“He fits under my chin. Thank you, God, that he still fits under my chin.” Those were the words that sang forth from my heart the other night as I was falling asleep, listening to Little Man take to rest like it is his job. Because at long last it is.
My son is almost 2 now. I can’t believe it. I have no idea where the time has gone. Much of it has been a blur. I know that is true for a lot of moms, but it was a blur that I could not have fathomed or imagined even if someone had tried to prepare me for it. A true whirlwind that has challenged and changed me in ways I didn’t think I wanted, and that I resisted.
As I hinted at in my last post, my pregnancies tend to be rough. I love the feeling of being pregnant, but for whatever reason my body doesn’t handle the first 25 weeks well at all. Since my son was my second pregnancy I thought there was no way the sickness could be more severe than the first. I held on to that thought as the first weeks of pregnancy crawled by. I kept telling myself I can just decide not to be so sick. But I couldn’t. It was worse. The sickness was more severe, and I felt defeated at times. I couldn’t care for my 2 year old. What have I gotten myself into?
It was a really hard 20 weeks, but we got through it with so much prayer and wonderful help that came (from miles away) right when we needed it – not early and not late. Just what we needed when we needed it. When I hit the 25 week mark and rallied (at last!), I clung to the thought that “most people say second babies are more laid back. Easier. Chill.” Yes. That sounds wonderful. And so I hoped for that.
Little Man came along and he was wonderful. He is all things wonderful. Family life was once again new and even more delightful, but he was far from the second baby that “most people” have. He was harder than my first; needed more than my first. But he was oh so sweet. These hard things will work themselves out, I thought. But in many ways they didn’t. He didn’t take to longer stretches of sleep. His weight gain was fine on the charts, but knowing that I was feeding his ever 1.5 hours day and night – long past the newborn stage – he should have had more to him. I started to lose the feeling that “I can do this”. He would scream, I would feed him, he would fall sleep – for a little bit and very rarely for hours on end – he would wake up screaming, repeat the cycle. If we got in what I considered to be a ‘good feeding’ without him completely passing out, he would (often) vomit all over me.
I was in such a fog from lack of sleep and caring for my daughter as well, and I was so consumed by meeting Little Man’s needs that it took me until he was 4 months old to string all those details together and realize that there was more to the situation than these things just being ‘who he was’. And besides, wasn’t he looking a bit thinner? I would ask others. I asked my pediatrician. Nope, on the charts he still looks fine. He’s fine. I would breathe a sigh of relief. Next minute Little Man would scream again and I would look at his tiny little body. No, he’s not fine. There is less to him. Can anyone else see this?
Not too many days later, I was taking in some reading and I ran across a post by Mommypotamus about tongue ties and lip ties. Before I even finished the post, I knew this was it. This was it! And it’s not normal. I had cried out to the Lord and he provided, just as He has every time. In fact, upon reading the article I realized that he had provided before that moment. It just took me a while to catch on. It was not the first time I read the article. I had come across it weeks earlier, still having failed to put the pieces together thinking, “Thank God! At least not dealing with this! That sounds so rough….whew.” And as I thought further, I remembered the lactation consultant who came in the morning after Little Man was born. Little Man was nursing with great commitment, which to me made it seem like everything was going exceedingly well. The consultant asked me outright if I thought maybe he had a tongue tie. I said absolutely not! Do you not see how eager he is to eat? Don’t worry, we’ve got this.
Fast forward a week after reading the post on ties, and I was right back in the office of that same lactation consultant and she was gently guiding me and helping me sort things out. We identified that Little Man was very tied. He had posterior and anterior tongue ties as well as a lip tie. That poor guy was so tight and restricted that whatever compensation we had used to nurse through the first 4 months of his life was not going to work any longer. The lactation consultant referred us to a dentist and myofacial specialist hours away from home. We were able to Skype for consultation and have Little Man’s procedure done by the time he was 6 months old. It was quite traumatic, but yielded almost immediate results.
With rehab, both at home and a few sessions with a PT, we finally got into a groove with nursing somewhere between 9 and 12 months. There were some really dark moments for me. I had moments where I was convinced that being a mom of 2 was somehow beyond me. Moments of near desperation. I felt so alone and isolated. Though nursing greatly improved, sleeping never did. During these months I was up a lot at night, which meant I would spend a lot of time thinking. I would think about my pregnancy….I had never wanted to know the feeling of being so human, so imperfect, so dead-set against enduring what was put before me in order to welcome life into this world. I would think about my desire to have an ‘easier’ baby…I didn’t want to know what it was to feel so torn between a toddler who still genuinely needed me to be so very present and an infant who was in some sort of agony night and day. I would think about the fact that I didn’t want to know how to navigate a rough, and seemingly impossible nursing relationship with my baby. I didn’t want to know how to do these things. But I do know how. And initially these experiences seemed to carry a darkness with them that I was afraid would cause negative shadows to remain in my experience of motherhood, breeding fear and discouragement in the face of adding new life to our family down the road. Thankfully, “when life feels like a mess, there’s something we can do.” Many around me listened, shared, prayed and listened some more. I have also been able to help others identify tongue and lip ties in their new babies. Bit by bit the shadows have been lifting.
Well, life has chugged along, and now we are in a new city transitioning into a new way of life. When we arrived I was still nursing almost-2-year-old Little Man. He wasn’t ready to stop and I wasn’t about to force that on him when we fought so hard to get where we were with nursing. We have been living with friends and sharing a sleeping space as a family. Little Man’s traditional waking of 3 times a night became 5 times a night after the move. After 3 months I just couldn’t do it any more. I had approached weaning him once before moving and once after moving. Both experiences which sent him into sheer panic and anxiety. It just didn’t feel right. We went back to nursing. However, just two weeks ago, in the middle of the night, I was asking the Lord to help me find a solution to the sleep/nursing combination. I just couldn’t figure out how to wean him peacefully.
I had glanced through an article just the day before where the writer recommended that if one was ever to wean a child before the child chose to be weaned, wean gently. Gently. That resonated with me. But I thought I had been gentle in my approaches before, and they hadn’t work. Back to that night two weeks ago….The Lord nudged me to start right then and there…in the middle of the night….and to aim for 24 hours. So I began. Little Man was crying. I told him there was no more milk. I told him I was so sorry that was so upsetting for him. I told him I loved him a hundred times over and I held him for the rest of the night saying that any time he wanted to be held, I would drop what I was doing and hold him – really hold him – until he was done being held. He cried some, but I could see it in his face that somehow he understood. 24 hours turned into 48, then into 72 and the longer he went without nursing, the longer he slept both at nap times and bed times. He now takes solid naps, sleeps through the night, and eats way more food than I ever thought a Little Man his size could eat. And best of all we hug a lot. I hold him a lot. A lot of brief, fleeting moments, but they are such sweet moments.
I have noticed that when Little Man hugs, he hugs with all that he has. He totally buries himself into me and exhales so completely that all his cares in the world blow right out of his little body and he is at peace with me in that moment, just needing me in that moment. Curled up in a Little Man ball and tucked under my chin.
We have been through so much and we have moved on from most things ‘baby’, but when he comes to find me and I drop what I am doing, he tucks himself right under my chin. Thank you, God, that he still fits under my chin. And I plan to soak that in for as long as he will let me.