four | remembering

Every year, I anticipate it. It’s this mixed feeling of dread and excitement.

His birthday is approaching. The anniversary of his death.

Our son, Job Whitcomb.

For me, it’s both. Which is why my emotions are so complicated as the 18th approaches.

It’s like I finally have an excuse to reflect on him, to share the thoughts that I think all year-round, but keep to myself. Because for some reason, grief is only acceptable in pre-determined moments. But that’s not how it works. It comes in waves, sparked by the most unexpected things. So I find myself excited, because I can talk of him more freely. It’s like a free pass to allow myself to feel that pain, to remember, to celebrate, to share.

He didn’t breathe a breath on this earth, but it’s still the day I held him for the first time. It’s still the day that I memorized his face. The face that I see in Joelle.

It’s also the day that my life changed forever. Completely and irrevocably.

It’s the first day that I truly felt God in my life.

 

I remember that sometime in that year after we first lost him, I came across a new book that sounded wonderful. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I remember it being wonderful, a story of finding joy in the everyday. I actually changed my previous blog’s name for that reason. But the details of the book were fuzzy as time went on.

A month ago, while cleaning out some shelves, I grabbed it again and decided I needed to read it again. I stuck it in my reading basket and have thought of it many times.

But today, despite that I am halfway through another book, I picked it back up, ready for a re-read. And I got lost immediately.

See I had forgotten the first chapter. The chapter that made me cry incessantly the first time around, and brought me to tears again. It’s that God-timing. He knew I needed to read it again this week. I wish I could type out the whole book for you, really- just go read it. But basically the first chapter is about her discovery of the Lord. And it highlights the tragic loss of her younger sister as toddler when she was run over by a vehicle and the loss of two of her nephews to a rare genetic condition. Which of course, speaks to me instantly, the loss of a child. But these words, oh how they haunt me.

“I think of buried babies and broken, weeping fathers over graves, and a world pocked with pain, and all the mysteries I have refused, refused, to let nourish me. If it were my daughter, my son? Would I really choose the manna? I only tremble, wonder. With memories of gravestones, of combing fingers through tangled hair, I wonder too… if the rent in the canvas of our life backdrop, the losses that puncture our world, our own emptiness, might actually become places to see.

To see through to God.

That that which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave. 

Maybe so.” Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

 

Um, yeah.

Oh Lord, that I might let you take these gaping holes to use for You.

Losing Job knocked a hole so large in my life, in my perceptions, in my concepts of life and goodness, and it’s only now that I can see God’s light streaming through it.

I truly believe God doesn’t set out to cause us pain, but I do believe he can work in incredible ways through it. As most of you know, shortly after we lost Job, we had another miscarriage, Monkey.

 

We had another miscarriage about a month ago. It was early, our earliest.

I’ve posted about our choice to use Natural Family Planning. But the process has grown us a lot since that post. We actively try to seek God’s will and timing each cycle when it comes to if we are ready for another child. We had been preventing for a while but we had both reached a point where we weren’t sure if it was the time for another baby. But we also felt that we were no longer sure it wasn’t time. We didn’t feel that it was clearly being revealed. So we decided to simply trust and leave it up to Him. To trust that God would carry out His will in our lives. Trust that He knows our family and it’s needs and it’s future better than we do.

Clearly, although we were still unsure as to God’s direction, He intended for us to conceive. That’s why we practice Natural Family Planning anyway. To make room for His plans, His will.

Although we had been a bit unsure of what He would bring, we were pretty thrilled, a new life is always a blessing. But just as we began to get ready to spread the news,  it became apparent that this pregnancy would not continue. And despite the brevity of our pregnancy, we still grieved. Because we believe, from that very first moment, a life begins.

But we are thankful. For the brief moments of knowing this latest little one. For the days spent dreaming of who this would be and how our lives would grow. For the moments we had with our others. For the four littles running about. For the chance to seek His will. For the chance at new life.

And we will continue to approach NFP month by month, trying to to prayerfully consider the timing of adding to our family, the timing of adding another blessing. For this, this family, these children, they are our most important ministry.

 

Sweet Job, you changed my life forever, from the first moment I came running down the stairs with that pregnancy test to your daddy feeding your 3 month old big brother. To the last moment that they carried you out of my room. I still long for you to be here with us, wrestling with your big brother, digging in the dirt with the twins, tickling baby Jean. But oh the glories you must see daily. I hope you welcomed your brother or sister. I wish I could know you three. Could of had the chance to mother you. Someday, I will hug the three of you, and I can’t wait!

Love, mama

 

family planning | the why

I have debated on writing this post for quite a long time. I get quite a mix of reactions when I am seen out with my three kids under three, and as my belly grows, so do the looks and remarks.

I would say most of our close family knows our desire for a large family and our reasoning behind our choices regarding (a lack) of birth control and child spacing. What finally prompted me to write this is not to assuage anyone’s curiosity or defend our decisions. It is simply because I feel led by my Lord to live a certain way, and having found the joy in that way, I want to share it. This is where we are now, and how we feel convicted, but I am constantly seeking the Lord in this area, and I know my feelings grow and evolve…

So, if you if is going to make you uncomfortable to read about ovulation and family planning, go ahead and move on now. I promise I won’t be hurt!

First and foremost, I absolutely hands down am not judging ANYONE’S choice of birth control (short or long term) or family planning. To each their own. Seriously. I hope to honestly give my feelings and where I feel scripture has led me PERSONALLY. I hope to encourage each of you to look at your choices regarding family planning and talk them over with your spouse, but honestly, it’s between you, your spouse, and God. That’s it. I will be honest and say I do care about what decisions my friends and family make, because I want them to experience life as fully and richly as God can give them, but I have absolutely no judgement for anyone. I hope I can get them same back from my readers.

When we were just a few months from marriage, I began looking into birth control options. I still had one more year of student teaching left and we were still going to be living separate. We felt it would be best to wait a while to start our family. Even though we took several different types of marriage counseling and I consulted a doctor, the only real options provided to us were hormonal birth controls or barrier methods (condoms, etc). At the time, I thought nothing of it. Fast forward two years and a short 6 months of hormonal birth control had caused chemical infertility. Eventually we went on fertility drugs (clomid) and were able to conceive our firstborn, Jarvis. But in the process of trying to have a child, I finally learned the details and various things that need to all align to result in a successful pregnancy. I knew more than I would have ever thought possible!

That experience changed my outlook on birth control and family planning. We decided then and there to never use hormonal birth control and that we were not going to prevent pregnancy at all. Well, lo and behold, turns out pregnancy fixed my hormonal issues permanently and we found ourselves pregnant again just a short 3 months after Jarvis was born. A bit shocked, but overall thrilled that it had been so easy! They were going to be 13 months apart, wow!

And then, the loss of our son, Job, at 20 weeks, once again rocked my world. I had felt him kick, I had felt his life. And as I held his tiny, perfect, still body, my entire outlook on parenting and the blessing of children changed.

The bible tells us that children are a blessing in Psalm 127:3-5, and I truly believe it. It is in mothering that I grow the closest to God. My weakness and failures are so evident, and I so desperately want to be better. These little lives, these precious souls and personalities are completely dependent on me. While I do believe God has a plan for them, and no matter how poorly I could do he can always redeem them to his purpose, I would like to make it easier for them. I want to model and show them Christ in me so that they always know His goodness. So they always feel His grace. I know their lives won’t be perfect or easy, for it’s through struggling that we learn to lean on our Lord, but I hope to make that realization a bit easier for them.

The loss of the chance to parent Job and the process of accepting that he was now in the Lord’s arms was the most humbling and difficult time of my life. The Lord broke me so I could truly find him.

We quickly tried to get pregnant again, but another loss made me stumble back. I doubted whether we were meant to have more children, if there was another path for us. But a few months later we found ourselves pregnant again, with an obvious and apparent blessing, TWINS! I knew, almost immediately that it was twins, somehow, He blessed me with that knowledge. And He blessed us with a healthy, easy pregnancy and full term twins who came home with us right away.

(photo by Stacy VanDyck Photography)

If you look back and add it up, at the time the twins were born, I had been pregnant for nearly 2 years of the 2.5 years since we got pregnant with Jarvis. We very quickly realized that our ‘no prevention’ method might not be the best approach with 3 kids under 3 already. But what to do?

Let me back up a bit explain our decisions regarding hormonal birth control and inner-uterine devices. I highly doubt many have done any deep research into the actual purposes and pregnancy preventative measures of all birth controls. I am linking more research, but in a nutshell, although all hormonal birth control pills claim to actually inhibit ovulation, realistically this is not effective all of the time because all birth control pills are such a low dose. The second claim is that the hormones create a hostile environment that prevents fertilization, but once again, this only happens a portion of the time. Very often, the first two goals are not met and what actually happens is the fertilized ovum is starved of necessary hormones it needs to implant effectively and establish a blood supply. The hormones in the birth control doesn’t allow a blood rich lining to form, so the fertilized ovum implants but starves. The same is true with inner-uterine devices, it prevents a healthy lining from forming and prevents the fertilized ovum from implanting correctly. This is written in the small print of every birth control but not something readily known or told by physicians.

Now, I will let you draw your own conclusion about what I consider this. It all comes down to when your opinion on life starts. And as far as I am concerned it’s not about a medical definition for me, although I know a heartbeat is not established until between the 5th and 6th week. But robbing the ovum of the opportunity to reach that critical time by starving it of necessary nutrition is not something I am comfortable with. At all.

So all of the above to say that we ended up deciding on practicing natural family planning. You can read more information on it here, but basically, in a nutshell, it’s being familiar with your cycle and abstaining  during the small window where pregnancy is possible. This method is practiced by Catholics typically, and our religious beliefs line up with theirs in this area. NFP allows us to space out our children as we prayerfully think is best for our family. But here’s the deal, although many studies show that used correctly, NFP has a 1% fail rate, the practice of NFP allows room for the Lord to show us when we are ready for another child.

And that comes down to why I am writing this. When we announced we were pregnant again, we had very mixed reactions. A lot of excitement and congrats, but also a few comments like, ‘Don’t you know what causes that?’ and ‘Again? Already? You are crazy!’ Don’t worry, I know we are a little crazy, but it’s not just us in this family, our Lord is leading us and He won’t give us more than we can handle without His help.

(photo by Stacy VanDyck Photography)

Bunny was not planned by us, but bunny was planned by the Lord. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details (our parents read this!!), but we were practicing NFP carefully in the hopes of spacing out the twins from a younger sibling but an unexpected and un-chart-able ovulation resulted in the blessing of this pregnancy. If that’s not God’s will in our lives then I don’t know what is!

I will be honest, I don’t know when we will be ‘done.’ I’m not sure that’s up to us. Do I want to have kids for the next 15 years? No, not by any means! But do I want a big family? Yes. Do I want God’s will served and to allow him to direct our family size and spacing? Yes, I do. Will we ever do anything permanent to prevent pregnancy? No, I do not believe we will. I am still learning and praying over God’s will for our family and I hope to continue to find out what he has planned for us. But for now, I feel we are doing exactly what he wants us to do. What that will look like in 5 or 10 years I am not sure.

I truly think one of the greatest blessings I can give my kids is siblings. Because no matter what, family is there for you. And the relationships I already see developing are strong and will last forever. Siblings are just a glimpse of the love of Christ and I want my children to have that joy.

**A side note of NFP. It is not the Rhythm method that was used back in the day, but there are many different methods out there to use {Creighton, couples to couples, etc}, and that these methods are specific to each woman’s individual cycle as opposed to a one size fit all approach. Another statistic that I think is interesting is that couples  who use NFP have a MUCH lower divorce rate {lower than 5%} compared to the national average of 50% due to the open communication, close intimacy, mutual decision making, etc.

Please, if you have questions or want to know more, ask! I would love to answer them or send you to someone who could. Please refrain from judgmental comments as they will be deleted. This is right for our family, and I understand that not everyone will agree it is right for their family, that is fine.

Wow, I feel like I need to step off my soapbox! If you made it all the way through that, I am impressed!! 🙂