get comfortable with the uncomfortable
monday of this week was the hardest day i've had since my last depressive episode almost two years ago. i was to the point of dreading the day. dreading being alone with my two littles. i have not felt this way since november two years ago. i look back to august 6, the day juniper turned six months and we left for our trip to vermont for a seminary reunion, as the beginning of the decline for me. it was at that point that juniper stopped sleeping through the night. i was doing ok with that because she was not waking too often and would go back to sleep quickly. then a couple weeks later she began popping out teeth. she got her two bottom teeth in the span of two weeks. this last week when the second bottom tooth erupted she stopped napping well. she was getting maybe two 30 minute naps a day instead of the two to three naps she was used to. two of those three would be from 1-3.5 hours long. the night waking escalated and she was not going back down easily anymore. she stopped nursing well during the day. and last thursday we began the potty training adventure with sabina. from thursday to monday i was hanging on by a thread. i think potty training may be the hardest thing we have done yet.
yet, in the midst of all this, we have had some really sweet moments. our trip to vermont august 6-10 was such a rich time of getting together with old friends, some of whom we had not seen since graduating seminary back in 2012. two weekends ago we were up in northern michigan for labor day weekend and had some really beautiful moments as a family.
i also saw some crazy evidence of god being in control of all the things. i had signed up sabina for a ballet camp this summer which she completed a few weeks ago. for the fall she was going to be at a different studio in a 4:45pm class on tuesdays. however, her instructor for the ballet camp informed the parents that if she could get at least five of the girls to register for a morning class during the week, she would be willing to hold one for the year. i expressed interest in this option as it would be much better for us than trying to get to plymouth in rush hour for the 4:45pm class. shortly after i received notice that they had enough interest to hold the class. i cancelled our registration with the other studio and sabina began her ballet/tap/tumbling combo class on monday of this week. same instructor and three of the girls from her ballet camp (for a total of four, even though they said they needed five!). the instructor told the parents after that the girls were all very comfortable and told me that sabina talked to her! this is actually huge. she did not talk once during the camp this summer. ha. so much progress!
further, i was planning not to do bible study fellowship (BSF) this year because our schedule was looking too full for another weekly commitment. the ballet class sabina was originally signed up for would have been in the late afternoon of the same day of the week and i thought that would be too much. i did not want to give up the gym and i am in leadership for mothers of pre-schoolers at ward church. a couple weeks ago i was meeting some friends at a park for a playdate and as i was walking up to the structure with my stroller i crossed paths with peggy, the BSF teaching leader for the class i have attended the last three years. i did not recognize her in running gear and she was on her headphones talking to someone. but she recognized me! one of 500 BSF participants in her class. peggy stopped to catch up with me and talk about BSF. long story short i committed to attending BSF after talking to her. later that week i met with another friend for a playdate and was sharing my motherhood struggles. at one point she asked if i had heard of BSF because it was super helpful for her. i smiled to myself and said OK GOD, I HEAR YOU. I AM GOING.
the commitment that i am cutting out of my schedule this fall, the thing that takes up the largest chunk of my weekly routine, is the gym. this was a super hard decision for me. juniper made it a clear one though when she began lasting only 25 minutes in childcare (hello six months!). it takes me 25 minutes to get to the gym and drop off the kids before heading up to the workout area. so i was spending more time getting to and driving home from the gym than i was able to spend actually working out. i have been doing the MUTU system at home and it has worked fine to have the girls playing on the gym/play side of the basement while i do the routines. therefore, problem solved. also saves a ton of cash. i am quitting the gym if i can just make it there to sign the stupid cancellation form. sigh. admittedly, i have fallen off the MUTU bandwagon this last week or so. but i can always get back on. one day at a time.
david and i are co-teaching a class with an older couple at church starting this sunday. we got together with this couple at their house for dinner on saturday night to get to know each other more and discuss the class. i believe this couple is who god gave us to be our mentors for this next season after losing the two families we were closest with at our old church due to moves. oh the kindness of god. a couple themes emerged during our conversation that have stuck with me, the first being the need to be okay with being uncomfortable. it is okay to be uncomfortable with biblical teachings that seem to contradict each other but are actually equally true. sitting in the tension of the reality that god is both love and truth. we cannot have one without the other. sitting in the tension of the reality that there is evidence for both calvinism and arminianism in the bible and the bible does not declare a winner. they co-exist. it is uncomfortable. we may not completely understand it. that makes it no less true. be okay being uncomfortable with putting ourselves in situations where we are interacting with people we maybe wouldn't normally because of differences in life stage, interests, positions, etc. it is actually okay to be uncomfortable. we do not like it, but it is necessary. growth comes from staying in the uncomfortable, working through it instead of running from it. the second theme was the destructive nature of extremes, of polarization. satan loooooves this. when we are polarized, we do not work together. we do not listen to each other. we stick in our camps and demonize the opposing side. there is no compromise. there is only judgement and isolation. the political climate of our country is a prime example of this. any time we find ourselves taking an extreme position and demonizing the other side, satan has a party. we have to be vigilant to recognize when this is the case and seek to bridge that gap.
monday was the culmination of a month of feeling completely uncomfortable. juniper has generally been such a chill baby her first six months. then suddenly we hit the six month sleep regression, a developmental leap, and teething all at the same time and all of a sudden i found myself doing a crappy job of meeting her needs. it shot my confidence as a mother. i also wondered: is her decline because of my decline? am i responsible? then there is sabina and potty training. potty training is hell. anyone who tells you otherwise either has momnesia or a unicorn child. sabina was in underwear and on the potty for five minutes every 10 minutes for 10 hours straight last thursday. it was highly stressful for me. she actually handled it like a champ. we went out for ice cream for dinner to celebrate both of us surviving the day. the following days proved challenging. how to get out of the house while potty training. navigating using the potty outside of the house. failing. going back to pull ups. feeling like a complete and total failure. trying to reinstate the potty timer at home. feeling trapped. miserable. both girls screaming in frustration. juniper in pain from teething. me sleep deprived and gradually losing any shred of sanity left. then i found a massive plugged milk duct in my left boob on sunday night and that did me in. my anxiety sky rocketed. how could i have missed this?! it's going to turn into mastitis. it's going to turn into an abscess. this is it. i have made it nursing for four years and three months straight and now it is all over. i am going to die. housework piling up because i am tied to the potty timer and my fussy teething baby. drowning in motherhood and my inability to do any of the things. cook. clean. soothe a crying baby. potty train a four year old. sleep at night. catch a break. none of it. total and complete failure.
i was up for the day with a fussy juniper at 4:45am on monday. i came downstairs and looked at her and thought for the first time since she was born: i don't want you. i just want my happy juniper back. and then i burst into tears. since the moment she was born i have been head over heels for this beautiful human. the chill baby whose vagnial birth healed me well, emotionally anyways. physically she ripped me to shreds. now she was no longer chill. she was miserable. she wasn't eating well. she wasn't sleeping well. she was crying unless i held her, sometimes even if i held her. i felt hoodwinked. like i had been given one baby the first six months and then a different baby the day she turned six months and it was getting worse and worse. i thought to myself: i just want my happy juniper back. in the first six months i was convinced we should have named her juniper joy instead of juniper brittain because she was just pure joy. oh my juniper. i hated myself for thinking i did not want her. i hated myself for the fact that my emotional and mental well being was so tied to the temperament of my baby. i cried and cried. i held my baby and felt completely helpless. like things would never get better. i would never get my happy juniper back. i had her for six months and now she was gone. david came down to get ready for work and i was sobbing. i did not want to be alone with the baby. i couldn't fathom surviving the day with the two girls by myself. potty training. teething. it was misery. i just wanted to set down the baby and get in my car and drive away. far far away. david told me he could stay home today. he could stay with me. he was here for me. and full of shame and self-hatred, i said yes. please. yes.
a friend of mine from austin messaged me on instagram and told me motrin and clove oil have been life savers for their teething little one. it was not yet eight in the morning. i planned to call the pediatrician when they opened to talk to the nurse line and ask if there was something seriously wrong with my poor baby (spoiler alert: there isn't. she's teething). and also for the proper motrin dosage by weight for infants. i asked my friend if she had the ibuprofen dosage amounts and she sent them to me. juniper is not eating table foods yet. she does not know what to do when any sort of food enters her mouth. the kid will eat a paper bag, grass, a leaf. but food? no way. she holds it in her mouth and gags and vomits. it is awful. the same thing goes for medicine. i had tried tylenol for her before for teething but she just pushed it right back out of her mouth. gagging. not worth it. but when i met with a friend for a playdate a couple weeks ago she was sharing some strategies for getting her foster son to swallow food so i decided to give that a try. it involved massaging the cheeks once food goes in the mouth to cue the brain that there is food in the mouth that needs to be swallowed. i tried this -- putting a bit of the medicine in her mouth, massaging the cheeks, and then giving her the boob to nurse enough to swallow once. then repeating until she had taken all of the medicine. this routine is ludicrous to me because i did not encounter any of this struggle with sabina. but as it turns out, sabina and juniper are very different tiny humans! juniper took the ibuprofen and fell asleep in the carrier as david was wearing her and proceeded to sleep for two hours while i took sabina to ballet on monday. then she nursed well during the day for the first time in a week. i had tried various things to work out the clogged milk duct including heat, taking ibuprofen myself, lecithin, and massage. and when she nursed well on the side of the clog, it finally released. i did not end up with mastitis or an abscess. imagine that.
i was able to talk with the three other mamas in the lobby of the dance studio as our girls were in ballet class. i shared my motherhood woes and was met with understanding and encouragement. solidarity. it was beautiful. i began to feel human again. juniper took another two hour nap from 4-6pm. she nursed well. and she was back to her happy juniper self. i kick myself now for not trying motrin earlier. live and learn, again and again. i am thankful for my friend who messaged me on instagram to share her teething remedies! that motrin actually solved all of my problems. besides the potty training. ha.
BSF began this morning. i had emailed my counselor on monday to see if she had any openings this week. i have been going weekly for the last month instead of bi-weekly because i knew my mental and emotional health were in decline and i wanted to make sure i was doing what i could to work through it. she had an opening at noon today. BSF was from 9:15-11am. i knew it would be tricky with the girls as the last time i had a noon appointment (usually i go every other wednesday at 10am) sabina lost her mind with 20 minutes left to go. it was highly stressful for all of us. when i loaded up the girls in the car this morning i prayed out loud for god's grace for the day. because i knew i just needed all of it. whatever the day was going to look like. god, just give me grace to keep going. i dropped sabina off at her class and even though she expressed fear about the first day of class as we were driving and before i dropped her off, she went in with just a little bit of encouragement. we do scary things. it is okay to be scared. we still show up. i preach this to myself as yesterday i just wanted to hole up and not let anyone see me in such a state of distress. i had juniper in the carrier hoping she would fall asleep but she was awake when i dropped off sabina so i figured i would try to put her in the infant class. but by the time i was ready to pass her off, she had fallen asleep in the carrier. i decided to keep her with me. she slept through most of BSF. my new discussion group is multi-generational. one of the women is a mama from my friday morning mamas group i started earlier this year. she had been going to the young adult BSF group but since she has a six month old now she decided to go to the morning women's class with childcare. and just happened to be placed in the same group as me. coincidence? i think not. clearly jesus.
we read through acts 1:1-8 during our discussion group time. the book of acts begins with jesus' instructions to the disciples after his resurrection and before he ascended back into heaven:
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
several things stood out to me.
jesus instructs the disciples to wait in jerusalem (v.4)
the disciples had hung out with jesus for three years and they were still quite clueless (v.6 "lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to israel?")
jesus said (v.7) that it was not for them to know when things would happen, but that (v.8) they will receive power and be witnesses
i hate waiting. i am so impatient. i do not like being uncomfortable. depression sucks. dreading the day sucks. juniper's birth marked the start of a new season for me. and her six month birthday marked the start of some significant struggles. sometimes time is all it takes. but waiting, making it through that time, can be so hard. jesus tells the disciples to wait. jesus tells me to wait. he has something for me. just wait.
then the disciples are all -- so now you're going to establish your kingdom on earth, right? cause you just raised yourself from the dead and all that and have hung out with us 40 days and you're talking about giving us power and stuff so. now is the time that makes sense, right? so many times, just like the disciples, i am so clueless. i know the truth and i forget it. i lose my focus. i have to pause and re-center myself on jesus. i am just like the disciples. i may have been walking with jesus since i made the decision to begin living for him as a freshman in high school back in 2000. almost 20 years! 20 years and i still have so much to learn. god is so patient and kind to continue the work he began in me then. he doesn't give up on me, even when i have given up on myself.
i hate not knowing. waiting and not knowing are the absolute worst. SO. UNCOMFORTABLE. WHYYYY. but jesus says it was not for the disciples to know when. all they needed to know was to wait in jerusalem for the holy spirit. jesus was going to give them power to be witnesses. they did not have this power on their own. nope. not at all. they needed jesus. and he was going back to heaven to be with the father. so in his stead he was leaving the holy spirit. while jesus was god in the flesh in one person, the holy spirit is a spirit that can live inside every person who asks for jesus to forgive them for their sins and be lord over their lives. oh how i need the holy spirit, god living in me. motherhood shows me time and time again that i CANNOT. DO. LIFE. i am not capable in my own power, in my own strength. i NEED jesus. and when i ask for his grace, he grants it. his grace does not make things not hard. it does not make sabina potty trained. it doesn't make teething not hurt. it doesn't make my baby sleep. it doesn't make her eat table foods. it doesn't make me sleep. it doesn't make me not depressed. grace gives me the strength to show up and keep going. to admit my weakness. my struggles. to show vulnerability. to ask for help. and to acknowledge jesus as lord of my life. through any and every circumstance, whatever may come. and i hope that as i rely fully on him that he can use me as his witness to show others his great love and truth. because that is everything.
so here's to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. it is okay to be uncomfortable. it is when i am most uncomfortable that i am most surrendered to god. it is when i see my great need and when i throw up my hands and say: god, i do not know what you are doing. but i know that you know. and that is all i need to know.
one day at a time. one hour at a time. one minute at a time. heck, sometimes one second at a time. showing up in my weakness, in the midst of my struggles. uncomfortable. and comfortable with being uncomfortable. or, at least getting there.