Before you say “you’ll miss this someday”

04-01-10 Maxwell (21) edit web ready

I was so excited when I finally was expecting my first baby. Conceiving was a hard journey, though that’s a story for another time. With my studies as an undergrad in Marriage and Family I believed having a baby would be nothing but a joyous time.

After giving birth to a baby boy, life felt wonderful. Yes, the sleep deprivation was an awakening, but I thought I could manage. I was just so happy to finally begin the path I had been looking forward to for years.

Four weeks after his birth everything changed. He cried constantly. I felt I could never console him. I would spend, what seemed like forever, getting him to sleep, and then would finally lay him down for him to wake.

Nights were filled with feeding, holding, rocking, and intermittent sleep. Days were spent holding, feeding, and trying to fit in a shower. Yes, I was a new mom with the false belief he shouldn’t cry, but his crying seemed far from the normal I had learned about and seen with other babies. He also appeared to be spitting up more than he was keeping down.

At his two month wellness check up I knew I needed to seek help from his pediatrician. Fortunately, it was visible to the doctor how fussy he was. His weight gain was also concerning. It may seem ironic, but I actually felt relieved when the pediatrician said he was one of the fussiest babies she had seen. This recognition made my worries and frustrations validated.

Adjustments were made to help him but changes came slowly. It wasn’t until he was nearly four months old when I began to see his demeanor change. During those two months of transition there were many sleepless nights and long days.

A major lesson I learned during that time was empathy versus sympathy. Many people would say “this too shall pass and one day you’ll miss it.” Even though they meant well, this truly didn’t help. In fact, it was not something I wanted to hear. It did not help me in that moment. Those comments only added guilt to my burdens.

Of course I wanted to enjoy the new experience of motherhood and my son’s first months of life, but the struggle I was going through made it nearly impossible. What I really needed to hear was; “it is hard, it’s exhausting, but you will get through it and be stronger from it.” Because, at that time, just having someone recognize what I was going through would have been comforting. Sure, it wouldn’t have changed the circumstance, but validating my feelings would have given me encouragement and helped me find reassurance. This would have been far more helpful than trying to help me see into the future.

poulsen family pictures with I am Michelle Gifford Photography bw-20
MichelleGiffordPhotography

Helping me to find joy in that current moment and circumstance was what I needed the most. My future fondness couldn’t help me at that time. And guess what? Even though I do miss, my now seven year old, when he was a baby, I don’t miss colic. I’m not sure I’ll ever miss having a colic baby. It’s a terrible infant phase which left me feeling robbed of the joyous first time experiences of motherhood, but it also provided me the insight to what I should say when others are going through a hard time.

Pick me up

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We have miles of trails right around the corner from our home. The kids jump on any opportunity to go hike them. Often our four year old starts out with lots of gusto, like she did on this day. She smiled and laughed as she ran down the path.

After about thirty minutes she started to tucker out and say her legs hurt. It just so happened to be when the trail was circling back up the hill. In an all out plea she sat down in the middle of the trail and cried, hoping Dad would pick her up.

Well he didn’t. He kept walking, hoping she would get up and keep moving. I lingered behind trying to motivate her, telling her we were half way done. I was unsuccessful at getting her to move but, shortly after, she saw red ants and got up quick.

Just ten or so minutes later she began complaining about her legs again. This time I took pity on her and encouraged my husband to pick her up. He swung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Later, when we got to more even ground, she began walking again and was able to end the hike in good spirits.

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I find myself like my four year old a lot. I’m excited to take on life and see what I can accomplish. But, all too often, I hit a hill. The hill typically isn’t anything significant. It can be something as small as a day-to-day task; you know, the ones you do over and over again. They’re the tasks when you first reached adulthood that were exciting, now they’re mundane.

Depending on my mental state, there are days when I want to call defeat. I want to sit right smack in the middle of the trail and yell, “no more!” Yes, I just admitted I would like to revert back to being a toddler. Playing all day, with the worst part being you have to take a nap; admit it, you would like to be a toddler some days too.

Lucky for me, I have extrinsic motivators (for Ella it’s ants, for me, her and her siblings), which help push me along. They give me a reason to get up and keep going. For instance, I have never been able to get up multiple times at night until my little “ants” came along. It’s crazy what they can get you to do.

Some days those cute ants aren’t enough though. I get to the point of “endure-until-it’s-over”. I no longer want to be hiking the once, exciting trail at all. I’m making it or rather, faking it, until it’s over. Unfortunately, that only gets me so far. Eventually, I hit the “can’t go any further”.

I’m sitting on the trail, the ants are biting my bum, and it’s painful, but I can’t find it in me to move. I’m too tired.

Almost every time I’ve hit this stage someone has been there to pick me up. It is my firmest testament that God lives and loves us.

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This is one of my very favorite quotes. It is the very reason why I am here today, why I have the desire to help others, and, ultimately, why I am able to experience joy.

Life is full of downhills and uphills. I have a long list of people who have helped me during those uphill times in my life. I am so grateful for that endless list of people.

Sorrow begets Joy

poulsen family pictures with I am Michelle Gifford Photography-16
photo: @iammichellegifford

It wasn’t too long ago I was experiencing disappointment after disappointment. In the midst of great sorrow, I was hit with a very strong impression to try for another baby. My first thought was, “that’s a sure way to throw me over the edge to insanity”. In fact, I was certain it would only cause me more misery. Guess what? It did . . . temporarily.

Why, when I chose to act on an impression, was I then given more anguish? Seems unfair, right?

It wasn’t unfair though. Hindsight, I actually received more than I gave. Sure, at the time I felt I couldn’t give anymore; I didn’t think I could physically be pushed any further. What I received were important life truths. The greatest truth being: when I give more than I think is even possible the reward becomes even that much greater.

Despite my miserable pregnancy, and still having many of those same disappointments present today, joy has been added to my life through Gracie. It’s not hard to see why, her smile is contagious.

Joy cannot be experienced without sorrow. Likewise, joy cannot be achieved alone. We are here on earth to help each other feel joy. Gracie came into my life when I needed her. She is just one of the many people who have fulfilled my needs and blessed my life with joy.

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