Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baby on the Way

It has been hard for me to figure out what to write. Finding out I was having a baby busted the last calm nerve I had. I have been reading as much as I can about everything from pregnancy to labor and delivery to the UK healthcare system to hushing a colicky baby. At the same time I have been stressing over the short time we have until we need to leave for Edinburgh.

The main question I have received in the last month is "Do you have morning sickness?" I am not offended by this question even though I hear it about 5 times a day from co-workers and friends since it would be the only thing I would be able to think off to ask too. The fact is I have been blessed to avoid that, though I have been snacking to keep the squeamish stomach feeling down. The main thing I feel is tired. REALLY tired! Then I have also been swinging between depressed and panicked with glimpses of frustration mixed in.

I have found that the glorious image of pregnancy that I kept for four years as we waited for this miracle to happen was completely an illusion. Pregnancy clothes are expensive! I was told by a friend who had her baby in Scotland to buy some to bring with me because they were almost nonexistent in the UK. Well, shopping for them before you need them is really hard. How do I know how big I will get? Will I have a cute basketball tummy or will I need a tent? No matter what I picked out, I felt depressed afterwards because I really don't want to get fat! I understand gaining weight for the baby, but how easy is it to just let yourself go and gain fifty pounds by the second trimester? Everything I have been reading also says that I should not be gaining any weigh right now either (since I am still in the first trimester). Well, like it or not, I have and that makes me wonder if I have already "let myself go". I guess I will just have to be resigned to working hard on losing it all after the baby is born.

After that frustration, there were the issues of finding books that talked about stuff I wanted to learn about. What happened to all the natural birth, hypno birth and water birth books? And why does Walmart only carry one pregnancy magazine? Why do the books about breast feeding not cover all the problems that everyone I know experienced? I would also like to read about pregnancy symptoms other that morning sickness and gaining weight. Is it normal to drink water like a camel? What about about the tiredness I feel now, since the books only mention it at the end of the pregnancy? Where are the over-marketed gear reviews and registry musts? Even the internet seems sparse, but then again I probably should do more that a five second search at a time.

Talking about the internet, I found out that the theme I had always wanted for my baby, classic Winnie the Pooh, has been almost discontinued from some of the major stores. I mean you can find Disney Winnie the Pooh almost anywhere, but that is just loud. I like the old fashioned storybook images. I wouldn't even mind if they replaced "Classic Pooh" with the Velveteen Rabbit or Wind in the Willow, but instead you get Disney or plain patterns, maybe some jungle animals too.

I was mourning over the google searches that showed every store carrying only one or two items when I came across a nice surprise. It turns out E.H. Shepard, the original illustrator of the Winnie the Pooh books and the recognizable "Classic Pooh" images, was British. He lived in Victorian England and the British are still in love with his books. They have lots of classy Winnie the Pooh baby things in the style I love. This asset to our new home location propagated many other happy thoughts.

It really is a fantastic thing that I will have the baby in the UK. First of all, we will qualify for their healthcare which will be free. Secondly, I have heard good reports about the system from the midwives to the house visits after the baby is born. Then, I will also have my dream of being able to stay home with the baby if I do in fact work freelance like I was expecting to. Also, with the housing being so small, there won't be as much housework to do when I am tired and busy with the baby. We will be close enough to everything that I won't have to plan all day excursions into town, but timing quick trips, between feedings, hopefully, for whatever I need.

I have to say that this was still odd timing (can we say God has a sense of humor?). I was not expecting my dreams of traveling around the world to include a child, but I think this was kind of a divine leash on me so that I will not feel like I am doing all of this on my own. I have an over-developed sense of being in control at all times. I like planning and working hard and I am proud of my accomplishments. Sometimes this causes me to feel like I have caused the good things in my life because I have worked hard for it, but the truth is, none of us can cause anything really important to happen without God opening the way. With my tiredness and lack of control over my emotions, I have also lost the vise-like grip over our schedule and finances. I can't seem to stay on top of anything anymore and somehow everything is getting done.

I have to say that this experience, which still has hardly begun, is something I have never imagined would happen. If you tried to tell me a year ago that we would be moving to Scotland and having a baby and Kerry getting his doctorate, I would have suggest you just choose one to pray for and we would worry about the others later.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

As if life weren't interesting enough ... - Kerry

Well, Kerry and Lara fans (yes, all five of you), the wait is over. While I have been remiss in my blogging commitment, the events of the last four weeks, I think, justify my brief break. I don't want to just fill up blogspace with meaningless literary wanderings. I have wanted, from the beginning, for this blog to tell a significant and meaningful story of God's provision, blessing, guidance, and just overall goodness. I think few things trump the events of the last four weeks in telling just that story.

On Saturday morning July 11th, Lara nudged me awake to show me a pregnancy test that had two lines instead of the usual one we had come to expect. It's difficult to express the blend of feelings of relief, elation, and terror that started to come over me in that instant. We have been off of any contraceptive since the summer of 2005 - more than four years of leaving children in the hands of God. That fact in itself explains the the relief and elation. But my terror was not, as you might expect, deriving from the supposed next question that enters a man's mind, namely "How are we going to pay for this?" I can honestly say that this question has not plagued me. If God can provide $13,000, and if God can give us this child, He can also provide the money to pay for it. No, my terror was more a concern for this child to make it past the first trimester and be born, for everything to be okay with it. That terror only grew until the moment we went for our first sonagram last Tuesday, July 28. Despite reason, I was fearful that the little bit of blood Lara had seen a few days before had been a miscarriage. I knew they were going to look in there and not be able to find a baby. I knew that it was going to be implanted in the filopian tubes or in the cervix. I knew something must be wrong.

But there it was, implanted exactly where it should have been, with a heartbeat at 111 beats per minute. It wasn't as old as we thought it was going to be (we were off by two weeks, thinking it would be eight weeks along instead of six), but it was perfectly formed and perfectly functioning, apparently developing exactly as babies have since Eve first conceived Cain. Then, I began to really trust that God was not going to give me a stone when I had asked for bread. This is a consistent faith issue with me, somehow thinking that God is waiting to jinx me, just to show that He is sovereign and that I should be faithful no matter what. This is also why I truly wish that the insider Christian joke about not praying for patience (since that is the surest way to get the capricious God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to jinx you with a test of your patience - ha ha isn't that funny) would just go away and never return from the abyss which spawned it. It's bad theology, and not helpful in the least.

So now we have a baby on the way, due March 23, 2010 (that's 3/23 - and all sorts of Bible verses come to mind). When most people hear about this, they're immediate reaction tends to be in the realm of cancelling Scotland plans because this complicates things too much. On the contrary, this is totally perfect. First of all, it is conspicuous that God waited until we were totally committed to going to Scotland to give us a child. I think that had we already had children, we might not have even considered doing what we are doing. But honestly, I think it will be easier for us to do this in Scotland than in our current situation. Lara was already planning to work freelance, meaning flexible (if busy) schedule, we are covered under the NHS healthcare of Scotland since I am a student, and the baby is due at a time when, perhaps, my schedule will be a little more flexible during those exhausting and stressful first few months.

I'm certain that the second part of everyone's gut reaction has to do with dollar (or should I say pound) signs. I will tell you that money has been on our minds, but God is handling it, and every time Lara or I try to take this problem on ourselves, it does not work out. A great example came about a couple of weeks ago. A car dealership in Henderson, TX (which, for my many out of state and international fans, is about a 45 minute drive southeast from Tyler) sent me an advertisement which guaranteed a prize of some sort if I just came by. The prize could have been a car, $2,500 in cash, or a couple of other things, including (most likely) a Walmart gift card worth up to $1,000. I thought to myself, "Well, it's on my day off, and what can it hurt?" So I went. It was raining when I arrived at the dealership, and business looked slow. A man greeted me and brought me inside where he began to give me the sales pitch for why they were doing the deal they were doing and so on. Then he asked me what sort of vehicle I might be interested in. Honestly, I said, my wife and I are selling everything we own and moving to Scotland, so I really am not interested in any vehicle, just the prize. He took it graciously and departed to get my prize. It was, not surprisingly, a Walmart gift card, but he did not know what the value was, I would have to call to get the balance. He did know that the value could be anywhere between $5 and $1000. So I got in the truck and got out my cell phone to call the number on the card. After entering a ridiculous amount of numbers the generic female voice told me that the balance on the card was ... $5. Not even enough to pay for the gas I would use as a result of this little excursion. I laughed and immediately called Lara to tell her. In the end, it was yet another gentle reminder that God was in control, not chance, not the economy, not me. And deep down in the very center of my being, I believe that. I have peace about this move to Scotland, and I have peace about this baby.

But while I'm not concerned about how to pay for it, there is something that concerns me, and that is the lack of overwhelming emotion I've had. I was expecting that once Lara was pregnant, I would instantly feel deep and inexpressible joy which showed itself in laughter and tears. I expected to feel superlative wonder at God's creative handiwork in the conception of a child. I expected to be obsessed morning and evening with thoughts of the baby. Instead, aside from a few moments where I nearly teared up, most of what I've felt at a very deep level is numbness, and there have been days where I hardly thought about the baby at all. This bothers me. I feel like it reflects on my preparedness to be a dad. It's just so hard to feel those extreme emotions right now with everything else that is going on. From the move to Scotland to Lara's mother to my grandfather to other family drama to the Lifeway store I work at preparing to move (which, by the way, provides probably 75% of my day-to-day stress), I don't really feel like I have anything left to give. But if I can't give that sort of emotional attention to my baby, what kind of dad am I? These are likely irrational thoughts, questions that will be resolved in time. I just feel less and less capable of doing something so incredibly important as parenting a child the more I become acquainted with my own shortcomings. But God has expressed a great deal of faith in us by entrusting this baby to our care. I know that He is faithful to bring that which He begins unto full maturity, and that includes both my baby and me.