Even when I’ve worked hard for something, and received it, it has been clear that it was not my own doing, but God’s. So in this moment, when I’m tempted to believe that the dreams I have will never happen, that panic is the only option, I turn to Christ and remember that he has brought me this far – to unexpected places – and I can trust he will continue to take me where he wants. And it will be good.
This will probably be one of my last entries and I wonder if I am any different today than I was when I started writing more than two years ago. Am I holier? Am I a better person? Am I more like Christ? Truthfully, I have to say no. I’m not and I know I’m not. The same sins of fear and doubt and selfishness that plagued me when I started continue to plague me today. I still fret and worry over who I am rather than living freely in my identity in Christ. I still flinch at any indication that I am not amazing, that I am not worthy of admiration. I am still vain and shallow and want things that are poison to my soul. I still need Jesus and I always will.
But I do think I have learned something about peace. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I am a more peaceful person. I still yearn to grow in this area. But perhaps I have learned something about peace – what it is and what it means. Peace isn’t happiness, and it isn’t a feeling. It isn’t optimism. Rather I think peace is a cessation of our striving. A knowledge that with God’s hand resting in benediction upon our heads, we can stop moving and be still. When I understand it this way, I know I am at peace with becoming a mother. I will continue to struggle with many things about being a woman and a mom, and I will surely repent again and again as I grow in grace. But the restlessness with which I started writing – the sense that I could only overcome my fears through a mighty exertion of myself upon the world – that is gone.
Peace today, in this quietness, is an open-handed acceptance of where God has brought me and a cessation of my striving in the light of his blessing upon my head. Perhaps I will produce nothing more in my life and motherhood will be an end as much as it is a beginning. Perhaps God will continue to bless and utilize the gifts he has given me, giving me joy in my heart. Regardless, I will be still under his hand. I will accept the smallness such stillness requires.
For he has been good to me. Always good to me.
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The last couple of days have been so hard. I’ve been having a lot of pain in my pelvis and last week it finally got so bad that I could barely walk more than 5 minutes without pretty severe pain. I finally went to the doctor on Wednesday. Everything is ok, thankfully, but the pain I’m experiencing is because the baby has already dropped and is sitting low. The nurse was tight lipped about whether it meant she might come early or not – until right at the very end of our appointment. Then she mentioned that often, labor starts within two weeks of the baby dropping for first time mothers. But, of course we shouldn’t plan on it.
Once we got home, though, I started to go into panic mode. Two weeks! Literally nothing in our lives is ready for this baby to possibly come in two weeks. Nothing with work is lined up or wrapped up, my thesis defense isn’t even scheduled until two weeks from now, the house is still not unpacked, the hospital bag isn’t packed, Trey would be wrapping up his semester after she comes, trying to write papers in the midst of a screaming baby. It would be chaos.
I’ve had a difficult time not feeling totally overwhelmed by this possibility. And defeated. One can make all of the best plans, I guess, and in the end it just might not matter at all. Maybe like Icarus I’ve flown too near the sun and my wings are now melting. Added to all of this, my hormones are just raging and I’ve cried more in the last 48 hours than I did in the last month.
It’s an emotional time of life. It feels like all of the divergent threads I’ve been weaving are quickly, perhaps more rapidly than anticipated, coming to a point. I’m being pulled along and can’t stop the tide. Half the time I want it to just happen, because I’m so ready to meet this little girl and be done with her constant kneeing of my ribs. But the other half of the time I just want it all to slow down so I can catch my breath and make sure all of the boxes are checked and I get my final quiet moments with Trey.
But God’s ways are bigger than ours and perhaps this is his way of keeping me from getting too comfortable. Once again I am learning to grab onto him from out of the discomfort of what feels like a storm. And in the midst of it, he is reminding me that though everything from the world may tell me it is a problem, the arrival of our child is not an inconvenience. Life and its beginning are always unpredictable, but despite what our mechanized and timetabled culture says, it is not an inconvenience. It is not something to be controlled.
One day my daughter may read these words. If she comes early, her birth story will probably involve jokes about all of the chaos she brought with her for a few fleeting weeks. But, my child, you must know that your life and your birth were not an inconvenience to us. You came according to God’s will and we embrace it, excitedly looking forward to first moment we look into your eyes.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Oh my goodness. I'm having an emotional meltdown and I'm not even really sure why. I was writing Dr. G an email to tell him that I won't be at the conference and that I won't be applying to grad schools this fall due to being pregnant, and I just started weeping. I'm sure a lot of it is hormones, but a lot of it was just the feeling of cementing the reality that I will not be doing a PhD any time soon. I know if God wants me to do it later in life it will happen, but I just feel so much in my prime right now and it really feels like it's all just going to be wasted. I have so many ideas and so much academic energy and I look ahead to ten years of wasting it all on jobs I’m not sure I like. If I could drop all of my other jobs and we had enough money or free housing or free childcare or something, I would do it. But that is such a pipe dream. We aren't trust-fund babies, and we don't have anyone who believes in our work enough to fund it fully. So we make due. And it's all ok. Really. I just have to mourn it for a while, that's all.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Trey and I just had sex and I knew in an instant that I wanted to start trying to get pregnant sooner than we had been planning. We thought through it all and the end of March is the earliest I could get pregnant without risk of giving birth at the end of my fall semester. So we're going for it. After this round of birth control, I'll only have one more round left. Bah. It feels good.
H. and D.'s House, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Parents are made for leaving behind. This is what I've been thinking about since Thanksgiving. It's been rolling around the back of my mind, but it's a thought that I've had a hard time giving traction to.
During our visit to Pittsburgh, it really struck me again that I don't have to be my parents, that I can be different from them. I can be free without loving my parents any less. Connected to this realization, I thought about my own future children and how one day they will feel the same way towards me. I will never give them a perfect enough home that they should want to stay under me. They will feel as frustrated with me as I have felt at times toward my own parents. Frustration isn't even the right word, though. It's more the basic human need to differentiate oneself from those who have come before. I am not my parents, they are not me. I can't seem to find a way to express myself adequately here.
My families all love each other deeply and we all want to be with each other. But there is still the issue of how the generations relate to each other. We get in each other's ways and often can't seem to understand what is truly service and blessing for the other. Parent and the child waltz around one another trying to figure out how best to love.
It seems to me that at stake in so much of the parent-child dynamic is what must or should be done to maintain closeness. I want to feel closer to my parents who live far away, so I feel pressure to replicate their choices and selves in my life. We are all afraid of not feeling close to each other, because in fact we aren't "close" but live thousands of miles apart.
In the end, I think more and more that what we have to accept is that parents are made to be left. Marriage is the most important relationship in a person's life – it is the only relationship where there might be some expectation of lifelong companionship. Parenting is a short-lived endeavor. It is in incubator – short, intense, and hot – and then it must be turned off. For me, I need to turn off my desire for my parents to parent me. I want to stay in the incubator, but the time to turn off the lights has long passed. That time has passed and is gone and we are no longer sharers of the same space.
As I think about having children of my own, I do not need to contemplate how to keep them for the entirety of the rest of my life. I will give them life and then it will be their own. I will have Trey afterwards. Every family is nothing more than a succession of incubators, maintained and cared for by a pair of life-long friends. This should be a relief. I am not my parents; I am not my children. I am only myself.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
This morning as I showered, the greatest sense of peace came over me regarding having children. I thought in passing about how much I haven't been stressing over the issue recently now that everything with school is pretty much decided and I'm only a few weeks away from starting. It's like someone has pressed the "play" button, and now that everything is in motion, it's all ok. My next thought was a premonition. All of the sudden, I felt very certain that Trey and I would not be able to conceive. But rather than panic, I immediately knew that was ok, too. We would keep trying for a while and then eventually adopt. And I was totally, completely happy with the thought. It would be a very different life than what I've ever imagined, for sure. Thinking of myself as the 35-year-old mom with a career, multiple degrees, and newly adopted child is definitely not what I ever imagined for myself. I've always loved the idea of adoption, but not necessarily this way. Yet there was deep peace in all of these reflections and I knew it was ok.
After my shower, I continued to reflect on it. Disappointment started to creep in at the possibility of never asking the question, "Who does our baby look like more?" That would truly be difficult. But then I also thought about the joy of redemption that adoption uniquely offers and I knew that there are aspects about both that the other doesn't share. Working hard, making money, and accomplishing certain things wouldn't be bad. And the mothers I know who have adopted are no less mothers in my estimation. I've never once lumped them into a different category in my mind. I would still be experiencing the fullness of motherhood.
In the end, though, I'm glad to be able to say, "What 'er my God ordains is right," and leave it at that. I'm excited to be a mother and I am excited to know peace in whatever manner motherhood comes to me.
At Home, East Arlington, Massachusetts
I rediscovered the Broadway soundtrack of Jane Eyre last night while cooking dinner and for some inexplicable reason, it made me want to have a baby more than anything else has since I got married. I was listening to the music and so many memories came flooding back into my head. Memories of college, memories of friendships, memories of excitement about life, memories about the hopes and dreams my sophomore self had. But also just memories of peace in uncertainty and of the Lord ministering to my soul through the music. There is so much joy and longing bound up in that music for me, and somehow that translated into wanting a baby. It was one of the first times I've been able to say, "I don't know how it's all going to work out. I don't know how to schedule and plan everything. But that doesn't matter." It's kind of thrilling.
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.