relationships

differences between my first & second pregnancies

A lot of moms are more easygoing during their second pregnancies, but I was pretty laid-back the first time around. I didn’t follow any rules about what I shouldn’t eat, drink, or do. I listened to my body and practiced headstands well into my third trimester. I felt confident and strong and looked forward to an empowering birth experience.

This time, I feel more protective. This past winter, we lived in a basement without much privacy, without a real bedroom or a door to separate our space. I had a threatened miscarriage, which increased my feeling of vulnerability. I’ve gained more than the “recommended” weight and feel big and mama bear-like, ready to fight for my babies.

Every pregnancy is different because every relationship is different.

I’m not sure what is true about being pregnant with boys versus girls, but I know my relationship with Phoebe is different than my relationship with Atlas, and so her time in the womb is different as well. She sits lower, as most subsequent babies do, and stretches more than she kicks. Perhaps she’s already practicing yoga poses?

My relationship with myself is also different than it was in 2015. My first pregnancy taught me a lot about connecting with myself and being present, but this pregnancy shows me I still have a lot to learn. I’m not a fearful person, but the past few months I’ve felt frustrated with my body and anxious about the future.

It’s easier for me to be hopeful when lack of experience leaves room for any possibility.

With my first pregnancy, I had heard of pain-free and orgasmic births, and I believed anything was possible. Intellectually, I still believe anything could happen, but experientially, I know birth and postpartum can be hard and indeed very painful. Dealing with eczema again when I thought I was healed makes me wonder if I can trust my body.

I know my body is more prepared to birth a human this second time and it remembers what to do, but in many ways, my heart and mind are not as ready. I have to make a conscious effort to choose peace instead of stress, to choose to live in the “now” instead of jumping ahead to next week or next month.

In some ways, I am giving birth to myself.

In my last post, I wrote about becoming new. With Phoebe’s birth, I will become a new mom, again, but I feel like she is also a retelling of my own story. My birthday and her due date are just a few days apart. Thinking of her brings up thoughts of my relationship with my own mother, and all the emotions that come with it.

Though this won’t be as drastic a transformation from maidenhood to motherhood, it is still a big change from one child to two, from three family members to four, from just my boys to my boys and my girl. This pregnancy, I’m more cognizant of how nesting is not only preparing a place for a new baby, it is also preparing a place for a new me.

Noah says, “There’s always room for more love.” And so, in our hearts, and in our home, we make room.

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I would love to hear how your pregnancies and birth stories differed! As well as any tips on how to parent two under two :)

 

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my husband’s greatest gift

One of the greatest gifts my husband will give our children is forgiveness without shame.

I grew up believing I had to apologize in a certain way before I could be forgiven. To prove my sincerity, I had to hang my head low, use a specific vocal intonation, and have tears in my eyes. Forgiveness was obtained through earnest repentance, and only maintained if I demonstrated over time that I wouldn’t do the same bad thing again.

Sometimes I would refuse to forgive others so I could feel powerful. I would give off an attitude of resentment to feel superior. Even after offering forgiveness, I would convey disappointment or passive aggressively remind them about it later. I wanted to make sure they still felt guilty. I wanted them to know my forgiveness didn’t come lightly.

I grew up believing people had to work for forgiveness. Or at least put on a convincing performance.

When I met Noah, he offered another way. He showed me forgiveness is not the reward someone earns when they act sorry enough. Forgiveness is choosing to not hold something against someone, whether it be an offense, mistake, or perceived flaw. Forgiveness depends on the one who gives it and not on the one who receives it.

I don’t recall a single situation in which he has not immediately forgiven me.

In fact, for the first year of our marriage, I never once apologized to Noah. Whenever he apologized to me, I felt emotionally reconnected, and didn’t see the need to humble myself and make amends for anything in return. In my victim mentality, I blamed him for every conflict and didn’t know how to take responsibility.

Noah never condemns me. Once he forgives, it’s not that he forgets, but he moves forward. He doesn’t hold it over my head. He doesn’t bring it up at a future time to make me feel bad. Whenever I apologize or confess anything to him, it always directly results in forgiveness and restoration.

Forgiveness is a tool to stay in relationship.

We want to teach our kids that forgiveness restores the previous standard and the past won’t be used against them. They are safe to mess up not because their actions don’t have consequences, but because we don’t live in fear of how they will behave. They are freely forgiven for the sake of love, and we hope they, too, will learn to forgive without prerequisite.

My parents still withhold forgiveness for things I’ve done years ago. It hurts less than it did before, but the pain doesn’t go away. I never want my children to experience this.

Noah and I believe earthly fathers play a crucial role in reflecting the father heart of God. The heart that stays engaged in relationship no matter what, that wants his kids free from guilt and shame, that is always ready to love and reconcile. The heart I never truly knew until Noah mirrored it for me, the heart that has changed my life, the heart my husband now shares with our own children.

Happy Father’s Day to the best father I know <3

 

500 days of marriage

STARTING FRESH

A week after our wedding, we showed up in Pompano Beach (homeless, jobless, friendless) together, so we got to make lots of cute little married couple friends as a unit. We were Noah&Bethany from day one of Life in South Florida. In the beginning, while I was despondent and miserable, I really wished there were people here who knew me as I used to believe myself to be: capable, happy, fun-loving, and fancy-free; but in retrospect, it would have just been a safety net. To crawl through some of the loneliest and most depressing times of my life without anyone but my husband nearby helped me choose reality over escapism. I remember as a young’n thinking that, as a newlywed, I would call my mother often, asking her homemaker-esque questions and seeking advice. A great benefit of my damnation from her world has been the exclusion of potential lies that would have turned me against Noah. Leave and cleave all the way.

FAMILYING

In “starting fresh,” I denied my previously most intimate relationships the power to dictate the future of my marriage, but that does not mean I did it all on my own. During our first year, we were very deliberate about reaching out, opening up, and finding people with whom to family. Twice a week for a year we had different people over for dinner. Many we never connected with again on more than an acquaintance level, but some became family to us. Now we are shifting from breadth to depth in our relationships.

With our “natural” families, we had the best holidays I ever celebrated. We spent Thanksgiving in New York with my step-dad, reuniting with family I hadn’t seen since middle school. We had a Christmas slumber party in central Florida with my second-cousin and her husband, who were also in their first year of marriage. My great-uncle hosted us for Memorial Day weekend and the Indy 500. We took a couple trips up to North Carolina to visit Noah’s family, and we had various siblings and cousins join us in our humble abode throughout the year. We planned months in advance to visit Noah’s parents in Wyoming; we bought our plane tickets back in July and have been looking forward to Christmas in Cheyenne ever since. Familying is intentional, powerful, and one of our first priorities.

BEING COWORKERS

Not every couple has the opportunity to work together; fewer couples may ever want to work together. Noah started teaching at the same school as me in April. There were seven teachers total, and our classrooms were across the hall from each other. At first, I hated having him there and was afraid to tell him as such. After recognizing unrealistic expectations I had placed on him to devote himself to our students, and after working through my own philosophy of teaching, I grew to love working with my husband.

Unbeknownst to us, Noah subconsciously motivated me to view work through his lens of valuing efficiency, at the loss of emotional attachment. In September, I started teaching four new classes without any curriculum. Overwhelmed, I worked hard to find resources and write curriculum, and had less energy for connecting with staff and students. One month ago, Noah transitioned out of his job and one of our best friends filled his position, and again, my relationship with work and with my husband changed. Work has been a catalyst that has brought much to the surface. It is invaluable indeed to have shared this part of our life together, and for Noah to be so intimately acquainted with how I am currently processing it all.

SAVING OUR MARRIAGE BEFORE IT EVER NEEDED SAVING

It’s called Love After Marriage, but it is a workshop that goes beyond words. This is our second time participating in the 18-week course, but there is no such thing as “doing LAM twice.” I have fresh ears to hear teaching, new eyes to discern root issues, and a heart transformed to release offense and initiate reconciliation with greater willingness. I flip through my workbook notes and observe how issues that used to be so present in my life are now nonexistent. I see tangible growth through how I approach relationships, how I process hurt and pain, and how I claim blessings. The times Noah and I fight grow ever fewer and farther between as we learn to truly work through and deal with our stuff. I am so thankful to have invested in our marriage in this way. Our hearts have been so cleansed this year.

July 13, 2012 to November 25, 2013: These were the first 500 days.