Tag Archives: Family

Joy and Fear: Waiting for our Second Child

14 Sep

It’s like I told my coworkers last week, “Now it’s time to freak out.”

I’m only partially kidding.

Why? Last week I started the third trimester of this lightning-speed pregnancy. And I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

For so, so long we waited, we prayed for this child. Our hearts were broken again and again. But then? She was. Growing safely inside me. Our prayers were answered in the most beautiful, soul-shattering way possible.

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I felt so blessed. So unworthy. I was almost afraid to truly bask in our happiness because it was just too good.

The tingly feelings of deep gratitude are still here, but they are sometimes pushed down by the realities of life. Of laundry and packing lunches and making dinner. Of work and travel and corn harvest.

The summer was so busy. And we’re so busy right now. The calendar over the next two months makes me want to cry. Between my work and farm insanity, there hasn’t been a lot of time to float around in a magical pregnancy bubble.

When I was pregnant with Anders, I lived in that bubble. I loved the wistful look that would come over someone’s face when I said “Yes, it’s our first.” I had nothing better to do than to take weekly photos in front of an elaborately-drawn chalkboard boasting “Baby F is the size of a kumquat!”

This time, understandably, has been very different.

Now I have a busy and egocentric toddler underfoot. Even when I was feeling my sickest (the first 16 weeks, ugh), sweet little Anders still demanded crazy things. Like dinner. Or diaper changes. Toddlers are not very accommodating to the woes of pregnancy, people. In the midst of pulling him off tables, chasing him around to put on his socks, and assuring him that asparagus is JUST DELICIOUS, I barely had time to notice I was pregnant.

I didn’t have a lot of time to sit. To think. To really imagine what our life will be like when the baby comes.

But third trimester. It’s here. I can’t ignore the fact that a baby is waiting for me at the end of this pregnancy.

Cue the freakout. I can’t believe we’re starting over.

In spite of the craziness that comes with a two-year-old, I love our life right now. Anders is hilarious. He talks constantly. He sleeps predictably. He loves so hard. He’s obsessed with farming. He has the coolest hair. He’s becoming more independent. I’m still floored by his transition from baby to little boy.

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Sometimes I sneak into his room for one last peek before I go to bed. (Am I checking if he’s still breathing? Maybe. Don’t judge. I hope my psychotic tendencies will lessen for the second kid.)

In those quiet moments, when his busy toddler body is stilled, his breath comes out sweet and slow, and his face is slack with innocence, my heart aches. My chest tightens and I can’t breathe from the sheer weight of my love for this little human. How I would die to protect him. How the thought of him growing up in this broken world renders me undone.

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It seems crazy that Dairy Man and I have willingly decided to divide our hearts again. To allow another piece of our soul to walk around in the world. A world we cannot control.

There’s so much to worry about. Especially for a professional worrier like myself.

But if pregnancy and being a parent has taught me anything, it’s that life is not about control. It can’t be. As much as I try to have the perfectly organized house and the perfectly run family, it’s not up to me. I can’t control toddler tantrums or farm emergencies or milk prices. I can’t control the sickness or tragedy that strikes those I love. I can’t control my pregnancy or be sure of a healthy baby.

Every shred of this imperfect life is in God’s hands. Not my own. That’s where sanity and comfort can be found.

Realistically, my freakout is still real and looming. Dairy Man knows nothing in the house is safe from my insane need to organize and nest. A part of me can’t believe we’re going back to blowouts, breastfeeding, and sleep deprivation.

I worry how Anders will adjust, how my heart will split to accommodate two.

The beautiful thing? It’s not up to me. My only choice is to trust that I’ll find our way. That I can bear the joy and fear of this life. That I can live in gratitude and faith. That I can rescue a toddler with his hand stuck in the vacuum while simultaneously rocking a newborn. That my heart can be broken and reassembled dozens of times a day. That our tribe will carry us when we can’t carry ourselves.

I have no idea how to have two kids, but I know we’ll figure it out somehow.

I am terrified and I am calm.

(And freakout + farm widowhood during harvest is the perfect excuse for ice cream.)

Bring on the third tri.

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Dear Anders: A Letter to my Son

4 Dec

Hi, bug. It’s kind of crazy that I haven’t written to you before. Writing used to be Mom’s way of processing, of coping, of making sense of the world. But she hasn’t made time to do much of it since you came along!

It’s hard for me to believe that you’re 20 months old. 20 months. Within spitting distance of two years old. I can’t remember life without you, but I’m still not sure how it went so quickly.

We wanted you so desperately, you see. It’s not always easy to have a baby. We waited a long, long time to meet you. It’s hard to describe the disbelief and joy your Dad and I felt when we found out you were coming. God is so good.

And then you were born. One week early, which was a nice kickoff to Mom realizing that she no longer had any control over her life. You cried the entire first night we were home and only slept when you were in our arms. It was an exhausting time—Mom cried a lot that first week—but devastatingly beautiful. We were so in love with you, in awe of your tiny fingers and huge blue eyes.

(We were also amazed at the amount of time we spent studying, smelling, and cataloging your baby poop, but that’s another story for another time. Maybe at your wedding.)

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That first year was a blur. Small victories alongside defeats. Periods that seemed an eternity at the time (like those two weeks where you were waking up every 1-2 hours) were forgotten in the wake of your first smile, first tooth, first word.

It’s like Dr. Seuss said: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Just when we got used to you crawling, you took your first steps. Now you RUN.

You are smart, friendly, hilarious, polite, and so loving. And these days you’re like a sponge. We only have to speak a word or phrase a handful of times before you’re repeating it in correct context. Mom still regrets the time she said “Sit down on your butt!” because we’d all be a little happier if that last word wasn’t in your vocabulary quite yet.

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I’m floored by how quickly you are learning and changing each day. It’s hard to comprehend that you’ve transformed from the red-faced little blob we met 608 days ago to the little boy swatting my hands away saying “No tank you, mama” when I try to help you climb the stairs.

YOU’RE NOT EVEN TWO, MAN.
Mama’s going to have a hard time letting go.

You were born into a big tribe of family on both sides who love you and go out of their way to spoil you with stories and farm animal toys. Grandma Bareman can’t seem to stop buying you cows.

And don’t even get me started on all the dairy stuff. Your dad couldn’t be more proud that you know words and phrases like “milk truck,” “Holstein cow,” “Big loader, beep BEEP,” and “rotary parlor.” You love cows. Seriously. When you walk through the barn in your tiny rubber boots, you are fearless. You think nothing of walking right up to a cow and reaching out to touch her nose.  Mom didn’t grow up on a farm (that explains all the high heels in her closet), but I love watching you gaze around in wonder at this crazy place we live. Just try not to track it into the house.

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Dad and I have been asked if your name has a special meaning. We didn’t pick a family name, but we did agonize for months trying to find something strong and masculine that was neither too traditional nor too trendy. It wasn’t easy. We liked the Dutch-ish sound of Anders. We liked that we didn’t know anyone named Anders. And we liked the meaning: manly, brave.

It is my hope that you grow to embody both of those attributes.

I hope you are manly. I hope that you are kind, tell the truth, respect others, and perform selfless acts. I pray that you will grow to be strong and sure, but that those characteristics are enhanced by love and humility.

I hope you are brave. I hope that you have strong convictions that will allow you to stand up to those who are ignorant, care for those who are marginalized, and live your faith loudly. I hope you will not be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

Most of all, sweet Anders, we know that you are a gift. The blessing isn’t lost on us. That’s why we pray every night before you go to sleep, “Thank you Jesus for entrusting Anders into our care. Help us remember that he belongs to you.”

We are your parents, but God is your Father.

I hope this will guide you all your life. We couldn’t be more blessed to be your parents. And I apologize in advance for our dance moves. Just succumb to the awkwardness now.

xo,
Your silly and loving Mom

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Hi, It’s Been a While

26 Aug

Hi there.

It’s been a while.

In the wake of motherhood and the ease of Facebook and Instagram—where I do a much better job of documenting our life—this blog has taken a backseat. Well, let’s be honest. It’s way past the the backseat and is bumping along on the tailpipe of a cattle trailer by now.

For me, the ability to write is like a muscle. It needs movement, stimulation, exertion, but it can too easily become flaccid with disuse. The longer I wait, the harder it is to whip myself back in shape.

But as I sit in our kitchen, tea in hand, looking out onto a whispering sea of green corn stalks, it sure feels good to be writing.

Something.

Anything.

I have to be honest, writing isn’t coming as easily to be as it used to. When life is full to the brim it can be difficult to find the words to start.

But it’s important. We are doing something of great consequence with our lives (and no, Dairy Man, I’m not just talking about adding cows to the herd) and I miss having the opportunity to share that consequence.

So, how have we been?

Well, let’s start with the reality that I have a 16 MONTH OLD. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Someone hand me a tissue.

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The last time we talked, Anders had just learned to army crawl, was sporting two teeth, and had just started baby food.

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Um, people, things have changed a lot since then.

Now he can walk (or run). He can climb. He has 10 teeth. His vocabulary and repertoire of animal sounds are growing every single day. He repeats everything we say. He loves flipping through dairy magazines. He eats just about everything, from blueberries and spinach soup to Pad Thai and shrimp paella. He’ll try anything with bacon but can’t seem to get down with tomatoes.

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He loves walking through the barns and waving to his “moos.” He’s not at all afraid of cows. And did I mention he knows the difference between a “tuck” (truck) and a “tra-trac” (tractor)?

Dairy Man is so proud. We have a regular dairy boy in the making.

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As you all know, there have been a few times (ok, a lot of times) where I have lamented my transplant to this country wilderness. It’s not easy to cope with the isolation, the long hours of farming, or the fact that the nearest Target is 45 minutes away. But I’m starting to take more joy in this life as I see it through the eyes of child.

I think we’re going to have a lot of fun here.

Anders is a blank slate. Everything is new to him, but he is becoming more fully aware of this unique place in which we live. He’s going to grow up amongst our bovine roommates and jaw-dropping sunsets. He’s going to build forts in the barn, take care of calves, and ride along with Daddy in the tractor.

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As we prepare for The Season of Impending Doom …er… I mean “corn harvest,” this year, I can’t help but notice how different it feels.

Last year Anders was still a helpless babe. I was at my wits end trying to juggle work, a baby, and everything else in our lives while seeing only glimpses of Dairy Man for a number of weeks. Did we eat? Did the sheets get washed? I can’t even remember.

But now that Anders is older and our lives have settled into a more predictable rhythm, I actually look forward to introducing him to farm life.

This year we can visit Dairy Man in the fields. We can watch the corn chopper from our back deck. He might even get to ride in a tractor.

I think this will reawaken the novelty of our farm life.

Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to write about something I’ve become so used to. Farm life is still filled with oddities; I don’t quite fit in. But so many of the abnormalities have become mundane. I don’t even notice anymore.

No dinner till 8? Totally normal.
Husband’s clothes covered with caked-on manure? Just don’t sit on the couch. 
Tractor parked in my driveway? Old hat.
Incessant mooing coming from the barn on the hill? Just another Tuesday.
Dinner conversation about bull semen? Pass the green beans.

At some point, unbeknownst to me, I morphed into a farm wife. It’s like turning into a werewolf at midnight but with less body hair and more corn kernels in the laundry. I still don’t bake pies, milk cows, or wear a gingham apron, but this crazy life has become my real life.

I still struggle with single-parenthood and frustration with the farming schedule, but I can tell we’re going to have a lot of fun with Anders on the farm. He’s going to be a farm boy before I know it.

I just hope I have a few more years before he comes home covered in manure.

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All is Calm, All is Bright

22 Dec

Today I’m feeling equal parts crazed and contemplative.

On one hand, this is Christmas week. Between Wednesday and Sunday we have five different Christmas parties in three different cities. Two are on the same day. We’ll spend our time this week in the car, missing nap time, eating too much sugar, and making small talk with relatives. It will be busy, messy, exhausting, and beautiful.

On the other hand, 2014 is quickly drawing to a close. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. From Anders’ birth to building yet another new barn, we’ve rarely had moments to settle, to be still. We made it through the early days of parenthood and now I have a beautiful, happy son who is somehow crawling, waving, and cutting teeth. Quite a difference from where we were just eight shorts months ago.

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The swift passage of time is startling. I started 2014 with a growing belly, an unfinished nursery, and raging donut cravings.

I end it with a healthy baby, a house full of toys, and… raging donut cravings. (Um, hello? I though those were supposed to go away?)

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Life has changed irrevocably, but we are so blessed it hurts my heart.

So, in spite of the busyness, the driving, the sugar, I choose joy. I choose to wrap myself in the promise of Christ’s birth and savor the ordinary moments that form this beautiful life.

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I wish the same to you, dear friends. Find the calm, bright moments this week and don’t let them go.

Merry Christmas, from our barn to yours!

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xoxo, Dairy Man, MFW, Anders, and Jersey

When I Became a Mother

18 Nov

I don’t even know where to start.

I don’t know how to find the language to articulate the profound, irrevocable change that motherhood has rendered within me.

I’m stunned by the beauty of it: the love I have for this child. I want to devour him. I want to wrap myself in his impossibly long eyelashes, pressed up against his round, soft cheeks.

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Nothing could have prepared me for the debilitating lows or gut-busting highs of becoming a mother. I couldn’t have predicted or planned it. I couldn’t have anticipated the miracle that occurs when a piece of your soul lives outside of your body.

Yet the last seven months have been the most difficult of my life.

I’ve been stretched and challenged and changed in uncomfortable ways. I’ve shattered into hundreds of pieces and put myself back together. I’ve subsisted on meager amounts of sleep and adult conversation while still feeding, cleaning, and caring for a helpless creature. This is what it truly means to be needed. His entire existence hinges on my waking, my body, my caress.

There’s something so carnal about this need. It’s all that really matters.

For the first few months we were just surviving. Learning about each other. Finding moments of joy amidst the terror, the fatigue of being a new parent. It was a season of gravity and clarity. My heart felt heavy with love.

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There were times I struggled. I faltered. I curled into a ball and wept. But the sun rose each morning on his sweet skin and I couldn’t remember a time before he existed.

And it got easier. When the meals ran out and the visitors faded, I faced motherhood on my own feet. With each day, I gained confidence; I got to know my child. I learned the curve of his face, the tenor of his cry, the warmth of his little body against mine. As the spring days stretched into summer, I slowly re-entered the world.

It didn’t stop turning, you see.

My small, carnal existence had isolated me. Motherhood caused me to skip a beat. It was blessed, needed time, but the world had gone on without me. So I reintroduced myself to church, to friends, to the grocery store. I was like an ostrich lifting my head from the sand.

But nothing would ever be the same. There was no returning to “normal” because normal was new and shifting.

And it was ok. The beauty of our new normal outweighed the frustration. My child grew and changed and explored like I had forgotten how to do.

Now, he’s being shaped before my eyes. Each new day brings a new discovery, a new skill, a new item to chew on.

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My heart bubbles up to my throat when he sneezes, smiles, laughs. Suddenly his bright eyes render recognition, delight. His chubby hands reach out with intention.

There’s just something about watching a life being formed. I love him so deeply my breath catches in my chest.

It’s worth falling off the face of the earth, if only for a little while. I’m still moving slowly. I’m still learning to accept failure, to accept advice. I’m still paralyzed when a social obligation interferes with bedtime. I’m still figuring out how to be a mother and also be a person.

I can barely remember to wear two socks in the morning, much less to write. But it’s so important. It’s necessary to capture this holy, exceptional time.

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Because I want to remember.

I want to remember his spindly, alien-like limbs when he was just a few weeks old. I want to remember the sweet, clean smell of baby lotion and powder after his bath. I want to remember the waves of grief that rolled over me the first morning I went back to work and had to leave him. I want to remember swaddling and shushing. I want to remember the unbridled joy that washes over his face every time I walk into a room. I want to remember the twinge in my heart when Dairy Man reads bedtime stories to his son. I want to remember how everything changed when I became a mother.

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So forgive my sentimentality, excessive use of adjectives, lack of blogging, and baby spam on Facebook, but I’m still figuring out how to be his mom and also be myself.

It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t change a moment. Life is just too good.

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10 Things I Learned in April: The Parenting Edition

1 May

I can’t quite wrap my head around the reality that it’s been almost a month since our sweet Anders Knox joined the family.

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The past four weeks have been a blur of visitors, spit up, diapers, yoga pants, late night feedings, and sleep deprivation. It’s been the most challenging four weeks of my life, but it’s also been the most beautiful.

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Since April was entrenched in babyland, my monthly “10 things” isn’t going to be a very diverse list. I may not have showered today, but I’m seizing a quiet moment (Anders finally went down for a nap) to share 10 things I learned last month.

10 Things I Learned in April

1. Babies poop. A lot.
They warn you. The books tell you. But nothing can prepare you for the awe-inspiring amount of poop a tiny human being can produce. It’s baffling how much of my day is spent dealing with, assessing, smelling for, washing off, evaluating, logging, and transporting poop. Dairy Man and I are both black belt changers at this point.

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2. I can eat any meal in under 60 seconds.
Anders’ crankiest time of the day is typically between 5 and 10 p.m. That means DM and I stagger our dinners: one person consoles the baby while the other scarfs down their food. During the day I also have to eat breakfast and lunch with a baby in my arms or frantically while he’s napping. At this point I think I could win some sort of speed-eating competition.

3. I can do a lot of things with one hand.
Anders isn’t the best napper and DM is busy at work every day, so I spend a lot of time alone in the house with a baby in my arms. Thankfully I’ve gotten quite proficient at doing things with one hand. The list includes eating a bowl of cereal (though I did spill milk all over the table), loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, typing emails, and mopping baby vomit from the floor. If only onehandedness was a marketable job skill.

4. The human body can survive on minuscule amounts of sleep.
Anders needs to eat every 2-3 hours. Since I’m breastfeeding, this means that I never get more than three hours of sleep at a time. The fact that I’m still standing, speaking, and functioning is nothing short of a miracle.

5. Seeing my husband as a father is the most beautiful thing in the world. 
My heart wasn’t prepared for the gut-bursting joy I would feel in seeing DM as a father. He’s patient, gentle, and enamored with our little blue-eyed bundle of joy. My soul melts into my shoes when I see them together. I can’t wait to watch them grow closer and learn from each other.

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6. Sometimes just taking a shower is an inconceivable accomplishment.
I feel like I’m really kicking life’s butt if I manage to take a shower every day. I never thought something so small would puff me up with such a sense of pride. If I’m really feeling crazy, I might even wear makeup.

7. Flexibility is the new norm.
I’ve grown in flexibility ever since marrying a dairy farmer. My plans and schedules often fall victim to a broken tractor or escaped bovine. But I can already tell that parenthood is going to require an unprecedented amount of flexibility. My schedule, my sleep, my favorite shirts, my furniture, my chores, my sanity, and my relationships are already outside of my control. This leaves me with two choices: become completely unhinged or let it all go. Since I don’t want to take a trip to crazytown, I need to learn to let go. I need to be ok with being late. I need to ask for help. I need to accept failure. I need to put everything I do into the hands of my Creator.

8. I have the best family and friends in the world.
There’s nothing like having a baby to make you feel loved. I’m ridiculously grateful for the people who have held Anders while I napped, changed diapers, cleaned our house, given advice, brought dinners, walked Jersey, sent encouraging messages, delivered chocolate milkshakes, and tolerated a steady stream of adorable baby photos on Facebook. DM and I couldn’t have made it through April without this support. We are so blessed by our tribe. I’m also so grateful for the love I’ve received from YOU, our online community. Your sweet messages and comments are so appreciated!

9. Parenting is the most frustrating, fulfilling, exhausting, amazing thing I’ve ever done.
Dairy Man and I wake up each morning as different parents to a different child. We learn more about this strange creature every day and he learns about us. We have good days and bad days. We’ve had triumphant parenting moments and moments that make us want to curl into a ball and weep uncontrollably. Like most new parents, we’ve done a lot of things wrong. But we’re learning. We’re trying to be patient with ourselves and each other. We rejoice in our small victories and live to parent another day. This life is beautiful and we are so in love with this child.

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10. Babies don’t really appreciate new machinery.
Despite DM’s best efforts, our youngest farmhand isn’t quite ready to report for duty. But we have complete confidence that he will one day appreciate the excitement of a brand new loader.

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It’s Not About the Closet Doors: On Motherhood, Fears, and Faith

26 Mar

A friend told me recently that one of her biggest fears in regards to her baby boy isn’t that he won’t sleep through the night, eat his vegetables, or learn to spell.

She’s afraid that his future wife will hate her.

I can honestly say that such a thought had never even crossed my mind until then. Should I be worried about my unborn baby’s betrothed!? I’m barely grasping the idea that I’m going to have an infant.

The more I thought about what she said, the more I started to realize the gravity of my upcoming entrance into parenthood.

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Within the next 2-3 weeks I will give birth to a living, breathing, functioning little boy. This boy will skin his knees, go to kindergarten, get holes in his jeans, bust a move at school dances, and one day bring home a woman who will be his wife.

The trajectory starts with his first cry, his first gasp into life. And then, someday, he’ll bring home a girl who might hate me.

I recognize the insanity of this logical leap, particularly since I haven’t even met my son yet. But something about the late third trimester flips a switch in your brain between pregnancy and parenthood.

I’m so excited. I’m wonderfully, ecstatically, fearfully, joyfully waiting for life to change forever. I’m elated to meet the little being that has been growing and kickboxing in my womb for the past nine months. I can’t wait to hold him, to see if he has Dairy Man’s eyes, to watch him grow.

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But if I’m honest, I’m also terrified.

This terror has spawned a few moments of pure, unadulterated irrationality throughout this pregnancy. One such moment came when Dairy Man asked me what kind of closet doors I wanted in the nursery and I melted into an indecisive pile of emotional goo.

I know there’s nothing existentially significant about closet doors. But for some reason it felt like if I picked the wrong doors for a room that was going to house MY CHILD, everything else would fall apart.

The doors had to be perfect. I had to be perfect. Because, clearly my child’s whole future would hinge on closet doors. The wrong doors could keep him from sleeping through the night, getting good grades, making friends, eating his vegetables.

I’d like to blame it solely on pregnancy hormones, but I think it’s deeper than that.

Because it’s not about the closet doors. It’s about feeling overwhelmed. It’s about the unknown. It’s about life changing. It’s about a long-awaited blessing so beautiful it simultaneously makes me want to laugh and weep.

Pregnancy has been a growing experience (no pun intended – bahdoomCHHH) for this self-aware Type A. The baby-baking process has been the ultimate exercise in loss of control. And it’s liberating. Everything up to this point and everything that will come after requires complete trust in God.

My son might not like broccoli. He might get detention. He might draw on his perfect closet doors with a red Sharpie. He might marry a girl who is lactose intolerant (the horror).

I have to put it all, even that future woman who will steal …ahem… I mean marry my son away, in His hands.

This is all part of a plan—a plan outside of my control. The road was paved with frustration and heartbreak, but God finally blessed us with a viable pregnancy. My fear of parenthood pales in comparison to my intense, overwhelming gratitude. That’s what matters. I might not know how to swaddle a baby or discipline a misbehaving toddler, but I’ve been given the incredible chance to figure it out. This child is already in someone else’s hands.

I’m realizing that this is it. Right now. My life isn’t about tomorrow or growing up or my son’s future wife, it’s about the beautiful terror of each moment. The realization that I’m not in charge. The recognition that each mundane or shattering moment can take me straight to the feet of glory.

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I’m so thankful I get to live this life. I wouldn’t trade all of the pain, anger, fear, and uncertainty that comes along with it. It’s not about what already happened or what could be, it’s about where I am now. There is nothing more sacred or profound than this day.

So I’ll keep nesting, reading baby books, saving money, and practicing my breathing techniques. But ultimately I know that this new adventure is out of my hands. Everything will be new, but everything will be painfully beautiful. Life will change and we’ll change with it.

That’s the best kind of fear.

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All photos for this post were taken from our maternity shoot with the talented Ashley Folkema.