Mothering, Pregnancy

2 Timothy 1:7 for Expectant Mothers

Julie / November 7, 2015

2 Timothy 1:7, hcsb:

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

No question at all that this verse is not talking about labor and pregnancy.  It’s talking about the Spirit, about faith, about not being ashamed of the Gospel.

And yet: our faith in Christ does inform and mold Christian childbirth.  This verse has meaning to anyone who is struggling with fear.

Our identity in Christ necessarily transforms our approach to birth.

God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness

Right out of the gate, here’s a thing to cling to: God didn’t make us fearful.  Fear is not a “natural” thing or a good thing—fear is the opposite of what we’re supposed to be.  Fear is not resting in God’s sovereignty.

Further, we’re commanded multiple times not to fear.  Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We don’t fear because God strengthens, God helps, God upholds.  And God is mighty.

Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let you requests be made known to God.”

We don’t fear because we pray.

Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”

We don’t fear because we trust.  We don’t fear because God has promises.

Joshua 1:9: “Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

We don’t fear because God is with us, everywhere, always.

But one of power…

So we don’t have a spirit of fear—we have a Spirit of power.  This calls to mind the contrast of Romans 8:15: “you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”  We don’t have a spirit of fear, we have the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of power, the Spirit of adoption, the Spirit that brings us into union with our Father.

The Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26), guides us into truth (John 16:12), gives us freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17), and causes us to abound in hope and peace (Romans 15:13).

We have been given the Spirit of power not the spirit of fear.  It is this Spirit who goes before us and with us into delivery rooms.  It is this Spirit who calms our minds and assures us that God is trustworthy, that God is mighty, that God will keep His word, that God is with us.  It is this Spirit who gives us endurance through hardship, who helps us resist the temptation to fear and sin in the middle of suffering.

…of love…

How do we love in labor?  The same Spirit of power is a Spirit of love, teaching us to love.

First of all, we can love God.  We can love by seeking His glory in our births, by praising Him—as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances”—even contractions.  We can bear testimony of Him.  We can obey His commands.  We can testify that “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Secondly, we can love our neighbors.  We can put others first even in the midst of great tribulation.  We can live according to the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.  We can beat our bodies into submission so that we do not sin against those around us even in the most trying moments.

…and sound judgment.

I really love this part, it’s so encouraging.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but… of sound judgment!  So much of birth is about decisions and terror and distraction and yet—we have a Spirit of sound judgment.  We have a great long book of Scripture with many, many principles that apply to birth.  We have Proverbs.  We have so many verses, truths to turn to, about suffering.  About endurance.  About rewards.  We have testimony that children are good.  We have this encouraging little testimony from Jesus: “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world” (John 16:21).

We have countless comparisons of birth that experiencing it can help us understand better—creation is groaning as in childbirth (Romans 8:22) and we are groaning similarly waiting for the redemption of our bodies (v. 23)?  Now, we understand that groaning better, as we have groaned.  And we understand the joy that awaits.

We have Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”  We plan.  But God is sovereign and does the ultimate work, brings it all together, to the conclusion He chooses.

As Christian women facing the worst travail of most of our lives (and praise God for even that!), we rest in Him, and are encouraged and strengthened and have HOPE because our Spirit is not one of fear—our Spirit is the very Spirit of God, and He goes with us and upholds us and strengthens us and girds our minds—even in the midst of great physical horror.

I write this a day over-due with our own son, so I’m entirely talking to myself here. 🙂

Pregnancy

The object of my silence.

Julie / January 4, 2011

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He has finally arrived, and already the brain cells are coming back.  Smile Unfortunately, the synaptic connections are accompanied by a great deal of busyness and a great lack of sleep, so writing is still not forthcoming.  A few more weeks, I hope.

I did want to mention the Angel Food order that my menu plan will be based on for the upcoming month–hopefully when things settle down, I’ll be posting the actual plan itself before the orders are due, but that’s not going to happen this month (and in point of fact, my menu plan for this month may be even more chaotic than last month’s).  Nonetheless, if you’re following along with my madness, then I’m ordering: 2 Bountiful Blessing boxes; 1 S2 (Steak & Chicken Combo) Box; and 1 S3 (Premium Fresh Fruit and Veggie) Box.  I have greatly enjoyed the oranges and tangerines from this month’s box, and am sorely tempted to order two S3s just to double the orangey goodness, but I don’t know what I’d do with twelve pounds of potatoes!

Pregnancy

Third trimester UGHs. :)

Julie / October 7, 2010

So I have finally realized a simple truth, that you might have thought I’d have grasped a pregnancy or two ago: the third trimester is exhausting.  And maybe it’s worse when there are two toddlers to chase around, but honestly I think I’d be pretty exhausted even without their interference.

My biggest “problem” this time is that I had a routine, and was doing a reasonable job of keeping laundry washed, food on the table (and more importantly, off the floor), kids happy and schooled, and dust bunnies banished.  Things weren’t perfect, but for perhaps the first time in my life, I was starting to understand how the whole housekeeping thing was supposed to work.

Now it’s really, truly all I can do to keep up on the bare minimum: the kitchen and dining room are cleaned enough to keep flies away, the clothes are washed and folded but not put away, dinner is getting kind of repetitive and chronically simple (but still edible, I think, and occasionally in existence), and the floors are getting vacuumed but rarely mopped.

And the blog, you’ll notice, is perilously close to abandoned.  I don’t have energy to think at the end of the day, much less write!  Hopefully it’ll be back by February.

All this is driving me CRAZY.  I”˜d forgotten how tiring this stage was–or maybe I just plain didn’t realize in the first place since I had lower expectations for myself–and I didn’t see it coming at all.  This pregnancy has been more comfortable up to this point than the other two, and I guess I assumed it was going to keep going so nicely.  So now I’m really struggling with figuring out what is laziness and what is genuine inability to do what I “need” to do.  Some critical points I’m trying to focus on:

  • Trying to be realistic without being complainy.  Which is hard.  There’s a certain amount of communication necessary, but it’s always easy to wallow, too.  🙂
  • Figuring out what really needs to be done, and what can realistically get done less often–or not at all–until January.  I probably don’t need to be cleaning out the basement or blogging.
  • Using every moment I do feel okay.  They’re not very often, but some days I have an hour or so.  I’m trying to be conscious of those and work like crazy until I’m ready to fall out.  Some days (like today) they don’t seem to happen at all.
  • Asking for help with activities that should be easy for a normal person, but aren’t for me.  Like picking up ten million toys off the floor this might take Seth ten minutes, but a lot longer (and a lot more exhausting) for me right now.  Other things, like running to the store, aren’t a lot slower for me to push through myself.

All this to say, the blog isn’t “dead” or on hiatus, but I definitely won’t be keeping up with a remotely regular schedule of posting anytime soon.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy meanderings.

Julie / August 10, 2010

As much as it amazes me how different our two children are, this pregnancy is really shocking me a lot more!  The first two were night-and-day in the sense that with E, I had hyperemesis gravidarum and threw up all the way through to and in labor, whereas with R, I literally didn’t throw up a single time.   But otherwise, the two pregnancies were pretty similar–similar aches and pains (and lack thereof), similar cravings (and lack thereof).  I felt like I was on familiar terrain the second time around, and was just immensely thankful not to be puking.  So I thought #3 would be similar.

And it really hasn’t been, at all.  I’ve actually felt a lot better all around–I did have pretty bad morning sickness (although nothing approaching the way it was the first time), but, well, here’s a good illustration: with #1, I was absolutely miserable trying to sleep, until I finally got a pregnancy support pillow for Christmas at about five months.  I still tossed and turned and was really sore, though.  With #2, I still had the pregnancy pillow and unhesitatingly pulled it out of the basement at about two months!  This time “˜round, however I still haven’t gotten it out.  I’m really amazed at how non-pregnancy-y I feel as far as being sore and uncomfortable.  It’s really nice!  I’ve really only been noticing the past few days that my back is starting to get a bit achey by the end of the day–another symptom that’s hit a lot earlier before.  And the best thing of all no restless leg syndrome so far this time!  Sometimes I think that’s worse than morning sickness.

Really the only thing I’m struggling with this pregnancy is that my metabolism seems to be through the roof, and I’m having so much trouble with eating enough that it has, in some ways, been more serious / harder to deal with than the hyperemesis was.  A lot pleasanter, for which I’m thankful, but also scarier because I have moments when I’m quite sure I’m going to pass out.  (Although now that I think about it–I actually did pass out when I was pregnant with E, so maybe my memory is just flawed on that point, and it’s only scarier “˜cause I have two munchkins running around who would be very much unsupervised if I did pass out, haha.)  I think I’m also dealing with some aftereffects from the diastasis incurred last time “˜round which is really minor as a complaint (I just keep pulling my abdominal muscles, which rather hurts but not for long), but I think I need to mention it at my next appointment.  I don’t think it had had time to heal between R’s birth and now, and I’m a little worried about the future implications of that.  (Recommendation of pregnancy support belts welcome)

One fantastically good thing: I don’t think I’ve been nearly as tired this time!  And I think it’s easier, honestly, to take care of a two-year-old (E) and a five-thru-fifteen-month old (R) than it was to take care of a single seven-through-seventeen-month old (E, when pregnant with R).  E’s very existence really helps with R, because she’s good at fetching and picking things up off the floor–not to mention entertaining her little sister!  Toddlers are pretty nice things to have around if you’re pregnant, apparently!

Pregnancy

First love, then marriage, then?

51tJ0M9kGyL._SL160_I have been reading a so-far delightful book, entitled Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies, by Steve and Candice Watters of Boundless fame.

And yes, I know, we don’t need inspiration.smile_wink  I’m reading it more for philosophical reasons–and, honestly, “˜cause it’s such a bargain at Amazon, and I had the notion that it might be a useful book to recommend to people.

I’ve made it through the first few chapters, and I’m really growing in my conviction (initiated by Al Mohler’s many thoughts on the subject; particularly this article) that questions like “should we have children? are we ready to have children? can we afford children?” are tremendously the wrong questions to ask.

The Watterses begin their book by talking about the “American dream,” more or less, as it’s viewed by youngish couples.  There are so many things we can do before we have children, so many life experiences that seem worth putting off parenthood to achieve.  And we’re never financially stable enough to afford children–I can attest myself to having been bombarded with the “children cost $250,000 by age 18″ statistic while still a teenager myself.  Those kind of numbers, coupled with the general social expectations of what a young couple is supposed to do and see before embarking on pregnancy, make it a fearful decision indeed to declare oneself “ready” to inflict these small stinky, sticky mess-makers onto the entire rest of one’s life.

I’d never stopped to think about it, but I think they’re dead on.  The world is all about telling us how much responsibility children are, how much work, how much cost, how we need to have the perfect relationship with our spouse (being married at least four years) before introducing hellions into the mix, how children cause divorce, how parents bid good-bye to free time, how friendships with couples who don’t yet have children will change forever and probably dissolve the Watterses are so right.  I grew up in an environment that was certainly not hostile to children, and yet somehow even I managed to internalize many of these ideas.  It’s like a little checklist you have to complete before it’s socially acceptable to have a baby–otherwise people shake their heads and talk about how unwise you are, and wonder if the pregnancy was a mistake!  I’ve even heard people refer to someone’s miscarriage as “a good thing, because they really weren’t ready for a baby.”

This is the legacy of the Pill.  We can control fertility, and so suddenly it becomes a decision to be made, to be weighed–and for other people to peer down their noses in disdain at the results.  Suddenly it’s a little embarrassing to admit that, yes, I have a one-year-old, and a five-month-old, and, um, yeah, we’re expecting again.  Suddenly it’s perfectly acceptable for everyone from dear friends to complete strangers to tell me how crazy we are, how I’ll soon learn the error of my ways, and ask, both in seriousness and in sarcasm, whether or not I know how “that” happens.

First comes marriage, then comes the baby carriage.  That’s all Scripture has to say on the subject, that’s all history has generally said on the subject, and I’m beginning to think that’s all we should say on the subject.  Society–church included–imposes unbelievable pressures on couples to delay childbearing, and then to limit and carefully mete it out when it does come.  Don’t have children too soon, too fast, or too many: pray hard about it first. 

But the question itself is a new one: people used to have children because well, children happen!  And in those olden (Bible!) days, they were viewed as a blessing–and the more the more blessed!  Look at what Scripture says of the torment and lamentations of the women who had no children, and compare to the distinct aura of fullness that surrounds the descriptions of those who had many.  Yet so many well-meaning Christians would have us believe that it’s a perfectly acceptable lifestyle choice to forego children completely, and a wiser decision to limit them to some small, manageable number preferably two.  Now that we can control it, “of course” we should.  God gives us science, and all that; birth control is chemo for the cancer that is children.

I don’t think I’m buying it anymore.

Pregnancy

First kicks.

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I felt E move at about 22 weeks–hideously late.  And I felt her move on the outside before I could feel her inside.  R was a totally different story; I felt her at 12 weeks and it seems like we could feel her outside around 18 or so.  So I thought, oh, first baby, feel late, how normal.

Then I didn’t feel L until this week.  Again, outside first.  It was so late!  (About 18 weeks, 20 by the earlier due date.)  Which was a little worrisome, because I kept wondering if he was moving or not!

Finally I felt these little blips, those tiny pokings that make me feel like Kane on Alien.  And a small sigh of relief: now I can know he’s all right.  And a feeling of responsibility: now I have to pay attention to make sure he’s still all right, tomorrow, next week, next month.  And now we’re connected: biding our time with the most rudimentary communication of bumps and punches until, Lord willing, they’re replaced by cries and gurgles and lullabies.

It’s so very odd to have a little human inside.

Musings, Pregnancy

Pain in Childbearing

Julie / February 20, 2010

With both E and R’s births, we went to a freestanding birth center–no pain meds.  Our most obvious reason for this decision is that we believe it to be statistically marginally safer (which studies do back up) and it is unquestionably the better choice for parents who want to avoid a C-section at all costs; chances of a section at the birth center are about a tenth of the chance of a section at any of the local hospitals.
And those are the answers I usually give people in response to the quizzical looks when we tell them our crazy plan.  It’s quite inconceivable why someone would actually choose to endure pain without any overwhelming reason.  (Even if the mortality statistics are slightly tilted in favor of midwife-assisted birth, there’s certainly not a grand difference in the final outcome.)  I expect that these answers are the sum of S’s reasons for supporting natural birth.
For me, though, there’s more to the story.  There really is that aspect which the pagans call “spiritual” about birth, and even about the pain itself.  And it’s very difficult, as a Christian, to coherently talk about that without falling into the earth-mother-goddess paganism that so frequently goes along with it. I’ve never really read an article by a Christian mother, or even a theologically neutral article about it that doesn’t veer straight in to heresy.  Maybe because few Christian women choose natural birth, and so even fewer would conceptualize to write about it.
A few weeks ago, though, I was writing an email to a dear friend trying to explain the mindset that has gotten me through the pain.  It was really complicated to write, because I was trying to express concepts for which the only language I’m familiar with is–pagan.  Unacceptably so.  And yet it was so enlightening to me to struggle through that letter and try to frame things in the context of the sovereignty of God, and it has really helped me to understand birth better.  It has been much on my mind in the days since, and I think it will be useful for me (to me) to hash it out a bit more.  Because at this point, I would choose natural birth even without any medical advantages to doing so.  It’s a horrible experience that I still treasure, in a kind of impossible way.
I know that going into E’s birth, the most important thing in my mind was the historical context.  Birth–the searing pain of birth–is a very particular experience, one that our mothers’ and grandmothers’ generation largely completely missed, and yet one that queens of old knew well, and Mary!  What was it really like for that young girl in that dirty stable?  What, really, did God arrange for her?  I was determined to know, to understand.  And what I found was a deeply horrendous experience!  I wasn’t prepared for the sheerness of it.  I thought I could imagine and I had no idea what I was in for!  I had never felt anything as strongly as I felt pain on that day.  It was literally the most intense day of my life.  It broke all my internal meters, so to speak.  The pain itself and the volume of the pain become two different things: beside the pain there’s this awareness that this is a life experience on a completely different scale than anything ever before, and that you’ll never be quite the same person again.
And so the pagans are right on this point: the pain makes you a stronger person.  I was not “dealing” and I didn’t have happy butterflies about E’s birth.  I knew it was horror when it was happening, and I still freely use that word: it was horrible.  So I’m not saying that birth is a beautiful experience.  The end result, sure–but the process?  Not for me.  Birth is a horrible experience.  But it’s a horrible experience that you make it through, and you come out on the other side.  It’s almost like it makes the colors around you more colorful, except in a metaphorical sense.  It changes everything, and nothing.  It’s just so intense.
So by the time R was born, I knew this.  And Genesis 3:16 had taken on a totally new level of meaning for me.  This pain, this unbearable pain, was there for one reason: the fall.  Sin.  A continual reminder, from God, that we are not as He created us to be.  A dramatic presentation of the separation that came about when He cast us out of the Garden.
That’s a spiritual aspect of birth that I can really get into!  Romans talks about creation groaning in childbirth pains until being freed of the bondage of sin, and of us likewise longing for adoption and redemption.  God gave us pain in childbirth–deliberately!  And it really does increase one’s bitterness toward sin to realize that birth is so horrible because of sin, because we aren’t yet made fully glorified before Christ.  It is so desperate, in those moments of unrelenting agony, to stop and realize that the agony is itself a tool and pointer to God, to instill a longing for home–where pain ends.
So I guess it is a very spiritual experience after all, one that I think I would not choose to forego, even if I had no other reasons.
(I am not saying, even the tinest bit, that using pain meds is wrong.  Just that there is an experience to be had without them, and that I am weak enough to appreciate the reminder of just how fallen our bodies are, and how seriously I need redemption.)