What did I learn in 2019? Where do I begin!?
2019 has been a momentous year for me, one marked by two enormous changes—the purchase of a new home and the birth of our twins—as well as countless smaller ones. It’s been a year of stretching and growth, of trials and joys, of surprises and long-awaited dreams fulfilled.
Most years, when I sit down to write this end-of-year recap of all that I learned in the previous twelve months, I feel a sense of finality: this is what I’ve learned, this is where I am, this is what God is doing now. But this year feels different: more than any other time in my life, I recognize that I am very much in process. Some of what I learned this year is finalized (and those are the items that made it onto this list), but I also can sense the seeds of new lessons God is planting in me. A few are likely already formed, ready to be unearthed once the veils of sleep-deprivation and twin-life-shell-shock fade away. Other lessons need more time to germinate, and I look forward to seeing the fruit they eventually bear.
For now, here is a non-comprehensive—but still rather lengthy—summation of what I have learned in 2019.
ABOUT WRITING THIS YEAR, I LEARNED . . .
1) Keeping up with my writing while parenting three children is
impossible quite the challenge.
I nearly made the above sentence my entire post for What I Learned in 2019 and called it day. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, my posting lately has been sparse. Not only do I have little time in which to write, but with so much else going on, it’s been hard to switch into writing mode when I do find myself with a few spare minutes. Also . . .
2) I struggle to write when I’m not at my best.
I was not at my best during pregnancy, and I’m certainly not at my prime now as I continue to recover from pregnancy and childbirth on minimal sleep and maximal child-neediness. That said. . .
3) When I’m not at my best (and when life is crazy) is when I need my writing the most.
Writing—specifically, blogging in this space—keeps me grounded. It is how I process ideas and emotions, it’s how I express my God-given creativity, it connects me to myself and to my faith, and it gives me a sense of purpose and makes me feel like a real human and not just a child-growing, milk-making machine. For these reasons and so many more, I will continue to plug away at writing here on the blog, as imperfect as it may be.
4) I prefer writing for myself to writing for somebody else.
Though I’ve grown as a writer this year during my time as a contributor on Austin Moms, that experience has helped me see how much I value the creative control that comes with writing on my own platform. I enjoy choosing my own topics, setting my own pace, and writing without constraints around my voice, style, audience, or word count.
THROUGH OUR MOVE THIS YEAR, I LEARNED . . .
5) Moving gets a little easier every time you do it.
This was the fourth move Luke and I have undertaken in our eleven years of marriage, and we’ve gotten a little smarter and more efficient at it each time. My biggest takeaway with this move was that slow and steady is best—both with the move itself, and the unpacking and setting up of a new home.
6) Moving while pregnant is ill-advised.
I hated how much I had to delegate during this move because my energy was depleted and because I was unable to do any lifting. Though the timing couldn’t be helped (the twins’ impending birth was what prompted our move in the first place, and I’m glad we didn’t wait until after they were born), I would never recommend a prenatal move to another expecting mom.
7) One-story homes are best when you have young kids.
I was reluctant to buy a one-story house, as I grew up in a two-story house and thought a house would need two floors to feel like home. But Luke felt strongly that a one-story was what was best for our family, and he was absolutely right. Navigating stairs with the babies would have been a nightmare, not to mention how challenging it would be to keep tabs on three kids when not all on the same floor.
8) There are perks to living “out in the country.”
In order to afford our own house, we had to move further away from downtown Austin than I wanted, but I’ve grown to love our new location. The amount of time it now takes to get to the store or the gym forces me to be intentional with my outings, and the extra time in the car has become a helpful time of recalibration for me. We also love the smalltown feel of Liberty Hill, while still having the perks of being less than an hour from the big city.
9) Our dog thrives on being a part of the home and part of the family.
Arlo is a completely different dog since our move, and I have a feeling it’s because he is now allowed access to all of our communal living areas and not relegated to the kitchen as he was in our previous house. I’m sure the large yard helps as well. Whatever the reason, I sure love the sweet, mellow dog he has become. He finally feels like a real member of the family, which is exactly what I envisioned when we brought him home nearly two years ago.
THROUGH BEING PREGNANT AND GIVING BIRTH, I LEARNED. . .
10) Having a vanishing triplet brings up some complicated feelings.
I was terrified at our first pregnancy ultrasound when our nurse practitioner told us we were carrying triplets. A week later, when a heartbeat had failed to materialize, I experienced a sense of sadness mixed with relief. Since then, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about that third baby who wasn’t meant to be. I am thankful to that child for opening my heart to the notion of having multiples, for making the concept of twins more appealing (because two would be so much easier than three. . .), and I believe I will see my baby (along with the brother or sister we lost in 2013) in Heaven one day. But there is also a part of me that still mourns the child whose face I will never see earthside. He or she will always hold a very special and tender place in my heart.
11) Growing two babies at once is really, REALLY hard.
Although it did have its positive elements, gestating the twins was physically the hardest thing I have ever done. One year ago, if you had told me that a woman could feel so miserable for such an extended period of time without it being fatal, I wouldn’t have believed you. Even c-section recovery (which was downright awful) was a walk in the park compared to carrying the twins. The outcome is entirely worth it, but the process isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy. (More thoughts on how my pregnancy with the twins was different from my first pregnancy.)
12) Going through pregnancy with an older child is more challenging, but also more rewarding.
Sure, I would have liked to get more rest during those nine months, but Charleston’s experience of my pregnancy was such a delight. I loved watching him talk to my belly, seeing his face light up when he felt his brother and sister move inside me, and having a tiny companion as I dreamed of the new children that would be joining our family.
13) Babies come in their own time, and in their own way.
Absolutely nothing about Kali and Sully’s birth—from the timing to the location to the manner in which they made their entrance—would have been part of my plan. But no amount of attempted interventions on my behalf could change the fact that they were born one month early, in a hospital setting, and that I wasn’t even awake to witness it. This is one of the biggest regrets of my life, and I still cry (sad tears) every time I think about Kali and Sully emerging into the world without their mommy and daddy present or aware enough to welcome them.
14) An emergency c-section is horrible, but it’s not the worst thing.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to accept the specifics of the twins’ birth. But so many of the negative outcomes I’d anticipated—a NICU stay, inability to breastfeed, a failure to bond with my babies—did NOT happen, and for that I am eternally grateful. God’s kindness towards our family in the weeks surrounding their birth is utterly astounding.
THROUGH HAVING TWINS I LEARNED. . .
I shared many of my twin lessons in this post, but here a few that stand out.
15) Twins are everywhere!
It seems as though everyone I know or meet is a twin, has twins, or is close to someone who does. . . . and until having twins of my own, I had no idea! I just love this new Twin Mom tribe I’ve become a part of, even if it’s a less exclusive club than I had assumed.
16) Parenting twins is hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be.
This has been my go-to response to everyone who has asked me “how’s it going?” in the last three months. And it’s 100% true—it is ridiculously challenging, and yet I thought it would be a lot harder. (But to be completely candid, I had very, VERY low expectations.)
17) Having already parented a singleton makes twins easier.
I can’t imagine trying to navigate first-time parenting with twins. I’m so thankful for my experience with Charleston, through which I learned things like breastfeeding and babywearing and diaper-bag packing and surviving on little sleep on a smaller scale without diving in headfirst with two newborns.
18) Twins are SO MUCH FUN!
For most of my adult life, I said that I would NEVER want to parent twins. Now that I am parenting twins, I couldn’t feel more differently. . . and I’m not just saying that because I love Kali and Sully individually and wouldn’t want to give either up. Having them together is just the BEST: from watching them interact with one another to the exciting challenges that twin life presents to the sheer amazement that I HAVE TWO BABIES, I adore being a mom to twins. (Please remind me of this when I’m attempting to teach two fifteen-year-olds how to drive!)
IN BECOMING A MOM TO THREE, I’VE LEARNED . . .
19) Everything takes more time than I think it will.
It’s a miracle that we make it out the door at all. Doing so on time simply hasn’t happened yet. Somehow, having three kids requires way more than three times the amount of preparation, though I haven’t quite figured out that math just yet.
20) All children are unique.
It’s remarkable how three children who share the same gene pool can look and act SO differently from one another. Before the twins were born, I think I expected them each to be miniature versions of Charleston, or at the very least replicas of one another. But from sleep habits to eating preferences to the color of their eyes, nothing has been the same, and I’m sure the differences will intensify as they all get older. I love seeing God’s unique handiwork in each of them.
21) I have enough love to go around.
My worry that I couldn’t love the twins as much as I loved Charleston was entirely unfounded. Not only do I love them all just as much (though in their own special ways—something I am still trying to wrap my mind around!), I also have unique affections for their various sibling dynamics. My love has multiplied in ways I couldn’t have fathomed.
22) I am a different mom to three kids than I was to one kid.
I’ve found that the hyper-attentive, overly invested style of parenting I applied with Charleston is no longer possible. My priorities and resources have had to shift, and I am forced to be more flexible and less hands-on that I was with one child. Surprisingly this has come more easily to me, and has felt much less foreign or unnatural, than I anticipated.
LESSONS CHARLESTON HAS TAUGHT ME . . .
23) Four years old is a lot better than three.
The three-nager years were tough on our family. Four is more mature, more fun, easier to discipline, and less frustrating to figure out.
24) He is his own person.
Charleston has strong opinions and preferences, and rarely do they align with my own. He almost never responds to things the way I want or expect him to—and that’s okay! I’m enjoying seeing the young man he is becoming, who is so much more interesting than the little mini-me I might have dreamed up.
25) Having a baby with a big kid in the home is harder, but also more fun.
The twins’ newborn stage has been entirely different from our earliest months with Charleston because they are fitting into an established family whereas he was the one who made us a family. What the twins sacrifice in baby-centered outings and one-on-one attention, they are more than making up for in affections from their big brother. Luke and I have been blown away by how amazing Charleston is with the twins, and I can’t imagine a more wonderful parenting experience than seeing the three of them together. It melts me.
26) Becoming a big brother is transformative—for Charleston, and also for my perception of him.
Everyone told me that bringing newborns into the home would make Charleston seem so much bigger and older, and they were 100% accurate. Charleston seemed to grow up overnight. I no longer see him as my baby, but as my big kid and co-leader in our home. I also find that I cherish our mother/son time SO MUCH MORE because it’s become so rare.
THROUGH MY MARRIAGE, I’VE LEARNED . . .
27) I will get out of marriage what I put into it.
Luke and I poured into our marriage earlier this year, through a marriage class we took together and through more dedicated couple time. As a result, we got our relationship to the healthiest point it’s ever been. That intentionality has significantly waned since the birth of the twins, and to be completely honest, our marriage has suffered. However, I’m so glad we had the chance to see how great our relationship can be, and I have hope that we will get there again.
28) Luke is not responsible for my happiness.
The most impactful lesson we learned in our marriage class was “draw a circle around yourself and work on everyone inside it.” I learned this year that I can’t expect Luke to read my mind, to make me happy, or to be my savior, and I can’t do any of those things for him either. If I want to improve our relationship, I have to begin by improving myself.
29) We are at our best when we are learning together.
Luke and I read through the Bible alongside each other this year, and it enhanced both our individual growth and the growth of our relationship. Tandem reading a few spiritual books had a similar effect. We both hold lifelong learning as a core value, and it’s even better when we do it together.
30) We are a team.
I couldn’t have survived our move, my pregnancy, parenting a strong-willed four-year-old, or these first months with the twins without my man by my side. Luke and I have unique skills and abilities that complement each other well. When we each bring our strengths to the table, and encourage the other to do the same, we are a force to be reckoned with!
OTHER LESSONS ON GOD AND FAITH . . .
31) God wants to give me good gifts; it’s okay for me to ask for them.
For years I struggled to wholeheartedly ask God for the things I wanted because I worried I didn’t deserve them or that I couldn’t handle His saying no. And I was right, I don’t deserve them, and hearing no is hard. But like any loving parent, God still wants to shower me with good things. This year He said no to some of my requests, but gave a resounding YES to many others, like a positive pregnancy test, a spot on the Austin Moms team, a gorgeous new home, and healthy boy/girl twins.
32) God will use my story to bring glory to His name.
It’s been amazing to see doors opening for me to share my experience with infertility and God’s faithfulness throughout our journey. I will never stop singing the Lord’s praises for blessing us with our gorgeous babies, but I am thankful for our years of waiting—because our pain made our outcome so much sweeter, and because the difficult journey is forever part of a bigger story that honors Him.
33) My faith is not dependent on whether or not my life is going the way I think it should.
The last couple of years were hard ones for me, yet in those dark times, my faith flourished. In those years, I felt that God was asking me if I would love and follow Him even when I didn’t love the hand life had dealt me—and I was able to answer “yes.” This year, my faith has held firm even as I have walked into the life I’ve always wanted. Circumstances change, but my God has remained the same.
34) God will give me the strength to handle what He has handed me.
This year I learned firsthand that God will absolutely give me more than I can handle. However, with His help I have survived each trial and been made stronger through it. He has blessed me with stamina, fortitude, increased coping skills, and more, and I will continue to rely fully on Him to carry me when my own legs give way.
35) God’s plans for me are AMAZING!
My life to this point has not gone as planned, but it has been so much richer, and so much more beautiful than anything I could have dreamed up on my own. Even something as significant as the age gap between my children—something I tried so had to micromanage—is not at all what I would have wanted, but better than I could have imagined. (It turns out that five years between a singleton and twins is just about perfect.) Time and again, God used circumstances this year to show me that He can be trusted with my family, my well-being, and the trajectory of my life. In January I chose to abide in Him, and I am in awe of the abundant fruit God is cultivating through me.
Stay tuned for much more learning and lessons for me in 2020!