Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Climbing the Mountain

Back in June, I wrote about the mountain that I could see in the distance and knew I would need to cross despite my trepidation. Today it seems appropriate to give a mountain-climbing update...

It's sometimes difficult for me to know how to answer when someone asks, "How are you? How are things going?" On the one hand, I have moments of feeling like, "Wow, this is not that difficult after all. Maybe I'm actually handling this just fine!" which are followed, sometimes quickly, by moments of thinking, "This is hard--just plain hard." Which is the right answer? Which scenario reveals how I'm really doing? Both! The good and the bad together, the easy and the hard, the energetic and the exhausted, the stable and the emotional, the patient and the impatient, the creative and the just-going-through-the-motions-of-mothering--all of these wrapped up together. I would say, however, that the good outweighs the bad; and through the fog that still drifts in occasionally, I can see definite glimpses of the new normal, and that's encouraging. Most of all, I'm constantly reminded of why I'm climbing over this particular mountain...and I must say, he's powerful motivation!
Sweet baby Shav makes it all worthwhile!

Here are my Top Nine Mountain-Climbing Aids:

1. Setting Simple Goals
Every day, I have three goals (besides doing the basics to sustain life and health for me and my family!): shower, pump, nap. Last August, long before I got pregnant (and while we were still quite definitely in the maybe-we-will, maybe-we-won't stage), I had written this post in which I declared my intention, should I ever find myself with a newborn again, to a) have a nap nanny to ensure decent daytime rest for myself and b) pump often and early in the weeks/months after giving birth to build up a good supply of stored breastmilk. Now I have the opportunity to act on those resolutions; and although I haven't lined up nap nannies like I thought I would, I have made it a priority to do my best to nap and pump on a daily basis. To tell the truth, those two items haven't happened every single day--but almost. The shower? That is a daily thing; and although it might seem silly, it surely is a time of refreshment for me, certainly worth making a priority in my limited time! :) Having these simple goals has been helpful because it keeps me from focusing on too-lofty goals (like organizing our homeschool closet or cleaning out the garden shed), but it also gives me a sense of accomplishment when I can mentally check these three items off my list!

2. Feeling Good Physically
Despite the setback this past weekend (the breast infection that hit me out of nowhere), overall I have felt amazingly good ever since the birth. Each time I give birth, the physical recovery is easier than the last time; and this time was no exception. It's always astonishing to me how quickly the aches and pains and nuisances of late pregnancy disappear after giving birth. I don't have heartburn waking me up at night...I don't go to the bathroom half a dozen times in the night...I can turn over in bed easily...I can stoop to pick something off the floor without even thinking about it. I just feel so good! Losing 20+ pounds in a matter of a week or so sure does make a difference! :) Besides feeling good physically, I felt great mentally when I was able to fit into a pair of non-maternity pants one week after Shav was born. Granted, it was a pair of pants that is normally too big for me when I'm at my regular size; but they are non-maternity, and I got quite a boost from fitting into them so early in the recovery period. At present, besides that pair of pants, I can squeeze myself into two other pairs of capri pants and one skirt, so my wardrobe is still pretty limited, but at least I can wear lots of different shirts! :) Anyway, it has been a huge blessing just to feel good again! The one physical pain that seems to be the exception to the rule of recovery being easier after each subsequent birth is the uterine contractions. They only get worse after each birth because the uterus has to work that much harder to pull itself back into shape; and so, as expected, I had some powerful uterine pain to deal with in the days following Shav's birth. However, by Thursday of that week, the contractions were much less, and they soon disappeared altogether so I was able to get off the pain medicine (just Ibuprofen, nothing stronger) by five or so days postpartum. That was a good feeling. One other physical thing to mention: engorgement can be a painful time, but because Shav was eating SO OFTEN during those early days, it actually wasn't bad at all--less pronounced and painful than I remember it being with the other boys. That's one benefit of being up at all hours of the day and night, nursing a baby--there's no time for the breast to become fully engorged! :)

3. Releasing the Stress
This is not the easiest thing for me to do; but during the past two weeks, I have worked hard to completely eliminate extra stress in my life. Specifically, I have let the house go in some ways, realizing that on some days, it's been messier than it's been in a long time. On the one hand, that drives me nuts; but on the other hand, I have more important things to fill my time with these days. Eventually, I'll be able to juggle four children and a house, too; but for now, I'm letting some things go. And--this is huge for me--even when people come over (to bring dinner, for example, as so many of our friends have been doing for us), I'm letting them see us as we really are and not feeling like I have to quickly hide the mess on the counter or whatever the case may be. Another way I've tried hard to get rid of stress is by saying no to various opportunities and even getting myself out of obligations that I had previously planned to do (like leading hymns on Sunday). Right now, the less extra stress I feel, the better we all do with managing life!

4. Receiving Meals
I mentioned this in the last point, but we have been BLESSED by a number of delicious meals being brought to us. Knowing that I don't even have to think about cooking dinner has been a huge help during this time.

5. Reading
During the many hours that I feed Shav (particularly at night when no one else needs me), I have been able to read, read, read. I think I've finished six books so far, and I'm almost at the end of another one; but besides books, I've also been able to read stuff on the Internet: emails, blogs, etc. I haven't been so good at replying to emails or commenting on blogs, because my one-handed typing skills are sorely lacking...but at least I can read while I nurse Shav! :) Knowing that, when Shav's cries in the night begin and I must drag myself out of my cozy bed, I'll be able to open the laptop beside my rocking chair or pick up the latest book I'm reading--knowing that makes it much easier to get up and be cheerful. I'm always glad to see Shav; and as I cradle him in my arms and get him latched on, I look at him and admire his sweet face. But he's not much of a conversationalist; and usually at night when he's nursing, his eyes drift shut very soon and he's off to la-la land. So then I turn to my books or laptop, and they help to preserve my sanity as the minutes drag on and he's still sucking! :)

6. Not Skimping
Here's what I mean by that: sometimes I'm tempted to take shortcuts. For example, when Shav nurses on one side and then falls asleep, I'm tempted to skip the diaper change and feeding on the other side because I'd really like to get back to sleep myself and maybe I could just lay him down and he'd stay asleep and I could go back to bed?? But I know that in the long run, I'd just be shooting myself in the foot if I did that because he wouldn't stay asleep as long, and then I'd have to drag my weary bones out of bed sooner than I normally would, and that wouldn't make me very happy. Doing things the right way--completely--going the long way around and avoiding the shortcut: that's what I mean about not skimping.

7. Having a Wonderful Husband
This is definitely of the utmost importance when climbing such a mountain! :) Jeff's help has truly been invaluable during this time of transition. I have been blown away by how much he has served the boys and I during the past few weeks. In particular, when he's not at work, he has put himself in charge of Tobin, taking upon himself the diaper changes, the feeding at mealtimes (even sitting where I used to sit at the table so he can be right next to Tobin's highchair), the bathing, the dressing, the entertaining, etc. It's nothing new that, when Jeff is home, Josiah and David orbit around him; but it is a change of positioning for Tobin to also revolve around Jeff, rather than me. Instead of me being in charge of Tobin and Jeff helping me out by doing stuff for him, now it seems like Jeff is usually in charge of him and I occasionally help Jeff out by changing a diaper or reading a story, etc. I knew Jeff would be extra helpful during this time, but I didn't realize just how completely he would deny himself to give to us and keep our boat level as we navigate these new waters.

8. Consuming Spiritual Food
In several posts since Shav was born, I've included Bible verses that have been particularly meaningful in encouraging me along in this journey over the mountain. Here are several more verses that I've come across and found inspiring...

"Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love."
~ Psalm 90:14
- which is particularly helpful since I've been dreading mornings and the rush to meet everyone's needs at the same time...this verse reminds me that God is already there, He's waiting for me in the morning, and He will satisfy me and sustain me with His unfailing love

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
~ Isaiah 40:11
- the thought of being gently led because I have young ones brings peace to my soul

This isn't a verse from the Bible; but something I read in Once Upon a Summer by Janette Oke (one of the books I read recently) stood out to me and brought spiritual insight and solace to me. The background for this quote is a time when a wildfire threatened the home and farm of Josh's family; and the new preacher in town (that Aunt Lou would eventually marry) came up with a plan to fight the fire. But before the men went their ways to implement the plan, the preacher prayed this...

" Dear Lord, you know our need and how much we depend upon your help. We're not going to give you orders about what to do, God. We are just going to thank you for being there when we need you."
- in a similar way, I don't want my prayers to simply consist of "God, please help Shav to sleep a long time tonight" or "Lord, please help Tobin to be happy when he wakes up from his nap, even though I can't get down and play with him"...I don't want to give God orders, but I do want to rely on His strength (and peace and patience and self-control and love, etc.) as I mother the four sons He's given to me

9. Keeping Perspective
One thought that has floated through my head and uplifted me is this: when I think of Shav, I think, "This is who needs me." Right now, others can step into the gap and help out tremendously with the other boys. Right now, things around the house can go to pieces a little more than normal. Right now, planning for homeschooling can be put on the back burner. Right now, other people can lead hymns for our church. Right now, the other members of the OSRC (a church committee I've been a part of) can make all the decisions. Right now, a lot of things I normally try to be a part of can slide. But Shav? He's the one who needs me.

It would have made a nice neat package to be able to come up with one more point to make it an even Top Ten, but I can't do it. I wish I could add "Drinking Caffeine" to the list because I REALLY miss Vanilla Coke; but the fact that I'm trying to do everything possible to help Shav sleep well at the right times means that, for now, I'll avoid it completely. At one point, I thought that Shav's use of a pacifier might help us all over this mountain; but ever since that one day when he actually sucked on the thing for quite a long time, he's been less than enthusiastic about it, grimacing whenever I put it in his mouth and spitting it out as soon as he can. So it looks like he won't be a pacifier boy after all. Maybe eventually he'll follow in the footsteps of David and Tobin and find his thumb, but that hasn't happened yet so I can't make that number ten on my list. Oh, well, I guess I'll have to deny my perfectionist nature and just leave it at nine! :)


Valerie said...

I really enjoyed this post. It gave me some wonderful tips/ideas for when my baby arrives. I would SO be that person to skip the diaper change and nursing on the other side so that I could go back to bed. Your way makes much more sense. :)

Thank you for sharing so much of you on your blog. I'm always happy to see Life On Sylvan Drive pop up on my google reader. :)

Charree said...

This is such a great post and insightful too. I will continue to pray for you as you transition and I appreciate the pointers about having a new little one. I am sure that I will be referring back to this post in the near future.

Have a blessed day!

bekahcubed said...

#1 is so important in mountain-climbing times of life--not just for new babies. I can't say how many times I've been forced to pare down to just a few simple to-do's to get me through rough times. But it really works!

It sounds like you've got some great tools in your mountain-climbing toolkit! And, with God's grace, I know you'll reach the peak--and be ready for the next mountain that comes along behind it.

Sally said...

Davene, this is amazing! It sounds like you have the right attitude, and are managing very well. I'm sure you're tired 100% of the time, but you still keep a good and proper outlook. I need more of what you've got. May God continue to bless you and your family, and I'll keep praying for you.