Change of Heart

I came across this article today about Isabella Dutton, an English woman who wrote on how she regretted having children and saw each decision as a mistake. While the initial headline sounded horrifying, I devoured the article and grew more fascinated about this woman as I read each sentence. Long after I finished reading, her words hung in my brain and I couldn't shake them.

As I read Isabella's narrative, a strange wave of emotion hit me. Her words were crisp, logical and firm, though emotionally detached. She made her opinions and convictions boldly known and was unapologetic about them. She was eloquent and strong. She felt familiar.

I realized that she reminded me of myself.

If you knew me in high school you can attest to the fact that I was an Isabella. I had no desire for children. I vividly remember telling my parents one day that I saw children as "leeches" that do nothing but take. I believe Isabella's word choice is "parasites". My parents were aghast at this concept when I made it known to them and my mom has told me that for a while she was afraid that I wasn't interested in boys at all. That definitely wasn't the case - I was just extremely selfish.

And that's the key to all of this: selfishness. I find it ironic that Isabella describes the choice to have one child (instead of multiple) as "selfish" but never pegs that word on herself through her journey. She absolutely sees how others could view her as an abomination but she doesn't see the harm in detached, emotion-free mothering while her husband and children know she isn't enjoying any of it.

There are certain things that Isabella says, mamas, that we cannot argue with. Motherhood is hard. It takes and takes until we feel we cannot give any more. There are times when we need a break, no matter how long our wick of patience is. And whether we want to say so or not, if we chose not to have children, our lives would probably be easier, more convenient and far more peaceful.

You see, when I met Nick, I still had these feelings about children. I was a freight train headed straight for Europe, then California and film school. I didn't expect God to give me a husband for a long time, if ever, and I never expected (or really even hoped for) children. When Nick entered my life and couldn't stop talking about how much he wanted to be a dad, God derailed that train. He knocked me off what I thought was His plan and showed me a wider spectrum of what He desired for me. I saw how He was slowly breaking me of my selfish heart.

As most of you know, Nick and I got pregnant with Owen completely unexpectedly on our honeymoon. The night it was confirmed that I was pregnant, I cried. A lot. Though I was okay with having children at that point, we wanted to wait five years. I didn't want to be a mom yet. I as also deathly afraid of being pregnant and childbirth. Once again, Jesus was breaking those walls down.

Now that I'm almost three years into being a mother, I can tell you that Jesus has changed my heart dramatically over the last five years. Especially since Elizabeth was born, I have become very affectionate toward both of my babies and I am filled with a fierce protection for my brood. Yet I completely relate and agree with Isabella in that if I'm going to parent, I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to stay home with my children, breastfeed as well as I can, teach them well and help them become loving, respectable adults. But to what end?

For Isabella, she did these things because it as "the right thing to do". She respected her husband's wishes to be a dad because she loved him (which is commendable, by the way). She raised their children because she believed in excellence. But when that task was over, she put her feet up and looked forward to her life of "freedom". It saddens me greatly how empty those goals are. They hold no meaning and leave Isabella talking about how much time she wasted and how much she regrets not doing. Even in her mid-fifties, she still sees parenting as an inconvenience and an undesirable duty.

Isabella is missing Jesus, and that's what makes her different from me.

Jesus has shown me great joy through becoming a mother. When I first looked upon Owen after birth, he was amazing to me but I didn't have a clue how to love him. God taught me that over time. And now, my heart bubbles over with thankfulness and awe on a daily basis at what He has chosen to give  me that I never, ever could deserve. And the most beautiful thing of all is how He is showing me Himself in my children and teaching me how to be like Him to my children.

What a beautiful, amazing, incredible, AWESOME display of grace that He has shown me! To free me from my heart of joylessness and death! To teach me how to love! To rid my soul of selfishness (however painful that process may be)!

Without the realization of God's grace, I would be a mother just like Isabella - going through the motions to please my family but finding no joy in the day-to-day. Even still, on rough days, my selfish, prideful heart will turn in on itself and thoughts creep in about how much easier life would be without "them". But I am so thankful for what is being done in my heart. Thank you, Jesus, for not giving up on me!


The Real Me

Okay, deep breath. This post is definitely Spirit-led and takes a lot of guts for me to share. So here we go.

You want to know something ridiculous? I have spent hours creating and tweaking my Facebook profile and timeline to make them look the way I want them to. Literally hours. Why? It's kind of for myself, but the deep-down, yucky truth is that I want to look good. To you, to people I don't really know, to friends that are in a similar life stage as me, to those who wish they were in my life stage, etc. It's embarrassing and awful.

Truthfully, I am really concerned with how I look to others and how I showcase my life to those around me. Sometimes I play it off as me wanting to be missional on the Internet, but really - how many of my online posts are God-glorifying alone... Not just "me-glorifying" disguised as something that looks semi-religious?

Hi, my name is Rachel and I'm a people-pleaser.

This is an idolatrous sickness in me that I battle with daily. I'm tired of keeping up appearances and I'm tired of people thinking that my life is perfect because I only show the pretty parts. Granted, I have a lot of genuine joy and thankfulness for where God has me and I absolutely love the gifts He has chosen for my life, but believe me - I'm not spending all day skipping with glee that my primary job is taking care of my family. There are definitely moments where I wish I was single and living in California, doing whatever I feel like. But do I make that known on Facebook? Nope.

All this being said, I just wanted to take a minute to talk about how NOT picture-perfect my life is, in hopes to be more honest about my life.

First, I am ridiculously prideful, self-righteous and judgmental. Now that's not something I want to advertise on a daily basis, but there you go. It's a minute-by-minute struggle for me every day. You've heard of the term "critical thinker"? Well in my case, I have a commentator in my head all day and her name is "critical". I wish I could permanently shut her up but the only way to fight it is by shouting biblical truth back at her. It gets exhausting and I don't always win but I'm thankful for the progress the Lord has made with me so far.

Also, despite whatever I post or advocate, I am NOT the perfect mom with all the right answers. I have very strong options about a lot of things when it comes to parenting but that doesn't mean I know everything or that those opinions are the best for every family. And by the way, as I'm telling you this, I also preaching to myself. See the previous paragraph.

Another thing I've recently discovered is how addicted to sugar I am. My body is in desperate need of a diet change. Not to lose weight, but to gain energy. I spend so much of my days refueling because of a sugar crash - not because of hunger - and all it does is leave me exhausted, empty and unmotivated. I sincerely desire a woman to be accountable to in this area. Perhaps someone looking for the same type of change as I am. Are you that person? I'm totally serious about this.

At the end of the day, I'm still a saint in Christ and a sinner in the flesh, just like any other Christian out there. I'm no better than you - just on the same rewardingly exhausting path of sanctification. And please, if you see me projecting an image that is distorted from that truth, please call me out. Seriously. I praise the Lord for any Christian who loves me enough to redirect me to Christ!


Elizabeth's Birth

Finally, FINALLY I got around to writing this. Thanks to our midwives' copious notes, I was able to recall most everything that transpired the evening of December 17th. So here's our second birth story, written to our beautiful daughter.


Your birth story starts at the beginning of December, when I began having contractions on and off without pain or rhythm. I suspected you might arrive early with all the pre-labor I was experiencing, but you weren’t ready to make your appearance yet. So we waited.

Your due date was December 16th, which was a Sunday. I went in for a midwife appointment on Wednesday the 12th and my blood pressure had started to creep up a little. I had some blood tests done and was encouraged to come back on Friday to see how things were progressing. When we went in on Friday the 14th, we discovered that I was at 4+ centimeters dilated that day and we got really excited – those contractions were actually doing something! And they weren’t even painful! The midwife swept my membranes to encourage labor to start (my blood pressure was still higher than they wanted it to be and they wanted to get things moving) and we went home, thinking it wouldn’t be for long. Your Daddy and I thought for sure that you would arrive either that day or over the weekend.

We waited all weekend and nothing of measure happened. I was still having contractions here and there and I was beginning to get anxious – I was really ready to meet you! We went in to the birth center again on Monday morning and we dropped your brother off at Mooma’s house so we both could have our full attention on you at the appointment. My blood pressure was still threatening my hope for a natural labor and when my midwife checked me again, I had progressed to 6 centimeters! She told us that she really didn’t think it wise to wait any longer and asked if we’d be willing to come back that evening for them to break my water and usher you into this world. Your Daddy and I had absolutely no problem with that and were really excited – you were on your way, whether you knew it or not!

After the appointment we went back to your Mooma’s house and told her and Poobah the news. They graciously offered to keep Owen while Daddy and I took the afternoon to go on our last date before you arrived! We went to Bellevue Square and walked around, not saying much – probably out of nervousness and excitement. We weren’t there for that long until I couldn’t take it any longer and we went back to enjoy dinner and snuggle your brother before heading to the birth center.

At 6:15 PM we exchanged lots of hugs and kisses and drove to the birth center. When we arrived, Room #3 was all prepped and ready to go. Daddy put some Gatorade in the fridge, I took in some deep breaths of the lavender aromatherapy candles that were burning and we settled in for the evening. Melissa and Mckenzie arrived while we were waiting for things to get started and they got cozied up with snacks and movies in the waiting area.

Before breaking my water, Sarah checked me again and I had progressed even further, to 7 centimeters! We all agreed that it was a very good decision to be there that evening to help my body kick-start your arrival. They broke my water at 7:20 and when we saw meconium in the fluid, our thoughts were confirmed – tonight needed­ to be the night.

After my water was broken, I went to the waiting area and spent some time chatting with Mel and Mac. I was giddy, antsy and a little shaky, knowing that there was really no going back now. I started feeling consistent contractions and as we talked, they became more and more painful. Eventually I noticed that during contractions I needed to be in certain positions to help get through them so I went back to the room and labored there.

From 8:30 to 9:30 PM I labored on the bed, the contractions getting steadily stronger. The most comfortable position for me was on my side and your Daddy held my hand and spoke softly to me throughout each one. During that time he let me know that Kristina and Mooma had arrived and there was a nice little group of ladies praying for you and I and supporting us as we worked together to bring you into the world. I breathed and shifted positions and stroked my belly and worked through each wave of pain. “Progress”, I kept thinking; “I know we’re making progress”.

By about 9:40, the contractions were taking my breath away and I was feeling really ready to be done. Then suddenly, at 9:50, my contractions changed; I was being pulled downward. My body was taking over and I couldn’t just breathe anymore – it felt like you were being pulled out of me. I told the midwives, “I think she’s coming.” I was shocked because I knew it couldn’t have been that long that I had been lying there, but this feeling wasn’t about to let go of me. So the next contraction came and I pushed.

Three contractions of pushing and your head was out! Your Daddy said, “She has dark hair, honey! Just like you thought!” I looked down with an expression of what I’m sure was confusion and shock – I didn’t know it was possible to only push a head out and not the whole baby. So we waited a few seconds and when that last contraction came, I gave it all I had. And then, at 10:00 PM on December 17th, there you were! Crying as soon as your feet were out! You were immediately plopped on me and your face was buried in my chest. You were warm and sticky and tiny and I knew instantly that you were much smaller than your brother. I hugged you tight as a warm blanket was tucked over us both and kissed your Daddy with delight – we did it! You were here!

Then a whirlwind of things happened – your cord was cut, my midwives worked the placenta out, Daddy took you in his arms and I got settled while we all got cleaned up. You fed a half hour after you were born and spent 45 minutes on the first side. Eventually my midwife recommended I detach you before I got a blister! Once you were fed and sleepy, we felt ready to introduce you to your fan club! Mooma came in first, then Mel, Mckenzie and Kristina. Everyone took turns holding you and I think the first consensus was that you looked like me. We weighed you and you came out to be 6lbs 9oz – on the small side, like I suspected!

At 1:30 AM we snuggled you into your car seat and packed our things. We were ready to go home and sleep in our own beds and prepare for our first day with you. We hugged and waved goodbye to Val, the midwife, Sarah, the student midwife and Mickey, the birth assistant at 1:45 AM and drove home. I snacked on the drive and bathed in the incredible grace that we experienced that evening – what a beautiful night.

We arrived home at 2:15 AM and got settled. We swaddled you and snuggled you into your bassinet and I was going to feed you before we slept, but there was no waking you up. You were dead to the world and your exhausted mama was definitely okay with that! I laid on my stomach on our bed, relishing in a little luxury I had been deprived of for months, waiting for your Daddy to be ready for bed. I was starting to doze off when he came in and woke me, saying I needed to come into the living room. When I did and looked out our window, thick, fat snowflakes were filling the sky and the ground was sparkling white. It seems that the moment we brought you home, snow started to fall! It covered all that we could see and it was the most beautiful gift I could have received alongside your birth. What a sweet reminder from the Lord that He loves to bless us in the little moments.

Your daddy and I walked back to our room, snuggled in, thanked Jesus for the incredibly special day that it was and fell asleep listening to your soft breathing next to us. Our little Elizabeth was here and our lives would never be the same!