Monday, April 25, 2016

Having a Son Strengthened my Marriage

"A baby changes everything."

I can't tell you the number of people who said this to Brandon and me while I was pregnant. Since his due date was right before Christmas, we even had someone send us a song that includes this phrase! Friends who had recently become parents warned us about the sleepless nights, frustration, and stress that were to come, and admonished us to enjoy our last few weeks of "just us."

While it's true that welcoming Beckett has changed our world - Brandon and I would say that becoming parents has only enriched our lives - including our marriage. Yes, going out for a date night doesn't happen as often and requires a little more planning, but we would both agree that becoming parents has only strengthened our relationship with one another.

First, becoming parents has made our marriage more intentional. Our time and resources are more limited these days. Beckett's needs frequently have to come first as he currently depends on us for everything. Consequently, we've quickly realized that we have to be intentional about our time together. Making time for date nights, giving each other our full attention when we are together (putting screens down/away!), spending time with each other each night after Beckett is in bed, etc. Although we may physically have a little less time to focus on each other, we've found that being intentional about how we spend that time makes all the difference.

Additionally, becoming parents has strengthened the spiritual aspect of our marriage. Every day we spend time just staring at Beckett and reflecting in awe that God blended our genes to create our little man. Furthermore, we both recognize the incredible responsibility we have been gifted with, to raise up a child to love and serve the Lord. Consequently, we've both seen changes in the intensity and depth of our personal and family devotions and prayer life. From the beginning of our marriage we've recognized that the more active we our in our faith walk, the better our marriage is - this continues to be true today.

Finally, becoming parents has brought more grace into our marriage. During the first few weeks of Beckett's life, especially when I was hit with my crazy case of hives, we quickly realized that we needed to start showing each other a little more grace (I think I had to learn this lesson a little more than Brandon did!!). So what if Brandon didn't put on a diaper or hold the baby the way I did? I had to recognize that he was wanting and willing to help and was desiring to spend time with our son. Likewise, Brandon practiced showing me some extra grace when we ate eggs multiple times in a row for dinner when I was struggling with sleep training Beckett or adjusting to working outside the home with a newborn. Choosing to extend grace rather than bickering or brewing in anger has made all the difference!

And although each family must make their own decision, Brandon and I firmly believe that having me stay-at-home full time makes all the difference in how smoothly our home runs and relieving stress in our marriage. During the weeks that I was working outside of the home I was physically and emotionally spent by the time Beckett went to bed. There were numerous times that I said to Brandon, "I feel like I have nothing left to give you!" I hated that. While my days are still exhausting, it is refreshing to know that I'm being drained by putting energy into our family, rather than an outside source...

So my concluding recommendation = have a baby. Sure it changes everything, but our experience has been that you can choose to allow those changes to have a positive effect on your life and marriage - and the sweet smiles and coos are all worth it :)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Unnecessary Things my Baby Loves

Lets face it, there is a lot of junk out there that baby marketers try and convince new (or old) parents they NEED to successfully raise a happy, healthy baby. When Brandon and I first started out on our parenting journey, one of the things we discussed was that we didn't want our lives overwhelmed by "baby stuff." We got some excellent recommendations from some seasoned parents we know and love, and attempted to move forward with a minimalistic approach.

That said, were surrounded by by loving family and friends who have generously showered Beckett with gifts. And while I still think we have a lot more stuff than necessary, it turns out (much to my chagrined) that Beckett loves some of the extras...

So I thought I'd share a few baby items that while not "necessary," are certainly a hit around our house!

1. Activity Mat

I purposefully did not register for one of these, thinking my baby would be just as content to lay on a blanket. Turns out Beckett has been enamored with this thing since he was a bout 3 weeks old. First he simply loved to lay and just look at the dangling toys, now, at almost 4 months, the activity mat still provides extensive entertainment since he can grab at and shake the toys. Plus, I think the one we were given (linked) is pretty cute!

Just doing some tummy time on the activity gym!

2. WubaNub

It turns out that Beckett is a huge sucker - if he doesn't have a toy to suck on he will go for whatever is closest - his hands, a bib, blanket, etc. He has one of these pacifiers with a giraffe attached (who, we lovingly refer to as "Gerald" after the giraffe in Giraffe's Can't Dance - one of my favorite children's books) and loves to snuggle up with it. Honestly he seems to enjoy sucking on the giraffe's limbs as much as he does the pacifier itself. as an added bonus, he can grasp the little animal Pretty well, which helps him keep the paci in better.

While attempting to suck on 2 toys, his bib, and his hands all at once....

3. Boon Grass Drying Rack

Okay, this is an unnecessary thing I love :) I didn't expect to be using bottles nearly as much as we did, but with my great hive adventure and then going back to work for a few weeks i spent quite a bit of time washing bottles and pump parts. I love how this drying rack works and contains all those air drying parts!

4. Rattle/Sensory Teether

We were given a ton of toys for Beck, but this is really the only one that has interested him so far. He loves it because he can chew on it (go figure) and really grab and hold onto it. Other rattle just seem to be too heavy/thick for him at this point.

While we still may be a little more overrun with baby paraphanalka than I would ideally like, I still think we've done a pretty good job at keeping the stuff monster out (I mean do you really need 5 things for your newborn to sit/lay on?). And like everything else that comes with new parenthood, I'm learning to relax more and go with the flow.....and putting my need to control in God's hands!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Coming Home

I truly don’t know how full-time working moms do it. In fact, after the last 3 weeks I’m convinced that my boss – who has 2 young daughters, is incredibly active in her church and community, and still finds time to teach zumba and seems to sit on half a dozen volunteer committees, has some superpower store of energy that she is able to call into play. And if she doesn’t, she can certainly fake it a whole lot better than I can!

Because lets face it, since I went back to work after my maternity leave, there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. Sure I can get to work by 7 am so I can leave by 4 and be home by 4:30 so that I can pick up the house, make dinner, and do the laundry before Brandon comes home at 6:30 so we can sit down for dinner together before we put Beckett to bed at 8. But after a full day at work where I’ve run errands on my lunch break and haven’t seen my baby since I nursed him the night before, all I want to do is cuddle my sweet little man and soak up his smiles!

I know that to be a politically correct female I’m supposed to say you can do it all, but at this point in my life I really don’t believe that to be the case. Something has to give.

Brandon and I agreed a long time ago that family was a priority. And so, last week I turned in my resignation letter for a job I really love. As excited as I am to be a full-time stay-at-home mom, resigning was harder than I anticipated. As much as I miss Beckett, I can understand the argument many working moms make! There are days where I’ve been perfectly happy to leave my screaming baby at home and head out into the world of adult conversation and intellectual stimulation.

But when God blessed Brandon and I with Beckett, he blessed us with an incredible responsibility – to raise a child. And for our family, the key word in that equation is us. He didn’t bless a day care worker, or a nanny, or my mother-in-law (who has been an incredible help in watching Beck these last few weeks) with that responsibility – he blessed Brandon and me. And we take that responsibility incredibly seriously. We want to be the people Beckett spends the most time with and who have the greatest effect on his life.

The one question that really boggles me is, “how are you going to do it?  You’re so lucky, we could never afford that.” But how do people afford big houses, luxury vacations, or new cars? They make it a priority. For us, me staying home is a priority, so we have made a budget and chosen to sacrifice in other areas.

And so next week I begin a new adventure! And while I know my days will be busy and exhausting in a different sense, I’m looking forward to being able to put my full focus and energy towards serving my family (and soaking up all of Beckett’s sweet coos and smiles)!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Baby "Bucket"

I've found that one of the hardest things about having a son is living away from family. We are really blessed to live fairly close to Brandon's parents, but all of our siblings and my parents live out-of-state. Thankfully, we are able to travel to Michigan (my home state) fairly often and spent the last week there visiting and introducing Beckett to his cousins, aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and many friends.

Our growing family!

When we named our son, we really didn't think it was all that complicated! But somehow, some of our family members have really struggled with his name! Granted, they are the oldest and youngest members of the family, so we cut them some slack, but they have come up with some creative alternatives for our little one!

Beckett with Grandma Laurie and Papa Jim

My 92-year-old grandmother has been ecstatic to meet Beck. Or "Beacon" as she more often than not refers to him as! She's also managed to refer to him as Brandon, Brendan, Benjamin, and Blanket - but she never forgets his middle name! (James, after my dad and her son!) On the other hand, our 1.5 year old niece, Reagan, has lovingly dubbed Beckett "my baby Bucket!" It's a good thing we love them so much!

Our sweet Reagan

Highlights of this trip really included a lot of family time - including a Valentine's date night with my siblings and their spouses while my parents watched all 5 grandkids, visits with friends (all who have growing babies of their own now), and eating some of my favorite food (metro Detroit has some of the best Middle Eastern restaurants!). And since Beckett rocked his first plane trip, I'm only feeling slightly anxious about our 4x longer flight to California in a few weeks...

I used to get together with these 2 ladies and another friend (who now also lives in MN) almost every week for several years - in 2015 we all had babies!)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Top Maternity Reads

I'm an avid reader, and when I found out I was pregnant, one of the first things I did was head to the library and check out a whole stack of pregnancy related books! 

I didn't do much more than skim through that first stack, but throughout my pregnancy I started (and mostly finished) a variety of books on pregnancy, labor and delivery, and all such related matters. While many were pretty drab and mundane, or simply scared the life out of me by listing everything that could go wrong(!!), there were a few that I really loved.

For the record, and to consider the types of books I was reading, we had a natural childbirth with a midwife in a hospital.

1. Redeeming Childbirth - Angie Tolpin

This is my #1 reading recommendation for momma's-to-be! I absolutely loved this book! It was recommended to me by a friend who claimed it really calmed her heart and prepared her spiritually for labor - and I would completely agree! I read this book during my third trimester and found it to be a great devotional tool. It helped me look at labor and delivery from a more spiritual perspective and see childbirth as an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord rather than just a feat I had to "endure." 

While the author chose to take a natural childbirth approach (which I appreciated as that was the route I knew I was headed and loved the mental tools she suggested) she in no way suggests natural childbirth as the right or only way to go. In fact, the friend who recommended the book to me did not take a natural childbirth approach and loved the book as much as I did!

2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - Ina May Gaskin

This was a book my midwife recommended I read. The first half of the book is a complete index of birth stories. This was a little shocking to me when I first picked up the book - particularly because the stories centered around women who were going a little more "natural" than I intended (i.e. birthing at home or at "the Farm" - the author's midwife center), but as I got closer to my due date, I found some comfort and empowerment in simply reading others' stories and gaining confidence in my body's abilities.

I enjoyed this book because it talked through the physical and mental aspects of labor and really emphasized the power and beauty of natural labor. It also answered many practical questions and spurred some great conversations with my midwife.

3. The Power of a Praying Parent - Stormie Omartian

There is no better time to start praying for your child than NOW! This book was a gift from my mom. I had read and loved its companion -  The Power of a Praying Wife, while Brandon and I were engaged, and was eager to read Omartian's thoughts from the perspective of a parent.

Simply put, this is an excellent read that emphasizes the power a parent's prayer has over his/her children. It provides great tools as to when, how, and why we need to pray for our children.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 5, 2016

In All Things Give Thanksgiving

I had a lot of expectations for Beckett's first few weeks of life - I would spend time cuddling and bonding my newborn as I soaked up his sweet smiles and little noises and filled my camera with pictures of his "firsts."

While all of those things have come true, I certainly didn't expect to spend 2+ weeks with 80% of my body covered in the most painful, itchy hives I've ever experienced. I didn't expect to find myself in tears at 3 am - not because I couldn't console my infant, but because I felt as though my body was literally failing me and no doctor could provide an answer or offer relief.

But that has been my reality for the last several weeks. 

And while there have been some miserable moments, I have also been overwhelmed with awe at how God has used this situation to teach me a powerful message - to draw me to him, and to completely transform my prayer life.

Above anything else, I have learned the power of peace - and the peace that comes with trusting our Heavenly Father and giving thanks in all circumstances

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds."
James 1:2

It's so easy to say, and so hard to do.

Yet this past week I experienced something completely new - finding true, complete peace while still in the midst of utter physical pain. As I called out to God and turned to him I was continuously reminded that the devil is always at work, looking to prey upon us in our weakest moments. While my body was failing me I came to realize that it would only be worse if I allowed Satan control over my mind. 

And so I called out to God - again and again and again - for healing and direction yes, but also to carry me through this journey, for mental strength, for patience, for a clear mind, for power over Satan's temptations and discouraging thoughts, etc. 

And God responded in an amazing way. Despite the pain and discomfort I began to feel his presence in a completely new way. I felt bathed in peace, revitalized to make it through another day, and able to give thanks despite circumstances.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."
Colossians 3:15

In the midst of this journey, I started a women's bible study at church - Pricilla Shirer's "Armor of God," which I highly recommend (as well as the movie War Room). The study is about putting on the Armor of God as laid out in Ephesians, plus the overarching power and importance of prayer. Coincidentally (hah!) this past week focused on the "shoes of peace" and how the Enemy uses instability/discourse/upset to keep us from Christ. Ms. Shirer presents the argument that it is only God's peace that allows us to stand firm amidst the storms of life - and that such a state of peace is activated through thanksgiving.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace"
Ephesians 2:13-14

So today I give thanks for these weeks that haven't turned out like I've expected, but that have brought me greater peace than I've ever known.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One Month Joys and Challenges

Somehow I've found myself with a one month old! Some days it feels like he was just born, and other days I truly can't imagine our lives without him. Each day brings new adventures - physically he changes by the moment and is slowly discovering new things and exploring his surroundings.

I shared with a friend the other day that I never expected motherhood to be such an adjustment. I mean, I did, but I figured that I've always been pretty comfortable around babies, and spent a lot of time babysitting and with my nieces and nephews. However, what I didn't think about was the fact that as the youngest in my family, I never grew up with any babies in the house or around me 24/7!

Really Beckett is a very good baby. He eats like a champ and is pretty happy - but sleep deprivation has been a challenge! Thankfully I've got some pretty great mentors in my life who've been very helpful with advice and encouragement.

I think the most frustrating thing has been feeling overwhelmed about what advice to follow! Everywhere I turn someone has a suggestion about what to do or what not to do! Feed on demand vs. feed on a schedule. Cry it out vs. pick the baby up as soon as he makes a noise. Co-sleep vs. put him in a crib. Slowly (and with a lot of prayer) we've started to discern what works for our little family.

But one thing is for sure - there is no doubt in my mind that I am blessed beyond belief! Earlier this month Brandon and I celebrated our 2-year anniversary. We didn't go out to dinner anywhere fancy, or buy each other lavish gifts, but spent the night on the couch cuddling our newborn son - and we both agreed it was the perfect celebration!