Jubilee Noelle’s Birth Story

Jubilee Noelle Willcox

“Deliverance & Peace”

December 31, 2013

12:16am

7 lbs, 4 ounces 19.5 inches

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I remember the day I found out I was pregnant again.  Stephen and I had just returned from an all-expense paid trip to Costa Rica to find our house had flooded while we were away.  We were staying with Stephen’s parents down the street, and all week I had begun to suspect that I might be expecting.  I don’t remember exactly what tipped me off, but I do know the constant drop in blood sugar on our trip, as well as a couple of random near-panic attacks had me guessing by the time our plane landed on American soil again.

As soon as I saw that positive line on the pregnancy test, the dual emotions began.  At once elation, joy, gratitude.  And at the same time fear, anxiety, dread. How could I be both so excited and so fearful at the same time? But the parallel emotions of both anticipation and anxiety plagued me throughout this pregnancy much as they had my last.    Though I had seen God’s goodness over and over and over again, I still struggled to believe that He would be good to me yet again.  Though He had always shown himself faithful, I wrestled with believing He would remain faithful. Doubt plagued me as I wondered if I was strong enough to care for three children when every day I felt like I was failing miserably with the two I already had.  Fear assaulted me when I remembered the terrifying post-partum depression I had experienced with my first two.  Anxiety encompassed me when I thought about childbirth and everything that could go wrong—especially since my first two births had been so amazing, I figured I had to be “due” for a really awful birth.

But a couple of months into my pregnancy, Stephen and I were reading the Bible one morning, and Stephen looked up.

“What do you think about the name ‘Jubilee’ if it’s a girl?”

I frowned, pondering.  “Well, I like the meaning and significance of it, but I’m not sure if I’m sold on it as a name. It’s so…unusual.  What makes you think of it?” When God delivered the Israelites from slavery and gave them his law, He instituted a year of Jubilee.  Every 50th year, the slaves would be set free, debts would be forgiven, and the land would be given rest.  It was to be a year of redemption and celebration, a foreshadowing of how Christ would set us free from our bondage to sin and give us eternal rest in Him.

“I just sense that God is calling us to rest in Him this next season of our life, whatever it is.”

As the months passed, I grew more and more certain that I was carrying our “Jubilee,” and that God was calling me to rest in Him and His goodness, something I have struggled to do for my entire life.

As the weeks ticked by and my due date grew closer, I became more and more anxious.  I couldn’t escape the sense of foreboding that something terrible was going to happen this time around.  Everything had fallen into place so beautifully for both Jeshuah’s and Eliana’s births, I simply could not expect that to happen a third time.  Once again, I felt God gently prodding me to rest in Him.

From the time I was 35 weeks pregnant, Stephen and I were constantly on the alert.  Shuah was born at 38 weeks and Eliana at 36 weeks, and we just couldn’t be certain when this one would choose to arrive.  And since the first two had arrived quite speedily and we had been unable to find a homebirth midwife near enough, we were anxious about road conditions and getting ahold of someone to stay with the kids in time for us to get to the hospital. Christmas came and went, and we were all shocked that I had not had the baby yet.  I was a little disappointed, too, since we had decided on Noelle as a middle name, and I thought it would be so fitting for her to be a Christmas baby and we would call her Noelle.  But when Christmas passed without a baby, I doubted even more that God had uniquely planned this baby’s birth as He had the others.

Oh, ye, of little faith.

And then, I made it all the way to 39 weeks.  After being “always ready” for the last 4 weeks, having tons of Braxton hicks and false labor, we had begun to think it was never really going to happen. And we had been really hoping to have this baby before the new year. Up until that point, I had Braxton hicks constantly, sometimes as often as every 2 minutes for hours, but they were never the real thing.  The whole week after Christmas I didn’t even have Braxton hicks contractions. I felt like my body had just gone to sleep on the job and would never pop this baby out.

But that morning I visited my midwife, found that I was no more dilated than I had been 3 weeks ago, and she asked if I wanted to jump start things by stripping the membranes.  I said “Sure, if you want to,” but didn’t believe her at all when she assured me I would go into labor in the next day or two.  Still, I contacted my mother in law to let her know the midwife’s prediction and asked our middle-of-the-night couple if they would be “on call” in case I went into labor that night.

My brother, Alex, and his wife Jessica, were driving through town that evening on their way home from their Christmas trip and had been really hoping to see the baby. I told them I would eat Chipotle and hope the spices put me into labor before they arrived.  Around noon, the Braxton hicks contractions started up again and I hoped that maybe they would turn into something real this time. By 5, my contractions had gotten pretty close together, but they were still painless and merely abdominal.  Alex and Jess arrived with more Chipotle to spice things up a bit and we debated if they should stay the night.  It had been snowing all afternoon and the roads were getting pretty slick.  They still had an hour and a half drive back home, and I was really nervous that I would end up in labor in the middle of the night with no one to watch the kids back home.

But by 7, my contractions had slowed, and by 8, they had stopped altogether.   I despondently told Alex and Jess they might as well head home if the roads were clear, since there wasn’t going to be anything happening tonight. Alex and Jess decided that was best, since they had their two dogs with them, but Alex remarked as they headed out the door, “Just watch, as soon as we leave you’ll go into labor and have had the baby by the time we get home. So I guess we’ll just leave, so you will have the baby, then we’ll just come back tomorrow to see it!” We laughed, but none of us knew how accurate his prediction would turn out to be.

They left around 9pm, and Stephen and I headed downstairs to watch an episode of Sherlock, and about halfway through, I began feeling contractions.  And these ones were different. They reminded me vaguely of actual, real labor contractions, but I couldn’t be certain yet.  A few minutes later I had another one. By the third contraction, I realized I was having trouble relaxing and breathing through the contractions. Warning bells went off in my head.  It was entirely possible that this was the real thing!  I looked at the clock. It was 10:15, and I figured my contractions had been about 5 minutes apart, beginning at 10pm.  I told Stephen to pause the movie and that I was pretty sure I might actually be in labor and that we should at least call our night sitters before it got too much later.

Zack and Hannah were on their way in minutes, and Stephen threw everything into the car.  He told me he wanted to head the hospital right away, but I still wasn’t convinced I was truly in labor.  Seriously. When you experience contractions your entire pregnancy and they don’t mean anything, you really doubt even the real ones.  We were also really jumpy because we knew how fast my labors were and we didn’t want to end up delivering a baby on the side of the road in a snowstorm.

But when Zack and Hannah arrived fifteen minutes later, I could barely walk up the stairs and was finally convinced that yes, I was truly in labor, and we needed to leave now.

I quickly ran over the kids’ instructions with Hannah, stopping to breathe through contractions every couple minutes, and Stephen and I headed to the car.  It was 11 pm and no one was on the roads. A light snow was falling, and everything was quiet, peaceful. I remember thinking how different this trip to the hospital was from my last one, Stephen on the phone with 911 dodging in and out of traffic, me hollering and huffing and puffing and just trying desperately NOT to have the baby.

By the time we got to the hospital, I was pretty uncomfortable, but the contractions were still manageable if Stephen rubbed my back and pressed pressure points during each contraction.  However, as soon as I got there, the nurse checked me, announced I was dilated to 5 cm, and wanted me to lie down in the bed so she could hook me up to all the monitors for thirty minutes. (At this point in the story, I will relay my thought process in italics, though none of it was spoken aloud, and when I told Stephen later all I was thinking he was shocked. “You were thinking all of that?? I had no idea. You seemed so calm!”)

As the nurse began strapping belts around my belly, I began my internal diatribe.  Are you kidding me?? You want me to lie still in that bed for thirty minutes with belts and cords strapped all over me!? I was having a hard time staying still, let alone lying down in a bed. But until my midwife arrived to advocate for me, I could tell this nurse was not in the mood to cater to a laboring woman who desperately wished she was having a homebirth.

This labor felt very different from the other two, with a lot of pain in my back, and I wondered if baby was sunny side up, causing back labor, which I had never personally experienced.  The delightful thing about it, though, was that Stephen could massage my lower back during contractions and ease 80% of the pain.  So when I climbed into that bed and she strapped two belts on me—one to monitor me, one to monitor baby, and then wound the blood pressure monitor around my arm, Stephen couldn’t reach my back, and the contractions became quite uncomfortable indeed.  I simply could not sit still.

I sat up in the bed and knelt, rocking back and forth to ease the pain and giving Stephen access to my back. When the blood pressure monitor automatically turned on, I knew fifteen minutes had passed and took hope in the fact that I only had to be strapped down for another 15 minutes before I could be free to move around.  At that point, my nurse came back in and began working on getting the IV hooked into my left arm, since I was GBS positive and was required to be given antibiotics during labor to prevent passing an infection to the baby. I tried to ignore her as she wiped off the top of my hand and then inserted the needle as I rocked back and forth and vocalized through the contractions to help speed labor up.  But I began to feel like it was taking her forever, that my hand was really beginning to hurt, and then, out of the corner of my eye, seeing blood begin pouring out of my hand as my skin began forming a huge, bruised balloon over my veins. I heard her mutter that she had blown out a vein and had to try again.  But this time, she called in the professionals. I nearly told her to not even bother, since by the time she finally got the IV in I would have had the baby, but I didn’t want to get in trouble for denying the treatment, so I submitted to yet another person jabbing me with a needle.

About this time, I asked how much longer I needed to be hooked up to the monitors.  Being confined was beginning to feel unbearable.  My nurse informed me, quite unsympathetically, that since I had been moving around so much, the monitors had not been accurately monitoring me, so she would have to reposition them and then I would need to be hooked up for another 30 minutes and possibly more, depending on what the monitors told them.  She then put a heartbeat monitor on my right hand and left the labs tech to finish with my IV.

I think I began thinking murderous thoughts around this time. Are you kidding me??! You know I want to get off the monitors and into the bath, and the monitors have not been working for the last 15 minutes and you just now come in to do something about it??  The last fifteen minutes had felt like an hour, as my contractions were so intense and close together, and my confined state made everything so much worse.  I now had two belts around my stomach, a blood pressure monitor and an IV sticking out of my very tender, bruised, and swollen left arm, and a finger monitor on my right hand.  At this point I was seriously wondering if hospitals simply devised ways to torture laboring women.

I realized I was not going to get unplugged from any of this any time soon with this nurse, so I asked for a birthing ball, knowing I would at least be more comfortable in a sitting position and could lean up against the bed.  As I sat on the ball, rocking back and forth, and Stephen rubbed my back, I leaned my head onto the bed and whimpered softly, “I want my mama.” I wished she was there, as she had been in my first labor, to remind me to breathe, and think about peaceful waters, trees, and not to think about bears! Stephen reminded me to think about our baby and how I would get to meet him or her soon and find out who it was. I smiled at the thought, and drew strength from the knowledge.

In the next minute, I didn’t have time to think about wanting mama anymore. I couldn’t sit down through the next three contractions, barely seconds apart. I had to stand up and lean on Stephen, recognizing that it was nearly time to push.

Just then, my midwife Janelle walked in. She began rubbing my shoulders and asked how I was doing. I was standing, swaying back and forth, eyes closed in concentration, and I nodded to her that I was doing well. She had just mentioned that she was going to go look over my birth plan, when I felt the baby descending.

“Here comes the baby!” I said urgently, and the room went into a flurry of motion. Drawers were opened and shut, boxes and pads and lights and equipment thrown onto the bed and tables around me. As I felt the baby descending and my body react by instinctively bearing down, I was eager to climb onto the bed, as I was afraid this baby might just fall out as my last one had, and if I was standing over the hard floor, that would be horrible.  But climbing onto the bed proved quite difficult, tangled up in all the cords as I was.  Janelle whipped on a pair of gloves and calmly assured me that she was not going to make me lie down to give birth, but that I was free to kneel however I liked. As the urge to push increased, I tried to blow through the next contractions in hopes that this time I might not tear as the baby was born. But then, I didn’t care anymore, I just wanted this baby out!! I was on all fours on the bed when the head was born and my water broke and the rest of the baby followed. The baby plopped into the bed and Janelle encouraged me to reach down and pick up my baby. I remember looking down onto the bed, where my newborn baby lay, purple and red and covered in white vernix. The first thing I did was check to know the answer to the question of the last nine months—was it a girl or a boy?? It was a girl! I tried to reach down and pick her up, but by this point, my arms had gone numb and were so wrapped up in monitors and cords, I could barely move. I tried to pick her up, but my arms were too weak, and the cords too tangled, so I asked for help. Janelle lifted her long enough to let me settle onto my back, and then they placed her on my chest.  While they began all the clean up work around me, Stephen and I stared down at our new baby.  She still had not even cried yet, she just lay in my arms, still and peaceful, despite all the chaos that surrounded her.  I quickly looked up at the clock.  She had been born at 12:16am, New Year’s Eve.

I looked up at Stephen in amazement.  “She is our Jubilee Noelle! And born on New Year’s Eve!”  Through all the scenarios that had played out in my head, I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful story of God’s faithfulness.  After all the doubt, anxiety, and fear that had encompassed me throughout the pregnancy, God’s sovereign care awed me once again.  Months ago, God had given us the name “Jubilee Noelle” to signify new beginnings, celebration, freedom from bondage to sin, and the rest and peace that is ours through Christ.

And she has been just that.  From the moment she was born, I have felt a freedom I have never felt before.  Freedom from anxiety, from fear, from discontentment.  My heart is at peace, resting in God’s goodness and his will for me.  For the first time, I feel like my head and my heart have combined to give me rest in what God’s plan is for us.

Our Jubilee Noelle is the most peaceful, restful baby I have ever seen in my life.  From the time she was born, she has been the picture of calm.  She never even cried for the thirty minutes it took the nurse to try to draw her blood for the GSB labs (as it happened, the nurse never did get all the blood she needed and they had to come back and try again later!).  She sleeps most of the time, but when she is awake, she simply gazes around in quiet wonder at the world, rarely fussing, and bringing such a restful presence to our home.  It is more than just her serenity, but it is rather unexplainable, really.  I find that when I try to put it into words, there simply are none to adequately describe it. She is a gift, that is all I can say.  A gift of celebration, joy, freedom, and rest.  And I cannot help but marvel at the perfection of her name, chosen for her by our Heavenly Father long before she was even born.

Jubilee

Michael Card

The Lord provided for a time

For the slaves to be set free

For the debts to all be canceled

So His chosen ones could see

His deep desire was for forgiveness

He longed to see their liberty

And His yearning was embodied

In the Year of Jubilee

At the Lord’s appointed time

His deep desire became a man

The heart of all true jubilation

And with joy we understand

In his voice we hear a trumpet sound

That tells us we are free

He is the incarnation

Of the year of Jubilee

To be so completely guilty

Given over to despair

To look into your judges face

And see a Savior there

Jubilee, Jubilee

Jesus is our Jubilee

Debts forgiven

Slaves set free

Jesus is our Jubilee

The Gut Brain Connection: What is it and Why Does it Matter?

“All disease begins in the gut.” –Hippocrates

“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”  –Hippocrates

This is the first post in a series of posts my friend, Abby, and I will be writing on the Gut Brain Connection, its affect on our own families, and specific healing dietary suggestions.  But before we begin, we must answer the question, just what is the Gut Brain Connection, and why does it matter?

What Is The GBC and Why Does It Matter?

There has been a recent flurry of activity regarding the study of what is frequently called the Gut Brain Connection (GBC). Perhaps you have seen articles posting new study results. Perhaps you have heard of people implementing radical dietary changes in hopes of curing autism, depression, anxiety, and a host of other illnesses, both mental and physical. But the more this issue is researched, especially recently in the wake of what is now becoming an epidemic of autism and other learning disabilities and disorders, the more resoundingly clear the results are: A huge part of our health is directly related to the health of our gut. And much of our mental state has to do with what we are putting in our mouths.

How is the Gut Connected to the Brain?

The gut (our intestinal tract) is the huge tube-like structure that carries our food from our mouth to our stomachs. It engages in tireless work consisting of breaking down food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. Our guts also contain neurotransmitters, some 100 million of them! that send signals to our brains. In fact, the gut has been coined the “second brain”.  Just like the brain in our heads, our “second brain” can by both functional and dysfunctional.  If our second brain is dysfunctional, it can result in a whole host of diseases and disorders, including autism, ADHD, allergies, mental illness (depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc), eczema, autoimmune disorders, IBS, OCD and many others.

How does this work?  This is where the GBC begins to get really interesting.

So What Goes Wrong?

Our gut is designed to be filled with all sorts of beneficial bacteria called flora.  The average adult should contain about five pounds of this bacteria! The flora provides a sort of wall of protection between the thin walls of our intestines and our bloodstream. But this “wall” can become eroded and leave our bodies susceptible to harmful toxins, chemicals, parasites, and undigested foods.  In the words of Dr. Natasha Campbell, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, “If the beneficial bacteria in the gut are damaged and are not functioning as they should, then the “walls of the city” are not protected very well…Without protection the gut wall is open to invasion by anything that comes along: a virus from vaccination or the environment, a ubiquitous fungus…various bacteria and parasites and toxic substances, all of which are very capable of damaging our digestive system and causing a chronic inflammation in its walls.” To make matters worse, when “gut flora is compromised, the lack of nourishment it would produce adds to the damage of the digestive wall” and further impairs the guts ability to digest and absorb nutrients.  The is a major reason why so many autistic children have digestive issues.  (This is also the reason why so many autistic, hyperactive, autoimmune people are unable to eat dairy and gluten products.  The gut does not contain the proper tools to digest these nutrients, and so they actually turn into a type of morphine and opiate in their systems. But more on that in future posts!)

Babies are born with sterile guts and acquire their beneficial bacteria through passing through the birth canal and through breastfeeding. Our guts are then continuously populated through diet and environmental factors.

Why Does All This Matter?

“On the whole it is hard to overestimate how important the state of our gut flora is in the appropriate functioning of our immune system.  It has been estimated that around 80-85% of our immunity is located in the gut wall.”  We can begin to clearly see how the health of our gut affects our overall health.  People with damaged guts also have compromised immunity to disease and infection.  This explains why these people catch every illness within ten miles of them.  They lack the protection they are meant to have to fend off pathogens.

But most importantly, when our “walls of defense” are compromised, they are easily breached.  So the food that we eat is not digested properly, resulting not only in malnutrition, but in toxins being released into the bloodstream and brain. Our diets can be full of nutrients, but if the gut is damaged, our body is unable to use them properly. And if our gut is damaged, toxins cannot be properly disposed of, resulting in a buildup of toxicity in a person’s system.

What Harms the Gut Flora?

Our flora is most put at risk when we are taking a prescription antibiotic of some form.  Antibiotics are designed to wipe out all bacteria, good and bad, from the gut.  This then leaves the gut unprotected from flora and open to a host of problems. This “bad flora” can then establish colonies that breed disease and infection because there was not enough beneficial flora to crowd them out.  This, in turn, releases toxins directly into the bloodstream, which affects the brain.  Antibiotics change bacteria, viruses, and fungi present in our guts from benign to pathogenic, giving them the ability to invade tissues and cause diseases.  When antibiotics first came on the market, doctors routinely recommended or prescribed a probiotic along with the antibiotic, recognizing the need to replenish the beneficial bacteria.  But as the years have passed, probiotics have fallen by the wayside, and antibiotics have become the “cure-all” and are even routinely given preventatively to humans and animals alike.  Antibiotics should always be a last resort, but are especially harmful to those who already has compromised gut flora.

Our gut flora is also damaged by other drugs, such as contraceptives, pain killers, and analgesics.  “The Pill” has a particularly devastating effect, since a baby inherits its gut flora from its mother.  If mom has been taking a contraceptive, her gut flora has already been damaged, so she then passes on her abnormal gut flora to her baby.  This can result in eczema, allergies, and other severe learning disabilities.

More recently, a connection has been made between laxatives, specifically Miralax, and damaged gut flora,  leading to severe disabilities such as autism, ADHD, allergies, etc.  If a woman habitually takes a laxative during pregnancy, her unborn baby’s gut is being compromised (this, we have recently learned, is one of the major reasons for our son’s gut damage, which I will detail in later posts).  Autistic children are now routinely prescribed laxatives on a long-term basis, due to their digestive issues.  Many doctors do not yet realize the catastrophic effect this is having on their already compromised patient.

Diet also plays a huge role in healthy gut flora.  “Too many sugary foods and processed carbs increase numbers of different fungi…Processed and sugary carbs also promote population of the gut with worms and other parasites. A diet high in fiber from grains has a profound negative effect on the gut flora.”  Breastfeeding populates the gut with balanced, healthy flora. A diet lacking in probiotic rich foods (as the modern western diet is) is one of the chief culprits of a damaged gut.

What Heals the Gut Flora?

Now we come to the fun part! A damaged gut can be healed! Many people suffering from the diseases and disorders mentioned above have seen dramatic decrease, if not complete reversal of symptoms as they begin to heal their gut.   By implementing a careful diet of nutrient dense foods that are easily digestible (bone broths, eggs, certain vegetables and meats), soothes the damaged gut and prepares it for healing.  Adding a host of probiotics (such as lacto-fermented foods) repopulates the gut with healthy flora.  And most importantly, avoiding the foods that cause more damage to the already damaged gut (sugar, starches, gluten, specifically).  These steps can heal and seal the gut, allowing symptoms to reverse and possibly heal altogether.

There are many forms of dietary suggestions to heal the gut.  In our research on this issue, Abby and I have become convinced that Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s approach to healing the gut is the most beneficial.  She has written extensively on the subject in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, which I highly recommend. Be on the lookout for the next post in this series, where we will talk more specifically about Dr. Campbell-McBride’s GAPS diet and how it heals and seals the gut.

For more reading, here is the GAPS website and some recently published articles on the GBC:

GAPS
The Gut Brain Connection-Harvard Health
Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being
Your Gut Bacteria Affects Your Brain, Study Confirms
Eat More Yogurt!

Ridiculously Delicious Nutritious Yogurt Popsicles

In the summer heat, it is nice to have cool, refreshing snacks on hand.  Ice cold popsicles come to mind when I think of a fun summer snack, but the sugar-laden, dye infused, artificial ingredient list on the back of store bought freezer pops makes me cringe to think of feeding to my kids, or anyone for that matter. So that’s why I decided it was time to come up with our own version of this popular summer treat.

Yogurt is one of our favorite foods around here.  We typically eat it for breakfast, with a bit of granola and raisins stirred in.  But sometimes the same thing every day gets boring–especially for kids–and it is fun to toss things up a bit.  And when the summer heat begins to suffocate, I begin to crave these delightfully refreshing, nourishing popsicles.  Yogurt popsicles have pretty much become our favorite summer snack around here. Most mornings my kids wake up and ask for their popsicle and I send them out to the back porch to lick and drip to their hearts content.

And the best thing about them? They include only four completely natural, nourishing ingredients and are a snap to make!

Ridiculously Delicious Nutritious Yogurt Popsicles

10-12 ounces frozen organic strawberries or fruit of choice

1 Tbs raw honey

1 quart plain organic yogurt (my recipe here!)

1 pack gelatin (Bernard Jensen and Great Lakes are two hormone free, natural bovine gelatins)

Method:

Defrost strawberries, then mash them with a spatula.

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Strain juice into a saucepan through a fine mesh sieve while smashing the strawberries in the sieve.

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Heat strawberry juice on a stove and quickly whisk gelatin in until combined. You don’t want clumps!

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Pour juice, mashed strawberries, and yogurt into a blender and puree until smooth.

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Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

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Enjoy, guilt-free!2013-09-15 04.02.07

I’m Back!

After a very lengthy, unannounced sabbatical (sorry!), I am taking up writing again.  There are numerous reasons for my absence, one being my two young children and a pregnancy taking up the majority of my attention lately.  I also was uncertain whether or not there was really a need for another blog out there in the blogosphere.  Sometimes the amount of information available is overwhelming, and I certainly do not want to add to the chaos. I think that mostly, though, I must admit to a huge inferiority complex that intimidated me from writing because there was so many other bloggers out there so much more capable and knowledgeable than I, and that people only read my blog because they felt sorry for me, and I would be doing everyone a favor by quitting writing.

That pity party lasted a long time before I realized it ultimately shouldn’t matter to me how popular my blog is or isn’t. I don’t write for fame and glory.  I write because I simply cannot not write.  Whether I am simply another mommy blogger trying to find my way through the wilderness of raising children, cherishing the gospel in everyday life, and filling our home with nourishing meals on a budget, my soul needs to write. I need to blog for the accountability and motivation it provides for me. I need to blog as a creative outlet amidst the sometimes exhausting mundane of laundry, dishes, and cleaning. And if my blogging can encourage others along the way, then praise God. If it is only to document what we are learning and doing for my own reference, that is okay, too.

And so I will carve out time to do just that.  I will attempt to write out some of our new favorite recipes, fun health facts we are learning, routines and learning activities, simple ways to implement natural, chemical-free living, and how I am learning to grow in grace and understanding of the gospel as I do all of the above.

No More Mommy Wars

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Moms these days are weary. Exhausted. Frazzled. Stressed. But we aren’t simply weary because we were up all night with a teething baby, or that our children will not obey, or that no matter how many times we pick up messes, they instantly reappear.

 

We are weary because no matter how much we do, it never feels like enough to win the Mommy Wars. You know what I mean by Mommy Wars. That constant competition we feel with other moms (yes, even our best friends) to be the best mom humanly possible. But if we are being perfectly honest with ourselves, is it really simply that we want to be the best mom possible? Or is it that we tear down other moms in an effort to build ourselves up? To make us feel better about our own imperfect parenting. We don’t simply want to be a good mom. We want to be the best. Better than everyone around us. And this competitive spirit is destructive and ungodly and is ripping apart our unity in Christ.

 

As soon as we get that positive pregnancy test, we begin the pursuit of being the best parent possible to produce the best children possible.  We read books on child training so that our children will be the best behaved children around. But then are we shaking our heads in disapproval when we see our friend’s children misbehave, thinking to ourselves, “It’s no wonder. If only they would apply ________ method, their children would behave.”? We research nutrition and healthy eating and work hard at implementing them in our homes.  But then do we criticize other moms for “obviously not caring enough about their children” to give them better food to eat? We spend countless hours organizing educational, developmental activities for our children, pouring our whole selves into them. And then do we frown in disapproval at the mom who takes time to sit down at a coffee shop by herself once a week, accusing her of neglect and self-centerdness?

 

If we have concluded that we want to raise our children on a schedule, do we assume that everyone should raise their children on a schedule as well? If we believe our family is best served by not allowing television and video games, then do we assume everyone who cares about the development of their children will do likewise? If we decide to homeschool our children, do we take pride in that we are raising our children in the Lord, and other parents are neglecting their responsibilities?

 

The list of possible ways in which we can compare and judge one another is endless, and all day long, we can weigh ourselves by these lists, either falling miserably short or succeeding. When we get on Facebook or Pinterest and see what other moms are doing, when we read a mom blog about home organization with little children, when we go to mom’s group and watch our children playing with others. We are tempted to compare, analyze, judge, and feel judged.

 

This attitude does little to foster sisterly oneness within the Body of Christ, and it certainly does nothing to extend grace to one another in our failures.  

 

We must be careful not to superimpose so many extrabiblical standards on what it looks like to be a good wife, mother, and family, that we are constantly weighed down by the burden of guilt and failure.  If we want to look at what the Bible says directly regarding parenting, amazingly enough, there are only two prescriptive passages on parenting in the New Testament. Let’s take a quick look.
 

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

 

Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

 

There are also a handful of passages about the importance of disciplining our children out of love (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15;23:13-24;29:15 Hebrews 12:7-11).

 

We are also commanded to teach our children Deuteronomy 11:19 “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

 

And then there’s the ever famous “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

 

That’s about it. From these passages we can gain an understanding that we are to teach, train, and discipline our children with patience, gentleness, and love. But the Bible doesn’t say how all of this looks specifically. It doesn’t give specific methods to produce godly, obedient children. In fact, the Bible tells us that if our children are obedient and godly, that is a work of God, and we cannot take credit.

 

The Bible doesn’t say it is right or wrong to co-sleep with your baby. Scripture doesn’t reveal whether it is beneficial to feed your baby on a schedule, or on-demand. God doesn’t prescribe exactly how it looks to teach our children to sit quietly in a church service, or at which age they are able to learn to do this. The Bible doesn’t say that we ought to train our children to play only with one toy at a time, or with a plethora. These are issues on which we can study humanity, personality, individual propensity towards sin, and conclude the best way in which to train and disciple our family.

 

Now, just because the Bible doesn’t give specific methods of discipline and instruction doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have meaningful conversations about practical application of these Biblical truths. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have desires, goals, intentions for how you would like your family to function. Just because the Bible doesn’t address these issues point blank doesn’t mean that there aren’t biblical principles that we can apply to training and disciplining our children.  But the specific conclusions we come to about childrearing should be held loosely, and above all, not applied to others in criticism or judgment. As we do this, we must remember that each family is unique, made up of different people with different needs. Therefore, each of our application of these truths will look different.

 

Let’s not import Biblical significance to personal preference, and therefore cause division in the Body of Christ where God did not put division. As Elyse Fitzpatrick says in her phenomenal book Give them Grace, “When we make parenting more complex than God has made it, we afflict ourselves with burdens too heavy for us to carry, and we are unintentionally presuming that the good news of the gospel is insufficient.” Let’s extend grace to others as we wish they would extend grace to us as we parent. And most of all, let’s remember the sovereignty of God as we parent. It does not depend on us to raise perfect, healthy children. We are responsible to seek God, train up our children, and point them to Christ. But the results are up to him. “Make it your overriding desire that the Father would be glorified in every aspect of your life, whichever way he turns it. Perhaps his plan is for your family to be a wonderful example of his grace because you have respectful, obedient children. Perhaps his plan won’t look anything like that. Perhaps his plan will be weakness, persecution, calamity, affliction. But whatever his plan is for you, you can rest in the assurance that he will always strengthen you by his grace and for his glory.”

 

There is not a parenting method that is flawless and that will produce perfect, godly, obedient children. And if this is our goal, than we have the wrong priorities. We are responsible to raise our children up in the knowledge of the Lord, but we cannot change our children’s hearts. That is God’s work. It is our responsibility to study the Scriptures, study our family’s needs, and train and instruct how God leads. It is God’s responsibility to cause fruit from our labor. It is not for us to judge and criticize another mom because she parents differently or  has different priorities, or because she is not having the same “results.” Remember that there is rarely a mother who actually doesn’t love her children or care about their wellbeing. Remember that the mom next door who parents completely differently than you loves her children just as much as you do.

 

Give yourself grace today, Mommy, as you seek to imperfectly parent your children. And give other mamas grace as they do the same. Instead of harsh criticism and whispering behind backs to point out flaws in others, wrap your arms around the hurting, weary struggling mom next to you, and point her to Christ.

Dear Eliana

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Dear Eliana,

On January 4 of this year, we celebrated you first birthday! I can hardly believe the time has flown by so fast.  It does not seem like a year ago already that you made your hasty, miraculous entrance into this world. After a pregnancy wrought with complications, your arrival four weeks early and a mere twelve minutes after arriving at the hospital should probably have given us a little window into your little personality and the fulness with with you live life.  You were truly named “Eliana Joy” with good reason–you are our answered prayer, and such a joy to this house!  “Full of Life” and “Bundle of Energy” come to mind when we think of you.  “Spitfire” and “Pistol” are also words that readily to to mind when describing your vivacious, precocious personality:-).395711_573603029409_1317720744_n

You were a little peanut when you were born, weighing in at 5 lbs 12 ounces, and you remain a little peanut, barely making the charts with your 18 pounds and 26 inches.  You crawl around the house with the speed of a train, but you have not attempted walking yet.  Lately, though, you are trying to stand by yourself, and letting go of things to stand up unassisted for seconds at a time.  I know it is only a matter of time before you take off running and never stop!

You climb over everything in sight!

You climb over everything in sight!

Though for the first few months of your life you slept and ate and ate and slept like most newborns, as you began to outgrow your 0-3 month clothes, you began to outgrow your need for much sleep. You don’t require nearly the amount of sleep most babies your age do (and certainly not as much as your older brother has!), and so we have learned to adapt our expectations accordingly.  Most days, your brief nap time is followed by a period of independent quiet play while your brother finishes his lengthy nap and this Mama can work around the house for a little bit longer before you descend upon the place again, ready to tear into whatever is nearby.  When you do sleep, you love to bunch up your blanket underneat you and sprawl out across it in a most humorous way.IMG_3980

You absolutely adore your brother, and when you wake from a nap and hear him playing away, you instantly come to attention, scramble to climb out of my arms, and crawl full-speed ahead towards him.  Your brother, on the other hand, is not as enthusiastic about you joining in his fun, as he has usually built or assembled something that he has a definite plan for.  When you descend upon the scene, your greatest pleasure is to undo everything that he has worked so hard to build. It’s all in good fun to you, but your poor brother is devastated, and you typically begin stealing toys back and forth from each other, followed by subsequent shrieks of outrage at the audacity of the other.  My greatest joy, though, is when I hear the two of you laughing together, smiling over toys, and sharing sweetly.  I hope you will always love and cherish and care for each other as you grow older.

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As you outgrew the newborn days, you became less and less snuggly, so eager to see and explore the world were you.  When we would hold you close, you would turn your whole body around and hold yourself up stiffly, refusing to be held close as it might obscure your view of your surroundings.  In the last couple of months, however, you have begun to love to be held close once again.  Now, we delight in your throwing your arms around us and burrowing your face deep into our shoulders as you give us a long, delightful hug, typically humming merrily as you do.  Your daddy recently rejoiced as you began reaching for him as soon as he comes home from work, or when you hurt yourself, that you crawl to him for comfort, hugs, and kisses.

This was the night you regained your snuggles.  You awakened late in the evening, feeling sickly, and Daddy snuggled you for an hour before putting you back to sleep. You've snuggled again ever since:-)

This was the night you regained your snuggles. You awakened late in the evening, feeling sickly, and Daddy snuggled you for an hour before putting you back to sleep. You’ve snuggled again ever since:-)

Speaking of your love for your daddy, he lights up your world!  If you are in another part of the house and you hear your daddy come home and begin to wrestle with your brother, your face lights up and you let out a shriek of delight, crawling towards the sounds of merriment as quickly as your chubby legs will carry you.  You then join in the fun with all the energy in the world. You are one of the toughest girls I know, rarely caring if you get tackled, knocked over, or trod upon by your brother in one of your many wrestling matches.  You typically bounce right back up with grins and giggles, ready to take on the world, as usual.

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Father Daughter time

You followed in your brother’s footsteps as far as your eating habits are concerned, skipping purees and going straight to table food at about 9 months old.  Until then, you were exclusively breastfed, and you still nurse a few times a day. You’ve always been a bit of a “bottle snob,” and we have always had a difficult time leaving you if it was over a time where you were supposed to nurse.  You still refuse most bottles and sippies, prefering instead to either drink straight from a glass, or out of a straw (your absolute favorite).  If it is milk you are supposed to drink, though, we might as well forget it.  You turn up your nose at it and refuse to drink any. Eating table food was harder for you than your brother, as he had a mouth full of teeth by your age, and you barely had two until only a couple of weeks ago.  Now you have 6, and chewing foods is much easier for you.  You don’t like things cut up, but rather prefer them handed to you whole, and you take little (and sometimes big) bites out of them until them are gone.  You then exclaim loudly, “Mah! Mah!” (to which your brother replies, “No, no, Baby, Mama is right here,” thinking you are calling for Mama).

Guacamole Girl!

Guacamole Girl!

You are such a bundle of joy, we can hardly contain ourselves.  Big Sister Rehan cannot resist kissing you over and over until you wriggle out of arms, pushing away with an exclamation of indignation.  But for all your fiestyness, you are the sweetest little girl I could imagine, and we love you to pieces!

Love you always and forever,

Your Mama

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Jeshuah, You Are Three–How Can That Be??

Dear Jeshuah,

You are three years old today! The last year has flown by so fast, I really cannot believe it.  The year began with the birth of your baby sister, Eliana.

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You instantly warmed to her, and she became your playmate and sidekick in all things.  You guys are the best of friends.  You love to wrestle her–and she loves it too!–You love to feed her your food, bend your face close to hers and ask sweetly, “Like it, Baby?”  You get downright giddy when I put her on the little John Deere Gator, and you get on your bike, and she “chases” you around the house. About the only thing you don’t enjoy is her fascination with your trains.  As soon as you build a track, she is sure to break it apart. We are working on patiently saying, “No, please, Baby” and then asking Mommy or Daddy for help to retrieve her before she wrecks your tracks.

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Speaking of sisters, Eliana was not the only sister we added this year. Rehan, a 16-year old Filipino, came to join our family in September as she attends high school here in the States.  You love having a big sister, and she adores you and your little sister.093

You love to explore the world, and I love watching your eyes light up as you discover new things.  Your very favorite thing right now, is trains, trains, and more trains.  You enjoy adding to your collection of Thomas trains.  In your opinion, I believe you can never have too many tracks or trains.  Every morning, you wake up and ask to play “choo choos,” and Daddy builds you a magnificent track.  Lately, though, you have your own ideas about how you want the track to go, and sometimes you grow frustrated by the tracks’ inability to go the way you want them to go.

You still love the great outdoors more than anything, and the cold is frustrating you to not be able to go out in it.  Not that you mind the cold at all. You would stay outside day and night, until you hands turned blue, if I would let you! In the summer, you enjoyed the sand and water table and garden out back.  You love to dig in the dirt, make big piles with it, and play in the water.   You still love to pour water, and when it is not nice outside, sometimes we do “water play” in the sink or tub and you collect cups, bowls, and spoons and pour water from one cup to the other in delight.

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You have been potty trained since 8 months (poopy) and 12 months (potty), but I finally was brave enough to put you in underwear all day shortly after your second birthday.  When you were two and a half, we noticed you were consistently dry when you woke up in the mornings, so you started wearing underwear full time.

Speaking of sleeping, you still sleep more than any kid I know! It is not uncommon for you to go to bed at 7:30 in the evening and wake up at 7:30 in the morning, then take a 3+ hour nap in the afternoon.  You are, however, much more flexible than you used to be.  We can move your nap around depending on the activities of the day, and even push your bedtime late when you go to Nana and Poppa or Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Going to your grandparents’ on either side is definitely your favorite thing to do.  Going to Grandpa and Grandma Willcox’s, you love to pretend Olympics with cousins Noah and Annie, ever since the summer Olympics this year.  When you go to Nana and Poppa’s house, the barn with its old John Deere tractors and the pasture with its cows are your favorite in the world.  You talk about it for months, begging to go see Poppa’s cows, feed them hay, and call them with “saboss.” You enjoy building your own farm setups here at home and pretending the farmer is Poppa.

Only a hint of the autism remains, after your chiropractic treatments over a year ago.  Every day we marvel at how you learn and grow, how you explore your world and live to the fullest.  You talk in full sentences and learn new words and phrases every day.  We rejoice in your sweet disposition, your tender spirit, and your fun-loving personality.

You are such a gift from God, and we love you tons and bunches!!

Love,

Daddy and Mama

(Following is a montage of some of my favorite pictures of how much you love your baby sister:-) I tried to upload more of us together, but we were having computer issues, so I let it go for now!)

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