Grandma and Abigail both came down with a cold this week at exactly the same time.
We've been more or less living like germaphobic hermits since Grandma came to live with us since we knew any kind of virus was likely to be pretty hard on her. Adding a brand-new baby to the mix only made us more careful, but no matter how careful we were, we finally picked something up after nearly 18 months. We're not exactly sure how we got this particular virus since we've been that careful, but somehow both the people we wanted to protect the most got sick. In some respects, I'm pretty grateful they got sick at the same time because I have no idea how we would've been able to keep one from getting the other sick if they hadn't gotten it together. Likewise, I'm thankful Ben and I have stayed healthy this long because it would've been a REALLY long week otherwise.
Sometime in the blur of walking Abigail and being up at night shooing Grandma into a steamy bathroom so she could breathe, I remembered a song I like to sing that I learned from my mom. It's called "I Am A Servant" and it's about a person waiting to see how God is going to use them to serve him since the person was made to be a servant and wants God to choose him/her for a task. In many ways, I've been serving my entire adult life, but not as I am serving now.
Now, don't get me wrong: this is not something to be upset about or resentful of. In our current culture, we don't like to be in a position where anyone can call us servants. Even people whose professional job it is to serve people don't literally call themselves "servants" but "servers", "waiters/waitresses", "flight attendants", "hostesses", and lots of other names. I think because perhaps we view being a servant a lot like being a slave (which isn't a bad thing either, in the correct context - being a slave to righteousness, for example) and we love our freedom in this country. Being a servant or a slave is something we're too proud to be.
There are times I don't like feeling like a servant either. Having to lay down what I want for what other people want doesn't come easily or naturally. I don't get excited about getting out of bed at 3 am to shepherd Grandma into the bathroom, convince her she's not dying, talk her into drinking water, putting Vicks on her, then going back to my room to suction a very unhappy Abigail's nose so she can breathe so she can nurse. I would say this wasn't something I volunteered for...except I did. When I sang that song, I meant it. I wanted - and I still want - to serve God the way he planned. And he planned me to serve here.
I've heard people say God called them to do much more romantic-sounding things, like starting new churches or going to China to run an underground Bible-distribution system or running an orphanage in Haiti. But I suspect they feel pretty much the same way I do when I'm up at 3 in the morning. They say, "What am I doing here again?" and then they remember, "Oh yes...I'm here because I asked God to send me where he wanted me. And this is where I want to be. And it will even feel a lot better when the sun comes up."
I am pleased to report that this is true: things are much better by the time the sun comes up; and last night I didn't even get up at all. I think we might just have survived this one. I'm also pleased to report that Ben's purchase of a new pacifier was approved by Abigail, which allowed her to take a nice long nap during the afternoon for the first time in a week yesterday. Much as I love her, I prefer her to sleep when she's not feeling good. My back gets pretty tired after a day of walking back and forth in the living room - I could probably draw a map of all the boards in the layout of our wood floor by now!
Now if Ben and I can just stay healthy...
It's an interesting thing that when God wants to get our attention about something, he seems to use multiple sources in our life to do it.
We've recently been talking about the fruit of the Spirit - God's Spirit, fruit listed in Galatians 5:22 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control - because of Abigail's entry into our life. We've noticed that there are some fruits that are less apparent in our home than others. I told Ben that I don't like the lack of patience I'm discovering in myself and Ben says he's also noticed a problem with murmuring, which is a lack of faithfulness.
While we've been discussing this, the pastor at the church we attend began basing his sermon each week on a characteristic of this fruit of the Spirit; and when we went to visit some good friends last night and had a discussion about the Bible, we again discussed the fruit of the Spirit.
Only last night we got a different perspective.
I have been disturbed by the lacking fruit because I always understood the "fruit of the Spirit" to be evidence of the presence of that Spirit in me; and if the evidence is lacking, then perhaps the Spirit is also. However, yesterday we were introduced to the perspective that the Holy Spirit - God's Spirit - is like a sapling fruit tree. The tree itself is capable of bearing fruit, but as a sapling it needs constant care and attention to grow big and strong and produce a full harvest of good fruit. As with untended fruit trees, the Spirit is capable of bearing fruit even if not very well tended...but it will be small, warped, wormy fruit rather than the bushels of prime apples God's looking for.
As our Creator, God has always been interested in fruit - in the good increase of what he's made. It seems to have been a primary purpose in creating our world in the first place because Genesis keeps pointing out how God made everything living capable of multiplying itself. At our wedding we chose to read Jesus' parable of the men who were given different amounts of treasure by the king who expected them to make it increase. We chose it because we saw ourselves - Ben in particular - as being entrusted with a family for the purpose of making it increase in Godly fruit. Godly fruit includes children, but it is also the fruit of the Spirit. We've discussed for a long time how God's first commandments were actually to "be fruitful" AND "to multiply": two separate but related commands. If God's Spirit just naturally produced the full harvest of fruit he wanted without any tending on our part, then it would be an odd thing that he commanded us to be fruitful. A command indicates there's something we're expected to do, not just sit back and let happen. We're expected to tend to our spirits in such a way that our production of God's fruit increases constantly and we don't let any little mildews or bugs or lack of fertile soil warp or damage that fruit.
Abigail is a kind of sapling also. She's not formed yet and doesn't really produce any fruit. We've multiplied, but Abigail herself is not a full harvest yet. She doesn't really do anything to please God other than to exist (which, since God created her life, must please him to some extent). Our job as parents is not only to care for our little sapling, but also keep her spirit strong and healthy so she will begin to produce fruit. To exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, and all the other characteristics of God's Spirit. Right now, cute as she is, she doesn't particularly exhibit anything (and lack of bad fruit is not the same as the production of good fruit, as any orchard farmer will tell us).
So my lack of patience and our murmuring are signs that our household fruit tree needs a little tending. But it can be tended and the spirit-tree can be strengthened so that the fruit is undamaged. It doesn't just "happen", so if it's just not happenin', we have work to do. We have to see some things differently, but we have all the tools we need.
And that is an encouraging thought.
We're definitely going to have to make Abigail some nicer signs in the future: but here's her one-month photo. She weighs nearly 12 pounds, is 22.5 inches long, sleeps for about six hours solidly at night, is now smiling just in recognition rather than always being coaxed, and can ride in the baby carrier facing outward instead of just inward. It's hard to believe she can grow so fast!
Technically, she's actually six weeks old as of today, but since I've been slow with pictures this will have to suffice. It just means 2-month photos will be right on top of 1-month photos.
I've also updated the slideshow under the "Abigail Lauren Turner" tab if anyone wants to see more.
There are milestones for me, too. I'm down from 170 pounds at Abby's birth to 137. I'm able to wear more and more of my normal clothes, which is really nice. I can now run up and down stairs again, lift heavy objects (boy, I got really tired of the "no lifting" requirements!), take walks, drink normal amounts of water instead of what felt like a gallon a day, wash the kitchen floor, help Grandma Lila with showers, and stay awake past 9:00 at night without a nap. Don't laugh - these are big improvements!
One of the strangest - and oddly, most frustrating - things about the last six weeks has been being unable to vacuum.
The general rule of thumb is that vacuuming is one of those things it's wise for a mother to avoid doing for about six weeks after the birth of a child. Apparently, it uses many of the abdominal muscles that are still healing and irritating those can make the overall recovery longer and less successful. I'm all for healing up properly, so I haven't vacuumed since Abby was born.
Now, our house isn't spotless, but I really like when things are clean. I even like the word "clean". It just sounds good to me. Before Abigail, I vacuumed (well, took the vacuum around for a quick trip through the rooms) every day because every day I emptied the dirt catcher and it was full of dust and dirt and junk so I figured I should just keep vacuuming until I didn't see as much. Unfortunately, what happened was that I got used to our floors being nice and clean...and then I had to go on a six-week vacuuming break.
One of the things I notice about having to sit and nurse Abigail all the time is that I see the things that need to be done that I can't do right now. Vacuuming is apparent because I started seeing all the little crumbs and things on the floor. Ben vacuumed for me a few times, but he was stepping in the gap in lots of different ways and vacuuming every day is an awful lot to ask.
However, Abigail and I had our six-week checkup this week. Six weeks is the mark when moms can often resume normal household stuff like vacuuming. So even though yesterday was really only 5 weeks and five days since Abigail was born, I put her in the carrier and vacuumed and washed the kitchen floor.
I feel so much better now. Next I'll need to scrub the bathtub. Yikes. HOW do things get so dirty in such a short period of time, especially after I cleaned them so thoroughly just six weeks ago?
Hey, I knew this break was coming up and besides, if a little cleaning got everything in gear for Abby to come out, so much the better.
Abigail and I also went for our first walk. We haven't gotten a stroller yet (though we have enough gift cards to be able to just go get one, as it turns out - thanks to Turner and Myers families!) but Abigail is pretty happy in the Baby Bjorn carrier, so I bundled her up and took her for a brisk step around the block. Brisk because 45 degrees with a light breeze is still a little tough for Abby to handle with equanimity. She did pretty well, though, only catching her breath a few times and looking around with her usual expression of puzzled concentration until she fell asleep with her cold little nose on my collarbone. She's been pretty unsatisfied with anything except being walked or carried in the baby carrier over the past week, though she's been making up for the constant crabbing by tossing out the odd grin or two like the one Benjamin captured in this photo.
I'm really looking forward to seeing that face more often instead of the scrunchy red "I'm-not-too-happy-with-this-situation!" one.
There have been moments the past few weeks when I get a sudden feeling of panic that says, "Life is never going to be normal again!"
It's a very disconcerting feeling. I have to remind myself that things don't feel normal when they've changed and feelings are not only not reality, they change quickly. It didn't feel normal at first to live in any of the houses I've moved to, either, but after a while they all came to feel like home. Those all-important three months aren't up yet, which means I need to stay patient, keep doing what needs to be done every day, and wait for "feelings" to wake up to what is now a new normal: there's a baby in the house and routines have changed.
Every time Abby decides to cry for an hour at bedtime (seriously, she is a slow learner!), I wonder how strange and disorienting everything must feel to her. If life seems a little strange and abnormal to me, it's a complete and total change for her. I'm at least used to my surroundings, know what's going on, am familiar with all the people around me...and am used to breathing and eating, for goodness' sake. For Abigail, until five weeks ago she had never really been able to see anything, had never eaten, had never breathed, and didn't even know what it was like to stretch out without walls around her.
The amazing thing is how fast she adapts, all things considered. On Friday, she even began to smile at me in recognition. Five weeks ago, she didn't recognize my face when she saw it, though we'd been the closest of companions for almost ten months.
Of course, she might just be smiling because when I'm around she usually gets fed. This girl gets her enjoyment of food from both sides of the family and her waistline shows the effects. I weighed her for the first time in a few weeks and she's now coming in around 12 pounds (I say "around" because that was two days ago and I'm guessing she's gained even over that time). This means she's rapidly turning into a dumpling with a head, but that's okay. She turns out to be a kid who wants to move and that means as soon as she can crawl, she'll slim down quickly. For the moment, though, she's what Ben calls "a milk junkie" and she looks it. I notice I've switched from calling her "Peanut" to calling her "my little butterball", but since she's still smiling at me I guess she probably forgives the nickname.
In spite of my feeling that everything still isn't normal, certain things are gradually falling back into place. I'm getting the laundry done much more promptly, I've been cooking dinner again, we've gone to church and gotten our grocery shopping done, and Ben and I have gotten a little better at getting Grandma and Abigail taken care of in the morning. It does take us a while to get everything moving, though. I'm often not able to get to making breakfast for us until 10:30 or so, which often makes me feel like half the day's over before we've even gotten started. I'd really like to get us back to getting Grandma's breakfast out at the usual 9:00 and ours either with it or before it, as it used to be before the advent of Abby.
People keep asking us if we're getting any sleep, a question they seem to find deeply amusing though I can't figure out what exactly is so funny about parents of young infants getting a little sleep-deprived - that's a condition that brings sympathy under any other circumstances. We're sleeping pretty well at night and have the kind of schedule that's allowing us to sleep in; but somehow I'm tired a lot anyway. I think Ben is faring pretty well because he's usually sleeping through any midnight-Abigail-nursings, but his back has been sore lately and I think he's actually not getting as deep a sleep as usual. Still, he's wide awake into his usual evening hours while I have to take a nap in the afternoon to stay up with him - and naps and I have not really been on speaking terms since I was Abigail's age. I've wanted to follow the advice to sleep when Abby does, but I notice that I'm having trouble doing so - when she's taking naps it seems like I need to be making Grandma's lunch or answering the phone or getting dinner or so on and so forth. Another thing that I'll hopefully either figure out how to make routine or just won't need for long enough to get that far!
Grandma is still doing really well, and thankfully she really doesn't hear Abigail crying all that much. When she does, she still thinks Abby is in a terrible state and as her mother I should either be doing something about it or letting Grandma hold her so she can make Abigail quiet. This is a little tricky for me, since Grandma has some trouble holding onto Abigail when she's crying (why do babies always squirm when they cry, I wonder?) so I can't really hand Abby off to Grandma and take a break for a bit but have to pretty much stay right there so I can take Abby back when she gets to be too much of a handful after a minute or two. Grandma is pretty firmly convinced that she has the ability to make Abigail be quiet even if I can't, though, which makes for a delicate diplomatic situation. I really appreciate her help - and she's been doing all kinds of stuff like keeping an eye out for laundry that needs folding that I haven't gotten to yet - but how do you explain to your grandmother that if a mother can't get her baby to be quiet, it's probably going to be pretty tough for anyone else to?
Ah well. As I said, thankfully Grandma actually isn't hearing Abby when she cries most of the time. Especially at night when Grandma doesn't wear her hearing aids...
And Grandma says, "I just love that baby so much!"
I say, "Me too, Grandma."
"I bet you do," she says back.
We have this conversation about once a day. Not a bad thing to repeat over and over, eh?
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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