Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Day After

This morning I have sat around in a sleep-deprived stupor, scrolling and scrolling and scrolling through my Facebook feed, heating and reheating the same cup of coffee as Michael's needs have kept me away from actually sitting down, mindlessly munching some peanut M and M's, and all in all trying to be my better self.

Truth be told, I don't want to be my better self. I feel angry and sad for what our country is and what many in this nation consider acceptable moral behavior from their leader. I am angry about the fear and hate that Trump gave voice to and I worry for my friends whose lives are under threat. I grieve for children who are fearful for their friends that they may be deported or that sexual assault will now be legal or will now think that racism and misogyny are OK. I also fear for our family - what will happen when we lose our health insurance, especially in light of managing a chronic condition with expensive medication and regular screenings?

I think part of the challenge we have here is to acknowledge that Trump represents the part of our country that many of us have the luxury and privilege of denying. The (dare I say) silver lining in his election is that it exposes the reality that many minorities and those of differing religions or sexual orientations have had to grapple with every single day of their lives. We need to acknowledge and claim our complicity in creating the environment which this reality can flourish. But we have the choice to do something about it.

I know the answer lies in continuing to hold out hope for others -- we know we live in a broken world  in a nation with deeply divided core values, that government cannot legislate how we act toward one another, and that there is fundamentally good and beauty in the world. We each can individually commit to kindness and peace in our interactions with others, and to practice compassion for those we struggle to love. We can seek to understand where those we disagree with are coming from. We can also continue to fight for justice - to push back against the racist and misogynist and homophobic and xenophobic policies and practices that are in place and will undoubtedly unfold.

We can trust that God's kingdom is at hand and that we who claim the name of Jesus can work on behalf of bringing that kingdom into being, in both small ordinary ways and in extraordinary ways.

It's just damn hard sometimes.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Six Months In

I don't know how it happened, but all of a sudden I have a little boy who crawls, can sit on his own, has cut a tooth, and pull himself to standing. He has this silly little sigh he makes when he finds something amusing (he's not a particularly giggly baby) and has a quick smile for just about everyone he encounters. He loves fabric and music and scratching things and beating time with his hands on objects (particularly the dog's food bowl). He enjoys grabbing my face to suck on my nose and bouncing up and down on his legs. He's got such a charming personality that's really shining through, though we've seen the seeds of it from when he was very young.

I can't believe that only 6 months ago, we had this small, completely helpless newborn on our hands and I was pretty much living inside of a pillow fort between the nursing sessions and general discomfort in the aftermath of delivery. I had night duty and Ben had day-duty so I could rest. Television was essential for survival - mostly so I could stay awake to nurse. We counted wet and dirty diapers and hours since feeding like it was some kind of touchstone to reality. I won't tell you how many google searches I made for "normal" - spit up, poop, sleep - you name it, I searched it. 

Yet now, the sleep-deprived haze that induced hallucinations has receded into a mild fog that leaves my brain slipping gears only a few times every day. Clothes are gradually fitting better. It's not a production to take him places with me. There are more normal days than not. I've hardly googled anything strange recently.

Even though everything seems to be going smoothly and this tiny baby is fast growing into a tiny person, it is still hard. There are days that leave me exhausted, knowing that I'll be awake at least twice during the night to feed him and up for the day as early as 6. I worry that nursing him to sleep for naps and at night, or holding him when he fusses in his crib, is just going to bite me in the butt later on, but right now it's the stress-free (or at least, less-stress) way to get him to relax enough to fall asleep. There's a lot I can't do while I watch him because he is so mobile (and into everything!) and I try not to let that stress me out. I finally had to delete the email app on my phone because I was thinking to much about work while on Michael duty (and I should probably stop watching all my Michael videos when it's my turn to work, *sigh*).  I am really struggling with this part-time work-largely-from-home "balance" that seems so elusive. Part of it is that there's *always* something to do - the sermon to write, the meeting to prepare for, people to visit, and as much as I try to think several weeks ahead, it's a challenge not to become a slave to the urgent, That and I tend to also be thinking about dinner that needs prepping and laundry that needs washing and so I'm multitasking work and home all the time.

I don't feel like I'm trying to be super mom...and I don't feel like I'm trying to be a super pastor either. I'm just trying to survive and not let the whole ship go swirling away into chaos. Most days are fine, but the bad days....well, it's a good thing that take-out Chinese is an impracticality, else those clothes wouldn't be fitting nearly as well. It's a reminder for me that I'm probably my harshest judge, that I'm only three months in to figuring this work/life rhythm that will be an ever-changing dance. It's a reminder that grace covers a multitude of sins and I am certainly not the only new mother who has wrestled with these same questions and had to come up with their own solutions.

What mine will be remains yet to be seen. But I trust that it will come - and when it does, it'll be time for another change!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sleep when the baby sleeps...and other things I didn't do.

 Tomorrow marks one month back from parental leave. Michael is a thriving, healthy, active, delightful four month old (how did that happen already?) He's most certainly not a newborn anymore and will smile at anyone, talk at anything that grabs his attention, and reach for whatever Mom or Dad happen to have in their hands.

Life seems to be settling in to a new normal -- whatever that might look like. I get a glimpse of it more days than not. We're not "by the routine" parents -- I nurse on demand, we put him down for a nap when he looks to be sleepy, our bedtime rituals vary a bit -- though a discernable pattern is starting to emerge over time. Ben and I split our parenting into blocks since both of us work part time mostly from home -- I work, Ben watches Michael, Ben works, I watch Michael. Negotiate as necessary. It fits us pretty well, except when it doesn't, and we adjust and work through it. My capacity for sleep deprivation is slowly increasing, though sometimes it takes a bit for my body to catch up. There are more good days than challenging ones.

Looking back, I wonder how we survived the fourth trimester, even though we had a gentler transition into parenthood than I imagine most people have thanks to an island community meal train and a relatively even-tempered child! Unfortunately, in reading over journal entries from that period, I make more note of Michael's firsts and accomplishments than I do about my own state-of-being. 

However, a few things stick out from my time of survival that I think it's helpful to pass along to other parents-to-be expecting their first child:

1) Sleep when the baby sleeps is crap. Honestly, when the baby sleeps, do whatever you want to do (or whatever your baby will let you do). That may be sleep (it wasn't for me)! It may be that pile of dishes in the sink that won't give you any mental peace until it's done. It may be a shower - even if it's the second shower you've had that day. It could be mindlessly staring at the television -- even though that might be what you have been doing as you nursed/fed your child to sleep. It may even be holding your kid as they slumber. You are in full-on survival mode. Eat that carton of ice cream while they nap, if that's what it takes.

2) You will not enjoy every moment. Yes, this time is fleeting. Yes, you will probably miss the baby snuggles and that little face trying to make sense of what in the world is going on out there. But it is not all fun, and there will be times you are sitting on the couch, crying your eyes out because you can't get out of your pillow fort lest the kid wakes up and you really need something to eat and no one is home. Or times when you wake up in the middle of the night, dreading the torture that your child is about to inflict upon your sore nipples. Not fun.  It does get better -- but even now, I don't enjoy every moment.

3) Self-preservation is key. This goes along with #1. You really do need to do whatever it takes to keep your sanity. For me, it was making sure I had plenty of snacks within arms reach and taking a shower and a bath every day. My husband coped differently. Don't think about losing the baby weight (unless you really want to) or wearing clothes (unless you really want to) or getting anything done (unless, again, you really want to). Only you and your partner know what the both of you need.

4) Be willing to throw your plan out the window. We had all kinds of hopes and dreams for how we were going to parent Michael. Most we've been able to see through - cloth diapering, for one. Some have taken a bit of time to grow into (babywearing, for example - mostly because woven wraps are too expensive and we didn't put any on our registry). Others we haven't done at all (elimination communnication). Know that everything depends on your baby, your time and energy, and your partner's time and energy. You won't ruin your child if they wear disposables or if you put them down in a swing for 15 minutes. There are practices you can always pick up later once there is space in your life to take them on.

I'm sure as the weeks and months go on, I will be able to add to this list. Right now, I like how Ben and I are being intentional with our parenting, but not rigid. We're able to hold everything lightly, trust ourselves and our instincts, and go on from there.  Here's to the next few months!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

One Month In

The day Michael was born!
Michael turns one month old tomorrow. I can hardly believe that only four weeks ago, I was feeling the first stirrings of contractions late in the evening. Our house was in chaos - we thought we had another whole week to prepare at least (after all, aren't first babies normally born late?) The nursery had yet to be painted, most of the baby stuff was strewn across our living room, and I had only just finished prewashing a few loads of baby laundry and assembing the co-sleeper. (Nesting instincts are wonderful things, however, I had been too busy up until that week to fully listen to them).

Thanks to a wonderful network of family, friends, and the island community, the household came together with a decorated nursery, clean kitchen, and meals. Ben and I haven't had to worry about anything which has allowed us to get to know this tiny person and experience this new life together as a family.

Michael and I at just over 3 weeks!
The transition, all in all, has been a relatively smooth one. Sure, there have been moments (and days!) when one and/or the other of us has been completely overwhelmed. Michael has had his fussy moments. His parents have had their fussy moments as well.There are times of exhaustion, when I haven't been able to think through the simplest of things. But by and large, the predominant emotion I've experienced this past month is the overwhelming love I have for Michael. I couldn't help but feel this desire to love and protect him from the moment he was placed on my chest, crying and wailing at the unfamiliar world. It's amazing to think that I love Michael simply for existing (it makes me think a lot about God's love for us). It feels like I've been entrusted with this precious gift of this new little person and it has been such a delight to watch him day by day change and grow - from seeing his eyelashes darken to noticing his chubby feet to seeing him hold his head up for a few extra seconds to having him stay awake just a few minutes longer to noticing him pick our voices and faces out of a crowd of people.

This past month has been so surreal; never has time passed so quickly and so slowly. I find myself caught between wanting to document every single moment and simply experiencing the gift of the present. There are times when I'll turn off the television and simply stare at him as he sleeps in my arms. I know these days will be over before I know it so I'm trying to cherish each one -- even the tough ones. Soon I'll miss the 3 am feedings where it's just me and Michael (and sometimes Netflix), I'll miss the newborn chirps and squeaks (that escalate into cries sometimes far too quickly!), and I'll miss the snuggles of a baby sleeping in my arms.

It's pretty amazing, this time we have as we begin this adventure called parenthood. I'm looking forward to where the journey will take us.