Baby steps in faith, and a baby in July

The week of November 8th was a big one for America. And an (unexpectedly) big one for Mike and me.

I woke up that Saturday morning and thought, “I wonder if I should take a pregnancy test.” Was I trying to get pregnant? Sort of. We were in the “not preventing” stage, which my husband will tell you is trying. To me, it was the slightest loosening of my tight grasp of control, and being “open to the possibility.” The thing with pregnancy though, is that it’s binary: you either are or you aren’t. There’s nothing wishy-washy about that positive test.

I didn’t cry. I didn’t scream or cheer or crumple on my bathroom floor. I didn’t feel a strong rush of any emotion. I looked at the test (stick I peed on) and thought, “huh.” It’s probably the most boring pregnancy reaction you’ve ever heard. But to me, the sense of calm and lack of panic was monumental. I didn’t judge myself for how I felt in that quiet bathroom moment, or how nonchalantly I delivered the news to Mike. Anticipation for what might happen has always been harder for me to process than reality. A positive test gave me a concrete data point, something real to process, and the “what if’s” that had been swirling for years faded. Who knew pregnancy would be the salve to assuage my pregnancy fears?

I won’t be writing advice posts to hesitant would-be mothers, though, or telling friends that face similar fears and uncertainty they need to “just do it, already.” This has been one of the most personal decisions I’ve ever made, and someone else with a similar makeup and circumstances might come to the decision not to have children. I don’t believe there’s a right answer, or that motherhood is for everyone.

My tendency to overthink and drive myself to despair means that often, some decision is less tortuous than contemplation, especially when that contemplation is circular and there is no obvious right answer. My logic held for years that because parenthood is such a permanent decision, with wide ranging implications not only for my life but for my marriage, the child itself, and my work – I should feel pretty sure about it before diving in. I’m thirteen weeks pregnant, and I still don’t feel sure. If anything, the reality of pregnancy only prompts more questions. But I know that ready or not, surefooted or stumbling, it’s happening, and that God will equip me, change me, and be with me in every phase.

I can’t tell you where that confidence comes from, or how to tap into the accompanying peace it brings. “God will equip you and be with you,” sounds a lot like platitudes Christians say when they’re trying to say the right thing, the kind of thing that’s really frustrating to hear when you already know the right answers but no amount of repetition persuades you to actually believe them, to put your weight on them as if your life depended on it. This level of trust doesn’t come naturally, and I don’t think it’s something we can drum up by trying hard. (At least, I’ve never been able to, and I’ve tried really hard.) It’s by grace alone that we are even capable of faith, and it’s a miracle.

The peace I have is so uncharacteristic for me, it’s as miraculous as that tiny heart fluttering in black and white. (I didn’t cry or feel elated when I saw that, either. What can I say? I was really distracted about the jelly the ultrasound tech got on my shirt, and how badly I had to pee, in the moment.) But I did feel amazed that while I was sleeping and sitting in meetings and watching Gilmore Girls: Year in the Life and eating too much pie, my body was forming this tiny heart, with no conscious participation on my part. That is amazing, if not tear-inducing.

While I vacillated for all those years, Mike remained steady in his desire to have a family, which did help. I wish I could tell you I trusted my husband absolutely and decided his vision for our family alone convinced me to plunge into the depths with him, hand in hand. But I didn’t. I knew (and he agreed) that because of the nature of newborns, our career paths, (or I should say, his career path and my lack of a concrete one), that the primary caregiving responsibility would fall to me. Both of our lives would be changed forever (“hopefully for the better?” I always added, with a question mark), but my day-to-day and prospects for the future would be dramatically transformed, while his wouldn’t. There’s an ache in my heart even as I write this. While the concrete reality of a baby coming in July is easier for me to process than the “what if’s,” there’s a sadness that accompanies the limitations and sacrifices to also come in July, and beyond. This baby is a gift that will change us forever, for which I’m grateful and grieved, both.

“Decision” seems an audacious word to use in the context of getting pregnant. Creating life happens to be a miracle, one mere humans can’t will or force. Had I been unflinchingly sure in my convictions that I wanted to have a baby, I couldn’t have made it so. In reality, I didn’t decide to have a child so much as decide to give up my search for the right answer. I decided to stop trying to plan an ultimately miraculous event around what I could see. I decided to trade my cloudy view of the future for day-by-day faithfulness. I decided to trust God’s sovereignty more than my limited, frail vision and desires. These “decisions” are easy to put on paper but difficult to work out emotionally, and God worked in my heart for years to give me the capacity to make them.

I could fill volumes with all of the conversations, still moments, prayers, and experiences that changed my heart. But they all culminated in applying a simple scripture in a basic way: God gives good gifts, and if He gives us a baby, I can trust Him that it’s a good gift. Two years ago I would have scoffed at this oversimplification, but today it’s the bottom line, the simple truth that gave me peace in the unknown.

The beautiful thing? I was hoping for clarity about if and when to have children. I was hoping my heart would change to either desire them, or for us to come to peace with not having them. But while I was looking for those answers, my heart changed in a different way. God taught me to trust Him more, to relinquish some control, to trade the dreams rooted in proving my identity for the identity He’s already given me. If that’s not preparation for parenthood, I don’t know what is.

17 thoughts on “Baby steps in faith, and a baby in July

  1. “Who knew pregnancy would be the salve to assuage my pregnancy fears?”

    Umm, yes! That is exactly how I feel, now seven months into a pregnancy I wasn’t sure would ever happen. I had the exact same feelings of being unsure of if or when I wanted to get pregnant, and now that it’s actually happening I have so much peace and can’t even really remember why I was ever so against the whole baby thing in the first place. There were no tears of joy when I saw the positive test (I don’t remember having any profound thoughts or emotions outside of “Geez, I need some coffee.”) But the joy and anticipation is still there. So excited for you and your husband, and I pray that peace continues throughout the rest of your pregnancy (and motherhood!)

  2. I’ve never been pregnant, but feel the exact same way as the non-pregnant part of this post, and if I ever was pregnant, I think I’d get the rest :) Thank you for putting your experience into such brave, articulate words and sharing it with us. And congratulations on your good gift!

  3. Hi Jacey!
    Have not read your posts in a long while and your “ambivalence” layered and peppered in your absorbing this momentous change is honest and funny ‘distracted by the jelly’! You will be both amazing parents…enjoy your pregnancy! Love ya! MnM

  4. Congratulations! As a loyal podcast listener I’ve identified SO. MUCH. with basically all of what you have to say about everything. This post is beautiful and the most assuring thing I’ve read as I’ve softened toward the idea of parenthood. I hope to be exactly where you are in a few months! May the peace you feel now continue through pregnancy & parenthood!

  5. I totally connect with you here. I didn’t feel ready to have children for a long time, and after I had my first, I didn’t want a second for a long time. I worried about losing my sense of self, my place in the working world, and the strength of my marriage. These are all completely understandable concerns, and we don’t talk about them enough. It’s just assumed that women want children, without questioning what it means for themselves. But in my view- in my experience, really- the act of questioning it all, of allowing feelings of doubt, makes better mothers in the end.

  6. I felt tears coming as I read this. You have captured my feelings on this whole topic perfectly! I am not pregnant, but my husband and I have been trying/not preventing pregnancy for about a year now (after being married for almost 7 years), and the uncertainty of how I feel on the subject has been so frustrating. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your experience. It’s helpful to know that I’m not the only woman who struggles like this!

  7. Congrats! I totally relate to all these feelings, especially still being in school for my PhD and feeling like I “shouldn’t” have a baby but my husband standing firm in that. I had a similar reaction to our first pregnancy, which sadly ended in a miscarriage, but even the second time around I didn’t cry or scream or any of the “typical” (whatever that means) reactions and that’s alright. Wishing you the best as your pregnancy progresses!

  8. Congratulations, Jacey. I’m very happy for you and Mike. From experience (and my heart) I want to say that having and raising a child is one of the most fulfilling and amazing parts of life. I wouldn’t want to miss out on it. As with anything, just rely on the leading of Holy Spirit as your guide and it’ll be great.
    On the night my daughter was born there were a total of 8 babies who came into the world at that hospital. Only one mom did not require either a C. Section or an episiotomy, and that was my wife. The credit for that smoother, non-surgical birth goes totally to the midwife who helped my wife prepare. My dad was an OB-GYN, so I’ve been around this stuff, and I surely do not believe that God didn’t know how to make women to have kids without surgery. NOTE: I know it is necessary sometimes! But for the most part, I think it’s like this: When someone is going to take part in a sporting event, they prepare a lot to be physically ready. And yet, when a woman is going to go through this very physically demanding event, most don’t prepare physically at all. That’s nuts. So I suggest that every gal out there contact folks/groups/etc. who are into a more natural way of giving birth and see what they can learn. I’ll leave it at that. God bless you and yours!

  9. This is a beautiful, beautiful post. I just started listening to the Influence podcast a few weeks ago and became a fast “fan” of yours which admittedly is a weird word to use and probably weird for you to read. This is the first blog post of yours I’ve seen since I added you to my Reader recently, and you are a wonderful writer! So glad I’ve found you via the internet and whatnot. Really going to enjoy following you :)

    1. Glad to connect with you, Lucy! I don’t blog as often as I used to, mostly because most of my energy for making content goes toward Around the Table (my podcast) these days. I’d love for you to join us there, too!

  10. What a beautiful post. Having a baby (and pregnancy in general) is one of the craziest things that you can ever go through. And it requires so much faith that He knows what is best for us, and the faith that He does provide us with good gifts. When you talked on the show this week about letting yourself feel sad as you leave this chapter of your life, I 100% connected with that. Before my first was born four years ago, I was thrilled to become a mother, but I sobbed that night before my induction. I knew that within the next 24 hours, I was going to be a MOTHER. To another human being! And my life as I knew it would change drastically. I cried as I thought about all of the doors I was shutting in my life. It was an end of an era and once that baby was here, everything I knew as my life would be drastically different. And here I am now, 4 years later with two little ones, and I do miss that other me. There is so much I miss about that girl who was so carefree and didn’t always feel the heaviness of the world, but even still, I wouldn’t trade where I am now for anything in the world.

  11. I love your honest reflection. I always hear of over-excited “Moms to be” and am slightly annoyed at their obsession with trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, and letting that define every aspect of their life. Thank you for giving me a refreshing glimpse at what it would feel like to let God be in control. I really enjoyed your well-written post. I also heard your interview with Ann Bogel and thought your intelligent book conversation was refreshing as well. I look forward to following your blog.
    Happy reading, writing and congratulations on your upcoming bundle of joy. :-)
    Kim Patton

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