Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

dust yourself off 2

Today I caught Sienna attempting to lift herself up on the step to the hallway for the first time. She’s 9 months old this week and nearly crawling. Her current favourite movements are the downward dog and the army crawl. It’s so interesting to watch how fast she has developed. I find myself amazed at how she manages to squirrel herself under or over something, in order to reach the item she is determined to have. It’s like she has an innate determination to try. No one has told her she can, and likewise no one has told her she can’t.

Sienna has an instinct to roll over, to crawl and to walk. Of course as parents, once Rich and I sense that she is attempting a new phase of development, we start to encourage it. Some things, like talking, she will first observe and then attempt, and hopefully learn to effectively communicate (bearing in mind I’m from Stoke and Rich is from Wellingborough!)

All of this got me pondering, “I wonder when we learnt to stop trying; to give up?”. I’m sure this question has been comprehensively explored by psychologists and sociologists, and is affected by many factors, but it occurred to me that we are seemingly born with an instinct to try. So if this is true, why do we stop trying in some areas? This must be a learnt behaviour.

I guess when we learn to reason, we can reason ourselves out of trying and vice versa. This isn’t always a bad thing. If you have been endlessly pursuing the apple of your eye to no avail, maybe there should come a point when you ease off the stalker vibes and take the hint, or maybe you should continue to believe (pester), driven by a romantic vision of driving off into the sunset together. This is where wisdom kicks in. Obviously, there are some things we should let go of, but in the pursuit of good dreams, and healthy, life-affirming, exciting goals, we have to know that it’s inbuilt within us to try and try again. 

Sienna’s development doesn’t happen overnight, and just because she has the instinct to do something, it doesn’t mean she achieves it straight away. On the contrary, it takes quite a few attempts, and therefore quite a few failures, sometimes mini tantrums, and often a few knocks. However, her little determined spirit pushes her to try again until she reaches her goal.

Reflecting on some lyrics from a song by the late Aliyah, (*sings in head), “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again..” perhaps my 9 month old daughter could teach us a little about how God designed us and intended us to live. I realise life doesn’t always afford everyone the encouragement of those around them, the perfect circumstances or maybe the great results we had all hoped for, but if we were designed to try, with an inbuilt determination to succeed, maybe we can hit the reset button, dust ourselves off and try again. Just like a computer that has been hit by a virus, maybe we could reboot the system, rediscover our factory settings, and override all of the negative experiences that have dampened our hope and convinced us that we shouldn’t try anymore.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but I take courage when watching Sienna try, and try again. Every now and then she gets upset, I comfort her, dust her off, reset her balance, and off she goes.

For me, seeking God is my reset button. When life becomes overwhelming, or I feel like I’ve failed one too many times, I set time aside to restore my settings, realign my core convictions, let courage take hold of my heart and determine to try again. The good news for me is that I’m always met with grace; undeserved favour. Not only am I met with grace but I’m also empowered by it.

Perhaps the greatest reset of all time, was when Jesus died on the cross to erase the debt of my failures, past, present and future, and rose again to show me the way to victory and my future. I take heart in the everlasting opportunity to reset and try again.

Hebrews 4 v 16

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”

Psalm 138 v 3

“When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me.”

If my creator, the creator of the Universe, the one who designed me, the one who created my factory settings and wrote the manual, has given me a fresh start, then He can do it for you too.

Dust yourself off and try again.

“Colic – come at me bro!”

COLIC, COME AT ME BRO' BLOGcopy

Colic is definitely not my “bro”, nor my “sis” or any other relative for that matter, and is actually more foe than friend. So why the title? Well, living in South East London, I’m acquainting myself with the colloquial lingo, (who am I kidding?!)

According to my parents, I suffered from colic myself as a baby. If you have any experience of a baby with colic, you know it’s a miracle that any parent and baby survives past the newborn stage.

When I look at other newborns that lie contentedly in their parent’s arms, or on the floor, in a pram or Moses basket etc. I look on in wonder and disbelief. This was not our experience of our fresh-out-of-the-womb, Heaven-sent little package.

Quite a few health professionals were in disbelief that Sienna had lost 17% of her birth weight within the first week; all of her other health checks had gone really well. After a recommendation from our health visitor, we took a trip to A & E. This resulted in a 48-hour plus stint in the hospital. After being unable to insert a cannula into her tiny arm, (after what felt like an eternity of trying), the doctor said that we should try to feed Sienna some formula. Fortunately, after a strict 48 hours of planned feeding from both myself and the bottle, our gorgeous little poppet had gained enough weight to be discharged. We thought, ‘finally, we can start to enjoy being new parents.’

Enter colic. With hours of relentless crying, sometimes screaming, often in inconsolable discomfort, we could never put Sienna down between the early afternoon and late evening, without her becoming hysterical. It’s one of those things that you can’t imagine until you’re in it. Rich’s greatest hope for parenthood had been scaled back to, “I just want to be able to hold my daughter without her crying.” Mine, “I just need to get through the hours that Rich is at work.”

On the back of 9 months of cooking our child and all that this entails, followed by a pretty traumatic birth; labouring for 4 days with little sleep, a late epidural, meconium in the waters, and an emergency C-section, colic at a few weeks old was certainly an unwelcome guest.

Colic seems to be a mostly undefinable and untreatable phenomenon that some babies get. Both child and parents somehow have to struggle through this period, which can last anywhere between a few weeks to a few months, until it decides it’s had enough of tormenting its victim; the baby grows out of it, the tummy matures.

After trying Infacol, gripe water and taking other advice on how to manage this unrelenting issue, we were at the end of our resources both practically and emotionally. 

If you were to apply for a job with a high level of responsibility, with no prior experience, the chances of being asked for an interview are slim to zero. Yet as new parents, here you are with the most precious treasure on the planet, with zero experience (at least for us anyway), 24-hour responsibility and very little sleep. Now add on top of that, the phenomena that is colic. Argh!

We mustered every bit of strength within us and both Grandma and Grammie to try to ease the discomfort of our special little one. We discovered a few tricks, that eventually, sometimes, 50% of the time, worked every time (not the best odds!) It was proving too difficult to manage. People tell you that the first 6 weeks are the hardest, meaning to be helpful, but 6 weeks feels like a lifetime away when every day is a battle.

Friends wanted to come and visit and drop off food parcels and see our beautiful little girl, but I was barely getting through each day. Walking to the park or the shop was often a cause for mild anxiety, with us hoping and praying she didn’t have an episode in the store. To see your baby cry in distress for at least 6 hours a day is less than fun, in fact, it is an absolute nightmare. I would dread her being awake (how sad is that!) beyond 2pm because that is when it seemed to hit the worst. It’s in those moments that you realise how out of control and on edge you are. 

One day, with emotions, hormones and physical discomfort chipping away at my positive outlook, topped off with a good dose of sleep deprivation, I’d had enough. Rich had gone back to work, and on this particular day he’d had to leave at 5am and wasn’t due to be home until around 11pm. The morning, as usual, was pretty good, with Sienna having some lovely awake time and napping on schedule, confidence built and I thought, “I can do this!” It turns out I couldn’t. I tried every trick we knew, the bouncy ball, the rocking, the gentle shushing, the singing, the feeding, the Infacol, and so the list goes on, and nothing was working. Sitting on that bouncy ball I cried out to God, “I can’t do this, you need to help me, I’m desperate.”

One emotional phone call later and Rich made his way home for as early as he could, arriving home at around 9pm. Just as he walked through the door she went to sleep – typical!

We sat down and chatted and decided that this was not OK and if God had called us to this life and to be parents to this child, then we needed to see His breakthrough. Every day we had prayed faith-filled prayers, but it felt like we needed to go to war for this little one. In the natural, going into battle at your weakest point seems borderline suicidal, but standing on the truth that His Grace is sufficient for us, and His power is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12 v 9) we decided to fast (sensibly given I was feeding and Rich working) and pray for 7 days.

The first 6 days of the fast were still just as tough, but we had a renewed sense of hope and belief that the end was in sight. The seventh day came, it happened to be a Sunday. What a perfect day to end the fast on! It was also the first time that I had made it to church with Sienna. The day wasn’t without its hiccups and she had a meltdown towards the end of the service, but I thought, “We’ve made it.”

During the period in which Sienna suffered from colic, I had become a Google addict, typing in everything I could think of related to colic that might show up some useful results or advice on how to cure it or deal with it. I did it religiously every day for a few weeks in the hope that maybe I had missed something. In the week of the fast, I did the same thing. The same sites that I had previously clicked on all popped up as results to my new searches when suddenly I came across an article from the Guardian that helped me to refine my feeding methods for Sienna. Where had it been? How have I missed this? The article definitely helped to ensure that the colic didn’t return as the feeding had exacerbated the situation, and it was something I put into practice immediately, but from Monday onwards, Sienna was miraculously healed. God stepped in and healed her and relieved her of her discomfort and gave me the tools to ensure that it didn’t return again. Writing it in a sentence doesn’t seem to do it justice. It is that simple, but it wasn’t that easy. 

I have to admit that every time she cried during the weeks following her healing, I was a little on edge. We had to re-learn that crying is one of the ways in which babies communicate and just because we hadn’t had a “normal” initial experience, we were now able to attend to her needs. The scream that made us fear the neighbours might think we were chopping her leg off had disappeared, and we could finally start to build a meaningful bond and relationship with our daughter. Now we can’t believe it’s the same child, she’s so happy and easy-going, so much fun to be with and has a clear determined spirit. Every day we are thankful.

There is advice out there for coping with colic, and help in trying to manage it, as well as advice on how to get through it emotionally and physically for parents, but there is no medical absolute cure. I am really grateful for medicine and science, however, one-size doesn’t always fit all and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, however, I believe one God does fit all.  

Some might think it’s a fluke, a coincidence, but I’m here to say that God healed Sienna and everything I read in the scriptures about Jesus, show that He healed without condition and He was and still is always willing to break into people’s situations. There was no illness, injury or issue too big or too small for Him to care about, and it was and still is His will to see people restored. I can recount many events in my life, and the life of friends and family, where God has responded to our faith and stepped in with His loving hand, to turn things around.

I write this blog in the hope that anyone in the same predicament as me, possibly at the end of their tether, with colic or even some other sickness or issue, may somehow stumble across it. I want people to know that there is hope in a God who is real, who cares and who can and who wants to break into your situation.

I always say that it’s difficult to trust someone who you don’t know. For Rich and I we didn’t just arrive at the decision to pray and fast randomly. It was a decision made based on a Person that we know, whose traits, character and provision we have seen on many occasions. He’s available to be known by all.

Hebrews 4 v 16

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

For anyone interested in the article related to colic:

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2005/mar/30/familyandrelationships.healthandwellbeing