Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Because You Are a Momma

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As we close out May, the month of moms, I'd like to offer a grand finale.

But first, I need to confess something . . .

Until my own daughter began her struggle with infertility, I was likely one of those women who said dumb things on the topic of motherhood.  "You'll be a good mom someday," may have crossed my lips, not knowing that the person I was addressing had miscarried twice. Or was desperately trying to conceive.

I didn't realize then, as I truly do now, that motherhood is as much a matter of the heart as it is a matter of conception, birth, and parenting. I didn't know - as I do now - that God could create in a woman such a burning desire to conceive and hold a child of her own that she becomes a REAL MOM long before desire turns to reality. I didn't understand that there are scores of women who carry the burden and pain of infertility, miscarriage, and releasing their children into the arms of Jesus.



I'm writing to apologize. I'd like to say I'm sorry for any harmful words that I allowed to slip from my lips. I meant well but instead caused you pain and I'm sorry. Will you forgive me? I promise that I will think twice before I speak. That I will consider your past and present struggles before making what I believe to be an innocent comment that rips your heart in two.

Because I now know that there are Mommas around me that I may not recognize. To you I acknowledge and declare: You are a Momma.

There's much more to say, but I honestly can't say it any better than my lovely friend, Heather Butler. Will you follow the link to read her post? I know you'll be blessed. Here's her delightful post called Because You Are a Momma.

I pray that through our posts this month, we've honored every mom and stirred some healing and awareness in the process. Thank you, again, to our guest bloggers, Jessica Dodero (my daughter) and new friend Laura Welch. Your courage both amazes and inspires me.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28






Powerful Reading on Motherhood







www.strengthenedbytheword.com

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Invisible Mom

 This is a guest post by Laura Welch


As a woman who has battled infertility for 2 years and recently lost a baby through miscarriage, I can't help but feel like an invisible mom to the outside world. 

I don't have a baby you can see. I don't have a child you can babysit. I don't have a daughter that you can play dress up with. And I don't have a son you can shoot hoops with. So to the outside world, one would think that I don't have a child at all. But I do.

Your child might be here on earth - but mine is in heaven.

As a mom whose baby isn't here on earth, you get asked a lot of questions from people who aren't aware of your situation and can't visibly see that you're a mom.

"When are you having kids?"

"What's taking you so long?"

"Do you have any kids?"

So many questions. And every single one stings. To answer these questions you feel like you have to go into your whole life story to a complete stranger or even an acquaintance. But instead, you just brush it off, give vague answers and try to change the subject. Leaving, once again, heartbroken as the "invisible mom."

Heartbroken as the "invisible mom."


Heartbroken because you desperately want a child in your arms right now.

Heartbroken because you want a lot of babies and it feels like you can't even have one.

Heartbroken because they don't realize it takes a lot of time, money, planning, and medicines to even try to conceive - so that's "what's taking so long."

The Hardest Question to Answer


Heartbroken because the hardest question to answer is, "Do you have any children?" Even though the answer is "yes," explaining to a stranger or acquantance that you had a miscarriage and now your baby is in heaven, is no easy task. I still struggle with answering that question and to be honest with you, sometimes my answer is "no" or "not yet." And then I feel guilty for not honoring the life of my baby. There is simply no easy way to answer that question without a flood of emotions.



For me, I have a precious baby who is in the arms of Jesus. A baby who is loved beyond measure and is missed every single day. For you, it might be the same situation - or maybe you're struggling with infertility and are begging for a child. In my eyes, you too, are a mother.

We might not have babies you can see, but we're still moms. We're just invisible moms - to the world.

I'm still struggling with infertility and trying to cope with the loss of our first (and only) baby so I know your pain and sadness. I know how alone it feels to be on this journey. I know how your hope and faith waver from time to time. I know how some days you want to give up. I know you want nothing more than to hold a baby in your arms.

But above all, I know that God is in control. I know that His plans are far greater than our own. And I know that He will use these struggles as a tool for us to help others dealing with the same issues.

So take heart - you may be an invisible mom to the world, but to God and to myself, you aren't invisible. You are a mom - an amazing mom. Rest in His hope and cling to His promises, sweet momma.





Meet Laura Welch:

I'm originally from a small town in southern Virginia but have lived in Myrtle Beach, SC for almost 11 years. I've been married to my best friend (and greatest supporter) for 6 years. My passion is for others to love Jesus and for their marriages and relationships to thrive. My hope is to encourage each other to fight for our marriages, to build each other up, pray for one another through the tough times of life and to help each other grow spiritually. 
I believe you'll find my blog to be real, uplifting, funny, insightful and challenging. 
You can read more over on my blog at https://wifeyforlifey1.blogspot.com.



Thursday, May 18, 2017

3 Things I Wish You Knew About My Infertility


This is a guest post by Jessica Dodero.


It's a real struggle. For 697 days, we’ve tried, without success, to conceive. We knew we were going to have trouble conceiving, so we decided to start trying immediately after our wedding. A part of me always knew it was going to be hard, but I could have never imagined how painful it would truly be.

Just as a warning, if you’re someone who gets who gets grossed out about “girl troubles” then this particular post isn’t for you. We hope you’ll come back and read next week’s post. If you don’t mind a few details about off the charts abnormal female cycles, it would be great if you’d hang out and learn the behind-the-scenes story. It’s not pretty, but it’s true and maybe by learning more, you’ll find a way to encourage someone in your own life who faces the same sort of struggles.

My hope is to raise awareness and open a conversation about a difficult topic. More and more young women are facing infertility and carrying silent pain. While each story is different, here are 3 things I wish you knew about my infertility:

1. This Isn’t a Problem that just Started 

I’ve had irregular periods my whole life. In my teens, I would go 3-10 months without a period. Now that I’m older it’s different. I go about a week to a month in between periods. And when I get them, they last from 7-143 days. There is literally no way for me to know when they are coming, or how long they will last – not an ideal situation for a newlywed couple trying to conceive.

For the 2 years Dean and I have been married, Aunt Flo has been with us for more than 400 days. That is over 3 times more than normal cycles would last. It’s not just bleeding, but everything else that comes with a period as well. I’m constantly bloated, I’m always hungry, some days I have terrible cramps, and my emotions are uncontrollable. It seems that everything I feel, I feel to the extreme. Some days I’m so happy I can’t stop smiling. Some days I flat just don’t want to get out of bed. And other days, I’m furious at everything and everyone for every little thing they do.

Along with a ton of prayer, we’ve tried the doctor; we’ve tried chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage therapy, eating plans, healing rooms and medications. Because of my condition, IVF, IUI & Surrogacy would be a waste of time, emotion, and money. The doctors believe I only ovulate about 2 times a year – if at all. I’ve read countless articles about different reasons why my body is like it is.


We do our best to make the most of our time while we are without children. We travel as much as we can and even though these times are emotionally and physically difficult, I know I will cherish these moments with Dean forever.

Through it all, Dean has stayed so strong and understanding. I am so blessed to have him.  

2. The Emotional Burden is Heavy

Dean and I both have dreamed our whole lives about starting a family. I try to stay positive, but deep down I’ve always felt I would never be able to have children. When I was about 10 years old, I told my mom I didn’t think God was going to let me have children. To this day, neither my mom nor I know why in the world I said that – especially at such a young age.



I feel like I could learn to live with the idea of life without children. It’s something I think I could accept after some time. But the part that kills me most about it is Dean. Kids are something he wants SO badly. It is the worst feeling in the world to be the reason someone’s dreams are crushed.

There have been a few times when we thought there might be a chance I was pregnant. During those weeks I become utterly obsessed with the thought – scrutinizing every single thing that happens with my body. I want a positive pregnancy test so desperately, that I think I trick myself into feeling the symptoms I wish I really had. But every time, we end up entirely devastated. It seems silly to say I grieve someone who never was – but I do. Every time. I grieve the baby that never was. That could have been. I grieve those moments of our dreams for the future that are shattering once again.

And then, it seems everyone around me gets pregnant. A cousin. A friend. A high-school classmate. And I’m truly happy for them.

For a minute.

But then I become furious. And I hate myself for being the kind of person who gets mad and jealous at someone else’s happiness.

And then I see headlines about moms who kill their infants or leave them in trashcans. I see a dad with extreme anger toward their child in the middle of the grocery store. And I just want to scream because of the injustice. But I hold my tongue and keep quiet. 

3. Your Well-Intended Remarks Can Hurt 

For some reason, infertility is this taboo subject that no one ever talks about. It’s a very lonely feeling.

Sure, there are a select few people who know our situation. But sometimes when we share our struggle, the hurtful comments come.



“Just relax – it’ll come when the time is right.”

“It’ll happen when you least expect it.”

“It’s because you’re so stressed out about it. You just have to stop trying so hard.”

And then comes the long lost aunt or the friend – or even someone I’ve just met - who says, “So when are you guys going to start popping them out?”

“When are you going to give your parents some grandchildren?”

Those words hurt more than you could ever imagine. It’s like a punch in the gut every time. I know people mean well, but they couldn’t possibly know the hurt that comes with such questions and comments.

Please. Be gentle with your words. Instead of blurting out something you might regret later, assume there’s a behind-the-scenes story you don’t know. After all, we never truly know the struggles others are facing. We never fully realize the pain that words can bring. 

And if you know someone is struggling with infertility, avoid comments. Avoid the advice. Offer to help in a different way. Maybe check up on them every once in a while to see how they’re doing. Make them dinner or just go and keep them company. These things can help more than you know.

Most of all, know that we love you. In the end, we know you mean well and we cherish you in our lives. Sometimes it's just that we hurt in ways we can’t express.

Our story doesn’t have a happy ending.

Yet.



We keep our heads up as much as possible. We try to make the most of our time that we have now without children, and I try my best not to go off the deep end with my crazy emotions. We are thankful for so much and know that we are blessed beyond belief. Our hope lies with God and we are confident that one way or another we will have children. Whether it is the natural way or adoption.

Until that day, we would greatly appreciate your prayers for babies. Along with clarity and strength while we wait.



Jessica Dodero is from Brighton, Colorado where she embraces life to the fullest with the love of her life, Dean, and their two dogs, Bruno and Baloo. Jess works full-time as a bank teller and loves to tell stories about her experiences working for Mickey Mouse as part of the Disney College Program. She and Dean enjoy travel and are pursuing a goal to visit all 50-states.






Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What's In a Name? Helping Our Kids Embrace Their Identity in Christ




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Do you have a nickname? 


My dad nearly always called my “Cath.” When I present an outlandish idea or request to my husband, he commonly replies with a playful eye roll and, “Oh, Catherine…” My kids call me "Mommagirl." Friends (and spouses) of my kids often call me "MommaMac."  

Some nicknames are computer generated (really). Others are given as terms of endearment during childhood. Perhaps they reflect accomplishments or character. While some nicknames may help us feel connected and part of a group, others, sadly, are meant to insult or tear down. The story behind a nickname can stir up tender memories, fuel a sense of accomplishment, or flood our minds with shame and humiliation. A nickname has the power to strengthen or erode a relationship based on tone, use, context, and history.

I'd like you to meet, "Dollar." 


I’m a generous giver of playful nicknames. Most don’t stick for more than a few seconds. Others have lingered for decades. For example, I find myself referring to my daughter (mostly in private settings) as “Dollar.” It’s a nickname that’s more than 20 years old.

As a toddler, she enjoyed the rolling telephone toy. Maybe you remember this classic plaything.  It's comical eyes bobbed up and down with a gentle squeak as the phone was pulled throughout the house.  As she towed her toy-friend along she’d often look at it and say, “Come on, Dollar.” For the life of me, I couldn’t assign any logic to that name. But she used it time and time again.


One day, I lifted her from her car seat and set her feet firmly on the pavement of the grocery store parking lot. As I reached for her hand I said, “Come on Darlin’” and it clicked. “Dollar” meant “Darlin’” in her 2-year-old speak. My term of endearment permanently changed to her language that day. I stopped calling her “Darlin’” and began referring to her as “Dollar."


Acquiring a Nickname Isn't Always Pleasant


It’s one of my favorite stories, but acquiring a nickname isn’t always so pleasant. A nickname can take hold during an embarrassing micro-moment at school, during a play date, or even youth group. Kids (even siblings) can be unkind. Adults can speak before thinking. Peers sometimes pursue a laugh without considering consequences. Names can stick – and we have an enemy of our souls who wants to ensure that they do.




As moms, it’s our role to remind our kids of truth. Always.

This is a mom-lesson I wish I’d learned early in parenting, but I didn’t. I accepted Christ as my Savior in High School but didn’t allow Him full access to my life until my parenting years.  As I look back at the lack of Christ’s influence during those years, I often think that I was a terrible parent (a self-assigned nickname). It’s an identity the Lord and I have had to demolish together. My kids are phenomenal adults. Yes, I made many parenting mistakes, but God has used each one for His glory.


My personal assessment is just one example of how a nickname can take root and shape the way we think about ourselves. They have a strong influence in forming our personal identity, which should come from the truth of Christ alone.  






3 things I’ve learned about personal identity:


1)  The world shouts while Christ speaks in a still, small voice. That means embracing our identity in Christ takes practice and intention. As moms, we can help develop strong habits in our kids and teach them to see themselves as Christ does – not as what a friend’s or adversary’s criticism says.

2)  We tend to allow ourselves to become who our named-identity portrays. I believe this is true for young and old alike. If a kid on the playground calls our child fat, the next time she looks in the mirror, she’s likely to see a chubbier reflection than she did the day before. Suddenly she notices the roll of skin around her waistband.  

      If a teacher holds her tongue but gives an obvious look of disapproval at an answer given in class, our son may begin to think of himself as unintelligent. He’ll hesitate to raise his hand during future class discussions. It seems natural to accept criticism as fact rather than fighting to hold to an identity of truth.

3)  It’s never too early nor too late to take on an identity of truth. I have names that have rattled around in my head for decades and the Lord, still, is helping me through the process of rejecting those that are false. How I wish I’d had someone doing battle with me when I was younger. I was self-confident, once upon a time, but over the years lost my ability to resist criticism. I began to wear it, and eventuallyI started to believe it. At my age and because of the long duration of what became self-condemnation, it’s a much tougher practice to overcome.  Conversely, when we instill in our children the truth about who they are in Christ, they’ll more likely resist the attempts of the enemy to deceive them about their identity.  It’s never too early to start. 

An Important Note About Responsibility


It’s important to note that moms aren’t responsible for the ways our children see their identity. We can’t control their thoughts or actions. They will make choices far different from what we’d wish for them. Never lose sight, however, of the strong influence we have over their identity. 

What we say matters.

I’m not suggesting that we only speak ooey-gooey flattery over our children. No. Heck No. I’m suggesting that we speak the truth of scripture over them. For example:

            They’re not perfect, but they are chosen.
            They’ll make mistakes, but in Christ, they are redeemed.
            They are beloved children of the King of kings.
            Sin has no hold on them by the blood of Jesus.
            Their actions don’t define them – the Word of God does.

When criticism comes their way, as it surely will, we moms can teach our kids to 
1) discern which parts of that criticism might be true (if any), 
2) to seek the Lord in repentance and correction, and 
3) to stand firm knowing that love covers a multitude of sins. Criticism or a label someone places on us does not affect who we are in Christ.

God’s grace is sufficient. This truth will not only help them stand firm against the schemes of the devil who wants them feeling worthless and alone, it will also help them speak encouragement into others.

What tools will you give to your child to navigate an unkind world and a relentless spiritual enemy? 

Your influence has the power to equip them for battle and help them resist the enemy so that he flees. Please don’t take it lightly.



Please continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. We'd also love to hear your comments below.

Sharing is always nice, too. 

To find more from Cathy, visit www.strengthenedbytheword.com

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28