Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Living Sacrifices

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—
this is your spiritual act of worship.

Romans 12:1

I am 38 weeks pregnant today. With two weeks left until my due date, and a mere 12 days until my scheduled C-section, I have finally realized that baby is coming soon - perhaps any day now. This pregnancy has not exactly flown by, but for much of it, I was distracted by other things: showing the house, trying to move, homeschooling and training the three blessings I already have. Only now, in these final days, has my focus turned inward to the wiggling, hiccuping creature whom I am soon to meet face to face.

And because I was distracted, and didn't even know which state we would be living in, for a long time I put off any serious discussion of this baby's birth. After my long and unsuccessful labor with Lydia ended in a Cesarean section, the doctor recommended that any future babies be likewise delivered surgically. Reportedly, my uterus was "unusually thin," and therefore at a greater risk of rupture. Uterine rupture, while not quite the internal combustion that it sounds like, is a serious health threat to mother and baby, and can end in blood transfusions, hysterectomy or occasionally death. While the risks of rupture for VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) are generally only around 1% or less, it is entirely possible that my personal risk may be much higher.

On the other hand, for most mothers who have had successful vaginal deliveries, VBAC is a good option. Recovering from natural childbirth is a much faster and less painful process than recovery from major abdominal surgery. And having numerous C-sections, for those of us who hope to be blessed with many children, carries risks of placenta previa and other problems caused by excessive scarring. So when I switched to a different obstetrical practice and said I would like a VBAC, all of the doctors and midwives I saw were very supportive. "You've done it before," one doctor said, "So why not?" They reviewed the risks of both options with me, as well as the precautions that would be taken with a VBAC (a doctor present in the hospital at all times, continuous fetal monitoring, etc.). Not once did they recommend elective surgery. And as someone who loves (in a strange way) the amazing sensations of natural childbirth, hated the painful recovery from a surgical birth, and hopes to bear many more children, I was prayerfully hoping to avoid another Cesarean.

The only problem? My loving husband, who watched me pass out after Hayden's birth and saw both of our boys born strangled in their umbilical cords, firmly believed that surgery is the safest option for me. After reviewing the paperwork and talking with one of my doctors about my history, his opinion was unyielding. My doctor reminded me that ultimately it is my body and my choice; I am the one who must give consent for elective surgery. While her advice seems logical, the Bible often contradicts our culture's idea of common sense, and this is no exception. Consider these words:

The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. - 1 Corinthians 7:4

In fact, my body does NOT just belong to me. It belongs to my husband, and to fight against his wishes for my body (as well as for our unborn child) is to fight against God's command for me to submit to my husband's authority (Ephesians 5:24). Even more importantly, my body belongs to the Lord. Despite my firm belief that birth is a natural and beautiful experience that many mothers have missed out on because of unnecessary medical interventions, I cannot claim that there is something holier about fighting for a vaginal birth over a surgical one. I may wonder why I, a willing laborer, am denied the opportunity to experience birth when so many other women want to avoid it, but then the Lord gently reminds me of my selfishness. How many women have suffered the pain of barrenness? Or of loss, to repeated miscarriages, a stillbirth, or the death of a child? How many suffer intense complications during pregnancy that steal their comfort and threaten their lives? In light of this, who am I - already a mother of three healthy babies - to complain if I don't get to choose the method my infant's delivery?

As I struggled with these thoughts, the Lord faithfully reminded me of Romans 12, one of my favorite passages of the Bible because its advice is so practical. "Offer your bodies as living sacrifices," Paul writes. Not, "Don't let anyone mess with your body." Not, "Protect your body and keep it healthy." But offer it as a sacrifice to the Lord, as an act of worship to Him. How beautiful! By choosing to submit to my husband, I can not only honor him, but also present a beautiful sacrifice to my Lord. The drugged aftermath of surgery, the weeks of abdominal discomfort, and the loss of any victorious birth I may or may not have experienced are tiny sacrifices to make. In God's mercy to me, He allowed His own son to suffer and die a humiliating death on a cross. When Jesus sacrificed everything for me, how selfish am I to resist any minuscule sacrifice of my own body for Him?

And so, I scheduled the C-section. Being a planner, there is a part of me that actually likes the stability of knowing the final possible date of baby's arrival. And being someone who loves interesting dates, I was very happy that the week of opportunity (it had to be scheduled sometime after 39 weeks) allowed me to choose 10/10 as this little one's birthday. Don and I agreed to schedule the surgery for the 10th, two days before my due date, but to allow a trial of labor if baby decides to come earlier and everything looks normal. And now we wait. I have had enough contractions in the past week to make me think that labor is imminent, but I also know that I am likely to meet this baby at a scheduled time and place. Either way, I know God is in control, and that my faith in His perfect timing will be tested in the next two weeks. Will I really trust Him to deliver this baby in His time, in His way? I pray that whenever and however this baby is born, that my actions will be holy and pleasing to God. May I bear children not for my own glory, but for His.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kittery Trading Post Septemberfest

Our family woke up early on Saturday morning to prepare for the long ride to one of our favorite stores, the Kittery Trading Post. This was our third year attending the weeklong Septemberfest sale and festival, but the first time we ever had a sunny day to fully enjoy all the festivities.

As soon as we walked in the door at 9am, we were greeted with raffle tickets and balloons for the children, which provided a welcome, if noisy, diversion while Daddy tried on hunting boots.

Besides shopping for camo hunting gear, we spent plenty of time checking out the weapons, from toy guns... compound bows, like the one Don bought to hunt with this year. I was specifically interested in looking at the pink bows (to match the pink and black .22 Sig Sauer Mosquito Don got me for Christmas, of course), and a helpful salesman showed me this option. I call this picture "Lydia with a pink bow" - not quite what you might expect!

While we were there, my generous husband did, in fact, buy me a pink bow and arrow set so that I can practice target shooting. Since I haven't been able to shoot my gun while pregnant, archery seems like a more mom-friendly sport to practice. After we made our large purchase, we headed outside to enjoy our picnic lunch and the free activities offered during Septemberfest. As it turned out, the kids' archery range was stocked with Genesis bows just like the one that I had just purchased, so we all go to try it out! Here's Hayden at his archery lesson:

We also practiced shooting a BB rifle, which the boys were great at! Hayden knocked down 5 targets with his 12 shots, while Donny got 9 out of 12. I was afraid to try at first, not wanting to find out that my preschooler is a better shot than I am, but 11 of my 12 attempts hit the targets, so I was happy.

The children also got to enjoy pony rides (though Lydia spent her first time on a horse clinging desperately to a stranger rather than the animal itself!), and Don and the boys tried out the rock climbing wall.

On his second attempt, Donny climbed all the way to the top! Considering how often he is afraid of...well, anything...Don and I were surprised that the height didn't scare him, and so proud that he ventured all the way up! Hayden made it as far as his four year-old arms and legs could reach, and I'm sure within a couple years he will be scaling the wall, too.

The other highlight of the outdoor activities was the Birds of Prey show, which we remembered seeing two years ago, when I posed with a bald eagle and bald Lydia:

The show was just as interesting two years later, with the same bald eagle showing off his injured wing. In the middle of the show, one of the falcons started squawking because a real wild bald eagle was soaring right over us!

After some more browsing in the camping, fishing, and bicycle sections, we concluded our trip with a promised stop at the fudge stand to buy a box of yummy dessert. Overall, we had a wonderful day and can't wait to go back again next year. Even Lydia spent the next 48 hours saying she wanted to "Go back to the big store on Sunday." It was such a blessing to enjoy beautiful weather, fun new toys, shared experiences, and some quality family time!

Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so.
2 Kings 13:15

Friday, September 2, 2011

Showered with Blessings

I will send down showers in season;
there will be showers of blessing.

~ Ezekiel 34:26b

I thought I was going to a ladies' dinner at my mom's house.  I was looking forward to the time of fellowship with Christian friends, despite having to leave the children at home with a reluctant husband.  I called on my way to let Mum know I was running about 15 minutes late. When I pulled in, there were a few more cars lining the road than I had anticipated - including one that bore a striking resemblance to my sister-in-law's minivan - but I didn't think much of it.  Then my mom met me in the driveway and told me, "There are a few extra people here....because it's a baby shower."

"For whom?" I asked.  (Okay, I said "who," but "whom" is correct.)

Had any thought run through my head before I spoke, I would have realized the obvious: it was for the pregnant lady who just arrived!  Yes, for my fourth baby, my dear mother planned and executed my first-ever surprise party and baby shower.  Since Donny was conceived so shortly after my wedding and we were blessed with ample hand-me-downs for him, I never had a baby shower.  When Hayden came along two years later, we had everything we needed for a baby boy.  Even when Lydia was born in 2009, generous friends and relatives provided all the girlie hand-me-downs and sweet new pink things we could imagine using.  It certainly wasn't a thought in my mind that anyone would plan a shower for me at this point in motherhood, but it was a wonderful surprise! (Oh, and my husband's reluctance to watch the children was all part of the cover-up!)

I was happy to see my good friend Audra there, who is due exactly one month before me.  This is the second time we've been pregnancy buddies - both times while expecting girls - so we of course had to get a baby bellies picture.

I savored a delicious catered dinner of lasagna followed by homemade apple pie (my favorite!) from another dear friend.  I also had the fun of opening precious little girlie outfits (including some with a matching dress for Lydia!), toys, gift cards, and even some books and movies for the older children to enjoy while I'm busy with the new baby.  We were even blessed with this adorable handmade quilt!

Thanks, Mum, for a special night, and for being a great mommy to your own two girls! I love you!