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just be.

This morning my sweet Henry woke up and came to my bed where I nursed him. As I got ready for church he was fussy and not particularly happy. As we were snuggling in bed I thought he felt a little warm so I hoped he wasn’t coming down with something.  After I got out of the shower Tim brought in the still-fussing Henry who then proceeded to projectile vomit all down Tim’s shirt. (Dad of the year award goes to Tim who, as he was being showered in baby puke, did not even flinch).

We decided that church was a no-go so I put my jammies back on (YES!) and spent all day just snuggling and nursing a feverish baby.  He napped on me all day.

I loved it.

I felt that God was telling me in these sweet moments to remember how fleeting babyhood is.  When was the last time I just snuggled and nursed Henry all day? Several months ago. Is this the last time I can spend all day snuggling and nursing a baby? Possibly.  Henry is still immobile but he turns 8 months in 2 days.  Soon he will be crawling away from me…and walking…and talking…and I’ll be forced to say things to him like, “No, we don’t poke the (not lit) candles with the thermometer” (which is a sentence that I just said to Sam like 2 minutes ago).

God was reminding me today to just be with my boys. Are my days with 2 little boys 2 years apart sometimes frustrating? Exhausting? Crazy? Absolutely.  But will they be little forever? No.

I have spent a lot of time just being frustrated. Being frustrated by how tired I am and how messy my house is. I want to just enjoy these days, even if I am exhausted and my house is always a train wreck.

Today as I held a feverish sleeping Henry in my arms I just tried to savor the sweet heaviness of his body…his beautiful eyelashes….the rosy flush of his cheeks…how happy and content he was in my arms, where for the moment I had the power to help make him feel better just because I was with him.

frustrated by my frustration.

I was told after my last post that I seemed a little down, and that, in the future, I should only write happy, upbeat things.

It’s just really freaking hard to be happy and upbeat on, like, 2 hours of sleep in 48 hours. I don’t know what it is, but I hit a wall of sleeplessness and something snaps in my brain and the whole world better watch out, because mama ain’t happy. I really become totally irrational and inconsolable, like a junkie needed her fix or something. It’s bad.

It’s like there is a constant war in my heart. On the one hand, I know, deep down, that someday I am going to actually be sad when no one cries for me in the night. I will miss the endless messes and the sticky fingers. As I rock Henry to sleep, singing him beautiful hymns and just relishing his weight, his peaceful heaviness, in my arms, I want to memorize him, breathe him in, never, ever forget his eyelashes, or his dimples, or his contented sighs and his sleep songs. But then after trying to put him down and sneak out of the room only to have him wake up 3 times in a row I start to get a little impatient and frustrated and mad and tired and crabby and I just want to go to sleep. And then I am frustrated by my own frustration.

I think, on some level, these frustrations stem from unrealistic expectations — I expect to have an easy time getting my kids to sleep, and then when that doesn’t happen for whatever reason, I get mad. I expect my 2.5 year old to never whine and never throw tantrums over really random things, and then when he does whine and he does throw tantrums, I get mad. Where is it written that children shall be easy to put to bed, should sleep all night, should never act like children? Where is it written that I deserve better?

Why can’t I just enjoy it for what it is? I am going to miss it someday, even though sometimes it isn’t fun now. It’s hard to believe sometimes when I am so effing tired but I really will miss it.  It is a constant battle trying to enjoy and savor moments that in the moment are not savory or enjoyable.  I don’t know what the secret is. I haven’t figure that out yet.

For now, I am going to:

  • pray for eyes to see the moments as I should see them.
  • breathe.
  • know that everyone will sleep eventually.
  • breathe.
  • answer one of Sam’s endless questions one more time.
  • breathe.
  • nurse the baby again.
  • breathe.
  • eat lots of dark green leafies, drink enough water, and take my B vitamins and inositol.
  • breathe.
  • give one more hug and one more kiss before bedtime. “Can I hold you?”
  • breathe.
  • kiss Henry’s sweet fuzzy head as I bounce him to sleep again.
  • breathe.
  • breathe.
  • breathe.

once upon a time.

Once upon a time I had a capable brain and I used it on a daily basis. Once upon a time I wasn’t fat. Once upon a time I had cute clothes, and reason to wear them.  Once upon a time I had some sort of ability to leave the house by myself every once in a while.

It is a hard adjustment, being a SAHM. I am 2.5 years into it and it’s still just really hard most days.

If I tried to think rightly about this, to frame this through the right theological lens, I would think about how God is shaping me in His image, and stripping all these other things i used to find identity, and life, in, away.

And maybe on some level I know that those things I listed above are stupid. Those things don’t matter in the realm of eternity. Maybe deep down I know that there is abundant life underneath it all.

But today? Today I am just saying that it feels like I am dying. Like I am losing some part of me I used to know and understand and there is this ‘other’ me lurking, slowly being revealed. My rottenness, my crucified self, was always there. Just here in my house, with my family, the things I used to hide behind — a good night’s sleep, physical attractiveness (or feeling pretty), my intellectual prowess, etc. — are being removed by what I can only hope is God’s refining power in my life.

But today? Today, all of this feels like i am dying, and every cell of my body is rebelling against this dying to self.

 

an update on the children and such.

Sam is *counts on fingers* 28 months old and hilarious. I don’t mean to brag but he is pretty incredible.  He talks quite a bit. Every time anyone comments on him talking I say, “he gets lots of practice” because it’s true — he talks from the time he gets up until the time he goes to sleep. What’s amazing is that he converses on an almost adult level. He can and will carry on a conversation with you for as long as you’ll let him. He is a joy and so much fun at this age.

Right now he is really into bugs — we checked out a book about beetles at the library recently, and that’s been a big hit. He also likes to turn over the big rocks at my mom and dad’s house and look for roly-polies and other creepy crawlers. On Memorial Day he had an absolute blast running around in the backyard at my mom and dad’s with his cousins Noah and David. When it was time to go home I noticed that he looked and smelled like a dirty, sweaty, little boy and not a baby. I just can’t believe he’s almost 2 and 1/2 and already so big and independent. We tried and failed potty training — but I think he just wasn’t ready. And honestly I don’t know that I am ready either. We’ll try again in a few months, I think.

Henry is 4 months old and enormous! For being a small peanut at birth, he sure has figured out the eating thing. At his 4 month appointment he was 17 lbs 3 oz, putting him in the 90th percentile for weight. It makes me incredibly happy to know that he is thriving on mama’s milk alone. Never had a drop of anything else. The nurse at his appointment was like, “You can start him on cereal if you want” and I was like yeah…..no. He’s clearly doing just fine without the refined carbs entering his bloodstream and priming him for diabetes later in life.

Henry has also started teething. Blech. He has been a drool machine and gnawing on his hands. I can feel where those little teeth are trying to poke through his gums. Poor kid. I don’t remember teething myself but it doesn’t seem like it would be any fun.

Developmentally, he is becoming more and more social and interactive. He will flash his amazing social smile at anyone, but he definitely reserves his biggest grins for me, his daddy, and his big brother. I love that already he knows who is important in his life. He has been rolling over from front to back both wise for ages now, since he was like 6 weeks or something, but he seems content to hang out on his tummy now when we do tummy time, as opposed to just rolling over immediately. That angle from his head to back is getting closer and closer to 45 degrees, too. He can almost sit unassisted — he’ll “tripod” for very brief periods of time. I expect that he’ll be sitting unassisted this month — Sam sat unassisted at 5 months, and Henry seems to be on the same track.

What else is new? Well — this is exciting for me — but I have 5 lbs to go to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Then another 10-15 to get back to where I was before I got pregnant with Sam. Still, I am relatively pleased with my progress for being only 4 months postpartum and gaining close to 50 lbs. It’s funny though, even though I technically weigh more than I did before I got pregnant with Henry, I think I am definitely leaner. Most of my size 8 jeans that I was wearing right before I got pregnant with Henry fit me now, and fit me better than they did before. Some of my jeans don’t fit though because my butt is bigger — bigger as in more muscular and shapely. I don’t mind, honestly. I felt postpartum with Sam and during his first year I had fallen victim to having Mom Flat Butt. Pregnancy weakens your butt muscles so the perky butt I used to have turned into flat butt. SAD TIMES. Especially because I was told in high school by some dumb boy once that my butt was ranked 11th in my class. But thanks to Cathe Friedrich’s Butts and Guts dvd, Zumba, running, Jillian Michael’s Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism, and the occasional Insanity dvd, my butt looks better than ever. I’d maybe even make it in the top 10 butts now. 😉

ANYWAY, I feel overall that I look “tighter” all over than I did even when I weighed less than I do now. That makes me happy. I am still not where I want to be ideally, but I am getting there, and I know it’ll just take time.

The other great thing about working out is that I feel like I have tons of energy. I am still tired and I don’t always get awesome amounts of sleep but I still feel energetic and pretty good most of the time. So for that reason alone working out is worth it for me. But I also like being skinnier, too. 🙂

 

henry’s birth story….nearly 4 months after the fact.

I might have readers (like 2 of them) who aren’t friends with me on Facebook, and they might not know that Henry Joseph was born gently at home, into his Daddy’s hands, on 1/20/2011 at 7:10am. He weighed in at 6 lbs 8 oz (tiny! I know. But he was born at 38 weeks. If he had stayed in for another couple weeks, he probably would’ve been 7 and 1/2 lbs or something like that) and was 20 inches long. I posted a very rough birth story on Facebook, but I wanted to post a better version here (turns out it’s easier to type when one hand isn’t helping to position a nursing newborn).

He was born on a Thursday morning, but his story starts the Sunday before that, when I got desperately ill. Fever, chills, coughing fits, general grossness. Then Tim and Sam got sick, too. We were a fun bunch for a few days. Tuesday (1/18) was Sam’s birthday, and the three of us spent it together in our big bed just snuggling and feeling terrible. I started having some low contractions that felt like the real deal at some point — I chalked it up to being dehydrated a little, and maybe the coughing causing contractions. I had an appointment with my (wonderful!!!) midwife on Wednesday and I told her about the contractions. She said they were just warm-up contractions as my body got ready for real labor. They weren’t powerful or getting closer together or anything, but they did feel like real labor contractions and not just the tightening, Braxton-Hicks contractions. After my appointment I was still feeling so so sick so I went home and took a nap. I woke up around 7:30 because the contractions were getting stronger and they woke me up. A lovely family from our small group graciously brought us a meal that night because being sick and hugely pregnant sucks, but being sick and hugely pregnant and having to cook and feed a sick family sucks worse. I was hungry for the first time in days, so I had two big bowls of potato soup and some salad.  As the evening progressed the prelabor contractions I was having got longer and stronger. I was needing to breathe through them, so out of curiosity I started timing them with ContractionMaster. They weren’t getting closer together for forming a pattern, but they were consistently 1 minute 40 seconds long. Tim was working to set up the birth pool because my midwife suggested I try to soak in the tub for a while to relax. I had a question about the tub so I Facebooked her, and mentioned that my contractions were around 1:40 long. She called me at 10pm and we talked about these contractions. At no point did it occur to me that these were real labor contractions (I’m a little slow, I guess). I was just hoping they’d stop so I could get some rest so I could get better. She gave me some suggestions to help me relax and to get the contractions to stop, including the birth tub. Tim ran out to buy a bottle of wine while I soaked in the tub. The water was sort of lukewarm at best because we didn’t have the right attachment to fill up the tub and we ran out of hot water before the tub was full. I had some wine and finally gave up on the tub and went to bed around 11:30. I was getting frustrated because these contractions were really starting to hurt. If these were just prelabor, I didn’t feel like I was handling them very well. How was I going to handle real labor? I was also frustrated because I was so sick and I wanted desperately to sleep but every time I’d start to drift off I’d have another doozy of a contraction and it would wake me up. You know, if the coughing wasn’t keeping me up. I also felt bad for Tim because he had a 102 degree fever and needed rest too but I could no longer handle the contractions without his coaching. They were intense, long, and felt like they were double-peaking. Around 2am I asked him to call my midwife again. He started timing contractions and they were 2 minutes long but anywhere from 9 to 16 minutes apart. There was no pattern or getting closer together. But I could no longer lie down during the contractions. It made them hurt so much worse (no wonder women strapped to a hospital bed beg for an epidural! I would’ve, too). The only thing that helped the contractions was swaying and rocking my hips, almost in a belly dancing fashion. Every time a contraction would hit I’d get out of bed and just rock my hips. My midwife said this sounded like maybe the real thing, so I called my mom and asked her to come get Sam. I didn’t think I was in real labor, but I knew that I wasn’t getting any rest and Tim wasn’t either, so I needed someone to watch Sam so we could sleep and hopefully get better the next day. My mom agreed to come get Sam, but she was sick with the same cold thing that we all had, too. Once she arrived I asked her to stay up with me for a while and time contractions while Tim got an hour or so of unbroken sleep. If this was real labor, I needed my poor, feverish sicky “coach” to be able to support me through labor. My mom reluctantly agreed (I don’t think she thought I was really in labor, plus she didn’t feel too hot herself) and I was kind of mad at her. But, I was probably in transition.  I moved out to the couch so Tim could sleep in the bedroom. Every time a contraction came I’d tell my mom to start timing and then just get up rock my hips. At some point I felt vaguely nauseated.  Around 4am I started feeling vaguely pushy, but the contractions were still not in any pattern — anywhere from 7 to 13 minutes apart. I had my mom get Sam up and leave at this point, and made Tim call my midwife again. She said she’d come right away. It’s a good thing she lives only about 10 minutes away from me! Around 5:30 my midwife arrived and asked if I wanted to be checked. I said sure, but I honestly thought she’d tell me that I was 1 to 2 cm and that I still had a long way to go. Imagine my surprise when she said I was almost fully dilated and effaced, with just a stretchy anterior lip.  The contractions slowed down at this point — the “rest and be thankful” stage, as Ina May calls it — so I just chatted with Tim and my midwife. I had a few more contractions but they didn’t really make me feel an uncontrollable urge to push. So I just waited. Finally I did feel like pushing and it actually felt pretty good to push. I had Tim press really hard on my hip bones during contractions because that felt better. At some point it hurt worse when he did that so I had him stop. When Henry started to crown I started to freak out a little. I said, ‘oh, it hurts!” and “I’m scared!” and prayed in earnest “Jesus, help me please.” The other midwife there to assist my midwife, and Tim, just gently encouraged me and prayed with and for me. I knew that pushing wouldn’t make the pain stop, so I just kept pushing. I didn’t push for very long — Tim says maybe 15 or 20 minutes — and then at 7:10am Henry Joseph was born. My first thought was oh, he’s tiny. Compared to Sam, I knew Henry would be lucky to break 7 lbs. Tim and I just cried and thanked God and fell in love with our little boy. We tried to get him to latch while we waited for the placenta to be born. My placenta was small and not in great shape — maybe the stress from being sick made my body preserve my other organs at the expense of my placenta, so I went into labor? I don’t know. I wasn’t expecting a small 38 weeker.

Having a home birth was amazing. I can’t imagine doing it any other way, even a birth center birth. I think being in a comfortable environment where I was free to do what I needed to do (like get up and rock my hips at will, etc) really diminished the discomfort of labor.  In a way it really was easy — there were parts that were difficult (see: being sick with the bubonic plague, crowning) but compared to Sam’s birth it was just so much easier. And my recovery has been easier, too.  I feel empowered and strong. I feel love for my sweet family of 4 and I feel equipped and capable of raising my two sweet boys.  The oxytocin rush you get right after you give birth is like…trippy. It’s such an emotional, strong, incredible feeling. I guess increasing pain in childbirth is part of the fall (according to Genesis) but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t also give us so much grace in birth. And that amazing cocktail of love hormones is pretty great.

Birth is worth the pain. Having had two natural births I can tell you that it is worth it.  The pain serves a purpose — it’s not senseless pain. It’s pain that can be understood, and is in that way able to be conquered. It can’t be bigger or more powerful than you because it is you.  You hit a wall of self-doubt but then you just take control and it’s exhilarating. I really believe it’s worth it.

We are so in love with our sweet Henry. It’s been almost 4 months now and his birthday remains one of the best days of my life, not just because he was born that day but because his birth was one of the best things that I’ve ever done.  I love his dimples and his big grins and his giggles. I love his elbow dimples and his fat rolls on his leg — he may have been tiny at birth but he’s definitely made up for lost time as far as eating goes. I just can’t imagine our family without him in it.

God is good!

a sleep post.

If you’ve read this blog at all or know me in real life, you probably know that sleep during Sam’s first year was crazy. I am convinced, now that Henry is in our lives, that sleep is more a personality issue than a parenting issue. As a new, insecure, first-time mom though, I definitely had moments where I doubted everything, and where I wondered if I was doing everything wrong. Why would he only sleep touching me? Why would he only nurse to sleep? Why did he wake up so often? What was I doing wrong?

In my heart of hearts I knew I was doing what I needed to do to love him well by choosing to co-sleep and nurse on demand all night long. But I also felt judged and confused when people would insinuate (or flat-out state) that if I would just put him in his crib across the hall and let him scream at 4 months old, he’d sleep, or if I just weaned him he’d sleep longer.

Then my second kid came along.

I have not done anything different. I still nurse on demand, let him nurse to sleep if he wants to, and we co-sleep.

Yet this child sleeps easily. He sleeps long. He doesn’t LIKE to nurse to sleep usually. If he’s tired and not hungry, he will CRY if I try to nurse him. I can put him in his swing and he will go to sleep. Sometimes if he is over-tired he will fuss a little, but for approximately 45 seconds before passing out. And he never really gets worked up, he just fusses a little. He can enter a light stage of sleep, stir a little, and then re-settle himself.

Sam would work himself into a frenzy so quickly and would wake up every time he entered a light stage of sleep. It was just how he was. Even now, at almost 28 months, he still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes. Last night he woke up and asked where his peanut butter sandwich was. (I think we may have a sleepwalker when he’s not in a crib anymore. We shall see).  As an infant he would never just stir a little and re-settle and go back to sleep. We’d try and he’d just get more and more upset.

Here is a fascinating post I read when Sam was a baby that I think explains my kids pretty well.  Sam was a tension-builder when he would cry. He still is. He will have a total freaking meltdown and will get more and more worked up. We are working on teaching himself some coping mechanisms to help himself regain control when he’s losing it, like taking deep breaths, etc. Now he will come up to me when he is upset and say tearfully,  “Mommy, I need to take deep breaths.” And I will coach him through a few.

But what the article says about tension-releasers is totally my Henry:

A kid who releases tension by crying will not always nurse or be rocked down to sleep. It may happen sometimes, but often times the kid will get progressively more active and jittery, almost manic, as the nursing or rocking session goes on. He or she may cry during the rocking/nursing, and not settle down in a few seconds. It’s almost as if the kid wants to cry. If you leave the child alone, the child will wail initially (for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes), but then settle down to a fuss or whimper, and will soon fall asleep. A child who releases tension from crying will often wake up happy and refreshed, and will play alone in the bed, co-sleeper, or crib for awhile before you come to get them.

It’s so true. I will try to rock/bounce him to sleep, or nurse him to sleep, and he will fuss and cry until I put him in his swing where he will fuss for maybe 1 minute longer and then pass out. He is content to be not in my arms or at my breast every second of every day.

Maybe I am just more laid-back this time around, too. Part of the issue with Sam was that I had no idea when or if things would get better (or worse). I had no frame of reference. With Henry I know that there will be good nights and there will be bad nights, but eventually we’ll all sleep. It’s not quite the all-consuming obsession like it was when Sam was a baby.

I do think a big part of it is just their personalities though. Even in the womb they were different. Sam was Kickpuncher:Reborn (that’s for all you Community fans) and Henry was much more mellow. Those traits have carried over to life as air-breathers, too.

Then there’s some other stuff, too. Henry is intact and Sam was circ’d. I believe he was often in residual pain from that completely unneccessary surgery and that affected his ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. I also think that because he is a sensitive, intuitive, sweet boy that he was psychologically damaged from his circumcision. He had night terrors as a older baby and young toddler, and now that he is verbal, he sometimes has bad dreams but is not able to tell me what the dreams were about, but is very shaken up. I believe these are also after-effects of his circumcision.

I’m sorry, Sam. I wish I had known….

Sam was also fully-vaccinated for the majority of his first year. I have also wondered if his sleep issues were related to a reaction to his vaccines. He slept 6-7 hours at a time as a 7 week old, and his sleep went dramatically downhill after he was vaccinated at his 2 month wbv.

But he probably started teething around 8 weeks or so, too, because he had two teeth on his 5 month birthday. So it could’ve been that, too.

Anyway, I say all that to say this: sleep is totally a personality thing. I am convinced.

hey, i haven’t blogged in a while, but that’s because i just had a baby…

…3 months ago. So sue me.

Henry Joseph Birkel was born on January 20, 2011 a 7:10am. He weighed 6 lbs 8 oz and was 20 inches long.

He was born gently at home and into his daddy’s hands.

Someday I will write his birth story.

I can’t believe it’s been 3 months already. I can’t imagine our family without him in it. He’s a very chill, laid-back, happy baby. He eats well and sleeps well. I wouldn’t trade Sam for all the tea in China but I’ll be honest — his babyhood was difficult for me, and so I am thankful that Henry is a little easier.

My midwife says, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” And it’s true.  So far, the adjustment to having 2 kids has been easier than I anticipated.

I will try to blog more. Maybe. In the meantime, here’s some pictures of my sweet Henry Joe at 4 weeks: