365 Days Later

365 days later

Technically upon writing this, it’s only 361 days since the birth of our beautiful daughter Sienna, but it’s her birthday week and I try and post on Mondays, what are a few days between friends?

Coming up to her first birthday has made me reflect on this past year and the highs and lows of becoming a parent.
I thought I’d ask myself and Rich, “If we had to choose three things that we’ve learnt over the past year what would they be?” It’s almost an impossible task to only pick three because it can be a daily stretch into the unknown, navigating continual beginnings, as she progresses from one stage to the next. However, we’re always up for the challenge so here they are:

Anna:

I’m Stronger Than I Think – Perseverance Pays Off

Perseverance takes on a whole new meaning when there is no get-out-clause, you’re sleep deprived and you have no previous experience to draw from. In the early days, weeks and months it often felt like I was climbing a rocky mountain in flip-flops after not sleeping for a month! An uphill battle, with the least amount of energy, whilst feeling totally ill-equipped. Every now and then you stop to take a breathe and are awed by the view, but then it’s head down and back to the grind. However, I made it, each day was followed by night and each night followed by a new day. One step at a time, often one day at a time I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Not because it was easy, not because I had the training, not because I was always excited or passionate but because I had to. Now I think back to those early days as welcome distant memories, smiling at the highlights. Today Sienna presents new challenges with her strong will and determination (ha!) but every day she brings joy and life, and to see her grow and learn, smile and flourish make every drop of blood, sweat and tears worth it. There’s no amount of preparation that can make you ready for your individual unique child, it’s a journey that has to be lived, like many things in life.

I Love Sleep – Discipline Reaps Rewards

Thank God for sleep training! Like anything worth doing, it requires consistency and determination but it has huge benefits. From the start, we established the difference between night-time and day-time for Sienna due to some great advice. It hasn’t been easy and this year has meant I’ve hardly left the house on an evening. However, she now has no issues going to sleep pretty much anywhere as she’s in such a good routine, the sacrifice and continuity are really paying off. Parents have different approaches to different things but most likely for most, there’s still some discipline involved somewhere. Discipline requires keeping the long-term goal in view in order to outwork the daily, often mundane tasks to achieve your goals. Discipline can feel restrictive but it actually brings freedom in the end. Freedom to plan, freedom to enjoy its benefits, freedom from issues avoided through lack of discipline.

Just Call Me Bendy Barbie – Flexibility Is Key

One huge lesson for me has been learning to relinquish the need to always be in control. Preparation and schedules are all important and necessary but when the poop hits the nappy at 3 am in the morning in catastrophic proportions, you have to strip your child and chuck them in the bath whether you or they like it or not! I like to be in control of my own life, that’s not an uncommon or unreasonable ask. I’ve learnt to make plans but hold onto them lightly. I take a breath and whatever happens, try and enjoy and embrace the moment I find myself in. There’s nothing as important as this little tiny life that can’t wait another 5 minutes, a day, a week, a month or even a year if necessary.

Rich:

Be Kind To Each Other- Everyone Has Had A Tough Day

Being a parent is not easy. Whether it’s dealing with a cranky child all day, or having no sleep and having to go to work and deliver on projects. It’s tough, you’re shattered and probably just about holding it all together. It can be so easy in this type of stretching environment to play the “woe is me” card and paint a picture of how your day was way worse and far more stressful than that of your spouses… but don’t. Be kind to each other, prefer one another, go out of your way for one another. Try and laugh together, enjoy the absurdity of parenthood. Be kind with your words, they’re the oil that keeps the wheel spinning.

Children Love Easily And Forgive Quickly

It’s true and thank God that’s the case. We all get it wrong, probably way too frequently for our liking, but children are far more forgiving and resilient than we give them credit for. They aren’t insecure, they don’t care about what people think about them. As far as they’re concerned, they are the most awesome human being in existence. They don’t try and hide their emotions to be cool when daddy comes home from work, Sienna’s face lights up. When daddy tells Sienna off for touching the TV, there’s usually lots of frowns and a few tears, but her default position is towards love and closeness. It’s only when we grow up do we, unfortunately, learn how to be insecure.

“Important” Things Aren’t Really That Important

Oscar Wilde once said, “Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” I like that thought. This year has been a discovery of what actually matters. As adults, we get so myopic in our view of success. Having Sienna has stripped away all pretence. The things I used to worry about just aren’t as important as they used to be. Perhaps I’ve got wiser, maybe I’m just more tired. Whatever it is, it feels good to remember that Sienna couldn’t care less whether I’m good at my job or not. She doesn’t care whether I get promoted, get a pay rise or drive a nice car. She just knows me as Dad, and to be honest I think that’s pretty cool.

365 days later sienna

 

“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