“It’s been crazy but also strangely wonderful to have the arrival of my daughter and the release of this book coincide. I’ve spent the last few months in this wintry baby cave—spending all hours of day and night with this tiny creature, learning the exquisite rhythms of her being, her milk breath and shuddering sighs and fluttering eyelids when she dreams about… what? What are her dreams? I am so close to her in these bodily ways, so swollen with love, and yet so much of her is a mystery—and language doesn’t quite summon much of what we are experiencing. That said, I have been so hungry for other peoples’ stories of childbirth and early motherhood, in a way that only deepens my faith in how much narratives matter—which is so much of what this book is about, and so much of what my desire to be a writer is about. Of course, the world is full of narratives about motherhood and writing as antagonistic forces, hell bent on destroying each other—I want so much to believe in all the other ways they can intersect.”
You can read more of the interview I snatched this from (not G rated but so thoughtful) on LitHub. And thanks to Image for bringing it to my attention.
I think it was the second time we visited Jacob after I was discharged from the hospital. I was still hurting a lot, even with more pain medicine that I was really comfortable taking. My moods were all over the place. We came into the dark, noisy (so much beeping!) NICU, scrubbed in, and walked over to Jacob’s isolette. We talked with the nurse, and got ready to “kangaroo” – which means I take off my shirt and they put Jacob on my skin and cover us up with blankets. We stayed for an hour, or a little more. I slept, Craig took pictures and read to us. Then it was time to go.
As we walked out of the hospital, I began to realize: my pain was practically gone. My mood had lifted – there was no danger of a flood of tears at the moment. It had never occurred to me till that moment: the drug my body needed was my baby.
Of course I have known, in my mind, the importance of mom and baby being together, but I usually thought of it as being for the sake of the baby more so than the mother. Then I remembered going back to work after I had Lucy, and again after I had Samantha, and how hard it was to hand them off to someone else for a little while. But I hadn’t had such a visceral reminder in a long time of how much we need each other. My body never forgot. It’s amazing how I make twice, three times as much milk if Jacob is in the room than if he’s not. My body knows.
It’s a lesson I’ve learned before. My body knows how to birth. My body knows how to care for a newborn. It knows how to heal. We are all truly fearfully and wonderfully made, gifted with bodies that, if we listen, tell us how to care for ourselves and each other. Such a gift God has given us.
And still, as much as I loved being home with my other children the rest of the day, as much as I loved spending the evenings with Craig, the hour or two I spent in the hospital with my baby brought peace to my day. I just kept looking forward to bringing our feisty little bundle of peace home with us.
For those of you who have ever nursed a newborn (sorry guys!), you know about those precious little hands. The ones you want to kiss and spend hours admiring. And swaddle within an inch of their life so they will stop getting between the baby’s mouth and your breast when he’s hungry. Because the hungrier he is, the more likely those sweet little hands are acting as appetizers…except they don’t take the edge of baby’s hunger, they just make him more frustrated. And who has enough hands to hold up the baby, position the breast, AND gently hold two little hands out of the way?
Thus the swaddling.
The poor child just doesn’t realize that if he would put aside his desire for his hands (even though they are great for munching most of the time), something much more delicious and nourishing would suddenly come this way.
And now, for the slightly forced analogy to the spiritual life.
We never quite grow out of this tendency, do we?
Maybe it’s a not-so-great relationship, but we’re afraid that if we let it go, we’ll be alone. Or a job we hate (or which simply isn’t good for us), but we’re afraid of not finding something that pays as much if we quit.
And then, of course, there’s sin. What sins do we cling to, because they feel good, or maybe they just feel comfortable? What do we fear if we let them go?
Are we too busy holding tight to our pride to seek God’s help and forgiveness?
What if we were to move our hands out of the way, and let God nourish us with his goodness?
It’s Lent, and lots of us have given something up (sleep in my case – thanks Jacob!). Hopefully we’ve been able to clear away something that was actually in the way of our spiritual growth. It’s a good time to reflect: How well have we used this opportunity, this little emptying, to allow God to nourish us? What are we still clinging to, blocking God from filling us with his love and goodness?
Bonus: Here is a great article about the little hands and breastfeeding – which makes me feel bad about all the swaddling, but sometimes I get desperate. Still, it was illuminating, and helped me be less frustrated with hands-in-the-way phenomenon.
“The family is the hospital closest to us: when someone is sick, they are cared for there, where possible. The family is the first school for children, it is the unwavering reference point for the young, it is the best home for the elderly. It is the first school of mercy, because it is there that we have been loved and learned to love, have been forgiven and learned to forgive.”
Jacob has been home two and a half weeks now. His due date is in about a week…still a little crazy to think about.
No weight update, unfortunately. But it looks like I should stop trying to force him into premie size clothes. Newborn, here we come!
He’s actually acting very much like a normal newborn, more so than I had expected. He’s spending more time awake, and he’s as noisy as ever. (Did I mention that? Even the first couple of weeks the nurses in NICU commented on how noisy Jacob was – always grunting or cooing or at least breathing loudly. He fits right in at our house!)
We still have follow-up appointments for hearing tests, development tests, vision tests…it feels like a long list. But, thank God, everything looks good so far.
Of course his brother and sisters adore him, and I have to fight for my turn to hold him, or even change his diaper!
Our big challenge right now is trying to transition from bottles to breastfeeding. Which includes convincing my body to make enough milk to keep him growing. Still not even close. So we’re using a supplementary nursing system, plus pumping, which means I spend 3/4 of my day on some aspect of Jacob feeding – pumping, nursing, making bottles, heating bottles, cleaning bottles…and occasionally I eat and/or sleep myself.
We would be up a creek if the girls (and Isaac, for that matter!) weren’t so helpful. Lucy practically runs the house, and she really does at least as good a job as I do. She’s making red beans for supper as I write this. I am doing the very important work of keeping Jacob asleep. It looks a little like this:
So technically I am still writing “while they are sleeping”…but also while they are cooking, dancing, playing violin, climbing trees, sewing, and playing family, or orphanage, or something similar. It’s a full life.
After 58 days, Lucy, Samantha, Clare and Issac finally get to meet their baby brother.
No more afternoons in the NICU (and dropping the kids off at friends’ houses.)
Since he came home Saturday morning, many of our NICU nurse friends and our most fabulous lactation consultant, who really held our hands through this whole process, weren’t there to see us off. But Dr. Cudihy (who attended Jacob’s birth) happened to be there, which was fitting, since neither of us would be here without his help.
Still working on getting my milk supply functional. I’m making enough in a day to be about half a feeding. Jacob’s appetite is growing faster than I can keep up with!
Thank you so much for all the prayers you have showered on us during the last two months! (Not to mention the clothes, diapers, gift cards, meals…it’s a long list.) Now we just have to work out this whole having-a-baby-at-home thing…again. It gets easier, but it’s still new every time. This time around we have so much help – Lucy is preparing formula bottles, Samantha is folding clothes, Clare is (reluctantly) disposing of diapers, and Isaac is showing Jacob his toy power tool set. My mom and brother are here for the weekend, so the dishes are always clean. Everyone if fighting for baby-holding privileges. I think we’re just excited to finally start this adventure together, as a family.
Today would have been 36 weeks. On Friday Jacob will be eight weeks old.
We had hoped Jacob might be coming home today, but he had another “brady” episode (where his heart slows down and he turns blue) so the earliest we can hope for now is Saturday. He is eating like a teenage boy already, and we’re making a little bit of progress nursing, so it’s just up to him now to remember to breathe and keep his heart going until Saturday. If he makes it five days in a row, it’s very unlikely he’ll have trouble with it again, so that’s when the doctors will feel comfortable sending him home.
Friends, family, and strangers have been so generous. We have been given clothes, diapers, wipes, a co-sleeper bed, blankets, burp rags, food…and many things I’m forgetting at the moment. There is no way we can ever be grateful enough for all the love that has been showered on us.
So we’re spending Mardi Gras with friends, and still waiting and praying. I shouldn’t be impatient – when we started this adventure we were expecting Jacob home a month from now. Even Saturday, even a week from Saturday, would still be early. But I am impatient! I am ready for Lucy, and Samantha, and Clare, and Isaac to meet their brother. I am ready for all the snuggling. Not really ready for all the crying, pooping, and waking up at night…but I’ll take it. I’m past ready for this baby to come home.
He would have been 35 weeks gestation today…hard to believe he shouldn’t have been born for another month.
His feeding tube was out when we visited this evening. Craig loves feeding him (a privilege he hasn’t had often, since we usually try to avoid bottles.) Jacob has been finishing 7 of his 8 bottles for several days now…as soon as he does 8 of 8, two days in a row, then they’ll let him start feeding on demand. If he proves he will eat enough that way, not just sleep all the time and starve, then he gets to go home. We are so close!
Keep the prayers coming! His siblings can’t wait to finally meet their new brother!