Sunday, September 1, 2013

Baby Blues

Did you know that there is only a 25% chance that a child of two brown-eyed parents will have any other eye color? It took five times trying, but we got a blue eyed girl! Marcus and I had often discussed the possible recessive genes that he may carry. It was a toss up between blue and green. I knew mine was blue. In fact, I was 100% sure that mine was blue. You see brown eyes are dominant over any other eye color, hazel is dominant over green, green is dominant over blue, and blue is recessive to any other color. Those among the populations that have blue eyes, have two blue genes. That is the only way a recessive gene can be expressed. No dominant genes = two recessive genes = blue eyes! My mother has blue eyes so she HAD to pass one of her blue genes to me. I have a brown gene and a blue jean. My sister on the other hand has blue eyes and married a blue eyed guy and have had nothing but blue eyed babies! For my husband it was not as easy to figure out. His mother has brown eyes. Since he has brown eyes, we know she passed her brown gene on to him. Here is the tricky part. We were not quite sure of the other color gene Marcus had. His father has green eyes. Paw Paw had an obvious green gene passed on from his father and a blue from his mother. With that information we could concluded that Marcus had either a green or a blue recessive gene from his father, but which one?. The only way we would ever know is if it was displayed in one of our children. Shy was the child that beat the odds.

As she has recently hit the one year milestone and is at lightning speed, transitioning from our baby into a toddler, I find myself reflecting on this year. Shy has beat the odds more than once. Many of you close to us know that Shy had a slow start and thus I had a rough go after her birth. I had the post baby blues! Postpartum Mood Disorders (including Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis) were once thought to be experienced by a mere 10-20% of childbearing women, reported by the CDC in 2008. This study consisted of self-reporting mothers of live births. This did not include those mothers experiencing loss due to miscarriage or stillbirths. Also, exactly where is the counter where we check in to report these symptoms? Possibly to your OB-GYN who may or may not prescribe an anti-drepressant or an anti-anxiety medication for you, AND YOUR INFANT if you choose to breastfeed. We are a society that treats the symptoms. A study released in March of 2013 by JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association) showed 30% of the women showing signs of a postpartum mood disorder before giving birth, 40% with symptoms after birth, and two-thirds showing signs of anxiety in combination with depression. One in five has thoughts of harming themselves. John Hopkins is even working on a screening to test for genetic markers that they claim can identify mothers who are more prone to postpartum depression. I am not here to promote screenings and medication. I am here to advocate for the mother, for her rest, for her nurturing, for her healing.

There is an unhealthy trend among women in Western culture, that we have to be like the materials of our desire...better, faster, stronger. Have we bought into that philosophy when it comes to our own person? Sadly many of us have. Media is trying, and succeeding on most accounts, to make us believe our bodies must immediately bounce back after baby. One must not let her baby hold her back from her dreams. And, if one of us falls weak to the emotional roller coaster, then let her hide it behind the mask of perfectionism. "Never let 'em see you cry!" What a twisted idea by marred humans. We must be able to embrace weakness, thus the power of Christ can lay on us. Foolishly trying to do it in our own strength will only lead to a fall. I know, I did it! I. Crashed. And. Burned. Or sank, or drowned, whatever analogy you need here. The "Super Woman" era must end, the cape must come off! None of it is real. For me, it all started before my daughter was ever brought into the world. To an extent I believe in mind over matter. Had my mind been calm and not preoccupies on other responsibilities, much could have been prevented. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, they say. I agree. Shy was due to be born sometime around mid August. And, my type-A mind was thinking about all of the responsibilities I was to pick up in August along with the life-altering event of birthing a new life and changing a family dynamic. I was to begin my first AWANA year as Commander. I was the "in-charge, go-to" lady with this entire program riding on her shoulders. I really hate to fail, I mean REALLY. So, I made plans to jump right in without a thought to any repercussions. I was also beginning a new home school year. One of the MANY luxuries of home schooling is that I CAN MAKE MY OWN SCHEDULE!!! I can start and stop when I choose. My pride obviously was telling me that I did not need to start later. It said I could do it all. And, for any of you regulars who might remember the Nesting Kitchen...I was in the midst of a very large kitchen renovation come mid-August. Why??? I am a "Martha", a doer. I find joy in being busy, in serving, in teaching. But, I often get lost in my numerous good intentions. I have many how-did-I-get-myself-into-this moments. I have to make an effort to "Be still...". In my mind, I needed this baby here so that I could recoup quickly and keep on keeping on. I even tried rushing this baby through her labor. Time was ticking. Despite my incredibly ill-considered behavior, her birth was perfect, arriving quietly at home surrounded by loved ones. Fast forward to day #3, her weight was nowhere near what her first reading was! In fact, the discrepancy was alarming. Thus began the downward spiral. Once I was on it, there was no getting off. With phrases such as failure to thrive and hospital admittance being thrown at me, and twice weekly weight checks, I no longer knew which way to turn or which decisions to make. Shy had jaundice, thus was a sleepy baby all the time, BUT SHE WAS FINE. She fell asleep nursing every time, BUT SHE GAINED WEIGHT STEADILY, although I had to wake her routinely. It was not enough for me. I never had this problem with any of my other children. Their appetites were ravenous. Shy was different. I have a hard time with different. Many type-A's do. Instead of breathing and having complete faith that God was holding Shy in his hand, my faith was halfhearted. I woke her 3 times a night. I could not sleep anyway. She also had reflux, which took me far too long to realize because I just plain thought she was starving. Hindsight is 20/20. I desperately needed someone to hold my hand and tell me I was doing the right thing.

To this day I firmly believe the birth scales were not accurate. I have carried five children and I knew my biggest baby was big and I knew my smallest was small. I remember telling those who were present that she was a little one. The scales told different and we were all shocked. I have looked back at her tiny foot prints and my instincts tell me I was right and the scales were wrong. Although, for me that was all it took. Satan was able to plant the seed of doubt and I fell for it. I fell hard. For months there were no days that did not involve tears. I felt like a failure. I did not measure up. I was not enough. While many around me tried to give me space, all I needed was presence. I silently became bitter toward those who could not, and seemingly would not save me from the darkness that surrounded me. The times we look elsewhere from the Lord for salvation, we are ultimately disappointed. When I turned to the Lord I could not even produce words, but he knew my heart's longings. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans."- Romans 8:26. He was the only hand that could delve into this black abyss and lift me from within its grasp. I could not escape it in my own strength. To this day, an entire year later, the feelings are still so fresh. I shiver recollecting even the most remote of these emotions. It took many months before letting her sleep as long as she would at night. and, if she wakes at night now, many times I will nurse her still. Undoubtedly my compulsion created her disrupted sleep patterns. But, my daughter thrived and is still thriving. She was thriving by two months, though I would not allow myself to see it. I trembled at the thought that something would eclipse the light that had finally began to shine. The light still shines because HE is faithful. Regardless of shining light or deep darkness, He is faithful if we seek Him. I do believe Shy was the Lord's tool to refine me. The fire burned, but there is something more pure about who I am now. I walk with less of the world's yoke and more of Christ's. His is so much lighter. My faith has been solidified even more. 

Many of us do not have to face this feat. Those of us who do deal with angst after birth or the loss of a child, need support, long term. Many of our personalities will require persistence, even insistence. Women are nurturers by nature, who many times are uncomfortable with being nurtured. We are burden lifters, never wanting to be burden builders. Let us advocate for one another, support one another, believe in the need for rest and the bonding period. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Bring dinner, take the siblings for a day out, visit, make mom get fresh air and sunshine, and chocolate always helps. When signs emerge of struggle, rally around mom. Be her cheering section. Words are powerful. I read a beautiful article on the Birth Without Fear blog, stating that "most traditional cultures, including those throughout South America, Europe (Greece), the Middle East and Asia, a 40-day rest period is considered mandatory after an infant’s birth. In this time the mother is not expected to leave the house, cook food, or do anything but bond with her infant." An African proverb states "It takes a village to raise a child." Then let that village start with the mother as she brings forth this new life.

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