Too Much Information

I’ve been thinking lately about the challenges of parenting in the Information Age. (You thought from the title you were getting a post on something juicy, didn’t you?!)

It seems to me we’re all on information overload. I realize this is a First World issue, a sign of privilege unknown in much of the world and even in many places here in the U.S. I am not ungrateful. I love the Internet; I clearly use it regularly. It’s my source for pretty much everything: recipes, tutorials, decorating ideas, world news, communication with long-distance friends, shopping, music… I did grow up in a time before the Internet and remember using library card files and researching school papers by digging through stacks of books, magazines and – gasp – even the occasional microfiche. Those are distant memories now, stories I will tell my children to reinforce their view that I grew up with Methuselah. Today, I often wonder, “How did people do this before the Internet?” I know that having a wealth of information at my fingertips, not to mention the entertainment options of Netflix streaming and online episodes of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is a gift that makes my life easier in so many ways.

As a parent, though, I am learning that living in a world of so much information has its down side. It begins before the baby arrives and never really lets up. There are endless decisions to make, and they all seem incredibly important. Some of them really are. Issues of pregnancy and child birth, information and support for breast feeding, questions of newborn schedules and sleep issues… Now with a toddler, it’s potty training methods, approaches to discipline, dietary advice and warnings, activities I should be doing with my kid but haven’t found the time for yet. As near as my computer screen is an endless supply of information and opinions on every possible parenting topic.

There is a tremendous amount of pressure on parents to be informed, to have a handle on the research and to parent according to the latest recommendations on Absolutely Everything. Given the sheer volume of decisions a parent makes in any given day, that would be no small task even if the information was always straight-forward and the experts always agreed. But it isn’t, and they don’t.

In a lot of ways, having access to so much information gives us a great deal of control. I am thankful for this, and I believe it is important to be an informed parent (and beyond that, an informed member of society). But the truth is, I’m not certain I know how to successfully navigate all of this.

Confession: I sometimes make parenting decisions without extensive research. Sometimes, I follow my gut. Sometimes, I trust Corin’s pediatrician without digging through the first 3,000 Google links. Have I picked the right issues to care about? Have I trusted the right sources? Have I reached the right conclusions? It’s pretty hard to know for sure.

My parenting philosophies don’t fall neatly into any category. I’ve gone with a “do what works” approach, which involves an awful lot of trial and error. One of the biggest surprises for me in parenting is how often the right answer is unclear. (He just threw his eating utensils on the floor. Again. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does this matter? Not really sure.) I try to cut other parents a lot of slack and hope I’m doing an okay job wading through all of this myself.

Ultimately, I’m glad I believe in a Higher Power to guide my decisions, in parenting as in life. This job is certainly bigger than me.  I have a sense parents have always felt that way, in the Dark Ages or in the Information Age. Surely the fundamentals haven’t changed much. The rest… I suppose I’ll just keep praying and wading (or not) through the research.

A decade of together

Tomorrow is our tenth wedding anniversary. Someone asked me yesterday if the years felt long or short. I told her I didn’t really know. Sometimes, I can hardly believe it’s been ten years since our wedding. How is it possible that I’m here, in my 30s, married for a decade, with a second baby on the way? But it also feels as if there never was a time before us. I suppose that last part is understandable, given it’s been 15 years since we first started dating.

This was us in 1999:

Opening our first wedding gift in 2002:Image

June 23, 2002:Image


June 23, 2005:

May 2007:

By that last picture, our family-building adventures had begun. I remember passing under a particular bridge during a boat ride on the Seine River. The guide said it was rumored that wishes made under the bridge would be granted. In the quiet of our hotel room later that night, Jon asked, “What did you wish for?” I said, “You know.” He said, “Me, too.” We didn’t know what lay ahead. But the thing about the last ten years is we’ve learned exactly how strong we are together.

We made a conscious decision not to waste those years of working toward a family. We spent them traveling, backpacking, watching movies, going to concerts, eating at great restaurants and learning how to lean on each other like never before. Infertility could have taken over our lives. It could have driven a wedge and left us fragmented and isolated. Instead, we pulled together and determined to live life and enjoy each other. Don’t get me wrong: There were HARD times. We struggled. But we did it together, and we learned to trust each other’s judgement and rely on each other’s strengths. We refused to allow what we lacked to overshadow what we had. I doubt I could have kept that kind of perspective without my husband to anchor me.

This was at a baseball game during our stay in Washington, D.C. for our final IVF cycle:Image

And this is the father the man I love became:

It’s been worth the wait to tackle this parenting stage of life together. We argue. We get on each other’s nerves. We get so. tired. There’s more of that ahead. But the lessons of the last ten years serve us well. We pull together. We don’t let the imperfections overshadow the joy in front of us. We remember how strong we are as a team.


“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,” says Shakespeare. I stand beside you as we make this our mantra, and I am unafraid.

We have many dreams, you and I, of the moments we will spend together, and in our minds they fill the blank pages of our future. Those dreams, made of the joy we find in our common goals, have brought us here. We will hold them close and live them out one by one for the rest of our lives.

Yet we know that there are pages of our future that will not fit in the framework of our dreams. There will be moments for which we did not wish, days for which we could not plan. But I am unafraid.

For we have been guided, you and I, to this day, to this moment, by One who knows that together we are stronger than we could be alone. Joy doubled, sorrow halved.

Doubled joy we know today. We feel the warmth of support from family and friends, the brightness of new beginnings, the richness of love. But this day is so much more.

“Love is a choice,” they say, and they are right. Today I choose you and you choose me. Today we choose God as the immovable cement that binds us together, that gives us the strength to choose each other every day again, the strength to share each others’ joy and bear each others’ sorrow.

So as we say the words that forever unite our futures, know that I love you with a love that will not alter when it alteration finds. Take my hand and we will walk into the unknown, full of joy and unafraid.


Those words read at our wedding are more true today than they were ten years ago. I love you, Jonathan Sharp. Here’s to all the future decades of together.

Attitude adjustments

I’ve been (very!) slowly reading through the Bible over the last couple years, and right now I’m in the book of Acts. This morning’s chapter was the story of Peter’s vision of unclean animals and God’s call for him to take the Gospel to someone he never would have associated with on his own. It got me thinking about God’s power to change our attitudes.

It happens often for me, in different ways. I might be sitting in church when words from a sermon suddenly strike home. Sometimes a casual comment or well-timed advice from a friend will provide a shift in perspective. Maybe it’s just that still voice in a quiet moment, helping me see myself and the world more clearly.

My process in our embryo adoption experience has been a big lesson in God’s ability to change my perspective. I started out flatly rejecting the idea, mostly because it didn’t fit the plans I was busy making. It’s pretty amazing to look back on how God moved me from rejection to embracing embryo adoption. He was clearly at work.

But it’s been a longer process than that. It would be misleading to say we made our decision and never looked back. Our counselor told us several times that you can be excited about new opportunities while at the same time grieving a loss, and she warned us that grief is not a linear process. Sometimes little things can trigger feelings you thought were over. She was right, as she always seems to be. The thing about infertility is that every option involves a loss of some kind. We did grieve even as we moved forward with embryo adoption. More than once, I felt a stab as I saw myself or Jon (mostly Jon!) or maybe even a grandparent or uncle in my son and mourned the loss of that experience with our next child. We wondered how well other people would relate to what we were doing and whether our child would face extra challenges finding her place in the world. We grieved the loss of “normal,” whatever that is. In fact, there was a time somewhere in the middle of the process – I think around the time we were reviewing donors – when we both were questioning enough to need to walk through the entire decision again. We started at the beginning and talked about all our doubts and questions. What if finances weren’t a factor? Would things be different if we waited another year or two? After going over the whole process again, we came out in exactly the same place. This was the right choice. It was where God was leading. After that, things were easier.

I suppose, keeping in mind the counselor’s warning, there will probably still be some difficult moments ahead. But God has brought me to a place of peace and joy. Knowing He has led us here gives me such confidence in the future. In the way only He can, He changed my attitude to match His plan. Throughout this pregnancy, I have felt such a bond growing with Baby Girl, and the fears have faded away. I love the incredible way she came to us, and I love that someday, I will be able to tell her how she was chosen for us, before those tiny cells even began dividing.

Travails of the day

We are currently in the throes of a second attempt at potty training Corin. The first was about five months ago and did not go well. I will just go ahead and say that thus far, potty training is my least favorite parenting experience. Jon is of the opinion that we need to stick with it and he’ll eventually get it. I’m wondering if he’s really just not ready and maybe it would be better to wait until it clicks for him. Of course, I’m not sure it’s really going to be any easier once the new baby arrives. I could really use some potty training wisdom, but more advice just seems to increase my confusion. Where’s a magic genie when you need one?

Also, I’m seeing lots of pictures on Facebook of amazing-looking beach vacations. I have been CRAVING the beach for months. Granted, my increasingly-pregnant self is already of a size to illicit beached whale metaphors, but the sound of crashing waves and sea gulls sounds like heaven. I grew up in Florida and did not properly appreciate the beach when I had it. This must be my penance. (Actually, there may be a 10th anniversary Hilton Head trip in my future. Fingers crossed!) 

On the bright side, I’m about to finish the third coat of paint on Baby Girl’s changing table, and it looks pretty good. I am learning as I go. The crib is looking great, too, but it’s S-L-O-W going. I’ve had lots of help from hubby and my brother-in-law’s wife. I think I’m going to be glad we did it, but the process does lead one to question the wisdom of painting an article of furniture with that many spindles. 

Sunday is Father’s Day. It snuck up on me a bit this year. (Okay, these holidays nearly always sneak up on me.) I do want to take a moment, amidst the challenges of the day, to say how grateful I am for the two most important fathers in my life. I honestly don’t know how one girl gets lucky enough to have a daddy and a husband who are both outstanding fathers. My dad is a man of character and kindness who has made me feel valued and loved throughout my life. He is a constant source of wisdom and encouragement. I could go on for a long time about memories of bedtime math stories that were somehow both educational and immensely entertaining, about the high expectations that helped keep me from straying too far when things got a little crazy, about the many family vacations and the good advice that stuck… And then I married a man who is just that kind of father to our son, and I know will be soon to our daughter. Corin does not yet know how blessed he is to have a daddy who is such a part of his life, but he will someday. He will have a long list of memories like mine, and I am so grateful. 

File this under “temporarily stumped”

I started looking at baby books the other day, and it didn’t take long to realize there isn’t anything on the market that fits our situation.

There are several very nice baby books out there for adoption situations, but that language –  with sections on birth moms and adoption finalizations – doesn’t work for us. Traditional baby books provide for information about mom and dad and the family tree but obviously don’t include a section on donor families. I am so not up for assembling a book from scratch. I may be tackling an awful lot of DIY for Baby Girl’s nursery, but I know my limits.

Jon and I talked about it and decided to buy a traditional baby book similar to Corin’s – which is post-bound and allows some flexibility to remove or change pages – and customize it ourselves.

I’ve started filling it out, but after copying down the same information I’d put in Corin’s book about mommy and daddy, how we met, and our family tree, I’m a bit stumped. Where exactly do I put information about Baby Girl’s biological family? What does that section even look like? Will it make her feel weird that her story didn’t fit any of the “normal” family templates and had to be cobbled together?

I’m going to be thinking about this for a little while. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

On bonding

I spent several hours yesterday sanding and priming Baby Girl’s crib, a stellar craigslist find, as is pretty much every piece of nursery furniture I’ve ever purchased. Well, more accurately, I started priming the crib and then let my dear husband take over. I also have a changing table to paint, so we’re going to be at this for a while. I will at some point post pictures, provided I don’t totally screw these projects up and find them to be a hideous embarrassment. I’m starting early, because Corin arrived at 37 1/2 weeks to an unfinished nursery. His nursery mural – an awesome functioning Narnia lamp post courtesy my talented husband – was complete when he was about 8 months old.

I’m excited about decorating a girl’s nursery. I’m excited about dressing a baby girl. I’m just excited. Years ago, when I pictured the family I hoped for, I wanted a boy first and then a girl. With all the baby plans that went awry, somehow this one was meant to be. I think I would have been thrilled with another boy, but given the uncertainty of any future family plans, I love that we are getting to experience both a son and a daughter. I love the way Corin says “baby sister.”

I am 22 weeks pregnant and already starting to get uncomfortable. Physically, this pregnancy has been harder than my first. I was more nauseous and threw up for longer, although I still had it a LOT easier than many. (God bless those of you who have had to hang over the toilet for the entire first trimester or beyond.) I have had heartburn on and off for a couple months now. (Great midwife tip: eat almonds to settle the acid!) I get very tired, which I assume is related to caring for one child while gestating another. (Jon read this and questioned whether gestating is a verb in that sense. I assured him if it isn’t, it should be.) At 5’2″, I don’t have much baby room. I grow immediately and increasingly OUT. My sweet girlfriends have been sending me pictures of celebrities who gained a lot of pregnancy weight. My skin is a mess. I have what I guess is a muscle strain from rapid belly growth.

It’s funny, though. Even with all the weirdness and discomforts of pregnancy, I am enjoying it so much this time. I didn’t hate pregnancy the first time, but I think I worried more and felt less at home in my own skin during those nine months. I did feel a connection with Corin before he was born, but I remember thinking the prenatal bonding wasn’t quite what I expected. This time, I am so aware of the bond I feel for our baby. Maybe it’s because this time I know what it really means to have a child to love. Or maybe I’m more aware of that bonding because of my early adoption-related fears on the subject.

In any case, I am soaking up as much as I can of this experience and am so looking forward to meeting this little one. I worry a little about HOW excited I am, because I’m 90 percent sure I’ve forgotten exactly how hard those newborn days are and am unprepared for the two-child balancing act. Hopefully our previous newborn experience will kick in. And please let this baby be a better nurser than Corin was… Also, thank goodness for family. I hope our parents are resting now. We’re going to need them.