They say raising kids takes a village and I'm sure I will learn they are right, but keeping this pregnant lady sane for 9 months took a village too.
As I dove head first into all the pregnancy literature I could find, I heard plenty of funny and aggravating stories from mom's who had heard one too many 'helpful' hints from family members, friends, and even strangers. These women went on rants about how offensive the remarks of others could be and while I'm sure pregnancy hormones played into those feelings (I would know because mine have been scary), that just wasn't my experience. For the most part, people were entirely wonderful.
Community and friendships have always been a top priority in my life and I needed people during pregnancy more than ever. My people went above and beyond for me in so many ways. Here's how folks were the most helpful to me during 4 different aspects of pregnancy:
1: The Clothes
When I started researching maternity clothes and found them to all be either a) unattractive or b) overpriced, I started to worry. Luckily, my style is more bohemian in nature so I already owned lots of flowy tops and dresses that I knew would give way and last me well into the pregnancy. However, by the end of the first trimester both my pants and my bras were getting hard to fasten. Here is where my dear friends came in. I questioned everyone who'd already had babies about what was worth spending money on and what wasn't. I probably asked them more than once too. I had done my research on capsule maternity wardrobes, but was still feeling lost. My very first purchase was one of those belly bands that you wear over unbuttoned pants. Some friends swore by them, others said they were a waste of money, but I went for it. It worked for me and helped me not have to buy any maternity pants for quite some time. Then, a great thing happened, as more and more people found out we were expecting, they began loaning me their maternity clothes! It was like I was back in college again when it felt like my closet included all the other closets of the girls on my hall too! My friends were quick to lend or give me the pieces that got them through their own months of bulging bellies. I got shorts, tank tops, compression socks, button fasteners, dresses and more! I can't tell you how much money these things helped me save. They will get shipped back to their real owners in a few months, but you better believe that I will be quick to share the things I purchased myself when other friends find themselves in need. I plan on doing a separate post in the future about navigating the complicated (and often ugly/overpriced) world of maternity wear.
2: The Registry
I could not have been more excited about creating our registry when we got married. I know what I like and what I don't and I knew what we really needed and what we could go without or purchase later ourselves. I never even set foot in a concrete store, where an over eager clerk would try to convince us to point our scan gun at things we would never use. It was so fun to pick out the stuff we would create our home with! The baby registry, however, totally overwhelmed me. All the products started looking the same. I couldn't understand why two strollers, similar in appearance and function could have such significant price gaps! And how many washcloths could a baby go through? And which shampoo contained the least amount of harmful ingredients? And would he really use the bouncy seat? And is a bumpo actually safe? The never-ending spiral of choices went on and on and on. I consulted a few bloggers who consider themselves to be minimalists, stalked a few registries of acquaintances to see what their registries looked like, then reached out to my trusted friends who I knew wouldn't lead me astray. If I couldn't rely on my friend who is a money-savvy, baby nurse, momma of boys, then who could I rely on? Let me tell you, she did not disappoint. I used her "must have" list to determine most everything we needed. Much to my relief, she agreed with me that expensive doesn't always mean better and that less is more. Somehow, I still feel like we registered for 1 million things. It will be interesting to see where it all goes in our little house. When your time comes, resist the urge to walk into a baby store and register for everything the employee talks about. Ask your friends who you know are budget conscious and live in the real world. Hey by that time, maybe even I will be able to help you make those decisions! Don't worry about baby clothes because plenty of people will generously give you all the hand-me-downs you could ever dream of having!
3: The Birth
For most of my life I avoided anything to do with labor and delivery. Somehow, even though I attended public high school, I never had to watch a birth video and until I got married, I wasn't planning on ever doing so. Once we decided to not put off starting our family, I figured I better start learning. All my research led to a greater fascination and appreciation for the miracle of life. I would've told you that conception and birth were miracles straight from heaven before, but I wouldn't have understood why. Then I did the research, watched some videos of natural birth, and cried over birth story after birth story I found on blogs. When we found out about this baby, I was so excited to experience it for myself. Until about week 24. Then sheer terror set in. I didn't know women puked the whole time sometimes, or that epidurals had such risky side effects, or that you could get the shakes and chills. Um, no thanks. I went from excited to meet our boy to dreading the day the contractions started. It was during this time I had good conversations with multiple friends in the medical field who deal with labor and deliveries on a regular basis, one of whom may actually end up delivering McBaby! These sweet women talked me through all the typical hospital procedures, helped me realize that having a birth plan was good as long as we clung to it loosely, and eased my fears about all the things that could go wrong. These conversations paired with a change in our birth classes (we ended up going with this class online) helped me regain my confidence and reminded me that labor has a happy ending: our baby! I had at one point legitimately forgotten that all the hard, yucky things would end with us holding our boy. Keeping this in mind when the anxiety creeps back up, helps to ease all fears. Also, I know that more people than I am aware of are praying for me, Matthew, and McBaby during this time. Your prayers make a difference. I know that because, some days, when I neglect to pray myself, I am sustained in Christ anyways. Thanks y'all.
4. The Showers
Last, but definitely not least, thanks to the friends and family that hosted or attended our baby showers. There's really nothing like looking around a room at the dear and familiar faces of the folks you've done so much life with. I hope to be seeing all the same faces during significant life events for decades to come. These are the people that spend their precious time praying over your growing family and will be there to help do your laundry or vacuum your floors when the new little one won't stop crying long enough for you to do house chores. Wedding showers, baby showers, college homecomings, etc., these events that gather your people together are small glimpses of heaven. Thank God for creating us to need one another and for using community to teach us more about His intimate nature.
Having friends to text/call/email/or share lunch with and discuss these things has made a world of difference. I may have missed out on the morning sickness, but I got a double does of hormone craziness and my anxiety has been through the roof at times. I am so thankful for friends who have not only gone before me and are willing to share their experiences (and clothes!), but who also point me back to the One that I can truly depend on for my help.
Like I admitted in the first entry of this series, Matthew and I had basically excluded God from our plans for this pregnancy and birth. We are both strong, independent people who see an issue and tackle it before it even has a chance to get out of hand. Remembering to pause and ask God to lead us is a challenge most of the time. Once we realized our mistake, we set about to make it right. Slowing down and inviting God into this process has been the biggest help of all. It's like the old hymn says, "What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear, what a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer! Oh what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer! Can we find a friend so faithful, Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, Take it to the Lord in prayer". Just like I forgot the whole purpose of labor was to bring us our baby, I had completely forgotten to depend on the friend who is most dependable. Once I did bring all my worries to Him in prayer, peace and hope flooded my heart.
There aren't many more weeks left until we meet our boy, only 8 until his due date, but you can be sure that I will be relying on the Best Friend that I have for these remaining weeks.
Here are some scriptures that I am using to remain peacefully resting in His promises from now until, well I see Him face-to-face, but especially during these remaining 8 weeks:
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagles. Psalm 103:2-5
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:8-10
I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and delivers them. Psalm 34:4-7
The Lord stood by me and strengthened me. 2 Timothy 4:17
But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be burned. The flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 45:1-2
Do not fear, for I AM with you; do not dismay, for I AM your God. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. Psalm 55:;22
When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. Psalm 56:3
Perhaps this is the moment for which you have been created. Esther 4:14
Be strong and do not give up, for your hard work will be rewarded. 2 Chronicles 15:7