Monday, April 14, 2014

Finding Yourself in Motherhood

Four days after my son was born, I bawled like a baby as I heard the little cry start again.  It was 3 am, I was utterly exhausted, and this was the fourth time I had tried to lay my new son down and slip into bed.  Thirty minutes later, I fell asleep with him draped across my chest…something I vowed to never do…something the pediatrician who had checked him out in the hospital had told me to never, ever do.  As I slipped into sleep I cried again, feeling like a failure as a mom. 

I’d always wanted to be a mother.  I was pretty sure that, when the time came, I would know exactly what I was doing and that motherhood would come naturally to me.  I was so wrong.

Sure, I had those amazing feelings of love you always hear about.  Changing dirty diapers didn’t make me cringe a bit.  Once the struggle of the first tough month was over, I even enjoyed nursing.  What I wasn’t prepared for were the feelings of inadequacy and uselessness.  My filthy house, dirty dishes stacked high, and inability to get one decent meal on the table made me feel completely incapable as a house wife.  The fact that my son was not a “typical” newborn (as I thought he should be) made me feel out-of-control.  My exhausted frustration at my son when he would scream for hours every night from colic made me feel like a terrible mom.  Most of all, though, I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything all day.  I struggled with feeling a sense of purpose.

I knew that taking care of my son was my purpose for this season of life, but there was a disconnect between knowing that and feeling it in my heart.  I knew I was doing something very worthwhile and purposeful, but most days I felt like I was just treading water.  The problem was that, deep down, I wasn’t just a milk-producing, diaper changing, baby holding robot…there was a very real and individual person just dying to be let out!  The challenge in any change of seasons is finding the balance between who you are as a person and the tasks God has put before you for today. 

For me, finding this balance meant two things.  The first was that I had to change.  I had to let go of my need for control and desire to do things the “right” way and instead be flexible and learn to be the mom my son needed…not the mom I wanted to be.  Anytime God refines us, the process is far from easy and painless.  There were days that I despised the new mom posting on Facebook asking for ideas of things to do because her baby was so easy and she was bored.  Yet, I have come to realize that God gave me Miles with all of his out-of-the-boxness so that He could mold me and force me to let go of my controlling tendencies.  He gave me a very real little individual so that He could change my individual self.

Finding the balance for me also meant fusing who I was as a person with the role of mother.  Again, this isn’t an easy process.  I have come to believe that, in any season or role we find ourselves in, our personality should still shine and show through.  I don’t parent the same as any other mom because I am not any other mom.  I am a tea-drinking, outdoor-loving, greenthumb-wannabe who loves traveling and good food.  Consequently, my son spends a lot of time outdoors, is well acquainted with garden tools, has traveled more than most people will in a lifetime, and will eat just about anything…including spicy food or strong-flavored ethnic cuisine.  He is his own person, but his daily life is the way it is mostly because of who I am as a person.  God placed Miles in my care because He knew that the mama I am is the mama Miles needed.   

As I approach my two-year anniversary of being a mother, I’ve gotten into a better groove.  I have a system down for at least keeping the house manageably clean.  We do eat a home-cooked meal most nights, even if it was something I stuck in the freezer two weeks ago and just dumped in the crockpot that morning.  I already have long lists of freezer meals to assemble and preparations to make for whenever Baby Baker #2 decides to enter our home, knowing very keenly how needed those will be.  I feel very purposeful as I order our home, chase my toddler around, and reach out to other moms in our community. 

I am not the same person I was before my son was born.  And yet, I am more than just a mother.  I am Caitlin Baker, wife, mom, homemaker, and very real person…something that brings me very great joy.    

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dear Single Girl: Would You Follow Him?

Dear Single Girl Who’s Wondering if He’s “The One”:

When I was twenty years old I did something crazy: I got married and moved a thousand miles away to the hills of rural Arkansas.  My husband and I didn’t have much to our name and I was still in school.  To top it off, I had never lived away from home before. 

Four years later, I look back and am shocked by that bold step.  Yet, I’ve never once regretted that decision.  Our marriage has had its ups and downs, just as any marriage does, but we are very, very happy.  I do miss my family and the endless sunny days in Arizona, but I have never once cried from homesickness.  In all honesty, that move from Arizona to Arkansas was not terribly hard for me. 

I get asked almost daily why it wasn’t that hard.  I’ve come up with all sorts of answers.  My personality.  I was ready to have my own home.  I was raised to be independent.  Modern technology makes staying-in-touch easy.  All true reasons, but not enough in and of themselves.  The real truth is that it wasn’t all that hard because of Andy.

When I was a young teenager, I got it in my head that I wanted to marry a man that I could follow.  For a stubborn, bossy first-born such as myself, that was not an easy requirement.  Yet, in my heart I knew that that criteria would be the make-or-break factor for my marriage.  “Would You Go With Me?” by Josh Turner became my anthem.  I longed for a man who would ask me if I’d go with him “to the ends of the sea”, and with whom I knew that I would.

I thought I knew what such a man would look like.  He’d have to be loud and outgoing to balance out my quiet side.  He’d have to be a good speaker, but a poor writer, so that I could be his helpmeet and write for him.  Oh how wrong I was!

Thankfully, I would indeed follow my husband to the end of the sea.  Yet, this man of mine is not what I thought he would be.  He is quiet and reserved and gentle.  When describing him, his grandmother once told me that still water runs deep.  He has a tender heart, yet he can be sarcastic.  He’s a good speaker, but he doesn’t like to be the center of attention.  And he’s a wonderful writer.

When I married Andy, I knew I was marrying a man I could follow.  I have come to realize that it is for this reason primarily that moving away from everyone and everything I ever knew wasn’t so very difficult.  You see, when you marry a man that you can follow, actually following him isn’t all that bad.

You may never follow your man to the ends of the sea.  You may end up getting married and never living farther away than the house next door to your parents.  But I can promise that the time will come when you will have to follow him, and you will be asked to give up or move away from something or someone that you love.  The question is, will you be able to do it? 

And so, as you look for a man to marry, I encourage you to not settle for anything less than a man you can follow.  Don’t look for a man who is good looking, or well off, or charismatic, or seems to have to have it all together.  Don’t look for a man that you will always agree with or that will go along with anything you want.  Instead, look for a man you can follow

I know all too well how important that is.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Twenty-five

Twenty-five.  Five fives.  A quarter of a century. 

Today my parents celebrate twenty-five years of marriage.  To some that may seem insignificant, but in this day and age it’s a sign of dedication, commitment, steadfastness, and love.  My parents have stuck together through thick and thin, good times and bad times, busy times and quiet times.  Through twenty-five years they’ve come out stronger, happier, and more in love than ever.

I’m so thankful for those years.  I’m thankful for the times I saw them argue, so that I could see what it means to reconcile and make up.  I’m thankful for the times I saw them sneak a kiss, so that I would know that the fire doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) die.  I’m thankful for the times they laughed together, so that I would understand that humor and real life should be intertwined.  I’m thankful for the times that they traveled with us, so that our eyes would be opened to learning and the world around us.  I’m thankful for them taking us to church every Sunday, that we might know what the body of Christ is.  I’m thankful for the times they loved us and showed us mercy and forgiveness, that we might understand the heart of God more fully.  I’m thankful for the times I saw them pray and read the Bible together, so that we might Who must be the center of all relationships. 

I’m thankful for them portraying marriage as a beautiful, messy, hard, wonderful gift from the Lord.  I know that I would not have the fulfilling;oarriage I have today if it wasn’t for their example and their witness. 

Happy 25th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!!!  I am so, SO proud to have you as my parents!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Moms That Change the World

I glanced at the women around me.  All moms—all here for the MOPs conference.  I felt strangely out of place, like a young kid just pretending to be a grownup mom.  Wasn’t I still that young woman in her early-twenties attending Passion conferences and feeling young and alive and free?  Yet here I was amidst 3000 other moms who spent more time wiping boogers out of noses than being spontaneous and free.

There were moms of all ages and backgrounds.  Moms with six kids and moms with one.  Moms dressed like hipsters and moms rocking ”mom jeans”.  They were all different, but they were all moms.  All of them, even the youngest, had little ones who depended on them.  Their lives were no longer about them.  They couldn’t pretend that they weren’t adults. 

Part of me felt hesitant to even want to fit in.  Being a grownup adult mom isn’t easy.  The life of a mom is lived in the little things.  Instead of leading prayer walks, organizing big fundraisers to end slavery, or living in Africa for a year, they are busy taking out poopy diapers, cutting crusts off of sandwiches, and discipling little hearts.  They are not free to do what many consider the “big” works for the Lord.  The feeling of insignificance or fruitlessness is quick to creep in.

And yet, as I watched these women worship and learn together, I realized how wrong that thinking really was.  After all, the “biggest” and best work we can do for the Lord is the work that He has set before us to do. 

Moms certainly have an amazing job.  They mold and lead the next generation of world changers.  Yet, as I sat amongst all these other women I suddenly realized that our calling was even more than that. 

It was halfway through Beth Moore’s talk when this revelation occurred to me.  Beth was telling the story of her eldest daughter’s birth.  When she finally arrived, she was blotchy, cone-headed, and covered in blood and gunk.  Yet when they placed her in her arms, Beth said she looked into the face of the most beautiful, perfect baby that she had ever seen.

As she talked, mommy hormones swelled and tears formed in my eyes.  I looked around and realized that I was not alone.  That feeling was something that every mom, and only moms, could relate to.  We had all had the very same thought when we held our children, whether through birth or adoption, in our arms for the first time.  Every single mom has a connection to every other mom…simply because we are all moms.

Therein lies our calling.  As moms, we have the unique opportunity to connect with other women of different backgrounds.  We moms have the same feelings and experiences, and we can reach the moms who are hurting or lost or just looking for a friend.  We can reach out to them that they might see Christ in us.

I’m proud to be a mom.  I may not have the freedom and opportunities of many women my age, but I know God has put me where I am and has given me a good work to do.  College students aren’t the only one with the chance to make a difference—we moms can be world changers too.      

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Thankful

Tonight my little one played in his bath, jabbering away about something I couldn’t understand.  He reached out his hands toward me and I wrapped him up in his froggy towel, which will soon be too small.  As I put it over his head he giggled and showed his four bottom teeth, coming in slightly crooked.  I reach for my phone to record a video, knowing full well I can never truly capture every precious detail of that moment.

I soak it all in, and my heart hurts.  Suddenly he’s five, and doesn’t want to snuggle.  And twelve and I can’t make the boys like him.  And sixteen telling me he hates me.  And eighteen driving away.  And thirty with a little crooked-toothed little one of his own.  And—oh—my heart feels squeezed and I just want him to stay this way forever.

And yet, I know that can’t be…and I don’t want it to be.  I want to see him grow and develop into the man God created him to be.  I want to see him dream and learn and achieve.  I want to see him fail and persevere and grow.

But—oh—how I wish I could just bottle this moment up and keep it forever.  But I can’t, and the moment passes, and he’s already a minute older.

I get my little one a fresh diaper and put on his cozy pajamas.  I brush his fuzzy, uneven hair—so much like his father’s was at that age.  I kiss him and hug him and his daddy rocks him to sleep.  And I am thankful.

Thankful for the way he sleeps with his arms above his head—like his daddy again.  Thankful for the way he says “uh-oh”.  Thankful for the way he pushes things around constantly.  Thankful that he loves giving the dog a treat.  Thankful for the way he crinkles his nose and snorts.  Thankful for the way he loves the little man in his Duplo tractor.  Thankful for his little head-butts.  Thankful for extra snuggles when he wakes early with sore gums.  Thankful for the way he smears his food in his hair.  Thankful for the way he loves his Daddy, whom he calls “Ah-nah”.  Thankful for this way he falls asleep with his hand down my shirt.  Thankful for the way he loves to bring me books to read to him.  Thankful that he likes to cuddle. 

Yes, I am thankful indeed.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Joy and Poopy Diapers

“I can’t wait to change a poopy diaper again.”

We all laughed as she said it, her swelling belly revealing that that time would indeed be soon.  I let her words, and the meaning behind them, sink into my soul. 

I’d never heard any other expecting mother express eagerness to change a poopy diaper.  Yet, not every mother has experienced the loss of three precious babies.  This beautiful child that grows in her womb has been so prayed for, so desired…so wanted.  This miracle life within her abdomen was planned for…and fought for. 

To this sweet mama, poopy diapers represented a healthy, thriving baby in her arms.  She “can’t wait” to change this precious child’s dirty diapers because she aches every day for the sweet babes she never got to hold in her arms…the diapers she never got to change.  She has learned that every smelly, nasty diaper is a gift.

So many times in life we miss out on the little gifts that God has given.  We complain about dirty socks lying around, unexpected bills at the auto repair shop, and muddy footprints on our fresh-mopped floor.  We fail to recognize them as gifts because we fail to see what they stand for.  We forget that they represent a man to love, a car to drive, and sweet babes to snuggle.  We see the negative instead of the good.

My sweet friend’s words were an encouragement to me.  They spurred me on to dig deeper and look for those gifts that God has given us.  He has sent these gifts that we might have joy…but first we have to find them.        

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…”

~James 1:17~

2013.08 phone 1701

Some excerpts from my thankfulness journal:

16. Dogwoods in Spring.

38. For the smell of the Ozarks.

76. The sweet smell of my Miles.

78. Watching my son with his daddy.

118. Earthworms in my garden.

140. Diapers peeking out of onesies.

157. What hardback books look like under their jackets.

181. Dirty toes from the garden.

205. Reconciliation.

217. Wild roses popping up in my backyard.

240. Chubby little knees.

264. Laughter with friends.

276. Sleepy eyes glazing over.

315. Trees arching over roads.

364. New beginnings. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Exciting News…

No, I’m not preggo…but someone else is!  I’m going to be an aunt again!  Andy’s brother and his wife are expecting their first little one sometime in early Spring. 

In other news, Miles will have another Baker cousin.  Due to the very strange coincidence of my sister marrying a guy with the same first and last name as my hubby (no relation, though), all of Miles’ cousins have the last name Baker.  I sure hope my sisters and sister-in-laws get married soon and have babies, or Miles will be liable to think that everybody in the world has the same last name. :P
Here’s a pic of the latest Baker baby:

We can’t wait to meet him/her!