I was sick, exhausted, and chained to my couch. In a desperate attempt to save breastfeeding from the copious amount of medicine in my system, I was feeding Sam bottles and then pumping milk only to pour it down the drain. (I promise this is not a breastfeeding post.) Feeding the baby took 30 minutes, pumping took nearly an hour, and 90 minutes after finishing, I had to start the rigamarole all over again. After 48 hours of sitting on the couch and telling my kids, "I cannot play/help/hear you/get that for you/it will have to wait, I was not only sick, exhausted and chained - I was totally demoralized.
I had just enough time to make meals, but not enough time to clean them up. Enough time to do laundry, but not enough time to fold it. I watched my household, my kids behavior, and my attitude deteriorate before my eyes. I worked for hours only to pour the fruits of my labor down the drain, literally, in the form of very heavily medicated breast milk. Everything was in downward spiral. It was not sustainable, my milk supply was dwindling despite my best efforts and desperate prayers. My mind was hijacked by self-piteous, melodramatic thoughts like, "If only I had known that the last time I nursed him would be the last time!"
While Madeline was at school I tried to do my braille homework at my favorite little coffee shop. (I failed my last assignment so miserably my professor asked me to resubmit it. Apparently it's difficult to learn a language if you only work on it one afternoon every 3 weeks. Hmm.) I completed two practice lines before quitting because Sam was in such rare form. (Apparently if your hands are full for 60% of the day, your kids want actual attention for the other 40%. Hmm.)
On the way home I burst into tears and called my mom. I told her, "I'm quitting." "Quitting what?" she asked. "Everything," I said. "I have to quit breastfeeding so that I can interact with my kids. I have to quit braille because I can't keep up, not until Madeline is in school for longer and Sam starts sleeping anyway. But how is it that of all the things in life, those are the two that get the axe? Breastfeeding is one of the best things I can do for Sam and braille is one of the best things I can do for Madeline."
Then the pity-party really started. "Dan can't watch the kids in the evening because he's taking two masters classes this semester. What else can I cut out of my schedule? I don't watch TV. I don't shop. I haven't written anything in months. I don't sleep. I haven't showered or read my Bible in days. I don't exercise. I still haven't mailed my Christmas thank-you's. I cannot do this. I need a nanny. I need money to pay the nanny. I need time. I need sleep. I NEED TO HEAL." Waah, waah, waah.
Mom talked me down off the ledge. Then I got home, saw my breast pump, and Dan had to talk me down all over again. (Why am I telling you this? Not one of my finer moments. There are people in the world with actual problems, like, bigger-than-an-ear-infection problems. There are also people who have five kids.)
The next day I decided to adjust my expectations. I told Dan: I am not going to cook for 10 days. I am not going to clean, write, do braille, do anything for anyone, or go anywhere for 10 days. I am going to sit, pump, and play with my kids. Period. If you don't want to cook, bring me fast food. If you don't want to wash, go buy new underwear.
At 3:30 that afternoon I was feeling pretty good. "I am succeeding! I can do this! Only 9 days to go!" Then the phone rang: "Um, Mrs. Conner, I'm calling about Madeline's piano lesson. We were supposed to meet at 3 today and I was wondering if you might have forgotten..."
More tears. Calls to my mom. Turns out I cannot, in fact, do this.
That evening I dropped the kids off at church, but instead of going to service, I went home to have a chit-chat with Jesus. I'm pro-church even if you are having a bad day 90% of the time. But we really needed to have a conversation and anybody else's voice would have just gotten in the way.
I prayed. I read. I listened. I cried. I breathed. It was good. Then - I fell asleep.
I woke up at 8:00 (church ends at 7:30), totally disoriented. "It is so quiet in here. Where is everyone? Why am I laying on my stomach on the living room floor?" Then it clicked, and my blood pressure reached precarious levels. I ran over to the church to get my kids. The parking lot was empty and ALL THE DOORS WERE LOCKED.
I called Dan.
-Where are you?
-Taking kids home on the van.
-Where are our kids?
-You don't have our kids!?!?!?
-I fell asleep! All the doors are locked and the kids are inside!
The nursery ladies left 45 minutes late that night. I am going to buy them really nice Christmas presents next year.
We got home and Madeline said, "Mom, what's for dinner?" I looked at the counter covered in dishes, looked at the clock (almost 8:30), then I walked into my bedroom, curled up in a little ball on my bed, and cried. This is why it's important to marry a good man. So that he can make your child dinner while you are busy crying in the fetal position.
But this post isn't about my sickness, the difficulties of parenthood, or a defense of my own mental health ("really, I'm not unstable, it was just a hard week"). The point is recovery. But it's hard to see the beauty of recovery if you don't first see the sickness. Salvation is totally unimpressive if you're not being saved from something.
I woke up the next morning and there wasn't even a hint of daylight. The sky was the color of dark-washed denim, and in our backyard was the rainy-day lake we've I've grown to welcome.
The rain was loud, hard, unrelenting. I stood with my nose to the window pane and felt such unimaginable healing taking place, as if the raindrops were pieces of my soul falling back into place. It was a cleansing rain. I imagine I felt something like ancient peoples wandering in the desert must have, or like modern-day farmers do when they see rain on which their lives depend. I needed it in the same desperate way.
I made hot coffee, and sipped it slowly. Sitting there, watching the rain, I decided to let breastfeeding go. I breathed deeply and allowed myself to think on all the ways I could be intimate with my son that aren't breastfeeding. I unclenched my white-knuckled fists and let it go.
Then I went and got my toolbox.
I built Madeline's new bed and headboard. I dug out the furniture sliders and moved full dressers and bookshelves around her room until it suited me. I put together Sam's new ExerSaucer, which inexplicably requires 16 springs and 30-some-odd screws. (Sidenote: I believe that ExerSaucers are the reason for the ADD epidemic. This contraption is the definition of over-stimulation.)
Then I got out storage bins and labels. I lined the hallway with them, gutted my closet, sorted and labeled until each bin was overflowing. I filled the trunk of my car with things to give away.
I made pancakes for dinner.
Since that awful Wednesday I've pumped occasionally, and perhaps I'll still be able to nurse Sam once or twice a day when this is all over. I still haven't done my braille, but neither have I quit. I rescheduled Madeline's piano lesson. And while this post may not count as real writing, at least I'm putting words to page; my fingers aren't rusting over, even if my brain is. I haven't mailed my thank you cards from Christmas yet either, but Emily post can shut it. I'm letting her go, too.
I've been reminded this week that the things I want are not things I need. I do not need to breastfeed. I do not need to vacuum (this month). I do not need to blog. And the things I need are very often not things I want. This lesson itself, for example. I've had physical reactions to hating it so much, but I needed reminding.
God is piecing me back together with driving rain, sweat, tears, and Sam's dimply smile, which if the earth ever stops spinning, can make the world turn.