A Hasty Decision and the Next Big Thing

October 2015.  10:20 p.m.

The baby monitor lights up as I'm finally crawling into bed next to my husband.  I try to ignore its red flashes.  I only put her down an hour ago.  How is this happening already?  I try telling myself that she's just having a bad dream, that she'll calm herself down and go back to sleep.  I know she won't.  Her sleep is becoming more fitful each evening.  As her cries continue, I carry my pillow and blanket down the hall and camp out beside her crib for what feels like the hundredth night in a row.

Same October night 2015.  2:50 a.m.

I have slept for a total of about 45 minutes.  I have to get up for work in two hours.  I've tried everything.  My husband has, too, but he's not an insomniac like I am.  Her reflux meds aren't working.  Nothing is working, in fact.  I cannot stay in this house for another minute.  A mess of tears and hormones, I sit behind the steering wheel and drive to nowhere.  Her sister was a great sleeper.  I know that this phase won't last forever, but I am spent.

Next October day 2015.

"I cannot do this again," I sob into my husband's shoulder.

He asks me what.

I word vomit all over him.

"Have another baby.  I can't listen to her cry all night and to her sister cry all day.  I can't function on this amount of sleep.  I can't deal with pregnancy and postpartum again.  I can't keep up at work or at home.  Two kids is plenty.  We cannot have another."

"Okay," he says.

He makes an appointment for a vasectomy later that week.

December 2016.

My baby is now a toddler, and she started sleeping through the night almost a year ago.  Her older sister has adjusted to having a sibling.  I've quit my job, and my hormones and body have returned to "normal", whatever that is.  There are less days when I think that I'm ruining my children and more when I can't get enough of being their mom.  Every once in awhile, this feeling creeps in that we have made a mistake.  

"Have you thought about having your vasectomy reversed?" I timidly ask my husband.

"Have I what?  No, I have never thought about that."

"Would you?  There's this doctor in Fort Gibson ... "

"I cannot do that again," he says.

I ask him what.

He doesn't word vomit.  He says what I know to be true.  He addresses the lurking fear that I haven't wanted to acknowledge.

"It's not about having another surgery.  It's not about the cost or the recovery or the doctor visits.  I cannot go through months and years of infertility again.  I cannot almost lose our marriage another time."

"Okay," I say.

We don't talk about it anymore.

Today.

It's amazing to me how God can take our messes and turn them into something beautiful.  We made an emotional decision when our baby was less than three months old, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone make life-altering decisions that way.  However, our hasty choice also ended up being the right one for us because it has led us to the next big thing ... 

foster care.

Maybe our family isn't complete.  Maybe there is a little boy or little girl already out in the world who needs us, and we need him.  Maybe we will be able to adopt again, or maybe we're only meant to be a soft place to land for a short time.  Definitely, it will be hard.  Definitely, our hearts will get broken, regardless of the outcome.  Definitely, we will be stretched.  Hopefully, we will grow.

Here's to the next big thing, a decision not made in haste but prayed over for years.  

Join us on the journey!

SAHM Status

I did it.

Last Friday, I officially handed in my notice and will be joining the ranks of stay-at-home moms (with the exception of night classes) when our oldest starts school in August.  

Photo by  Kate Bernard

Photo by Kate Bernard

I'm equal parts thrilled and terrified.

I left the teaching profession at the end of last school year so that I could spend more time with our family, but our finances still necessitated at least part-time work on my end.  My ultimate goal was to spend the kids' "little years" at home, and my husband's recent job promotion will allow me to do just that.  

Obviously, I won't arrive at the end of my life and wish that I had spent more time working.  However, the "terrified" part of me wonders if I will miss having an outlet for a few hours every day.  I worry about money.  I'm intimidated by other SAHMs, who appear to do all the things with all the kids and stay perfectly put-together in the meantime.   Will I fit in?  Will I be fun?  Will I share the "right" opinions with other mommas?  (Lord knows moms are never short on opinions.)

The "thrilled" part of me has been reminding the terrified part that I can do hard things, that I am bigger than my fears.  God gave my girls to me, and I have the unique opportunity to shape their hearts and minds like no one else can.

Above the other feelings, I am free.  For the first time in years, I'm free to say "yes" to all kinds of opportunities that a job outside the home never allowed.  At least for one year before I start my dental hygiene program, I get to live this dream that I've had since I was my daughter's age.

I've been wanting to say this for a long time: I am one of the lucky few.  I am a stay-at-home mom.

Stay tuned for our next adventure(s).  Big things ahead for Team Fenrick. :)    

I got married young.

This past weekend, we got away to an Airbnb for our eighth anniversary.  I'm 29, and we've already been married for eight years.  You do the math on that one.

Here in Oklahoma and where I'm from in Texas, marrying young isn't a complete anomaly.  Even so, my husband and I often get bewildered looks when we talk about how long we have been together.  {Apparently, they let babies get hitched in the South.}  

Everyone seems to have an opinion about what age is appropriate for marriage, but I don't think there is a black and white answer.  Age is often proportional to maturity level, but not always.

I was still in college when I married Andrew.  Looking back now, that seems crazy, but it's really no crazier than getting married and being in "the real world" would have been.  We had dated for three years, and we just knew that the time was right.  I'd like to offer a few reasons why, for us, marrying young was the best thing we could have done.

1.  Sex.  In light of our culture today, I realize that our decision to save sex for marriage is rare and strange, but it was important to us.  If we got married, we could have sex.  So we did.

2.  We knew that we would never be ready.  There are always more goals to accomplish, more places to travel, and more items to cross off the bucket list.  If we waited until the "right time" to get married, we probably never would have.  There is no "right time."  We didn't throw caution to the wind, but we also knew that we couldn't delay our decision until our uncertainty was 100 percent gone, because that day would never come.

3.  Our commitment to love each other, regardless of the situation, has held us together.  This particular reason stands out to me above all the rest.  When we were dating, we always had the choice to break up with relatively small consequences if things weren't going well (and we almost did on multiple occasions).  In 2014, five years after our wedding, we both believed that our marriage was not savable.  The shaky foundation that we had built up to that point completely crumbled, but we still had this piece of paper, this ceremony that our pastor had performed before God and hundreds of other people in which we had promised to love "till death do us part".  Initially those were not good reasons to try to reconcile our differences, but they were all we had at the time, and they are what kept us believing that divorce was not an option.  In the three years that we have stayed married since that horrible year, I have become increasingly more thankful for the vows that forced us to fight through those dark days to the peace and friendship that we enjoy now.

4.  We could have spent forever searching for the perfect person and never found him or her.  I am not naive enough to believe that I am the perfect wife for my husband, and neither is he the perfect husband for me.  We are both seriously flawed.  We fight.  We make each other angry.  He leaves his dirty clothes on the dresser.  I compulsively throw away important papers.  He forgets to wash his dirty lunch Tupperware.  I don't empty out the vaccuum cleaner when it is full of dog hair.  He farts too much.  I cry too much.  Another man might not annoy me in the same ways, but he would annoy me nonetheless.  I didn't marry Andrew because he is the perfect man for me; Andrew is the perfect man for me because I married him.

5.  We do more fun things because we are married, not less.  "Life as we knew it" didn't end when we said "I do".  Left to myself, I'd stay home alone and read books or write all day.  Left to himself, Andrew would play way too many video games and watch every Netflix documentary ever made.  Living together allows us to open up our home to others and be hospitable when it's easier to be lazy.  Having combined incomes provides more opportunities for adventures.  We never have to worry about finding dates to weddings, parties, or showers.  We shoot guns, see movies, play board games, watch car races, go hiking, run marathons, attend concerts and sporting events, look at Christmas lights, host dinner parties, and the list goes on.  We do those things because they are more fun with a best friend than alone, and because we push each other toward spontaneity rather than boredom.

6.  Burdens are cut in half when someone shares them with you.  The last eight years have brought more heartache than we ever expected, but Andrew has helped me through everything.  He cannot remove the circumstances, but he can listen and encourage me through them.  My first year of teaching, surgeries, infertility, and the loss of loved ones have all been easier because my husband has carried part of the load.  Likewise, our joys have been multiplied.  I'll never forget finding out about both of our girls and can't imagine celebrating the gift of life without my partner.

7.  We have become more independent because we are married.  This seems counter-intuitive, but it makes sense.  Being married has allowed us to make more decisions on our own and to become financially independent, things which would have been delayed had we continued living with parents or roommates.  "With great power comes great responsibility," but I actually enjoy being able to plan our meals and buy groceries, pay our own bills, own a home, have separate health insurance, and make the decisions that define adulthood.  We are our own separate family unit, and this has been a blessing rather than a curse.

8.  I'm not the first person to say this, but we get to grow old together and grow up together.  We spent our first year of marriage in a dumpy duplex that backed up to a high school parking lot, we drove an old car with a huge dent in the side, I was still finishing school, and we budgeted like crazy just to make it through student loans to the next paycheck.  But we were happy.  Now that we've been together for over a decade, I have gotten the privilege of witnessing my teenage boyfriend become a man, my precious husband become a father.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this:  Marriage doesn't require a huge savings account, perfect jobs, or a fancy house.  It requires two people who are committed to making it work.  Our story may look much different in twenty years, but the main characters will always be the same.

I got married at 21, and I have no regrets.  

You are bigger than your fear.

Andrew Alaska Rock Climbing

This May marks one year since I left my full-time teaching job.  In the past couple of weeks, I have been reflecting on the year behind me, wondering if I made the right decision.

I don't write lesson plans or go to meetings anymore.  I don't spend my days conducting science experiments or facilitating art projects.  I'm not responsible for the direct care of a classroom full of little ones who are trying to navigate school for the first time.  Now, I cook lots of food, wash lots of dishes, and care for exactly two children (my own).  I go to class at night, and then I wake up the next morning to do it all over again.

At times, I doubt my value at my girls' preschool and even as their mom.  My current state of living the "in between" as a part-time employee, part-time student, and full-time mother feels insignificant.

"Do you think I'm different than the stressed-out mess that I was last year?  Did I do the right thing?"  I ask my husband.

"Yes!" he replies.  "Are those even questions?  Your decision to leave your job is the best thing you've done for our family."

***

April 2016.  I had a wonderful job and adored my students but was looking to make a change and leave special education.  I interviewed at a school across town - a wealthy school with involved parents where I wouldn't have to pay for my own copy paper.  (Yeah, you read that correctly.)  I would be teaching general education Pre-K but could use my special education background to help struggling students.  It was the perfect position, and I immediately accepted when it was offered to me.

Two weeks later, it still didn't feel right.  

Why couldn't I get excited about this opportunity?  Why was I plagued with a nagging sensation that even the ideal class, coworkers, parents, and school wouldn't be enough to make me happy?

***

Also April 2016.  My allergy-prone youngest woke up one morning with conjunctivitis in both eyes.  Her eyes were swollen shut so that she couldn't look at me.  She was scared.  I had already used all of my sick days during maternity leave in the fall, so my husband stayed home with her.  My sweet eight-month-old was clearly in good hands with him, but I bawled all the way to work.

That was the day that I knew I would never teach again.

Even on the really easy days, my job got my best and my family got my leftovers.

***

May 2016.  Feeling like a fool, I sat in my boss's office and declined the offer that many others would have been delighted to take.

She was so gracious.  "This decision doesn't have to make sense to anyone else if it makes sense to you," she said.

As I walked out of her office that day, I felt simultaneously very relieved and very afraid.  Relieved because I had followed my gut.  Afraid because I had no idea what was next.

It is highly unlike me to make decisions without calculating every detail of the aftermath.  What career will I pursue next?  How will we make ends meet without my salary, meager as it is as a teacher in Oklahoma?  Do I even understand how to be a good mom to my kids, and will I enjoy being with them for most of the day?  That last question was the most frightening to consider.  But it had to be asked.  For three years, my girls had spent a good chunk of their waking hours in daycare.  Will I even know how to parent them?

***

My three-year-old is terrified of everything from walking alone on the balance beam, to putting her head underwater, to the Chick-fil-A cow, to anything else in a costume or wearing face paint.  She is smart and persevering, but she lets fear dictate what she will and will not accomplish.

"You are bigger than your fear," I've started telling Piper in a feeble attempt to convince her of this truth while also convincing myself.

I wonder how often I have let myself become paralyzed by fear of the unknown.  It's so easy to spot this in other people.  "If he's abusing her in that relationship, she should just get out!" I think. But it's not that simple.  Sometimes, staying in a familiar but dysfunctional situation feels more comfortable than stepping out in faith to a bunch of question marks.

***

Last May was a turning point for me.  I chose to acknowledge the presence of fear without allowing it to determine the course of my life.  I spent that summer praying for direction and enjoying my children ... and mostly doing nothing.  It was weird and awesome.  I enrolled in classes for dental hygiene a week before they began.

Since then, fears of all sizes have continued to arise, but they don't define me anymore.  I even had a fear of starting this blog.  What if no one reads it?  Or, scarier still, what if people do? 

Obviously, I did it anyway.

***

Alaska

My husband and I went on a rock climbing date a couple of months ago.  He's good at that kind of thing, and I wanted to pursue one of his interests since our dates are usually the other way around.  I had no idea that I was truly afraid of heights until I reached almost to the top of that first wall, looked down, and started to cry and panic.  

"You are bigger than your fear," I remembered myself saying to Piper.  Instead of looking down at the ground, the place where I was comfortable, I looked up to the ceiling of the gym.  I made it to the top, and then I climbed another wall, and another one after that.  Eventually, I was unable to keep climbing, but what kept me from doing so was my embarrassing lack of upper body strength and not the panic that I had experienced so intensely at the beginning of our date.  Fear didn't win.

***

May 22, 2017.  I went back and visited the school where I taught.  I wanted to see my old friends and students, but I also needed to feel confirmed in my decision to leave.

I do miss my students.  Some of their parents text me on occasion, and I've been invited to birthday parties and awards ceremonies over the years.  In the moments when I question whether or not my six years in the classroom mattered to anyone, I remember these things and know that they did.

I also know, with every fiber of my being, that I did make the right choice at this time last year.

"Have you had a good year?" people have been asking.

"Yeah," I smile.  It has been pretty perfect.