It’s a Boy!

Six years ago, I experienced one of the most challenging events of my life- the birth of my son. His birth was the start of a journey through one of the deepest, unknown valleys I have yet to walk. It was a time that should have been one of the happiest moments in my life, but it will forever be marked with fear and grief, joy splintered by shattered expectations, and one of the most incredible seasons of seeking God and fireproofing my faith.

For months, I prayed and prayed for this child and on May 6, 2013, I was waiting to meet the little man I had fervently prayed for. I had spent the night in a hospital bed wondering when he was going to leave my warm, snug womb. Very true to his personality, he was making his entrance in his own time, in his own way.

Around hour eighteen of labor, the rhythmic machines I was connected to by the snaked and twisted cords, started making louder, more quickening sounds. A blur of multicolored scrubs, nurses and doctors rushed into my room. My head felt woozy and dazed. My oxygen level started to drop. I felt far away, like I was watching all this happening through a screen. I could see the worry on the face of my usually calm, level- headed husband.

Something wasn’t right. A wave of fear washed over me. My mind was unable to keep up with the noise and movement. My body was weak from the pushing and pain of labor.

The doctor said something about a C-section, followed by a push and a rush to the operating room. The white, blinding lights glared down at me. The curtain blocked my view. The medication blocked my pain. The fear attempted to block my faith.

I can not remember when my son was pulled from my womb nor do I remember hearing his first cry. I remember seeing nurses and doctors work on him and then on me. I remember someone bringing him close to my face so I could see him, to kiss his sweet face. Then I remember them whisking him away from me to the NICU.

I was wheeled back into the very same room I labored in. I felt an incredible amount of grief as I waited for my body to regain feeling. One kind nurse took pity on me and wheeled my over-sized bed down to the quiet, darkened halls of the NICU.

I saw my son through the glass doors of his hospital room. He was so tiny lying in a closed bed, hooked up to machines that made gentler noises than the hours earlier in the labor room. He looked so helpless, so alone.

The nurse positioned me as close to him as my bed would allow. She lifted him gently out of the enclosed plastic bed, placed him and all his connecting wires securely in my arms. Only hours before we were warmly connected to each other with a living life line, and now we were separated, connected to cold machines. I felt so disappointed, discouraged and then so guilty.

It wasn’t suppose to be this way. Everything I thought this birth was suppose to be, wasn’t. Every way I wanted it to go, it went a different way. My birth plan was completely overrided by unexpected events.

Guilt was a heavier weight. I felt guilty for not being more thankful. I had made it safely out of surgery. Shouldn’t I be happy? My faithful husband hadn’t left my side. Shouldn’t I be grateful? I had a community of people praying for me throughout the whole day. Shouldn’t I be rejoicing?? My son was alive! Shouldn’t that be enough?

I knew things could have been worse, so much worse, but I was caught up in the grief of “what could have been.” It’s amazing how feelings can powerfully cloud the truth. How fear can shame you into believing lies. I was weak in mind (and body) and trying to process the whole day. I was grabbing at anything to comfort me. Self-pity, discouragement, and lonesome lies were easier to find than truth.

It took four years before I was able to look at the first pictures taken of my son in the operating room. Four years. Up until then, every time I tried to look, I felt physically sick. It was too painful, too traumatic for me to be reminded and revisit that place, even in pictures.

One day with the healing that time grants, I felt brave to try to look again. It was then I was able to see things differently. A miracle of life was birthed in that room, but that was not the only thing.

A struggle, a season of suffering was birthed there too. A season that led to a bolder, braver, more faith-filled wife and mother of three. Walls I had pridefully built, God tore down. The need for control and plans to be craft-fully perfect was replaced with an invitation to trust and obey. God gave me fresh vision to see some of the plans for my life that He had written, and with His leading they were better than I could imagine.

A heart for fervent prayer was also birthed that day. Over the next long months, in the darkness of the weariest, loneliest nights, my friend Jesus walked with me, talked with me, wept with me, comforted me, and asked me to trust him time and time again. When I couldn’t pray, the Holy Spirit took over and He taught me what it meant to seek and wait.

It wasn’t a perfect time. It was a hard, difficult time. I endured lessons of failing and overcoming, patience and endurance. As my precious son grew in a stronger in a physical way, I grew stronger in a spiritual way.

We named our son, Jonathan, which means God’s gift. And God has used Jonathan as a gift that keeps on giving not only in my life, but in the lives of others as well.

From the very beginning of his life, he’s been loudly making his opinions known. He’s bold, brave and persistent. He’s playful and joyful, and his laugh and his giggles are contagious.

He’s makes me question my parenting skills more than any of my other children, but he has helped me know and stand firm in my convictions. He’s curious and asks the most interesting questions and this encourages me to research and know the most interesting answers.

On top of all these things, he has a heart of compassion. He is not afraid to go up to someone who looks lonely, say hello and even give them a hug. He can strike up a conversation with a stranger, and he asks the most poignant questions that goes straight to the heart. He teaches me more about child-like faith. Oh, and his prayers. He thinks nothing of laying hands and praying over people, and often we are following his lead in bowing our heads at any give moment, in any place, for any certain thing.

I am so thankful I get to be Jonathan’s mom. I’m so thankful for the son who God has made him to be and how Jonathan is growing up to be strong in so many ways. I am thankful for this journey of motherhood with him.

Although I wouldn’t want to go through the challenging beginning again, the valley of the sleepless nights, I can confidently say all of it was for my own good. It taught me a lot about myself and even more about God’s faithfulness and His love. God’s love is a strengthening, restoring, renewing, never fails, type of love!

If you are going through a valley, or a time that hasn’t gone the way you had hoped or planned, don’t give up. Keep moving forward, one step at a time. Maybe in a few more steps ahead, you’ll be able to look back and see something in the situation that wasn’t there before. A bit of new bravery, a root of resolve, a lesson learned. Often the best of what’s to be found is hidden in plain sight, but requires a fresh perspective to see.


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5

Happy Birthday, Jonathan! You are a precious gift more than you ever might know! xo


Ten Years Later- A Letter To Myself

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Photo Credit: Capture NH

Dear Shanna,

I know this is overwhelming and scary. It seems like the hospital exercised poor judgement by allowing you to leave with a baby. Your baby! When those big, glass doors closed behind you, I know you were secretly hoping a nurse would come running after you and bring the two of you back to the “safety” of the maternity ward. But she didn’t come, did she? She sent you off with gentle reassurance and a complementary diaper bag stuffed with humongous maternity pads, a few teeny-tiny newborn diapers, the phone number for a lactation consultant, and a booklet called “A New Beginning.”

What an appropriate title! It feels like you’re starting life over. Any knowledge and educational degrees you’ve acquired over the last thirty years seem null and void. Things are very different than what you read in those books. Those books about what to expect when you are expecting and now you are expecting to have no idea what to expect.

I know you dream of easier days and nights full of quiet, continuous sleep and feel guilty about wishing the days away. I know it seems like time is ticking slowly by and it feels like you are stuck in the movie “Groundhog Day.” The one where Bill Murray finds himself trapped in a time warp and he keeps waking up to live the same day over and over again. Except in your time warp, the day revolves around a baby- Baby cries, pick up baby, soothe baby, check diaper, change diaper, feed baby (for like hours), baby sleeps, you should sleep, baby cries and repeat. Repeat over and over again, every 3 hours or on demand, for what seems like every future day.  I know you wonder if you will live life at some sort of a predictable, “normal” rhythm EVER again.

I know it feels like you have completely lost yourself and wonder if you will ever find yourself again. I know you’re anxious, hesitant and constantly questioning yourself as you weed through a tremendous amount of information and opinions and try to make a variety of good decisions on behalf of your sweet baby. Very kindhearted people with good intentions offer you advice but since you are so overtired, oversensitive, and overwhelmed you cannot appreciate their wisdom. Or maybe more than that, some of their advice makes you feel like you are doing it all wrong or even worse, it’s a reminder that you are not enough. And even though you are surrounded by people, I know you feel very alone.

motherhood

Photo Credit: Capture NH

Ten years later, I can tell you the hospital did not make a mistake. It may have been a rocky start at home adjusting to everything new but no mistake was made. God picked you to be your baby’s mother. He knows you can do it, gives you everything you need, and you can rest in that. Hold onto that truth and embrace it during the long days and nights. Repeat it constantly to yourself and especially when the hospital sends you home two more times, with two more babies.

Your life has started over but in a new and beautiful way. Those degrees you acquired in school will be used again but the type of degree you are working on now does not come from schoolwork but lifework. This is a never ending study in unconditional love. It requires time, patience, mistakes, forgiveness, grace, sacrifice and it changes everything. Through the lens of love, relationships and the world will look different. You will begin to understand the sacrifices your mom made for you and what it means to be loved by Jesus in a way that brings you to tears almost every time you think of it. And as far as the what to expect, you will never know what to expect because each day, each baby, brings new challenges and blessings. It’s a constant practice trying to be content and present in the very moment. Oh, and just when you think you have something figured out, it all will change. So, expect the unexpected and expect love.

The days will get easier, you will get more sleep and sleep is awesome. Easier is relative though. In some ways it will be easier and in others ways more difficult. The cliche is true! Time goes by quickly, much more quickly than you ever thought it could. One day, instead of wishing the days away, you’ll wish they would stay. (Maybe the trade off for sleep is fast moving time?) Your life will find a predictable rhythm again but every season will have a different rhythm. And you’ll love the changing rhythms because you do not like boring, and motherhood is far from boring.

About the anxiety and sad feelings, it was a good decision talking with the doctor. What you see as an extra burden now, God will heal through medicine and faith and use this in ways to empathize with other moms and others dealing anxiety and depression. You will always have the threat of doubts and fears but you will persevere and overcome them with confidence in His strength. You will need to work on your “perfectionist” tendencies though and embrace the imperfections and the mistakes because those will make you better not worse.

BTW, you are not enough. At least, not enough on your own. You need Jesus and community more than ever before. Let down the walls. Let others in. Ask for help. Don’t try to do life alone. One of the greatest communities you will find will be in a MOPS group. You’ll find friends, faith, and freedom there. MOPS will encourage and equip you to be the best mother, woman, and leader you can be. It will help you find purpose and give you opportunities to practice confidence in the next things that God is calling you to do.

Make time for family and friends. Embrace your church family and the women in it. Their lives and experiences, their stories shared with you, are gifts. Gifts worth more than any amount of money can ever buy. You will see the importance of their words when you are not so overtired and overwhelmed, and you will come to crave being taken care of by them, tucked under their wings, and covered by their prayers. Your heart will swell a thousand times over when your babies are welcomed into these communities and loved by your friends too because we are better together.

Shanna, you are doing a good job even when you think you are not. Take one moment at a time. Remember, the challenging moments are more valuable because they are richer in experience and make you stronger. And even though it’s good now, the best is yet to come. Motherhood is an amazing, special gift.

With Love,

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