Tag: life

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

6 Practical Gift Ideas for Families With New Babies

The birth of a baby is an exciting time. Whether it is the family’s first child or sixth, there is an air of anticipation and celebration when the little one arrives. In the weeks immediately after a child’s birth, there may be visits to see the new baby and gifts given to the parents.

While all gifts are wonderful, after having two children of my own, there were a few practical gifts that I absolutely loved and appreciated very deeply. So I am sharing these practical gift ideas with you. If there is someone in your life who is expecting a new baby or recently gave birth (or adopted!), these are great ideas to bless the family and provide help during a time that can be challenging.

1. Homemade meals

I cannot thank our parents enough for helping us with meals the first few days after giving birth. Homemade and delicious meals, especially that provide easy-to-reheat leftovers like soup and stew, were life-savers. My mom’s delicious tomato soup and quinoa waffles, my mother-in-law’s vegetable stew… It may seem simple but when a woman is recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth, homemade meals are a very important gift.

Tip: Be sure you ask ahead of time if there are any foods or ingredients that need to be avoided due to allergies or sensitivities.

2. Housework

Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, cleaning the toilet… Sure, this is definitely not the most glamorous of gifts but all it costs is a little bit of your time. Especially during the first two weeks home from the hospital or birthing center and depending upon the woman’s recovery, the gift of housework is extremely precious. Most of us probably would never have the courage to ask a family member or friend to do such chores, but if you were to offer and insist in spite any feeble protests, it just might bring tears of relief to the new mother.

My mother-in-law swept and mopped the floors in the main living area both times I was in the hospital, and I must say that it was wonderful coming home to a clean house.

3. Diapers

Going to visit a family with a new baby? Ask them what brand and size diapers they are using and grab a package on your way over. Babies go through diapers very quickly and it is never fun to run out or stress about how to get to the store for more. Does the family have multiple children in diapers at the same time? Grab a pack for the newborn and for the older sibling, too, and the parents will be forever grateful with your thoughtfulness and generosity!

4. Gift cards

Not quite sure what to get for a family with a newborn? You cannot go wrong with a gift card, especially to a store they will go to on a regular basis to buy diapers, formula, and other last minute or unexpected items. Our first son, Peanut, was unable to breastfeed due to a severe tongue tie and though my parents bought an electric pump for us, we suddenly had the unexpected need for bottles, a bottle brush, drying rack, special soap that cuts through the breastmilk residue, and pump parts. With our second son, Pickle, we now have two kids in diapers and are going through diapers and wipes quickly!

Gift cards to Target or Walmart make an excellent gift for the routine expenses. Cards to specialty stores like Babies R Us or BuyBuyBaby also make a good gift to help alleviate the cost of bigger items like high chairs, strollers, etc. that may not have been purchased or gifted earlier.

5. Babysitting

Whether it is an hour watching baby while the mother showers or naps or taking the older child(ren) for the afternoon, many parents would love the offer to babysit in the weeks immediately after a new baby’s arrival. Granted, you have to be comfortable with newborns and young children and also be close, trustworthy family member or friend.

6. Re-gifting

If you have older children and still have some of the items you used for your newborn lying around, you can re-gift them. Whether it is newborn clothes, a baby carrier or wrap, an outgrown high chair, an unused stroller — whatever you no longer need nor anticipate needing in the future. It is good to know that these items are going to a family member or friend who can put them to good use.

These are six practical gift ideas to bless a family with a new baby. Do you have more ideas? Was there something someone did for you that you really appreciated? Please share in the comments below!

His Encouragement: Isaiah 26:3

His Encouragement: Isaiah 26:3

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” — Isaiah 26:3, ESV

It has been a little over a week since we experienced a day full of conflicting emotions: exhilaration and joy followed by uncertainty and fear followed by relief and exhaustion. It was one of the happiest days of my life but also one of the scariest yet through it all, I felt the peace of the Lord with me. I will go into more detail in a future post, but the shortened version is this:

A little over a week ago our second child (pseudonym Pickle) was born after a fast yet intense labor and delivery. I felt the first strong contraction at 5:43am and he was born exactly three hours later at 8:43am. He was 6 lbs 10 oz and 18 inches long. Other than a rather painful second degree tear (Ouch!) everything was great. Pickle was nice and healthy and we were able to spend a few hours doing skin-to-skin and he practiced nursing.

Then, about four hours after delivery when the nurse was checking on me, she became concerned with my level of bleeding and the size of the clots I was passing. She called her supervising RN for a second opinion and they in turn called my doctor. After an extremely painful physical exam (the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life and I have birthed two children without pain medicine!), my doctor had me rushed down to surgery. Though the words were never spoken, everyone knew what the concerns were: possible postpartum hemorrhaging.

I had my husband call my parents to come back to the hospital and then he said a prayer over me. Pickle was wheeled off to the nursery and I was wheeled downstairs to the operating room. My doctor kept reassuring me that she did not believe anything was seriously wrong but she needed to make sure. I kissed my husband goodbye and said another prayer as the thought “I could be dying. I might not see him or my children again.” flashed through my mind. But the peace of God was over me and I was so very calm. The procedure was long, and unknown to me, dozens of our family, friends, and church members were praying.

The doctor could not find a source for the exceeding bleeding. She preformed a minor D&C, added more stitches, and did a full internal examination. Afterward the whole procedure and by the grace of God, the bleeding lessened to the normal amount for post-birth and I no longer had any large clots. The experience was surreal, but the whole time I was on the operating table and later in recovery, I was talking with the Lord and felt no fear despite the uncertainty of the situation.

The words of Isaiah 26:3 says: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” And that day, a day filled with celebration and concern, I experienced that promise firsthand. No matter what you are going through, when you trust in the Lord, He will give you His peace.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Colossians 3:23-24

His Encouragement: Colossians 3:23-24

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” — Colossians 3:23-24, ESV

Have you ever been frustrated, fed up, or overwhelmed with your work, whether it is paid or not, whether it is for a living or volunteering? I must admit that while I enjoy my job 75% of the time, there are moments when I am overwhelmed with the sheer amount of work my superiors sometimes expect from one person (me) without any assistance. On a good day, I single-handedly do the work of two people. On a bad day, new projects come rolling in with high expectations and unrealistic deadlines. When I voice my concerns, I am basically told: “Just get it done.”

The last year has been especially stressful due to additional circumstances, both at work and in my personal life. Though I am usually an over-achiever, I admit that there have been times I have been so frustrated and overwhelmed that a part of me actually contemplated (for the briefest of moments) slacking off and letting a project slide just to demonstrate that the workload simply cannot be done by one person alone.

It is not like my job is one with huge consequences on the line. I am a web developer for an university… not a police officer, firefighter, paramedic, nurse, doctor, or any other profession who literally deals everyday with potentially life and death situations. If a website’s content is not updated until next week instead of this week or that latest security update is not pushed through today but tomorrow instead, it really is not going to make that much of a difference.

During my weak moments when such thoughts do flitter through my mind, I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words to the Colossians. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

That is right. Even though in the grand scheme of the universe, my job is rather insignificant, I am called to do my best in all situations — even the overwhelming ones. As a child, I memorized a Psalty song based on Philippians 4:13 that goes like this: “Do my best! Do my best! With Jesus as my strength, I’ll do my best. He’ll do the rest!” That is all we can do.

No matter our circumstances. No matter how tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, or even angry we might be. No matter if we feel like it or not, we should always strive to do our personal best and let God handle the rest. Even in the mundane tasks and toils of every day life, we “…are serving the Lord Christ.”

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: Week 37, 38, or 39?

With all of the false contractions I have been experiencing this last week, this very well might be our last pregnancy update.

How far along: 37 or 38 or 39 Weeks

Sooooo… As I may have mentioned previously, we were originally given the due date of January 28th, which would make our little Pickle 39 weeks as of now. At our first ultrasound, the tech discovered he was measuring a little small so the doctors decided to push back the due date to February 10th, which would make him now 37 weeks. That is a two week difference, and when it comes to fetal development, that is a huge difference.

Then at our doctor’s appointment yesterday, she mentioned that the ultrasound office had put down in my file “38 weeks” after our most recent two ultrasounds.

*sigh* Apparently, no one can agree with how far along we are. We could be 37, 38, or 39 weeks. I’m going to go with the middle and just say 38 weeks. I have been 1cm dilated and 50% efaced for a week now with no further progress, so — as long as there are no sudden changes — it looks like we just might have another week to go before our little Pickle decides to arrive.

Size of baby: 5 lbs at last ultrasound so he is, hopefully, about 5.5 lbs now. After taking our first son’s lower birth weight (4 lbs 11 oz) also into consideration, the doctors determined that it is probably genetic: we just make smaller babies. But in a society where “average” babies are now being born in the 8-10 lb range, I am more than happy to have smaller babies! I, myself, was around 6 lbs when I was born.

Movement: Except for the hour or so in the middle afternoon when he is napping, this little Pickle seems to be moving all of the time. He especially loves to kick and stretch as his home is getting rather cramped for him. At my last check in, he had already shifted and was in launch position: head down.

Sleep: Much, much better! I think part of it is because he has shifted down so the pressure on my diaphragm and organs have been relieved some, allowing me to breathe easier. Another reason is that we splurged on a memory foam mattress topper for our bed. It supports the belly so nicely when I lie on my left side and removed quite a few pressure points, allowing me to sleep much better with less aches and pains.

Workouts: None. I am not supposed to be doing anything strenuous — not even walking — but I still do more than I should just helping to get the kids’ room ready, the regular chores around the house, and going into work.

Maternity clothes: I am literally wearing my largest pants (jeans) and pairing them with the nicest shirts I can for work, and I change into lounging clothes when I get home. Comfort is the only thing that matters at this point.

Symptoms: Pretty much every single normal late pregnancy symptom that I missed on out experiencing with my first, including muscle and joint aches, Braxton Hicks/false contractions, false labor, bloating, gas, swelling of feet/ankles, tingling in legs below the knees, pain in the right hip upon standing, frequent trips to the bathroom, fatigue, etc.

Cravings/Aversions: Now that Pickle has shifted down and I can eat more than tiny meals (like just a bowl of cereal), I find myself ravenous, especially at dinner. No real cravings, just hungry! The batch of strawberries we just picked up are amazingly delicious, especially with some coconut yogurt (diary-free), but my husband has said the same thing so I would not could that as a craving. Well, I might be craving popcorn, but I have not given in yet because when I eat too much corn, I end up with a headache.

Missing most: Being able to walk and move without pain and being able to play with Peanut again.

Preparing for baby: We just need to re-assemble the bassinet that he will sleep in and find that bin with all of the newborn clothes…

Cannot wait for: Pickle to come!

His Encouragement: Psalm 43:5

His Encouragement: Psalm 43:5

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”

Psalm 43:5, ESV

 

Let’s face it. Some days are just plain hard.

Sometimes unexpected difficulties arise that throw us completely for a loop. Other times we struggle with challenges that persist in spite of our best efforts to overcome. Some of us may be going through financial troubles, health problems, relationship issues, stress in the workplace, emotional upheavals…  There are so many causes for the hard days!

When you are having a hard day and find yourself struggling, do not get discouraged! It is clear from quite a few of the psalms he wrote that King David likewise struggled with bouts of depression, anxiety, and feelings of being overwhelmed with his circumstances. In Psalm 43:5, he wrote: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”

He recognized his emotional state, his distress, his confusion. That is the first step towards overcoming the hard days and the emotional baggage that comes with them. We first must recognize our situation and put it into proper prospective. No matter what others might say, it is okay to feel the way you are feeling. Your feelings are valid.

But notice how, after identifying his problem, he does not linger on his turmoil? He continues: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” This is the second step in overcoming the hard days: acknowledging our need for God. When we are at our lowest point, when we feel the furthest from the Lord, when we feel hopeless, when we feel overwhelmed… that is when we need Him the most!

Sometimes all it takes is the simple reminder of these three words: Hope in God.

Friend, no matter what you are going through today, this week, this year, it is my earnest and heartfelt prayer that you always hope in God. May you, too, find exceeding joy and “shall again praise him”.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Baby #2 Pregnancy Update: 35 Weeks

Now that the holidays are over, you would expect things to slow down around here but that is not the case. We have officially reached 35 weeks with Baby #2 (we will call him “Pickle” today and see how it feels), and there is still quite a bit to do to prepare for his arrival. Also, at our appointment yesterday, my doctor seemed a little concerned he might come early and wants to prepare for that possibilty.

How far along: 35 Weeks

Size of baby: Pretty big, I would say, but that is just me. We’ll know more after our next ultrasound. (Scheduled for this week!) My belly has expanded quite a bit in the last two weeks, but I am right on target for maternal weight gain at 25 lbs.

Movement: He is definitely a mover and a shaker! It seems that the only time I have a little relief from his physical acrobatics is for a few hours mid-afternoon when he must be napping.

Sleep: I admit that sleep is quite a struggle right now, partially due to Pickle’s propensity for movement throughout the night and partially because even lying on my side leaves my body extremely achy. A pillow between the knees helps sometimes, but for a few nights now, I had to move to the couch so I could sleep in a more upright position. The last three nights, though, I have been falling unusually asleep early while putting Peanut to bed and am so out-of-it that my husband could not wake me up when he tried. Not so sure that is a good thing…

Workouts: Ha! Sadly, I have given up on routine exercise. I do try to walk a little, I take the stairs down (not up anymore), and I try to stand every now and then for a little bit while at work. I am in a bit of an awkward situation: I want to do more exercise but I also do not want to encourage Pickle to come too early. Peanut was two weeks early, and I was on bedrest for the week leading up to his birth.

Maternity clothes: Sadly, due to some weight gain in the thighs and derriere some of my work slacks are now a bit too snug to wear comfortably. I’m wearing my bigger maternity jeans more and more now.

Symptoms: Muscle soreness, joint aches, tightening of the abs, random pains here and there, tiredness… I would say I’m experiencing the usual late pregnancy symptoms. Fortunately, I did not experience any feet or ankle swelling until yesterday, and that was probably due to a number of factors (high sodium dinner the night before, a ton of extra walking in the few days before, and not putting my feet up at work like I usually do). Still, I will need to take it easy from now on.

Cravings/Aversions: Though I usually do not have a taste for sweets or chocolate, because of the recent holidays, we made cookies and chocolate fudge. While I did fairly well with being moderate in my cookie consumption, I found myself sneaking extra bites of the fudge when no one was looking.

To be fair, due to my food allergies and plant-based diet, I have not eaten fudge for almost eight years! But this holiday, I wanted fudge and found a vegan recipe that was amazingly delicious and so fudge-y. Even my non-vegan relatives and co-workers who tried it had no idea it wasn’t “normal” fudge and were asking for the recipe. I will share it on the blog later this week.

Missing most: Breathing when bending over, lifting my 15-month-old without straining, sleeping through the night without being kicked or waking due to various pains, and being all-around more physically active.

Preparing for baby: We are getting a toddler bed for Peanut so we can begin the transition from crib to big boy bed now, before the new baby comes. This also means we have to get the boys’ room done in the next week and a half! Since we have limited storage space, I also want to go through all of our baby clothes and keep only the ones we are going to use. We’ll also need to pack a hospital bag, confirm arrangements for Peanut, and get the bassinet assembled again. I should also get out the breast pump and make sure all of the parts are whole, sanitized, and do not need replacing. So much to do!

Cannot wait for: the arrival of our sweet little boy!

I am kind of hoping he will be a little early, because I would love a January baby. We do not have any January birthdays among our close family and there are already two birthdays in February.

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 1:4-5

His Encouragement: Jeremiah 1:4-5

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’” — Jeremiah 1:4-5, ESV

The time for our second child to be born is quickly approaching, and at almost 35 weeks, I must admit that this time I am feeling very ready — physically, mentally, emotionally ready. Every day is a bit of a struggle to juggle the late pregnancy symptoms with daily routines and obligations, and I feel huge, uncomfortable, tired, and sore. (Other mothers out there probably understand!)

But this is also an exciting time. Eager anticipation of a new life, a new unique individual, a new precious child of God, and all of the potential he has. (Or she! But we are having another boy.) I cannot wait to see my little son’s face and hold him in my arms. I am so excited to be able to watch the relationship between our older son and the new baby bud and grow with time.

So with my mind filled with such expectations, I was reminded of the conversation between the Lord and Jeremiah when he was called to become a prophet of Israel. The Lord spoke to Jeremiah and said: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” It is always a good thing to remind ourselves that we are not an accident. God formed each and every one of us Himself and knew us before we were even born!

That is how precious we are to Him!

But the Lord does not stop there. Oh, no. He continues: “…and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet…” I truly believe that the Lord has special plans for each one of us. Some may refer to it as a special calling, and it is connected with spiritual gifts. (1 Corinthians 12:1-31) But we need to be living our lives inline with His will and His Word if we are to be ready when He calls us or opens up the way to the plan/opportunity.

Just as Jeremiah was appointed by the Lord as His prophet, you and I have a special purpose, a unique calling, that He is waiting for us to embrace. Whether you are called to be a missionary afar or near, a pastor or evangelist or Bible worker, a teacher or greeter or deacon at your local church, a volunteer at the community soup kitchen or food pantry, a light reflecting Christ in your workplace or at the grocery store, or a godly role model for your children, remember that the Lord knows you, has appointed you to His purpose — His ambassador to a dying world! (2 Corinthians 5:20) — and He has given you the gifts that you will need to fulfill it.

So this new year, I challenge us all to spend some extra time in prayer with the Lord, asking for His guidance in showing each of us His purpose for our lives, our calling, and His strength and wisdom to be able to fulfill it.

Now it is your turn! What verse or passage is blessing you today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

His Encouragement: Luke 2:10-14

A cheery and warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a few blogging friends and I will each bring you a Bible verse and a little hope-filled discussion. We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. We also welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your thoughts. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

‘And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”‘ — Luke 2:10-14, ESV

This time of year can get busy with festive parties, decorating, various holiday activities, rushing to secure presents for loved ones, enjoying traditions, and visiting family and friends. To some it might even be stressful as you try to balance all of these extra activities on top of your usual routines. While many find this time of year to be filled with joy and love, it can also be emotionally challenging for others.

Christmas is only days away and I am so tired.

Unlike previous years, I am not taking any extra time off so I am only getting the official holidays provided by my workplace. This is for two reasons: I used the majority of my vacation hours back in November for the family trip, and I’m trying to accrue as many new hours as possible so I can use them towards the end of January before our second son is born.

Working all day, trying to doing at least some holiday stuff during the few hours available in the evenings while playing with our toddler, finding gifts for everyone while staying in budget, sending out cards (very late), trying to make holiday desserts, and whipping together a last-minute wiseman outfit for Peanut for this Sabbath’s special Christmas program — it is not easy.

I now understand why some people get holiday burnout.

But as much fun (or stressful, depending on your experience!) as the holidays can be, I always try to take time away from the hustle and bustle. Quiet time to reflect on the meaning behind the holiday. Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus? Because He is the promised Messiah, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord”. He left heaven to come to earth, taking on our humanity so that He would share in our trials, all to save us from our sins. (Philippians 2:8-10) Through His perfect life and willing sacrifice, we are forgiven and reconciled to God. (Romans 5:10).

Why? Because God loves us— loves you!— that much. So no matter what you are going through, whether you are worn out or stressed or sad or lonely, always remember that God is with you. That, after all, is one of the titles of Jesus: Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

And that, my friend, is worth celebrating! That is the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds that night so long ago.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

His Encouragement: John 14:27

His Encouragement: John 14:27

A warm welcome, dearest friends, to His Encouragement: Biblical Inspiration for Your Thursday. Every Thursday, a small group of bloggers will each bring you a Bible verse and a little discussion filled with hope and encouragement. We welcome you to join the conversation by commenting with your daily verse as well.

We pray that these Thursday posts help you end your week strong in God’s love and purpose for you. God bless!

Today’s Thursday Encouragement

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” — John 14:27, ESV

Some weeks are hard to get through.

I admit it. I have had a very hard two weeks now. I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy, was recovering from a week long (but nice) trip that required an uncomfortable two-day car drive there and then back again, my sleep has been severely interrupted for a number of reasons, my body was aching something terrible, I was low on my vitamins and iron, I was not eating properly, work is becoming increasingly stressful, and our finances are tighter than I am comfortable with.

I have felt so overwhelmed that I broke down and cried twice in just the last week. And I do not cry easily. One or two or even three things I could handle but it seemed as if everything was happening all at once. As the saying goes: When it rains, it pours.

Perhaps you, too, are going through some challenges right now. Maybe you are also feeling overwhelmed by your current circumstances and feeling anxious for the future. Come. Let us read John 14:27 together. In it, our Lord Jesus gives us an important promise that we both need to hear: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you…”

Especially during times of troubles or chaos, we need this gentle reminder. The Lord loves us so much and He offers us a peace that surpasses earthly understanding (Philippians 4:7). A deep, reassuring peace that calms our worries and gives us the strength (His strength!) to face the challenges of life. That is why we can “…let not [our] hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

That does not mean it is easy. There are times, like the last two weeks, where I struggle! Really struggle. Sometimes I try to do it all myself and forget to let go and let God. I need to be reminded to turn to the Lord. After all, He wants us to come to Him with our troubles, our worries, our burdens. Nothing is too big for God to handle and nothing is too small or insignificant for His attention either.

How comforting it is to realize that we don’t have to go it alone.

Now it is your turn! What Bible verse is getting you through your day today?

 

Be sure to also visit my fellow bloggers and read their encouragement for your Thursday:

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every women’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine.

You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps. That is how you show you care.