Wednesday, September 30, 2009

R&R... what's that again?

On Monday I bought a home pregnancy test.

No, I’m not pregnant, but the way I have been feeling the last week or so made me wonder. I have had an insatiable appetite, been nauseous, had cramps, and was light-headed. The way my body was acting, I thought something must have gone wrong with my birth-control and I prepared myself for the little pink line on the pregnancy test.



I don’t know what is wrong with my body exactly, but today I felt I may have gotten a clue. My mentor Nancy leads a ministry called Vine, Vision & Voice and I finally get to participate in it. At the end of the first session this afternoon, Nancy asked us to go outside, observe the world around us and reflect for five minutes on five qualities of the soul.

So I went outside, wandered towards a stretch of grass and lay down. I looked at our list of qualities and tried to focus on them, but all I could think over and over was, “I’m tired. I’m so tired. Oh God, I’m tired.” When the sun came out from behind the clouds I closed my eyes and those five minutes turned into an unexpected gift of rest.

We don’t rest much in our culture. As moms, it is even more difficult to find time for ourselves to rest. With load after load of laundry and dishes, with diaper after diaper and feeding after feeding, we run ragged caring for our children, husbands, home, perhaps our jobs… and we never rest.

Did you know the word “rest” appears 496 times in the Bible?! 496! That’s huge! And even huger is the fact that the first time the verb is used, God is the subject. Genesis 2:2 says, “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” God rested. Think about that, the Master of the Universe rested. Not only that, in the Ten Commandments he commands us all to rest on the Sabbath day. And that day is to be considered holy. Maybe rest is important…

Tonight, I am going to listen to my body - more importantly follow God's example - and rest. I am going to sit down with a mug of skim milk, a plate of Oreos and my copy of Pride and Prejudice and begin my semi-annual reading of my favorite book. Then, I am going to get some much needed sleep.

Do you take time to rest? What are your favorite ways to give yourself some R&R?

Wordless Wednesday!

(Can you see his tooth?)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Thoughts on the Last Post

The responses to my last post made me think a lot about what I experienced nine or ten months ago. The truth is I actually wrote the majority of that post last March or April. I wrote it when I was much closer to the drama than I am now. I wrote it when I was struggling to reconnect with God after feeling so far away from him for so long.

But your comments about hormones and depression made me start to wonder. What was going on with me emotionally? I know one thing, I regret that I could not enjoy Jack during those first months of his life. I blame it all on the troubles we had with breastfeeding - which was huge, I've only mentioned it a gazillion times on here - and I feel like I need to mourn the loss of what I felt the first weeks should I have been like. But am I really any different from the average mom postpartum?

Does anyone know the difference between hormonal baby blues and all out postpartum depression? It seems most moms I know struggle the first couple of months or more, but only 10% are diagnosed as depressed (or so I've read). Does anyone know why?

I have another post in the works on "survival mode" and I would love to hear what your experiences were like those first few weeks or months of your baby's (or babies') life. Did you enjoy your baby? Did you just "get by"? What went on with you?

Friday, September 25, 2009

An Invitation

The hours and days following the birth of my son, Jack, are a haze to me. I don’t remember anything besides working hard to get him to latch on to my breast every two to three hours which consisted of his crying, followed by my crying, and eventually a successful feed. I was functioning off of less than a couple of hours of sleep at a time and without the help of my husband and mom I think I would have lost it.

My main objective: Survival.

I found I struggled relating to people. My relationship with my husband Tim was awkward. Even a simple kiss, which was once the most natural thing in the world, felt strange to me. I snapped at my mom and the other family members who came to help. And my son was a stranger to me who I apparently tortured each feeding. I didn’t bond with Jack until he was nearly two months old.

My relationship with God? Nonexistent.

I found that the stuff I normally talked to God about suddenly didn’t relate to my life with a baby. God didn’t offer much input on breastfeeding or on if a circumcision was healing. He didn’t tell me why Jack’s poop suddenly turned green or how to make it yellow again. And I was just too tired to try to think about anything else.

Eventually things got better. Tim and I reconnected. I fell in love with my son. And instead of being annoyed with them I longed to live closer to the rest of my family. But God still did not seem relevant, so I didn’t seek Him.

My “bible” became all of the different breastfeeding and baby sleep books I could get my hands on. I was obsessed with caring for Jack. It was all I could think or talk about. Because leaving the house was a hassle and I was often very tired, I didn’t go to church more than a couple of times the first two months.

My god was no longer My God, but my baby. A person I obsessed over and loved more than I ever imagined possible. Someone I would die for in a second.

I haven’t worshipped God like that in a long time.

Months ago, God gave me the desire to write reflections or devotions for new moms in order to encourage them during the first months/year of motherhood which has been the hardest transition in my own life. I want The Toothless Grin to be a place where we not only laugh about the ridiculous and lament the struggles, but a place where we can explore who God is and what He wants to communicate to us, the mommies of the world. So from here on out it is my goal to post something each week (as I am able) exploring a mother’s relationship with her God.

I am excited and nervous to start off in this new direction and I hope you accompany me on this journey. Please, let me know what works and what doesn’t. Tell me when you agree and when you think I’m off my rocker! I need all of your feedback to know if I’m on track. This is for you moms after all. My experience is just one of many so I need your help.

I hope to hear from you!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

I have noticed something on other mom blogs called Wordless Wednesdays and I want to join in the fun. Although today is actually Thursday and this is not wordless, consider this the first post! Enjoy! :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Expecting the Unexpected

If you start counting Jack gets excited. By the time you say the number two there’s a huge smile on his face and he is more than ready to erupt in giggles when he is tossed in the air, spun in a circle, or tickled. The anticipation is half the fun for him. And us.

I wish someone would give me a countdown whenever something unexpected is about to happen. I guess then it wouldn’t be unexpected, but I really don’t deal with surprises well. And this week has been kind-of full of them.

Monday, Tim was two hours late from class because his motorcycle ran out of gas – unexpected for him and me.

Tuesday… well I can’t think of anything Tuesday.

Wednesday we decided to visit my friend Ann in the hospital and her brand new baby Beck. That was a fun unexpected thing.

We got home Wednesday night to find our downstairs toilet was bubbling and overflowing while the washing machine ran. Today I woke up to find the toilet water had receded, but left behind a film of sewage in the toilet bowl. The bathroom reeked and I called our manager demanding immediate assistance as I watched the water begin to rise again before my eyes. “Don’t overflow!!”

Plumber shows up and unexpectedly runs a very loud machine for an hour in order to unclog the toilet, causing a strange smell to permeate the apartment and Jack to wake up from his nap.

Plumber leaves behind a fully functioning toilet, but the nastiest mess in our bathroom and kitchen that I spent an hour cleaning. Actually, I want to clean it again tomorrow. It was that bad.

I didn’t get the things done today I wanted to.

I’m beginning to think this is the norm. Am I right?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Overworked Mommy Needs Advice

Tim starts school tomorrow… and he’s excited about it.

If you know Tim, you know that this is a big deal. I’m excited for him to learn about cars, to become a mechanic and earn us some big bucks (well, potentially). What I’m concerned about is what’s going to happen to me in the next 18 months.

I feel incredible selfish saying that. I feel as though I should be excited for Tim no matter what the cost may be to myself. But there’s going to be a cost and that scares me.

The hope has been that by the time Tim started school I would have a job. That way Tim would not need to work full time. At this point no such job has come along. Tim will therefore be working 40 hours a week and going to school 25. He will be gone at least 70 hours a week with little breaks here and there. I know he is concerned about not having any free time. So am I.

Since Jack was born there have been numerous times when I have been ready to throw in the towel at the end of Tim’s work week. I remember one time when I was so fed up with caring for Jack's needs I began sobbing while I was breastfeeding him. Jack looked at me with so much concern... it was really sweet, but I was done. Thankfully, Tim came home and I took a nap. I think I have gotten better at making priorities and taking care of myself, but Tim has always been there to relieve me. Now he won’t be there as often and that makes me nervous.

I know I’m not the first person to face a situation like this one. I’m wondering what others have done to care for themselves in the midst of chaos. I just can’t keep up the pace I’ve been going at for the last couple of days (on Friday I realized I had been “working” from 7am until at least 6 or 6:30pm). Does anyone have any advice?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"I love you more"

This is a devotional I wrote for my cousin-in-law Jamie's baby shower last week.

* * *

After Jack was born and I was struggling to figure out breastfeeding, a question from Isaiah kept coming to my mind. “Can a woman forget the baby at her breast?” At the time, I felt this verse could only be about one thing: engorgement. A book my mom gave me described engorgement this way: “Your chest is the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead is pushing so hard, the dam is going to collapse in about two seconds.” I think it feels like overinflated tires. If anymore air (or milk) goes in there they will explode.

My answer to this question: “No, I can’t forget Jack – my boobs won’t let me!”

But after about 6 or 7 weeks, I finally bonded with Jack. I began to experience a love that was deeper than I could ever have imagine. I ached for Jack. There have been times when I have risked waking him up because I had to hold him that minute. This love changed everything about the way I viewed my life. And it changed how I viewed this verse. Now my answer to the question, “Can you forget your baby?” is:

“No, I can’t forget Jack, because I love him.”

And that’s when the entire verse began to take on greater meaning. In it the Lords says this: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:15 NIV)

You see, the people of Israel in Isaiah’s time were facing the threat of Assyria from the North. This was a pretty big deal since they found their identity in the land which God promised them in His covenant with Abraham. The land was (and is) pivotal to their existence as a people. Losing the land prompted them to question God’s promises and the covenant He had with His people. In their minds, God had forgotten them because they lost the Promised Land. Their hope as the people of God.

We all have experienced disappointment with God in one way or another. We have all experienced times when we can’t feel his presence or don’t understand what is happening in our lives. So we can all relate to Israel who says in verse 14, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”

But in Isaiah 49 and specifically in verse 15, God says, “No, I would not forget you. I love you more than a mother aches for her child. I love you deeper. If she were to forget and turn away from this child she loves, I still will not. I have not forgotten you! And one day I will restore this land to you. Do you see how much this mother loves her child? I love you more.”

Motherhood is more than the perfect chocolate chip cookie or heart shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is more than the different philosophies on parenting. As displayed in Isaiah 50:15, motherhood is one of the many ways God teaches us about Himself and draws us to Him. Through our relationship with our children and the love we have for them, God shows us His love.

It is my prayer, Jamie, that through each event of your life with your baby, you will be sensitive to God’s voice and His words for you. When you are up for a 3am feeding, when you are changing diapers, when you are exhausted and hungry and feel you don’t have anything left to give, and when you delight in your babies giggles, remember that God says to you, “I love you more.”

* * *

I hope this is a message that resonates with you. I'd love to hear how God has used your relationship with your babies to tell you He loves you! Please share!