this is your disclaimer...

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Awake you have a kid

Ah Sleep. Remember when you and I would have long blissful uninterrupted intimacy for like, 10 hours in a row?  Me too.

In fact, before having a child, I was a bit of a sleep worshiper. Often, shortly after my day had begun I would think longingly of curling up with my down comforter and snoozing till my heart's content later that evening. You can call me an old lady but I don't care. I like sleeping. I have a comfortable bed. 

I've also dealt with a bit of anxiety in my time, which often robs one of sleep. There's been many a night I have lain awake, heart pounding over who-knows-what, counting the minutes as they slipped through my fingers. Which made me a little possessive and regimented with my sleepy times. (didn't know you would get an inside look into my crazy control freak tendencies with this blog post did you? Bonus points for you.) 

Then I got pregnant. 

I feel like one of the biggest topics among the Already-Have-Kids people and the About-To-Have-Kids people is the baby-induced insomnia you will have to endure, and the 400,000 different systems and 5 step plans and books that will help you escape that insomnia as soon as possible.This all really freaked me out. Not only because I didn't know how well I would function on this new level of sleep deprivation, but also because I knew I would have to lay down my golden calf of repose and learn to let the Lord be my rest. And I was afraid because I'm a rule follower. Rules make me feel safe. If I follow systems and rules I feel like I'm winning. But in reality, God is in control not me and his approval of me is not based on how well I follow rules but rather based on the merit of Christ who bestows epic amounts of mercy and grace upon me. Really, an all around better deal than me freaking out about following rules. Keeping this in mind, I knew if I read a book on how to get my baby to sleep through the night it would become law in my heart and I would be frustrated and embittered toward my child for not following these sleep-laws to a T. This was obviously, the opposite of what I desired to feel toward my child. 

So I decided not to read books. We were gunna wing it. We also hadn't decided what our sleeping arrangements would be. This is another hot topic in the parenting world. I knew I wanted to nurse, so I figured my kid would be in a bassinet or co-sleeper or sock drawer for the first couple months and then we'd see what we felt like doing then. One step at a time. I can handle that. I heard that newborns like to nurse every 5 seconds so I sort of prepared myself that my body and rest would not be my own for 2-3 months. I would be sharing them with my child. And I prayed that the Lord would replace my anxiety and selfishness with joy. I didn't want to look back on those first months and only remember frustration even if it was the hardest thing I ever did.

And then my daughter arrived!'t as bad as I thought. She nursed well, but not too often, and nursed quickly. She never had her days and nights mixed up. She had "The Witching Hour" cry time, but no all night scream fests. And she was sleeping for 5, 6, sometimes 7 hour stretches pretty soon. I couldn't believe it. I also wanted her to be with me every second. She slept in my arms, or on my chest every night for the first two weeks. Not because she wouldn't sleep anywhere else, but because I didn't want her to. My physical touch love language was overflowing. I'm pretty sure a unicorn burst out of my heart at some point. And so two months past and both my husband and I couldn't imagine her sleeping in another room. She slept great in her bassinet next to our bed and we slept great and everything was great. And once you're out of the newborn stage you're out of the woods right? Well...maybe for people in books.

All of a sudden at 5 months she started waking up more. I was bewildered but not completely undone. Teething had begun. Teething is bad business, and there's just no other way around it. So we cut a tooth and then went back to sleeping good. But there was this place in the back of my mind that was sort of tickling me with shame. She's FIVE months old. Shouldn't she sleep in her own room now? What will people think they knew she still sleeps with you in bed sometimes? Am I ruining her for life? No one was telling me these things out loud but you just hear them whispered in the wind of the mommy dogma we make for ourselves. In a facebook status, or a blog post, or a commercial, or even a conversation with a stranger at the grocery store. "How's she sleeping?" Don't you dare answer "not great" because then you will probably get unsolicited advice or possibly feel like a failure even if you don't. So because of the voices of shame in my head I decided to put my daughter in her crib for the first time around 5 months. She did fine. I did not. I sobbed. I hated the monitor. I was so used to her little noises right next to me they sounded bizarre and exaggerated on that awful machine. I tried for 3 nights. I was getting less sleep than when she was next to me because I was wide awake and sad. So I had a melt down at my husband

"I just want to go get her and bring her in heeeeeeerrrreeee" (snots all over husband's shoulder)
"well then go get her and bring her in here."
"but I caaaaaaaan't"
"um, why?"
"becaaaaaaauuuussseeee" (very sound logic, right?)
"...babe, if you wanna go get her, go get her. I'm happy for her to sleep in here with us."
"really? ok."
So she moved back into our room in her bassinet. And sometimes just for fun she would get in bed and snuggle with us. However this is still not the end of this tale. My baby was still not sleeping through the night consistently. Sometimes she would, sometimes she wouldn't. And of course there's about 457 transitions you travel through that first year... teeth, gas, growth spurts, unswadling, teeth... so I kept reminding myself not to lose hope and not to feel like a failure. Around 8 months my daughter started sleeping in her crib, in her room. We were all ready. And it was not a difficult transition at that time. But still, we would go through these periods of good sleep and bad sleep. But she wasn't a year old yet so I wasn't worried about it. Then she was a year old. And she was still waking up a few times a night. And after a particularly bad string of nights I went through the teeth-tummy-fever check list in my brain and upon realizing none of those applied I kinda unraveled. I don't know why I was holding onto that First Birthday as a beacon of hope but I realized I was. This was suppose to get easier, not harder right? And all those voices crept back in. Your baby is a year old and doesn't sleep through the night? You're still NURSING her at night?! Oh sister, your baby will never learn to sleep on their own. Here, let me give you this book...

So, after talking to my husband (who sleeps through everything including hurricanes, rap music blaring from cars right outside our window, and screaming daughters) we decided to try letting her cry at night. I am not planning to wean in the near future, but I had heard night weaning was a thing, so I thought we'd try. I told myself to give it a week. You can survive anything for a week. The first night she screamed off and on for hours. And as I lay awake listening to her scream I realized that if I was committed to sleep training her I would need to give up co-sleeping altogether for a season and possibly forever. No more morning snuggles. No more naps together. I felt very sad. So I prayed that the Lord would search my heart and give me wisdom. And I realized that I felt compelled to let my daughter scream because of shame. I did not feel so sleep deprived that I could not function. I did not feel resentful toward my child. It is not easy to get up 2-4 times every night to nurse and rock a baby for over a year but it is something that I have decided to do because its what is best for our family. So if you wanna label us, you can call us part time co-sleepers. We're cool with that. We're also cool if that's not what you do. Cause everyone's family and babies are different. Maybe you're a momma who's 9 month old wants to nurse 5 times a night but you don't realize other people's babies do that too. Or maybe you're babies sleep like its their super hero power and you think I'm a weirdo. That's fine. Just don't recommend a book to me. I share this particular journey with these particular details because there can be a hideous value system that mothers build around each other's parenting decisions. And for mothers with babies, SLEEP is a big one. There are many shoulds and should nots out there that can be very discouraging. But our righteousness is not built upon our ability to get our babies to sleep. Or where they sleep or how long they sleep. It is ok if your baby does not go to bed instantaneously and independently at exactly 8:03 each evening. And it is ok if you did not cross stitch your baby to your bare bosom so they can nurse continuously until they are 17.  

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us..." Galatians 3:13

I am not bound by living up to other's expectations of me and my child. Even greater still, I am not bound by living up to my own expectation of me or my child. Neither are you. If you had asked me when I was pregnant if I was planning on co-sleeping I would have said "I have no idea, but probably not." But this is where our journey took us. And I'm glad of it. I'm still taking one step at a time. Maybe we will night wean, maybe we'll co-sleep still she's two. We'll see. One day my daughter will be in high school and I'll be dealing with boys and alcohol. This is the hardest thing I've ever done. But dear goodness have I been gifted with undeserved joy over it. For these few, fleeting, sweet and difficult moments of my daughter's life, I will drag my ass out of bed at 2:37am (and, midnight, and 4:17) and stare at her perfect sleeping face. And listen to her tiny breaths. And feel her hands absentmindedly smack me in the face. And lean in to the Lord to sustain my sore and tired body through one more day.

With a cup of coffee.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I resolve to have a very boring year

From Life's First Cry to Final Breath, Jesus Commands My Destiny...

So I was gunna do Christmas cards. But then I realized I had 3 people's addresses and barely had enough time and brain space to get gifts together for my immediate family. So I thought I'd do a new years card. Then I realized I still only had 3 addresses and didn't really feel like spending 100 dollars on postage. But ALOT happened in 2011 that I feel compelled to write about. So call me cheap and lazy but here is your Christmas Card/New Years Letter. Blog style. Keepin' up with the trends.

I have seen the full spectrum of life in a very compacted amount of time. I can scarcely take it in. Thank goodness it is not my responsibility to completely untangle the mess of my heart, and I can rest knowing that Christ has me all figured out. He knows my needs, and he suplies them. 2011 started with losing my daddy to cancer. At Christmas we had no idea he even had cancer, and by mid January he was gone. His diagnosis to his passing was less than two weeks. I was also 36 weeks pregnant when my daddy died. To this day my greatest heartache is not getting to see him hold my daughter. But through these heartaches God was faithful. My dad was in pain for less than two weeks. His greatest end of life fear was wasting away in a nursing home, and he spent almost every last moment of life living it. At home, with his family. I got to say goodbye. I got to tell him the names we had picked out for our child, something no one else knew ahead of time. I got to witness him face death with confidence and peace. But this is still a painful, horrible loss. It fills you with the kind of saddness that crying does not satiate. Its such a deep pain that you cannot bear being its sole carrier. And God provided again with hundreds of calls, texts, and facebook messages pouring out sympathy, encouragement, fond memories, prayers. Meals were provided, visitors came.

My pastor's entire family (4 small children under the age of 10 in tow) came to the hospital with homemade pictures and cards and giggles and shennanigans. My aunt and uncle who happened to stop by as my father was taking his last breaths, stayed with us so we wouldn't be facing that difficult moment alone. Dear friends happened to show up moments after my dad had passed and sat on the floor with us, and cried with us, and prayed for us. An out of town friend drove in for the funeral, and followed me around making sure I ate, had a chair to sit in, and helped me get into my shoes (since I couldn't reach my feet at this point) and then had to drive several hours immediately after the service to be at a bridal shower. Later that week Justin spent time with a close friend/fellow musician. My dear husband asked our friend if he would sing to him for a while. That it would be a comfort. And he humbly replied by singing songs about the Lord being close to the brokenhearted.

In the middle of all this, our church, Sojourn Community Church was recording a album of Iassac Watts hymns. Justin and I were going to be a part of this project, but the studio time was booked the same weekend as my dad's funeral. So we had to step back. We felt dissappointed but knew there would be other records and other opportunities. However, somehow things worked out that the following week I had one last shot to sing on this record. The songs I happened to sing were about, well... death. That death for those who have a saving relationship with Christ is a victory. In this world we are subjected to sin and sickness and heartache. But God promises us there is an end. That we get to be healed. And that in the meantime he will not abandon us. So here I am, now 37 weeks pregnant, hoisting up my belly and gasping huge breaths and hoping that my baby will move off of my diaphragm so I can belt out words that my daddy is now experiencing.

"I go where God and glory shine
To one eternal day
This failing body I now resign
And the angels point my way"

"And though the hosts of death and hell
All armed against me stand
No more will terrors shake my soul
secure within your hand."

These songs were always a part of my story, because Jesus made them a part of my story when he died in my place. But they are now even more intimately entwined in my heart because of facing loss, and then recieving hope in the midst of that loss.

And then, less than two weeks later: I have a daughter. The second most life changing event of my life within weeks of the first. And this little babe, this tiny, delicate pearl somehow fills my heart up with so much joy I feel like my rib cage may explode from the pressure. A joy that is a much needed change of pace from our grief. A reminder that the Lord makes all things new. That he gives us wonderful gifts in the middle of all this brokenness. There have been many moments where I feel that deep ache of loss sneak up and just when I think I may not be able to get out of bed and function a tiny person snuggles up to my bossom, or pats my face. Even when she screamed without end during those newborn "witching hours" I felt in those moments my soul screaming LOOK! There is life!! There is an itty bitty person who's lungs are sucking in air and pushing out sound! Inside there is an itty bitty heart pumping blood through fragile veins that make tender muscles squirm! Thank you Lord. I don't want to give some romanticized picture of my motherhood. But frankly I'm just grateful for this daughter friend God has blessed me with, even if she wakes me up 17 times a night on a regular basis.

Because of where these events landed on the calendar we had a whole calendar year of firsts ahead of us. First's without Daddy, and first's with daughter. I've struggled through each of them how I am supposed to feel. My intellect tells me it is possible and acceptable to be happy and sad at the same time but when experiencing that on a practical level, frankly its a clustercuss. I've spent many hours on the phone repeatedly asking my friend who is a counselor "am I compltely crazy? am I doing some weird repression thing where if I don't feel like a basketcase at present I will eventually without warning become a homocidal maniac because I didn't process my grief with some 5 step plan I read out of a book?!?!?" And she lovingly reminds me that the gospel is not a 5 step plan, and that all I'm meant to do is to cling to Jesus during sadness and joy and anger and confusion. He has completed the work that was required to bring freedom from this MESS. There is no need to find the proverbial bootstraps to pull up. I don't even know what a bootstrap is. I've also been blessed with a community of friends who when they ask me how I am doing, dont have a mental tally of how many times I can answer "shitty" before they start to become impatient. I am eternally grateful for the people in my life who continue to step into my life and share my highs and lows and point me to truth.

2011 was intense. And these are just the highlights. We have seen job changes, financial stress, broken marriages, babies born and babies lost, friends and family suffer with chronic illness, and friends come to know the Lord we had all but given up on. I'm officially a grown up. Where's the sticker for my star chart? Oh right, I'm promised more then just a temporary accolade for "toughing it out". I'm promised eternity in the perfect home I was always meant for.

"Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eye, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4

What will 2012 bring? I'm not really one for making resolutions but this year I've decided to watch lots of tv, eat junk food and snuggle as much as possible. But whatever comes, I can rest in the promises of my good and true savior, Jesus.

Look I even included a photo! This is a legit Christmas Card.