Weight: Part 3 of 4--Sara Elizabeth

(Photos courtesy of Jolly Tucker Photography.)

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory . . . . " --2 Corinthians 4:16-17

You may not be able to tell from the photos, but Sara Elizabeth has been a rather demanding infant. For the first few days after her birth, I thought maybe, just maybe, I would have a placid, flexible baby who would soon be sleeping on her own through the night. I thought I deserved one like that after Micah, the child who didn't sleep for 8 months. What I thought I deserved and what I got were two very different things. Little did I know, Girlfriend was just making sure I wouldn't give her back before revealing her true colors.

The week after I lost half of my weight in blood, I began to notice some troublesome patterns forming. First of all, she liked to eat every 60 to 90 minutes, which roughly translates into a schedule of eat, burp, diaper change, eat, etc. I was doing almost nothing but feeding this child! When Micah needed to eat or use the bathroom, I would often have to lug Sara with me, managing my tasks with one arm. As if her outrageous feeding demands weren't exhausting enough, she refused to sleep at night. For two weeks straight, my sleeping hours were from 8:30 to 11:30 pm and from 6:30 to 8:00 am. Two naps do not equal the rest of a good night's sleep. When she was three weeks old, I gave up the dream of a baby who would miraculously start sleeping at night, and we began to co-sleep in the bed in her nursery. Sleep transformed me into a new woman. More than two months later, the two of us are still in that bed, leaving the master bed (because it is a water bed and therefore unsafe for young babies) to Brandon and Daisy. And then there was the colic . . . Micah had colic, so I was hoping we could manage to escape it a second time. It turns out that I'm very good at guessing wrongly. When Micah was a baby, his screaming hours were reasonable . . . . textbook even--3 to 6pm. From week two, she screamed every single night from about 5 or 6pm until around midnight. No lie. Everyone in the house was suffering from anxiety. Micah would have full out anxiety attacks most nights of the week. He would wake, crying out in a panicked wail until someone went to him. Often, I would spend the evening with Sara, and Brandon would tend to our son. It was seven kinds of awful. Car rides in the evening were hellish. A thirty minute trip could take 2 hours because we would have to stop several times to console our children, one the cause of the other's inconsolation. These things continued for weeks.

Sara was three weeks old when she had her first bout of illness. She caught a cold from Micah. She was horribly congested, which affected her eating and sleeping. There isn't much one can do medication wise for an infant of three weeks, so we just suffered through it.

As bad as these things were, they were manageable. We survived. Miraculously, I was even happy. I say that my happiness has been miraculous for several reasons. Having a baby can often throw a woman into a deep depression, especially someone like me who struggles with depression anyway. I almost always have seasonal depression. It had come to be "that time of year." I had three strikes against me with the fairly difficult circumstances with which I was contending, but I was inexplicably content. Sure, I was loving being a full-time stay at home mom, taking care of my babies without interruption, but that couldn't be the reason I was doing so well. Something wonderful and mysterious was happening. My happiness shared a strange correlative relationship with the difficulty of my circumstances. Here's the thing, though--while my happiness seemed to share a relationship with my circumstances, my circumstances had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Little by little, day by day, my relationship with the Lord was blooming. I had been craving a special quiet time to hide away and pray each day. I wasn't getting it, of course, so I started to pray while I was doing housework. I prayed out loud so Micah would know that I was talking to Jesus, and that he wasn't to interrupt unless he needed something or had something very important to say. I wanted a quiet half hour to devote to Bible study, but sacrificing the sleep wasn't really an option. I was too sleep deprived as it was. Instead, I slowly learned to make the most of the sitting time I had during Sara's feedings to read, meditate, study or memorize God's word. My time with the Lord was no longer under the structure or stricture of a rushed half hour where I would hurriedly try to check off all the intended items on my nice, neat, Christian girl, to-do list. Instead, my time with the Lord was becoming my entire day.

And then, a grueling gut-check came: a test to see whether or not I was all in with this God thing or if I was just happy to do it while things were "manageable."

Sara began to have a troubling cough after the start of the New Year. She also began projectile vomiting at several feedings. I knew it couldn't be allergies because she was a breastfed baby. Nothing had changed in my diet, so I knew the problem must have had something to do with her. Brandon and I decided she should go to the doctor.

Every winter, a few passed around illnesses strike fear in the hearts of mothers of very young children everywhere, and Sara had caught one of them--RSV. I knew of several young infants who had to be hospitalized for this virus, so I was rightly afraid. In addition to RSV, Sara had a double ear infection. On January 6th, we began a medication routine that included an antibiotic, a probiotic, and an at-home breathing treatment. Micah was also sick with a sinus infection. I had to take care of two sick babies during Brandon's busiest time of year at work. I was worried. I was stressed. But I took my cares to the Lord, and He took care of me.

For awhile, Sara seemed to get better. Out of sheer stupidity and ignorance, we stopped her breathing treatments, thinking she was well. We got out of the house for a couple of days one week in the middle of January, just long enough to soak in a little bit of much-needed social interaction and to spread our illness to another child. Then, the RSV came back with a vengeance. I took Sara to the doctor for a third time in the span of a few days. She was much worse. She was put on round-the-clock breathing treatments of two kinds, which required me to get up at 3am every night. She was also put on a third round of antibiotics, an oral steriod, an antihistamine and two prescription creams for the terrible diaper rash she had developed from all of the antibiotics. This time, I was truly alarmed. I prayed desperately that God would keep us out of the hospital.

For days and days, I spent most of my time giving medications that were spit out or puked up, administering treatments, changing diarrhea diapers, cleaning up vomit after each of Sara's feedings, and consoling and crying with my baby girl whose stomach was cramping violently due to the antibiotic. I was also trying to give Micah some much-needed attention, keep the laundry going, make sure we had clean dishes and food to eat. From the moment my feet hit the floor each morning, I was running all day long.

During this time, I felt completely overwhelmed. I was exhausted. I was grumpy. I was stressed out. I was lonely. I was anxious about my daughter. Rather than let these feelings slowly drive me bonkers, I turned these feelings into prayers.

There is a passage from the Psalms that I memorized when Micah was a baby.

"Trust in the Lord, and do good.
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
and He will act."
--Psalm 37: 3-5

I made a conscious decision to completely trust Him, whatever happened. I could rest in the fact that God is faithful and good. If we were to go to the hospital, He wouldn't leave us to go through it alone. I recalled all of the times He had proven Himself faithful in the past, and memory by memory, my fears were put to rest. The word "commit" in verse 5 actually means to "roll your cares upon" or "repose in." I visualized a physical rolling of my cares upon my God, my Rock, and as I did so, God filled me with peace and joy. While I very much desired for my child to be well, my chief desire came to be constant fellowship with Him, and boy, did He DELIVER!!!! I find it almost amusing that what David was telling me to delight in became the desire of my heart. It also became clear to me that while, yes, I desperately needed my child to be well, my greatest need was His constant presence in my life. This, my greatest need, He tended to first. And I am so abundantly grateful that He did.

My days have been long and difficult, but also full of joy and peace. I haven't been getting much sleep, but I am being given rest. As the pressure has increased, I have leaned harder into Jesus. And God has been good. He has practically pummeled me with encouragement.

A couple of weeks ago, I began following two blogs by two sisters in Christ who were undergoing their own suffering. One is facing an undiagnosed illness that will probably affect the rest of her life. This girl PREACHES, and she speaks my language! Check her out, and be encouraged! The other blog is authored by a girl who became a widow at the age of 21, about a year after she and her husband were married. She is incredibly transparent and genuine. You should also check out her testimony here. God has also sent me scriptures, songs and books to speak truth and comfort into my life. My biggest source of comfort has been the old hymn, "Be Still My Soul--"

"Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide,
Through every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still my soul, thy best and heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end . . .
Be still my soul, the winds and waves still know
the voice who ruled them when He dwelt below."

I just love that, especially the last line.

One month into Sara's illness, she is much better. She finished up her antibiotic yesterday. We probably have another month of breathing treatments. We are still in the thick of it, but no longer in any danger of an extended hospital stay. For now, we are staying in, trying to keep the germs to ourselves and avoid any new ones. The other day, I noticed that somewhere in the middle of our RSV saga, Sara outgrew her colicky stage. Praise the Lord! In a few weeks, she will be old enough to sleep train. Sometimes, she makes it 2 hours or more between feedings. Things are getting better, but in no way do I plan to let go of what I have gained. It is simply too good.

Not that I could let go, anyway. Now, more than ever, I am having to to cling to Jesus. Sara hasn't been the only one fighting for her health, and she is now doing much better than I am.

Happy 3 Month Birthday to my sweet baby girl!

. . . . to be continued in Part 4: Concerning Death and Dreams