The Journee to Parenthood.

Now that I am almost 9 months pregnant I figured it would be a good time to document some of my thoughts on Tom and I becoming parents in just a short amount of time!

If I had to sum up pregnancy in two words my words would be: weird and surreal. Weird because I know that there is a human in there, but my brain can not picture what this baby looks like, it’s tiny little personality, or how it’s getting out. Surreal, because even though I am at the end of my pregnancy the baby clothes are washed and my hospital bag is half packed… it still does not really feel that real.

I wanted to document some questions we have gotten along the way. I always loved reading stories about pregnancy and marriage so I thought I would share a bit about our very own story.

Did you know you were ready?

Not really. HAHA. Tom and I both knew that we always wanted kiddos and that was something we talked about long before marriage (almost 5 years ago now WHAT!?!?)

Elicia always wanted a big family- the louder the better. I really do thrive in chaos and noise. Tom says 2-4 kids ūüėČ We also always knew we wanted to wait to build a strong foundation in marriage and grow in our faith together. We also had so many places to see and discover first. We spent the first four and a half years of our marriage navigating being newlyweds, then marriage and life abroad in Korea– and next¬†Morocco. Endless adventures together and countless countries explored. Tom even hit his newly formed goal of 30 countries before 30 years old!! It was important for us to wait to grow our family even when our peers and friends were having kids years before us. & I have to say– that was the best decision for us. I feel that with each passing year we grew stronger as a team and each year has truly gotten better, together.

How did it all begin?

Nothing, absolutely nothing can prepare you for seeing the positive results that you are pregnant. No matter how planned or unplanned the baby might be. Even when my stomach started to grow, we saw the heartbeat and the baby move on the ultrasound, then I began feeling the baby move, then Tom felt him or her move- it just all felt and continues to feel so surreal. This is a story for another time, but Tom was shocked and very anxious and needed time to process it all- which I think is probably normal for most men! I have to say though after the initial shock wore off it has been a total joy observing him take it all in. I also think it’s important to add here that babies can take TIME! Do not be discouraged if it’s taken you a few months. A couple (with no fertility issues) only has a 15% chance of conceiving each cycle. So many couples told us that they got pregnant on the very first try. That is NOT NORMAL! At all. I wish someone had told me that. Be patient. Good things take time and it can be months ūüėČ

How’s pregnancy been?¬†

It’s not as scary as people make it. Now, I know I have had a great pregnancy. Some women¬†just struggle so much with sickness throughout pregnancy¬†and I truly feel for them. My mom was pregnant with my littlest sisters when I was high school and she was sick the entire pregnancy. It was awful. Overall, my pregnancy has been great. I have continued working out 4-5 times a week, eating pretty healthy, and I was even able to run up to 33 weeks. The last two weeks I’ve been doing lots¬†of low impact workouts and mixing in some- prenatal workouts here and there. (Thanks to the awesome blog Nourish Move Love!)

That isn’t to say pregnancy hasn’t had it’s challenges. Sleep is a debacle each night and I am sleeping in 3-4 hour increments these days. I definitely had nausea the first four months and smells OH THE SMELLS. I didn’t want to eat anything except for fruit the first 20 weeks or so. I am out of breathe A LOT. Working out consistently has¬†kept and fueled a healthy pregnancy- that I am sure of. It helps combat lots of those pregnancy symptoms, helped a ton with heartburn, achey butt/leg muscles, and the breathlessness I feel (ironically!) It hasn’t always been easy- but I don’t think pregnancy should be really. You’re growing a human. Lots of people have asked how much weight I have gained. We don’t actually own a scale and so I never really know and that has been the best thing for me. In the beginning of pregnancy I knew that my body would change. I knew that if I ate healthy and kept working out that baby would gain exactly what baby needs and I accepted whatever that was going to be. I have gained 23 pounds as of 2 weeks ago at the doctors office. So I’m calling it 25 and I still have six weeks to go so it’ll be more and I am okay with it. I want a strong and healthy babe!

What’s your birth plan?¬†

Keep me healthy. Get baby out healthy.That is it. BOOM. I am not opposed to meds. It’s 2017, I am so thankful for medical advancements, ¬†and I have nothing to prove to anyone. I have always been in awe and cheer f0r women who decide to do no meds- but I know myself and¬†my pain tolerance so we are going in with an open mind. Because let’s be real- I have never felt that pain and never given birth and it is totally out of our control the circumstances for that day. I trust our doctor and that God has gone before us.

Final thoughts on being abroad and being pregnant:

Of course it’s been hard to be away from our family during the entire pregnancy and there have been moments of sadness or loneliness because there aren’t birth classes or the support like back in the states readily available, I can’t communicate with the hospital staff, and we don’t have family around to gather together and celebrate the most exciting time in our life. (Just to name a few)

On the upside, Tom also pointed out that being abroad has simplified a lot of things. We have less distractions around and less commitments to attend to as we mentally prepare for parenthood. We have less people to consult for advice, but the people we surround ourselves with are really great parents and have a life similar to what ours will look like as an expat living abroad with kiddos. We value that information and even though we have less to consult for advice the advice we get is very solid. Lastly, we have a lot LESS baby stuff than we would back in the states. Everything I have came in a suitcase (okay maybe two) from the states when my sister in law came to visit us and from friends that went back home at Christmas break and loaded up for us!  We have no baby nursery and just the bare minimums. Which kept things pretty easy for us- especially since we have another big move on the horizon.

Lastly, I am doing a mama devotional which I have LOVED & I am sharing that along with some pregnancy must haves below, ¬†but this stuck with me and I’ll end on this note because pregnant or not I feel that this applies to my entire life.

“God’s gift of pregnancy wasn’t because I deserve this incredible blessing, but rather God’s way of showing his love and perfect timing.”

My mama must haves for pregnancy. I feel like there isn’t a ton you need, but I really had to prepare in advance because all of this (except the Argan oil) is from the USA and we can’t get mail in Morocco! So at 12 weeks pregnant I begun to make a list of what I wanted from the states which is when my friend Jenni went home to the states and loaded up & later my sister in law. I also did not get anything for these recommendations…but when I love a product I have to share.

Starting from the top left:

1.//DRESSES. I have lived in dresses (and leggings) my entire pregnancy. Seriously. Especially since I needed to look put together for work. Old Navy maternity was a huge hit especially since they have petite and the price point was right for me. I stocked up on about six dresses and basically that has been all I have worn. The top blue dress is for our baby shower next weekend and that is from Pink Blush.

2.// ¬†Tubby Todd. 100% natural belly balm- citrus avocado. It smells SO GOOD. I discovered this company on instagram probably over a year ago and couldn’t wait to try their products. I am in love. The best part is that they are toxin, gluten, paraben, sulfate, artificial fragrance/color, BPA, and animal cruelty FREE. I also bought their baby travel kit for when babe arrives and I love all their products. Find them—> here!

3.// Argan Oil. SOOOO many things I could say here. Argan oil is crazy cheap and made in Morocco so it has been apart of my daily routine at least twice a day. I love and rant about the miracle properties of how wonderful Argan oil has been for me– and no stretch marks yet. I know nothing can prevent stretch marks, but I do think it’s helped a ton. The moroccan ladies swear by it and I now know why.

4.// Hospital & new mama robe. From Pink Blush. 

5.//Good reads. First Time dad (the stuff you really need to know) ¬†by John Fuller. Quick and easy read. Lots of practical info for Tom. He really liked it and read it in a weekend! & for mamas: Waiting in Wonder- Growing in Faith While You’re Expecting by Catherine Claire Larson. I have really loved doing this devotional each day!

Bottom row

6. and 7.//¬†Blanqi¬†leggings and Belly band. Okay this has to be my BEST pregnancy investment. I wore one or the other of these every single day. Not only are they well made, but they provide support. I wore them working out, with the dresses, or with a long shirt over the top. ALL THE TIME. I have not gone a day without one of these. The band allowed me to wear all my normal work pants/jeans the first 6 months of pregnancy. Both of them seamless and providing support, a company started by two best friends, I am ALL ABOUT THESE and every pregnant women needs them. I would have also purchased their maternity support tank top, but it was on back order before my sister in law came to Morocco so it wasn’t available! I also found this company on instagram! Find their awesome stuff:¬†here!

8.// Baby Boy Bakery My First Year Baby Journal by Jacqui Saldana. I have followed this mama for a few years and she has her own biz! Her story of strength, resilience , and faith amazes and inspires me. The journal she created is perfect. A baby journal that has it all but keeps it clean, classic, and simple. I love spending time writing in this about our soon to be baby and can’t wait to document his or her first year. She also creates adorable cooking kits for kids/mamas and toddler journals too. The size is perfect too for traveling/living abroad. ¬†Check out her products: here!

9.// Athletic wear. I still fit into all my workout shorts/capris but I purchased a couple essential workout tops from Old Navy Maternity. A tank and a long sleeve lightweight top. If you follow me on snapchat you know that I wear the same top again and again…haha! I had to add the workout piece¬†and give a huge shoutout to Lindsey at Nourish Move Love for her incredible workouts! She also just released prenatal workouts over here that I am going to be doing my last month of pregnancy! Workouts for all and they are CHALLENGING- can’t rave enough about them.

10.//Not pictured but should be included// Online breastfeeding classes done by Lindsey Shipley, an RN, Childbirth Educator, and IBCLC-certified Lactation Coach… this is especially helpful if you’re abroad because it can be done anywhere on your own time!¬†

Muslim world. Christian Faith.

I’ve traveled to the pretty gold temples of Thailand, The Hindu¬†shrines in Malaysia, the old stunning ruins of the largest religious monument in the world- in Cambodia (which was originally built as ¬†a Hindu temple and later used for Buddhism.) ¬†I have lived in Korea and visited countless temples where they still worship buddha. I’ve walked between the actual gold leaf beautiful towers of ¬†Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar– the same country where I later got flowers thrown at me and told that I was “no lucky lucky” because I said I was a Christian. ¬†I have visited one of the largest mosques in the world, and countless Catholic cathedrals in Europe. Now, ¬†we’ve called Morocco home for some time and it’s a Muslim country through and through …there is absolutely¬†no doubt about that.

The call to prayer goes off five times daily.

I’ve seen thousands of men pray in the streets during Ramadan.

They use phrases to end or begin almost every sentence –¬†Hamdulah¬†and Inshallah¬†that translates in English to something like “Praise God” & “God Willing.”

I’ve witnessed men praying on their prayer rugs outside- pausing their routine of¬†selling vegetables, driving vans, or guarding the cars on the streets.

Everywhere I go I see women fully covered- sometimes from head to toe and other times just their hair.

Before moving to Morocco I had never met another Muslim in my life. I had never known what holidays they celebrate, what their traditions are, or that this religion shapes and is embedded in every single aspect of life here. Every last bit.

Living here as an American we often get the question of why we picked Morocco as a place to call home. After that question we often get: Is it safe? Or aren’t there terrorist groups there? and then finally we often hear: What’s it like to live in a Muslim world?

Living in a Muslim world as a Christian is completely and utterly eye opening. It’s hard and it’s messy and it’s frustrating at times. I have never felt LESS in control than I have living in Morocco– and to be honest most days I have also never felt more safe. I’ve never prayed more in my entire life. I’ve never had to trust the lord more than I have the two years we have been here. I’ve never had to lean on God, talk to him as much as I do now, and rely on his faithfulness more than I have had to then while we have lived in Morocco. I’ve never been more inspired to live a life of Christian faith more boldly and proudly than I have since we moved here. Do I still have doubts about why it can be so dang hard? Oh, I absolutely, do. Do I still get upset or angry that it’s been SO HARD at times? Yes, yes I do. Living in a Muslim world has changed me as a woman of faith. This I am sure of.

These people who call themselves Muslim have taken us in. They have fixed things in our home, they have smiled at us, and they have helped us navigate this confusing/chaotic place time and time again. They have joked with us and called us “brother” and “sister.” These are the people we work alongside each day. I’ve stayed in their homes, eaten their epically amazing food, and that one time near the Sahara desert we were invited inside their family home for cous cous Friday. They’ve celebrated with us when we announced our pregnancy and they have invited us for dinner and talked us through some really hard work stuff. They’ve shared breaking their fast with us and taken the time to show us their beautiful country and shown us the meaning of true hospitality. They have loved us as their own and they know that we don’t share their faith.

I find myself praying for them and talking to God about them multiple times a day because they remind me that people are in fact, GOOD.

We still struggle. a lot. Sometimes I still swear (just ask my sweet coworkers- HA!)  when I am fired up about frustrations of life here or when things go wrong.  I still seek and desire the comfort and convenience that our life in America brought us. I miss our family so much some days it hurts my heart. I especially miss dill pickles, candles, and celebrating holidays with our loved ones.  I still wonder why our days can so often feel so routine or so mundane. but this I know with certainty: God has us here in Morocco, a truly Muslim country, for a very very distinct purpose. I want to honor him in wherever he has gone before us for our next place to call home. and in all we do.

So when you ask me how living in a Muslim country has been I want to tell you it’s been so epically awesome. It’s been so much more than I ever thought it would be and most importantly I would tell you this:

My Christian faith is immensely stronger because we’ve lived in a Muslim country.¬†

Enduring the worst. Appreciating the best.

As we are about to embark on a big adventure from the top of Africa where we currently call home in Morocco to the very bottom of this vast continent (South Africa!) I can’t help but reflect on the past 14 months that we’ve rested our heads here in Morocco. It’s been the highest of highs and the very lowest of lows. There have been times I have looked at our luggage in the closet and our belongings and wondered how fast I could pack it all up and we could get to the airport to catch the next flight out. I never ever thought we would finish our two years here- but here we are 3/4 done with our current obligation.

It’s been a whirlwind of emotions and sometimes (we still) after a tough day come back and just lick our wounds. Through it all I am so sure that¬†we are here for a reason and one that was about as clear as mud to us in the beginning. This quote nails it on the head for us– “If ethics are poor at the top, that behavior is copied down through the organization.” and we’ve begun to see more clearly as time has gone on that we needed to be the light in such a dark place. I went through the spectrum of emotions when faced with our daily reality- first I was sad, then frustration quickly set in, then anger, acceptance that we were going to finish what we set out to do, and now I’m at the stage where even though we still have lots hard work remaining– I see a very bright light at the end of what has seemed like a never ending tunnel of¬†deep dark blackness.

Sometimes you have to stand on a pile of trash, dog poop, broken glass, and rocks to get the best view of the ocean.

Sometimes you take chances and then fall flat on your face. and it sucks.

Sometimes you climb a mountain and it physically hurts but you get the most beautiful views from the top.

Sometimes you have to endure the worst so you can appreciate the very best.

Sometimes the tunnel you’re walking is so dark. SO very dark. Sometimes you turn around and trace your steps back out cause’ darkness is freaking difficult to navigate in– but sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you keep walking because you know (but sometimes hate that) this is where you need to be. You endure, hope, pray, hold on. When you finally see that glimmer of light– you hang on and you take off¬†towards it. Cause that light is just going to keep getting brighter as you get closer. ūüėČ

View during my hike up Mt. Toubkal, Morocco.