Sleep Deprivation AKA Having a Newborn

They don’t warn you that there’s a cumulative effect of lack of sleep. You come home expecting that how you feel now is what it’s going to be like, and there’s a few days of relief — thinking that it might be not so bad, this getting woken up every three or four hours.

“I think my body is adapting!” I remember thinking when I woke up after a couple hours sleep feeling rested, sometime during the first week. “This is doable!”

Ha. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Ha!!!

No, it’s not doable. If you want to know what it’s like to have a newborn, I’m sorry there is no good preparation for it. Setting an alarm that goes off randomly during the night — sometimes every hour, sometimes after four hours, won’t be quiet unless you stand on your head and recite the alphabet backwards, but no not like that, a little to the left or with a different accent — that might be similar. But compound that frustration with caring about this alarm and you’ve got the perfect mix of exhaustion and anxiety. Nothing prepares you for how much you will care about your new baby. No words capture that “well shit I guess my heart now resides in this eight-pound bag of bones that can’t even hold his head up” feeling.

Don’t even get me started on nursing. I’m three weeks in and formula sounds like a vacation. If I didn’t firmly believe in the health benefits of nursing I would not do it. Period. I don’t care about the so-called “bonding” and the “nursing relationship”. If reminding myself every three hours not to shake the baby is any kind of relationship to be proud of… It’s not that bad, but it gets close. I’m more frustrated with breastfeeding than anything else. I don’t understand how anyone actually enjoys it. And did you know it takes about 20 calories to make one ounce of milk? Imagine going throughout your entire day at a light jog and then don’t get enough sleep. For weeks.

Men don’t get enough sleep with a newborn either, but their bodies aren’t literally burning an extra 500+ calories a day on top of the household planning (aka the job of making sure the jobs get done — a high paying position anywhere outside the home but totally ignored as a job within the home), work (part time but still), laundry, dishes, wrangling a toddler, shh-ing and diapering and preparing meals and meanwhile trying to behave like a decent human being when all one wants to do is SLEEP.

I’m hiding from my toddler as I write this. Twenty minutes of something I enjoy, and I feel the weight of all the things I “should have” done burdening me. The dryer buzzed. There are clean clothes to put away. Dishes to do and put away. A mess the dog made chewing up paper that I should be cleaning up. Or I should at least be playing with my toddler instead of hiding around the corner so I can listen to him and the baby at the same time.

So I’ll go and do some of those things, what I can before it’s time to nurse again. This has been fun. Until next time….

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Trust & Obey

It can be confusing, this Gospel of wild grace. I think that’s why Paul goes to such great lengths to attempt to explain it in the book of Romans.

And despite all we have at our fingertips in the Bible, we still ask ourselves: but if God will still love me the same whether I sin or don’t sin, why does my sin matter?

I stopped asking this question when I had a child, because having a child answers about half as many questions as it brings up, and this is one of those questions it answers. You don’t wonder any longer how God can love us and hate our sin when your anger burns hot and sudden against your toddler deliberately doing something unsafe. You don’t wonder how God can hate our sin and yet love us completely when you see the utter helplessness of your DNA curled up against your chest, then holding his head up, then feeding himself, walking, running . . . you don’t wonder because you know what it is like to love somebody that you had a hand in making.

But even though I feel like I understand, I know that this is only a vague glimpse into how God loves us because my love for Littlefoot is limited by the amount of love I have for my own DNA. I see pieces of myself in him, pieces that aren’t sin but that I don’t like, and I have to learn to love those pieces too. When God sees His image in us, that image is utterly perfect. There is no struggle for Him to accept any part of us that reflects Him, and that is all He sees. Because of Jesus’ labor on the cross, we are born again as entirely His.

The life we now live here, in this body that’s decaying, is a process of becoming more and more transformed into the person that God already sees us to be. God is not limited by time and space; He is not ignorant of our sin, but in the eyes of God our sin has already been dealt with even as we are in the midst of sinning. And this is why it is so wildly inappropriate for us to consider “getting away” with sin.

Our obsession needs to be Christ and Him alone. Our behavior falls in line when we seek Him. And this is why I love Philippians Chapter 3, because nearly two years ago I finally understood what it was saying and things have never been the same since. The weight of guilt was eradicated; the obsession with my own goodness was turned upside down. I could finally see this for what it was: pride. For years I claimed to understand that my pity-parties were rooted in pride; I said I knew that low self-esteem was just pride dressed up in rags. Yet I continued to pursue a form of godliness while denying its power. I lived in defeat. I was seeking to be good enough for God, and in so doing was declaring that God had not already made me good enough for Him. What a lie.

I can’t say it’s easy, living by faith, but it is not complicated. Trust and obey. Put Christ first. All the rest sorts itself out.

 

Yeah, so…

I’m overdue for a post that isn’t super spiritual. Right now I’m tapping this out on my phone while Littlefoot plays, content for now. Until the next wave of pain from his ear infection. Then it’s meltdown time until he finally allows someone to hold him and comfort him. This kid is too much like his mom.

Right now I don’t feel particularly blessed or like I’m part of any holy work of God. That doesn’t make it any less the truth, but I’m learning that it doesn’t do any good to ignore how I feel.

I feel tired.  I feel like I’m the rudder of the ship for my entire family, and if I go out we just drift aimlessly.  But just because I feel that way doesn’t make it true.  But again, I’m learning not to ignore how I feel.

I’m learning not to ignore it because I’ve been conditioned by society that, as a woman, my feelings really don’t matter; my feelings are just a distraction from the feelings of others, which should dictate my every move.  I’ve had this doubly reinforced by growing up alongside a special needs child, my brother. And maybe even further reinforced by the overall family dynamics. But those facts of my past only offer some explanation of my tendency to feel like I’m not “allowed” to be tired, weak, and definitely never ever ever selfish. Understanding  why I tend towards these feelings doesn’t help me understand why feeling this way is such a morose experience for me.

I’m rambling. Over half my mind is on Littlefoot. Another part of my mind is berating myself for expecting anything from Love after his exhausting morning. And then a smaller part of my mind has the audacity to be angry that, because I don’t have the energy to do anything about the fact that the dining room table has half-chewed food sitting on it from Littlefoot’s snack, that nobody else will either. And I’m also thinking, should I post this? What stupid thing have  I said that will make everyone mad at me? Because every single time I just speak my mind it pisses somebody off. My ex used to say I was just a whiny entitled brat. And that’s how I feel right now, really, even writing this. Not even posting it. Just writing it at all.

I’m going to get off my butt and clean. Love seems to have Littlefoot entertained well enough for now.

The Story Behind the Post

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I posted that on my Facebook page with no comment, and I’m sure it will get a lot of “likes” because it’s a pretty picture and an encouraging word.

But I don’t think anyone would guess why I posted it. I found this picture because calligraphy speaks to me in a deeper way than simple text on a page; it brings a texture to the words that only enriches the meaning. I looked for a picture like this because I was thinking about this verse. I was thinking about this verse because I just read an email that brings to mind the “train wreck” phenomenon. We don’t want to see gruesome things or awful things, but when they happen they have this strange pull on us; we can’t look away.

I got a similar email a little over two years ago, from the same person, and to this day a particular sentence will catch in my mind and I have to force my attention away from it. I have to preach to myself: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Philippians 4:8, NASB).

I did not post this pretty picture with its pretty words because I’m a pretty person with pretty little thoughts.

I posted this picture because I’m a broken person with broken thoughts who needs to be reminded that I am a new creation, that thoughts of despair are in total contradiction to the truth. The truth is that Jesus the King “for the joy set before Him endured the cross”, and that joy was fellowship with the likes of me. The truth is that only God knows hearts; my job is not to “fix” anyone or even to “fix” my relationships, but to be faithful to God’s commands to love and serve and consider others more important than myself. And the truth is that He already knows my faults and failures in this, and yet He makes a way for all things to be incorporated into His ultimately good plan. I need to trust Him.

It is both the hardest thing and the sweetest relief of my life, to trust in Jesus. And that is why I posted that picture on Facebook.

Discipline

I just put my 23-month old to bed without the usual hugs and kisses and songs. We sat in silence aside from my usual prayer, which carried even more weight tonight than usual:

Lord, thank You for this day. Thank you for the grace You’ve given us to be obedient, and thank You for the grace that covers us when we are not obedient. Father, help us rest well tonight and help us be even more obedient tomorrow.

I’m not sure exactly where I came up with this prayer, and I don’t mean to take credit for it but I don’t recall reading or hearing anything like it before. I started praying this with Littlefoot a few months ago, and I suppose it was around the time that obedience was becoming a real issue. I didn’t mean for this to be a routine prayer, but it came so often to my heart at bedtime since it was usually after some sort of battle: pick up your toys, don’t throw food, sit in the bath, don’t clamp down on the toothbrush, don’t run off. Some nights we go through all of these; most nights by the grace of God we only battle on a couple things. I say “battle”, but it’s not exactly an equal match. He gives me fits and I have to come up with the appropriate response: “No, you don’t get a story tonight because you ran off instead of choosing a story”; “I’m taking away your cup because you keep spitting your milk”; “Mommy has to hold you while we brush teeth because you won’t stand still on the stool”. Common sense. Still, not really pleasant for either of us.

Tonight, my boy was disrespectful. I will redirect and have empathy for a multitude of misbehavior, but when he looks right at me and does the exact opposite of what I instructed him to do with an “I dare you to do something” look on his face, I know that giving a second chance is no longer an option. Clearly, by that point I have given too many second chances and he is testing my authority.

This was very difficult for me. I’m coming up on 35 weeks of pregnancy; it’s been a long week of sleepless nights due to coughing, cramps, and general discomfort. I really could see myself just heaving a big sigh and giving up on him picking up his toys while he ran around like a monkey on speed and I did it for him. I had already given him two spankings, the first one somewhat effective (he obeyed for a full two minutes after the spanking) and the second one seeming to precipitate his outright defiance. Maybe it was a “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” moment for him as he realized the spanking was over quickly and there was not really anything I could do more than that . . . or so he thought. When Littlefoot threw his toys off the shelf in direct response to my telling him to put a toy on the shelf, I did actually start to sigh. There was a moment of hesitation, of feeling like there was nothing more I could do.

But by the power of God alone I did not give up. I snatched Littlefoot up off the ground and practically flew upstairs to his room. Shock quickly gave way to crying as he realized this was punishment; but though I was acting quickly and with a certain toughness, I was not rough with him. I put him in pajamas and set him down feet-first in his crib, and while he ugly-cried at me I got down to his level and said evenly, strongly, not yelling but not mildly, “You are going to bed now because you were disobedient. You did not pick up your toys like Mommy asked. I am going to leave you here while I finish picking up your toys.” And I left while he cried. And it was hard to do this.

I took deep breaths while I picked up the rest of his toys. I pondered warming a glass of milk for him and decided I could not give mixed messages. He had already eaten, so he should be fine to go to bed. I drank some water and went back upstairs to a silent room, a completely still Littlefoot lying face-first in his bed. “Littlefoot?” I asked. He did not move. I gently put my hand on his back and he looked up at me with tear-stained cheeks, unsure why I had come back. “Do you want to sit and talk with me?” I asked. He nodded and got up, and we sat for a minute. I reiterated why he was put to bed. He pouted and nodded understanding. I asked him if he wanted to try and be obedient now, and he nodded enthusiastically. “Okay, now we are going to brush teeth, read a story, and go to bed.” That is our normal bedtime routine. I really wanted to do the normal routine with him, even though he had been disobedient, because I feel like he is too young to associate going to bed with punishment.

So we tried again for obedience, and failed again. He ran off. Straight to the litter box. I did not give warnings or second chances. I told him “off limits”, picked him up, and in relative silence took him to the bathroom and held him while I brushed his teeth. As I carried him briskly past the bookshelf and he pointed, I told him firmly, “No, you do not get a story tonight because you were disobedient.” No argument from him, only a whimper of acknowledgment.

Since I had already dressed him for bed, we just went straight to the chair we usually sit in for cuddles and story and a little singing, but tonight there were no warm hugs and kisses, only a gentle and firm support as he sat on my lap. I let him relax on me and did not withhold affection from my touch, but I did not melt back into him like I normally do. This was difficult.

After sitting in silence for a little while, I prayed. And I cried. I could not help but cry, knowing how much grace was being extended to me in that moment, knowing that here I was, uncertain and aching to raise this boy to be the strong, gentle man of integrity of his namesake, yet not knowing if I was even capable of showing the sort of grace God shows, the grace that says My compassion is new every morning. And I felt Littlefoot relax that much more into my arms as I wept. I felt his own sadness emanating from him, the beginnings of remorse, the stirrings of conscience. And though I don’t know what I’m doing as a parent, I know that God is using me.

God is using me, all my brokenness and stumbling and faltering and imperfection. He gives me strength to do the hard things. I know I’ve said it in bold and italics, but it bears repeating: this was a hard night. I hated to put my child to bed without snuggles and songs and a story. I’m not writing this because I need validation; I’m writing this because I need to remember: God gives grace.

I know I’m pregnant as all get out and hormones are raging so furiously in me that I’m crying over things that haven’t even happened. I’m raw, and that is also why I’m writing, because there will be so few times in my life that I am this emotionally honest. The arrogant, despicable, dying version of myself would like to say this all was just in a day’s work. I may one day try to frame this story as The Day Mama Won Big. But right now, even though I am soaking in such grace — swimming in it, really, it’s so huge — I don’t feel like I’ve won a battle against my Littlefoot. I feel like I’ve been gifted a rare and beautiful chance to be part of a hard and holy work of God — a chance that is only rare because I so often put on my own armor instead of His. I come to discipline with truckloads of advice from blogs and books and videos. I arm myself with knowledge, with nerves of steel, with a will of iron. I stand up tall against my three-foot mirror and say, “You may outsmart me but you will never out-will me.”

But tonight, I had no advice. I had no tricks up my sleeve. I had nothing but the grace of God and my own childhood experiences to guide me, which is really just another grace of God if you think about it. What amazing, marvelous grace of God that my mom disciplined her children. She did not do it perfectly but she did it well, and with heart.

So I guess this is my Mother’s Day post. Since I’m pretty terrible at endings, I’ll just share a picture that encouraged me this morning to trust in God and His ways on this sometimes difficult, always rewarding journey of motherhood:

 

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Writing to think

I get in these funks where I feel like I’m nothing but a pain in the butt to everyone in my life. I’m too opinionated, bossy, lazy, whatever. It’s not a funk where I think people should accept me as I am, it’s more of a I-should-really-change-but-I-doubt-I-can funk. Totally self-centered and in obvious denial of the truth. I’m not the same as I was 5 years ago. Not that I’ve improved leaps and bounds, but it wasn’t even a year ago that I was hitting that snooze button like it was a lifeline and letting piles and piles of laundry build up and consistently forgetting to plan for dinner. Can I just lay it out there that something that happens every dang day of your life should never be an emergency?

But then I take a breath and think, why did I have to preach just then? Why am I so preachy? Nobody is ever going to care what I have to say when I’m so hyper-critical.

But God is faithful. Even now He reminds me of Phil 3 and I see how my mindset has slipped into measuring myself according to something other than Christ.

In Christ, I am enough. In Christ, I will never be “too much”. As I walk in His ways, He will refine me. I need only trust and obey. And in Christ, I will find my refuge. Only He brings true peace — no amount of sleep nor scheduling will fulfill me. Maybe I am a burden or a pain to some, but why should that define me when I’ve been purchased with such a high price as the life of God’s only begotten Son? Let me walk in a manner worthy of that calling and the rest will sort itself out.

Note

I’m just going to make this note here because I want to remember this progression:

Progression of Sin Progression of Sanctification
I desire I desire
I demand I request
I submit I submit
I obey/serve I obey/serve
I destroy I edify

 
All outward sin can be traced back, with careful examination and the help of the Holy Spirit, to that moment when a desire became a demand. What am I demanding that I ought to be humbly requesting instead?