You guys, we survived potty training! The first day was exhilarating. (And no, I never imagined using those two words in the same sentence!)
Potty Training, Day One
Around lunch time, Iren sat down on his potty chair and laughed with delight as he saw pee coming out. “Do some more!” “Do some more!” he squealed. And he did. He’d sit back down, let a few drops out, laugh, and go dump it in the big toilet. Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.
That first day felt like my first major “mom win.” I needed that. In one sense, I had nothing to do with the day’s success. But in another sense, I did. I researched, prepared, and coached Iren along. At the end of the day, I wrote in my journal,
“God has equipped me to do my job as a mom well. I long to embrace it and one day soon say without hesitation, ‘Yes, I love being a Mom. Yes, I am content with the lot God has given me.’”
Iren resisted potty training, and I found myself resorting to bribing him with a pretzel or a piece of Trader Joe’s Pickle Popcorn, because that seemed the only way Iren would agree to go.
I was much more uptight than I was Monday, and as the day went on I remembered just how important it is not to prompt him continually, and to give him space to have accidents. I wrote in my journal,
I hope this isn’t telling of future parenting; I need to be okay with him making mistakes. Only God is perfect.
Potty Training, Day Three
On day three, new help arrived. (Did I mention that I recruited back-up?) The first two days, an unemployed friend joined me to watch Hudson while I trained Iren. For days three and four, my mother-in-law joined me. I wrote in my journal that morning,
“I see how every day there’s something new to be anxious about. Rather, to trust God for! Today’s area for trust is that Patti will cooperate with our potty training method. Please help us work well as a team today, Father.”
The day felt like an emotional roller coaster ride, it was all so fast-paced. The highlight of the day was when Iren pooped in his potty as I was reading him a book. We praised him up and down.
At the end of the day, I recorded,
“My fear was unsubstantiated: Patti was calm and cool and played according to my potty training rules. She also brought us breakfast and lunch. Amazing. . . . I could never have done this without help. Thank You for sending Patti, God, who also did my laundry and more. Please help me love and bless my future daughters-in-law, should I have them, half as much as she blesses me and our family.”
Potty Training, Day Four
By day four, I felt confident enough to leave the house for a small test outing. I brought Iren to the library for the first time ever. He had a blast. He asked me to help him get a “ball” (the library had planets hanging from the ceiling). We colored, he made some new friends in the play area, I checked out some books on going to the potty for him, and he went potty on their big toilet.
My friend, Caitlin, told me about this method where you could train your kid in just a couple days. That sounded too good to miss out on. So I got the book. (I only discovered recently that it has 1,166 Amazon reviews, so I’m not the only one who has found this author’s advice to be spot on!)
Psyched Out by Potty Training
At first, what I read psyched me out:
I was supposed to keep my eyes on my two-year-old non-stop for the entire process?! I’m more of a hands-off mom, plus I have a five-month-old, so that just didn’t sound doable.
I also read that Iren’s success would depend upon me not being stressed out. Ha! Anxiety has been my middle name for years now. So I put it off for a few more weeks. I think I’d rather have changed two kids’ diapers for years than potty train!
But after Iren got blisters a second time from sitting in poo overnight, I knew it was time. Iren was ready; out of love, I needed to do what was best for my boy. The author also explained that it gets harder–not easier, as many believe–the older kids get. So after blocking off a week on my calendar two times, and bailing twice, I finally “set my face like a flint.” No turning back. July 8-13 we would do this.
And we did! I never could have done it successfully without Jamie’s book. Do yourself a favor and get a copy. If not for you, then for a young mom. The idea of potty training initially made me want to hide in a corner, but this book gave me the confidence I needed to empower my boy to learn a life-skill that he will use for the rest of his life. Thanks, Jamie!
I’ve never shared this publicly, but . . . I’ve never been one to “ooh” and “aah” over babies. As a twelve-year-old eager to start earning money, I chose to detassle corn and work on a turkey farm (think hard, dirty, physical labor) rather than babysit. When I did babysit as a favor for my neighbors in my late twenties, I put the baby’s diaper on backwards. And while I longed for marriage for years, I never once dreamed of becoming a mom. First female president of the U.S., sure; mom, no.
And yet here I am, less than two weeks away from giving birth to our second baby. So what would motivate me to have not just one but two babies?
A practical factor that forced me and Trevor to address this issue early in our marriage was my age. We married when I was already in my thirties, and we knew our time was limited if we were going to have babies.
So several months into marriage, my husband asked one of our church elders, “Why should we have kids?” I will never forget his response:
“Why shouldn’t you have kids?”
From that moment on, I knew our course was set. I would not have babies because they made my heart melt; I would have babies out of obedience to Christ.
What Motivated Me to Write This Post On Babies
Forgive me if I sound like a martyr; just being honest here. I write this post for different people for different reasons:
If you feel like something is wrong with you because you’re not yet excited about the arrival of your baby, I want you to know you’re not alone. Sidenote: We took this selfie just after learning we were pregnant with our firstborn. Notice my red nose. (I turn into Rudolph when I cry.) I may have chosen to say “yes” to having a baby, but that didn’t mean I was excited about it!
Non-pregnant women, rather than asking a newly pregnant women, “Are you excited?!” consider asking, “How do you feel about being pregnant?” Give women room and permission to mourn the loss of their independence and dreams, and allow them to be honest about their struggles. (Yes, myself and women like me know that many women long to have babies and can’t; trust me, we already feel guilty enough about our lack of excitement.)
With less than two weeks ’til D-Day, I write this post for myself. I could use a reminder of why I said “yes” to another baby, as this season will not be easy.
And for the Christian woman who refuses to even open herself to the idea of having babies, my hope is that something here will challenge your thinking just a bit.
What Motivated Me to Have Babies
That said, why would I—a woman who values deep, adult conversation—choose to forfeit that, and more, in lieu of a baby’s cries?
In Genesis 1:27-28, God commanded us, as His image bearers, to be fruitful and multiply, so the whole earth would be filled with images of Himself. While I believe this can be applied to producing spiritual children (see 1 Tim. 1:2), I don’t think it negates God’s call to married people to physically have babies if they’re able to.
Christianity is a call to die to self. Didn’t Jesus promise: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). I know by now how life works. If I live for self, I end up the loser.
God’s ultimate purpose for me is re-forming me into Christ’s image (Romans 8:28-29). How can having babies not help accomplish this goal?
God says children are a blessing and a reward (Psalm 127:3). Will I take Him at His Word—this God who never lies—or will I choose instead to listen to myself and the culture? Who will I ultimately believe?
These reasons aren’t as big, but they’re timely: I just watched my husband’s grandma die. It was heartbreaking. I want someone there with me when my time comes (1 Tim. 5:16)–someone who will care enough to bury me.
I just read 1 Timothy 5:9-16, which includes “bringing up children” as a good work. Verses 13-15 even seems to indicate that having babies is a protection for me against becoming a lazy gossip who strays after Satan. Again, I’ll take God’s Word for it. If babies can help keep me from selfishness and sin, I’m interested.
How God is Changing My Heart Re. Having Babies
God has already moved and changed my heart. When I was pregnant with Iren, I was full of dread, anxious that I wouldn’t love him. But God took care of all of that, and Iren has brought such unexpected joy to our lives!
While I’m still not excited about baby number two, I’m also not filled with dread or anxiety. This is progress! Having babies has been a big faith journey for me–and I’m sure it will continue to be if we choose to have more in the future. It has been a death to self in many ways. But as can only happen in God’s economy, much life, laughter, and joy has come from that death.
How about you? Do you think it’s a prerequisite to being a good mom to feel excited about having babies before you hold them in your arms? Why or why not?
If you’ve had babies, what was your reasoning for doing so? If you’re currently opposed to having babies, how you would answer our elder’s question: “Why not have babies?” Do you think your reasons are selfish or wise?
I intercepted my baby, Iren, as he crawled, mach speed, for the dog’s food and water. We were dog-sitting for my in-laws, and Iren was once again displaying his magnetic attraction to dog food.
Another Mess to Clean Up?!
Lifting both bowls from the floor to the table, I confidently walked into the bathroom. What harm could he do now if I took my eyes off him for a few seconds?
But when I walked out a few seconds later, there he was in a puddle of water, soaking wet. The dog’s food was strewn all over.
Anticipate Your Baby’s Next Move
I should’ve anticipated my baby’s next move. I’d seen Iren tug at our tablecloth the day before. Right then I should have folded up the tablecloth and tucked it neatly back into the buffet. But stupidity won out over common sense, and I left it. After all, the table looked prettier with a tablecloth . . .
As I stripped Iren of his wet clothes, mopped up the water with a bath towel, and refilled the dog’s food and water bowls, I was tempted to get frustrated, angry, and stressed over the extra work Iren had caused me. But a moment of clarity struck just then.
Who’s the adult here? Who has a higher IQ?
Own it, Paula. You don’t have a right to be frustrated or angry. You’re the adult here.
Who’s the Adult Here?
I know we moms can think that being frazzled and stressed out just comes with the territory. But does it really have to?
Rather than stewing in anger over extra messes, let’s work smarter, not necessarily harder. If our children can reach something, and we leave it within reach, then it’s fair game.
Anticipate your baby’s next move, mom. Prepare for it. And put away that tablecloth! I’m pretty sure your husband and kids will be grateful you chose a stress-free heart over a beautiful table.
My dear friend Martha became Mrs. McCallops earlier this month. I choked up as her husband, Chris, began to dance the mother-son dance at the reception. As he drew his mother near and whispered in her ear, I squeezed Iren just a little bit closer.
“That will be Iren before we know it,” I told Trevor.
“No, I want him to be tiny, bald, and toothless forever!” he replied.
But we both know that can’t be. Iren’s not tiny (still 99th percentile for length!). He’s sprouted feathery light hair all over his head, and his two top teeth have made their appearance. More than that, he’s constantly on the move. Our baby has bid us goodbye; we are already seeing all boy.
Born to Leave
Much as we might be tempted to squeeze him just a bit tighter sometimes, we know he’s not ours to keep. He was made by and for God, and our goal is to raise an independent man who will leave home one day. Our greatest desire for him is that he will both know and make God known wherever he goes.
And so I’m preparing for our mother-son dance already, should he marry one day. Iren has been to at least two weddings since he was born, and both times I’ve brought him out to the dance floor to sway and then “get jiggy with it.”
He was born to leave, and I will do my best to release him well.
I love you, my son. And because I do, I hold you with open hands. Someday we may dance our own mother-son dance, and then I will give you to another woman. Should you not marry, I will share you with the world.
Because you never ultimately belonged to me. You belong to God. Go and make Him known.
I told you I ached to write. I promised you more personal blog posts. That was two months ago. You deserve an explanation.
Where in the World Is Paula?
The good news is . . . I have been writing. I’m sorry I haven’t posted here much. But let me fill you in on what I have been working on.
A friend has started watching Iren Mondays so I can explore the possibility of writing another book. (Yesterday that included soaking in a bubble bath while reviewing journal entries I’ve written since meeting Trevor. Not bad huh?)
I’m currently outlining four potential manuscripts. I don’t know for sure that any of them will materialize, but it’s worth exploring. Especially because I imagine our family will continue to grow, and carving out time to write will only become more challenging.
I’m also still writing for Revive Our Hearts ten hours a week. I try to put in two hours each weekday, preferably while Iren is napping.
“How Would You Feel About Having Ten Kids?”
The last project I completed for ROH was watching the Revive ’17 messages and writing descriptions for them. Iren helped.
He said something like, “Let’s see if you still feel the same way in a week.” He knows me well.
More than the number of children we have, Robyn’s message challenged the way I think about children. She also encouraged me to really enjoy them. (Thankfully that’s getting easier and easier. Five-month-old Iren is a delight.) It was fun to hear some of Robyn’s practical examples of what she does as a mom as well.
I actually did write a post for this site, but at the last minute I sent it to Desiring God. You can read it there.
All that to say, thank you for your patience with me. I still plan on posting here!
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Hello there! It is so good to get back behind these keys post-baby.
In the past three months I’ve pushed out a baby boy, survived the early days of insomnia and a new baby routine, prepped three new messages for a speaking engagement, and traveled out of the country with my son for said speaking engagement. Whew!
The Baby Part
I don’t want to paint myself as some kind of wonder mom. Truth is, God blessed us with “Wonder Baby.” That’s what I call him. I do so quietly, though, so all the other new moms aren’t filled with envy.
Meet our son. Iren Daniel Marsteller joined our family on May 20. He was big. Over nine pounds. When the pediatrician first measured his head, he exclaimed, “How did you get him out?”
The answer to that would be “Trevor.” I never could have done what I did without his coaching; encouragement; and constant, strong pressure on my lower back.
I still can’t believe we did it. I don’t even want to look at the hospital when we drive by, and Trevor–with a twinkle in his eye–says he now understands how some people have PTSD. We’re not huge fans of the process.
But the result is so worth it.
We finally landed on our son’s name just before we were discharged from the hospital. (It’s a requirement, folks. The hospital turns into a prison until you land on a name for that little one.)
Iren means “peace,” and Daniel means “God my judge”. We named him that so when people ask about his name, we can briefly share with them that our greatest need is to find peace with God the judge through Jesus.
Pray that Iren will find peace with God through Christ, and that he will cling to Jesus from an early age and point many to Him.
The Blogging Part
In the weeks to come I’ll share more about my struggles with learning I was pregnant, to life as a new mommy, to the three new messages I prepped and our travel to the latest speaking gig, and much more.
I haven’t been this excited to write in a long time. I ache to write, the way I ached for Iren when his grandparents took him for the first time for a few hours.
In addition to continuing to write for other blogs, I want to do more personal writing here. Trevor and I do a lot of hospitality, and I’d like to welcome you into our lives. Complete with baby pictures. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive future updates in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) You can unsubscribe at any time.
Now it’s your turn. What has occupied your summer? What are you getting back to, now that summer is drawing to a close? I’d love to hear.