Tag Archives: exhaustion

Emma: 4 Weeks

6 May

This has probably been the hardest week of my life. Emma has had 3 states of being: eating, sleeping and crying. So much crying. Instead of falling asleep after nursing like she had the first couple of weeks, she will now be content for about 10-30 seconds before starting to scream her head off. It takes several minutes just to calm her down, not to mention get her to sleep. There have been a few times when she is alert and seemingly happy, so we do tummy time or walk around talking but they, too, always end in crying.

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We have come up with several theories for why Emma is crying so much now, but before I get into those, can I just say that I find it impossible to tell what Emma wants solely from the sound of her crying? They say that infants have different cries for different needs… I just hear screaming and unhappiness. Maybe this changes as she gets older? Or maybe Emma only has one crying volume: LOUD?

Anyway, our first theory was that she’s uncomfortable from gas. I asked our pediatrician about it at our 2 week appointment and she recommended getting some Mylicon anti-gas drops. So we did and we’ve been giving them to her, but I honestly haven’t noticed much of a difference in her crying or comfort level. Also, according to Dr. Harvey Karp of The Happiest Baby on the Block, babies rarely cry from gas pains. So that doesn’t seem to be her problem (those she does have quite a bit of gas). Nonetheless, I have mostly eliminated dairy from my diet in hopes that maybe it will help her (also a suggestion from our doctor) – which is ridiculously hard for me, since I LOVE milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream and chocolate.

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The second was that she’s not eating enough at each feeding. After self-diagnosing myself with an oversupply or fast milk letdown, I started feeding Emma from only one side per nursing session, per advice I read on the La Leche League website and in their book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. But around the same time I started doing that, Emma started crying bloody murder after feedings. I had been hesitant to offer more in those instances, out of the fear of overfeeding her. But after a little more research and motherly intuition, I’ve decided that overfeeding a breastfed infant would be pretty hard to do. So I’ve started offering both sides (unless she falls asleep or looks particularly content after one side, which happens rarely) and also offering to nurse whenever it seems like she could possibly be hungry, regardless of how long it’s been since she ate last. Sometimes she eats more, sometimes she doesn’t. When she eats more, she does seem more content. So this has helped some.

The third was that she’s overstimulated. The first several days that she was crying a lot, we tried everything we could think of to console her – rocking, swaying, swinging, vibrating, shushing, pacifier, swaddling, walking, upright on our chest, laying in our arms, bouncing. The more we tried, the worse it got. Finally we figured out that less is more and stick to some combination of the following: swaddling, holding her upright on our chest, making a “shhh” sound in her ear, bouncing on our exercise ball or Ikea chair, and letting her suck on a pacifier. I also found that she will fall asleep in the car, but not always.

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The fourth was that she’s overtired. There have been so many times when Emma has *almost* been asleep but just when we thought we were home free, those little eyes would pop open again and we were back to square one. It’s like she fights going to sleep with her entire being. But honestly, I don’t know how to prevent this from happening. Our ‘routine’ (if you can call it that) is this: 2-3 hours from her last feeding, Emma wakes up or starts grunting a lot, so we pick her up, change her diaper and nurse. If she’s awake and happy when she’s done nursing (a rarity), I either read her a book or sing songs (if she’s awake but chill) or we do tummy time (if she’s moving her arms and legs around). Both of those activities last maybe 15 minutes before Emma yawns… or starts crying, which begins the cycle of trying to calm her down and get her to sleep.

But the norm for the past week is that we finish nursing and Emma starts crying almost immediately. And not just a little – like all out bloody murder crying. Her face turns bright red. Her little fists are clenched. She is ANGRY. And I’m confounded. Once she’s asleep, Emma usually sleeps for a good 1-3 hours at a stretch, so I feel like she’s still getting a decent amount of sleep. But after almost every time that she’s awake, it’s an ordeal to get her back to sleep. Another thought I had is that she gets so riled up by her crying that it’s hard for her to unwind enough for sleep, but I still don’t know what we can do about that because she goes from zero to crying in less than 2 seconds. And she does that right after nursing. So how do you prevent that from happening?

My latest theory is that is that maybe she can’t handle the caffeine in the cup of coffee I drink everyday (does it sound like I’m grasping at straws yet?). So I am also giving up my beloved morning coffee – the thing that has given me hope when Emma wakes up an hour or two earlier than expected each morning – and switching to decaf. I would go insane if I couldn’t have coffee at all.

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Anyway, this week has been filled with me feeling like my life is over and I will never enjoy anything again. I haven’t handled it well, especially in my relationship with Travis. I’ve been drowning my sorrows in self-pity with a very “Woe is me” attitude, which benefits no one. Even though deep down, I want to embrace this reality from God and give thanks for His mercies that are new every morning – because I know that that is the path to joy – I can’t do it. I can’t stop focusing on all the things about life right now that are so not what I want. My face is still breaking out. My belly is still as soft as bread dough. Neither my pre-pregnancy nor maternity clothes fit right anymore and I don’t feel like we can afford me to buy a bunch of new ones, especially when they’re just to fill in the gap right now. I fight against taking many naps during the day because I don’t want to spend my entire existence nursing and sleeping, and I hate how it feels to get up after not getting enough sleep. But my stubbornness leaves me even more exhausted.

People keep telling me “It’ll get better.” And I’m sure somehow, somewhere, that’s true. But I can’t help but get angry when they say that because how does that help me today? Am I just supposed to resign myself to being miserable for the next however many weeks until Emma gets older? And how do I love my inconsolable daughter and well-meaning husband in the meantime, when I feel so trapped and discouraged?

Don’t get me wrong – I love Emma and Travis, and couldn’t imagine life without them. I know that Travis wishes he could do more to help me and he’s been great about staying up late to take care of Emma while I get some sleep during her least fussy period. And he doesn’t get angry or offended when I vent my frustrations to him and accuse him of not understanding how hard this is. With Emma, there are a few moments each day when she is awake and happy, and she makes the cutest noises in the whole world. I know she’s worth it, even though I’m tempted at times to question my decision to be a mother.

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Nothing prepares you for how hard it is to have a baby, or how much you still love them in spite of it. For how you finally lay down to take a nap while your partner is taking care of the baby, but you can’t sleep because you can hear her crying and you feel guilty that you’re not the one out there consoling her. For how every baby and child you see in the store, on TV, at church and on the street remind you of your little one, and make your heart ache with the deepest love, and you know that there is nothing in the whole world that could make you give them up or live without them. For how hearing your baby cry breaks your heart so swiftly that you end up crying with them. For how you desperately want your baby to know how much they’re loved and cherished, so even though in the present moment, you just wish you could put her down and walk away, you don’t. You stay – heart breaking, eyes stinging, world imploding – and you keep on keeping on.

There is so much more that I could say. I have a hard time praying these days because my emotions are such a twisted mess, so I usually just end up saying “Lord, You know. Help me.” I continue to remind myself of Ann Voskamp’s words that “life change happens when we accept life with thanks and ask for nothing to change,” hoping that if I keep reminding myself, maybe I’ll eventually believe it. And I bring to mind Bible verses like Psalm 62:5-8…

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.

He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.

Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us.

Even when all else fails, God is still my hope.

Any words of advice or encouragement?

Choosing Joy in Exhaustion

19 Dec

snoozeMy blog has kind of turned into a weekly pregnancy update and nothing more. What can I say? I would love to blog. I have time to blog. But I have nothing to blog about. The only reason why I blog once a week is because of the whole “counting down the weeks” thing. Otherwise, my brain is useless.

I partly blame being tired. For the past week or two, I get up early enough to spend some time reading the Bible but my mind just won’t engage. I zone out in front of my open Bible until I concede that it’s useless and either start getting ready early or use that time to take a mini nap. (Usually the latter.) I finally understand what it feels like to not be a morning person. You stumble around in a half-conscious daze for the first three hours you’re out of bed. By noon, you feel mostly normal.

When I’m tired, I let everything slide. Making the bed sounds like too much work. Cooking dinner – too much work. I have energy for one thing and one thing only: doing nothing. Even the things that I enjoy doing and am always glad for doing later, are still thrown out the window with the excuse, “But I’m sooooo tired.” 

I know you’re probably thinking, “She’s totally screwed when she actually has her baby.” I’ve had that same thought. And that has spurred me to the realization that I need to learn how to live tired. Not survive tired. Not make it through another day tired. LIVE tired.

As a human, I love comfort. I love ease. I run from struggle, challenge and difficulty (unless its one I have intentionally chosen, like running a marathon). Being tired brings this all into the forefront because it’s a constant “I don’t like this!” feeling. My natural tendency is to focus all my available energy on wishing I wasn’t tired and to heck with the rest.

But I don’t want to look back on any time in my life and see that I sacrificed all of my priorities because I was tired. I don’t want to wish away the first months of my daughter’s life with longing to not be tired. That’s allowing my circumstances to dictate my response. It’s me playing the self-pity card and refusing to contemplate anyone else’s needs but mine. It’s a waste of life.

As I thought about this Monday on my way to work, I was brought back yet again to this:

“Life change happens when we accept life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)

I can acknowledge that operating with insufficient sleep is challenging. It is challenging. But like with any other circumstance, I can rise above it and refuse to let it have the final say. I can determine my attitude instead of allowing my circumstances to do so. But it won’t just happen – I have to be intentional. With every moment, I have the option to choose ease or to choose joy.

I CHOOSE JOY.

And maybe an afternoon nap.

The things left undone

2 Nov

Ever since finding out I was pregnant back at the beginning of August, I’ve been learning one main lesson: how to find joy when life’s a mess. I had been learning this lesson before then too but there’s nothing like pregnancy exhaustion to take the wind out of your sails and fast (ok, well, maybe new mother exhaustion).

After years of being a morning person, I am back to setting and resetting my alarm clock to the latest possible time I can get up and still make it to work on time. And that’s even after getting 9 hours of sleep.

I feel accomplished on a weeknight if I do anything except walk in the door and plop on the couch. Making dinner, walking the dogs or doing laundry are big wins.

Though I would still describe myself as a person who loves to be active, you’d never guess it by what my weeks look like.

Many of the ambitious goals I set up for myself at the beginning of the year have been left in the wake of another goal’s fulfillment – getting pregnant. That would include working on my nonfiction book. (Another side effect of not being a morning person anymore.)

I don’t like the feeling of being behind. Of having so many things I would like to do but am not doing. Of spending so many days not being productive. God knows that I have used productivity like a safety blanket in the past. A way of reassuring myself that I am valuable, I’m doing something worthwhile, I’m in control.

So I’ve accepted this season as a very practical challenge from God to learn to let things go. (I know this lesson will come in handy when our baby is born as well.) No, I’m not accomplishing everything I’d like to. No, I’d rather not spend an entire weeknight on the couch doing nothing. But when I come home from work and have ZERO energy, or life is keeping me busy with just staying afloat, that’s the reality. And I can still find contentment and joy amid all the things left undone.

I recognize that there is a balance between legitimate rest and laziness, and it’s tough to maintain. Most mornings I reset my alarm out of laziness, and then regret it later. But instead of letting that shortcoming inspire a feeling of failure in me for the whole day or week (like I used to), I pray. I tell God that I didn’t do what I wanted to do and ask for His help to change. I want to get up early to read the Bible and work on my book. I want to exercise after work instead of watching TV. But I also want to give myself grace, like God gives grace. He doesn’t berate me when I fail. He just offers another chance.

I wrote this about a year ago and it is still 100% the reminder I need:

God is more realistic about my abilities than I am. Like QuatroMama writes in this post, I tend to set up my own (perfectionist) standards and then beat myself up when I fall short.

But God is realistic. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”He doesn’t ask me to be Mega Woman. He understands that I only have so many minutes in a day and if I spend time doing this thing, I don’t have time for that thing. If I’m exhausted and want to veg instead of clean, He doesn’t accuse me of laziness and not being productive, like I do to myself. Unlike me, He is full of grace, understanding, and patience.

This is where the Gospel makes all the difference. The Gospel allows us to admit that we fall short of what we wish we were, but reassures us that we’re loved anyway. And God’s love for us isn’t despite how we’ve disappointed Him, or failed to live up to His standard. Because when He sees us in Christ, He sees perfect beings. We are completely and utterly righteous in His eyes.“As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”

He doesn’t mutter “I love you” through gritted teeth while trying to not be mad over all the things we’ve done wrong. God’s love abounds for us. He lavishly pours out grace upon grace into our lives with delight.

In the words of John Piper, remind yourself, “I am holy and I am loved.” Even when life is messy.

I may not be accomplishing everything I want to accomplish today, but that’s ok. I truly believe that God would rather I learn to live in the freedom of grace and knowing I’m loved by Him no matter what, than cross things off my to-do list. This world is temporary; only the eternal things truly matter.

How do you find joy amid the things left undone?