Our Journey to Parenthood - Abby from "A Cheerful Heart"

It's official...I'm holding twin boys in the hospital.  Because blogging isn't something I have too much time for right now, I have a a series of posts for you called, "Our Journey to Parenthood".  First up is an unlikely journey shared by a super intelligent and wise friend, Abby.  Enjoy :-) 

Hi there -- I’m Abby, and I’m going to tell you a little bit about my journey to parenthood. In case you’re wondering, I like: drinking french-press coffee alone and with friends; knitting recycled yarn; teaching piano lessons; studying the Bible, theology, politics, philosophy, and history; reading; writing; bonfires; DIY projects; and living in the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Somewhat reluctantly, I have also gained a bit of expertise about hunting, the U.S. Military, higher education, and miscarriage. This story is hard to tell, but it’s important, and every step of this journey displays God’s tender care. Thanks for reading!

Sitting in a coffee shop wIth this blank screen in front of me, it's impossible not to eavesdrop on the conversation at my back -- a young woman in her senior year of college, gushing joy about her upcoming wedding and eventual plans to have three kids and adopt two after taking a few years to "grow up first." I’ve said all those things, too, and I wish I could share with her what I’m learning the hard way about the journey to parenthood.

The beginning:
I grew up in a loving Christian family, and always imagined myself becoming a mom. At 16, my doctor treated some painful medical problems and indicated I should not procrastinate in starting a family after I got married. I dated Aaron in college and naively expected the year he deployed to Iraq was the hardest thing we would weather together. He came home safely, though many guys he went with did not, and proposed later that year. I was 21 and excited to have kids soon, but we disagreed about the timeline to expanding our family. Our engagement was so hectic that the discussion slipped through the cracks.
Unsurprisingly, my five-year marriage has included sharp disagreements about when to have kids. I was uneasy about postponing pregnancy without scriptural justification, especially with my medical history, but I don’t know what compromise should have looked like -- you can't have half a baby or be half a parent!

What I would change:
I wish we had studied the Bible with respected mentors instead of rushing through our evangelical pre-marital counseling with conventional secular values about family planning, like, "Get ‘settled’ first.” We received that advice from Christian family members, too!  
The biggest fundamental attitude shift we both needed was about money and stay-home moms -- we believed we had to rely only on Aaron’s income before we could start having kids so I could stay home with them. He started a PhD program when we got married, which meant I’d be working for at least five years. While it's worth sacrificing to have a parent staying home, I don’t think preventing pregnancy until that’s possible needs to be one of those sacrifices. This is just one way my view of motherhood was far too narrow!

Parenthood, past and present:
We’ve covered a lot of ground: successfully preventing pregnancy, unexpectedly conceiving, unsuccessfully “trying” before getting pregnant, several miscarriages… Just not completing a pregnancy with a live baby or adopting! Now the roles have switched and Aaron has baby fever while I’m apprehensive (read: terrified) about getting pregnant.

Because I’ve had three miscarriages, parenthood seems to be only morning sickness, scary mini-labors to deliver tiny babies, and grief. I don’t always know how to answer people who ask if I have kids, but I am a mom, and I’m learning that God is using the ministry coming from my losses as the way I live out that motherhood. I don’t get to kiss “owwie”s, but I extend immediate comfort to many women for their miscarriages. I don’t pack lunches, but I mail care packages. I don’t get to teach my children about the gospel, but it is always something I share with other grieving families. While it is not what I would have chosen, taking care of those who mourn is my physical expression of mothering, and it is just as significant as anything I could be doing with diapers or playgrounds or homework if the babies had lived.

Parenthood in the future:
God designed marriage, intimacy, and reproduction with purposeful wisdom. It seems to me that “family planning” should cooperate with this, welcoming what God might send instead of mostly preventing a good gift. While postponing pregnancy is sometimes prudent, the
Bible indicates children are a blessing without caveat!

So right now instead of calculating possible due dates, I dread the possibility of wasting weeks feeling like crap, falling in love, and crashing with grief in another miscarriage. And yet, we leave this in the Lord’s hands. Is it hard to be open to a new life right now?
YES. But I’m confident this is what God is asking of me. This is sometimes exciting, but mostly obedience worked in fear and trembling.

My journey to parenthood has taken a twisted road at best, and the destination is not going to look like I expected. Most days I wonder if I’ve reached my final destination already. I don’t know! But, “My comfort in my affliction is this: your promise preserves my life.” (Psalm 119:50) That promise does not necessarily include having a child. Instead, as a Christian this promise guarantees something infinitely more satisfying: beholding what great love the Father has given to me, that I am his child, and as such I will share in the perfect, unending joy of God the Father, my good shepherd.  
This is hard to say, but it is true: the journey to parenthood may not make me a parent, but it is making me a child.

Children of the Heavenly Father, safely in His bosom gather
Nestling bird nor star in heaven such a Refuge e’er was given…
(hymn text by Karolina Sandell-Berg)

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