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

 

Why Mums Make Great Leaders

why mums make great leaders

I have sat down to write this post multiple times now and always been unable to finish it because honestly there seems to be an exhaustive list of reasons as to why mums make great leaders. Therefore, I have decided to start an ongoing conversation on the topic rather than a complete one-off blog post.

I must stress at the start that I believe all people, regardless of title, age or background can make great leaders. I simply choose to write about mums in particular because, not only does it provide personal encouragement as I navigate early motherhood, but also mothers historically have been discounted in leadership by others or themselves due to a lack of confidence, knowledge or misplaced perspective as to what leadership is. Fortunately for me, I live in an age and culture where that mindset has shifted, but there is still work to be done.

Motherhood certainly presents many opportunities in which to be stretched, challenged and grown (all the mums’ sigh). Opportunities that enhance and enrich our character and therefore leadership qualities if we allow them. With that said, to kick-start the conversation, here are what I believe to be, two fundamental attributes of good leadership that mums have…

1. Influence

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.”

John C. Maxwell

Ultimately I believe that leadership is influence. John C. Maxwell is well known for his teaching on leadership, and the above quote sums up perfectly why a mum can make a great leader. When we realise that leadership isn’t dependent on having a platform or title, we are empowered to lead well in all situations in our everyday lives.

As Sienna’s mummy, I have one of the greatest responsibilities to influence her well; to lead her. The power of a mums influence can shape a child for life. More now than ever I am aware of my influence. How I treat Sienna and others, how I demonstrate integrity and curiosity, my attitude to life and my countenance, all have the ability to help set the foundation for her character. She is unique and wonderful, has her own personality and gifts, and will develop her own set of interests, but my influence can provide an environment in which these things can be nurtured. Will I encourage and praise or criticise and put down? Will I lead with love and faith or bitterness and fear? The answers to those questions will help to set the trajectory for her life. The impact I have, amongst others, will also reach beyond her as she develops her own sense of leadership and influence that emanates from her everyday life.

This daily practised influence will only sharpen any further leadership I am privileged to have, in any sphere of life, with or without title or platform.

Proverbs 22 v 6 NIV

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”  

2 Timothy 1 v 5 NIV

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother, Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

2. Sacrifice

John 15 v 13 (NIV)

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Mum life is hard work, the hardest I’ve ever done, 24/7 responsibility. Sienna had to overcome many little hurdles in her first 6 weeks of life and she wasn’t the easy baby I had imagined sticking in a carrier and picking up from where I left off. 

Before Sienna arrived, I’d been leading a team at church alongside working, socialising, and running at 100mph, and going to the toilet on my own – luxury! (#mumstruggles). There is a freedom and independence that you have pre-kids that somewhat diminishes when you first become a parent. Now other mum’s may have easily embraced this change, but honestly, at the start, I struggled. I had to navigate this new responsibility of motherhood, relinquish control over my life, and lay aside many things that I had previously been involved in. Each mum’s sacrifice is different but equally significant. It’s not forever, but it won’t look the same on return. Hopefully, it will be different but better. 

When you have a child, and in particular a baby, the needs of this little life become a priority. They can’t do much for themselves beyond their involuntary bodily functions, and even some of those have to be taken care of by someone else! When I look at Jesus, Who is, in my opinion, the greatest example of good leadership, His sacrifice was the greatest gift given to all and motivated by love, it changed history forever. As leaders, sometimes I think we get it the wrong way around when we look to those under our care only to do our bidding. Rather, motherhood reminds me that as I make sacrifices to love and value my child, to give her the best start in life, to focus on what I can give rather than get, the hope is that I will provide an environment in which she can flourish. As I encourage Sienna to be the best she can be, she will hopefully be empowered to in turn produce her best, and together as a family will be better and stronger and able to have more impact.

Motherhood is a labour of love. When I consider the scripture, 1 Corinthians 13, it strikes me that the description of love very much coincides with sacrifice. I particularly admire the statement in verse 8 which says, “Love NEVER fails” (emphasis added by me). To love is to sacrifice, but according to that statement, love has 100% success rate. I am learning as a mother that the sacrifices I have made for Sienna, motivated by love, have the potential to have a far greater impact than perhaps the things I initially mourned letting go of. I continue to learn that leadership is in fact servanthood. 

I Corinthians 13 (NIV)

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

There’s so much I feel I could write on both of these points as well as many more, but I look forward to exploring this topic further in the future and inviting others to add their perspectives. So, for now, I will leave it there. Hopefully, it has encouraged some and made others think. 

To be continued…

Join the conversation – what do you think?

Happy New Year!

 

 

This is going to sound a bit cliché and like I’m quoting a song lyric, but this year has been somewhat of a rollercoaster! I’ve lived through fear and faith, success and failure, joy and despair, growth and stand still, birth and endings, new and old, comfort and loneliness, confidence and doubt, excitement and monotony. Often it’s happened simultaneously or in a pendulum like fashion, swinging from one extreme to another, sometimes in the same hour! 2017 has seen some of the highest points and some of the lowest points I have ever had to deal with. That said, I made it, and not only did I make it but I’m excited to step into 2018. I’ve been stretched and tested in every way, physically, mentally and spiritually….. would I change anything? YES I would… ha! But that’s what a new year is for, a new page, a chance to apply all that I’ve learnt and grown in 2017. I never arrive, but I journey forward and hopefully leave behind what I don’t need, and take up what will nourish me and help me to build in 2018.

I’m grateful for every experience, everything has taught me something, good, bad or ugly and that is valuable! Grace has sustained me, and whilst my faith has been challenged, questioned and strained at times it is still the thread that weaves everything together, and ultimately brings me out on top. It resets my failures, informs my best decisions, gives me another chance and drives my passions. Without it I wouldn’t be me.

2018…. let’s go!

Good Value This Christmas

good value this christmas

For as long as I can remember my Dad has been a professional Santa at Christmas. Yesterday my mum forwarded a review posted by an elated mother about his epic Santa skills. This year Dad had the opportunity to learn some Makaton; a language programme using signs and symbols that helps people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and can also be useful for those children and adults who struggle to communicate via speech. One little boy visited Santa (my Dad) this year looking only for a picture with the magical present deliverer. His mother explained that he wouldn’t be able to talk with my Dad, who usually has a little conversation with each child. Fortunately, because of his Makaton training, Dad was able to communicate well with the young boy. In the review the mother gushed that this encounter had not only made her year but also made her cry! Go Dad! Such a simple act placed value on a little boy and his mother. In a small way, in that moment my Dad was able to enter into their world and reaffirm their importance.

So many times in the gospels we see how Jesus places value upon others, on those in society that due to the culture of the day would have been seen as less-than in many ways. One particular account that I love is when Jesus heals a man with leprosy, recorded in Matthew 8 v 1-3….

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.  A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Other than the incredible fact that Jesus healed him, what I love is the recorded detail that Jesus reached out his hand and touched him. It is likely that this man hadn’t encountered any human touch for a long time due to his leprosy, and the belief that he was therefore unclean. Before Jesus declared that He was willing to heal the man, He first showed him that he was valuable, loved and worthy of being touched even in his current sick state. In reaching out and touching the man he showed His heart of love towards him in a society that would have deemed him as worthless.

Sienna, my now 10 month old daughter is entering a beautiful stage of development, where she has begun to smile at everyone. Her big brown eyes gaze expectantly at people as she waits for them to notice her, and then she welcomes that recognition with a huge grin! The pure joy that shoots across her face when someone gives her a wave or even a hint of attention is infectious. Her smile is genuine and pure and you can’t help but beam from the inside out in return. This unbiased, non-judgemental and unconditional love that she offers, often gets a coo and a smile in response, and in that moment offers a metaphorical outstretched hand to the lucky recipient. From the full tank of love, smiles and acceptance that she has received from myself and Rich, as well as her close family and friends, she is able to offer the same to others. She hasn’t yet learned to conceal her true feelings and so what you see is what you get.

This Christmas season I’m reminded again how easy and important it is to value one another. Jesus stepped out of His glory and took on human flesh, to once again place value on all humanity. A value so great it cost Him his life. From an overflow of love, He paid the ultimate price so that we may know how valuable we are to Him. My prayer this Christmas is that He would help me to continue to know His love and my true value in Him, and so therefore be empowered to show it to others. If we could keep life that simple I wonder what a difference that would have on us, and what a difference we could make to our world. In knowing our own value, we also learn the value of others.  

1 John 4 v 19

“We love because He first loved us.”

Fruit Is Best Enjoyed In Season

strawberry

We live in an age where most things are available at most times. This can be a great thing. The opportunity to Facetime my husband when he’s away due to 24/7 wifi. The ease of buying and sending gifts to loved ones who don’t reside in the same city or even country as myself. I do wonder, however, if the constant access to things, and the incessant busyness that we so often find ourselves in, has undermined the necessity and pleasure of waiting for things, and truly enjoying them. Like a fine wine that needs to mature, some things in life need time in order to produce the best results.

Now I’m no gardener, both my Dad and husband can attest to that, but I am an accomplished eater (hello), and I do have a rudimentary understanding of the gardening basics. Over the summer I was enjoying some delicious British strawberries, when my mother-in-law stated how much better they tasted in comparison to the imported ones sold during the rest of the year. This got me thinking, “fruit is always best enjoyed in its correct season”. According to Jamieshomecookingskills.com (fount of all knowledge obviously, thanks Google), “Fruit and vegetables naturally grow in cycles, and ripen during a certain season each year. When they are ripe, they are at their best nutritionally and taste-wise …. If you eat ‘seasonally’, you are eating fruit and vegetables during the time of year they are naturally at their best”. Makes sense. To apply this logic as a metaphor for life, I wonder how many times I have tried to rush through a season and wanted something to be “ripe” before its time; a job, career or dream before it was ready, a relationship, position or gift before it was mature.

In the Bible, we see that Moses had a natural desire to see justice for his people, the Hebrews, who had been enslaved in Egypt for over 400 years. This was a good desire, in fact a godly desire. However, out of season, and acted on before the correct time, this inner passion turned into anger, and resulted in him committing a terrible crime and fleeing for his life (see Exodus 2). In the correct season, after growth, pruning and nourishment, and a lot of time, that desire matured and was correctly planted in God where it was “naturally at its best”. This allowed him to finally lead his people to freedom in the most epic way (see Exodus 3-14).

When we desire things to bud straight away in our fast microwave culture, we don’t allow the soil of our lives to settle and replenish the “nutrients” we need in order to harvest the best crop. When we look for a quick fix; import in foreign goods rather than wait, perhaps we lose a sense wonder and excellence that comes from pursuing the real deal. Maybe we miss out on the lesson of the current moment by trying to fast-forward to results not properly earned.

In John 15, Jesus reassures the disciples, and us, that we were created to bear fruit, fruit that will last. For me, this takes the pressure off trying to see results prematurely, as it implies that it’s part of who I am in Him, to produce good things in life. Sometimes I may need a little pruning and nurturing, but this is all benefit as it helps produce ripened mature fruit.

Just like eating fruit before its ready can cause issues, (say hello to the toilet!), trying to push a relationship, gift, ministry, career, desire or goal before its time can be detrimental. I hope I can discern the season, embrace the wait, replenish the soil, trust that I’m designed to bear good fruit, allow for some pruning, and best enjoy fruit in its season.

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.

Fight The Good Fight of Faith

This is just a quick blog post inspired by today’s verse on the YouVersion Bible app. Aren’t we so blessed in our generation, in the western world, to have so much access to His word through many mediums? I hope I don’t waste that opportunity.

Anyway, that’s another thought for another time! Today’s verse:

fight the good fight

A couple of weeks ago Rich and I were hit with a nasty stomach bug. The kind that brings no warning and knocks you out for a good 24 hours. The onset for me happened sooner than Rich and I started to feel a little queasy early on in the day. I managed to ignore it until the afternoon, when suddenly my food decided to make an unwelcome reappearance. I HATE being sick, now I don’t think I’ve met anyone that particularly enjoys vomiting, but I know it can bring a sense of relief afterwards, yet still, I HATE throwing up! It fills me with dread as it takes over my whole body and makes me uncontrollably eject the contents of my stomach everywhere! Nice!

Not only was I throwing up but I was also at home looking after our adorable, then 7 month old, whilst Rich was at work. She had just discovered how to use rolling as a form of transport and was happily exploring the entirety of our living room in this way. We’d just handed back the borrowed  “bouncy” chair the day before, which Rich and I had lovingly named the third parent for the times when we just needed a moment. Oh the glorious “bouncy” chair! Sienna is a little like Tigger – she loves to bounce, and often if I needed to do something quickly I could pop her in there and run and do it, knowing she wasn’t going to fall or roll into anything.

So here I am, no “bouncy” chair, my “roly poly” baby and on the verge of projectile vomiting any moment. I have to admit that when I’m physically sick, I am a little pathetic, just a little. Rich has often found me lying on the bathroom floor in times of sickness, feeling sorry for myself, groaning, “I can’t move.” This time I didn’t have that “luxury”, in between running off (more like bent over wobbling) to be sick and then cleaning myself up, I had to make sure that Sienna hadn’t rolled over to the TV and attempted to rewire everything!

Lying there on the floor next to her, whilst she smiled obliviously and banged together her building blocks, I felt pretty weak and sorry for myself. I did somehow manage to make her a bottle and feed her in between episodes, I guess it’s because I didn’t have a choice. Now that I’m a mother I don’t have the opportunity to not turn up to “work” because I’m not feeling great, and even though all I could muster was lying next to her until the next wave of sickness came, it never crossed my mind that there may be a get-out clause. I just had keep to going, even if momentarily that was just “showing up”, being present, and doing the basics because that’s all I could give.

Reading this verse today, reminded me again that we have to fight for our faith. It’s arguably one of the most important things we possess. Why is it then, that when I have moments of weakness or I feel overwhelmed I can too easily give up? Why is there a get-out clause or an option to “tap out”? Sometimes if all I can muster in the fight, is lying on the floor and just being present, then it’s still important to show up. There’s far too much at stake to bow out.

I want to encourage you also, if all you have within you today is enough to just show up, go ahead and do it anyway, because just like our stomach bug only lasted for 24 hours, “..weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning…” (Psalm 30 v 5). Your “night” season might feel like it’s forever enduring, but when we understand that it’s a fight we’re in, we can accept that there will be battles to face. Battles can bring wounds and weariness, but I take hope in the fact that I am on the winning side. Jesus tells his disciples and also us, “…I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world..” John 16 v 33. Our faith fight is won by placing our faith in Him. In Him we find peace and strength to fight another day.

“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