emmanuel. god with us.
Updated: Feb 26
matthew 1:23 says ""the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him emmanuel" (which means "god with us")."
lately whenever i leave the room or pass off juniper to someone besides david (and sometimes even david), she cries. baby girl just wants her mama. she wants me WITH her. often the only thing that brings her comfort is being with me. on me. and while at times i find this sweet and i am thankful that she is so attached, i also find myself feeling completely overwhelmed. like i cannot leave her with anyone else. i am only human. there is only one of me. i am not everywhere present.
this recently struck me as we have entered the advent season and prepare our hearts to celebrate god coming into our world in the humblest of circumstances. as a baby. named emmanuel. god with us. in his time on earth he was confined to one human body. and the gift he left us with when he returned to the father in heaven is the holy spirit who is with us always. i am not everywhere present but god is. in the holy spirit he is everywhere and with me always. he is always with those of us who have placed our trust in him as our lord and savior. and he is always available to anyone who calls on his name.
it has been a challenging four months. yesterday was my hardest day in a long time. and we had some hard days leading up to that day. a few days ago in the midst of the last two weeks of being housebound with sickness, i took the girls on a stroller walk with the dogs. bina did not want to go. she complained. loudly. the entire time. she insisted on going barefoot in her elsa nightgown recently purchased from target. i agreed, on the condition that she allow me to put a blanket over her. she complied. and then yelled about wanting to go home. the entire time.
i stayed calm the first 20 minutes or so. i tried to think of a natural consequence for her and decided to tell her that if she yelled three more times, i would take away the elsa nightgown when we returned home. she of course yelled three more times and when i said i would take the nightgown away when we got back, she just yelled louder. great troubleshooting on this one, brittain. before that i tried to explain how we are a family and we all take turns doing things we want to do. we are not all going to want to do all the things, but because we love each other and live our lives together, we take turns. mommy's turn is this walk, right? nope. no go. lots more yelling.
my calm evaporated and as we were crossing the street i shook the stroller once. hard. and whispered screamed, "STOP IT! YOU ARE SO ANNOYING!" because i am a broken sinful human being in need of grace and forgiveness always. you will be surprised to find out that this shaking and whisper screaming did not help. the yelling did not cease. all that resulted was that i had startled the baby and bina started crying AND yelling. i thought to myself, seething in anger, "i'm going to put these kids in daycare so that i am not the one solely responsible for screwing them up. i am going back to work. i'm done. and i would really like to dump this stroller and leave it on the side of the road and walk away. walk away from this life of screaming and misery and absolutely no control over anything ever." i thought about how as soon as i got home i was going to get my phone and message my mommy friends and rant and rave about how awful this day was.
bina started crying, "i want mama! i want mama! i want mama!" and i was so confused. i stopped the stroller and said, with frustration, "WHAT, bina? i'm right here." and then suddenly bina quieted. we were just around the block from home. i realized this is not who i want to be. and i thought quietly, "hey god? can you meet me here? even here? in this place where i actually just kind of hate these kids you gave me? in this place where i just want to dump them on the side of the road and give up? in this place where i hate myself for feeling this way?" and you know what? he did. he met me there. my anger dissipated. and he gave me the grace to navigate the situation by modeling repentance.
when we pulled up to our garage and i let the dogs inside and helped bina get out of the stroller, she said she was sorry. i told her we would talk about it when we got inside. and we did. she said she was sorry for being mad at me. i said it was okay to be mad at me. it is how we express our anger that can be okay or not okay. i told her i was sorry i shook the stroller and whisper screamed at her. that was not okay for mommy to do.
i asked her if she remembered going to the gym. she did. i told her we do not go to the gym anymore because the baby does not last in childcare. mommy used to go to the gym to take care of her body so she can take care of bina and juniper. and mommy has had to adjust. mommy recently realized that juniper loves going on stroller walks facing forward. she is so happy in the stroller. miserable in the house. happy in the stroller. so mommy finally figured out a way to get exercise that is good for both mommy and juniper. then i asked her how we can make it good for bina too. she suggested, pitifully, that maybe we can bring a stuffed animal. of course, sweetheart. you can bring a stuffed animal.
the next time we went on a walk, bina declared that she was not going to yell during the walk and she did not need a stuffed animal. and my heart burst. oh my bina. that girl is so beautiful. and so hard. i love her, god loves her, and god loves me. and we are all going to make it somehow.
yesterday i had developed another very painful plugged milk duct with a very hard and sore group of milk glands. i was so depressed by this. i still struggle. i have been to see an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). we had juniper's tongue and lip ties lasered by a pediatric dentist. i dangle nurse and use hot compress and try to massage and keep on top of things. i tried the epsom salt soak multiple times a day. sunflower lecithin. i am still having problems. a milk blister/bleb that just will not go away on my right nipple. lately i have been experiencing clogs every four days. i have four days of comfort and then two days of constant aching pain in my right breast.
i have been nursing for four and a half years straight. i have never experienced anything like i have experienced the last four months. i cannot even believe this has been going on for four months. if you had told me when this started that this would be my experience for the next four months plus, i would have died. but i am still here. still nursing. and when the clogs resolve and i get back to nursing comfortably, i think surely this is done now and we are all good. and then four days later they return and i am devastated. yesterday i was devastated. this one thing that i have been doing without complication for YEARS is no longer working. i am in pain. i am frustrated. angry. depressed. anxious. why oh WHY is nothing helping? is this how my nursing journey is going to end? with trauma and frustration and tears? i do not want it to end this way. i do not want it to end at all. but i feel like i cannot continue the way things have been going the last four months.
yesterday i was preparing for a homeschool alliance webinar with julie bogart. i was reading the chapter in her book that the webinar was addressing. i was reading about routines and the routine that julie used with her kids. and i felt dread. i felt overwhelmed and trapped. maybe i am not cut out for this. maybe we should put bina in kindergarten after all. that dread? that is the feeling i get when i am sinking into depression. i dread the things that used to bring me joy and excitement. i knew this was not a good sign.
i cried. and i cried and cried and cried some more. i tried to clean up the kitchen as the baby napped and bina did her eye sticker time. and i cried. i dreaded the baby waking up. she has been so fussy. she is bored and needs to get out. i need to get out. but bina contracted this head cold from hell that started with me and juniper and has been spiking a fever in the afternoons the last several days. there is no getting out. it has been two and a half weeks of being housebound. in the midst of floor refinishing last week. furniture strewn about the house keeping the dining room and master bedroom and closet empty. sickness. not having the energy to do any of the things. i felt completely overwhelmed by the state of our house. bedroom still in disarray because we needed to wait a full week before laying down our rug after the floors were refinished. the laundry in piles everywhere. the kitchen counter covered in dishes and pots and pans. and the dog hair. oh, the dog hair. everywhere.
juniper has not slept through the night in over four months. after the frenectomy, the tongue and lip tie procedure, she was not taking naps in her crib so i started wearing her for naps. when she and i were at the worst of our sickness last week, i was up with her in the night wearing her and walking around the dining table for hours. completely exhausted. feverish myself. walking with my sick baby, trying to soothe her and myself. to survive i have resorted to co-sleeping. juniper and i sleep in the queen bed on the floor. she nurses throughout the night. some of her best nursing, i thought. i have had to double diaper her at night otherwise she soaks through. until this sickness. the lack of sleep has been slowly sucking the life out of me. i find myself trying to surrender to this process. embrace the tension. the reality that my baby who once took two 1-2 hour naps a day in her crib and slept 12-14 hours straight at night was all of a sudden doing nothing of the sort. starting at the six month mark. i love my sweet juniper. and i have been having a really hard time with how hard the last four months have been on the sleep and nursing fronts.
yesterday david saw me crumbling and offered to help me put our room back together. but david, we have to wait until thursday, i protested. close enough, he said. so we slowly gathered all the pieces of our room and assembled them. and i instantly felt lighter. our room is going to be our tranquil space of rest and relaxation. i can see it.
last night i prepared juniper for bedtime and laid her in her crib. she cried a bit and fell asleep. i logged onto my webinar. it was all that i needed to hear. a god-wink, i think. david went to bed shortly after it began. bina was on the couch resting watching a show on her ipad while her fever came down after giving her ibuprofen. the webinar lasted until about 8:20pm. bina then asked for food. she ate and then we went upstairs for her bedtime routine. she settled into bed and fell asleep by about 9:45pm. super late for her. while i sat in the chair next to her bed waiting for her to drift off to sleep, i anticipated juniper waking. but she did not wake.
i quietly made my way back to my bed. in my room. with david. i realized i did not have the monitor so i went and fetched it from the kitchen. i plugged it in on the nightstand next to the bed. and fell asleep. david woke to get ready for work and i realized the baby never woke in the night. i fell back asleep and my alarm went off at 8am to give bina her antibiotic. neither girl had woken yet.
what. in. the. world. juniper has not slept through the night in over four months. let alone in her crib. i was slightly concerned something was wrong. i crept into her room to check on her and she was on her belly, head up, looking at me. just fine. i picked her up out of the crib and pulled her close to nurse. my left boob was a rock, used to nursing juniper multiple times in the night. my right boob was the same as it has been. not a rock, still sore from the clog. she nursed sweetly, instantly softening my left boob. oh my sweet snuggly juniper. what a gift of sleep for all of us. my and david's first night back in our room. the best night of sleep we have had in a long time.
i went to the obgyn today desperate for some solution for my painful clogs and milk blister. the obgyn did not have any new information for me. he printed off some advice i had already looked up on my own via the internet. he double checked my milk blister and confirmed there was nothing to open. he offered to order dr. newman's ointment for me, believing that would aid in healing. i am convinced the milk blister that will not go away is the reason i keep having problems on my right side. so now i will try this magical ointment for seven days and see how we are doing.
when i visited the IBCLC over a month ago, the theory for my problems was that juniper has trouble draining the boob. nursing is hard for her so she does not comfort nurse. she will likely wean early because nursing is difficult and not comforting to her. that theory crushed me. the thought of nursing not being comforting to juniper has plagued me since it was suggested to me. but the other day she face planted onto a plastic bowl on the floor and hurt her lip. when i scooped her up she buried her little head in my chest and comfort nursed. and today at the obgyn as i sat on the table holding her while wearing the open front gown, whenever my nipple was exposed she dove for it. juniper does find comfort at the breast. and that may be new for her since having the tongue and lip tie revised. if that is the case, i am grateful for that.
i feel like things have been quite a mess for the last four months. i have not blogged in two. so many times i have wanted to but have not made the time. i feel like we are in the midst of a difficult season of transition. i feel like i am aimlessly wandering in the dark. trying to figure out what in the world is going on. how to adjust. living in the tension. so uncomfortable. and the one thing god has been showing me through it all is that he is with me in the mess. he does not promise a mess-free existence. he does promise to be with me in the midst of it.
i do not know how this nursing experience is going to turn out. i do not know if this ointment will be the answer to all my prayers or just another temporary glimmer of hope along the journey. what i do know is that god is with me. that god came to me. we celebrate god coming to us, taking on himself the task of making a way for us to access him. god meets us all in the midst of our messes. all we have to do is ask. god, can you meet me here? even here? and he looks at us lovingly, scoops us up into his arms, and says, "i thought you'd never ask."