Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Lies, Guilt, Freedom, and Love

When we found out that we were pregnant with our second child, I immediately started to pray for another son. I just felt like my heart was wired to have 2 boys, that God did not wire me to be the mom of a daughter, and that having that extra person to wrestle with  - especially during the hours of the day that Daddy is at work - for my firstborn would be absolutely perfect.

At 16 weeks, we had an ultrasound done due to some complications I was experiencing with the pregnancy. I told the technician that I knew that sometimes at 16 weeks you could tell the gender, and that if anything was obvious she didn't have to hide it from us because in 2 weeks we were going to find out anyways. There was a point in which she stopped the wand and pointed out on the monitor something she thought she saw: "Look at this," she said pointing at the screen. "Now, it's early to tell, but that certainly does look like something doesn't it? But don't start decorating yet, wait until your next ultrasound because I could be wrong."

I didn't start decorating - but I did start picking out and discussing names with my husband. Names like "Matthew" and "Xander" and "Dexter" and other names that you call a boy. I was over the moon with excitement because we were going to have another little boy! ANOTHER BOY! I was going to be one of those Moms of Boys who were always lamenting the troubles of having boys - but I was never going to lament, because BOYS!!!

Evie - 12/2013 ultrasound
Two weeks later, the full workup ultrasound happened. While my incredibly active baby flipped and flopped and the tech somehow managed to get all of the measurements she needed, she looked also for the gender indicator.

"Right there!" she declared. I looked and saw nothing. Nothing at all. Two chunky little spread eagle thighs that she had frozen on the screen.

"Right there what?"

"You're having a little girl! Look at that, see - one, two, three - those three little lines show me that you're having a girl."

...and my heart sank. There would be no "Matthew Dexter" puttering around my house (it was the name I had decided on even though there had been no agreement yet with my other half). There would be no addition of testosterone to the fold.

I feigned excitement. "Cool! A girl!" I said (or something like that). I buried my disappointment and just prayed that the remainder of the pregnancy go well, that the hematoma I had would resolve itself and cause no harm on my little girl. We prayed over a name for her and scoured baby name books (because we didn't like any of the family names we had as first names for a daughter) and waited. At 28 weeks or so - the day before we found out the hematoma had indeed resolved itself - we landed on the name Evangeline, which means "bearer of good news".

Yet here I was, disappointed that I had a daughter growing in my belly. And the first few months of her life she just cried - the child that refused to believe she was a baby, was stubborn and independent and determined from the day she was born. Not only had God given me a daughter - He had given me a daughter that was every mother's wish to their own children: she was just like me.

Somewhere around Evie's first birthday as her personality was really starting to form and that independence was forming into an active, bouncing, exploring toddler who was the best companion her big brother could have ever asked for... the guilt set in.

How could I have EVER questioned God's judgment in giving us a daughter? What kind of mother am I to have been disappointed with any sort of healthy child growing inside me - especially when I didn't think I could have one successful pregnancy, never mind two? What would my daughter say if she ever found out that I was disappointed that SHE is my child and that I didn't get a "yes" answer to my prayers of another boy? Why would I think that anyone other than who God gifted to our family would be a better friend and sibling to Will than our Evie-girl? 

I spent the next year wrestling with this guilt, this doubt of my worth as a mother in ever questioning the gift of my bright, bold, loving, loquacious, adorable, wonderful daughter. Anyone who has ever dealt with "Mom-Guilt" or "Parent-Guilt" knows that it can be some of the heaviest, most self-doubt creating, horrible brands of guilt that exists. It's like the glitter of emotions; once it covers something or enters your heart, it's near impossible to get rid of it - and when you think it might be gone you find more that's even more impossible to remove than the glitter you thought you already got rid of.

There were a few times that I would be watching my daughter in some sort of moment, something that was showing how she was growing and developing into this absolutely wonderful little person, and I would feel that gut-punch of guilt again at the doubt I had when she was still in-utero. So many times I would hold back tears because the guilt would come out of nowhere, in a wave, and I wouldn't know how to contain it.

Then one night as I was making dinner somewhere around my sweet Evangeline's seccond birthday, my guilt seeped through enough that my husband saw that something was wrong. I confessed to him these waves of guilt I would feel, that I hated that part myself for ever doubting God's plan in our daughter, that I wished I had never felt that way.

"D," he said, "I think it's time to let that go. Do you love your daughter?"

"Well... yeah, of course, I mean... look at her - she's Evie."

"Then? Let it go, D. You know God has. And I don't ever doubt that you love her. So? Let it go."

We prayed together that night about it. I prayed about it for a while after that and I know that Steve did too. I know this because at some point the guilt just... disappeared. I hadn't noticed it at all, but it had just withered away and disappeared like dust on a windy day. There was no second thought about it until the other day when I was laughing and giggling with my Evie on the couch and I got this overwhelming wave of emotion - but it wasn't guilt. It was joy, it was wonder, it was love. Then again a few days later as I listened to her telling me a story in a language structure that no 2.5-year-old should have yet. Joy, wonder, and love.

These moments kept happening again and again and again. Joy. Wonder. Love. Joy. Wonder. Love. It was during one of these moments that it hit me: the guilt was gone.

God had taken the guilt off of my shoulders and opened my eyes to the wondrous gift of our little girl. He removed that weight of self-doubt and instead opened my heart to experience that which He wants all parents to experience with children. Joy. Wonder. Love.

In that realization I felt so much freedom. Freedom to enjoy my daughter, to focus on building my relationship with her, freedom to experience the joy of having a daughter and the freedom that comes with having confidence that God's plan is indeed better than any plan we could imagine. 

Moms... Dads... Parents... we all experience guilt in our parenting, am I right? Sometimes we snap at our kids when we lose our patience or we forget about something that we said we would do or we don't pay as much attention as we feel like we should or whatever other list of things we beat ourselves up over in any given moment or day or week. We forget to have grace with ourselves, to remember that we are human and imperfect, that we will never be able to be one of those fictional parents that have been created by society as the flag-bearer of perfection in parenting.

We also forget that when parent-guilt sets in, when we start to experience self-doubt, when we hear those whisperings that we have somehow failed and that because of that failure we cannot be the parent God has called us to be - we forget that those words, those feelings do not come from God. We forget that those are lies, that those feelings are not the truth, that those are things that come from the Enemy. John 8:44 tells us of Satan that "...He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding on to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he speaks, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." 

Lies of self-doubt are not of God. There are plenty of kinds of healthy guilt that DO indeed come from God - but that weighty, paralyzing, self-doubting, inescapably burdensome guilt is not. That is not the kind of guilt meant to make us grow, to repent from our sin and become closer to Him. Rather, that is is the kind of guilt that further divides us from God and brings us off of the path He has set for our lives. We need to be able to recognize when our guilt - especially that horrible parent-guilt - is not of God so that we can pray, combat it, and be released from it. Only then will we be able to hear the Holy Spirit work in our hearts and do the work in our parenting that God has called us to do.

Evangeline - "bearer of good news".

And here I thought that good news she brought with her was just that we chose her name the same time that the hematoma was one... turns out it was so, so much more than that.

Joy. Wonder. Love.

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