Monday, March 26, 2012

Sleeplessness and Contentment

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Philippians 4: 11-13


Night weaning has brought with it severe sleep deprivation. At Day 13, The Dude's waking is worse than ever. His protests are violent, which is unnerving in the middle of the night. In his fury, he tries desperately to bang his head on anything he can find. He is so frustrated that he has even recently started trying to bite me whenever his face makes any contact with my skin or clothes. It would be funny if it wasn't so exhausting and so very pathetic.



This time, remembering my experience with Aquaman, I have been ready for the long haul. All the sleep books say within a few days the protests will stop, but with Aquaman it was weeks, months. I don't expect any different this time. God has blessed me with very strong willed boys. I am proud of them. God will use that determination and strength someday.


If I ever needed strength it is now. And these days the moments to recharge mentally are few and far between.

But the beauty of living in a constant state of doing more than I can do alone is, I never get too far before falling backwards into God's most capable Hands.

I'm so incredibly grateful to only have to work part-time, and to have two amazing sets of grandparents to care for my kids while I am at work. I will never underestimate or undervalue the gift that God has given me through them.


But I have to admit, I never saw my life this way. I got my nursing degree, but mostly because it was one of the closest things to getting a degree in being a wife and mother. I actually love my job. It is very fulfilling. I love my patients dearly and I love my co-workers. It just gets confusing. My primary language of love is quality time, and I've never, even in my deepest exhaustion, been one of those mothers who wishes these busy days away. I KNOW they'll go too fast. And I also know that the children God has given me are primarily JT and I's responsibility to raise, and only for a few short critical years. It's hard to balance all that out with being even a part-time working mother.

With the summer approaching, and juggling around childcare, the feelings of inadequacy and frustrations have once more come to a head. I cried for a few days ( a combination of true concern, hormones, and lack of sleep), but ultimately, I came back to the word God had given me several times these past few years.

One afternoon during my pregnancy with The Dude, I was listening to Focus on the Family on the radio. There was a guest who was talking, for the millionth time it seemed, on the importance of the mother being home. She said that when she got pregnant with her first child, she had prayed that God would work out a way for her to stay home...over several weeks and months, and then He answered her prayer. The implication of this broadcast was that if we have faith and our priorities are in the right place, God will answer this prayer.

On hearing this, I burst into angry tears. For two years I had prayed that same prayer. I am fully aware that the God of the universe can turn hearts and work in whatever way that He chooses. So I decided to ask one more time.


"God, I have prayed over and over this same prayer, and You have not answered it. Why, God?"

And He answered. Clearly, decisively, in the way that he had many times before. In the way that I did not want Him to answer: "Because that is not my plan for you."
Sometimes the hardest thing is accepting that our lives might not look like what we thought they would, or even what well-meaning people around us have told us they should. But it doesn't make us wrong to be called to something different. It just makes us...us.

And surely God, who loves me, my husband, and my kids more than anyone else, wouldn't make a mistake in the plans that He has for us.
And so I have learned (most days) to be content in this, the place where He has me today.
Now more uncertainties loom. With rumors that the county may do a firefighter hiring sometime in the summer, we're faced with an issue we haven't had to think about in a couple of months. If he is presented with the opportunity, should JT become a firefighter? The possibility of the ocean rescue era ending soon is saddening. It has been like living a dream for JT. But it is becoming clear that this is a young man's game, and I can see the discouragement growing in my ambitious husband as time goes by.


But a firefighter? 14 months of paramedic school and back-to-back 24 hr shifts?

Couldn't You do better than that for us, God?
Yes.
So if You don't, this is the Best.

And we'll be content with it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Growing


Night weaning has been going surprisingly, shockingly well.
It has definitely reinforced to me that it was wise in his case to wait. At 7 months he lost his mind when I first tried. This time there has been no hysteria at all. Some sadness, surely, on both of our parts, but no wild panic.
The only hiccup has been that at about 3 am he decides if he doesn't get to nurse, he is just going to play. And play he does, vigorously. And this play also involves climbing, which is kind of scary in the middle of the night. Oh, and some hair pulling too. He's definitely a little mad at me. And about the only time he has cried has been the first two nights at 4 am when he is tired of playing, and wants to sleep. He rubs his eyes, tears at my shirt, and begins to whine. Then screech a bit, and throw a fit to see if that will work. Then he just cries a bit, sadly, real tears, face down on the mattress, close enough to me for comfort, but not giving me the satisfaction of a real cuddle. This lasts only about 5 minutes. I turn on his classical lullabies, and hum them in his ear, hand patting his back. I cry a little too because he is sad, and even though I know this is the best thing for him, i'm still sad when he's sad. And he stops to listen.
And, as always, God speaks to us most clearly when we are giving of ourselves to another. Because in the quiet, watching my baby, I saw a glimpse of the Father's heart for His children.
This is a time of growth for this boy The Dude. A time to put away a piece of his babyhood. It's painful, but it's necessary. Like so much of life. I think it hurts because as a mother it is such a wonderful thing to provide comfort so easily to the little one that we love. And as mothers of babies, that is our main job. The job of infancy is to learn to trust. And these long nights spent together, I have prayed and sought to show to The Dude not that just that he can trust and depend on me...but ultimately to equip him to fully trust his heavenly Parent who was willing to sacrifice not a measly year or so of sleepless nights...but the very life of His Son.
Though he has been quite graciously accepting this passage, I can see the mourning of his flesh, and even my own flesh mourns as we leave this part of our lives behind. I found myself praying that first night as he moaned and buried his face in the bed, that God would comfort him in ways I could not. I prayed that this first time of growth would stick somewhere that even though he has no clear memory, it is a part of who he is forever. I prayed that through my hand on his back and mouth gently to his ear he would learn about the love and comfort of the Father during these so difficult times ahead. And that the love transferred from my presence would translate into accepting God's presence as he faces his life and the many stages of growth that he will move through. I prayed that God would, indeed, make him a mighty man of God.
Then, he suddenly sat straight up, smiled the biggest snaggle-toothed smile he could muster, clapped his hands, and fell fast asleep with his head on my chest.
And now I pray that I will accept change and growth as readily as this small boy, whose curly head is on my chest. Mostly, that I can go back to that simple trust in the Father who is leading me through each stage of life with a whisper in my ear and hand on my back.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Turning 1


My baby turned 1 on Sunday. He's vertical more than he's crawling these days. With his 3 tiny teeth he tears into meatballs and crackers and green peppers with the greatest of gusto. He answers "yeah" to every question you ask him, and is then capable of throwing a head-banging-face-to-the-ground temper tantrum when whatever he has agreed to happens.






He can scream even louder than his brother, and often does. He laughs when Aquaman knocks him down (most of the time), and laughs even harder at the screams that ensue when he gets a handful of Aquaman's thick red curls.












His newest morning tradition (well, before he got sick) has been to wake up just before 5. We take a shower, get dressed, and he leads me, with shrill orders, out the door into the quiet morning. He shows me everything. Rocks I never saw before. Little tiny brown leaves that crunch between his fingers. He finds a pile of dirt peeking out from the grass and throws it up in the air. All around me in nearby townhouses my neighbors are sleeping, or waking up, slowly sipping coffee, reading the paper perhaps. But I'm the luckiest of them all. I'm feeling the wind gently brush through my hair. Seeing the first pink signs of sunrise emerge. Watching my squirmy little baby turn into a toddler, and holding his hand.












Night weaning is approaching, and I am filled with dread at the prospect. I've grown quite used to having very little sleep and constant interruptions. But at least since The Dude's colicky days have passed, and excusing his recent bout with illness, my sleep has only been minimally interrupted by this snuggly little creature who likes to stay attached to me all night long. If I wasn't so terrified of problems with his teeth, I'd probably keep it up another 6 months. Because it has not been long enough yet since Aquaman for me to forget the exhaustion of night weaning.






But mostly, even more than dreading the battle, I am dreading the loss of this special time we've had together.






The day is so crowded with responsibilities. How mothers of more than 2 do it, I will probably never know. Because there just never seems to be enough time. But at night, oh the night, there is nothing but time. And snuggling and kissing and praying and bonding and nursing and occasionally a little sleeping too. I keep reminding myself that only one of these is changing. At least for another 6 months or so, I don't have any intention of changing our sleeping arrangements, just the eating ones. But there's a loss even in that. As a working mom especially, I think nursing has been so special to me because it is one of the few things only I can offer to my babies. And night nursing has brought me some of the most desperate and triumphant moments in my life. I can truly say I wouldn't change a thing.





But the one thing about life, and it's exacerbated by having children and watching the passage of time in their development, is that it's always changing. And I'm excited about this new season in our family's life. Leaving babyhood and stepping out into new adventures.