Monday, April 30, 2012

One Reason I Want Babies

'Father and Son' photo (c) 2011, Trevor Pittman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/
I know that many people are on the fence about whether or not they want to biologically reproduce. Some question biological reproduction for ethical reasons: global overpopulation, a belief in adoption, etc. Some have lifestyle concerns: feeling called to a profession that limits your resources for instance. Some have health or social concerns. There are, in reality, a lot of valid reasons for not wanting to reproduce. 

I have never been on the fence about reproducing. I've always known I wanted kids. I didn't always know if it was possible to have them biologically, and I believe that adoption is as miraculous a way to become a parent as the traditional route, so adoption remained a possibility. But the desire to have children to commit to and raise has always existed for me. I'm pretty traditional in this sense.

However, this was all theoretical for most of my life; I never actually wanted a baby now. Even when Josh and I got married at 23, we decided that we would wait four or five years to even begin thinking about kids. We both felt a pull to graduate school, to establish ourselves financially, and to get started in our careers. Our plan for the future was far from clear, but children were not an immediate goal.

But then, our marriage brought us closer together than I ever thought possible. I fell in love with my husband in new ways each day, week, month. I saw all of his faces in their full glory: the giddy, the sullen, the pouty, the hungry. I grew in my respect for him despite seeing his many flaws. 

Over time this deep feeling of love for him started manifesting itself in a strange way; I wanted to create more of him, duplicate him in a sense. I didn't just want a baby in the future; I wanted his baby. In all honesty, my baby fever started not by seeing other people's babies, hip strollers, or the joys of parenting (ha). My baby fever grew out of my love for my husband. 

The depth and breadth of this reality does not escape me. In having children with him, I am bestowing on him the greatest, most childlike compliment I can give: “More please.” I want more of Josh to love; I want to watch more of him grow; I want to see more of him refined into gold. I ironically feel the deep desire to duplicate him most when he is being childlike himself—sleeping, laughing, crying, playing. In short, I think his DNA should be passed on for the sake of the world. I really, really do.  

Now I'm aware that our son will not be a Little Josh. I've already written about that, and I get it. In reality, our son will probably be a little bit like him, a little bit like me, and a little bit confusing . But if it turns out that our son looks, sounds, thinks, and acts like my amazing husband, I would not mind in the slightest. 

So that is one reason biological reproduction is happening in our home: I want the world to have more people like my husband. It probably sounds silly and selfish and remarkably unspiritual, but it's true.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Share Your Birth Stories

'Labor' photo (c) 2011, Bradley Gordon - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Now that the semester is winding down, I'm tackling the list of things I told myself I could afford to put off until Summer. One of the most exciting things on that list: Getting to spend some time preparing for Baby Boy. I know I can't fully prepare, but sharing information is one of my love languages. And I have come to learn that the most valuable information for first-time parents comes in the form of anecdotal stories from other moms and dads. 

So in an effort to try to prepare for the final weeks of pregnancy and birth, I want to hear your stories! If you've given birth or witnessed a birth, I'd love for you to share your birth stories with me. You can type them in the comments or leave a link if you've already written them elsewhere.

Some great examples that I've read recently:

The Birth of Audrey Jane by Stephanie Sheaffer, aka Metropolitan Mama
You Can't Always Get What You Want by Anne Bogel

I'm not the type to be anxious or fixate on scary stories, so please don't hesitate if your birth stories are less than ideal.

Thanks friends! I look forward to reading these.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What to Never Ask a Woman With a Bump

'Pregnant moosie!' photo (c) 2009, Nelson Kwok - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/I've now officially reached the point that people have started looking at my bump instead of my face when they see me. I don't mind this; I understand why bumps are easy to stare at. But as a result of my growing "Buddha belly," as we're now calling it, I've started to get the worst question ever (or a variation of it):

"Are you expecting?"

While it's pretty obvious that I haven't just put on a little weight, I am downright surprised at how many people think this is okay to ask. Yes, I'm pregnant, but what if I weren't? 

What if I gave birth a month ago and am emotionally struggling with my still-noticeable bump? 
What if I was suffering from kidney disease and my abdomen was swollen from the treatments? 
What if I was growing a beer belly? 

Your question would ruin my day, or maybe my week. 

A few years ago I was 10-15 pounds heavier than I am now... and I wasn't pregnant. I wore my extra weight fairly well, but I definitely had a belly. One evening a lady asked when I was due. I just stared at her and said, "Um, I'm not." Luckily, it didn't ruin my week. I tried to chalk it up to the cut of my dress, which admittedly wasn't helping. But as you can tell, it stuck with me. 

Is it worth it to ask this question? Nope. Not ever, ever, ever. 

There are other ways to bring up the topic if you want to breech it. Try a general question like, "How are you?" If I want to talk about my pregnancy, I'll probably bring it up. If I don't bring it up with you, I'm probably sick of talking about it, or I simply don't know you well enough to talk about the reproductive journey of my body. Imagine that.

So world, just stop asking this senseless question. Please.


Related posts:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stuck in a Naming Rut


Before we knew the baby was a boy, we decided to largely avoid talking about names for our child. We do not see eye-to-eye at all on the matter. I tend to like grandpa names; Josh tends to like trendier names. We also have a hard last name in some ways, so we want first names for our kids that go with Ziesel well. It can't end in an "s" or it sounds weird; it shouldn't require spelling 'cause Ziesel already does; it should be something people know how to pronounce, unlike Ziesel. 

We currently have a Google Doc with lots of options, but to be honest, I don't love any of the names at this point. 

I really want to love my son's name, but I'm starting to realize that I might not. I think I might not have the gene required to love a name. I never fell in love with my wedding dress like a lot of brides do. I didn't fall in love with Josh right away. I haven't known what I've wanted to do as a career my whole life. Things grow on me in a very unromantic way.

My son I'll love, but is it as important to love his name?

I'm been thinking a lot about the enormous responsibility of naming recently because of this dilemma. Naming a child is so permanent. Each name has meaning, baggage, cultural limitations. 

In addition, we like some Bible names, but those are so dangerous. No figure in the Bible, other than Jesus, has a clean record. They're all sinners: Abraham, Noah, Peter. They all have a permanent record of their wrong-doings for my kid to read. I don't mind that my kid learns about sin at a young age, but some of those stories are downright embarrassing. Do people with Bible names associate their own character with their namesake? I've never known what it would be like to be named Eve or Ruth or Joanna. 

Parents who have struggled with names, do you have any tips? Also, I'd love name suggestions. Seriously. We're stuck in a naming rut, and some fresh ideas might help. 

Fill in the blank: ________ ________ Ziesel

Friday, April 20, 2012

John Piper, the Titanic, and Why I Give Grace


You may or may not have been aware of this tweet from John Piper from about a week ago. I saw it, sighed, and just shook my head. There are some days I'm eager to engage with statements like this, but most days, I try to ignore them and move on with the work I have to do. I find Piper in particular difficult to challenge because I have learned a lot from him. 

When I first began investigating his view of men and women, I was actually surprised by how vehemently I disagreed with not only his perspective but also his tone in the debate. After reading Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (and blogging about it), I found myself quite angry with Piper. That was nearly three years ago. To say I was holding a grudge would probably be accurate.

I don't think I really let go of this grudge until I read the preview of his new book, Bloodlines, that came out at the beginning of Fall 2011. In it, he owned up to a racist upbringing, culturally and spiritually. He spoke of how he believed that interracial marriage was unbiblical because that was what he had been taught. During his time at Fuller Seminary, he finally investigated the matter fully and realized that he had been wrong to ascribe disobedience, sin, or brokenness to interracial couples and families.

When I read this, I was honestly a bit shocked. I grew up in Georgia and know many people who still believe that interracial marriage is wrong, so you might not think I'd be surprised. But for some reason I was. In that moment, I think I removed John Piper from the artificial pedestal I had placed him on many years ago, a pedestal that certainly contributed to why I had held such a grudge against him, and I realized that, in many ways, he is more like the people I have known for a long time: my grandparents, the kind, older church ladies who baked casseroles, the Southern men who held the door open for me and called me Sweetheart as a child. He's just a person, just like me, just like the thousands of other people I know in life. 

Overcoming personal racism is hard, and I commend him for his now-public words of repentance. I know many people who have never seen the sin in their racism and it grieves my heart. So the fact that he has seen this sin and is calling people out on it makes me show him a little grace. He has made steps many of the godly men and women I know in real life have never made. 

If his starting point was truly in a world were interracial families were viewed as unbiblical, for some reason that makes me understand why he's still in a world where men should lead and women should help men be leaders. I don't agree with him, but I don't just see him as a stubborn, misogynistic man anymore. I see him as someone who is holding tightly to his view of gender roles because he has already given up a lot of ground that his spiritual fathers claimed to be true. It's hard to turn your back on your heritage, and he already has in one significant way. 

Because of one strongly-opinionated grandfather in particular, I have a soft spot for old, racist people. I have known a lot of them in life. And even though he's no longer touting racist theology, I understand that Piper's background is similar to theirs. And so I show him grace, just as I try to show them grace when they talk about "Orientals." Oh, how I have to try! But understanding where they all started from helps a lot.


(To be honest, this is probably ageist. I'm willing to admit it. The younger you are, the more perturbed I am by racially-charged comments. I have a feeling when I'm an older person I'll look back on this post and realize how patronizing I sound toward those advanced in age. Now that I've written it all out, I think John Piper would probably be horribly offended that I lumped him in with people from whom I obviously expect very little in terms of self-awareness and repentance. But in truth, it helps me to love them to realize where they started from, and that is what I was trying to get at. I'm just going to publish this anyway and brace myself for some harsh comments. I think those comments might even help me as I continue to process.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Why I'm More Afraid of White Picket Fences Than Gangs

I live in a modest apartment in a modest apartment complex in a modest American town. That's one way to say it. Others might say that we live on a rough block in a rough American town. But when they say that, I laugh and judge them. That might sound harsh, but it's the truth. My husband and I have both seen rough neighborhoods, domestic and abroad, and ours is not one of them.

The local park in our "dangerous" neighborhood. Yeah, it's terrifying!

Admittedly, our neighborhood is low on the socio-economic ladder. We do have poverty, single- or absent-parent homes, and some recorded gang activity. Occasionally we see a smash and grab. I'm sure quite a few of my neighbors are illegal immigrants because the police are avoided like the plague. And probably more to the point for many people who make negative observations about our neighborhood, most people who live here are nonWhite and don't speak English at home. 

We love it. Truly. I could list the reasons why I think my neighbors rock and why this is a home I am proud of, but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about how Christians decide where they should and shouldn't live.

In my experience, Christians often make decisions about where they'll reside in the same way nonChristians do. They think about their finances, their desire for space or land or artistry or community, the quality of the education system, their reputation, and their health and safety. I understand this. I've now made five major moves in my life and I see why all of these things are important; these are the natural concerns a person would have when deciding where to live (if they get to decide). 

But I'm sad that Christians don't often consider more.

My husband and I are both in grad school at a Christian university just across the street from where we live. It would make sense that we live where we live. But unfortunately, revelations of our neighborhood of choice have not always been met with, "Oh, why yes, of course you live there." Even from Christians, we often get more of an incredulous response, implicitly and sometimes explicitly saying, "Really? You know how dangerous it is, right?" 

To be blunt, this makes me irate. On one hand, I become irate because the danger of my neighborhood is so incredibly blown-out-of-proportion that it is comical. But on a deeper level, I become irate because Christians seem to have welcomed the human tendency to flee from discomfort and danger. What if my neighborhood was actually a dangerous place? Should we go somewhere safer?

I've written before about The Rise of Christianity and the impact it had on me in college. Perhaps the most vivid image that book left me with had to do with towns that were stricken by the plague during early Christianity. Apparently, once the plague hit a town, healthy residents fled for safety and the towns were left with only the ill and the dead. However, while everyone else was fleeing these plague-stricken towns, Christians were the ones who went toward the danger instead of away from it. They seemed stupid and reckless, but they moved against the flow to care for the sick. 

To me, the image of Christians moving toward a probable death-sentence while nonChristians fled those towns is one of the single most moving images from my faith. We are people of courage, people who have no fear in sickness or death, people who have hope and want to share it at all costs with the world.  

Or, we're supposed to be.

Even if my neighborhood was truly dangerous, I would hope that my Christian brothers and sisters would be the first to understand my place of residence, or better yet, to move in next to me. 

Instead, I fear we've decided that where we live should be safe and that we'll only visit rough neighborhoods in groups on service projects or missions trips. We've decided that fleeing from danger is sensible and natural; we've let self-preservation determine our values. We've decided that our children shouldn't ever feel unsafe or uncomfortable, but we've failed to think of the millions of children around the world who know no other alternative. Maybe we sponsor one or two of those children (and that's good!), but we are thankful that we don't have to put ourselves in danger to help them. Our safety is found in our white picket fences and our retirement accounts rather than in the promises of the Maker of the universe. 

The Maker of the universe, people! Why are we so blind to the influence of our fear?

Repeatedly throughout Scripture, God tells his people, "Do not fear... do not fear." But when we sit in a realtor's office to talk about the zip codes we'll look for housing in, are we moving forward in courage or are we shrinking back in fear?

As Christians, we should have more than Darwinian survival instincts guiding our decisions about which neighborhood we will be investing our time, money, and resources into. We should be people whose values are shaped by our faith in the Creator God who sent His Son toward the danger instead of away from it. We should be people who move into the neighborhood when everyone else is moving out. 

__________

There are so many additional things to say about this topic. It begs for discussion about the false sense of safety found in many affluent American towns. It begs for discussion about what it means to move into a neighborhood in need without trying to play the savior. It begs for discussion about physical poverty versus spiritual poverty, which is found aplenty in Stepford, USA. It begs for discussion about responsible parenthood and love of our children. I get it, but for now I'm stopping here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stories of Hope: International Justice Mission

Last month I started a new series, Stories of Hope. For April I want to tell you about an organization that is all about hope, International Justice Mission

______________

Five years ago I sat in the Catholic Center at NYU to hear from two speakers. They were brought together by The Veritas Forum to speak about the lessons they had learned doing international social justice work. The room was full of energy as the talk was about to begin.

It was a stark contrast to how I usually found the Catholic Center. On most days, it was quiet, dark, and cold. During my days of classes in the busy city, I often snuck in to the drafty building for prayer and Bible reading. Some days a musician would be practicing in the corner. Most, I was alone on the cold hard pews. I loved it. There's something about praying on a kneeler in the dark that suits me. The space had become a holy place to my heart, a place I quickly sensed the presence of God.

As the crowd settled in on the wooden pews, the two speakers prepared to share how Christians and nonChristians could work together for the sake of the disenfranchised of the world. One speaker was a professor at NYU, a man whose name I don't even remember. The other was Gary Haugen, the founder, president, and CEO of International Justice Mission (IJM). I had heard of IJM before the event, but not much. I had never heard of Gary Haugen before his name came up in conversation about this event.

In the Catholic Center that night, Gary Haugen told us the story of IJM, a story that started when he realized that the poor of the world didn't need money or charity, they needed enforcement of justice. They needed legal resources for when their landlords tried to swindle them. They needed the police to pay attention when they were sexually assaulted. They needed the slave traders who took their youngest and brightest to be discovered and persecuted. And Gary realized that he wanted to do something. So as a young attorney with a young family, he took a leap of faith. 


When I left the event that night, my life was changed a little bit, not because I felt a specific call to vocational justice work, but because I had been given a vision of hope. I don't know how to explain that vision; it was a vision for the Church, but not only for the Church. It was a vision of the Kingdom advancing, but in ways that even nonChristians wanted: justice for the oppressed, freedom for slaves, agency for the disenfranchised.

And to top it off, it gave me so much hope to hear from a man working in social justice who wasn't doing it to prove his worth, find purpose in life, or play the savior. I can smell that a mile away. Gary Haugen wanted to advocate for the poor because he realized he was poor and Jesus advocated for him, he was a slave and God freed him. As he sat there talking, I saw a humble man who was simply doing what he could to share what he had experienced. He realized that his membership in God's family freed him to work on behalf of others instead of living for himself. It was a radical vision of how the Gospel's impact on one man could affect so many people.

As the video above celebrates, it is now IJM's 15th anniversary. And I am grateful that IJM exists. Of course I am grateful for the work that it does, but I am also grateful that IJM's work gives me hope. That might sound selfish, but it's true. I'm cynical and jaded, but the Kingdom is moving, and I see it moving through IJM. I'm proud to support the work of IJM, and I pray that over the next 15 years IJM sees thousands rescued and millions protected.

Ways to learn or do more:

Follow IJM or Gary Haugen on Twitter. Both are fascinating feeds.

Like IJM on Facebook.

Donate to IJM's work investigating, rescuing, and restoring.

Spread the word about IJM to friends you know who want to work on behalf of others. They often have job openings.

Watch more of the videos on IJM's Youtube page. They are informative and inspiring.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Let's Talk Parenting Taboos


I've watched this video twice now at Ted.com and really think it's worth discussing. (It's also available as episode 4 on TedTalks: Sex, Secrets & Love on Netflix Instant.) My husband and I are probably their target audience as soon-to-be parents, so it's probably not surprising that I think it's fascinating. And it's good for a laugh or two, so give it a watch!

Here are the four taboos they say apply to parenthood:

1. You can't say you didn't fall in love with your baby in the first minute. 


They use this chart to show that fathers and mothers often have different experiences of love for their children. If this is somewhat true, I think it might be valuable to adjust my expectations for how Josh will interact with our babies. Given, Josh is not the same person as Rufus in the chart, but perhaps this is a common difference between moms and dads. Thoughts from fathers and mothers out there?


2. You can't tak about how lonely having a baby can be.

3. You can't talk about your miscarriage.

4. You can't say your "average happiness" has declined since having a child.


Rufus, the husband in the speaking couple, says he discovered this chart (above) while his son was about nine months old while reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. 

Then, Rufus says he created a different chart (below), showing that while average happiness may be low during early parenthood, the momentary highs and lows are similar to when we were children ourselves. We will be elated one moment when our child smiles, but we will be devastated the very next moment.


I think this was probably the most interesting part of the talk for me, especially as I try to adjust my expectations for parenthood. He says that "age is a form of lithium," which actually resonated with me as someone who remembers being more animated as a child. I am a fairly even-keeled person now, though I do see myself changing a bit already from pregnancy hormones, but it's not drastic. For the most part, I don't experience super highs or super lows. Mothers and fathers, should I prepare for this to change?

I'd love to hear thoughts on this talk from those who have been in the trenches!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sex Reveal: On Raising Our Eldest


I have a lot of conflicted feelings about the hype and commentary typical to finding out a baby's sex. But Josh and I prefer to have more time to adjust to the concept of having a son or having a daughter, so we found out!

We're having a son!

Even before today, before we knew we were having a son, my hope for this child has been that it would be kind and courageous. That remains our hope.

As we raise our son, one thing we are both very mindful of is letting our boy be the boy he is, not the boy we want him to be. This means we're not going to assume he's a "Little Josh," nor that he will necessarily be interested in the same things we're interested in. Of course, he'll take after us, but we want to give him some freedom to explore his own little personality.

And I'm adjusting to the reality that our family will not be a family of all daughters. We will have at least one son. It's weird to think about that for some reason. We might have more sons or we might have daughters in the future, but a family of all girls is out of the picture. (Of course, we all know that tragedies happen and the compositions of families change, but I'm not leaning into that possibility today. Today, I'm being hopeful and happy.)

So, there you have it. Baby Boy Ziesel, we're so excited to meet you!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Redemptive Pursuit: Many Dreams

Many Dreams
By Laura Ziesel
April 9, 2012


Scripture:
"For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God." Ecclesiastes 5:7

Reflection:
'All The Tired Horses.' photo (c) 2010, Lauren Hammond - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Over the years, I've had many dreams about who I would be as an adult. I went to college in New York City, and I dreamed of staying there my whole life, learning every corner bakery and hidden treasure. But I've also dreamed of living a quiet life in the country, with my own gardens and chickens, becoming a pro at picking berries off the bushes. I've dreamed of being a lawyer, a teacher, and a business owner. I've dreamed of being married to a pastor, a city banker, and a cowboy. I've dreamed of having my kids young while I'm energetic, and I've dreamed of putting off kids until later in life. In short: my dreams have been many, and they often contradict one another.

Most of the big choices I've made in life have meant not only that I am saying, "Yes" to one thing, but also that I am saying, "No" to many other things. When I decided to follow Jesus, I effectively said goodbye to living for myself. When I married my husband, I said goodbye to my dreams that didn't include him. He's certainly not a cowboy! As I am now pregnant, I find myself starting to wonder what other dreams will never come true as I had imagined. 

Because of this uncertainty about the future, I have been reminding myself a lot lately that my value as a person is not found in my ability to accomplish goals or make my dreams into a reality. My value is not in my life experiences, my diplomas, or my future brood of children. It's not in how well I bake a pie or know how to speak a foreign language. My value is entirely and completely in Christ. 

I know that truth about my identity in Christ in my mind, but figuring out what that means has been more evasive. Lately, the phrase that brings it all to the surface has been, "Lord, am I enough?" When I ask him that, I crumble inside. I fear that I'm not enough. I want to become those romanticized images of a respected working woman, a joyful gardener, and a world traveler. This one life is not enough to accomplish everything I want to accomplish, everything that I think will make me joyful and fulfilled. There is only one me, and at all times, I want to be more than I currently am.

When I ask him, "Lord, am I enough?," graciously, and only because of the sacrifice of Christ, God always responds to me, "My dear child. You have always been enough for me. You are the one who is unsatisfied." And that is where I now sit, realizing that yet again, I am the one who has to let some of my dreams die. My dreams aren't God's dreams. God doesn't usually give me a preview of what he has dreamed for me. In the face of my many dreams, my selfish dreams and even the noble ones, God looks at me and asks, "The real question is, am I enough for you?" What he wants is that I would simply follow him and be content with being with him, wherever that is.  

Prayer:
Gracious God, you have walked with so many men and women before me. You know how fickle the human heart is. Yet for some reason, you still want us, fickle hearts and all. Thank you for wanting me, for calling me to yourself, for dying so that I could be whole. Help me to surrender my dreams to you and to trust you with my future. Help me to be content in you, to find joy simply in spending time with you. And for all of my failures, I ask for your mercy. Amen.

________________________
I will be posting my devotionals from The Redemptive Pursuit once a month as they are published. Sign up to receive these weekly devotionals via email hereFollow The Redemptive Pursuit on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Review and Giveaway: The Pregnancy Companion

Yesterday I explained why I've ditched What to Expect When You're Expecting. Today I am thrilled to suggest a replacement book that has tremendously helped me in the past year, The Pregnancy Companion.


The primary reason The Pregnancy Companion knocks it out of the park for me is simple: the authors, Jessica Wolstenholm and Dr. Heather Rupe, have lived the hard road to motherhood themselves. Having experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, high-risk pregnancies, and adoption themselves, these women have seen the highs and lows of pregnancy. They are incredibly sensitive to the physical, emotional, and spiritual difficulties women face prior to, during, and after pregnancy. Moreover, they realize that pregnancy is only the beginning, and that another hard road, motherhood, is before us. 

The second reason I love The Pregnancy Companion is that each chapter is divided into two sections: the first has physical information from Dr. Rupe and the second discusses our spiritual and emotional health. Both Dr. Rupe and Jessica (that's how I refer to them in my mind) are Christians who believe that God is the ultimate Pregnancy Companion, and He is the only one who truly knows what each of us is going through individually. Each chapter encourages us to be filled with faith rather than fear. Because of this, I found myself feeling calmer and hopeful after picking up this book, rather than feeling anxious and frustrated. What a nice change that was!

For example, even when Dr. Rupe gives the physical signs of miscarriage or complications, she always reminds the reader of the overwhelming odds of having a safe pregnancy. This might sound like a small thing, but when I turned to book out of worry, this reminder was so helpful to me. On a comical note, Jessica shares how she once rushed to the ER after sneezing because she felt fluid leak and her "pregnancy bible" at the time said, "If you feel fluid leaking, you may have broken or punctured your amniotic sac. Call your doctor immediately." Very worried, she arrived at the ER to find out that she had only peed herself. Ha! 

The Pregnancy Companion is now my go-to book for myself and is my first recommendation to pregnant friends, especially friends who have experienced loss or are experiencing worry during pregnancy. Moreover, Jessica and Dr. Rupe have continued the conversations about infertility, pregnancy, and motherhood at their blog, and they are available on Twitter and Facebook. It's so nice that I've read the book and I can now continue interacting with them about my own pregnancy and their experiences as mothers. Recently I read Dr. Rupe's adoption story and her very honest fears about home births, both of which I found refreshing and honest. If you are hoping to get pregnant soon, currently pregnant, or a new mom, I predict you will love their blog!


Today, I have the great privilege of giving away a FREE COPY of The Pregnancy Companion. I've never done a giveaway on my blog before; it's honestly not my preference to use this blog for promotionals. But because I found this book to be such a great asset, and I know that many of my readers will love it as much as I do, I'm doing it anyway!  

There are three easy ways to enter the giveaway:

1) Leave a comment on this post.
2) Follow me on Twitter.
3) Like me on Facebook

I understand that you might want this book but don't want the world to know that you are trying to conceive or pregnant. If that is the case, you can comment anonymously, but your email address (which only I can see) does need to be accurate. 

If you would like to win the book for a friend or family member, that is perfectly fine as well! We can arrange for me to ship the book to them if you win.

Also, if you are already follow me on Twitter or are a fan on Facebook but want to enter thrice, you can leave three comments and each will count as an entry. Simply indicate why you are leaving multiple comments when you do so.

I will randomly select a winner on Wednesday, April 11th, at 12pm PDT. You can enter and recruit your friends to enter for you until that time. 

Lastly, I'd just like to thank Jessica and Dr. Rupe for writing such a great resource and for continuing the conversation online. I have benefitted so much from your words and wisdom! 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Why You Should Ditch "What to Expect When You're Expecting"

When my husband and I started trying to get pregnant, there was one book I thought I had to own: What to Expect When You're Expecting. During my first pregnancy, this was the only pregnancy book I had on hand. I knew a couple of generations of women have used this book now, and to be honest, I'm baffled as to why. To be blunt, I hate it. Here's an example of what happens when you read this book:

I'm feeling tired and particularly crampy. Turn to book, look it up. What does the book say? This could be a sign of a miscarriage; call your doctor immediately. 

Yeah, unhelpful. If I wanted to call my doctor all the time, why did I buy this darn book?! 

In my opinion, WTEWYE breeds anxiety. Let's take a look at one section: "Playing it Safe" (133). The tips given?

-"Always fasten your seatbelt." [Um, doesn't that apply to all people?!]
-"Better still, don't climb at all." [Um, okay, I'll sit right here for my whole pregnancy.]
-"Don't wear high spiky heels, sloppy slippers, or thongs that can snap, all of which encourage falls or twisted ankles. Don't walk on slippery floors." [Seriously? What can I do? Be barefoot, I guess, and only at home!]

These annoyances can basically be summed up by saying that WTEWYE has just about the worst tone possible when you consider its audience. If the information was helpful, I might be able to overlook that. But the information is usually not very helpful. In fact, sometimes the information is downright hurtful. I decided I hated this book when, in the middle of my miscarriage, I turned to "If You've Had a Miscarriage" and read this:

"Though it is hard for parents to accept at the time, when a miscarriage does occur it is usually a blessing....Possibly the best therapy is getting pregnant again as soon as it is safe" (346, emphasis original).

If you've been reading my blog, you probably know how I feel about both of these statements. Let's just say that I'm not a big curser but this section pushed my buttons. 

Regarding the first statement, the last thing a couple needs to hear upon having a miscarriage is that it is a blessing. I've written about this here, and I reiterate that the best thing to do is recognize a miscarriage for what it is: horrible. Don't sugar coat it. If parents come to a sugar-coated conclusion, that's fine. But just let miscarriage suck. 

In regard to the second statement, this is horrible advice. Maybe this rubs me the wrong way more than others because I'm married to a therapist, but simply getting pregnant again isn't therapy. It might help, but it doesn't actually mean you've dealt with your loss. And, as a woman who did not conceive for eight months following her miscarriage, I can tell you that the best therapy for me was to simply let myself grieve: to be sad, to feel want, to cry in the baby aisle at Target, to talk to friends. The baby I now carry is a blessing, but it did not take away the emotional pain of loss. When people told me that I'd feel better when I got pregnant again, it was actually quite hurtful

That's just a brief overview of why I think we need a better resource than What to Expect When You're Expecting. And I have good news! I found one! Tomorrow, I will introduce a pregnancy book that is my new favorite, and I'll be hosting a give-away for it. It is, in my opinion, a much better resource for women physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2nd: My Least Favorite Day of the Year

'Via Dolorosa' photo (c) 2007, Andrew E. Larsen - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/The two most significant deaths in my life have happened on April 2: the passing of my grandfather eight years ago and the loss of my first baby one year ago. To say I hate April 2 would be an understatement, in theory. But today, apart from the date, has been a good day for me, so I'm not going to wish it away. I'm going to enjoy my good day while it's here.

I thought I would write a meaningful post today. It's been a hard year--a year of heartache, tears, and living in a world of what could have been. A year ago, the only words that ran through my mind were "April is the cruelest month." I spent last April 2 in pure grief, barely able to eat, and only able to sleep because my husband was wise enough to give me a sleep aid. 

And like last year, I now find myself in the middle of Lent. I know that we're ultimately preparing for Easter Sunday, but for most of this past year I have found more solace in meditating upon Good Friday. On that day, God watched his child die too, and that has brought me so much comfort, knowing that we serve a God who is not far from our pain. Rather than keep himself at a safe distance, as he so easily could have done, God entered into our death-stained world. And today, God cries with those of us who have lost a child to death. He knows our pain, and he begs us to let him into our grief. 

Some days over the past year I have been more willing to let God into my pain than others. I have often been closed off and bitter. But today, I am giving April 2 to the Lord, knowing that he understands the sacredness of it in my heart.

It is a day of remembrance, and a day that will always make me long for the final defeat over death. 
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