Humility, Compassion, and Understanding

daddyhandParenting is a humbling process. I say “process,” not “job,” because while the end goal of this adventure is a constant, the day-to-day details change over time. My biggest dream for my children is that they would grow up to love and follow Jesus. Period. But how to encourage them in that direction looks very different as they age from 7 days, to 7 months, to 7 years. And the frequent changes and mistakes I make as I adapt to my maturing children remind me how much I still have to learn about this parenting gig. Continue reading

Four Birth Stories, Part 2

This post is a continuation of an earlier post. If you haven’t already, you should read Part 1 first. Even if you have seen Part 1 already, you might want to take another look at it. There’s an updated photo, and the pictures now have captions.


Nothing is as precious as a newborn; this was our third-born (photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)

To me, nothing is as precious as a newborn; this was our third-born
(photo credit: Oksana Dyachenko)

These contractions were stronger than the practice contractions I’d been experiencing for months, but they didn’t establish the textbook pattern of getting stronger and closer together. I was in frequent contact with my medical-school friend, and we decided that it must be false labor. But false labor or not, it seemed to be accomplishing something, and I was reminded of my first labor, when I had experienced weak, irregular contractions for 48 hours before finally going to the hospital and finding out that I was already 7 centimeters dilated, almost ready to have the baby!

The anxiety I had been experiencing turned into a strangling sense of dread. This oppressive feeling blanketed every waking moment, like the foreboding that a prisoner on death row must feel as his execution date nears. Frantic from the suspense, I was almost ready to check into the hospital and brave the medical system, but my husband, ever calm and logical, convinced me that was a bad idea.

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Combatting Guilt . . . and Dirty Windows

It's a beautiful spring day here in Western Ukraine. Nevermind that the temperature is hovering right around freezing–the sky is blue, and the sun is bright. It seems appropriate, as here in the Eastern Orthodox world, we'll be celebrating Easter this coming Sunday, April 15. But as much as I love the celebration of Christ's victory over death, this week always has the capacity to fill me with guilt. That's because this Thursday is Chystyy Chetver, or "Clean Thursday," in English. You see, at some point in the history of the Orthodox Church, someone decided that it was a sin to have a dirty home on the day of Christ's crucifixion, and the tradition of Clean Thursday was born. This week Ukrainian women will labor feverishly to ensure that their homes are spotless by Good Friday, with the majority of this spring cleaning taking place on Thursday. If you took a walk in our neighborhood this Thursday, I guarantee that you'd see many people busy washing their windows. In fact, as I sit here typing, I can see one industrious neighbor already hard at work on hers, and it's only Tuesday. 

To help you understand my guilt, I have to let you in on a secret. I don't do windows. I don't mean that I dislike window washing or that I'm too lazy to do it or even that I'm too busy to make it a priority, although perhaps all those statements have an element of truth. No, what I mean is that at some point after having children, I made a calculated decision to stop washing windows. I still clean up the little fingerprints and wet nose art that appear on the inside of our windows, but I only wash the outsides of windows that open into our apartment or give onto a balcony, and in our current living situation, those surfaces comprise only about 50% of the total area of windowpanes. As for the other 50%? Well, I guess I just count on summer thunderstorms to keep them clean enough that they won't become a complete eyesore.

Why do I do this?

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More Than Fun

Today I am twenty-seven weeks pregnant and have officially entered the third trimester. This is the first pregnancy that I have ever carried past the first trimester, and it is the first time that I have ever looked pregnant or been able to feel the movements of the little life inside me. I feel lavishly blessed.
 
My sisters-in-law all have very difficult pregnancies with severe nausea and vomiting throughout much or all of the nine months. My mother-in-law says that she could never understand women who claimed to gain a wonderful sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from being pregnant. "I always thought I was going to die when I was pregnant," she says. "I did it for the baby."
 
I find it unfortunate that pregnancy must be such a trial for some women, because I'm learning that it can be a uniquely magical and enjoyable time of life. I've been blessed with an easy pregnancy. Except for bedrest and debilitating fatigue during the first trimester, I've had little about which to complain. Of course, there are the usual inconveniences (back problems, muscle cramps, heartburn, intestinal upset, clumsiness, poor memory, and so on) but they all pale in comparison to the miracle taking place in my womb.
 
I never feel alone anymore, because the baby is right with me—making his presence felt most of the time! I can talk with him, sing to him, dance around the room with him, and even give him a loving massage that I've read he can actually feel. My changing shape alerts everyone to my special condition, and suddenly I find that complete strangers are kind and considerate toward me! This is a welcome change after nearly four years of rough treatment at the hands of strangers. It is true that the whole world is nice to pregnant women, even in Kyiv, Ukraine.
 
Beyond these advantages, I find that pregnancy has another, more profound, aspect, that of motherhood. Although people call me "an expectant mother," in so many ways I have already become a mother. There will never be another time when I will be as connected to this child. Never again in his life will he be so dependent upon me to meet all his needs. We share a bond now that nothing else will ever fully imitate. So I look forward to those times when my decreased stamina demands that I put my feet up and take a break, because then it's just me and Baby as I contemplate the new and growing joys of motherhood.


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