When I started writing here, I was determined to be genuine and “raw” with where the “next three feet” in life were going. I still have that same determination, but I have recently shied away from practicing it, sometimes out of busy-ness, but more often out of fear of sharing my vulnerable thoughts and how they would be received. This resulted in an unintentional writing silence, which I haven’t known what to do with, and it intimidated me more and more the longer it went on. But I want to get back to processing in real time as I learn; it serves me, and I pray it serves others. So here I am.
Lord willing, any time now, we will be welcoming our daughter into this world. Being the English nerd I am, I’ve been thinking on the phrase “pregnant pause” a lot – a purposeful pause to build expectation or suspense. A very appropriate description for this season. As the weeks have gone on and my body builds its expectation for the process of labor, I’ve realized this “pregnant pause” is symbolic too; it serves as a frustrating but beautiful picture of the already-but-not-yet pause that is life on this earth. We are groaning in labor pains, awaiting deliverance (Rom. 8:22). I’ve decided to take some time to “pause” here and process before the arrival of this little girl, to reflect on what the Lord is teaching me, specifically through the fears I have worked through concerning childbirth and parenting. More than anything, I pray the timeless truths God is teaching me will encourage you in whatever “pause” you’re in.
I’ve always wanted to be a mom. I can remember being as young as three years old and playing with baby dolls – feeding, changing, “mothering.” Being the youngest in my family, I didn’t actually know much about babies, but nieces and nephews came along, giving me the experience I sorely lacked, and with it came excitement: “If I love these kids so much, how much more will I love my own?!” I assumed after school, I would work for a period of time, and then stay home once children came along, largely because that’s what was modeled in my own family. And here I am, by God’s providence, doing that. But along the way, I found a fear that was unexpected, embarrassing, and at times crippling. I began to fear having children.
In high school and college, I still eagerly desired a family, often differing from many of my peers who viewed children as a milestone for later in life; instead, I welcomed the possibility of marrying young, starting a family, putting a career aside, if the Lord willed. And marriage did come; marriage to Chad, who had the conviction and heart to have a family, sooner rather than later, and preferably large. When we were seriously dating/engaged and having these conversations, I was shocked to find a mysterious fear washing over me in regards to children.
But I tried to suppress this fear; I didn’t want this man I loved to be disappointed, and I didn’t want others to judge me. So I sought justification for my feelings instead. While I compared myself to the moms who seemed confident and faith-filled for parenthood, in my pride, I simultaneously looked down upon many of them for being so seemingly “consumed” by this role at the exclusion of other women in different seasons. And while I felt guilty being around those who were unwillingly childless, either out of circumstances or health, I simultaneously wanted to “champion their cause,” desiring them to have more of a voice in the Church and realign perspective back onto Christ rather than family status. So this became my unofficial cause and my excuse. I questioned the application of verses like“be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) and “children are a blessing from the Lord” (Ps. 127) or even Proverbs 31 and Titus 2. How do these passages apply to those who don’t and won’t ever have children? While I still ask this question and believe there is much to be done in the Church in serving the single, the childless, etc., I admit that I was cowering behind this cause in a selfish and feeble attempt to defend my fears. Looking back now, any lack of desire for children was actually not about children at all, but a lack of belief in God’s goodness as my personal “what ifs” and “how wills” haunted me:
- What if I can’t get pregnant?
- What if a serious health problem is discovered with me or the baby?
- What if we miscarry or experience a stillbirth?
- What if I die? What if Chad dies? What will happen to the other and the baby?
- What if our child dies young – be it five or thirty-five?
- How painful will childbirth actually be?
- What if Chad hates how my body changes?
- What if our marriage changes for the worse with children?
- What if I’m not the mother I want to be or should be or Chad wants me to be?
- How will I shepherd a child’s heart to know and glorify the Lord?
- What if our child rebels and is never saved?
- How will we practically afford having a child and me staying home?
- How will my sin – my anger, my pride, my unbelief, my control – not ruin my child
- How will my ministry change with children?
- What if all my childless friends distance themselves from me?
Any of these could or could not happen. But it was easier in my mind to remain childless than to face these fears head on with the truth of God’s Word and Spirit’s intercession. So as they festered and attacked, I grew blind to the good, the lovely, the commendable, the worthy of praise, and I failed to see such truths as:
“These light momentary afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen“ (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect through weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8)
”We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28)
“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom.8:32)
“My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil.4:9)
I could only see through the lens of my human perspective of possibility, and it was too much for me.
The Israelites did the same thing in Numbers 13. When returning from spying out the Promised Land, they doubted the reality of defeating the natives: “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are” (v. 31). They evaluated their situation purely from a human viewpoint: the natives were bigger, stronger, numerous; therefore, they could never defeat them. Seems like a logical, natural train of thought. They forgot the power of the supernatural though; they forgot their God, the God who delivered them from Egypt, who covenanted with them, who provided for them repeatedly in the wilderness.God follows up in Numbers 14:11 asking: “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” And this is what he is asking me and maybe you too.
We all tend to function with Israelite logic:
We are not able to go up against [____], for [____] is stronger than we are.
Right now, my blank would be labor and parenting. They can seem too hard, too much. Maybe your blank is filled similarly or differently, but God is asking us the same questions: How long will you not believe? Have you already forgotten all I have done for you? Shown you? Provided for you?
I am not per se on the other side of all those fears though. Many of them still lurk in my mind. I see now that these fears sprout from idols of control and comfort, thought patterns of “God is not in control, God does not have my good in mind.” But where in Scripture or where in my life can I find proof of these lies? What do these idols offer me that I cannot find in the pearl of great price that I have been given through the cross (Matthew 13:45-46)? When considering these questions, the Spirits strength, Christ’s peace, Scripture’s assurance, and leaning on Chad’s leadership, I was able to move from a place of fear to faith to even try getting pregnant. If God willed us to have children and have them now, it would happen (and so it did). And He faithfully equips as He calls (Heb 13:21). Here I am – pregnant and anxiously awaiting our little one’s arrival. And by God’s grace, I can honestly say I am excited – excited to have and snuggle her, excited to grow to know who she is and how the Lord will use her, excited to see Chad become a father and how parenting will transform our relationship. This is God’s kindness. God has proven himself over and over again throughout my life and already throughout the short life of my daughter – reminders of His goodness, His holiness, His provision, His care, His grace offered freely. I could go on with the stories of how He worked in ways immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine, just in the last nine months – $400 in a desk, a breech flip – stories for another time and place. Like the Lord asked in Numbers 14, how long could I not believe despite all He has shown? So the next three feet look like this pregnant pause: waiting – waiting for our baby, waiting for the continued work He is doing, waiting for deliverance from my feeble flesh and fears. And in the pause, I cling to this:
“Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation. Selah”