Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekend Links

Happy Friday, Friends!

Here are some articles that fired me up lately. 

On Family Discipleship

A tough question that kids ask and that many of us may bumble over:

On Motherhood

  • "So one morning I drew a line. I will see Jesus in this. I cannot be the annoyed and tedious person that I keep running into.  I will, whatever it takes, see Him. So I sat down in my pajamas too late to be in pajamas, and the baby was playing on a blanket  in just his diaper, the breakfast dishes were out to play still, and you could see the remains of the blowout carnage waiting to go down to the laundry room for stain treatment."  Continue reading:  Come Down

  • "Imagine if you and I awoke each day thinking accurately that our real work is mothering. Not only that, but imagine if we were honest about the job description and consciously surrendered to the cost of love. What if we went into the day anticipating all of the hard work?" Read: A Game-Changing Perspective of Motherhood

My friend Lauren lets us take a laugh at her expense.  But most of us have been in a situation similar to this at some point, if you are caring for little ones. The moments where chaos reins and you are tempted to have a mommy meltdown because of it:

On Gender Issues and Social Engineering

Attempting to follow the logic in all this transgender nonsense results in, well, nonsense.  Kevin DeYoung tries it:

  • "They have your comfort and safety in mind. They do! In fact, they want all their “guests” to be comfortable in their own skin. That’s why they’re allowing any grown man who “feels” like a woman to follow your 10 yr old right into their bathrooms. That guy has feelings! Don’t you care? Come one! Have a heart!"  Read: Target's Guest Policy is About More Than Bathrooms

  • "Things have changed, dear parents. The way we live has to change. Christianity is about to become the most radical mission we were ever a part of, if we’re doing it right. We aren’t culture warriors anymore–the culture is lost and we aren’t getting it back. But, our children are still ours. And, I propose that it’s going to take some radical reform in our homes in order to lead them in Christ’s way."  Read: What  #GiveElsaAGirlfriend Really Means

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Friday, May 6, 2016

A Mother's Love

I love that there is a day set aside to honor God's gift of mothers. It's a big, life-long job.  In fact it is probably the most influential job a person can have. And it is a work that must be rooted in the love of God.

All of  Scripture points to the ultimate conclusion that our Father loves us.  He loved us all the way to the cross.  And when we are firmly rooted in the knowledge of this love it allows us to overflow with love for our children and others. If we are not experiencing the love of God in our lives we will eventually run out of natural affection for the kids.  Sleepless nights, bad attitudes and overcrowded schedules can dry up our reserves very quickly.

But God's love refreshes our hearts and guides us into loving our children well.  When we receive the abundant love of Christ, we are free to pursue others with love.  We are free to give back what we have already received.  God pursued us with His love when we were enemies of His grace.  We were dead in our trespasses and enslaved to our own passions and pleasure yet His love sought us out.

Once the Holy Spirit awakens our hearts, we come to Christ. Then we can extend practical love, patience and kindness to our children when they fail because we remember that God first extended His grace to us.  We can bear with their faults because we realize how patiently God has borne our faults.  We can give new mercy to our children every morning with a clean slate, because we know how often God has wiped our own slate clean. When we reflect on the many ways God has shown love to us, especially through the Cross, it spurs us on to love our children in tangible ways.

Imitators of God

I love listening to my Serenity (4), playing pretend with her siblings or dolls. Very often when she speaks and I hear my own voice and even my mannerisms are imitated. In his letter to the Ephesians Paul said, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Just as "dearly loved children" will imitate the ones who love them (their parents), we can, as image-bearers, reflect the love God gives us.  Though it will be imperfect, to increasingly reflect the love of Jesus to our kids, is our hope.

There are people in my life with such inviting dispositions that I believe even strangers would know at once, that they are Christians.  Their homes are warmly inviting and hospitable and strangers are drawn to their loving warmth. By the Spirit's work in our lives, our love will increasingly grow to resemble the love of Christ.

Faithful Tilling

The love of a mother can till the soil of a child's heart. She can be the one to make soft, fertile ground where the gospel takes root!  A mother who gives her love diligently, thoughtfully, and joyfully, is equipping her children with a firm foundation for the rest of their lives.  Her love is a key tool in God's hand to prepare her children to understand and accept His love for them. When Paul wrote to Titus to instruct the older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children, he did so because God uses the love of a wife and mother to build up and influence the family.

Deeds That Strengthen and Secure

Today I was chatting with  my sister at the park when her toddler fell off the bench and whacked his head. She stopped what she was doing and helped him to his feet and dried his tears and gave him a hug.  This is what Mamas do. These quiet acts of service and tender words of affection and daily hugs are strengthening and securing your children.  These little acts performed day after day give them a solid place to rest, no matter the age or the type of hurt (teens, anyone?). We want to love in both word and deed, guiding them to the love of God.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3

Be encouraged, Mamas, that loving your children is foundational to their lives. May God give us grace to love them well.  May our warmest affection, welcoming smiles and gentle care, overflow from God's love being established in our own hearts.

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Blogosphere, I'm Coming For You.

Hello Friends!  I am still here.  My heart's desire is to rejoin this community of Christian women in the blogosphere.  But here in Texas we don't get down to business without saying our howdys first.  We edge into things and hang around on the front porch until the mosquitoes start to bite, before we say anything substantial.

So just know that, by the grace of God, I am still standing.  Sharlotte has left IUGR in the dust, praise Jesus.  My young adults are all young adulting.  They insist on continuing in that. But our homeschooling academics have started to wind down, and I hope that will leave a spare moment from time to time, to pursue infrequently dabble in writing again.  And if not, just know that our mega sized family is still alive and well and doing our best to love Jesus and eachother and bloom where we are planted.

Much love to you all, and I hope to see you soon with a real blog post :)

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Sharlotte's Birth Story {Part 3}: Unending Mercy

Read the introduction, part 1 and part 2 here.

Throughout this entire ordeal Kevin and I could see God's mercy to us time after time in various ways.  To point to Jesus and His love is the purpose of this birth story.

One of those mercies was the day of waiting before the C-section.  It was a scary day for me, now knowing that my baby was deteriorating day by day.  But it was still a merciful providence.  We enjoyed the evening with our children. We had dinner together, ate the pie and had a time of prayer and thanksgiving, reassuring our children that all was in the Lord's hands and we were resigned to His will.  Our young adults (ages 15-20) particularly needed this time. They needed to see us trusting that "underneath are the everlasting arms."  One of our most fervent prayers was for our young adults, that this would be an opportunity for them to grow in faith. 

That evening I sent out some more emails to friends that I knew would pray. I asked them to petition the Lord specifically for:
Knowledgeable and compassionate nurses,
That if there was a problem with the baby's health when she was born, Kevin and I would make wise decisions for her,
That I would be steadfast in faith, and a good example of trust and peace to my family.

There were some tears from my little ones that Mama would be away from home for a few days.

My sister-in-law texted me around 9:30 and said she was praying I would sleep.  I did.  For two hours.

At midnight I was awake and never went back to sleep.  I waited on the baby to move time and again, I made sandwiches to take to the hospital, I read and prayed, I watched you-tube videos of C-sections (gulp). It was a night I will never forget. I thought hard on how my life was about to drastically change, especially the next several weeks. I knew God would sustain me.

I read the Psalms all the way to the hospital the next morning.

When we arrived, the first thing to happen was an answer to prayer.  The nurse assigned to me was an older nurse with decades of experience under her belt. No matter how much you trust your doctor or midwife, the nurses can make or break the experience in a hospital. God's kindness to me was given in a nurse that I felt I could trust.

She hooked me up to the fetal monitor and the Braxton Hicks contractions I had been having the last few days immediately showed on the monitor.  Some were pretty strong.  It was still a few hours until the surgery.

During some of the stronger Braxton Hicks, our baby began to have decels, an indication that she was not tolerating the false contractions well.  Our nurse said, "I don't know what's going on with her...but it's a good thing she's coming out." Once again I began to question just what we were going to discover when she was born. Clearly she never would have been able to tolerate labor.  And once again, I remembered the dilemma of several months ago, choosing hospital over birth center and how the Lord had mercifully led us to this point.

The morning was spent waiting and chatting easily with my mom, Kevin and a few other visitors like my wonderful in-laws who came in with hugs and sweet smiles.  I was told that all our children were in the waiting room now.  My doctor came in and thoroughly explained every move that would be made during the surgery and that extra nursery personnel were there for the baby's sake. My midwife came in too and the three of us chatted. One sweet memory (remember, I am writing this for myself too :)) is how our doctor made mention of how many children we had.  She said, "We all talk about you guys.  We love your fertility.  Its odd and wonderful to see a happy couple bringing children into the world that they love." (Did I mention how much I loved this doctor? I don't think anyone has ever loved our fertility before, lol)

Finally my turn in the OR came.  Kevin put on the mask and other garb but he was told he had to wait until the surgery was started before they would let him into the O.R.  Being wheeled away from him, on my own now, I got emotional and started to shake.  I could not stop shaking.  Then I wondered how I would hold still for the epidural, shaking like that. Surely this would end in paralysis or some such catastrophe. So that made me shake worse. It crossed my mind that if I didn't hold it together they would knock me out and I wouldn't see my baby for hours and who knew what could happen during that time. It felt like a tidal wave was just about to wash over me and there was no way I could pull out of it. a panic attack was on the horizon.

But that sweet nurse spoke love and compassion to me. "This is all fine.  You are fine.  We do this every day.  You are going to be fine." She gave me a few pats on the shoulder. She said they were in no rush, they would wait on my shakes.

Doesn't seem like much, but it was enough for me to breathe again. 

I repeated Psalms in my head, I couldn't think of references but many short phrases.  And I felt the prayers of all the ones praying for me.  I knew there were people praying.  And what a mercy is that?  To know other people love and care for you and will bring your name before the Throne of Grace at your weakest moment, is such a gift.  And God hears the prayers of His people!

The epidural was done without a problem, I was completely numb. The anesthesiologist cracked some joke about how many kids I had and I thought, "Seriously. Dude. Is this really the time for that?" Everyone else was the picture of professionalism.

Finally Kevin was beside me again.  Within just a few minutes I felt that creepy sensation of tugging and pulling and they had Sharlotte out.  She didn't cry.  I was beside myself asking Kevin, "How does she look?  How does she look?"  He said, "She looks fine" but I could tell he hadn't had a really long look at her yet and couldn't tell.  Some long seconds passed and we finally heard her cry.  I was asking my doctor and midwife questions, "What do ya'll think?  What do ya'll think?  WILL SOMEONE TELL ME SOMETHING."

"Placenta looks okay,"  I heard them say.

I sent Kevin to look at the baby and bring me a picture from his phone.  He came back reporting she did look good and not all that small and looked healthy and was pinking up. 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

Within five minutes of being born the nursery nurse brought me the baby.  She unwrapped her and laid her on my bare skin.  I was not expecting this.  Although I was glad, I was afraid because  I couldn't hold onto her.  But she gave Kevin instructions on how to hold Sharlotte still right there and told him it was important that the baby be skin-to-skin with me.  This was all a happy surprise to me, that they would be so concerned about the bonding aspect.

They left her on me like that until I was wheeled into a recovery room and she was immediately put back onto my bare skin there.  She did not have any interest in nursing, though I tried. That was a first, as my other babies rooted and nursed immediately after birth. I still wasn't able to see much of her because of all the equipment my arms were hooked up to.  I could only see how tiny she was. My relief came a few hours later when Kevin and I looked her over so well and she finally nursed a little.

Doctor said the reason for the IUGR was a true knot in the cord. Like a water hose that gets knotted has a decreased output, the nourishment just wasn't making it to my baby. A true knot occurs is 0.3% to 2% of births and it can end in still birth or an emergency in labor. Additionally, the cord was wrapped around Sharlott'es neck tightly three times, which would have complicated things further if I had gone into labor with her. 

Throughout our stay at the hospital we were told often by different staff, "Do you know how lucky you are?"  They told us stories of births that ended in tragedy.  We were quick to give all glory to our Lord and Savior for His sustaining of Sharlotte Hosanna.  There was no luck in this situation.  All was His merciful intervening on our behalf.

We give God praise for His love and kindness in the midst of a storm. Sharlotte has continued to give us cause to pray often and depend on the Lord's grace as we have kept a close eye on her growth.  But the last two weeks she has seemed to "turn a corner" and has started a good growth pattern.

Thank you all for reading and for the many comments and emails.  I know I will not be able to respond to them all, but please know I have treasured each one.  I have not been sorry that I shared this with ya'll.  I hope that it has encouraged some of you Mamas.  There is a lot of "trust your body" and "trust the process of birth" that goes on in our culture.  I encourage you to only trust in Jesus.  He is the only One who is trustworthy.  He is an anchor in the storm of childbirth whether it goes according to your plan, whether it is at home, a birth center or a hospital and whether it is medicated or unmedicated.  All praise to Him for all things, in every place, for every thing.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sharlotte's Birth Story {Part 2}: Peace That Transcends Understanding

(Read the introduction and part 1 here.)

November arrived and so did weekly prenatal appointments, even though I had already had a few "bonus" appointments. A non-stress-test showed that the baby was moving and active for her gestational age. However, the next sonogram showed that she had not grown much since the last one. Midwife, no longer willing to be brushed off, recommended that I see a doctor in their office for a second opinion.  An appointment was made for the following week, so as to give the baby another chance to prove she could grow, if she was ever going to.

Until this time I was still inwardly rolling my eyes that there was any problem. I had claimed the title of Mom Who Giveth Birth To Large Babies Always and Forever Amen, thus there is simply no reason to worry about a small baby. But no longer was this just a nagging little issue. My midwife was willing to hand my care over to someone else.  I am so thankful she did.

The first thing our new doctor did was her own sonogram. Her readings showed that although our baby had been growing slowly all along, she had now stopped growing. I was 38 weeks and she measured 34-35 weeks, even making allowances for a sonogram's possible discrepancies. The measurements were worse than the week prior.

Her recommendation was a caesarean. An induction would be the normal course of action, but with a c-section in my past, that wasn't an option for me.

The doctor suspected a problem with the placenta. I had gained 1-2 pounds per week the last 3 months but for some reason none of that nourishment was making it to the baby. (It was a good theory, but we discovered later that it wasn't the answer.) My question of "Why not just let the baby stay put and keep growing?" was answered by my new doctor:  "Because she won't." And if the problem was the placenta, it could decide to just stop working at all.

The term IUGR was given.  Intrauterine Growth Restriction.  And my history in the nursing profession brought back memories of tiny babies who weren't actually premature at all.  The mom had smoked cigarettes or used drugs while pregnant and given birth to these frail little malnourished babies. But there are other causes of IUGR, and sometimes the cause is never even determined.

There are no such things as coincidences, only the sovereignty of God.  And He made it so that this young doctor was an exact "fit" for me.  Not only did she have a kind and compassionate bedside manner, her first child had been born by caesarean because of IUGR.  She empathized with me to the smallest detail. She understood my fear and the roller coaster of emotions I just embarked on.  She shared with me pictures of her son when he was born and the trial afterward of getting him to grow, how he lost even more weight at first. Yet now he was a healthy toddler.

I never want to forget that (^^) part of this story. It is one of my favorite parts. God allowed me to see so clearly, so unmistakably, that His hand was upon this entire situation from the first phone call I made to that office 7 months prior.  His love in this small, comforting detail moves me to tears of gratitude even as I type. What amazing love (I am unable to fathom it), would move Him to comfort me like this in a moment of fear!

We asked for some time alone in the exam room. We prayed together and asked God for help, strength and wisdom. We called others for counsel. This was a small hospital and we were concerned about their ability to handle a complicated baby.  They assured us that for now they saw no medical problems other than that she had just stopped growing.  They were confident they could handle it. They predicted a weight of 6 pounds-- hardly an emergency.

The doctor returned and we agreed to start arrangements for the surgery in the morning. It was two days until Thanksgiving.

Kevin and I drove to Cracker Barrel and ate lunch together before heading back to the hospital for pre-op things.  I cried at times, overcome with emotion at what was about to happen.  The pain and long recovery of a C-section, what I had hoped to avoid, was now the last thing on my mind. 

I had moments of fear that my placenta would up and die before we could get her out.  I became more aware of the baby moving and prayed for her with each kick. My mind went to many "what-if" scenarios including fear of my own life. Yet the Lord's peace guided us through those hours of the realization that "something was wrong and we didn't really know what."  It was a living promise of Philippians 4:6-7.  God did not rescue us from this trial, but he did give us peace in the midst of it.

We bought pecan pie at Cracker Barrel to take home for the other kids, in celebration that tomorrow, they would have a new sister. 

(To be continued.)

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sharlotte's Birth Story {Part 1}

Read the introduction to Sharlotte's birth story here.

Soon after I discovered I was pregnant, we made the decision to have a hospital birth.  The successful VBAC I had enjoyed with my ninth pregnancy just a year ago, was still fresh on my mind.  However, so were the last few weeks of that pregnancy leading up to the birth.  And knowing we had to drive 90 minutes to make it to the birth center to a midwife who was supportive of a VBAC, made for some stressful times.  Especially for someone who had a history of fast births. At that time it was worth the hassle, but Kevin and I knew we didn't want to drive so far out of town again.

I also wanted a hospital birth because I wanted to rest afterward and have people bring me food. Food I didn't have to share. My birth center births were wonderful and I wouldn't change them, but I wasn't able to rest like I should when I got home. And the day and night following my last two births involved excruciating after-birth pains, like being thrust back into labor except no one felt sorry for you anymore. I also looked forward to the quiet time holding and getting to know my new baby without eleven sets of desperate, pleading eyes looking at me and waiting for their turn.

We found a midwife in a practice with three other doctors, who delivered babies in a hospital just about 40 miles from us.  During the interview we learned that she was of a very traditional mindset. "Crunchy," she was not. She was not even that encouraging about another VBAC.  I was disappointed.  I had assumed that with a successful VBAC under my belt I was back in the club. She assured me I was not. If anything went wrong during my pregnancy (a hefty list of possibilities was brought up), I would have to have a repeat C-Section (because I had one in 2012.)

Long story short, we prayed about it, considered other options and in the end we decided to go back to this traditional midwife. At each appointment during the first and second trimester, she gently reminded me that a VBAC might not be possible if anything went wrong during my pregnancy.  I gently reminded her that nothing was wrong. By the time my third trimester rolled around, we were friends and understood one another well.  I viewed her as the necessary, close-to-my-home person needed to get my baby here.  She viewed me as that crazy woman with all the kids who cracks goofy jokes.

The third trimester arrived and it was the best and most comfortable I had experienced since my 20's. I had resolved to eat healthy and I was enjoying the many benefits of that.  I didn't have heartburn, loose joints or (wahoo!) mood swings, and I slept like a log at night.  A routine sonogram showed a beautiful baby girl, though she was measuring a little small. We giggled at that and looked forward to a fun-sized Moore versus the Paul Bunyans that we typically have. We were already in love with our little girl. My midwife wanted to repeat the sonogram in a month to double-check the baby's growth. I felt she was over-reacting and it crossed my mind that maybe she was looking for a reason to deny me a VBAC because of my age.

The repeat sonogram showed our baby was more "behind" in size.  Midwife was concerned.  I was not.  Kevin was not.  All my family and friends agreed that sonograms could be very unreliable.  True, my belly was smaller but I had given up fudge pop tarts so surely that was why. Like others, I have had a past experience where the size of the baby was supposedly too big so an induction was recommended. When he was born he was only 8 lbs. Hence, this little red flag was ignored.

My ever-cautious midwife wanted to do another sono the following week.  That time, according to the sono, our baby had gained a little.  Midwife was slightly relieved. She wanted another sono in two weeks to make sure.  We talked about my diet.  I assured her I was eating lots of protein but I would eat some pop tarts if it made her feel better.  No, she said.  Sugar doesn't grow a baby, protein does.  Agreed.

November arrived and so did my 36 week mark.  I was still unconcerned about the size of the baby.  I could tell she was smaller than my other babies but after having a baby that was almost 11 pounds., an 8 pounder would feel small.  I still felt that everything was going well and even secretly hoped that if our baby was a little smaller than the rest, maybe it wouldn't hurt like the dickens to push her out.  Maybe I would just sneeze and whoops, there she went.

But after the next sonogram, things became more serious.

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Why Share a Birth Story {And Ramblings on Blogging}

This birth story has been a long time coming, I know.  I had decided not to share it. Then someone would write me or comment on the birth announcement asking wassup and if I was still among the living, and I would revisit the idea of posting it.

A blog is a strange animal.  There was a time I had to be intentional about temperance in the amount of time I spent blogging. I enjoyed it so much. And I was passionate about the topics I was writing on.

Now I do it for other reasons like exercise of the mind. Forming ideas into sentences and then putting them on this screen is a matter of discipline.  Bonus points if the sentences include mostly-correct punctuation.

But I haven't shared Sharlotte's birth story yet, due in part, to the fear of vulnerability.  This is personal.  Personal, dramatic events will draw blog readers like flies to honey, but I quit blogging long ago. And so part of me just wanted to keep this between me and God and my family. There are people who read this blog for no reason but gossip-fodder. People I see in the grocery store or bump into a few times a year, who won't look me in the eye but that have access to the thoughts that wander through my mind. It can make you feel as if you're being spied on.

There are some who read the trials of others just to wag their fingers: "See there how having a big family will make you miserable?"

There are those who read it just to criticize or compare (your doctrine, your practices, your grammar...fill in the blank) so as to elevate themselves.

Time is valuable. Why spend it writing a blog post for people like this? Ain't nobody got time for that.

True, those people have always existed but for some reason I care more about it now.  I value privacy more than I used to.  It isn't funny or cute or flattering to me when my family is "recognized" in public, as has happened a handful of times.

And lastly, I haven't shared Sharlotte's story yet purely due to time restriction.  The weeks following a baby are intense, no matter how many times you have done it.  Nine weeks post partum and I wouldn't say I have caught my breath yet but I have let out a few gasps.  I'm done pushing myself like I did in my young-mom days, to prove my toughness by jumping back into life like nothing ever happened.  A human just came out of my body. A HUMAN JUST CAME OUT OF MY BODY.  Not only that but the relationships in a household this big just grew exponentially and you-know-who is still the moderator.  Also a toddler is among us, hello.

That means if you come over here you need to bring the food or not be surprised that I serve you microwave popcorn for lunch.

Those are some reasons not to share a birth story, or anything that is sacred to you, for that matter.

Someone close to me said, "It's a beautiful story and it should be told."

"Tell among the peoples His deeds." Psalm 9:11

Lately I have seen some of the most vulnerable, personal stories on the Internet. People voluntarily sharing grief so deep that it left me asking how they did it. How they survived such agony and how they were brave enough to put it out there for all of us to see. Their wounds were still bloody and surely they knew they could get punched in the face in the comments.  I was thankful they shared it anyway.

Because we all need to see real humanity. Seeing real lives of people we don't know is not just fun and interesting, like spying on someone who has given you permission. Reading about someone else's real-life events affirms God's faithfulness and His grace in times of trial.  A Christian's trials are never just for their own benefit, but for other Christians as well. Watching someone else get the daylights beat out of them by life, but then stagger, stand up again, and call Him Good, increases our own faith in God.  It brings more glory to Him.

When I was a young mom I scoured the Internet, hopeful I could get a glimpse of someone else doing the hard things, the counter cultural things, living out a pursuit and love for God the best they could. I'm thankful I was able to see a tiny piece of their lives, those who were willing to let strangers "in" for a few moments. If there is a blogger like this that you follow, give her a hug.  She doesn't have to do that. She takes risks to do that, namely her heart.

I'm telling Sharlotte's story because it is beautiful, if only to a few people who understand. I'm telling her story because the details are already growing fuzzy and I never want to forget. I'm telling her story because I think it can be an encouragement to many of you, especially those who fear pregnancy and birth the way I often have, that God will accomplish his will despite the choices you make when you make them in faith. I'm writing it for my daughters.

And with that long winded introduction, ya'll probably think I gave birth to a baby with two heads or something.  No.  I just felt I needed to give the introduction, to acknowledge that I know many won't "get it."  I'm writing it for the handful who do.

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