Becoming a Parent vs. Becoming a Missionary

Recently I was lying awake in bed thinking about everything that has to be accomplished in the upcoming year before we board the plane for PNG. As I was lying there annoyed that I couldn’t sleep, it occurred to me that the last time I experienced this many sleepless nights due to anxiety was…PREGNANCY. The progression of my half-conscious thoughts resulted in this blog post where I will humorously, but honestly, compare my experiences (and I’m guessing many others’) of becoming a parent to those of becoming a missionary.

Becoming a parent.
Becoming a missionary.

You feel unprepared and worry about what kind of parent you will be.
You feel unprepared and worry about what kind of missionary you will be.

You endure countless visits to the OB, complete with blood work, ultrasounds, and occasionally shots.
Your entire family endures countless visits to the travel clinic and primary care physicians, complete with blood work, shots, and even chest x-rays.

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One of Elana’s first pictures!
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These are the closest things to weapons in our house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You fear the unknown.
You fear the unknown.

You read all kinds of literature about various parenting styles and models.
You read all kinds of literature about various mission styles and models.

Almost all of your thoughts (and conversations) are consumed with everything baby.
Almost all of your thoughts (and conversations) are consumed with everything missions.

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Matt’s thoughts were so consumed with having a baby that he even made a fetus pancake during pregnancy #1.

Paperwork. Insurance, birth certificate, social security card.
Paperwork. Insurance, passports, work permits, entry permits, medical licenses, travel itineraries, and more.

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After completing our work permits.

You attend birthing and parenting classes so that you feel a little more prepared to succeed as a parent, but usually end up feeling overwhelmed with the numerous ways in which you can fail.
You attend trainings and orientations with your sending agencies so that you feel a little more prepared to succeed as a missionary, but usually end up feeling overwhelmed with the numerous ways in which you can fail.

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Paraphernalia.

You agonize over the perfect name for your baby and worry about how others will perceive it.
You agonize over the perfect blog site, newsletter format, and word choice and worry about how others will perceive them.

You spend an enormous amount of time collecting stuff for your baby.
You spend an enormous amount of time getting rid of stuff you have collected.

You choose the perfect bedding and clothes for your baby and strategize the best ways to organize all of it.
You wonder what types and how much of your linens and clothes you should pack for your family and strategize the best ways to pack it all into a few suitcases.

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The night before we left for Kenya.

You frequently fluctuate between emotions, trying to find balance between the extreme joy and excitement of meeting your new baby, fear and anxiety over how the transition will go, and even a small amount of grief over the life you can never return to…a time before children.
You frequently fluctuate between emotions, trying to find balance between the extreme joy and excitement of following your dreams and being a part of God’s plan, fear and anxiety over how the transition will go, and grief over the life you can never return to…a time when you had one place to call home and a simpler worldview.

Your friends and family throw you a baby shower to make sure you have everything you need for your new baby.
You ask anyone you know if they would be interested in partnering with you to make sure you have everything you need for your entire family.

You make plans for visits with family and friends, but also attempt to establish healthy boundaries to ensure the well-being of your immediate family who will be undergoing a major life transition.
You make plans for final visits with family and friends, but also attempt to establish healthy boundaries to ensure the well-being of your immediate family who is undergoing a major life transition.

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She didn’t like being a hippo.

You consider which doctor will end up delivering the baby and how smoothly the delivery will go.
You consider which missionaries will be your new friends/family and how smoothly the transition will go.

You attempt to anticipate and prepare for any possible number of detours that could interfere with the birth plan.
You attempt to anticipate and prepare for any possible number of detours that could interfere with the process of moving overseas.

The birth process is quite literally messy, painful, and exhausting; but you know it will be worth it.
The moving process is messy (sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively), painful, and exhausting; and you hold to the hope that it will be worth it.

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Just in case you didn’t realize our kids look alike. Can you tell who is who?

You secretly wonder what the delivery team honestly thinks about how you are handling things.
You secretly wonder what your fellow missionaries honestly think about how you are handling things.

Although you know this new human being is a part of you, you still have to learn how to love your little one.
Although you know this new place and people are a part of you, you still have to learn how to love the culture.

You worry about every. tiny. little. thing. Did baby eat enough? Does baby look jaundiced? Baby’s temperature is 98.7! How many times did baby poop? What color was the poop? Is that what the umbilical cord is supposed to look like? Is that what baby’s head is supposed to look like?
You worry about every. tiny. little. thing. Did I say that wrong? Did I shake that person’s hand the right way? How many times did my kids poop today? What color was the poop? Is my skirt too short? Is my skirt too long? Did I offend that person when I said I didn’t need any more avocados?

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MJ’s first prank.

You begin the task of adjusting to life with this new baby…feedings, diaper changes, attempting to establish a schedule that works for everyone…all while in a constant state of wondering if you have made the right decisions.
You begin the task of adjusting to life in this new place…finding food, cleaning food, making food, figuring out how to manage the household, learning hospital procedures, attempting to establish a schedule that works for everyone…all while in a constant state of wondering if you have made the right decisions.

You experience the strange phenomenon where your heart grows to accommodate your new love for your baby.
You experience the strange phenomenon where your heart aches from missing friends and family back in the States, but also grows to accommodate your new friends and adopted family in your destination country.

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All smiles!

Someday you look back and wonder how you made it through or why you worried about so much; but ultimately, you look back and see how your family has grown.
Someday we hope to look back and wonder how we made it through or why we worried about so much; but ultimately, we hope to look back and see how our family has grown.

While I realize that bringing a human being into this world is drastically different than moving to another country, I ask that just as you have patience with your friends and family in the year surrounding the birth of a child, please have patience with our family in the year surrounding our move to PNG. We know we don’t make the greatest friends right now. We are sorry for shifting every conversation toward missions and we are sorry that we aren’t involved in as many things as we used to be. We promise that we still love you and we will continue to value our relationship with you even as our new life necessitates change. Just like having a baby is a huge blessing full of a wide range of emotions and changes, we are discovering that entering into a life in missions is very similar: a huge blessing full of a wide range of emotions and changes. Thank you for your understanding and support during this crazy time in our lives and please let us know how we can make this transition easier for you as well.

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Elana meeting MJ for the 1st time.

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