Femininity Defined

What does it mean to be feminine?

I’ve sought the answer from others many times. I’ve wished that certain people who are smarter or godlier or more well-read than me would talk about it in a way I could trust. I still wish that. But when no one is giving you a satisfactory answer, you have to answer your own questions.

Femininity in the Church

Growing up in the church, femininity was often defined by lists of virtues or spiritual characteristics such as the fruits of the Spirit or by functions and roles within the home and family. Sometimes it was even defined by common psychological and social differences between men and women.

All of these approaches held some truth, but I think only clarified part of a much larger picture of what femininity is.

The fruits of the Spirit or even characteristics of godly female examples in the Bible are largely traits that BELIEVERS should cultivate, not necessarily traits that define humans as women.

Being a godly and virtuous human is foundational to being a excellent woman, but these virtues are not what sets us apart as women.

Certainly a woman’s role in her family is important, and we should understand what makes a woman a good wife and a good mother.

But wife and mother is are only two of the many roles a woman may fulfill. And defining femininity solely in terms of family life fails to acknowledge the many single women in our church, some who are longing for marriage and motherhood and some who are joyfully serving God in their singleness, with no expectation for marriage and family.

Being a daughter, sister, and friend are also vital and important roles in the physical family. Further, believing women all have a familial role in their spiritual family, the church.

Being single or childless does not make you less feminine.

Psychological or social differences between men and women may be common, but they are generalizations. And all generalizations have exceptions. They describe the reality of how most women function, not necessarily an ideal to which all women should aspire.

But they are often treated as an ideal. And doing so stunts women in their spiritual, emotional, and intellectual growth, both those who fit the more typical mold and those who don’t.

Femininity in the Secular World

In the secular world, femininity can be described any way an individual wants it to be. Feminism further complicates it. In the largely secular birth world that I often interact within, I’ve been exposed to the very best of feminism. In fact, it is the women in the birth world, both Christian and secular, who have most affirmed me as a woman.

But without a higher standard to conform to, secular definitions of femininity offer ideals that are too fluid to aspire to.

Often, the church’s definitions of femininity are too narrow to be applicable and affirming to all women, and the secular world’s definitions of femininity are too subjective to be meaningful.

I have struggled to find a definition that can affirm and apply to all women, regardless of family status or common female characteristics, and also offer something they can all aspire to.

A Meaningful Definition

So if femininity defined by lists of characteristics and roles within the family is too narrow, and femininity defined as whatever you want it to be is too fluid, where does that leave us?

Genesis 1:27 says,

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

English Standard Version

Human beings came into the world, male and female, in the image of God. The biological sex of a human being is meaningful to their purpose in the world and in their accurate reflection of the image of God.

Our biology, our physical characteristics and the functions of our bodies, which are often treated with so much suspicion by the church and disregard by the world, are meaningful in our definition of femininity.

Men’s bodies are bigger and stronger than women’s. Men are naturally more aggressive. Using one’s physical strength to protect and provide safety for one’s family and community is at the heart of being a man.

Women’s bodies are undoubtedly designed to nurture life. Women carry, birth, and nurture babies, the offspring man and woman create together. Giving, sustaining, and nurturing life is at the heart of being a woman.

So I would like to offer this definition, in hopes that it can provide clarity without legalism and be applicable to all women in a way that calls them to a high ideal while still affirming them as the unique individuals they are.

Femininity is the cultivation of virtues, skills, and gifts to the end of being a life-giving, life-sustaining, and life-nurturing force in one’s circles of influence.

As I write this definition I am immediately sensitive to the fact that I have defined femininity in terms of female biology and that the reality is that many women feel disconnected to their bodies.

And perhaps many more feel betrayed by bodies that have failed to create, grow, sustain, or nurture life, women who have experienced infertility or miscarriage, even women who feel their bodies are inadequate to attract a good mate.

Desires for sex, marriage, and children are natural, God-given desires, so I want to honor those good desires, but I know that the church has often failed to create a meaningful vision of womanhood to single women and childless women, who whether due to choice or circumstance are growing in number.

So, single woman, childless woman, this is for you too.

Let’s flesh this definition out a bit.

Cultivation

Femininity is cultivation. Cultivation is work, hard work. It requires purposeful self-discipline to bring forth fruit. There’s nothing passive or lazy about cultivation.

Femininity is not just about doing what “comes natural” to you as a woman. Your individual, natural tendencies will need to be trained, strengthened, and sometimes killed to become an excellent woman.

Virtues

Virtues are good and valuable characteristics. I realize this can be a bit subjective, but virtues are characteristics that will help you achieve a high standard in the roles you are called to fulfill. Many will be valuable across multiple roles and applicable to both men and women. Virtues make you a good human, not just a good woman.

I am a wife. There are virtues that I need to cultivate in myself to be a good wife. Many of them don’t come naturally to me. I need to be understanding. I need to be slow to anger. I need to be generous and loyal and truthful and encouraging. And if I were married to someone else, there might be certain virtues that I needed to cultivate more than others.

I am a mother.  I need to be gentle. I need to be patient. I need to be self-controlled and disciplined and hard-working and self-sacrificing. Those are the virtues that my children need in me.

But those virtues are not only valuable only in the spheres of marriage and motherhood, nor are they only valuable in women. They will make you a better friend, a better employee, a better entrepeneur, a better boss. They’ll make you a better member of the body of Christ, a better voice in your community. And they are worth cultivating regardless of your familial status.

Skills

Skills are learned capabilities. Some will come easier than others. They are practical in all different spheres. They may be professional skills, homemaking skills, or relational skills, and I think there are minimal basic competencies all women should pursue in each of those areas.

They might be learning the duties of a job you are paid for. They might be learning to budget and meal plan and change diapers and breastfeed. They might be learning to manage conflict better or discerning when to push and issue or when to let it go. They might be learning how to listen to a friend in the depths of grief.

Gifts

Gifts are the characteristics you’re particularly strong in, the skills you’re are particularly good at, the things that perhaps come easiest to you.

These will often be things that are most often associated with femininity. They may be things like facilitating teamwork in your job place, exercising gentleness and patience with your children, creating a beautiful home, offering compassion to the abused church member.

But for some women, their gifts may fit into a more typically masculine category. These may excel in problem-solving, they may naturally be more objective, or they may be very physically and sexually driven.

And if that’s you, it might create a feeling of disconnect with other women, a feeling of defectiveness, a feeling of not being very feminine.

But we need your more typically masculine strengths in our feminine spheres to protect us from blind spots, to help us understand others better, to help us cultivate the good characteristics that don’t come easy to us.

You are not less feminine when you use your more typically masculine traits for your God-given purpose.

To the end of being…

This means for the purpose of. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but as we cultivate virtues that are valuable to all humans, skills that allow us to fulfill our roles well, and gifts that set us apart as unique individuals, we do so with a goal in mind. The goal of giving, sustaining, and nurturing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives of those around us.

Life-Giving, Life-Sustaining, and Life-Nurturing

These actions of giving, sustaining, and nurturing life are deeply interconnected, and this is the part that most reflects our biology.

When God creates life in our bodies we do the often exhausting work of sustaining and nurturing that life. This nurturing of life of our physical children requires self-sacrifice in every imaginable way. We give up our old bodies, our old priorities, our old habits, for the good of the children God has given us.

But it’s not just about biology.

Even if we are not mothers, we will sacrifice much when we give our lives to whatever task God has called us to.

We nurture the people around us, including our husbands, our co-workers, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, by serving them, by encouraging them, by working with them side-by -side, by lovingly confronting them when necessary.

We nurture  bodies, feeding our children, bringing meals to the new mother, bathing the elderly at the skilled nursing facility we work in.

We nurture minds, sharing ideas, reading to our children, teaching the ABC’s to our kindergarten class.

And we nurture souls. Memorizing Scripture with our children, praying for our loved ones, offering the life-giving hope of the gospel to the spiritually dead we come into contact with every day.

Force

I use this word because it connotes strength. We are not weak and fragile flowers, passively floating through life.

Women are strong. And I don’t say that to equate us with men. Our strength is distinctly feminine. But I think both the world and the church has lost sight of that. There are all kinds of reasons, but I believe some of it can be traced back to the disconnect with our biology.

We eat what we want even when it makes us feel like crap.

We routinely numb the emotions we don’t feel ready to face, or perhaps that others aren’t ready to face.

We pump ourselves full of synthetic hormones and accept anxiety and fatigue and disinterest in sex as normal.

When we give birth we “rescue” our bodies from pain and choose not to feel what’s actually happening to us. We forget that women have had the strength to give birth for thousands of years and we are no different.

Fear of our own biology has let us forget how strong we really are, the gift we have to endure physical, emotional, and spiritual pain for the sake of love, to face death to bring forth life.  

And with the loss of distinctly feminine strength in our consciousness, we, both in the secular world and in the church, fall victim to two things.

First, we fall victim to judging our strength by masculine standards. We equate femininity with weakness, despise ourselves for it, and spend our lives frantically trying to prove our value in masculine spheres.

Second, we fall victim to thinking we are not strong enough to do the hard things that being a woman, that being feminine, actually requires. We default to what is easy instead of cultivating what is good.

Circles of Influence

This is wherever you are right now, your family, your church, your community, your workplace. Your circle of influence is wherever you are, whether you want to be there or not.

You might be a student working toward a degree. You might be a mother with a house full of young children. You might be a leader in a workplace, a widow in the church, a married woman, an unmarried woman, a woman content and single, a woman single and longing to be married.

Wherever you are, you are there for God’s purpose. And you can nurture the lives around you. You can show others what God is like as you bear His image and influence His creation with your life-nurturing, feminine strength.

Recommended Resources:

Doc&Devo: Masculinity with Paul Maxwell. His clarification of masculinity has been a tremendous help to me as I attempt to define femininity. If you know of a discussion of femininity of that caliber, send it my way!

Womanly Dominion” by Pastor Mark Chanski

Love Thy Bodyby Nancy Pearcey

Journey of A Homebirth Mama

I am not a medical professional. The experience shared here is my own. Please research your options to make your own well-informed decision. See full disclosure here.

Dear mother and father exploring homebirth for the first time,

I see you

I see you desiring a natural, undisturbed birth, hoping for a meeting with your baby that’s sacred and joyful and unhurried.

I see you nervous and anxious about giving birth in a hospital setting with its bright lights and policies and no guarantee of being attended by a professional you know and trust, by the one you’re perhaps building a relationship with right now.

And I see you nervous and anxious about giving birth at home too, with all the unknowns and what-ifs and wondering what your people will think.

I see your careful questions and cautious exploration, your conflicting fears and desires, and the anxiety that comes with the responsibility of choosing.

And I’ve been right where you are

I have given birth to two babies at home. I loved having my babies at home. I am now a committed advocate of homebirths for women who want them. But the journey to get here was long and arduous.

I first heard about homebirth in college when I watched the documentary, “The Business of Being Born”. At the time it seemed like such a brave and beautiful way to bring a baby into the world, yet fear and lack of knowledge kept it like a lovely trinket in a little box, something kept high on a shelf and left unopened for fear of breaking it.

I thought that birth was too risky and too complicated to safely do at home.

Fast forward several years and I was married, hoping to soon start a family. I was nannying for a doula who became a dear friend, and as she was spending nights supporting mamas birthing their babies, I was spending nights on her couch, voraciously reading her library of birth-related books.

Fascinated by birth since childhood, I devoured every bit of information I could about homebirth, evidence-based care, and the physiology of labor. I watched all the documentaries and read all the Ina May. It’s always interesting to me to see how my interests as an adult have just been a continuation of what fascinated me as a child.

With Megan’s encouragement I soon trained as a doula. I attended births, and was on the board for the local birth network. As I learned more and more about normal, physiologic birth, I became more comfortable with the idea of giving birth at home. The lower risk of interventions, c-sections especially, along with the relative safety for low-risk mothers, was very appealing, yet I still had a nagging fear.

I was perhaps most afraid of making a selfish decision that would ultimately put my baby at risk.

I always say Megan “pre-doulaed” me through my fears around birth in general and homebirth in particular.

She met me where I was at, asked me the hard questions, and helped me figure out what was really valuable to me.

I was all about research and statistics and evidence-based care back then. And I still am, but now with a solid dose of valuing my own intuition and heart desires as well.

First Trimester Birth

About a year into my birth obsession, and after a PCOS diagnosis and a year and a half of hoping, I was thrilled to find out I was pregnant. I started researching care providers right away. I would be six months along when my husband was supposed to get out of the military and we would move back home to Michigan, so I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to find someone before my baby arrived.

At ten weeks, I went to the urgent care on base due to the light but constant spotting I had been experiencing. Follow-up appointments determined that I was experiencing a molar pregnancy and a d&c was scheduled immediately.

I was devastated.

After the procedure, while I was in recovery, the obgyn came back and told me that though the ultrasound the day before had shown a complete molar pregnancy with no developing baby, the ultrasound they had performed after administering general anesthetic showed a fetus with no heartbeat, measuring 7 weeks and 5 days

In a way I felt more at peace. The debilitating nausea and vomiting I had been experiencing for the last two months had at least been for a baby, not just an abnormal mass of fast-growing, possibly cancerous, placental tissue.

But on the other hand I felt robbed. I hadn’t been able to see my baby. No one had thought to take a photo. If I had known an ultrasound could be so wrong I would have asked them to wake me up, to let me see my baby, heartbeat or not, to have a chance to have something to keep of that baby besides an old faded pregnancy test and a handful of photos of me while I was pregnant.

But I was asleep and unaware and unable to advocate for myself.

I know medical professionals have to make a call in that sort of situation, that it was probably just a standard procedure and that for some women it would have been best. But it wasn’t for me. And I’m the one that has to live with it for the rest of my life.

The first trimester birth of that first baby had a powerful and unavoidable impact on my future births. It felt so violent, and I now know that at some level I processed it as sexual trauma.

I knew that in the future I would do everything I could to never be that powerless again.

With my first baby’s birth my general discomfort in hospitals became complete terror. Every week I returned for bloodwork to ensure my hCG levels were dropping appropriately, and by the time I left I was shaking, nauseated, and vomiting. I jumped at my own reflection in the glass doors. I had nightmares for well over a year.

While I became more afraid of hospitals, I also became increasingly concerned for safety in future births. In the wake of intense grief following that baby’s birth, I knew without a doubt that I would have taken all the unnecessary interventions and their accompanying risks to be able to hold that baby for a minute. I had never doubted that I would do anything to protect the life of my child, but now I was on the other side of loss, knowing firsthand the value of skilled medical help along with the potential for harm even with the best intentions, and the ultimate powerlessness we sometimes have to sustain life in a world of sickness and death and babies born too soon.

Rainbow Baby

Fast forward another eight months and I was pregnant again. I was shocked, ecstatic, hopeful, and full of anxiety all at once. We had recently moved home, and initially I saw an obgyn resident practice. They were the first ones I could find who would accept my insurance, and I was eager to know everything was alright. They didn’t do an ultrasound until 20 weeks, so I was in constant worry until our ultrasound showed a healthy baby boy.

Although I still knew in my heart that I wanted a homebirth, I had set my desire aside because there was simply no way it was possible financially. But as I drew close to my third trimester, my husband got a new job, and a cautious hope started to take root. If I could find a midwife who would take payment plans, maybe a homebirth would be in reach.

Meanwhile, red flags in my care at my obgyn practice made my desire for a homebirth even stronger.

One particular incident sticks out in my mind. I had been slowly going through the items on my birth plan that were most important to me, trying to simultaneously be honest about my hopes and also feel out a realistic idea of what to expect in a situation I knew wouldn’t be quite ideal. When I came to birthing positions I indicated that I wanted to be upright unless there was a medical necessity to do otherwise.

“Oh you can push in whatever position you want.” The ob said. “But when you actually give birth you’ll be on your back with your feet in stirrups.”

“I don’t think that’s necessary if everything is going well.” I said.

“It’s necessary so that we can help you get the baby out.” He said.

“And if you want to do something different you should go somewhere else, but don’t do a homebirth.”

“I don’t think I’m going to need your help.” I thought, but didn’t say aloud.

His mind seemed made up, and I decided against offering to bring in some studies to support my rather bold assertion. I would probably never see him again anyway.

Though that interaction was quite distressing at the time, I now appreciate his blunt honesty, his indirect observation that the care providers I was seeing simply wouldn’t be able to support the birth that was best for me.

At seven months pregnant, I hired my midwife.

Her calm and confident presence immediately inspired trust and even made my husband feel more comfortable with having our baby at home. All the evidence-based practices that I had to fight for in the hospital – delayed cord clamping, intermittent auscultation, upright birth positions – were standard for her. She had been practicing for over 30 years and had attended over 3,000 births. I felt completely confident in her knowledge, experience, and ability to facilitate a safe birth for me and my baby.

Right away my midwife recommended supplements and nutritional changes along with exercises to prepare for birth. I immediately had more energy and less stress. We talked about the things that were really important to me, the things about birth and motherhood I wasn’t confident in, the things I was scared of.

Every week she shared little snippets from a birth she had attended that week. Every story boosted my confidence, and I approached my due date with eager expectation. Even if I ever ended up needing to transfer to the hospital during birth, I believe the cost of a homebirth midwife is totally worthwhile simply in the value of the prenatal care.

My Friend Fear

Though overall I was excited to give birth, I still carried some fears as I approached my due date. I trusted the physiology of the process, but my history of PCOS and miscarriage had undermined confidence in my own physiology.

I had seen birth up close, had supported other women through it, and I knew it would require everything of me. I knew it would be incredibly challenging, and I believed I was strong enough to do it. Not because I was unusually strong, but because women have been doing it for thousands of years.

The strength to give birth, and to do so awake and present to the process, is a common and God-given strength, one that women today often see no need to access, but one that has been vital to the survival and sustenance of life for all of history.

I was confident in that, that women were designed to give birth. And when I doubted that I was designed to give birth, when my fears started running amok, no one fed the fears. My midwife sensibly confronted them with truth and then let them be. They became a means to a safer and better birth, not a facilitator of disengagement and helpless anxiety. Should the fears require action we had a good plan, but no one used my fears against me. I trained them for my own purposes.

And then I gave birth to my son. And the fears didn’t come with me. They stayed outside the sacred space of giving birth, like well-armed knights around a castle, ready to protect in danger. I was not only able to feel safe, but BE safe, because of their presence with me as I carried my baby.

Birth that Heals

I labored gently for a day and half the night. I ate and slept and spent time with my husband. In the wee hours of the morning I knew this was real and I would be meeting my baby soon.

We drove to my parents home where, due to various circumstances, we had chosen to have our baby. The car ride was miserable and I had a moment of weakness as we neared the hospital exit.

“Homebirth isn’t for everyone. I could just go to the hospital and get an epidural right now.”

Then we passed the exit, and I was committed.

We arrived at my parents’ home, and soon my doula and midwife arrived too. My mother, father, sisters, and brother were all there with me and my husband. I groaned and growled and laughed and cried my way through labor.

He was born shortly after sunrise, on a frosty November morning. My midwife passed him between my legs and lay him on the bed in front of me. “I did it!” I thought. I had a moment to look at him before I scooped him into my arms and held him, kneeling there on my parents’ bed.

The healing birth of my oldest son was intensely challenging, yet intensely joyful, just like he is. His birth was treated as the everyday miracle that it was. It was treated as the unfolding of a trustworthy process, not a volatile experiment to be managed and controlled.

Moments after my son was born, joyfully and safely.

I hold this decision of where I birth my babies dear because I think it was the first time in my life that I truly felt I had agency to not only make the best decisions for myself, but to feel confident in those decisions.

I was willing to fight for what was good for me and my baby when just going a conventional route would have in many ways been easier and certainly would have been more comfortable for the people around me.

Having a beautiful, transformative, empowering birth wasn’t because I was just “lucky”. Yes, in birth there are things outside our control, but what we do have control over is the way we prepare and the decisions we make. My decisions mattered.

And your decisions matter too.

The way you prepare matters. The stories you listen to matter. The values you take hold of and the values you reject matter. The hard work you do before birth, the decisions you make, before conception even – it all matters.

You don’t have to have your baby at home to have a good birth, and a few women will end up with a great birth even without much preparation. But approaching giving birth in a thoughtfully engaged manner, knowing what you want and making decisions accordingly will always be good for you and your family.

So dear mama and father, keep learning, keep searching, keep exploring.

If you’re afraid, train your fears to serve you. Treat them with care and respect, lest they use their power to defeat you instead of protect you.

Learn about evidence-based care. Learn about the physiology of birth, how labor unfolds when it’s undisturbed.

Listen to women who have had good births. Talk to women who have had homebirths.

Find out what’s available in your community. Find a care provider you can really trust.

Know what you really want. Don’t be afraid to state it clearly to yourself and to others.

And then make your decisions about where to give birth based on what YOU know is best for yourself and for your baby

You call the shots. The power to make thoughtful decisions that positively affect your birth experience, your baby, your motherhood and fatherhood, and your whole life as a family – that power is yours. Whether you choose to exercise it is up to you.

You’re the only one who can empower you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with information or unsure of how to make the best decisions for you and your baby, please seek out support from a local birth professional or contact me. I offer very individualized support and education for expectant parents with varying levels designed to accommodate any budget and need. This is a brief, precious, and sometimes scary stage of life, and the decisions you make now can impact your family for years to come.

With hopes of a joyful birth,

Rebekah

Birth of My Second Rainbow Baby

My second son’s birthday was several weeks ago, and for those weeks I have struggled to know how to write his story. Do I write it as a combination of my own memories and what I was told? Do I write it based on my memories alone? Do I write it as a perceive it a year later? With all I’ve processed? Or do I just write it as a timeline of facts?

I have decided to write it based on my own memories, my own experience of it, perhaps with a bit of how I now perceive the experience, a year later. I had a great birth, and this is me honoring and protecting the memory of that birth.

A Second Rainbow

Before the births of Colt (my oldest son) and Abe (my second born), I experienced a devastating and traumatic miscarriage. That experience has left an ever-present mark on every area of my life. I wasn’t sure how my loss experience would affect my second live birth.

After all, I’d had one live birth and though my pregnancy had been fraught with anxiety and uncertainty, the birth had gone well. I’d had one empowering, confidence-building, joy-filled experience under my belt. Would that somehow balance out the fear and the sadness and the need for control that my first pregnancy and subsequent loss had bestowed upon me?

The answer is no. The uncertainty was still there. The anxiety was real. But perhaps for different reasons.

When I discovered I was pregnant with my second rainbow baby, my husband and I were thrilled. I had purposed during my first son’s pregnancy that I would hold onto happiness for as long as I could. That I would let myself feel all the joy, despite the possibility for loss and sorrow inherent in every pregnancy.

Pregnant!

I would feel the anxiety right along with the joy, of course. Because it was so very real too. But I wouldn’t try to shut out the love and the joy out of a desire to protect myself from the possibility of sorrow.

I conceived my son on day 95 of a my third postpartum cycle. I had hoped that once my fertility returned after my first son’s birth, normal cycles would resume. But instead my cycles were long and irregular, as they had been for most of my life, all of it, in fact, except for the three cycles before conceiving my first son.

Fertility awareness charting allowed me to determine an accurate due date despite having not had a period for three months! If you would like to learn to chart your fertility, fill out a contact form or check out my services page.

 

I knew the risk of miscarriage was higher with a later ovulation, and what about the dreaded possibility of another partially molar pregnancy (which my first miscarriage had turned out to be)? My due date was the 20th of June, just 5 days before the fourth anniversary of the loss of our first baby. Colt had been born 4 days past his due date, so I knew the possibility of this baby being born very near or on that anniversary was high.

A Stressful Pregnancy

When we found out we were expecting, it was in the midst of a very stressful year for us. This baby was a definite bright spot.

As with my first two pregnancies, I experienced constant nausea and vomiting multiple times a day. This time it held on longer than it had with my first son, and I was far more uncomfortable than I had been with him.

I was also bigger than I had been with Colt, and more people than I care to recall commented on it. Making the observation didn’t bother me; it was true, and I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. What bothered me was the assumptions people made because of how big I was.

“There’s no way you’ll make it to your due date.”

“That’s a big baby!”

“I hope that delivery goes ok…” (with the voice filled with foreboding…)

“They must have your dates wrong!” (Actually, THEY don’t determine my dates. I tell THEM when I know I conceived – thank you fertility awareness! And THEY, being my midwife, trusts me as a woman highly aware of her own body and fertility.)

I found myself caught off guard by my anxiety about my upcoming labor and birth. Again, I thought I would be more confident since my first birth had gone so well. But this pregnancy was so different. Would my labor be different too? I’d had a great birth. Maybe now it my “turn” for a crappy birth…

“The second birth is often as virgin as the first.” my midwife said. How right she was!

The last selfie I took before going in to labor!

Prelabor

As with my first son, I experienced frequent Braxton Hicks starting early in my second trimester. With my first, this had alarmed me, but my cervix had stayed closed and my baby safe, so I barely gave them a second thought the second time around.

Colt had been born 4 days past his due date, and his story is for another time, but my logical head said that this second baby would likely go a bit late too. My heart, however, thoroughly enjoyed the feeling that he would be a bit early. My head was right.

Four days past my due date, my husband was the best man in our dear friends’ wedding. I was so glad I wasn’t in labor. If I was going to go past my due date I might as well get to do the fun stuff! We danced to a bunch of our favorite songs, and I hoped all that activity would jumpstart labor. The next day when my muscles were aching I was glad that it hadn’t!

After the wedding I decided to stay at my parents’ house until the baby was born. As with my first, circumstances dictated that their home was the best place for me to give birth, and I had been feeling some anxiety about getting there once I knew I was in labor. Due to my nearly constant Braxton Hicks, by the time I’m sure I’m in labor, I’m far too uncomfortable to drive, and birth is too imminent to feel comfortable with the possibility of needing to wait for someone else to drive me. Also, the car ride in active labor with Colt really sucked. I wanted to be able to stay put this time.

The wedding was on a Saturday, and on Sunday when I got home from church I had some bloody show. That afternoon I napped with my husband, and in the evening I made brownies with Colt. I knew it was likely the last night we would go to bed just him and me, and I wanted to savor those bittersweet moments.

Colt fell asleep holding my hand

The next day, I felt tired and a bit crabby. I went to Meijer to get some snacks and had frequent, slightly more intense contractions as I walked around. I was a bit hopeful, but not too hopeful since I’d had that sort of pattern other times.

I came home and tried to take a nap with my son. He was struggling to wind down, so I ended up only sleeping 30-40 minutes, but I woke feeling a bit more refreshed.

Active Labor

That evening my mom made tacos and I was chatting with my sister and her fiance around 9 p.m. when I noticed a change in my contractions. “It’s real now.” I thought. I didn’t often get Ash and David to myself, so I chatted with them a little longer, ate three more tacos, and brewed myself a cup of red raspberry leaf tea. Then I went upstairs to my brother’s bedroom and did about 40 pelvic tilts and 20 lunges and called my husband, my friend, Abby, and my midwife.

“It sounds like you’re in early labor,” my midwife said “so try to get some rest.”

“I can’t sleep through these.” I said. She encouraged me to rest my body even if I couldn’t sleep so I had enough energy as labor intensified. “Ok, I’ll try.” I thought. “But first, tea and a shower.”

While in the shower in the bathroom off my parents’ room, my contractions started to intensify and I started breathing through them. I checked my cervix and thought I was probably 4-5 cm dilated. Looking back, and after more recently seeing a dilation model, I’m guessing I was probably more like 6-7 cm.

By the time I got out, my contractions were about 4-7 minutes apart and becoming steadily stronger. I had to pause several times as I got dressed and resting in bed was actually starting to sound like a pleasant prospect. I lay down on the bed in my parents’ room and my contractions spaced out to 7-10 minutes, but continued to intensify.

Around this time I started texting my friend, Emily, whose due date was just a week after mine. We had shared our pregnancy news with each other early on and during our whole pregnancies had been joking about having our babies on the same day. She was just starting to have some mild contractions, and it was so cool to be sort of “laboring together”. It was also a welcome distraction! By the time I could no longer focus on texting her, she had arrived at the hospital and was 4 cm dilated.

Waiting for the Midwife

During the time I was “resting”, my sister, Ash, was there with me. In between my contractions I lay on my side, and during them I got on my hands and knees and Ash lifted my belly with a scarf or gave counterpressure on my lower back. I was having a bit of back labor this time around, which was different than Colt’s birth. It was really special to have that time with just her and me just shortly before she got married, and her calm and quiet presence was truly a comfort.

Eventually I felt the need to get up and move around and go pee, and as I stood leaning and swaying against the bathroom counter, I started feeling quite a bit of pressure. I think I called my midwife around that time, and after listening to me through a contraction she said she would start heading my way shortly.

Soon my mom heard the tell-tale grunts at the end of my contractions, signalling that I was starting to give some small, involuntary pushes. At this point she became a bit alarmed, and somewhere in there, Ty, Abby, and my other sister, Erin, had come into the bedroom. They were all quiet and unobtrusive and I hardly noticed their presence. Somewhere in there my water broke too.

I knelt beside the bed, which allowed me to still rest a bit between contractions, but I was definitely starting to feel the urge to push. My mom called the midwife again, and she instructed me to lie down on my side to try to slow things down. Soon the urge to push was overwhelming, and despite my mother’s pleas not to push, I couldn’t help at least pushing a little. My mom and her own birth stories and positive attitude toward birth has been an inspiration to me, and she has attended at least 5 other births, but I know being present for her daughters giving birth is quite a different thing for her, and she did not want me to have the baby before the midwife arrived!

My parents have a very long driveway, and it’s easy to miss, especially in the dark, so when my midwife called to tell us she was getting off on the exit to our house, my sisters raced to the end of the driveway with flashlights so that she wouldn’t miss the driveway. This was especially memorable to my midwife.

The Midwife Arrives!

She arrived and quickly began to set up. I was still being encouraged not to push, and I said, “She’s here now – I’m pushing!”

Soon someone said something about the baby having a lot of hair, and I was thrilled that they could see the baby’s head. At this point, labor was incredibly intense, and I was yelling, crying, and growling my way through contractions. I had pushed for an hour and a half with Colt, and wasn’t sure what to expect this time. The prospect of being almost done was so incredibly encouraging and gave me a renewed energy and strength.

Within minutes, the baby’s head was born. The cord was wrapped once around his neck, and my midwife calmly unwrapped it. With the next contraction I was being rather forcefully encouraged to push, but wasn’t really feeling an urge to, which makes pushing incredibly difficult and unproductive. I felt like if I could just get a good breath I would be able to have more force behind my pushing, but finally the baby’s shoulders were out. I still question this part of my experience, wondering if it’s really necessary to push before I feel any urge. Perhaps I perceive it as being far more urgent than it actually is, but in both my sons’ births, this part has been very stressful for me.

I was in a side-lying position when I gave birth. I had anticipated being in a hands-and-knees position again, but by the time the midwife arrived and I was free to just push, trying to change positions just didn’t seem worth it. But I can say, I definitely like hands-and-knees better. When they handed the baby up on to my chest, I was lying back flat and it was really hard to see him, whereas with Colt, they had passed him between my legs and set him on the bed in front of me. I was upright and had a chance to look at him before lifting him up to my chest myself.

We were going to be surprised by the baby’s sex this time, and I didn’t have the strength to move the baby around to check, so I asked Ty too. “We’ve got another boy, babe!” he said.

A “Big Baby”

My family helped me get propped up with some pillows, and the placenta was delivered uneventfully. Within probably 20 minutes of birth, our baby boy had latched on and was nursing easily. I was startled by how simple breastfeeding was this second time around!

Bonding

After an hour or so of skin-to-skin, my in-laws  arrived to be present for the newborn exam, which is one of my favorite parts of the homebirth experience. My midwife carefully checked baby Abe’s reflexes and joints and then weighed him.

9 lbs. 6 oz.

“9 pounds 6 ounces!” she said. I thought for sure the scale was broken. There was no way he was 9 pounds. He sure didn’t look like it to me. But a few days later we went to the chiropractor and he was 9 pounds 10 ounces, so I guess it was correct.

She measured his head and chest circumference. “He’s got a 15 inch head and no moulding!” she said. “You were built to birth babies!” I was pretty happy with that assessment and pretty proud of my 5’4”, 112 pounds not pregnant self for giving birth to such a good-sized baby. I have a pretty strong trust in God’s design for women and babies and the whole birth process, but I do wonder if I would have had more anxiety going into birth had I known how big Abe was.

Soon Colt woke up and sleepily met his new baby brother. He had the most fantastic bedhead, and of course he was hungry, so my mother brought him yogurt which he sat on the bed and ate.

Brothers!

Shortly after he was born, Emily texted and asked how things were going. I responded with a picture of Abe and “He’s here!” Several hours later, she gave birth to her second daughter, and I love that our babies share a birthday.

Sorrow for a Night and Joy in the Morning

Abe was born at 12:47 a.m. on the 27th of June, just 2 days after the fourth anniversary of the loss – and birth – of our first baby. Late June is always a hard time of year for me. I’m raw with emotion, sometimes traumatic flashbacks increase, but this time of year has now been redeemed. I still feel the pain and the sadness, yes, but it now exists alongside joyous memories of Abe’s birth. He has been pure grace in my life.

“Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” This verse (Psalm 30:5) is brief part of the psalmist’s testifying to the faithfulness, mercy, and healing of God. It doesn’t refer to birth directly, but later in John 16, Jesus says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” Here he refers to His people waiting for His coming, but I’ve found this common theme in the Bible of sorrow and then joy to be such an encouragement in my motherhood journey.

Whether it be the overwhelming difficulty of labor followed by the overwhelming joy of holding my baby, or the overwhelming sadness of losing a child in some part redeemed by the joy of another baby born at just the right time, or of the hope of a future joy of meeting and knowing that baby in heaven, that thought was a deep comfort and encouragement to me as I gave birth. There is pain, but there will be joy. I have lost, but I am receiving a gift.

Birth and motherhood is difficult and unpredictable and full of both sorrow and joy. But we have a gracious and merciful God who is with us in our sorrow, who delights to redeem every part of our lives, a God who has given us our children, whether it be for a moment or a lifetime, and will carry us mothers through this journey He has called us to.

A year later

Don’t Waste Your Wedding: Three Ways to Glorify God on Your Wedding Day

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If you’re of my generation and active in certain theological circles, you’re probably familiar with John Piper and have at least heard of his book, “Don’t Waste Your Life”. I read it when I was 15 and it definitely had an impact. In it Piper laments the tragedy of people who live their lives for meaningless pursuits instead of living their lives for the glory of God.

The catechism asks the question, “What is man’s primary purpose?” and gives the answer, “Man’s primary purpose is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” I knew the purpose of life, but until I read Piper’s book, I had never been gripped by it with so much intensity, both in my desires to fulfill it and my sobering awareness that I presently wasn’t.

The fact is all of life is worship and all of life is meant to glorify God. How we do the everyday things of life, how we celebrate milestones and the forming of families, says much about our values and what we’re living for.

Your wedding provides a tremendous opportunity to share the gospel with unsaved loved ones and to exalt Christ in the very beginning of your marriage, and this will hopefully set the stage for a lifelong commitment to the glory of God in your marriage and family life.

Three Practical and Tangible Ways to Glorify God in Your Wedding

 

1. Make the gospel clear in the ceremony.

There will be both believers and unbelievers present, some who wouldn’t come to church with you no matter how many times you asked them, but wouldn’t dream of missing your wedding. You have a really unique chance to share the gospel, and the picture of Christ and the church in marriage lends itself well to doing so. If you are a believer, the gospel is a treasure, a treasure you ought to desire others to possess. So talk to your pastor about the message he plans to share in the ceremony and your desire for the gospel to be clear in it.

2. Sing hymns that exalt Christ.

Congregational singing perhaps isn’t so common in weddings, but it’s an element that can be included to create a beautifully worshipful atmosphere. As I think back to my own wedding, the whole thing was rich with meaning and each part was so precious to me, but I know the singing together was one part that stood out to many who were present, perhaps because it isn’t very common. My husband and I each chose a favorite hymn (“In Christ Alone” and “All I Have is Christ”) and also chose “Amazing Grace”, a hymn that many, even unbelievers, are familiar with. When my sister got married this past summer, she and my brother-in-law opened their wedding ceremony with “Oh Praise the Name”. The feeling of worship was overwhelming. Your wedding is worship because all of life is worship. Make it clear Who the object of your worship is.

3. Use traditional vows.

I’m sorry, I know this might rankle some people, but I’ve never heard vows written solely by a couple that truly captured the significance of marriage in the way that traditional vows do. You’re not here to promise to be best pals and make each other laugh. You’re here to promise to love, honor, and cherish one another for better or for worse ’til death do you part. I’m not saying that you can’t add a personal touch – I’ve seen some really beautiful and meaningful variations – but I am saying that there are some basic elements that should be present and that the promises you make should be promises to keep. You don’t need to vow to never again make imitation mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. It might gain a laugh, but it kind of detracts from the solemn beauty of what is being promised.

After the Wedding

In making your vows, praising God with singing, and sharing the gospel in the wedding ceremony, you’ve made a strong statement about what you believe and what is valuable to you. People, even unbelievers will now have a certain standard they hold you to and the way you continue in your life and marriage will have an impact on your witness.

The Reception

In all the planning of the ceremony don’t forget about your reception. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time at a wedding reception. It is a celebration after all. But in the celebration don’t create an atmosphere that makes it hard for your guests to honor God and easy for them to dishonor Him. You’re not responsible for other people’s actions, and I’m not going to tell you exactly how to plan your reception or what you should and shouldn’t do, but think about the crowd you have and about how your values are reflected in your choices in music, dancing, alcohol, and how you do activities like the garter toss or other entertaining pieces that are usually part of a reception. In entertaining your guests be sure you are also honoring and respecting one another and honoring God. It should be a joyous occasion, but not a raucous one.

The Rest of Your Lives

I know that sometimes as a young person from a Christian family grows up, unbelieving family members may wonder if the kids are really as crazy as the parents. They might not really know where you stand at the beginning of your life together unless you make it known.

And if you do make your faith clear during your wedding, the whole of the rest of your life and marriage is a witness to that truth. You won’t be perfect, and people, especially those close to you, will see your faults and your failures.

But hopefully they will also see you becoming more like Jesus, responding with grace, humility, and repentance when the usual difficulties and disagreements of life create rifts.

Hopefully they’ll see you truly loving each other for better or for worse. Hopefully they see husbands modeling sacrificial love and wives modeling submissive respect and both modeling tenderness, delight, and absolute faithfulness to one another.

Hopefully they’ll see you welcoming children as gifts from God with precious, eternal souls to nurture, not resented as mere inconveniences or leeches sucking away at their bank accounts.

Hopefully they see you as members of the body of Christ loving not just those of God’s family who are like you, but those who are not like you, because the earthly things of life are not the most important thing you have in common. The love of Christ, both His for you and yours for Him, is the most important thing you have in common. You are bound together by the blood of Christ, which creates a commitment even stronger than the blood ties of family.

None of those things make sense apart from the gospel. Sometimes your loved ones will see the way you live and just scratch their heads. Sometimes the way you live may even invite ridicule and conflict. But sometimes the way you live will draw others to you. They’ll think back to your wedding and they’ll know why you live as you do, and perhaps you’ll have an opportunity to again share the gospel with them.

God’s Word tells us to do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Your faithful witness, your glorifying God in your marriage starts with your wedding. So don’t waste it.

A few resources for those who are married, thinking about getting married, planning to be married, or planning a wedding.

What’s More Important Than a Wedding?” sermon by Voddie Baucham

We Two Are One” sermon series by Alistair Begg

This Momentary Marriage” book by John Piper

101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged” book by H. Norman Wright

7 Ways to Nurture Joy in Parenting

This post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting this free resource! See full disclosure here.

I have wanted to be a mother for most of my life. I am crazy about my children. I always call my two boys, “My treasures”, and I mean that with all my being.

But this parenting thing is tough.

It’s not for the faint of heart. When you’re trying to do everything right, to parent well, to be a good spouse, to keep the house respectably clean, to keep the kids healthy, to not let them grow up to be menaces to society…

Sometimes you lose the joy.

Sometimes you’re soooooo tired. Sometimes you think if that kid whines one more time your anger is gonna turn you into this ugly monster you hate. Sometimes you think you’d give your right eye to get to sit through one supper without the baby wanting to nurse, or to get 15 minutes alone with your husband before you’re both so doggone tired, or be able to read more than 2.3 sentences in that book you’ve been trying to finish for the last six months.

And it’s ok to want those good things and make ways for them to happen.

But if you’re like me, those things aren’t happening every day. In fact, you’re lucky if they happen once or twice a week. And the majority of your time is spent taking care of other people’s needs. You’re meeting goals at work. You’re teaching the three-year-old to wipe his butt. You’re fixing your husband’s lunch for the next day while he’s asleep on the couch and the rest of the house is quiet because, gosh that man works hard.

And if you’re a stay-at-home mom or a work-at-home mom (or dad), you’re spending a LOT of time with your children, your wonderful, amazing, frustrating, exhausting, lovable , drive-you-crazy-all-day-long children. If you’re a working parent, you’re probably coming home after a long day with limited reserves left to invest into your kids.

And maybe you need to find the joy in parenting again.

Maybe you just really want to enjoy your kids and consequently your life.

I’ve found this to be true over and over again. I’ve had to seek it out and take initiative and make it a priority. So, with no further ado, here are some things that I have found indispensable in my quest to enjoy parenting my children.

#1 Get down and play with them.

You guys, this is SO HARD for me. I had a recent conversation with one of my cousins. She is the second of nine kids and her parents are SO GOOD at this. She is getting married soon and anticipating starting a family, and we were talking about all things marriage and motherhood. I shared that this is a struggle with me, just slowing down and playing with my kids. She looked at me like I was from Mars. All that to say, maybe not everyone struggles with this. Maybe I’m in the minority here.

But I suspect that I’m not. I suspect that a lot of you awesome parents out there have a hard time setting aside your agenda for the day to enter into your kid’s agenda and that maybe you’re not even sure you know how to play anymore. I mean, you remember it being so fun as a kid, but, sheesh, what did you actually DO?

Learn what they love to do, and do it with them. Karyn Purvis, author of “The Connected Child”, emphasizes the importance of playfulness in bonding and attachment. Though she writes and speaks with children from hard places in mind, I have found her research on parenting and her heart for healthy, well-attached children so valuable and have implemented bits and pieces of her parenting strategies with my own children.

I know it’s hard. And there’s no formula for making it happen or doing it well. If there was, it probably wouldn’t be play, right? But it matters. It’s valuable. Your kids will say and do the funniest things. You’ll get a chance to enter into their world, see their beautiful imaginations, observe what they’re learning, and be delighted in them. Enter into something they enjoy and do it with them. Even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time, just do it.

#2 Give technology a break.

This one’s easier said than done and it’s a popular theme in online parenting advice, but in my home at least, it makes one of the biggest positive impacts.

For some reason, my oldest son LOVES those little nursery rhyme videos on YouTube. And I mean LOVES them. He would watch them for hours if I would let him. Which is great if I’m sick or something, but not so great as an everyday activity. Stopping the videos often elicits tears, anger, and tantrums, none of which make my child very enjoyable. Other activities may require more time, more focus from me, and more cleaning up, but it’s worth it to make parenting more enjoyable.

Parents aren’t off the hook either. I admittedly check my phone too often. Sometimes I use it as a filler between normal activities. Instead of just moving to the next thing I should be doing, I check my notifications. I really, really enjoy Instagram. I read articles, comment on posts, gather advice and suggestions, and watch hilariously dumb videos all on Facebook.

And I sometimes – no, oftentimes- I ignore my son in the process. Keep putting him off. Get exasperated because he won’t just be patient and wait for two minutes. Which he should, right? There’s nothing wrong with expecting and teaching obedience. But there is something wrong with responding in anger, especially over something that’s really not that important. That’s me. Guilty. Way more often than I’d like to admit. And too much technology really feeds that.

#3 Structure life and routines so that you do get some alone time.

It IS important for you to get some time to recharge. Honestly, just because of our own personalities or other stress in our lives, some of us will need this more than others. We are absolutely called to give unselfishly to those around us, but even Jesus sometimes retreated away from the crowds he was serving in order to rest and speak with His Father, and then He continued on His mission.

We won’t be able to enjoy our kids if we’re exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed out all the time. We will burn out as parents if we never nurture ourselves as well. I think everyone knows this, but it is always a hard balance. So do your best to structure life in such a way that you do get some time to do something you enjoy without your kids, to focus on your spouse, to refuel your heart and mind and body to be able to keep being a good parent.

For me this means I aim to have both kids in bed by 8:30 p.m. My youngest is usually asleep well before that, but it’s a struggle with my three-year-old. He’s in that awkward stage between needing a nap and not needing a nap. If he doesn’t get one he’s a miserable, emotional wreck before we even get to supper time, and if he does get one, he could easily stay up until 10:30.

Which, speaking of dropping naps, I enforce a quiet time every day regardless of needing a nap or not. If my three-year-old falls asleep during quiet time, I try to not let him sleep more than 45-60 minutes so that he’ll still go to bed at a decent time so I can have some time with my husband. But I tell him he doesn’t have to sleep; he just needs to do something quietly on his bed for an hour or so. He sometimes fights me, but if we are home, it happens.

We also have family nearby, and we are blessed that both sets of grandparents are wonderful and love having our kids. I rarely send my youngest because he’s still primarily breastfed and I hate pumping, but usually my three-year-old goes to one of the grandparents’ houses once a week.

Now usually during these naps, and quiet times, and grandparent visits, I’m doing other things that need to be done, but I prioritize reading my Bible the first chance I get each day and then sometimes do something else for me or with my husband during those break times. The point is, those things are built into life as part of our everyday routine, so that on those days when I do reallllly need some alone time, when I need a chance to gather myself and refocus, I can usually get it within a reasonable time.

#4 Do the hard work to help make them enjoyable.

Basically, do the discipline and training necessary to make your kids generally enjoyable to be around. Kids are kids, and they will all misbehave sometimes, and they will sometimes go through really hard stages (ahem threenagers…), but consistently training them to be kind, respectful, and obedient makes a big difference!

I by no means have a great handle on discipline, and there are plenty of situations in which I simply don’t know what to do, but these are a couple books that have helped shape my general framework of parenting: “Parenting by God’s Promises”, “Gospel Powered Parenting”, and “Don’t Make Me Count to Three”.

#5 Do what you enjoy, and include them too!

Don’t stop doing the things you enjoy once you become a parent! There are definitely some activities that are much harder or perhaps impossible with small children in tow, but there are plenty of enjoyable things you can do with your children.

I have always loved being outside, and that is one thing that is really easy to include them in. They both love the outdoors, and we typically spend significant time out in our neighbor’s woods at least a few times a week. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed and my patience is wearing out, the best thing to do is just load up the wagon (we have this one) and take the kids out to the woods for a few hours. It is refreshing and recharging for all of us, and it is such a great facilitator for enjoying my kids because it’s something I already enjoy and seeing them partaking in that enjoyment is really pretty awesome.

It takes longer, but it’s also fairly easy to include kids in cooking, baking, or anything artistic or creative. I love to read, and even though my typical book choice would be different, reading to my kids is something we both really enjoy. For the most part, I do what I enjoy doing and just bring my kids along.

You can include your children in the things you already enjoy doing; you just have to let your expectations be flexible. Find the things that you both love, and do them together. It is so rewarding to discover that your child loves the same things you do, that you actually have some common interests!

#6 Remind yourself of the truth.

Sometimes in the day-to-day grind of life and parenting, we can forget the value of what we’re doing. God gave these children to you in this season. Whether you’re a working parent, a stay-at-home parent, a foster, adoptive, or biological parent, you have an important role that no other person can exactly fulfill.

These children have eternal souls. They will make the world a better place or a worse place. They can help to bring healing or they can create more wounds. And we can’t control exactly what they do or don’t do. But our influence is strong, and we can try to equip them for whatever it is God calls them to do. The hard work of equipping them is made much easier when we are enjoying them along the way.

God calls children a gift, a reward, and a blessing, but we don’t always see them that way. (We also often think of gifts and blessings as being easy, not hard, but that’s a post for another day…) Those times when they don’t feel like gifts and blessings – those are the times when we must remind ourselves of that truth the most. I believe God wants us to enjoy His gifts and blessings, and these gifts and blessings include our children.

#7 Pray for them, and for yourself.

With the thought in mind that our children are valuable gifts and blessings with all this potential for either good or bad inside them, it only makes sense that we pray for them. Praying for your children makes you pause and really think about what it is you want for your children, who you hope they will be.

It makes you notice what they are struggling with and be more compassionate toward them. It makes you remember all the funny and precious things they do and how much you love them. And it makes you thank God for all those things. Sometimes we don’t enjoy our children because we don’t even notice them. Praying for them helps you to do just that.

We should also pray for ourselves as parents, pray that we can experience joy in parenting even if there are difficult circumstances that come along with them. Aside from the strength of Christ, there is no way I can parent my children as I should, nor can I enjoy them as I could. Prayer is hard, slow work. It’s not my strongest spiritual discipline for sure. But it does both our souls and the souls of our children eternal good.

Enjoy your children now.

I know it’s cliche, but your children won’t be children forever. These days are just a little blip in eternity, with all the struggles and all the joy. My grandma is 81 and the mother of six children. They often had financial struggles; one of her daughters had special needs and died at 18. Her life, especially as a parent, has not been easy. But she always encourages me, “Enjoy your children. Those days when my children were small were the best years of my life.” She still enjoys her children, but she misses those days when they were all at her table each evening.

I want my children to remember the great things we did together. I want them to remember and know for sure, without a doubt, that they are precious to me. Even though we certainly love our children even when we aren’t enjoying them, I think that those memories of us enjoying each other will help to remind our children that they are our treasures and that they are so, so loved.

So yes, parenting is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, and at times it may even be your greatest struggle. But the joy, even just the memory of the joy, will help to carry you through those trying times. So pursue the joy. Pursue the joy now. And enjoy your children.