By Nicole Ricley
It’s 5 am and here I am, awake. It’s probably because any form of relaxation/sleep becomes routinely interrupted by either: 1) My constant back and hip discomfort in a 30-week pregnant body 2) The strong and steady movements I feel from this growing baby girl inside me, or 3) the mere fact that even on my days off, my internal clock is screaming at me to get up and go because I’m already late for work! Ha! But here I am nonetheless. And as I sit in this quiet house on a cool Sunday morning before the rest of my little family wakes, I wanted to share with you a little bit about our journey. Many people have asked or been curious, so here we go.
Our journey into parenthood really started in the summer of 2009. Brett and I had been married for only a year and we were fortunate enough to be able to take an anniversary trip to Mexico. We enjoyed a week of relaxation and fun, but the most transforming part of that trip came in the form of a decision. I vividly remember laying on the bed together and talking about our family planning. Our discussion began with the acknowledgment that we had taken steps to trust God with our careers, our living situations, our finances, and pretty much every area of our lives except for babies. In that moment, we felt convicted that for us to be consistent in our reliance and dependence on Christ in every aspect of our lives, we also needed to surrender our control of when and how we added children to our family.
So, fast forward a couple of months and we were no longer officially on any form of birth control. We were 22 and 23 years old, only been married for a year and a half and we were united and open to whatever God had decided to give or withhold from us in this area of our life. To some people that probably sounds terrifying, but we had such a deep peace about our decision and knew that it was exactly what we were supposed to do. To our joy and elation, we found out that we were pregnant about 4 months later. And in December of 2010, we welcomed Jonathan Alan Ricley into our lives. We were so incredibly blessed and grateful.
Up until this point, we were probably what you would consider a bit naïve. We were the first couple in our group of friends to have a baby, and within our family circles, we had not witnessed nor experienced the heartache and pain that sometimes accompanies us on the journey toward parenthood. I think we naturally just assumed that since we had experienced a fairly easy pregnancy & delivery with Jonathan, that we would easily be able to duplicate that experience again in the near future. Little did we know...
Since having Jonathan in 2010, Brett and I have been continually surrendering and trusting the Lord’s plan for our family. And there is this fine line we have walked over the last 6 years. It is the fine balance between hope and acceptance. Hope was believing that there were more children in God’s plan for us and that He was a good Father to grant me that desire of my heart. And acceptance was at the same time acknowledging that if there weren’t more children in His plan for us, He is still a good, good Father to me and He knows what is best.
So many people have asked us over these years; “When are you planning on having more kids?” “Don’t you want to have more than one child?” or the less direct, well-meaning comments like “Jonathan would make such a great big brother” or “We can’t wait for another Ricley baby!” We have answered so many of these questions throughout the years, from our loving friends and family (and yes, at times even complete strangers), and let me tell you that over the course of almost 6 ½ years, it never really got easier. There were so many times that I had to fight the desire to be defensive. So many times I wanted to scream “It’s not as simple as you think!” or the times I just didn’t want to answer the questions at all because it was too painful. Navigating this fine line and doing it in a way that was honoring to Christ was sometimes very difficult.
On the side of contentment and acceptance, I was researching and ordering books on how to parent an only child. On this side, I would marvel at the beautiful, healthy, smart and loving boy the Lord had already given us and be extremely grateful for our one, knowing that some couples long to have just one child more than I could ever know. It was also here, that I slowly came to terms with getting rid of almost all our baby items and clothes, realizing that if maybe I let go of the physical things that reminded me of what could be someday, that maybe my heart would catch up a bit and realize even more deeply that it was okay to let go.
Then it would switch and I would find myself living on the side of hope and belief. When I was there, I was buying extra matching Christmas stockings and storing them so that someday, when we had more kids, all our stockings would match. On this side, I would dream about giving our parents more grandkids and what kind of different vehicle we would have to get to accommodate our growing family and our driving trips back to the Midwest. It was also here, that I held onto certain sentimental baby items, hoping and praying for the opportunity to get to pass them along to Jonathan’s younger sibling(s).
I went back and forth so many times in my heart and in my head. Brett and I had so many conversations, making sure each of us was okay with where we found ourselves at any particular point in time. And all this while, we were still surrendered and not preventing the Lord’s will from being done in our lives. We balanced contentment and hope on a fine line almost daily, knowing that whatever happened or didn’t happen was all in His hands.
To walk the path we have walked these last 6 years is not at all abnormal. I know and love so many people who have walked similar and also more difficult paths towards bringing children into this world. It can be a tumultuous journey. It can cause pain and leave lasting scars that never go away. But on our path, I have learned, and am still learning even now, how to walk hand in hand with a God who sees it all. He is a God who knows the end destination and wants to lovingly guide us if we would only continue to trust and surrender our plans and desires to Him. I hope that as you read this, wherever you find yourself, you can see the same thing. That there is a God who loves and cares for you. He knows your pain and heartache and He wants to walk through it with you. That although He may not change the path, or prevent you from having the scars that will ultimately result from it, He will be there to pick you up. He’s good.
Now, as I sit on my couch with this miracle of a life growing inside me, I marvel at God’s plan. It’s not what I would have originally chosen for us, but I see His goodness, His provision, and His perfect will in every moment. And as we continue to walk this path He has laid out for us, He continues to ask me these same questions...“Will you trust me? Do you believe that my ways are good? Even when you don’t understand, will you continue to worship Me?”
Yes, Lord. Thy will be done.