Starting A Family
“I am currently 36. When I was married at 23, I knew I would have all of my kids by the age of 30.
Ha, I love the overly confident, proud, self-assured mind of young adulthood, where you think you can make future plans and they will actually pan out the exact way you envisioned. After about 3.5 years of marriage my husband and I excitedly started trying for our first child, but after 3.5 long, difficult years of multiple procedures, infusions, medications, and other avenues that help you have a baby, we finally found out we were pregnant at age 30.
I guess my idea of having all my kids by 30 was shot right out of the gate. A few years later we tried for the 2nd and he was much quicker, only about 6 months. After having 1 boy and 1 girl, and now being 32, and my husband 34, we decided we were done.
I have always been a bit health conscious and tried not to gain too much weight during my pregnancies so it wouldn’t be such a struggle postpartum. For the first one that worked, gaining only 24 pounds. Number two on the other hand was a bit more of a struggle. To get to the gym and eat well all while working a full-time job and taking care of another baby landed me an extra 40 unwelcome pounds, which may not seem like a lot, but on my small frame it was a bit overwhelming. So, after baby #2, I felt compelled to start my journey back to a fit body.
It was not an easy journey, after dealing with major traumatic events in our extended family, a move with a 3-month-old and a 4-year-old, and practically starting our lives over. I was gearing myself up and headed for a major feat, but I was ready to get to tackling it. There was a long period of time that I really struggled with what I looked like postpartum, but mentally at this point I was still doing pretty well knowing that my body had just bore a human being and that was a beautiful thing. That my body didn’t need to snap back to perfect and that having these babies was worth the disheveled body, saggy boobs, and tummy pooch.
Finally, about 3.5 years after baby #2, all of my hard work had pretty much paid off. I was close to those coveted six pack abs, and was loving my muscle tone, and number on the scale. Then what felt like a wrecking ball hit me hard– my husband lost his job, Covid was rampant, and life felt like a blur, until our church played a song at worship that said the words ‘rest on me’ in the chorus.
At that moment I was holding my 3-year-old son, and with no inhibitions, he was laying all of his weight on me, like any child does when they are so exhausted and just want to sleep on mommy’s chest. I felt the Lord tell me at that moment, ‘You need to rest on Me like that. Don’t hold the weight of the world on you, just rest in My arms and let Me carry all your unplanned, and unsolved future steps.’
At that moment, I thought all that He wanted me to rest on Him was the job loss, the anxiety of Covid, and other unmentionables we were dealing with, but that day He was preparing me for what I was about to find out that night. You see, I had been feeling off, I thought mainly from pure exhaustion in my life, but one thing I couldn’t shake was this weird feeling I only get when pregnant; my chest felt like a ton of bricks and I had only felt this under one condition, and yes, I was pregnant.
I shrugged it off for a few hours for several reasons: my husband had a successful vasectomy, I only have 1 working fallopian tube, and having children in general was a challenge with low viscosity and a need for Clomid and Progesterone. So I knew there was no way I could be pregnant. Nor did I want to be. Lo and behold, this is why He was preparing me to rest and get ready for a slow year, one that would be full of ups and downs. Yes, He was with me the whole time, and did sustain me, but my human heart and emotions still were present and tested.
To be fully raw and transparent, one of the #1 reasons I was struggling with being pregnant again was one of pride and shallow endeavors. You see, I had finally achieved the best body I have ever had, and was so close to those six pack abs and that desired number on the scale. Finding out that the next 9 months to follow were going to derail all my physical gains was really tough to swallow.
God began to slowly show me how I was idolizing image instead of just being healthy. But this was not a quick mind transformation, it was something I had to swallow and repeat daily. Not only did I struggle with waking up to a bigger body each day, I struggled with even connecting with this baby that was growing inside me.
Even though I knew this was all a part of His plan, I was still angry, upset, downright unhappy, and dare I say, devastated to be pregnant again. I had just gotten to the freeing point in a mom’s life, you know it if you’ve been there. Where your kids are self-sufficient enough to give you a minute to be hands off, to breathe, to get dishes or laundry done, or even just take a shower without worrying about them.
I no longer had diapers to change, or kids that required everything from me. I had graduated from the baby toddler stage where they need everything from you yet give you very little in return to the young helpers stage where you can actually give them chores to help you around the house. I wasn’t a baby person and I didn’t want to go back there.
I not only didn’t want to go back, I was so excited about going forward. As much as I loved the time I was able to stay home full-time with my kiddos, with my youngest about to go into 5-day Pre-K the next year, which meant mommy could go back to work. That may or may not resonate with you, but with teaching as my career, I actually wanted to get everyone on school schedule so I could go be a professional once again. I knew that being pregnant with another little one would derail my plan of going back to work full-time and it was a constant battle in my mind.
The shame and guilt that surrounded me during the 9 months of my pregnancy was only bore with the help of Jesus. I knew I was allowed to feel pain, frustration, anxiety, but then also I felt guilt for caring about something that I just couldn’t connect to and was actually mad at. I felt intense mommy guilt that made me wonder what type of person I was, that I could be carrying this miracle baby, who was clearly designed to be in our lives and I was upset about it. This guilt ate away at my soul, and was only rectified by His grace.
Shortly after finding out our surprise baby would be a girl, we were engulfed with a few other surprises that we were not ready to hear. Baby girl’s nuchal translucency, which is a marker for Down Syndrome, was thickened. She had developed two renal arteries, was measuring too small, and was at risk for heart complications. My placenta was also abnormally low and in danger of being too low (previa placenta), which put me in danger of earlier labor, where my body would assume the head is crowning and start laboring.
Despite all the complications, we experienced so much peace. I was hurting, but HE was unwavering. He planned this pregnancy, He planned this news, and His name WILL be glorified through and through. As I am sure you can figure out, this did not help with all the other emotions about my physical appearance, my sense of identity loss, and mommy guilt. But I allowed myself to continue to process this slow and scary journey. I was hurting, but He was still unwavering.
This surprise pregnancy was an emotional roller coaster, one I allowed myself to feel. Many times, we try to be tough, throw up walls so we don’t deal with pain, or feelings of inadequacy, but I learned throughout these 9 months that it is okay to feel, to be broken, to be upset, to dislike your body, but to not do it alone.
To continue the story, a few weeks later my placenta had moved back into a non-threatening place; baby girl was still small but GROWING, her heart just showed a small murmur, the renal arteries were no longer an issue, plus she now only had a chance of 1:10,000 of having a disability. I sat there in disbelief, as this appointment was drastically different from the first. I honestly didn’t even know how to process all the good news. At the time, I was still trying to decide whether to exhale or hold my breath.
Fast forward a few more months, and I was on the home stretch to delivering this miracle baby girl. I was induced at 39 weeks, because I was dealing with hypertension in my 3rd trimester, and usually delivery is the cure for hypertension and preeclampsia. Delivery was joyous as we welcomed our little miracle into the world. However, the joy turned to fear and anxiety rather quickly.
The emotional hurdles just didn’t seem to cease. One week prior to delivery our basement flooded (just kind of a start to the storm), continuing with an extended stay at the hospital post delivery, and weight issues with Collins. After delivery on Monday, we were finally discharged Wednesday night, to wake up Thursday morning in a panic after fainting with stroke level blood pressures and a vomiting baby. ER for Collins, and hospital triage for momma. Re-admittance to the hospital for postpartum preeclampsia.
I was separated from the baby girl for a long time, as we were both being monitored. This picture is when we were finally reunited. I was hospitalized until Saturday morning where they sent me home on very restrictive orders just shy of bed rest. I was just so thankful I got to see my other babies and be home. However, after being home 24 hours, I realized the fear that crippled me of being 20 minutes from life or death, as my blood pressures were unstable and hit terrifying heights. Add to that, our A/C stopped working, and once more, my blood pressure spiked and I found myself back in triage, sent home, and then back for a readmission the following morning.
This momma’s heart was aching, I was away from my other children, in what felt like prison walls, and was sinking under the pressure of all the emotions. It was one hurdle after another. But I had to continually remind myself that God is using the hurdles to strengthen our trust in Him, and see His love shine through His people as we had to lean on family and friends for help. Hurdles are a funny thing, looked at as a victory by a hurdle jumper, but as a mountain to get over by the average person. I started looking at each hurdle we jumped over as Jesus’ victory over the situation. Preeclampsia was no joke and it caused me more anxiety than I ever want to admit, but admitting fear and a need for help is freeing.
As the baby was ushered into our lives, my momma’s heart melted. My once heart of stone and anxiety for what life would look like and how it would change was softened. But in full transparency, I was honestly worried it wouldn’t be that, that I would look at my baby girl and still be mad, or feel no connection. I actually couldn’t believe how much love I felt for her right away, and what a joy she was and is to me. It’s crazy now to think of our family without her; it just feels complete. But maybe you had the same fear, and it didn’t shift that easily, and that is okay. Life has seasons of hard, seasons of uncertainty, and seasons that you are allowed to be upset. The important thing is that you don’t live in your season alone.
Even though much of my anxiety about the entire pregnancy and unplanned future subsided, my need for my body back in 6 weeks flat did not. My postpartum preeclampsia put me on modified bed rest for almost 6 weeks after baby, which gave me anxiety not only about how to get everything done as a mom, but how I was going to get my body back if I couldn’t move.
As soon as my 6 weeks expired, and I was cleared by all medical staff to be active again, I was off to the races. But my body didn’t take to it like it did when I was younger. After all, I was considered of maternal age (geriatric). Now at 15 weeks postpartum, I stare at the image in the mirror of my body and have to try and shake the feeling of disgust. Why are we like this? I mean, my body just carried a baby and now I want the before body back in 2 months flat? I don’t know why, but if you are anything like me you feel it too. The frustration when getting dressed, the comparison to your friends who either also had a baby around the time you did and already look amazing, or even to your friends who didn’t, but you like comparing apples to oranges. (I get it, I do it too.)
Our world is hard; we are surrounded by perfect expectations. God wants us to be healthy. He wants us to take care of our temples, and not stuff it full of junk food that zaps the energy we need to love our children, husband, and friends well. He desires for us to move and have a balanced and healthy life. After all, we can’t serve Him well if we aren’t healthy and equipped.
However, He doesn’t desire for us to be obsessed with our image, our abs, our need for perfect postpartum bodies, or our need to look a certain way. Although I am all about health and wellness and don’t want to swerve from that, I do want it to be for the right reasons so I can be a good example for my daughters. Am I there yet? No. Today and every day I still fight the daily struggle with you. I hope that you can peer into my story and life and know you aren’t alone.
Have you ever walked by a department store window and looked at what they put in their window displays? If you go to a big city they will literally blow your mind. The prettiest, most exquisite, beautiful, and seemingly perfect things, items, people, families, homes, and even pets are displayed. To be displayed in a window like that you have to be worthy of the attention it will bring. Don’t look at the windows of the world that are unattainable and for that matter so unrealistic. Peer into my window… not because I am worthy of the attention (because I am not), but to be real. To show you with complete transparency how unworthy I am, but how I am worthy through Him.
How I struggle with the daily challenges that plague women and moms today. My life isn’t window worthy, but we all find worth in transparency, from encouraging nuggets, to ‘oh crap’ mom moments, and ‘oh wow’ God moments. It’s funny how windows are transparent, but what most people ‘display’ in the windows of their life is anything but.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christina Cassell of Fishers, IN. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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