Baby Katie Beth Update

Author: Kevin Schlichter

Last February Melissa wrote an entry on Upstream Swimming about our daughter, Kathryn, and asked all of you to be praying for our family. Perhaps you’ve been wondering how that all turned out, so here’s a Thanksgiving update on her situation.

To recap, a few weeks before birth Kathryn Elizabeth (heretofore known as Katie Beth, KB, Kat, Kitty, Katie, or The Reason I’ve Been Super Angry and Not Sleeping for Nine Months) was diagnosed with ventriculomegaly, then born with congenital defects in her ears, nose, and mouth, and a couple of days later she was unofficially diagnosed with Zellweger Syndrome and tested positive for Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV). Off the record we were told by one of her specialists that she had no more than six months to live—at the absolute longest. That’s when word started to spread. First our friends started to pray and word quickly spread to others in our church, then relatives, and then their friends and churches started to pray. We were getting cards, flowers, and e-mails from people we didn’t know all over the country telling us they were praying for us. And I don’t know why—I don’t know why He does anything that He does—but God answered those prayers in a way we didn’t expect.

Three days after she was born her ears had moved into a normal location and, although we had originally been told to expect difficulty, she was breathing and eating on her own. After a lot of blood samples, an MRI, and two months of waiting for genetic testing at the Mayo Clinic, her official diagnosis was made: Katie does not have Zellweger Syndrome—or any other known genetic defect. We had been praying for strength to get through the trial, hoping that the loss of a child wouldn’t ruin our marriage and that we’d be able to try again, but He had healed our daughter instead. She still has some brain damage and there may be other long-term effects from the HCMV, but so far she is doing well. In fact, she has been developing perfectly normally. She excels in her intelligence and fine motor skill tests at physical therapy (yeah, infant physical therapy) impressing her doctors with her ability to manipulate a pacifier into the correct position before putting it in her mouth, and her ability to hold her own bottle to feed herself. Kitty has been doing both of these for several months now. Her strength continues to lag, but not by a concerning amount and Robyn and I aren’t muscular anyhow. KB’s head is even a normal size—it was supposed to be disproportionately small as a result of the HCMV.

So this Thanksgiving we’re thankful for our daughter. We’re thankful that she’s here with us, but also for the experience—we grew as a couple and our relationship was affected positively by it. We’re stronger as a team; have a healthier perspective on certain things; opened up to each other and gained a level of intimacy we’ve never shared before. I wouldn’t wish an experience like this on my worst enemy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Like everything else we do with God, it isn’t easy but it’s very worthwhile.

We’re thankful for our church family, friends, and relatives who supported us in very material ways. We fed not only ourselves, but at least one other family with the food that was brought to us at home and in the hospital. Our dogs were cared for, and we almost had our yard re-landscaped as well. Being around people like the Felkers pushes us to live our lives for God in tangible and meaningful ways. We’re thankful for the example you’ve all demonstrated for us.

Finally, and this is last because I want it to be remembered first, we’re thankful for your prayers. I don’t know why He healed Kathryn and not the other kids in the NICU, but seeing the People of God care for each other always encourages me immensely and provides the best witness I know of. So thank you for taking the time out of your day to pray for us, whom you’ve never met. You can’t fix everything, but you’ve made a difference to us. 

Capable: Finding Dignity and Community

Sean and I financially support HOPE International, which is a microfinance organization helping people around the world to escape poverty by providing microloans, savings services, training and mentoring. HOPE is a really cool organization – watch this video to see what they do and hear Fadzai’s moving story!

It’s the 10 Year Anniversary of my Husband’s Death

Well, depending on your technical definition of death 🙂 In any case, Sean came seconds away from meeting Jesus face to face 10 years ago today. An article was written about the incident in January of 2003 in the Pleasanton Weekly from his dad’s perspective, which I copied and pasted below:

The Day His Son’s Heart Stopped

Brian Felker headed out to the garage the morning of Nov. 9 with his son Sean, 18, happy to have him home from UC Santa Barbara for the weekend. As they were moving things in the minivan, Sean suddenly stepped out of the vehicle and lay on the ground.

“I thought he was goofing around,” said Brian Felker, who was feeling great to be with his son again. But his high spirits plummeted as he saw that Sean looked like he was having a seizure.

“His eyes rolled back. I went over to him and put my hand under his head,” recalled Felker. “I yelled at my wife to call 911.”

“His heart rate continued to climb and climb, like a horse in a race,” said Felker. “He was turning bright red. After some period of time, he then absolutely deflated. He then stopped breathing, his color went white. I couldn’t believe my son’s heart was stopping.”

Luckily Felker, who is a mechanical engineer at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, receives CPR and first aid training regularly.

“All I could remember was ABC – airway clearing, breathing and chest compression,” said Felker. “I stuck my fingers down his throat and pulled his tongue out. He took a breath on his own. He took a second breath but it was much weaker. Then he took in no breaths.”

Felker knew he had to do Sean’s breathing for him. “My first breath went into his stomach, I could see that it rose and that really disturbed me. I thought, ‘I know this is wrong because I want the air to go into his chest.’ I couldn’t remember what’s right. I went to give him air again and gave him a couple of breaths. This time his stomach was not bloating.”

At this point, his wife Joann came out of the house holding the portable phone. She relayed to the 911 dispatcher what was happening.

“I cleared his tongue again and said, all right, I have to do chest compressions. If I break his ribs I will love it if he hates me later,” remembered Felker.

All the time he wondered whether he was doing it right. He repositioned Sean’s neck, tipping his head back so he could blow the air in correctly. Chest compressions. Breathing. Chest compressions. Breathing.

“I kept this up, maybe six cycles and at that point could hear the sirens,” Felker said. “I said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ I lost track of time.”

Once he knew help was almost there, he relaxed and kept up the efforts. The paramedics told him to keep on going while they set up their equipment. “Within 15 to 30 seconds they said, ‘OK, sir, we’ll take over,'” Felker recalled.

“Another fireman touched me on the should and said, ‘Sir, you need to take care of your family.'”

He and Joann have three others sons: Drew, 15, Matthew, 12, and Jeffrey, 10. “Matthew had the presence of mind to run to our neighbor’s house, who is a fireman, but he wasn’t home.”

Capt. Scott Gatkin was on duty at Station 9 of the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department when the call came in.

“We found out the boy was in cardiac arrest,” said Gatkin. “We defibrillated. We put an endo-trachial tube in to facilitate his breathing and started an IV and started medications.”

He continued, “On the scene we were able to return his pulse and blood pressure. By the time we were at the hospital he had spontaneous breathing.”

“Even with all our equipment and our rapid response, if his father didn’t start CPR he may have survived, but he would not have been going back to school,” Gatkin said. “When the heart stops, there is no oxygen going to the brain and the cells start dying within just a few minutes. Even with all we can do and what can be done at the hospital to correct these problems, if you don’t keep the brain alive, someone may just survive to be on a ventilator, in a vegetative state.”

Sean’s story had a happy ending. He was taken to ValleyCare Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, which means an extra electrical pathway in his heart. He’d noticed symptoms in high school when he didn’t cool down during sports as others did. He was transferred to Mt. Diablo Medical Center where doctors operated to correct the condition.

“When the doctors came out, they were ecstatic,” reported Felker. “They said, ‘He is not just 50 percent better. Now he has a heart like yours or mine.'”

Sean was back at UC Santa Barbara 22 days later. His dad is signing up for another CPR class, although he has taken it about four times over his 23 years at the Lab.

Not only did he return to UCSB 22 days later, but four years later he graduated top of his class in the entire college of engineering…even with all that brain damage 🙂 Also, two facts the article didn’t mention are that Sean was defibrillated five times before a pulse was detected, and spent the subsequent four days in a coma.

Sean and his younger brothers, 3 weeks after his heart stopped. Amazing!

It’s an emotional day for me today as I reflect on how drastically different my life would be without Sean. The outcome would have been so different if he had been alone or with someone who didn’t know CPR. He is my very best friend and God’s greatest gift to me (aside from salvation of course). I’m grappling with words to fully describe how amazing he is, and how thankful I am for him. I truly believe he is the greatest husband and father, and I respect him so much. I come from a long line of broken relationships/divorce, and I will be the first generation to break that cycle, as we are both steadfastly committed to our marriage and faith. Equally as exciting, Caleb+ will be the first in my line to experience a peaceful home in which their parents love God and each other.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who better exemplifies the fruit of the spirit – anyone close to Sean knows he is so full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He daily lives out Ephesians 5:25 with great humility – “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” For evidence of this, just read my series about my pregnancy with Caleb, and you will know exactly what I mean! I was once told that I hit the “jackpot” with Sean, and it’s true, I did 😉

Thank you, God, for saving my husband in more ways than one. His life has impacted so many, and my heart overflows with joy and gratitude today for your graciousness in allowing him to stay.

Housemate Update

Unfortunately, helping the young woman and her twins did not work out as we hoped. Without going into millions of details (I wouldn’t even know where to begin), she ultimately is not at a place in her life where she is ready to tackle long-term recovery from her drug addiction, and is no longer staying with us (of her own volition).

At the moment I feel bummed. I am sad for her and her children, and that she threw away an opportunity to remove herself from a negative environment and pursue healthiness and stability. I am sad to know what her children have endured and what they will likely continue to endure. I am sad that our investment in this young woman’s life did not yield change (or at least any change I can see). I am also dealing with some feelings of failure – like if I had done some things differently, the outcome might have been different. But ultimately, I know that God is in control and loves her and her kids (way!) more than I do, and that truth is something I have had to return to over and over. I will continue to pray for her and her kids – mainly that God would change her heart, transform her life from the inside out, and set her free.

Though I feel a great deal of sadness, I also feel relief. Honestly, the last few weeks have been extremely stressful and draining for us. The experience was a roller coaster of ups and downs and we truly put every ounce of time and energy we possessed into helping her, and it was exhausting. This experience only lasted 2.5 weeks, but I think we will need twice that just to recover 🙂 The situation was painfully stretching for me and I was forced to rely on the Lord in a unique way I had never experienced before. Once I have had a little more time to fully process everything, I will share more of my thoughts in an upcoming blog.

We really want to thank all you who prayed for us, encouraged us, and donated clothes, baby items, etc. We felt so loved and supported by you and are so grateful we didn’t go through this alone. It was such a blessing to have so many fellow Christians come alongside us in this whole process and demonstrate the love of Christ 🙂

We’re Getting Three Housemates!

When we moved to the east bay last summer and bought a house, we purchased a four bedroom home because our plan is to eventually adopt as many children as God gives us capacity for. As we searched for homes, we decided it wise to purchase a bigger home now, in order to provide for these children down the road while housing prices and interest rates are so low. However, with just the three of us right now, we are only using two of the four bedrooms.

Since moving in, I have entertained the idea of using our downstairs bedroom to provide housing to someone in need once we set the room up. It just seems to me a colossal waste (and selfish hoarding), to have two empty bedrooms while there are so many who are homeless (particularly in this economy). We finally finished our guest room in July, but the summer had been a busy one and I put my hopes to use the room to bless someone on the back burner. Then on August 4th, I saw a status update in my facebook news feed that caught my eye. It was written by a woman who I met while Sean and I were raising funds to be missionaries with Campus Crusade for Christ (and who faithfully supported us while we were on staff with the organization). It read:

Hey I woudn’t have made it if it weren’t for someone who stepped out of their “nice little life” and brought me and my daughter in during a very bad time in my life. Think about it……. God saves but He uses His people to help other people. I will always be grateful to Alan and Danette Lauer who opened their house to me, a lost, broken up drug addict in the 70’s. Did they know what they were doing? NO… But did they trust God? YES AND I AM SO GRATEFUL!

I read the post over and over and couldn’t stop tears from welling up in my eyes. What a powerful testimony! I don’t even know this woman well personally, but I do know she is an amazing woman of God and has an incredible, thriving prison ministry that is impacting numerous inmates’ lives. I just kept thinking: “I want us to be them. I want us to be Alan and Danette Lauer. We have no idea what we’re doing either, but I want to trust God like that.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about her post for the rest of August, so during our 5 year anniversary get-away over labor day weekend, I brought it up to Sean. I read him her post and my desire for us to open up our downstairs bedroom to someone in need. He readily agreed, so we added “contact our church to see if they know anyone in need who could use our downstairs bedroom for free to bless them (single mom, a young girl who recently aged out of the foster care system, missionaries, etc.)” to our list of actions we wanted to take immediately.

When we returned from the trip, I emailed the local missions director at our church to ask her if she knew of anyone. Within a couple of days, I received a response that she indeed knew of a single mother of four who was currently pregnant with twins and living in a motel. She said she has known this family for quite some time and believes this is the turning point for this young woman. She also informed me that her children were being placed with a “safe family” (a family that agrees to take care of children for a short period of time during a crisis situation). After receiving her email, we set up a time to meet this last Thursday (9/20) to discuss this young woman’s situation further.

At the meeting, I quickly received a curve ball and was told she had delivered the twin boys via emergency c section at 35 weeks gestation the day earlier. During the meeting, I just kept thinking: “I can’t imagine having just had a major surgery, two newborn babies, no home to call my own, and no help from a spouse.” I came home and told Sean all about the meeting, we prayed together, and determined this is something God is calling us to do. So tonight this young woman will be coming to stay with us, and her twins (who are one week old today), will soon follow when they get released from the NICU. Talk about a madhouse! 🙂 Right now, our commitment is to provide housing for her, help her care for her twins, assist her in securing longer-term housing, and enable her to attend an addict recovery program during the next 5-6 weeks.

This may just be the craziest thing we’ve ever done (or at least right up there), and while I’m apprehensive about the unknown and selfishly grieving all the sacrifices we’ll have to make, I am thrilled by this opportunity to lay down my life (John 15:13), and to deny myself and take up my cross to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). 1 John 3:16-18 states: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

Even if this young woman’s life remains unchanged by this experience, I know our lives will forever be changed (and I hope this will be the first of many more opportunities like this to come). Though this experience will be difficult, I’m sure, I am excited for my character to be refined and molded more and more into the likeness of Jesus. “At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’” -Mother Teresa

Please be praying for all six of us during this time, we will need it!! But hey…good thing God won’t give us more than we can handle right!? Haha! 😉 But seriously, this will be a great opportunity to put into practice what I recently blogged about. Isn’t it funny how God does that?? Maybe I should be more careful what I blog about in the future, because it seems He likes to test me on my subject matter soon after posting to see if I really understand 🙂

5 Year Marriage Eval

View from our balcony

Making fun of Caleb’s stank face of course…seriously, this is what he looks like half the time

Sean and I just returned from a fun trip celebrating our 5 year anniversary in Santa Barbara where we met at school! It was the first time I was separated from Caleb for more than six hours since he was born, and while we missed him a lot, it was great to spend three days of uninterrupted time with each other (and from what I hear, Caleb had a blast with his nana, pop pop, and uncles)! Yesterday morning I asked Caleb if he wanted “mama” or “nana,” and he said “nana”…burned! Haha!

While the trip was super restful, we also used it as a time for us to intentionally take a pulse of our marriage and lives in general. We brought Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book “Real Marriage” on the trip, and over the course of the weekend, we talked through each question at the end of the book. We concluded the weekend by creating a list of areas of maturation for us and goals to work towards, as well as areas we agreed we are experiencing success in. I decided to share both lists on my blog as a record for us to reference, as well as for accountability. If I share our areas of needed growth publicly, I think we will be more likely to take them seriously. We also invite those of you who are actively involved in our lives to hold us accountable to these things, and periodically check in with us and ask how we’re doing with them.

20 areas of growth/actions we want to take immediately/future goals of ours:

  • Sean wants to begin attending the Wed. morning men’s Bible study to be in fellowship with older men
  • Pray for mentors/mentees for both of us
  • Enroll Caleb in an LARPD class to meet moms in the area who are not from my church (in order to branch out my friendships)
  • Invite our neighbors over for dinner
  • Sean wants to consistently bike to/from work four days a week
  • Be in bed by 11 pm so we get more sleep
  • We have appointed Friday nights as our sabbath and want to respect that
  • Make a meal plan, eat more meals with Caleb, and I want to cook more (Sean does a lot of cooking)
  • Walk together at least three times a week to pray as a family
  • Sean wants to grow in spiritual leadership of our family
  • Begin researching adoption options more in depth
  • Grow in hospitality and invite couples from our young married’s bible study over for dinner at least once a month
  • Sean wants to pursue friendships with other men more and I want to pursue deeper friendships with my women friends in Livermore
  • Finish working on our kitchen, downstairs bathroom, and laundry room by January
  • Pray for our families more
  • Watch less TV and read more instead
  • Be more disciplined about reading the Bible daily
  • Work towards buying a bigger car next summer
  • Strive to be more welcoming and outgoing in group settings
  • Contact our church to see if they know anyone in need who could use our downstairs bedroom for free to bless them (single mom, a young girl who recently aged out of the foster care system, missionaries, etc.) I know this one will be hard for me because I really value my privacy/alone time, but Jesus said to deny myself and lay down my life for others…so I will work towards that

20 strengths of ours:

  • We communicate well and are honest, open, and transparent with one another
  • Actively pursuing community and friendships in Livermore
  • Recently took on a leadership role in our young married’s bible study at church
  • Faithful in attending our church weekly
  • Pursuing relationships with our neighbors
  • Serve one another well and share the work load (personally I would say Sean does this better than me)
  • Staying “mission minded”
  • Always self-evaluating and checking if we are really living out our faith
  • I have done a good job exercising consistently
  • Consistently praying individually
  • Take our respective jobs seriously and are hard workers
  • Spend/save money wisely and tithe 10% (and more) of our income faithfully
  • Make connecting with each other a priority
  • Verbally affirm each other often
  • Genuinely enjoy one another
  • Challenge one another and push each other to become more like Christ
  • Both of us spend a lot of quality time with Caleb
  • Constantly have meaningful conversations and are always seeking to learn and grow
  • Always eat dinner together
  • “Fight” well (i.e. we don’t yell at each other, we resolve the issue before going to sleep, we strive to empathize with one another, etc.)

Of course we could easily come up with far more than 20 areas we could pursue growth in, but I think that’s a good/manageable start. I’m excited to see what God does as we strive to make healthy spiritual, emotional, and physical changes in our lives moving forward from here!

The New Middle Road

“It’s so weird how in the Church we’ve twisted this and follow Jesus is a different game. You don’t really have to flap your wings. You can just sit there and do it in your heart. Seriously…you know when I read the Scriptures it says whoever claims to know Him must walk as Jesus walked.” A challenging Francis Chan clip – painfully convicting and yet so funny, as usual. Here’s another favorite Francis Chan clip of mine, in case you missed it earlier this year.

God Won’t Give You More Than You Can Handle?

Since becoming a Christian, I’ve heard the phrase “God won’t give you more than you can handle” on numerous occasions. Heck, I’ve heard it so often that I accepted it as Biblical truth and have used the phrase once or twice to encourage myself or another Christian. After all, at first glance it sounds good, feels good, and appears like it could be Scriptural truth. So what’s the problem? The phrase is simply not found anywhere in the Bible.

I am embarrassed to admit this was a recent discovery of mine. After a recent conversation in which the phrase popped up yet again, I felt prompted to research it further. As I searched for the Bible verse(s) this phrase might be quoted from, I could not find any. The most similarly worded verse I found was 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Morphing this verse into “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is clearly a gross misinterpretation.

In truth, one cannot read the Bible without observing that many of the Biblical characters we admire were given far more than they could “handle.” Moses, Jonah, Jeremiah, Job, Esther, Paul, Peter, etc. etc. Let’s also not forget the millions of martyrs in the history of the Church…I’m assuming death was probably more than what they considered they could handle. The clear truth from the myriad examples found in the Bible is that we are often given more than we can handle in our own power.

Not only is this expression absent from Scripture but it is an affront to the truth that God has revealed in His Word. A situation I can “handle” is one in which my own power and abilities are sufficient. However, the whole point of the Gospel is that because we are sinful, we are unable to handle the most important issue of our lives – our separation from God. This is why we need the work of Christ on the cross…between sin’s destruction and Satan’s scheming, we all find ourselves in a situation that is far more than we can handle. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Jesus himself said “apart from me you can do nothing.”

Moreover, aside from simply being untrue (and an offense to those who are dealing with a situation that is more than they can handle), an additional problem with saying “God won’t give you more than you can handle” is that it takes the emphasis off of God and puts it on us. In reality, God repeatedly allows us to find ourselves in difficult situations to foster a healthy dependence upon Him. Ultimately, it is God himself who “handles” a situation, and thus demonstrates He is the one in control – not us. The truth is we are in constant, daily need of God’s intervention, and until we learn that lesson, we will find our hot-headed, independent, prideful selves back in our anxiety-ridden delusion that we are in control of our lives.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

So let’s retire this saying and replace it with this: Yes, God most definitely will allow you to experience situations that are more than you feel you can handle, but God can handle it. As we trust Him, He will be faithful to provide and though our lives may not transpire as we hoped, we can take comfort in the knowledge that His will for our lives is ultimately what is best and will bring Him the most glory…and that is all that matters.

The winner of the raffle and the $25 Amazon gift card is…

…Ashlee Jones! Congratulations!

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to fill out a survey…the feedback I received was so insightful! I’ve been MIA from blogging for a couple of weeks because as you have probably (or hopefully) noticed by now, I was working hard on giving my blog yet another makeover. I received a lot of feedback from the survey that my blog’s layout needed some improvement, so I listened and have hopefully delivered. This is honestly the very best I can do without spending a small fortune to hire someone, but I think it is an improvement over the previous appearance and is easier to navigate. A few things have changed, so take a look around to familiarize yourself with the new features of this WordPress layout!

Also be aware that the URL has changed and is now, and no longer With this new layout, I am always open to additional advice and ways I can improve it, so let me know if you have any suggestions or find any glitches. There are still some smaller details I am working out but it is mostly finished at this point.

After my short stint with web design, I must say that it ranks right up there with the worst professions ever (no offense to you web designers). I think I am permanently cross-eyed, have irreversible carpal tunnel, and developed an eternal migraine. I’m looking forward to getting back to what I do best…write. 🙂

Some additional insight I received from the survey is that some of you rarely visit/read my blog because you are not notified when a new post is made. If this is you, I made a tab in the navigation bar at the top of this page called “get blog updates” to guide you through various options to stay informed.

One last thing – I want to share one of the most exciting and encouraging comments I received from the survey: “It always inspires me to live for Christ.” I love it!


Caleb’s Afterbirth – Am I an Incompetent Parent?

For those of you (i.e. Mom) who are wondering when I will stop writing about narsty bodily functions that no one wants to read about and events that occurred 15+ months ago, this is the very last one! You are very welcome.

In the previous four “afterbirth” posts, I outlined multiple different factors that contributed to quite a bit of stress after Caleb’s birth. Unfortunately, there were even more. In the months leading up to Caleb’s birth, Sean and I had been seeking God and His will for our lives. At the time, we were on staff with Destino (a sub-ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ), and for numerous reasons, we felt that God was most likely calling us away from vocational ministry. As the date of Caleb’s arrival drew near, we felt more and more pressure to decide one way or the other.

After Caleb’s birth, the decision to stay on or leave staff weighed heavily upon us, and particularly on Sean. This, combined with the difficulties I was experiencing after Caleb’s birth, caused a crushing sense of anxiety for Sean (as I mentioned previously, it all began with a panic attack at the hospital). To provide some background information, Sean has dealt with anxiety and panic attacks since his childhood, and began taking an SSRI daily in high school (which he continues to take to this day). In normal day-to-day life, the medicine helps to eliminate his irrational anxiety, and I typically forget he even struggles with it at all! However, during major life events, Sean’s anxiety will often flare up beyond what his medicine can alleviate.

In the weeks following Caleb’s arrival, Sean was hardly eating, sleeping, and experienced great difficulty adjusting to parenthood. In fact, his anxiety was so intense he went in to see his Dr. for help. How come not one of the myriad pamphlets we received in the hospital warned us of the condition known as male postpartum depression!? 🙂 Because Sean was experiencing so much trouble sleeping due to his anxiety, every little noise Caleb made would wake him up instantly, and thus he began sleeping on our sectional sofa in the living room of our one bedroom apartment. Since I was on the sofa as well due to physical pain, my mom was the sucker who got stuck bunking in the bedroom with newborn Caleb. Haha!

Sean’s anxiety naturally took a toll on me as well. My heart hurt so bad for him as I watched him suffer that (ironically) it added to my own anxiety (in addition to the stress I was already experiencing due to our neighborsbreastfeeding woes, and a painful physical recovery). Not to mention wacky postpartum hormones and my own apprehension as to where God was calling us next. In an effort to stay strong for Sean and Caleb, I kept my feelings inside which I’m sure was not healthy or wise. I want to insert here that I am BEYOND thankful for my mom and Sean’s parents’ help during this insane time. I have absolutely no idea how we would have made it through without them. They were truly a Godsend, and their love and care for the three of us in those first few weeks was sacrificial and admirable.

In the midst of all this, we felt confirmation that God was calling us to leave staff, so Sean actively began searching for a job in engineering. FYI: job searching with a newborn, while struggling with anxiety and surviving on little sleep = really not fun. We do not recommend. In a string of providential scenarios, God provided Sean with an interview at LLNL when Caleb was just four weeks old. Three weeks later, Sean was officially offered a position and we moved from Long Beach to Livermore (370 miles) when Caleb was 11 weeks old. We then spent the next seven weeks living in a studio hotel room until we bought a home. The transition was stressful and tiring (forget any kind of “maternity leave”), but God sustained and provided for us along the way.

As I look back now, it is blatantly obvious why we were so overwhelmed. I mean, if our exact situation was proposed as a psychological experiment to study how people respond under extreme duress, I’m sure it would never pass an ethics review. However, in the moment, it was difficult to see anything clearly.

So here’s the meat of the whole experience: Instead of giving myself grace in everything that was going on, I thought – “wow, am I just an incompetent parent?” Why is this so hard for me? Why does every little thing seem so overwhelming right now? Why am I sobbing every single night in the shower? Do I just suck at this whole parenthood thing? Nothing about parenthood felt like it came naturally to me and I felt completely out of my element. To sum it up, I felt like a failure.

…Which then led to the comparison game. Why is everyone else able to post a picture of their child five minutes after birth on facebook, and it took me four days to announce Caleb’s arrival? Why is every other parent able to post facebook/twitter updates every few hours, when I can’t even find the time to get on the internet at all? Why do other new moms feel capable of welcoming 30 hospital visitors and I did not feel capable of seeing a single one (other than immediate family), until one week after Caleb’s birth (and even then, it was one close friend)!? Why does everyone else with a newborn seem to be in such great spirits when I feel absolutely miserable? How are others with a one-week-old going on fun outings when I can’t even recall the last time I brushed my teeth? Ultimately – why does caring for a newborn seem to be a breeze for everyone else, but for me, it’s the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life? Etc. etc. etc. And when did I find myself pondering these things? Of course, in those very few, precious moments when I should have been sleeping. A brilliant use of time.

Finally, (and thankfully), my cousin who is an incredibly intelligent and competent woman spoke some truth to me. Taking care of a newborn is hard. Your postpartum hormones are crazy, you are sleep deprived, and you and your husband now have the monumental responsibility of taking care of a new life. She told me that if I didn’t have a moment (or two, three, fifteen) of tears, I would be in the minority. She told me that she cried herself to sleep every night after her son was born. It’s overwhelming to take care of a newborn even without all the other issues we were dealing with. To hear her say these things was a breath of fresh air. I’m not crazy. I’m not incompetent. There’s not something wrong with me. I’m not alone in my feelings.

I wish I had heard these things before giving birth. I wish I had better expectations of what it would look like to care for a newborn, which is why I am moved to share my experience with others. Now, when I talk with friends who have newborns and are first time parents, I do everything I can to encourage them. If you’re feeling like you’re not getting anything done and being unproductive, set aside the task list and forget about it for a while. Keeping a human alive and well taken care of is pretty darn productive if you ask me. If you feel out of your element – there’s going to be a huge learning curve, and that’s ok. It’s a whole new world and like it or not, you will become a master at cleaning up “blow out” poopy diapers and getting in and out of Target in 10 minutes flat. Feeling overwhelmed? Rely on God and work together with your spouse as a team and support one another.

Moms – if you feel emotional and anxious…understandable. Your hormone levels drop precipitously once your placenta is expelled, which is going to impact your mood. Guys, if you feel emotional and anxious, this is understandable as well. Welcoming a new person into your family is a huge life change and is bound to impact you in powerful ways. If you feel like other parents are more competent than you – everyone’s life situation, strengths, and newborns’ disposition are different, so don’t spend time comparing. If you are experiencing a difficult time adjusting to life with a newborn, give yourself grace. Feeling like you’ll never sleep in again? Ok, well, that one’s actually true.

And most importantly, if anyone implies or tells you that being a new parent is easy, they are a LIAR or have serious amnesia due to lack of sleep.

If you are a parent, what was your experience with the transition? What did you find difficult about taking care of a newborn? Did you compare yourself with others? If you are a father, can you relate with Sean’s struggles? If you are not yet a parent, do you still want to become one? LOL!! Just kidding – seriously, it’s worth it 🙂

More posts in the ‘Afterbirth’ series:

Caleb’s Afterbirth – the Hospital (Part 1)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – the Neighbs (Part 2)
Caleb’s Afterbirth – Breastfeeding Blues (Part 3)

Caleb’s Afterbirth – Body Slammed (Part 4)

Also, read about Caleb’s birth:

Caleb’s Birth Story: Rated PG-13 for Language, Nudity, and Drugs 🙂

And here’s the 10 ways pregnancy crushed my dignity:

Part 1 – Constipation
Parts 2 & 3 – Appetite and Weight Gain
Part 4 – Mourning Sickness
Part 5 – Incontinence
Part 6 – Crazy Hormones
Parts 7, 8, & 9 – Pain, Pain, Pain
Part 10, the Pinnacle – Diarrhomit