Spirituality, Transitioning to life with children

Transitioning to life with children

A New Baby in the House

Nothing changes life more than bringing home a tiny bundle who does little more than eat, cry, poop and sleep. Even for those over the moon happy with the prospect of parenthood, stress is part of the equation. Sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom or watching a TV show — all become juggling acts.

Transitions are difficult, and adjusting to the idea of being a parent takes time. No woman in history ever had more of a shock over finding out she was pregnant than Jesus’ mother Mary. As a good Jewish girl who was engaged to be married, and had not been fooling around with Joseph, or anyone else, she finds out she is “with child”. The news is not just an embarrassing mishap — Mary could have been stoned to death for her ‘indiscretion’.

Joseph must have been devastated when he heard the news. He thinks he is marrying an upright, believing young woman. He has been very respectful of her in order to wait for their wedding night to consummate their marriage, and then she comes to him and tells him she is pregnant. He knows he is not the father, so his obvious assumption must be that she has been with another man.

My heart goes out to both of them. I imagine his rage at both her and the man he assumes is involved. They live in a small community — certainly he thinks of all the men who could have done this. Maybe he is enraged that someone has raped her and berates Mary to tell him the truth. When and how did this happen? 

Few experiences are worse than being on the receiving end of someone’s wrath over breaking trust and all Mary can do is assert her innocence. Fortunately for her, Joseph is a man of faith, which was why God chose him to be Jesus’ earthly father, and he must have genuinely loved her. I see him on his knees, begging God for guidance, and he decides that the best he can do for Mary is break their engagement quietly and help her avoid being put to death. But an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and affirms Mary’s story that she has not broken her vow to him, but that “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20, NIV) The angel goes on to let him know that this baby boy is going to be very special. Matthew tells us that Joseph chooses to quietly marry her. It must have taken great faith on his part to believe both the angel and Mary and to be willing to call Jesus his son.

Meanwhile Mary must be full of a vast range of emotions, from fear for her life, to joy over being chosen and possibly even anger at Joseph for not believing her. What can we learn from how she deals with all of this disruption of her placid life?

The first thing we see is that Mary is open with her feelings when the angel comes to tell her she is going to have a baby. Luke tells us that she is “greatly troubled” (Luke 1:29, NIV). More modern translations say that she was confused, or perplexed, but I like troubled. In reality she was probably freaked out!  She knows enough about the birds and the bees to question the angel about how this could happen to her.

In dealing with transitions in life, I’ve found it’s important to be honest with how I’m feeling, both good and bad. Some women experience deep depression after a birth and most are going to feel exhausted and unsure. When Adam was born, we had only been in Georgia a short time with no family and few friends. I was under the impression that I would pop the baby out and be back to normal in a few days. I was not prepared for the toil the birth would take on my body and what was involved with caring for an infant. Like Prissy in Gone With the Wind, I didn’t “know nothin’ about birthin’ babies.” After about two weeks of trying to make it on my own, Keith packed me up to my parents’ house where I did nothing but sleep and feed Adam and let my mama take care of me. I had to admit that I needed help to make it through such a major life change.

Secondly, Mary trusts that God will take care of her, even though she is confused and frightened. After the angel tells her the astounding news that her son will called “the Son of the Most High” and reign over the house of Jacob forever, she accepts his words. “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.” (Luke 1:38, MSG)

The unknown is what makes life transitions hard. We know what life is like before the baby or the empty nest or the loss of our loved one, but the new road ahead is not clear. When we accept the changes, whether a happy or sad situation, we can move through it with God’s grace.

 Mary then turns to an older woman who can offer her advice. After hearing this life changing news from the angel, she quickly goes to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is past child bearing age but has found herself unexpectedly pregnant. Of all people, she is the only one who can remotely understand what is going on with Mary.

Elizabeth is about six months along and at the sound of Mary’s voice, her baby, who will become John the Baptist, “leaps” in her womb. Elizabeth affirms what the angel said about the coming child. She builds Mary up by letting her know how blessed she is for believing in what God has said (Luke 1:45). Elizabeth’s words of encouragement must have been a balm on Mary’s bewildered soul.

My older sister was the one I looked up to as a role model for much of life. Ever since she passed away with cancer when I was seventeen, God has put mature, Godly women in my life at each step of the way. Talking to someone who has “been there” and can listen and offer advice is so necessary when we are encountering new seasons of life.

I still have older women in my life who I go to with my problems and I’m thankful for them. They have the peace that comes from years of trusting God and show me how to navigate uncertain waters. I now find myself in the position of the older woman who dispenses advice and I view it as a privilege and responsibility.

After Mary talks to Elizabeth, she is ready to thank God for choosing her for such a momentous job. If transitions in life are getting us down, we often need an “attitude adjustment” that allows us to see the good in the situation. Thanking God for even the smallest things can help us climb out of depression when life pulls the rug out from under us.

Mary teaches us how to face new and uncertain times in life. We need to be open with our feelings, trust that God will take care of us even if we don’t see the way ahead, and talk to trusted friends who have been through similar circumstances. Then we, like Mary, can praise God in all the situations we find ourselves.

If you are a young mother or know someone who is, you will enjoy and be inspired by  Life’s a Trip, a blog written by my good friend Abigail Brown Burle. Abby and her husband Ryan are the parents of two-year-old triplets and have been honest about their struggles as well as the fun that life with three toddlers can bring. On her blog, you can sign up for Memo — Moms Encouraging Moms On, which she writes with her sister Mary Beth Martin, who has four-year-old twins and a newborn! They share their faith as they do crazy life with their husbands and six children, all under four-years-old.

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