Book Review: Unbound

Not so sure why I haven’t before done any book reviews, considering I both love books and am also a former librarian. I’m going to make an attempt to do them more often, but I make no promises on regularity 🙂

Book Title: Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Author: Jamie Sumner

What Caught My Eye: I spied this on the “New Book” shelf at my local library. Reading the subtitle I didn’t really think it was a book for me, as I’m not yet a mother, but I read the back anyway. And this is the sentence that caught me; “With honesty and vulnerability, Jamie Sumner walks readers through each stage of her own journey to motherhood through infertility and special needs parenting.” So, maybe, at least a part of this book would be relevant to me now…I added it to my armload to check out and headed home.

The Reading: I’d like to say I picked it right up when I got home from the library, but that was not the case. I actually had to renew it once before I started reading it. When I did dive in, though, it took me less than a week to finish it. The style of Jamie’s writing is like she’s chatting with a friend and it flowed fairly well. There are questions at the end of each chapter for reflection and Scripture readings that she references, but, to be honest, I’m going to have to read it again and do all of those. The first time through I just wanted to know her story and where it was going. As much as I do appreciate those added details, I just didn’t want to be interrupted by them.

My Thoughts: I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Going into it I imagined maybe just the first bit would deal with her journey through infertility, but there was so much more than I bargained for. I imagined that the “unrealistic expectations of motherhood” were how some people think it’s all going to be rainbows and sunshine. Or how some people think “I’d never do that as a mom.” That’s not what she was addressing at all. What she spoke of was how the road to motherhood often does not go as expected. It often doesn’t go as we plan. It sometimes doesn’t even go as we hope.

There were times when it felt like Jamie wasn’t telling her story, she was telling mine. I cried numerous times as she wrote of experiences I have also had, thoughts that have also crossed my mind (or just plain have gotten stuck in there), and prayers I, too, have prayed. The beginning of her story is so like mine: I read about how she found out her sister-in-law was pregnant, the joy and sadness felt, only a couple days before finding out that my sweet sister-in-law, whose road to pregnancy was also more difficult than expected, is expecting her first child. The comfort in knowing reading someone’s story that feels so similar to mine is really indescribable. I’m touched every time someone shares their story with me to let me know that I’m not alone and I’m thankful to Jamie for putting her story out there where so many women who may be facing similar circumstances can read it an know that they, too, are not alone.

I would be remiss not to mention more of the set-up of the book. Jamie writes each chapter in such a way so that it brings in a story of a different woman from the Bible. There are the expected ones about Hannah and Sarah, but the one that stood out to me the most was the one about the woman with the issue of blood. We never know her name, only that she has been bleeding for 12 years. Twelve years! She hears that Jesus is coming through town and knows she must see Him. Her faith is strong and she knows that if she just so much as touches His robes she’ll be healed. And that’s exactly what happens.

What I love about Jamie’s writing is her honesty throughout. She speaks of the woman with the issue of blood during the time she finds out her sister-in-law is pregnant. She doesn’t identify with this woman, but she does identify with someone else in the story; Jairus. Jairus was leading Jesus to his daughter who was ill when the woman stopped Him. In the delay a messenger comes to tell Jairus that his daughter has died. He feels like his opportunity for a miracle has passed. Who ever wants to admit that they doubt the might and power of our Lord? It’s not something anyone does with pride (and if they do, they have even more issues). I have great respect for Jamie and her honesty throughout this book. She reminds us what I try to remind myself of often; that God uses unexpected means to accomplish His will. Some of her final thoughts wrap it all up rather nicely:

Life is a continual etching and erasing. We form expectations, and God forms reality. Sometimes they line up nicely, like tracings at right angles. And sometimes God plays Jackson Pollock and we’re all over the place. But the point of it all is that a masterpiece is being made.

Who Should Read This Book: I highly recommend this book to anyone going through infertility, anyone who has suffered the loss of a child through miscarriage, anyone who has found out their baby will have difficulties because of a diagnosis while still in utero, and anyone who has a baby in the NICU for any length of time. I also think this would be a great read for women who have friends, sisters, or daughters in any of these situations. While not all experiences are the same, if someone you love is going through something like this and she seems somewhat unapproachable, this book might give a little insight.

Praying, that no matter where you are in life, you realize the masterpiece is in the making. The journey God has you on is not without purpose.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

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Ever Present, Newly Discovered

Yesterday morning was one I was excited to wake up to; which is probably why I was awake at 4:30. I made myself stay in bed and try to get more sleep until 5, when I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was day 29, and for almost a year my period had faithfully come on day 27. There had been an egg in the right spot this time around and I was so hopeful. I found that magical stick that could reveal in just a few minutes if you are growing a baby or not. It sometimes lies, though, so when it told me I wasn’t I thought, “Maybe I just didn’t wait long enough,” and went back to bed.

It didn’t lie, though, as I found out when I woke up again. I didn’t want to believe it. I tried to convince myself that this was different somehow. I even called the doctor’s office to talk to someone about it, to see what I could do. Of course, by the time they called back the truth of reality had already hit me like a brick. It was not to be.

For a little bit I was angry. All I could think was that this was all some sick joke. Then I was just sad, somewhat defeated, and in a whole lot of pain, because with me, menstrual cramps are no joke. I did not want to do anything. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and disappear.

My typical mode of avoidance is to fiddle about on my phone – I did that a lot yesterday. As I was going through my email I spotted one of the few devotionals that I usually just end up deleting. This time though, it had a reference to Psalm 139 in the title. I opened it up and read it. I couldn’t tell you now what it said, but it made me think that reading through that psalm would be good for my soul. So that’s what I did.

Psalm 139 has always been my favorite – probably because it was the first scripture the Lord used to break into my heart some 16 years ago. It speaks of a love that is unfathomable. A God who is unshakable. Whose promises are unchangeable and not retractable. Who sees me even when I want to just hide from Him and be miserable. Oh, He’ll still let me, but really, who is able to hide from our all-knowing, ever-present, and totally sovereign Maker?

 

If you are unfamiliar with this psalm, or would like to read it anew, please take a moment to here.

I always seem to go back to this psalm in great times of sorrow, need, and desperation, but this time around something new was brought to light. I stand in awe each time the Holy Spirit reveals something new in a passage I’ve read more than any other. This is the section that stood out to me:

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when yet there was none of them.

~Psalm 139: 13-16

As I read that section, I saw it in light of all creation. All people. Not just David who wrote it. Not just myself as I read it. But as all people who have ever populated this earth, those who are here now, and those who will be in the future; all who are made in the image of God. For the first time I realized that not only does my glorious God know all there is to know about me, but He also knows all there is to know about any children who will join our family, regardless if I give birth to them or someone else does.

This might sound silly to you. I mean, really, knowing that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent is a pretty basic thing to learn. I have known this for almost all of the past 16 or so years…but to really understand it? I don’t think I will ever reach the height and breadth and depth of comprehending it this side of heaven.

All of this brought me great comfort, eventhough there were still tears shed and a feeling of brokenness inside. The Lord used His Word to restore my soul. To bring deeper understanding of Himself and His sovereignty. To bring peace beyond understanding.

There will be many more tears along this road, of that I have no doubt. But I need not fear being alone in it all, and neither do you.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Delighting in the Little Things

On days like today when I want to pull the covers over my head and not leave the comfort and refuge of my bed I need these reminders the most. Reminders that in every moment we can find something to delight in. The kiddos help me so much in this and I see so much more than I would have on my own.

There’s delight in the happy growlings (yes, growlings) of a one-year-old successfully feeding herself with a spoon. There’s delight in the shouts of, “Come look!” by a two and a half-year-old proud that he was able to stack all of his LEGO cars together.

These accomplishments may seem small or trivial at first, but there are other things that need to be considered. Like when I previously let her use a spoon, T would continually take it, full of yogurt, and put it down in her high chair. Or that when the LEGOs won’t connect together the way he wants, G can get so frustrated that he tears his creations apart.

We adults are oh so similar. We, so often, miss the small delights, thinking they are “no big deal,” because we don’t remember where we started at. I, for the past few days, have passed on cakes and cookies (sooooo difficult) and have chosen some healthier options. While I doubt the scale reflects any of that yet, I can delight in knowing I made some good choices. Better than ones I have made previously.

All in all, when you’re feeling down and out, take a moment to reflect at where you are and where you started at. Even when things seem dire, God does not forget you and He will not forsake you. He uses circumstances that you’re in, circumstances that I’m in, to sanctify us. To refine us, as gold.

As I continue to delight in the small blessings He’s bestowed upon me, I pray you’ll be able to do the same. If you’re having difficulty with that, then think on the greatest one – remember where you once were, dead in sin, and where (I pray) you are now, alive in Christ. Ultimately, if we find ourselves in Christ, that alone should fill us with delight that will last many lifetimes over.

If you don’t have the delight of Christ in your life ask questions, pick up a Bible, venture into a church, talk to someone of faith that you know and respect. Don’t miss out on the greatest delight you will have in this life, and in the life to come.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Another Ride Around

I first want to thank you all for your prayers. There’s just something about knowing that brothers and sisters are praying for you that brings about such comfort and encouragement; so thank you! I also have been touched by many friends and family who have reached out to tell me they had experienced similar situations; that it can suck, but God still used it, in His perfect timing, to bring about the child(ren) they longed for. There were many grateful tears shed as I read your stories. Thank you for sharing them with me.

I have wondered through these months just how other women deal with this. Hearing that there are ones who have been through this and have come out the other side has meant more to me than you could possibly know. I praise God for you all and Him placing you in my life for such a time as this.

This past week I had an appointment to check and see if/how my body responded to Clomid. It did what it was supposed to do; providing more hormones so that there would be the potential of more than one egg released during ovulation. The hope is that at least one will be released on the right side where there is a tube that it can travel down. Unfortunately, this month, the ultrasound showed that all of the most likely viable follicles were on the left side.

I wanted to be upset when the doc told me that. All of this, and still nothing?! I thought. But really, I didn’t feel so bad. I laughed slightly to myself (is that strange?) as I praised God for the reminder that even with all of the doctors, medicine, & technology available, He is still in control.

Please don’t form an image of Him lording His power over the universe for “the good of the people” like Thanos or some equally horrible super villain (though I’m not sure if there’s anyone worse). Knowing that God is in control brings comfort and hope, because, indeed, “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” I don’t see the God of the universe looking down on me from on high laughing to Himself thinking, I sure showed her Who’s in control. No, that is not my God. His is more of a still soft voice that speaks lovingly of His promise to see me through, to sustain me, and to be all I ever need.

Also, as strange as it may sound, this news brought with it a blessing. The blessing of knowing already that this time around getting pregnant is highly unlikely. There is still the rare possibility of transmigration (where an egg starts on one side and somehow moves over to the other side…I have no idea how. That just goes to show how amazingly created these bodies of ours are!), but it is just that, rare. In knowing this a couple weeks ahead of time I do not have to worry about thinking if some strange feeling could mean possible pregnancy and get my hopes up only to have them dashed when day 28 comes around. In knowing this I hope to stabilize my thoughts in the week to come so hormones won’t carry them away as is known to happen. All in all, I am thankful for this knowledge, though it is not what I had hoped to hear. I praise God for giving it to me so I may have peace of mind and the confidence that He’s got it in His ever-loving, ever-capable hands.

One thing I am not looking forward to is riding the Clomid carousel again in a few weeks. I know how it affected me this month, but I don’t know if it will be the same or different this next time around. Knowing what could happen, though, gives me somewhere to start from, I guess. I can only take it one day at a time, stay close to my God, His Word, and His people, and know that, this too, He will see me through.

In knowing what I know about it all, I will continue to delight in my Lord. I will continue to rejoice in His goodness and His grace. I will continue to pray to Him for peace and comfort and strength. I will continue to thank Him for these circumstances; though they are not ones I would choose for myself (or anyone else), I know He is using them for my good and His glory.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I pray, my friends, you are able to see the great hope in these words, and that you, too, would know that whatever it is you’re traveling through, the God of all creation sees you. He does not waste experiences or circumstances, but uses them. To accomplish His will. To refine you as gold. I pray you might find comfort in that.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Just Like a Roller Coaster

Up, down, around, and back again…

Sometime last week I realized Mother’s Day was coming up soon. I was worried about what it might bring with it this year: heartache, sorrow, bitterness, a few tears (or many), maybe, just possibly, a little joy? We’re in the middle of a lot. Ok, that’s not so very true, but with the extra hormones I’m on, this week has seemed about 20 days longs with all of the ups and downs and very far downs. I typically have some pretty awful mood swings a couple days a month and wasn’t too thrilled when I found out that the effects of the drug could be worse than that. But first, let me back up a little.

We first saw a fertility specialist a couple months ago. It had been almost a year since we’ve been trying and with my only having one intact fallopian tube (the result of surgery a few years ago), we decided it was time to see if there was anything else preventing this all from happening. After a month of collecting info from blood work and other tests the doc found nothing out of the ordinary and ruled it as “unexplained infertility.” Not something really encouraging, but it also means it’s not impossible for us to get pregnant.

When we met with him again, one of his first suggestions was that I take Clomid. It stimulates ovulation so that there’s a better chance that I’ll actually ovulate from the ovary that has a tube intact to carry it down. And before you think I’m crazy and could end up with septuplets, let me tell you that I’m taking a low dose and it has only 10% chance of twins and less than 1% change of triplets. I will admit I’m at the point where I think I’d be ok with twins and wouldn’t have to think about all this any more 🙂

Along the way & through all of this we have been praying and have been prayed for. For a child to be conceived. For strength from and trust in a God who knows what He’s doing. For His will to be done. There have been ups and downs and I’ll probably write about those later, but back to where I started.

Mother’s Day has been hard in the past when I was single and not knowing if I’d ever be married so that I could have a chance to be a mom. Last year it was hopeful and I don’t remember being at all sad. This year I was uncertain.

Yesterday marked day 3 of 5 that I have be taking Clomid and I felt it. I’ve been watching two sweet kiddos since we moved into our house and I left the library. Yesterday we went out for a stroll at Walmart. I needed just one thing but we wandered around and after a little bit I felt like I was slogging through mud. My brain was foggy and unfocused and I just couldn’t get my thoughts together. That, itself, made me start to freak out a little. Anxiety rose as thoughts wracked my brain, reasonable and irrational alike. I made it to the check out and as we left (me pushing the kiddos in the cart) the greeter called out, “Happy Mother’s Day!” I took my sunglasses from atop my head so I could cover my eyes before the tears started to fall.

I knew this reaction was not my typical one. I’ve been watching the kiddos for over 6 months now and have gone on many a shopping trip where I get complemented on how cute they are or asked if I think one will have curly hair like me (ummm, no, I don’t think so :)). It has never bothered me; sometimes I correct them and let them know I’m the “aunt” and sometimes I thank them, smile, and go on my merry way. This time, though, it tipped me over the edge. I knew the hormones were mostly to blame, but I still didn’t know what to do about it. We grabbed a snack and went to the park as I tried to regain myself.

The rest of the day I felt like I went from one extreme to the next, mostly between getting annoyed and angry to being desperately sad. We had dinner with friends and that was nice, but I felt pretty quiet and reserved most of the night. Once we got home and were doing family worship I told Steve all about my day. He, of course, let me cry on his shoulder, waited patiently while my thoughts collected themselves into communicable phrases, held me tight, and prayed to our great Creator.

I felt better, getting all of those pent up thoughts out of my head where they swirled relentlessly around. I felt better, being reminded of a God and Savior who will never leave me, forsake me, or stop loving me.

Today I woke up and felt like a new person. I got lunches and breakfast made and even prepped some for dinner while I thought about what I’d do with the kiddos today. When I got to their house, there were some lovely flowers waiting for me, along with a sweet note of support & encouragement. As we headed to Walmart again…we needed things for a secret project, G (who’s 2 1/2) started asking me about the songs on the radio. As I explained to this little boy that people were singing songs about God and how great He is and how they are glad that He’s always with them, in good times and in bad, my heart swelled.

This is one of the reasons I so very badly desire a child of my own; so I can share with them the greatness of God, the awe and wonder and majesty of Him and the amazing things He’s done for us all. And yet, I can do that while I still do not have children of my own. Is it the same? Absolutely not. But seeing knowledge and wonder of God grow within these little kiddos is amazing, and I wouldn’t trade that, either. There’s still an ache in my heart for a child of my own. A dark-eyed, curly-haired misfit who will drive her parents crazy (because there are only ever girls in my family 😉 ). But as I walked out of Walmart today and was, once again, wished, “Happy Mother’s Day” I simply smiled, said “thanks,” and strolled out the door.

I cannot say that tomorrow or Sunday will not bring different emotions. We will cross that bridge when we get there.

If you anticipate Mother’s Day to be difficult this year, because of the ache you have to be one or the sorrow of having lost yours, know that you are not alone. I’ll be praying for you. If you think of it, please send one up for me.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

“O soul, are you weary and troubled?” Last night and this morning those words ran through my head among the lies that floated in last night and made for a difficult nights sleep. I couldn’t remember the rest of the words but I knew who’s voice I heard singing it. Just looked it up and thought I’d share, because maybe, just maybe, you’re in need of this encouragement too.

Love & blessings,

KJ

Of Sorrow & Shame

I want to be honest and real. Not to gain anyone’s sympathy or pity, but to let those who feel the same know that they are not alone. To let those who are living through similar circumstances know that those things they feel in secret, behind closed doors, are not ridiculous; they are deep and real and raw.

This has been my biggest struggle in the last year, bigger than the heartache of being single when I so very much wanted not to be. It was a desire I had while I was single, but really couldn’t do anything about it then. It is my desire to have children.

Now that I’m married it’s something that just comes next in my mind, and as I’m 36, sooner rather than later would really be great. And before there are pat responses that I have time and God’s timing is perfect, know that I know these things. His Spirit within me reminds me that I am His, He is sovereign, He is good, and He holds all things in His hands. These things I know. These things I cling to. I speak them to my broken heart again and again. I whisper them in the quiet. I say them out loud to myself through the tears. At times I want to scream them.

Because the truth of the matter is, while I know that God is good and sovereign, almighty and all powerful, I cannot help but mourn that which has not come to pass. And because I know these things to be true, I also feel shame in this sadness. Which only serves to make the sadness deepen.

And that is really what I want to share. That is really what I want those who feel the same to know. The shame felt in this sadness is not something you are alone in. More importantly, I believe it to be a lie from the enemy.

Mourning is not wrong, as long as we do not mourn as those who have no hope. The clincher is, though, that that hope isn’t the hope of one day being pregnant, it is hope in the eternal life we can only find in Christ. I, myself, am just realizing this and speaking this to my heart as I type these words.

Have I mourned as one without hope? I would be lying if I said I haven’t. But His mercies are new each morning. I may forget that and that is when the shame drags me deeper into the pit. There is great sorrow felt when I feel that I have let my emotions overtake me. Sorrow that I have not rested in knowing God will provide. Shame that I have looked to something else to be my source of joy in this life.

There is a difference between feeling convicted and feeling condemned. It is right that we, as followers of Christ, feel convicted of sin so we can repent and be in right relationship with God once more. Not resting in God and putting something before Him as our joy is sin and being convicted of that and repenting of it is only right. But when such shame and sorrow is felt so that we believe repentance is not possible or will not be accepted is a feeling of condemnation. In Christ, we cannot be condemned, for we stand in His righteousness. God knows our hearts. That feeling should have no power over us.

I’m sorry if this has been a jumble of thoughts. It is what comes from me wanting to share my story for the benefit of others as well as process through it myself.

Just as the pain of singleness is real and can be overlooked by the Church as a whole, so can the pain of infertility. It has been so rarely spoken of that I often ask myself and those around me how other women deal with this because I am at a loss. And at that same time, I know nothing we go through in life is wasted. This season has its purpose. I can’t tell you I know exactly what it is, but whatever it may be I pray I can glorify God through it.

I want those of you who do experience that to know you aren’t alone. That pain is real and it can cut deep. I will not say that knowing Jesus takes away the pain; but knowing Him definitely sees me through it. Each month I come out on the other side knowing He’s still beside me, still loving me, still my everything. Sometimes it takes longer than others, but ultimately I know the God of the universe has this all under control. And if anyone does, I’m sure glad it’s Him.

So as not to give the impression that I’ve been mucking about in all of this, just me and Jesus, I haven’t (though if I had, I have to believe that would be enough). I have been blessed to have friends and family who regularly encourage me in this and keep my husband and I in prayer, not to mention a husband who is by my side through all of this, loving me through the sadness; ugly crying and all.

If you are going through similar circumstances in life, I pray you’re going through them with Jesus, the Light shining in the darkness, the One who provides Hope, and Rest, and Peace, and Joy, even through, especially through, trials and pain. And if you don’t know Him, I pray you would come to. The pain may not go away, but you’ll have the Creator if the universe by your side. And He’s a pretty good traveling companion.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

PS – if you see this through Facebook and comment there, don’t think I’m ignoring you if I don’t respond – I’ll be present there once again come April 1.