He Lights the Ways We Do Not Know

It’s been a while since I have written.  A big event occurred recently in our lives, and in these last few months I felt God calling me to stop talking and just listen and be with him.

I’ve hesitated sharing this, because it is so deeply personal, but as time goes on I’ve learned that it’s harder to move on and talk about other things when this is really on the forefront of my heart and mind.

A couple of months ago we unexpectedly found out that we were expecting another baby.  Overtime the news was met with excitement, but to be honest, it wasn’t our first reaction.  Before finding out, we had prayerfully discerned to wait a bit longer in between babies.  Though we knew we were both open to life and also wanting more children, the second line on the HPT nonetheless caused me to burst into a puddle of self-pity and fear.  I was afraid of many things, but looking back most of the fear came in feeling the loss of certain silly and selfish goods.

Lord, I’m finally sleeping through the night!

 My body is looking like it used to again! 

I was about to buy a new well-fitting bra! 

I’m beginning to exercise, 

am almost done nursing, 

and my hair just stopped falling out! 

I was immediately confronted with all of these emotions that conflicted with our very pro-life and God-knows-best way of living.  I was frustrated when I found out I was pregnant.  Frustrated and scared.

The question I kept asking God was, God, don’t you know my heart?  Don’t you know that I am just not ready yet?? And our Lord answered me in a way I hadn’t expected.

He sent me an image of his mother.

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When this image came to my mind all I could defiantly think at first was, “Lord.  I am not Mary.”

Mary’s yes was so immediate—she was so ready to accomplish the Lord’s will.  Even if it meant possible personal persecution, the loss of her marriage, and that her image might be compromised in the eyes of everyone around her.  She said yes without reservation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your word.”  And I felt so very far from being like her.

However, as I began to think of this image of Mary I slowly realized what God was really trying to tell me.  God doesn’t ask us to rid ourselves of the feelings and frustrations we have when something hard occurs in our lives.  He doesn’t want us to just get over it.  He wants us to bring those fears and frustrations to his feet and seek out what he is trying to teach and give to us in and through these events.  I think in giving me the image of his mother, Jesus wasn’t telling me to just get over my feelings.  He was calling me to dialogue.  This is precisely what it means to “ponder” things, and the very response Mary had whenever something good, challenging, and especially painful happened in her life.  The Lord was telling me, “I am here.  I see you, and I know your heart.  Trust in me.

So I began to trust.  I began to look around at my life, and through him, began to shed my fears and realize all the beauty around me.  Sure, things can be hard in raising children; there are lots of tears, fits, and obstacles to overcome. But through all of that, there is so much more beauty—the kind that comes from pouring yourself out completely in love for another.  All the kisses, growth, smiles, laughs, warm embraces, milestones, celebrations, all of it—even the craziness—is worth so much more than all the things I initially feared losing.  My kids fill my heart with joy that is overflowing, and more than that the love I have for them has transformed me into a much better version of myself.  It is all so very good.

When I told my husband the news, his response was an enormous support for me.  Part of me expected him to fall into that puddle I found myself in, but he was so quick to remind me how awesome our kids are and how a new baby means more to love.  His fears were similar to mine, but we worked through them together and his overall support washed away so many of the fears I had.

What I also began to remember is that the biggest part of being open to life is realizing that the creation of our children is not in our hands alone.  We are merely co-creators acting in participation with the God who is the very author of life.  Joe and I signed up for this when we got married: we vowed to allow God into our marriage, and to be open to his will for our lives and the lives of our children.

From that point on whenever those fears began to creep in again, I tried to remind myself of this. God is with me, he knows my heart, he has a plan for me and for the life of this baby.

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­­­I didn’t know it at the time, but God was calling me to fall on this reminder of his love in a deeper way than I could even imagine, and to take a journey with Mary that I never prepared myself for.

As time went on in the pregnancy and as me and my husband began to both settle into the idea and excitement of it all, I tried to go about things as normal as possible.  What was strange this time, though, was unlike with my previous pregnancies I wasn’t tired, sick, and I wasn’t a horrible grouchy monster.  This is a good thing, right?  No, I knew something was off because the one side-effect I did have was a whole lot of cramping.  As the days went on I found myself in the awful habit of continually checking for blood or any sign of complications.  Weeks went by and I began to think I was being crazy.

7 weeks into the pregnancy my fears were confirmed when the bleeding began.   I was forced yet again into a wave of fear and worry.  Since the bleeding was minimal and there wasn’t much a doctor could do, I decided to wait a couple of days to see if it would subside.  I resolved to pray, hope, and try to cease worrying, but when the bleeding hadn’t stopped I went to the doctor’s, sure that they would tell me I had lost the baby.  I lay on a cold recliner, halfheartedly making small chat with the nurse, waiting to hear the awful news.  Then I saw it for myself: the baby’s heart beating strong!  The nurse told me that the baby was almost 8 weeks old, and explained to me that bleeding can be very normal and not to worry too much because the baby’s vitals looked great.  It was great news, but as the bleeding increased a little day by day, so did the worry.  I wanted the bleeding to end…and when it did, it was in a way I wasn’t hoping for.

Every Thursday I lead a women’s bible study and the topic of the class this year is God’s divine Mercy.  That Thursday morning, I had no idea what was coming my way or how much I would have to rely on his merciful love, but God primed by heart through the witness of the women in my group. They spoke so beautifully about how God has worked in their lives, and how they were called at times to say yes to him (even during hardships), and embrace him (even when life presented challenges and pain).  As soon as class was over I knew I had to head to the ER, because as they talked of God, I began passing clots.  I sobbed the whole way to the hospital, knowing this visit to the doctor would be different.  On my way, though—as scared as I was—I felt both God and Mary present with me.  I think from the very beginning of this pregnancy, God was calling me to trust in him.  He was showing me what it means to whisper in my own heart the prayer Jesus prayed during his agony, “Lord, let your will be done,” and the similar inner prayer of Mary as she clutched her breast watching her son die before her eyes.  He doesn’t cause suffering and pain—they are a part of our fallen human condition—but we have the freedom to extend these sufferings to his hands, so he can transform us through them and help us rise again.  I felt in that moment, through all the pain, my call to trust him and fall at his feet.  As I tried my hardest to summon Jesus’ words for my own, I felt him whisper back to me: “I am here.  I see you and know your heart.  Trust in me.”

We lost our third baby on October 6th.  We named the baby Francis.

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This is so very hard to talk about and let alone write about. I sit here with tears streaming down my face as my beautiful kids play in front of me, so unaware that they have a sibling now with the Lord.  Some day when they are old enough we will share this news, and take them to where we buried the baby, and we can explain to them that despite our fears and anxiety, we chose life.  And what’s more, we can explain to them that when we were confronted with death, we were met with God’s merciful love, and faith in what is to come.

It is so very hard to talk about my reservations with being pregnant, especially after losing the baby.  How can I admit such an awful thing, and also explain how my soul aches at the thought of never being able to hold and kiss this baby?  All of the things I was afraid of pale in comparison to the life I wish was physically here now.

I wrestled for weeks over whether or not I should share such personal details, but I decided to go ahead because, besides miscarriage being taboo itself to talk about, I think it’s necessary to share what trust in God sometimes looks like: it’s not always easy, especially when things don’t go according to plan. I am talking about this now because I want to share how God’s love was present throughout all of this, despite my hesitations with his plans for my life.  I want to share how he was so very patient with me and showered me with compassion when I wanted to shout, yell, and pound my fists when things didn’t go according to my plan.  Through learning to trust in him, I can find the joy in this loss despite the pain—which I don’t think I could do without his merciful love. I am very thankful for this particular journey he asked me to go on, because through it I think he called me to a deeper level of trust, and also because I believe with all my heart that this baby is with him—we now have a little saint and piece of our family in heaven watching over us and praying for our family.

I will leave you with a passage from Isaiah 42, which spoke to me not long after our loss occurred.  I pray that this scripture remains carved on my heart in the future, and I hope that it brings you solace in your life when you need it, too:

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Lucia Rose Birth Story (9 months later)

A few of my good friends are getting close to their delivery dates, which has me reminiscing about my labor with little miss Lucia.  I know it’s been almost ten months since the date, but I feel like sharing now because, well…who doesn’t like a good birth story?

We found out we were pregnant really early.  Lucia was only two weeks old when I had the feeling that something different was going on with my body. (Thanks Natural Family Planning, for teaching me to read every sign!)

From the beginning, my pregnancy with our second baby was a lot more difficult than it was with Elijah.  My morning sickness the second time around was immensely worse than before, which was probably mostly due to lack of rest and having to change many dirty diapers.  I was nauseous all the time, and almost all smells (whether pleasant or not) would make me double over in disgust.   We also found out we were pregnant right as I was in the middle of writing my thesis.  Chasing around a toddler made me incredibly sleepy, but napping was not an option because any extra minute I had was spent researching, studying, and writing.  The only way that I could get through most days was by sitting down to work for a while, then setting an alarm so I could take a 10-15 minute refresher nap with my head down on my desk.  I was exhausted, and grouchy.   Not to mention the food aversions were killing my appetite and also my ability to cook a proper meal for my family. (Poor Joe—it was frozen foods for months there for a while.) The second trimester was a bit better because I got my energy back, but then the third kicked right back in and I was right back to where I began.  Lucia moved a lot. A lot, a lot.  I swore this little girl was practicing for the Olympic tryouts because it was summersault city all day, and especially all night. I could hardly sleep, and I when I did it was only with five-ten pillows, and on three quarters of the bed.  I was still six weeks out when the contractions began and they stayed regular all the way up until her birth.  They were so regular that they sent me to the hospital twice with false labor pains before the real deal came around.  I was fed up with being pregnant, so much so that the day before she arrived, with a week still to go, I scheduled myself an acupuncture appointment!

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Luckily, that day never came because the night before I made the appointment I felt the pangs of true contractions.  The contractions began around 11pm, right when I went to bed, but because I had so many false labor signs before I decided to ignore them and try my best to sleep.  The contractions woke me up around 12:45am, and I was still unsure what to do, so I did what any rational laboring mom would do: laundry.  I started folding clothes that were left in the dryer, and when the pains became more and more intense I decided I should wake Joe so he could call his dad to come stay with Eli.  Joe sleepily asked me if I was sure, not wanting to wake his dad up in the middle of the night for the third time.  I didn’t need to reply because when I doubled over in pain the next minute, his eyes awakened and I could tell he knew this was no joke.

Joe’s dad showed up and we all laughed because it was obvious that this was not a drill—the baby was coming so we shared a huge sense of excitement.  Joe and I decided around my 19th week of pregnancy that we weren’t going to find out the gender of the baby, which was a big motivator to get through the pain of labor.  The element of fear that comes with having your first baby and bringing them home wasn’t there this time.  We were just focused on getting through the next few hours, and were excited to meet our baby girl or boy.

I labored intensely on the way to the hospital, which I had always dreaded.  I pictured the bumps and stops in the car to be absolutely miserable, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I sat up in the back of the car, facing the rear window while clutching the headrest and all I remember were the lights passing by as I opened my eyes between contractions.

As we made our way to the third floor of the hospital I was still a little fearful that the nurses would send me home.  I figured I was most likely in labor, but because I had been sent home twice before I wasn’t completely convinced they were going to admit me.  It wasn’t until the nurse checked my cervix and told me that I was dilated at a 5 that I started to believe I was staying.  Am I going home? I asked her.  She just laughed at me and told me, “No honey, you’re in labor.”  It didn’t take me long to fall madly in love with my nurse.  When she walked in, all short and confident, she won my heart as she immediately helped me through one of my contractions.  As I struggled in pain, she grabbed me, placed my hands on her shoulders, and swayed with me.  It was such a comfort and right then I almost screamed out “I LOVE YOU!” She was a huge help in easing my nerves about laboring naturally.  When I voiced that I wanted to shoot for an un-medicated birth but was extremely nervous about it, she reassured me that I absolutely could do it.  With my husband and this wonderful nurse by my side, I felt like I could conquer anything.

The pains were unreal, but there was something so different about this labor than my first. I felt so at ease and so in control.  I applied all the tips and tricks I had learned for managing pain through the night, and Joe helped relieve my pain by placing pressure on my lower back, and lovingly coaching me through it.

Before my first labor with Eli I read about the significance of incorporating prayer into the process, but because labor with Eli was such whirlwind, I wasn’t able to do it.  I just didn’t have any room to pray as I screamed and shook my way, eyes closed, through my first labor.

It was so different the second time around though.  I had my husband download my favorite Christian artist, Matt Maher, and I found so much comfort having this song playing in the background:

The words helped me focus on the Lord and remember that even in times of trial, God is right there with us.

I also brought the Anima Christi prayer with me, and I asked Joe to pray it over and over again during my contractions when the labor reached it’s most intense point.  I can’t explain the difference to you, other than to explain that even in the midst of all the pain I was at extreme peace.  I never thought I would say that about labor, but even in all the pain, I was completely at peace.  The words helped me unite my pain with Christ:

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The phrases Blood of Christ, inebriate me…permit me not to be separated from you were especially comforting to me.  I could visualize Jesus there with me as I shared his yoke and he shared mine.  There’s something so incredibly profound about uniting suffering to Jesus.  I don’t think I have ever felt closer to him than in that moment, and that made Lucia’s birth especially sweet for me.

I went strong until it was time to push.  Things started getting tough, and the nurse tried distracting me asking me what I thought the baby was going to be.  I told her I didn’t have a guess, because I didn’t want to be wrong, but a strong intuition told me it was a girl.  I wanted so badly to meet her.  As I continued to push I couldn’t take the pain any longer, and screamed out I can’t do it!!  But my nurse looked me straight in my eyes and said, YES YOU CAN!  Sweet relief came as I took a breath, pushed, and heard the first sounds of my baby.  At 5:35am, our beautiful baby girl came into the world.

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When we got to the hospital we still hadn’t decided what we were going to name her.  We had a couple of names in mind, but it wasn’t until they handed her to me that I knew. I looked at her and said Lucia, then I looked at Joe, and he smiled.

She was our Lucia.

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Nine months later:

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Our beautiful little blue eyed (blue?? Where did those come from?!) baby girl.

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The Main Event

Hello Everybody!

I decided to start a little blog for our family.  I really want everyone who wants to keep up with every crinkle and wrinkle on this little man to have a direct source (other than Facebook), and I think that this might be the best way to do it. 

 

OK, so I am just going to jump right in and let everyone know what our past 5 days together have been like!

So the few days leading up to the birth were quite stressful.  I could tell something was going on with my body, yet nothingwas happening.  I was going insane!  With every contraction I had (all Braxton) and with every weird sign my body was giving me, I was convinced something was up.  Yet I continued telling myself I was crazy and to ignore any sign, because up until the day Elijah arrived, all signs pointed to, “Go back home Lauren and quit being crazy!” 

                                  In all the craziness we still managed to venture out into Black Thursday the night before for our new camera!

Yet, despite these crazy feelings, come Friday morning I felt like something was happening.  Something that at least shouldn’thave been happening.  I felt like my water had slowly been breaking for days, but since we had just gone into the hospital to have almost the exact same symptoms checked the Sunday before, I definitely (and Joe most surely) thought that I was being paranoid.  But still, we went. 

And guess what! I wasn’t crazy this time!  Sure enough my water had broken (A-ha! I wasn’t just peeing myself!) and I was admitted at around noon.  Come 1:30pm we found out, with a wild gush of water, that what had been breaking at home was my forebag, and the real waters were yet to come. 

Joe pumped and ready to go!
 
Once the floodgates had opened (so to speak), labor truly begun.  I began feeling contractions slowly throughout the day, and I worked through them diligently as best I could.  My main focus was breathing.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.   Joseph was amazing helping me in any way he could, and I worked through triumphantly.   Then, it got to the point where “working through them” no longer seemed like a viable option.  Getting through them when they were at their worst meant screaming out, shaking anything I could get my hands on, and rocking my body in any way that would distract me from the pain.  At one point I even thought to myself, “Oh man, I am that girl”.  Pretty sure the whole hospital heard me wailing, and possibly all of southern Kansas City as well. 
It is amazing now looking down at our beautiful boy and thinking back to (almost) 5 days ago when I thought I would truly die.  I know some of you will attribute this to my flare for the dramatic—but no kidding…I thought that was the end of life as I knew it (or, I wanted it to be).  Every contraction was like someone internally stabbing me with a knife.  Every breath I took was like my only lifeline and solace for the pain.  It was a wild ride.  I went about 8 and a half hours until I couldn’t take it anymore and asked for the relief.  I thought I would feel disappointed in myself at not being able to fully do this thing without it, but looking back now I don’t think it could have been any more perfect.  Because I got the “juice” so late (40 minutes even after I asked for it), I really was able to be present and active in my whole labor.  The drug helped me catch a breather for the last few contractions, but I could then definitely tell my body was ready to push (whether or not Iwas).  I was able to still feel the labor pains and him making his descent and I am thankful I was not numb to that.  My husband, the doctor, and our nurse coached me through the pushes, urging me to keep going when I felt I couldn’t any more.  They cheered me on and they told me that I was a “great” pusher (and you know how flattery works on this gal).  I pushed for probably 15 minutes, and was sooooooo relieved when the baby finally came out.  It was like a breath of fresh life.  I was so overcome with relief from the pain that it took me a second to refocus my attention to our sweet boy.  They placed him in my arms, and thatwas the end of life as I know it.  THAT was the moment when everything leading up to this—all the waiting, anticipation, and ultimately pain—became the most significant and beautiful moment in my and my husband’s life.  I could never experience anything as truly painful and simultaneously glorious as this again.
Now THIS is love at first sight!
 Well, maybe not for another couple of years or so.  J
Elijah James Montgomery was born at 11:07pm.  He was perfectly pink, and 7lbs, 9oz.

                                                                               Vitals were golden

        Hey world, check ME out!

 
    Daddy watching our baby

 

 

 

                                                                          Last moment at the hospital.  Time to go home buddy!
Menorah hospital was great to us.  We had a wonderful nurse, and couldn’t have asked for a better doctor.  But, by the end of it, we were definitely glad to get home as well!

 So far we have learned that Eli is a big eater.  He loves to eat!  He also is a night owl (perhaps like his gma T?).  He loves to sleep all day, and keep us up all night.  This made for a few very tiring days, but now that we know what to expect, we have learned tricks to keep him awake at day and more asleep at night (as were our pediatrician’s orders).  We all finally had a very successful night of sleep last night with minimal crying spells.  Praise God!  Elijah LOVES his hands.  No matter how the swaddle is he manages to shimmy those fingers to his chin—his favorite spot.  He loves to be cuddled and kissed, and he truly is the most perfect thing that I have ever laid my eyes on!  He also loves to stretch out wide (see below), and I believe this is probably because his little mommy did not provide the most comfortable of spots for him to hang for 9 months.   

1st pediatrician visit went perfect! We loved her and all signs point to a healthy baby!
Oh and Lyla!. She was so freaked out by his crying when we had our first night together, that she army crawled under our (VERY short) bed.  We couldn’t get her out!  It was hilarious because she has never done anything like that before.   She was quite confused by our new addition at first, but she is adjusting rapidly.  She now watches us with Elijah with care and last night she even slept by our door, extremely excited to sniff the baby this morning.  We’re very glad!

We praise and thank God for this amazing gift.  I am so thankful that He allowed us  to share in bringing life into the world, and SO thankful that our baby is healthy and happy.  God is great, and our lives are immensely blessed because of him and his love!  Our family grows in happiness daily, and it is all because of his goodness. 

For those of you at home in NM, we love and miss you immensely.  We will be giving this baby your love everyday till you see him. 
Love you all,

Lo, Joe, and Elijah