Breaking Point

Honestly, I’m not sure how much more I can take. Every towel or rag in my house has wiped snot and been thrown up on. I can’t remember what it’s like to sleep through the night without getting out of bed to clean up vomit or unhook a tube or both. I think we’ve been to a dozen doctor’s offices just in January. And maybe I could handle that, if I knew he hadn’t seen a lot of doctor’s offices in December and will again next month too. But it feels so endless. And every day he gets older, and I know he’ll remember all this more.

He was such a healthy baby. Other than a runny nose, such a healthy 5 to 8 month old last winter. I credit, in part at least, my breastmilk, but is there something else going on? Something we’re missing this winter that is just ravaging my son’s body? Constant colds, coughs, then stomach flu bugs, ear infections, even minor surgeries, antibiotics….

We’re doing pediasure, which has all his daily nutrients, plus he does probiotics and immunity oils, we diffuse oils nightly in his room… But with daycare, church, and all the doctor’s offices–it’s not like we can or want to live in a bubble.

My son has not been healthy for more than a 10 day stretch in many months. And for all kids, winter is hard in Iowa, so maybe I’m just a wimp as a mom, but it feels like this is unbearable. Getting one sickness before the other one goes away, every doctor visit hearing him scream from every touch by a doctor even if it’s just a stethoscope. This poor child is being traumatized by illness.

And we have to reschedule regular appointments to go to urgent care appointments, we have to miss work and take unpaid days, we have to decide how much TV to let this sick 1 year old watch because it’s not good for him but at least it’s a small reprieve from being forced to take meds, have ear drops, etc. Doesn’t he deserve some happiness and rest?

I’m not sure how much more I can take. I’m at my breaking point.

Ramble done.

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Filing the Health Documents

Today we put together our new filing cabinet (a Christmas present, thanks family!) and I was tasked with moving papers from our makeshift crate/filing cabinet to this real one with drawers.

After sorting the car titles, credit card statements, investment reports, etc–I finally reached the big one. The health-related documents. Insurance EOBs. Bills. Appointment summaries. I saved it for last for a reason–there was a lot.

And while I was sorting these health-related papers, I found myself unexpectedly near tears. Seeing the dozens of insurance benefits statements and bills for my 18 months old son, far more papers than I had in my own stack, was difficult for me.

Seeing the itemized list of tests he has had done–x-rays and lab work, a sweat test, a barium enema, half a dozen speech evaluations–brought back the emotions experienced during each of those tests. Charles cries when a stranger says ‘hi’ to him, so you can imagine how pleasant he is when doctors are passing mild shocks through his arm or poking around for blood draws. Every test left my husband and I questioning if this torture we were putting our son through was worth it, if we were being the best parents we could be, if those who said “he’s just small, leave him be” were actually right. I remembered the feeling of lugging a baby in a car seat, a diaper bag, a pump, and a cooler of milk around a hospital complex going from department to department for tests and appointments, feeling out of place and overwhelmed. Seeing the feeding therapy notes saying he only ate 1 bite today, all the notes on cups and bottles to try, all the lists of ideas for “heavy work” to do before eating so that his sensory needs would be met….it’s just a lot, people. Seeing all the papers just reminded me of all the STUFF that our family thinks about daily that wasn’t part of our plan.

Are we running low on medical supplies? Better call the home medical supply store again.

Do we have an emergency g tube along in case his gets pulled out?

Is the feeding pump having issues, what do we do if it doesn’t work tonight?

Should I go back to tracking each calorie, is he eating more now or less than a month ago?

Is he back on the growth chart yet, or still under 1%?

This was not our plan. I believe it is part of the plan God has for us, but we certainly weren’t expecting this when we planned to have a child.

9 months ago I called my mom crying because my son was going to have to be evaluated by a speech therapist–a specialist!–because his weight gain was so slow. They wanted me to try adding formula to his breastmilk bottles–how awful! I laugh-cry remembering those thoughts, considering he had surgery 4 months later to place a feeding tube and now sleeps with an IV pole next to his crib. His list of specialists has grown since then for sure.

Sometimes it feels like out new normal, no big deal, but other days the reality hits me: this isn’t typical. This wasn’t what we expected. And the unexpectedness of it all is what has the biggest impact on me. The day to day really isn’t bad at all. I have a very happy, mostly healthy son that just isn’t a big eater and inherited my super fast metabolism. He’s recently learned how to say “turtle” and “hat” and loves to do the actions to “Baby Shark”. But when I consider what I thought his life would be when I first held him in my arms 18 months ago or felt him kick inside me 2 years ago–I’m sad at how this is different than that plan. I didn’t plan to pack puke bags in the diaper bag and store pictures of the inside of my child’s abdomen in his file (pics taken during surgery). I didn’t plan to feed my child daily through a hole in his stomach. I didn’t plan to see failure to thrive, low weight gain, feeding difficulties next to my son’s chart every appointment. 

Everyone has unexpected things that happen in their lives, and many people have far more difficult journeys with their children than we have had so far. One of my students recently had surgery to take a biopsy from part of his brain, and I know that my son’s journey is far simpler than his and far less difficult. But today, while sorting the papers to place into the new filing cabinet, I’m just struck with lots of emotions. I’m reminded of the constant inner battle to keep believing this isn’t my fault. I’m reminded of the questions that make me feel inadequate, even though they have to ask them. How often do you offer liquids? Do you keep meal times positive? Are you sure you’re producing enough milk? I’m reminded that our kitchen cupboard full of syringes, extension tubing, and pump feed bags isn’t something that most homes have. 

It’s been a really good week. Charles has had a much better appetite than usual, hasn’t thrown up once, and actually gained a few ounces. But I still mentally count how many calories were in his 3 crackers earlier (29), I still hurt a little when I see posts on facebook about a child just a couple months older than Charles moving into a toddler bed (not something we can do while Charles is hooked to a machine during the night). And even though it’s been a good week, I still starting tearing up when sorting through the filing cabinet. This wasn’t the plan, but it is our reality. And even though my plan was for a family with simple health needs, I wouldn’t trade my son for the world. 

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When your friends aren’t friends…

My heart is torn up this morning.

How do I reconcile the fact that what one of my friends lives for goes against nearly everything the other friend lives for?

How do I reconcile the fact that one community of people loves Jesus so much and yet the “Christian” community at large rejects them?

How do I reconcile the fact that life begins in the womb, but reversing Roe v. Wade would end so many women and babies’ lives from complications?

So much tough stuff…

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Teacher Life

Last year, I didn’t feel like a good teacher. I hope that by God’s grace I was able to do good work, but I was tired (so little sleep with Charles up half the night!) and I was always behind on grading.

This year is different. I feel good, I’m sleeping much more, and by God’s grace I hope that I’m doing even more good work.

I’m proud of what I’m seeing in my classes this year. I care so much about these students, and I feel like God put me in this role this year for a reason.  Here are a few examples:

  • a student bringing me dozens of photos of her life in Guatemala before she came to the U.S., just because she knows I want to know more about her and care about her
  • a student asking me for reassurance in the midst of an anxiety attack
  • the whole class celebrating when one student got a good report from his team of doctors
  • reading aloud a book today and students saying, “I was holding my breath while you were reading that page, I was so nervous for what was going to happen next!” (I love when kids get so into books! Even my kids who don’t love reading!)
  • a student stopping by the public library to get a copy of our read-aloud book so he could follow along
  • a student staying after class to tell me excitedly that she noticed an appositive in the book she was reading (we’re learning appositives in writing)

These are small things, but they are weighing on my heart in a good way today. These students are my kids. I love them like I love my own son. Not every child is easy to work with, but they are all worth it.

Just some thoughts I wanted to share, particularly because it’s been awhile since I have written (check out my use of the present progressive tense here!) #grammarteacher

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Core Prayers

I don’t have a “life verse” like I hear many Christians say. I do have verses that mean a lot to me. But something that I do have is what I call “core prayers.” Repeating core prayers has become a type of spiritual discipline in my life.

For the last few years, this has been my core prayer:

Break me beautifully

Mold me for your glory

Give us (meaning all of us) wisdom.

But over these last few months, and especially the last 2 weeks, I have been OBSESSED with sleep. I have researched endless products and read safety reviews on weighted sleep sacks, sleep suits, crib hammocks, baby nests, the risks of SIDS for side sleeping and tummy sleeping and room sharing and bed sharing and nap schedules and anything else related to baby sleep that you can imagine (including white noise, night lights, projectors, loveys, pacifiers, and on and on). My son does not sleep long enough stretches at a time for me to function, it seems, and he only wants momma, so I can never get a break at night. I was recently encouraged to focus on connecting with my son, understanding his needs, and trusting God ABOVE ALL ELSE for help in this area. I tried to pray, but it was always desperate prayers for sleep followed by googling another sleep idea.

Last night, I decided that my prayers need to be my focus, and I prayed this:

God, give Charles and I both the rest that we need, whatever that looks like.

Give Nathan and I wisdom as parents, especially related to bedtime/sleeping for our son.

Give me patience as a mother in those middle of the night constant wakings.

Rest. Wisdom. Patience. These are my prayers, and I just kept repeating this prayer throughout the night when Charles would wake up after 10 minutes, or after 45 minutes, or occasionally (thank you, Lord!) after an hour.

I didn’t get angry at all last night (I wish I could say this was typical of the last month, but it’s not). I wasn’t really that exhausted until about 5 AM, and now that it’s 8 AM I am feeling pretty good again. I’m sure I’ll be tired more hours today and more days ahead, but I feel like this prayer from last night will become another core prayer for me. Even if sleep training goes well (when and if we start that soon, that’s the earthly plan anyway), I know that there will be seasons where baby is sick, teething, or just needs his mom. I have a feeling that this prayer will come up time and again. It has become a new core prayer, not replacing the old one, but adding to it.

I could be more specific than I am in my core prayers, but for me this becomes a place where I insert MY wishes and MY desires on God, so I feel like these core prayers give the LORD the space to work in the way that he sees best. For example, I pray for rest, whatever that looks like, because God may not have it in my family’s plan that my son sleeps more than 2 hours at a time for the next few months, but if that’s the case then God has a reason. Perhaps I’m learning something in this season, perhaps Charles is kept safer by not sleeping deeply, perhaps I’ll never know why! I’m trusting God to give us the rest we both need, even if it is in small chunks or at odd times of day.

Just some thoughts…

 

 

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Roles

Wife. Mother. Teacher. Christian. Human.

The perfect wife would have spent more time with my husband today. But my son needed a bath and needed attention, and my role as a mother made that difficult.

The perfect mother would have read books to her son instead of watching TV with him. But my husband and I are enjoying a show together and my role as a wife made that difficult.

The perfect teacher would have evaluated last year’s lessons for ways to make them better instead of copying and pasting previous year’s lessons. But again, my son needed me and my role as a mother (and a wife) took over that instead.

The perfect Christian would have read more scripture today. But when I read scripture on my phone while nursing, I feel guilty that I’m not studying Charles’ little features and making eye contact with him instead.

The perfect human (or put another way, person) would have read some of my book for fun, because I need to have these hobbies to feel like an individual, and not just a robot fulfilling other duties. But all these other roles made that difficult.

 

I find myself feeling guilty no matter how I spend my time, because something is always there still waiting to be done. I know that I can’t be “perfect” in any of these areas, let alone all of them, but I still can’t help but want to do better. I’m working on altering my expectations and giving myself grace, but I needed to say these things because I need my son and my students and my God and my husband and myself to know that I’m trying, and that I’m doing the best that I can right now. 

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6 weeks old and the books of Esther and Daniel

Because my son turns 6 weeks old today, and because I’ve finished another 2 books of Scripture, I am writing. These things would be better off written about separately, but due to the nature of life as a mother of an infant, I probably only have time for 1 post! So here goes…

Being a mother…

  • is still overwhelming many days
  • is still surreal to me (I often feel like I’m babysitting or that this will end soon. But I know in my head that this is the new normal!)
  • is still exhausting, though I think I’m handling the nights better (most days) than I used to.
  • is exciting. Our son is so adorable (everyone says so)! And as he is awake more during the day, I’m starting to see hints of his personality. I love telling people things I know about him that others wouldn’t. Like the fact that he likes to sleep with his hands by his face, or the fact that he hates a wet diaper but doesn’t get bothered much by dirty diapers, or the fact that he tends to stop crying when you hold him sitting upright in your lap. I love that I know these things about him that others don’t. That makes me feel like a parent.
  • gives me lots of time to read on my phone while I’m nursing…which leads me to my latest notes on scripture reading

Observations from reading the books of Esther and Daniel

  • I just started reading scripture again, after taking a month off after Charles was born. I could have read scripture during this time, but I didn’t prioritize it. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s the truth.
  • I know that emotionally I desperately need to be grounded in the Word and in Truth during this crazy season of life, and in all seasons really.
  • Reading Esther was an easy way to jump back in…it was the next book in the Read Scripture app that I’m using but it’s also a book I’m very familiar with. I’ve read it and studied it numerous times.
  • Esther is unique because it doesn’t mention God, but that makes it more like “real life,” I think. In my day to day encounters, I often speak about being “blessed” or “thankful” or I say things like, “There must be a reason for this,” or “It will all work out.” All of these phrases point to our Lord and his reality in our daily lives, even when we don’t say “blessed by God” or “God must have a reason for this.” It’s implied. I should probably speak more clearly in everyday life about God’s role in it, but many times we don’t. Still, our words and thoughts should point to Him. And we should strive to see the ways that he’s working in our lives even when it isn’t obvious.
  • Esther is brave! I love that about her character. I also love how obedient and loyal she seems to Mordecai, her relative.
  • Daniel is half-easy and half-difficult to read. The first half is filled with stories I know–Daniel and the lion’s den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace, etc. The second half is a lot of dreams and visions of the kings and Daniel that I find really challenging. If I have time and motivation, I’d like to look more into these chapters to try to understand them better. For now, I know that Daniel was listening to the Lord and the Lord blessed him for his faithfulness.
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