I have so many things to reflect upon in the events of the last 3 weeks, and I will probably spread it over a few posts. 3 weeks ago we recieved the diagnosis of Cholestasis in Pregnancy, and faced the reality that my baby girl would be delivered a month before we expected her arrival, and my plans for a natural water birth in the birth center would be switched for an induction and the mainstream ward. As it turns out, God watched over us in this situation, and the induced birth went so much better than anyone ever imagined, with an outcome even the most encouraging of midwives didn't consider possible for my situation. But that's a story for another day.
Tuesday 1st of Feb at 6pm my darling Arwen Hope was born. Estimated at just 37 weeks 2 days (though, we believe now it was probably a bit further on than that) she came into the world as perfect as any newborn can ever be in our fallen world.
It has been hard. Bear wirh me, as this post does become positive. More than hard, my baby never took to the breast as she should have, and we didn't realise until Friday what had happened, because as a new mother I didn't realise the small amount of breastfeeding she was doing was nowhere near enough. We went from days of increasingly hysterical crying which we believed was gas, and now makes me cry to think about her desperate hunger, to spending the weekend forcing her to wake up to feed on a combination of expressed breast milk and formula. My milk is not co-operating with the expressing, and I spent the weekend expressing every 90 minutes, which, when it's a 30 minute process from start to finish, was completely emotionally and physically consuming, made worse by the fact even with that I could not produce even half of the amount she needed to be fed (I think it's a letdown issue at this point, we return to the hospital today to attempt to figure out what's going wrong now that baby is rehydrated and contented, I have stopped such regular expression as I couldn't handle it, but the amount recieved each expression is the same 10 or 15mL at 4 hour intervals that it was at 90 minute ones). This whole process becomes all the more daunting through the fog of hormones that course through every woman in the first weeks after birth.
It's so tempting at times, when the hormones spike especially, to give up. Thoughts run through my mind that I am a horrible mother, what good mother can let her newborn starve without realizing, what good mother can't get her breasts to produce any milk, as if I didn't already have enough things 'broken' within my body. This weekend my husband had to feed our beautiful girl while I sat and watched, pumping at my already aching breasts for what I saw as nothing. The fact he was feeding her and not me broke me down. Friday and early in the weekend I couldn't even hold her, as the smell of my milk threw her into a fuss, and I felt so useless as a mother. I was frightened to become attached to her, I couldn't explain why but I called her 'the baby' instead of her name, Arwen, because of fear.
But God has given me peace, He has given me the strength to do this, in body and mind. I am so blessed to have the husband I do, who has been endlessly patient with me, and understanding of my emotions. He took so little sleep in the first few days that he became delusional, just to try and calm our screaming infant and allow me a little rest, as I had not fared much better myself. He has been strong for me where I can't handle it anymore, and he has taken on so much more responsibility than most men would ever consider doing, because on top of the regular challenges new parents face, he also has to help cater to my visual impairment, which often involves learning a process fully himself before trying to show it to me in a way I can manage (a particular challenge with bottle feeding, which I have only mastered this morning.) This man was created to be with me, as I was him, and God made him in a way to suit that. I have never understood that clearer than I have the past few weeks, as I see all he is doing to support and help me.
Last night my husband desperately needed sleep, real sleep, as even though he has been catching up it has been in two hour blocks, which his body has never coped well with. So I told him to sleep and remained in the lounge room with Arwen resting in her basinette. In this situation, in the quiet of the early morning, God has really spoken to me and used this time. I have only slept two hours myself, but my body feels good, I feel strong and capable despite it, in fact I have to force myself to stay off my feet, as I know rushing about doing a lot on my feet would be bad right now, but I am not suffering from the lack of sleep, and my body is quite happy to settle for a sleep 2 hours, wake one hour, repeat, routine.
(I can feel my breasts letting down right now, but I know, from having done it multiple times in the past two days, that by the time I get up, grab the pump, take my top and bra off and begin expressing, they will refuse again, which is almost more frustrating than not being able to express to begin with)
My relationship with God has suffered in certain areas over the past year. My understanding of God in a theological way has increased dramatically, but the complete reliamce on God, the sence of wonder and awe about His power and creation, the amazement at how He has blessed me, that spiritual, emotional, instinctual aspect has faded as I have become more consumed in the world and the physical things. These points, which are not just important as a christian but also such vital points to my personal testimony, are things I must never lose sight of. I don't want to lose the feeling of amazement when I see the beauty in nature, because I remember vividly the first time I felt that amazement and what a life changing event brought it on. I have always been strongly spiritual in my faith, but the busyness of life has a way of interupting that.
This morning, as I pumped milk at 6am and watched my 6 day old baby sleep, I sang worship songs. I then got up and began playing some through the stereo (Arwen will sleep through anything until she is hungry it appears. She can be passed from person to person without stirring, or sleep through a loud crash, but will wake hourly for food if she wants it!). This is something I once did on a weekly basis, but have not done in far too long. It was so refreshing to just sit and focus on God. I haven't done that in so long. Sure I have prayed, or sat in church, or worked through a bible study, but it has been a long time since I just sat and worshipped Him and opened up that spiritual side. The stresses may not have passed but I am peaceful about them now. I stood by Arwen's basinette and sang worship songs with her, and I saw that face and love washed over me. She's not just a baby anymore, she's my daughter, and that's the first time I've been able to say that. She's my daughter and she is beautiful, and I feel my heart swell up as she looks around, as she sleeps, as she hiccups (which she seems to do a lot!). I know day to day life will mean I will not always swell with joy whenever I see her, but in those quiet moments I will feel this feeling again, and I hope that will last as she grows from a baby, to a child, to a young woman and a mother herself. I am grateful to be able to appriciate these moments, I can't believe it's been a week already, and she will change so fast.
It's been a long time since I've spent the morning with my Lord, but it won't be a long time before it happens again. I am not the 'devotional and quiet time for half an hour before breakfast every morning' sort of person, I'm a 'peaceful afternoon of thinking and praying while worshipping and doing some light work' sort of person, I used to spend sunday afternoons doing a project or job that didn't require too much thinking, and just allow my mind to wander to the things of God as I sang and worked. But so many people tell me I need God every day and I have felt, how can I spend time with God if I don't do devotionals everyday like all the other women I read about and see. But I realise now, it's walking in it that's important, it's seeing it, it's feeling God's presence even after the devotional is finished. It's not relying on God when reading the bible that's hard, it's relying on God while scrubbing the bathroom, or while holding a screaming baby, that's hard. As for my focused time on God, whether it's half an hour each day or a restful sunday afternoon, does God really prefer one over the other? Or is he just happy we have taken the time to be with him, however that fits us personally.
I'm not sure how much sence this post makes, it's a bit rambling, and whether I feel it or not I am running off very little sleep, but it makes sence to me right now. At least it will help me remember these days, which I suspect will pass all too quickly.