Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hands Free

I spend an incredible amount of time staring our Gentleman in the nose.  With our foreheads touching and my arms wrapped every which-way around him he can hear and feel my breathing and can usually find it in him to be calm.  Between reflux and other unfortunate factors this poor little man has had relatively few comfortable moments in his short life.  I am trying to fix that.  It's amazing how quickly your self-image erodes when you are sleep deprived and have a miserable child you cannot seem to comfort.  (It doesn't help your cause when your older children act like denigrating lunatics half of the time).

the gentleman

In the past 3 weeks I can count on one hand the number of times the Gentleman has slept for longer than an hour at a time without being held.  This is the sort of madness that seems like it cannot go on indefinitely.  Something has to give.  Either the Gentleman or I will have to collapse in a catatonic frenzy and sleep for days on end.   But somehow it does go on, and somehow both the Gentleman and I endure it.  I expect it's just as miserable for him as it is for me, so I don't resent him for it, but I'm perpetually surprised at what we are both capable of.

I learned a long time ago, not entirely from observation and introspection, that human beings are capable of enduring far more than we have any desire to be able to endure.  Our incredible strength and endurance is usually hidden and stinted by our hard-wired desire for comfort and consistency.  I am a huge fan of comfort and consistency, but I can see inklings of the purpose behind God's design in heaping interruptions and entropy into our lives.

That stretching is invariably unpleasant.  When we contemplate it from a comfortable position, the stretching usually seems inconceivable; impossible, even.  But in the thick of surviving the stretching and the changes and the catastrophes and the heartaches we do what we have to do; because the only alternative is to stop living, or stop breathing, or to atrophy away into bitter dysfunctionality.  And then as we are stretching, and certainly afterward, we always admit to ourselves that we didn't suspect we could do what we have done.  And we have unearthly satisfaction in having glimpsed our eternal potential.

Somehow or other, as the weeks are stretching on and the nights remaining rough, I am getting by.  Somehow God has helped me hold my temper and my tongue when I have expected myself to snap.  Somehow I have pulled myself out of bed every morning to the sound of stirring toddler men whether I have slept or not.  Somehow I have felt compassion instead of contempt when the gentleman bursts into spontaneous hysterics just moments after I finally get him to sleep and manage to lay him down.  Somehow I have managed to feed and feebly entertain the toddler men with only one hand free.  Somehow I have managed to think about the needs and schedules of the other adults who live here instead of frantically hoping they'll rescue me.

Somehow I've stopped thinking that my rescue is coming in the form of another person.  My rescue will come in a combination of the passing of time and an increase in my own capacities that only something hard and relentless can bring about.  Over time the Gentleman's body will sort things out, and over time I will get better at being his mother.  It's a tender mercy, and almost certainly a type and shadow of other hard things that will come.  And judging by the behavior of Sir O and the Captain lately, there are going to be child-o'-mine-catalyzed hard things to deal with for decades to come.  I expect they'll only get bigger and harder over time, whatever their cause.  So it's best I find the means of rendering life enjoyable despite the shrapnel in a relatively small trial like this one.


Angela said...

Um, wow. I want to be like Emily when I grow up. I hope God gives me the strength to be like you.

hairyshoefairy said...

^Me, too^

You're doing great, Em. It is hard and uncomfortable but I think going along with it and learning along the way is great progress.

Sarah said...

Beautiful, beautiful post, Emily. Thank you for sharing, and inspiring us!

Chelsea said...

Some practical questions and advice, as I have been there, done that... My daughter was born 6 weeks early and had acid reflux and also would not sleep when put down. I found that the baby swing was my best friend for nap time. I would make sure all of her needs were met (clean diaper, well fed and throwup cleaned up, clean clothes) I had an infant insert from a carseat attached to the swing seat(the head and body support things) and the swing mostly sitting up instead of mostly reclined. After feeding her, I would put her in the swing, monitor her, and leave the room. The side to side swing motion worked best by the way. Usually within about 5 minutes, she was asleep. My pediatrician recommended this method because she said acid reflux can be exacerbated by laying down and most nursed babies are fed laying down. We had to go to part nursing, part bottle feeding with GentleEase formula for her acid reflux, but as long as I kept her in a sitting position for at least an hour after she ate, it minimized the throw up and the discomfort and got me some sleep as I knew she was in a safe place. I don't know how rowdy your boys are, but I have taught mine about "Quiet Time" When mommy needs a nap, I put my kids in my daughter's room and let them play with the legos and books and quiet toys. My daughter will read to my son and entertain him quietly. I monitor them, but go to my room and sleep. If they make too much noise or if they fight, I wake up, but a good cat nap in the middle of the day can do wonders! Also, an option I did at times.. I have a chest-front carrier. I would strap her into that and use multiple pillows to be reclined in bed, but not totally laying down. I would put a blanket over both of us and try to sleep that way. It wasn't the best sleep, but it usually helped in the extreme situations.

I will pray for you!

The Libutti Family said...

Oh, Em... I went through a very similar time with my second daughter and clearly remember laying in bed and all I could do was to pray, "Help me, Jesus... Help me, Jesus..." over and over. She eventually grew out of it and became the most wonderful child: calm and sesitive and bright. I look back on that time with wonder that I survived- and that she survived. Motherhood is all about the most extreme of stretching, growing and putting your own needs aside for these marvelous little creatures in your care. God Bless you for having such great insight while in the thick of it- you will get through, God is right with you, and we're all here to listen. Love, Cheryl

--jeff * said...

i smile at the paradox that is your frustration at limited to nill intellectual conversation with adults and at the same time you produce such brilliantly written and worded posts like this.

my favorite from this one: "denigrating lunatics."
: )

em, if you want my sympathy, you're going to have to try harder. right now, all you have is my admiration.

Martha said...

Thanks Em. I needed that one today. My usually happy, well-slept little man is dealing with a cold, lack of appetite and other such things. Hence, he's only sleeping an 1-1/2 to 2 hours at a time at night, and only 30 min to 1 hour at a time during the day. Thankfully, it's on his own, but only after being breastfed. He doesn't eat enough for me to warrent letting him cry it out, and I'm hoping he'll soon get his appetite back so I can help him get back to sleeping. We both need it. Though, like you, I'm amazed what we're able to handle and still function. Maybe not function well, but the days still march on! I'll be there in January and I'd love to drop by for a visit. :)

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