Last April, a visiting friend asked, “So, how did you survive the winter?” I didn’t have the guts to tell the whole truth, which is that, “we didn’t.” I mean, we’re still alive and all, but the winter of 2014-2015 was really, really hard. We handled it poorly. As summer was coming to a close this year, I was already tensly anti-anticipating the cold and isolation, knowing that I hadn’t really recovered from last winter. I’m going to tell you this story to help with hope. There is hope! (And please, don’t pitty me. I do that plenty for both of us. Plus, pity is futile, so I’ve stopped that. I’m trying to stop that. I’m sort-of stopping that. ;))
By Thanksgiving of 2014, the situation was this: we had a very new (to us) home that wasn’t homey, an even newer baby, a toddler who was waking at o’dark thirty every night, several home issues including one which kicked us out of the house for 2 weeks, a crazy new diet for this nursing mom that seemed medically necessary yet impossible, and a baby who screamed – ear shatteringly – every time I put him down.
So by the time the new year rolled around, you can imagine that I was ready for some positive changes. After all, the fabled “fourth trimester” was over. I had finally accepted that the darn period may actually exist, and that was a big step for me. So it seemed that three months of insanity post partem was the maximum that I could endure. I would have preferred three days, but I had served my three month time and was ready for freedom. Justice demanded it! What happened instead, within the first week of 2015, is that wee little babe had blood in his urine, and then croup, and became even more fussy, then a weekend of projectile vomit (following a weekend when I thought our toddler had a seizure (she didn’t)), etc. In those 7 and a half weeks I took our baby to roughly 13 medical appointments and tests. We could find nothing seriously wrong with him.
But, as I said, we did pull through. Here are some things that got us through. I’ve mentioned some before:
- Music, especially missionarymusic.org. I can’t say enough about how awesome this stuff is.
- Ducks. We prayed for ducks. And they came. One day in early Winter, when our year and a half old was in a “ducks!” phase, we saw two real, live ones in our neighbor’s yard. She was desperate to see them again. So, being the perfect religious mother that I am (not), I said we should pray for Jesus to send them back. And we did. And He did!!! They came almost every day that winter, and Rebecca watched them for long periods. This summer my neighbor told me just how many, many, many pounds of corn it took to keep them coming. I wish I had told him it also took prayer…It seriously built my faith.
- Bubbles. We were also in a “bubbles!” phase with our toddler, so I girded up my loins, grabbed an awesome bib that holds water, garbed her in it, and turned on the water in the kitchen sink. I could nurse the baby and keep an eye on her, and she only fell off the chair twice! Plus, we occasionally got real, live dishes washed while she played in the “bubbles!”
- Not the basement. I thought we would play in our very nice basement family room more often, but we didn’t. I guess we were spending enough time upstairs with “ducks!” and “bubbles!” that we didn’t need to, but I still can’t quite figure this one out. But it’s a fact for which I am grateful, since I have never been able to make myself enjoy basements. Even very nice basements.
- Our sweet girl had been through so much transition, what with the new home and new brother and all, that it was perfectly natural for her to stop napping. Except that I pretended that she never stopped. We followed the same routine and time frame, and eventually she began to sleep during nap time again. I’m learning the power of creating my own definitions. ; ) (Please stop me when this gets out of hand. I’m enough of a student of history to know that re-defining things can get dangerous.)
- I sometimes spent special time with our toddler while the baby slept, and vice versa.
- Getting out the door. We didn’t leave the house often enough, but when we did, the hassle of getting out the door was totally worth it.
- Forgetting. There must be other things we did to survive that winter. I can’t remember them though! And you know, even though I wish I could for anyone’s sake who needs more ideas, it’s a probably a grace from God. As Elizabeth said in Pride and Prejudice ‘…in these cases, a good memory is unpardonable’. A person can’t regret what they don’t remember. I spend a lot less energy regretting that hard time because I’ve forgotten much of it.
One thing I do remember: we isolated ourselves more than we needed to. I stayed home when my kids or the kids we wanted to visit were even possibly ill; I avoided libraries and museums, and it didn’t work. We still got lots of illnesses. Something I’ve done differently this year is talk with other moms to come to agreement on when we should, and should not, expose our little kids to each other. In general we stay home if there’s coughing and/or fevers and/or vomiting, but we figure we will always be dealing with at least one snotty-nosed kid at all times, so it’s really ok to bring them around in that case.
Hope this helps. Now that the holidays are over, I feel it takes more work to keep cheer in our hearts and home. And, take heart, even in this frozen tundra of Minnesota, I can already tell that they days are getting longer. Inevitably, Spring will return.