Saturday, July 4, 2015

Embracing Reality

Penny and I danced for 2 1/2 hours straight- not the romantic side to side swaying of eighth graders, not the arms apart kind of slow dancing, not a slow waltz,  not even your typical wedding dancing- but an all out turn the red lights on it's after midnight Saturday in the club kind of dancing. We bounced up and down and spun circles for so long my calves burned and my arms were on fire.

Beyoncé has nothing on Audrey and Isabel's hair flips. The boys all have moves that totally makes me question what goes on in this house especially knowing their home-schooled and we don't have television! I even watched Charlotte move her arms and fingers in a way that made me question her Cerebral palsy diagnosis.

I looked down at the six week old baby with big bright blue eyes staring intently at me..... And while Pharell with his sick beats jammed in the background,  for a moment everything was perfect.

I now interrupt this blog post six weeks late to share the readers digest version of child number seven.

Penelope Ellen Kolanowski was born at home May 7 at 5:15 AM. She decided to grace us with her presence three weeks early and was a little peanut weighing just over 6 pounds.

The day before she was born a wonderful friend of mine stopped by and helped me put a third coat of Tungoil on our newly installed hardwood floors in the living room. She listened to me pour my heart out about how scared I was to have another baby. I had been feeling pretty crappy and told her to keep praying that this little girl waited until her due date of May 25th because we had so very much to try and get done before then. I chatted on and on about how excited I was to go to my favorite garden center tomorrow and get my flowers and veggies. She even brought me a gift knowing how very much I cherished my garden.

All was normal for the evening, but somewhere around midnight that night my water broke. For a good hour I was in denial that this couldn't possibly be happening three weeks early. I remembered how intense my other two births were so I decided to get in a nice warm bath tub and drink a special glass of wine. And there in the middle of the night I cried intensely and poured my heart out to God. And for one hour it was like Jesus sat right there next to me.

I cried because I knew having a baby with these six kids would be impossible. I knew I only had one set of arms but would now have three children that literally daily needed my arms to get dressed to be fed to be bathed to go to the bathroom- and then four more who would need these arms for hugs and wiping cuts and scrapes, for art projects and dinners prepared- six little people already needed me so much and a new little baby was going to need me at all hours all day.  She would need to eat all the time and be held all the time she would cry all the time..... So I told Jesus I couldn't do it.  I told him after my water broke and just moments literally before she was born into this world.  I told him I was an utter failure. And I sobbed uncontrollably. 

After my confession the first thought that popped into my head was how lucky I was to be sipping on such a delicious wine. I thought about what a good God we had that provided just the right soil conditions with just the right amount of water and sunshine with skilled workers and technology that put this wine all the way from Argentina in a bottle and I sit sipping it. A smile slowly cracked my lips. For a moment everything was perfect.

It is now 10:30 at night and the dance party is over. A husband and six children are in bed. The vacuum cleaner is still running and the words of Frankie are quietly playing over the whooshing of the vacuum. 

For six weeks I've held her. I've barely set her down. She's nursed almost every hour sometimes more. Most days I don't get dressed. I am lucky to get my contacts in. Most days someone has had to either help us with dinner or bring us dinner. I have looked up the definition of sleep and I'm convinced that Webster's dictionary lies.

I do not feel pretty. I feel guilty. I feel guilty because I am not giving my other children the attention they need. There's no more 8 o'clock book reading because little Miss Penny from the hours of five till midnight has decided to practice voice training. In the words of a friend she has altitude sickness and does not want to be set down. I've missed therapy for the kids that go for almost the last six weeks. In addition to me having a hard time with this baby, some of the kids are struggling too. Literally I am mommy number five to some of them and Penelope is a threat. They've had to make sacrifices too. I miss the sunshine. I miss being in my garden. I miss the life that I once complained was so hard. Only twice have I been in the car with Penny somewhere. She fusses and cries and is so discontent. 

I received a text today from someone saying they had a friend who was dealing with postpartum depression and asked if I had dealt with that after any of my kids. 

Depression is real. It hurts and it's hard. It makes you want to hide away from the entire world. I have felt lost and lonely. I have felt like I can't possibly go on one more day- even one more hour. I've wished I could close my eyes and when I open them every thing is different. I've asked myself questions like why don't people understand? Why do I feel like I'm the only one? And then after I asked the questions I have dealt with shame and guilt. Guilt over not being a good mommy. Guilt over not being a good wife. Hours after Penny is still crying I have cried feeling like it's my fault. I've cried feeling like my daughter is the only one that's ever dealt with this- I start listing nieces and nephews and friends kids that to my knowledge are perfect and happy and I feel like they all must be throwing it in my face about what a terrible person I am. I feel like everyone hates me because I can't make it to an event or party or Church. I start to feel like everything has strings attached. I feel so beat down that I am on the brink of tears all the time.

Amidst all of these random stories and ramblings there are three things that I'm holding onto.

1. Embracing reality. This is my life right now. There is all kinds of practical wisdom and advice regarding depression - stuff like diet and nutrition,  getting good sleep, exercise, enhancing your gut bacteria, high omega-3's, having help, having a support group, having people to talk to.... The list could go on and on and while all of that is true, important and valid. These things are things I have done and do and I find myself still struggling.

Embracing reality- well.

I need to learn how to handle these hard times sadness and depression and I need to learn to be in this place and to do so well. Which personally I have felt in this culture is counter intuitive. Somehow I have believed the lie that there is no such thing as being sad in a biblical way or being depressed in a biblical way or being in turmoil in a biblical way. Somehow I have believed that the American way and the biblical way is to put a smile on and act happy all the time. And that couldn't be further from the truth. The Psalms in particular are full of emotions and one emotion in particular being depression. Entire books have been written on just Psalm 42 and depression. John Piper has an absolutely wonderful sermon on the subject that I love and have watched and read over and over again. (see below)

I could share all the ways this has practically helped me, however the point for me to remember is that there is a way to embrace sadness and do so well. That there is a way to embrace pain and to do so well. That there is a way to embrace reality- well.

2. Remembering the little moments.  The dance party and the good wine, those memories I like to reflect on often, and by reflecting on those little snipets of time, that are near perfect, I find I train myself to get in the habit of looking for those little snipets more often. Those two memories are so full of happiness and goodness that they help drown out the struggles. They make the struggles worth it.  Those little moments are really big moments because of how big of a deal they have become to me.

3.  My Identity.  This is the big one.  This is the one for me that I could do all the right things, all the right nutrition, all the right friends, make sure I embrace reality well, and remember the little moments... but... it's the big... but... If I am not secure in where my identity is then nothing else matters.  And, there is only one place that my identity is secure, and that place is in Jesus.

Example:  I find myself getting stressed out to go to the boys baseball game with Penny.  I start thinking of the crying in the car, and how to handle Isabell and Charlotte and Penny.  I find anxiety creeping in with figuring out breastfeeding her.  And then it happens.  I start to think about the things well meaning people will ask me... "Is she sleeping through the night?"  "Can't you put her down yet?"  I start worrying about the looks people might give me as I nurse her in the bleachers.  I start worrying about what people might say about the bags under my eyes, or my lack of makeup and a hairstyle..... 


Why do these thoughts creep into my mind?  Because I am letting "who I am" be found in things like how nice I look or how happy my baby is... instead of the finished work of Jesus... instead of His perfect life... somehow I get things all mixed up and start thinking it's my life that defines me.  

Galations 2:20 It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me...

My life and what I do or don't do does not define me.  My identity is in Christ's life, who now lives in me.

It's sorta become my mantra right now.  My identity is in Christ.  I am getting ready to get out of the car and go the boys game, I take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.  Someone stops over, and I'm a mess, still in my pajamas, bed head, and no makeup, I stop take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.  I walk out and look at the pathetic excuse of a garden I have this year, I take a deep breath and repeat to myself- my identity is in Christ.
Things are hard right now. 
I am learning to embrace it-well. (More on that subject later.)
I am remembering and finding the little moments that are near perfect.
My identity is in Christ. So much so that I share a picture of me. No makeup, bags and circles under my eyes, a baby screaming in my ear, a messy canning project in the background, hair not fixed, pjs still on, but its okay.

My identity is in Christ.