by Ashley Philippsen
When I was in grade school, I had life mapped out. I would be an attorney by age 25, married by age 26, and I would have my first child by 27. I applied to Teach For America and became a teacher by 22, a dean of students by 24, and was single at 27. Thank God for His will and hand over my life. My husband and I met in undergrad while interning for nonprofits in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2006. He swore we would never see each other again (why would we?), and I promised him that we would reconnect within 5 years. In 2011, we reconnected and started writing letters to one another that gradually shifted from platonic pleasantries to romantic odes reminiscent of the stuff in movies. Fast forward to June 11, 2015, and Michael and I were 593 days wed and in for the biggest change in our lives.
Proverbs 3:5-6 should float above my head like a halo, because it has been a prominent theme and essential reminder in my marriage and birth journey. I planned on having a natural birth with no medicine whatsoever, but an entire day of labor with a rather large baby unable to pass through my pelvic bones resulted in the (previously) dreaded C-section. By the time it came to deciding on the procedure I was exhausted and ready for Andrew to be out! I found myself more concerned with his healthy arrival than anything by that point.
The biggest test of the journey, and subsequently the biggest lesson, came when we brought our 10 pound 6 ounce bundle of joy home. We had to keep watch around the clock while he lay under a bili-lamp to treat his jaundice. My husband and I were tired, concerned about our son’s liver, and frankly not communicating much. I found myself jumping to the most extreme ideas of, “Oh no, is this the beginning of the end?,” and, “I don’t feel like I can be wholly a wife and wholly a mother, and when will this feeling pass?” Around 2 am, three weeks into my son’s life, God spoke to me. He asked me to look back to Michael’s and my vows, back to our premarital text, Preparing for Marriage by Dennis Rainey, and most important, to look to one of my favorite Scriptures—“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30
I felt the burden I was placing on myself to make motherhood and marriage work lift as I remembered the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit. I cast my cares on Him, and as a result I received renewed strength and understanding of how to merely exist with my life having changed so drastically. I pray for my husband in a way unlike before we had our son. Becoming a parent has provided the greatest sense of vulnerability I have ever felt. It has pushed me further in my understanding of submitting fully to the peace of God’s will and His hand in my/our lives. My only comfort comes from knowing and relying on Him.
Some of you may be reading this and say, “What does this have to do with your journey of having a first child?” It has everything to do with this chapter of parenthood. My husband and I must cleave tighter to the Lord than ever before, for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against an adversary who would seek to destroy our union, a vital foundation for the life with which Christ has entrusted us. By being selfless and determined to be obedient to God for one another, we are investing in our and our son’s future.
This married with children journey is just starting (we’re at four months), and it is the greatest thing I have ever known.
Ashley is the founding director of LEAD North, leading the program’s transition from North Tulsa Development Council (NTDC). Prior to this appointment, Ashley served as Managing Director of Teacher Leadership Development at Teach For America – Oklahoma. She is a member of Tulsa Area United Way’s neXtulsa Executive Non-Profit Executive Leadership Class and the Junior League of Tulsa. Ashley is a certified ZUMBA instructor for YMCA Tulsa and teaches Sunday school at First United Methodist Church. She resides in Tulsa with her husband and son.