complicated peace

This surprise pregnancy arrived with more complicated feelings than I expected. I don’t think it makes me a bad mum or a bad woman to admit to that complexity, to confess the squirrelly, overwhelmed, and terrified feelings of a complete reorientation of my life.

Once we knew that the baby was healthy and all was well, the reality of the changes ahead hit me.

Whoa. We are having a baby. An actual baby.

Aren’t I too old for this? We were done having babies for very good reasons – not the least of which is my history of miscarriages. I thought my life was going in one direction and now it’s going in a completely new direction. I had thought I was starting one particular chapter of my life, one that brought me a lot of joy – tinies growing into marvellous big kids, finally emerging from the fog of babies-toddlers mothering, and a strong sense of purpose around my own vocation, for instance – but when I flipped the page, there was unprecedented change for us. A baby. Wow.

This baby was my cry-of-the-heart baby, absolutely. I longed for her life even as I made plans to move into our new chapters with gratitude. And a bit of disorientation is good for a person, I think.

The later-babies are a different sort of feeling, I’ve found, a bit more complicated and precious for that very thing. I was starry-eyed at the thought of one last little baby to treasure, one last time to experience pregnancy, birth, nursing, all of it. We’ve been washing impossibly tiny sleepers, reorganizing the house, borrowing my sister’s baby gear.

One of the best parts of this pregnancy so far has been sharing it with the tinies themselves. I had all three of them in four years so they were practically babies themselves as each one arrived. This time, they crowd around me on the couch, their hands spread all over my bump, shrieking in joy with each rewarding kick or push back from inside.

Me? I have full intentions of making an absolute fool of myself over this wee girl: now I know that it goes so fast, too fast.

And yet I believe that there is room for a bit of grief in the joy and gratitude. Throughout this pregnancy, I have felt disappointed in myself, too: disappointed that I wasn’t yay-happy-unicorns-and-rainbows-and-babies-forever at every single moment, disappointed that I felt both some disorientation and complication, even some grief, along with the joy.

I wanted uncomplicated pure joy, but instead I have spent this pregnancy grappling with faith and what it means to trust God, then with the realities of change coming our way, even with my own limitations. I can’t do it all. I can’t keep up the life that I had envisioned beginning and be the mother that I know I love to be, the mother I’m called to be, to this wee girl, let alone to the tinies as they grow up. I’ve heard it said that babies and toddlers are physically tiring but big kids are emotionally and spiritually tiring: so far that’s proven true to me. I’ve been admitting my weaknesses and limits, even my preferences and desires particularly if they are different than other people’s expectations.

I have been honest with my trusted ones over these months, confessing my complicated feelings and my occasional swings between sheer joy and sheer terror. I’ve also worked with my naturopath and midwife to make sure that I’m healthy and strong for birth and post-partum emotionally and physically. I’ve received a lot of encouragement and prayer, understanding and “you’re not alone” moments. The advice that almost every woman has given me, particularly from my friends who have experienced a surprise or unplanned pregnancy at any point in their life, has been this: just wait, let yourself feel what you feel, you get to be both happy and sad. Trust that the peace will come when it is time. Maybe not right away, maybe not at the moment you expect or want, but peace will come.

This pregnancy has become another altar for encountering God. For some reason, mothering is my place of surrender and trust, out of my control and yet such a sweet place of building trust and authenticity.

My friend, Wendy, who is an amazing seamstress presented us with a quilt she made for Tiny #4. I couldn’t even thank her, my voice was gone with gratitude, my eyes filled with tears. I already feel myself fighting for the little fourth baby, the one who gets the hand-me-downs and the seen-it-all-befores so this special and beautiful gift, just for our new wee girl, all hers and only hers, was powerful to me.

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Last week, we had another ultrasound. I have big babies and so our midwives always like to get a good idea of what’s ahead as we draw near to birth. I went to the appointment alone as we had the flu at our house last week so I didn’t want to risk bringing any germs. (And I just wanted a break from laundry and to breathe fresh air alone, can I get an amen?)

But as I lay there on the table for the procedure, the technician swiping across my belly with her wand, the images were flashing on the screen: here’s her spine, here’s her feet, here’s her heart beating, here’s her hands. She was sucking her thumb which is just incredible to me. Such a little person already.

And then she moved her hand and I caught a glimpse of her lower face. She was beautiful, she looked exactly like all of our babies, but especially like Evelynn to me. They have the same mouth, the big pout with impossibly chubby cheeks. My heart stilled.  I caught my breath at the sight of her.

Oh, I exhaled. Oh, there you are. There you are.

You belong, you’re ours, you’re beautiful, there you are. 

The peace flooded into my heart at the sight of her mouth, just her mouth. Peace that she was ours, she belonged with us, we longed for her, we need her, we love her, we cherish her, we are so privileged, so blessed.

The complicated feelings might still be real, still there, sometimes even primary, but it’s a complicated peace now, a trust that the disorientation is part of the gift. Her mouth was enough in that moment.

Yes, life is changing. Yes, this is not what I expected at this point in my life.

And yes, that very thing is the greatest gift, the greatest joy, at the same time. She’s ours, we longed for her, and against all the odds, she’ll be here, real and alive and complicated herself, so very soon.

 

Confessions
[Love Looks Like] 2:07 a.m.
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  • melaniecurry

    This is beautiful Sarah, I’m so excited for your new little girl to join you. 🙂

  • Kelli B

    I’m laughing. Laughing because I literally just posted on my blog about my current pregnancy and the varying emotions I’ve been struggling with. It was for me to read this. Thank you. Blessings on tiny #4

    • Love how God connects us in these ways! So cool.

  • Oh… I get this…. I had multiple miscarriages…. 3 earthly babies…I was diagnosed with a chronic illness…. So I thought my baby days were over… Their was an agonizing down of my desire for 6 children…. Peace came…. Gave away all things baby… Then found out we were PG… 7 years between the youngest of the first 3 and this one….Oh talking about mixed emotions ….fear mostly winning the day… I was sick and pushing 40…. Oh but what pure joy came….a light in one of our most dark moments… We were blessed with another baby months before my 40th bday…. Our last baby was just held by God…. These children in our later years have been such a blessing….most of my friends are empty nesters..having these later babes have kept us more engaged in life around us….has kept us on our knees…having grandchildren and children at home provides a unquie life… I won’t change our story…. Blessings as you embrace the gift this new tiny will bring!!!!

    • So much grace and hard beauty to your story, Ro – thank you for this.

  • Thank you for writing this. You have put into words what I have not been able to express adequately or without sounding like a jerk to those who are in completely different positions. My husband and I are expecting baby #5 in June…and my initial response was complete disbelief and ugly crying. To know I’m not alone in vacillating between euphoria over this new life and pain over what will not be what I thought is incredibly comforting.

    • So glad to hear that, Erin – we aren’t alone and I believe there is hope, too.

  • Amy Hunt

    I. Can’t. Begin.

    Oh, Sarah . . . you sing the song of my heart with these words as I am in the midst of a very much longed for, yet very long journey to get to kind of a pregnancy; one that surprised me, too, especially with how I feel and don’t feel all at the same time. My boy-man will be nearly 11 years older than our lil-boy-man and two is all I envision for us, yet so much more than I could ever ask for.

    This touched me deeply. More than I can even begin to say: “let yourself feel what you feel, you get to be both happy and sad. Trust that the peace will come when it is time. Maybe not right away, maybe not at the moment you expect or want, but peace will come.”

    • So get this, Amy – thank you for sharing this with us!

  • Sarah, there are hardly any words. Your writing moves me deeply, and makes me long to be a better, more poetic, more naturally honest & naturally supernatural writer, like you. Praying for your family, you, and this longed-for baby. My sister is 6 weeks pregnant with her first, also a longed-for baby, so this subject been on my mind recently….what a precious gift these little lives are. Thank you.

  • “This pregnancy has become another altar for encountering God.”
    I love this. I’m with you. As i write my 4th baby is wrapped on my chest. I really wanted a #4 but had lots of fear. How was I going to handle homeschooling, writing, and all the other things I believe God’s given me while taking care of a newborn? Thankful for grace . . .

  • Oh how wonderfully you express the complicated, profound and beautiful emotions of motherhood! I love that you are receiving such wonderful support, too. Where would we be without each other? Thank God for the sacred moments he gives us, and gave you in that ultrasound room! And, yeah, Amen to breathe fresh air alone and break from laundry! xo

  • Sandy Hay

    My heart is pounding and I’m crying as I read. It’s been YEARS since I was pregnant but all the emotion is never lost. you’ve written what so many pregnant moms think about, pray about but surely don’t say out loud. You sweet lovely to let us into your heart and share the tears, the sadness, the joy. Thank you

    • So glad to hear this, Sandy – since writing this earlier, it has been so good to hear that we’re not alone in these feelings.

  • Kadee

    Thank you so much for this, Sarah. My fourth (to-term) baby was unexpected, and I sobbed when I found out I was pregnant with her. Anger, shame, despair, you name it and I felt it. Now she is 15 months old and has been the most remarkable, joyful blessing to our family. Every week or so I have a moment where I look at her and thank God for confounding my plans.

  • Zoey

    Sarah, I am not a mother — somewhat by choice. My husband of 20 years and I decided to not have children until we were a bit too old. Now we are going to be foster parents if they call us. Your writing is beautiful and I so appreciate your honesty. I also have mixed feels about foster parenting — scared and excited at the same time. Of course it isn’t as certain as your situation but this non-mother appreciates hearing such an honest account of emotions from a mom.

    • So get this, Zoey – blessings on you as you walk out in faith, even in the complications.

  • Hi Sarah,
    While as a man I can’t really know what it feels like to have life blessedly, if complicatedly, interrupted by a pregnancy I had a thought while reading your post.

    I can see how, at this point in your life, on the cusp of more books and speaking and all the associated things that magnify your impact and voice, how having a baby would affect a lot of those plans, making things more difficult or delayed.

    But I can’t help but wonder, having now found and established your voice with Jesus Feminist, how there might be something really special brewing in having you cycle back through motherhood. Your voice going back to the beginning and then carrying a much larger following forward with you. I think that’s going to be an amazing journey.

    All that to say, I think something really, really special is about happen with you and your writing. It might not be exactly what you had planned, but I have a feeling it will be extraordinary.

    Blessings to you and all the Besseys, especially that wee girl.

    • Richard, you’re just the best. Thank you for this. I have had that same thought but more from the standpoint of relief, like I have an “out” now because I’ve never felt like the speaking thing particularly was “me.” I feel most fully me in my real life, not in some stage-driven weird thing about audience/platforms etc. so I confess I’m glad for this very thing, too. Thank you for your wisdom and for seeing this side of it, too. Makes me a little less crazy. 🙂

    • Nicole R.

      Wow Richard, very beautiful insight.

  • This is my surprise pregnancy too Sarah. It has been filled to the brim with emotion and so.many.feelings as it has been full of complexities and high risk stuff and STRESS and STRESS. It has taught me more than any of my other pregnancies or any other life event so far. There was a period where I was so scared to talk about the pregnancy with the other children. Now we are at a place where we are just embracing what we have right now. Growing tummy and kicks and family all around.

  • Katie

    SO excited for you Sarah! All the best to you for a safe delivery and happy arrival of your newest family member!

  • Thank you, Sarah, for being brave enough to share those mixed feelings with us. I love how God knows just what we need and never fails to meet us there in the midst of the unexpected.

    When we found out we were expecting #4, it was a wonderful thing but really quite bad timing, for a number of reasons. I shared those feelings over at my blog, about the joy and the fear and the everything else over this lovely but much-earlier-than-expected stowaway. I can’t tell you how it hurt my soul to receive comments and emails telling me about birth control and safe sex and “no true accidents”. Why do we do this to each other? What good could possibly come from responding to vulnerability with shame and criticism? And yet such is the risk that comes with being vulnerable, and despite knowing that, I must confess that I allowed those (unpublished) comments and emails to affect my willingness to share other challenging feelings. So thank you again for your bravery, and for reminding me to be brave and honest as well.

  • Heather B

    My baby #4 was also a complete and utter surprise!!! I was definitely not at a unicorn and rainbows place for the first couple of weeks after I found out!! Then even as I began to become ok with the idea of another baby, I didn’t feel the same as I did with the others! You see, my baby at that point was almost 4 yrs old!! I was finally going to go back to my career and have the life I had dreamed of!! Just like you I was so excited for bigger kids!! Then this wrench was thrown into MY plan! But that was my problem! I wanted MY plan and not HIS plan!! I never knew how complete he would make our family until the day he was born!! So not only did God have a great sense of humor by choosing us to have this precious babe, he made his birthday Jesus’ birthday! At this very moment that precious blessing is 3yrs old and currently sitting in my lap! While I was not happy at first, I can literally not imagine my life without him! I’m glad HIS plan was way better than mine!!!

  • Ashley

    Oh, this was so very good to read. We were living in Asia, my husband was terribly depressed, and I was totally overwhelmed with three boys when I discovered I was pregnant with another boy. My youngest was three and a half when his baby brother was born. I was in denial and completely unwilling to become a mother for the fourth time, even as I went into labor. Then he turned out to be my only colicky baby. To say it was a hard year of pregnancy and “fourth trimester” would be an understatement. Even now, as I parent a two-year-old one more time, I have moments of “complicated peace” about this fourth little handsome boy. But he is beautiful and funny and affectionate and disarming. He was such a gift to my husband in a time of healing. He gave us an excuse to move back to the States and get healthy again. He opens doors for conversation now that we are back in Asia. And watching his big brothers love him and care for him in ways they were too young to do with the third has been amazing.

    Thank you for your honesty. Thanks for being okay with a complicated peace.

  • Joanna

    I’m reading this, pregnant, not all rainbows-and-unicorns, worried more about how the heck we’re going to get 3 carseats in our cars and afford daycare than the plans I’ve made fro teh otehr two babies. Thanks for writing this. Oh, and I clicked over from Facebook, and Facebook’s “suggested article” after this one was yours from exactly a year ago: http://sarahbessey.com/learning-live-ache/

  • Thank you for being so honest about your experience. I have twin one-year-old daughters, and I experienced many of the same complicated feelings during my pregnancy. I’m fairly certain that my shade of green from morning sickness got even more sickly-looking when the ultrasound tech exclaimed that she saw two. I believe the experience of struggling through such complex emotions is part of what makes moms amazing. God bless you and your family.

  • Tina Kachmar

    So excited to be a bystander on this journey of yours. You make those feelings and emotions some of us hide, seem okay. My oldest just turned 21 and is having my first grandchild, due on the 28th. I’m 42 and my 5y/o is still trying to understand what being an “uncle” means. Your faith in God is such a light to me and I’m looking forward to seeing how God works in your ministry with this new beginning. Blessings to you and your “growing” family. Sending lots of love, prayers and thoughts to you, lovely lady.

  • “I’ve heard it said that babies and toddlers are physically tiring but big kids are emotionally and spiritually tiring: so far that’s proven true to me.”

    Me too. And I’m always a bit in awe of the mamas who take on both at once, with larger families spanning the ages and stages of motherhood. My boys are 2.5 years apart, so one follow quickly on the tail of the other in development and we (mostly) pass through our seasons together. When we have fostered or provided respite for littles it unravels me (for larger, emotional reasons of course but here I’m speaking of the very basic unraveling of routine and comfort in the stage we are in).

    But, I’ve also seen the blessings of wisdom and perspective in those families, and the unique joys the big kids experience in the glow of a new baby, and the unique gift the baby experiences as the object of such affection. That you already know you’ll make yourself a fool for her…. I’ve seen that wonder so many times in families like yours and it is beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing your heart, and how capable it is of holding conflicting feelings at once. That is truth, in so many areas of life, and it always helps to be reminded. Love to you and yours as you count the days for your next big adventure.

  • Abbie Kampman

    Love this. Love you. Thank you for your raw truth and beauty. That little lady is absolutely, 120% dearly loved. I cannot wait to see that face.

  • Wow! That is incredible Sarah. I’m so glad you have a peace with this pregnancy and the new life you’re creating for the world. I’m sure she will be just as amazing as your other little ones and, especially their mama – you!

    Right now, I’m longing a bit for our second. The one that hasn’t yet been created, but I know what it’s like to think your life is going one direction and something amazing and wonderful goes and changes that. That’s what happened when I met Hun. I thought my life was going in this other completely opposite of my own family direction, I’d accepted it as fact. Then, there he was. And so our life began, together. And we were in constant flux and change until more recently. But, there is a peace that comes, even a complicated peace. And eventually I’ve settled into just a peace. 🙂

  • EchoGainesDay

    YES! A thousand times, YES. I have a surprise baby on the way, a baby whose mere existence proves to the world that single moms aren’t necessarily chaste and that, even if you’re 34 your family will still be upset with you because you’re not married and having ANOTHER child.

    AMEN to “The later-babies are a different sort of feeling, I’ve found, a bit more
    complicated and precious for that very thing. I was starry-eyed at the
    thought of one last little baby to treasure, one last time to experience
    pregnancy, birth, nursing, all of it,” as well as the part about the older children now being old enough to be excited and experience all of this. It’s so, so great.

    I really needed this! Thank you.

  • This happened to me last year. Our two older boys were almost 12 and 14 and we had even began preparing our hearts for the empty nest that we knew would come all too soon. We travel full time around the country in our RV (by choice) and were worried how having a baby would affect the lifestyle we love so much. My emotions ran the all over the place but one night soon after he was born I heard this whisper that he was the answer to a prayer I hadn’t known I had. He’s 9 months now and our lives have been turn upside down in the most beautiful way.

  • So beautifully expressed and real. So often we think emotions should cancel each other out (like joy should erase pain or faith should erase doubt) but in reality, we live alongside both. I’m glad you released us to embrace the reality of both in our lives.

  • Thank you for such a beautiful, sensitive and intimate expression.

  • Jory Peterson

    This is beautiful! 🙂 -Jory Micah

  • Teresa

    I loved this and I needed it! Thank you!

  • Joy Geaslen

    I love this! I love how God is growing you through being a mother. Sometimes I miss the ways that I related with God when I was single and I feel overwhelmed with my little ones. But this is SO encouraging! Thanks for sharing from your heart!

  • Thinking of you as we think about having baby #4! 😉

    P.S. You look beautiful in that photo.

  • Greer Oharah

    Thanks for such honest and authentic thoughts on your place in life. Very encouraging.

  • pastordt

    Tears here. Oh, my, YES. Complicated and wonderful. And hard and difficult. And exactly the right thing. She is a gift and so are you.

  • lindalouise

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented on your blog before Sarah, but this time… Although we are in far different seasons of life (I’m old enough to be your Mama), this speaks to my heart right where I am. This time of caring for aging parents and facing things that change the way I had planned life to be when I reached this age. Yes – joy and grief merge, and we learn to trust all over again.
    Thank you for sharing your heart. It blesses.

  • Lisamarie f

    Sarah I enjoy your writing. I have a blog that is also different and steps over the line at times focused on Trauma, PTSD and God.http://healingtakesalifetime.blogspot.com/
    I have just begun to share my trauma story and I know it is the spirit pushing me because someone somewhere needs to hear it. So if you know of anyone please point them my way. Thank you.

  • Sarah

    I love that line of “just wait, let yourself feel what you feel, you get to be both happy and sad.” I remember struggling with allowing myself to feel the wide range of emotions when I was pregnant and feeling like everyone around me was telling me to always be happy and excited as if feeling sad at times was not allowed! What peace to have that overflowing, overwhelming sense of this new life belonging to you. May you allow yourself to experience all feelings in the transitions ahead as you wait expectedly for this tiny gift to arrive.

  • jbw

    Beautiful post. I too had a surprise pregnancy and looking back believe I went into a depression. The guilt of not wanting another child was huge to me. This was a 3rd baby after having 2 (rambuncious!) boys 20 months apart who were now on their way out of toddlerhood. I am happy to say that having this 3rd baby has been an absolute gift. It is the first time I have truly enjoyed having a baby. I know what to expect, am relaxed and I know how fast it truly goes. There is a lot ot be said for experience. I also really enjoyed that my older two were excited about my growing belly and the anticipation of another brother on the way. Seeing the 3 of them together makes my heart burst 🙂 I have a feeling you too will experience a similar feeling 🙂

  • Amy

    Oh Sara this is just beautiful!! As a mom of a now almost 12 yo who is 11 & 13 years younger than our other two boys I well remember the shock. We were preparing for teenagers, soon to be followed by an empty nest. We received a tiny little red headed, freckle face piece of heaven. Shamefully there are times I still wonder briefly what if he had not come along, but it’s brief and fleeting and never means I would trade him for anything in the world. I think it’s just a natural way of reflecting on life then and now. This little boy brought joy within the grief of the loss of my mother in law, he has a different personality than the other two, he is doted on by adult brothers, was used as a “chick magnet” when they were in high school, and now basks in the reality of being an “only child” and yet not an “only child”. When I look back on the other two boys it was a scrambled chaotic mess of learning how to parent two young boys…..as I look back on this one I remember the sweet moments with much more clarity, I worried less, was more free in sharing him, and I slowed down…..and enjoyed the moments: no hurrying him along to walk…..just growing at his own pace and relishing his little boy ness as long as possible. And mostly thanking God every step of the way for what He knew……for what He blessed us with. Thank you for sharing

  • dwmitchell

    Well. A friend sent this my way as you so beautifully told my story. Littles ages 10, 7 & 6 …. And the surprise on the way. It’s nice to hear someone else express the combination of grief & gratitude the way you did.

  • I’m currently pregnant with our 5th {due in June 2015}. While this child was very much planned {infertility treatment to have}…I still have moments {and longer} when I’m terrified of what having a baby again means. Our youngest {3 year old triplets} are almost potty trained and independent, our oldest {5 years old} is a big help…but as the song goes….”A baby changes everything…”

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  • Laurie Scarpelli

    Love this! Thanks for your honesty. As someone who has experienced their own share of unexpected life turns amidst joyful circumstances, there is absolutely space for complicated feelings.

  • I felt this way when I got pregnant with our second (and final) baby – six years after having our first, one year after accepting that we’d be a family of three. I was certainly not all unicorns and rainbows about it, though I *was* happy and grateful. And, honestly, she’s 13 months now and I’m still not just one thing. It’s more complicated than that, this life and parenting. I ADORE this baby in a way I did not know how to adore my first, and she really is simply the best. But…well…life is different with a baby. And it’s different than it would be, than I expected it to be when we were going to be a solid trio of Carvers moving into a new phase. We still moved into a new phase, but as a team of four with a stroller and diaper bag in tow. 🙂

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