Sunday, August 9, 2015

Two Months with Story Lamm

Oh, Story. 
Challenges and Adaptations 

As the end of July approached, I faced one of my least favorite challenges- saying good-bye. Not only once, but twice... in the same week.

Good-bye #1 was to my best teacher friend, Robin, who I blogged about earlier in the spring. Robin is moving to Moscow to start her international teaching career. Robin and I have spent so much time together laughing and loving on students in the past few years that her absence was more than I could process in the late weeks of pregnancy/early weeks of postpartum. She did her darndest to say good-bye well to the many people who love her and will miss her so much, and I was present for some of those last meals, laughs and hugs. But my own good-bye happened after she boarded her British Airways flight. See, Robin "sold" Andy and me her Honda before leaving. The day after she left for Europe (she's doing some travel before settling into Moscow in August), Andy and I drove out to Manor, where Robin's car was resting at her mom's house. When I got in that little gray car and saw the card with my name on it sitting in the passenger seat, I began to cry. So like Robin to include one final, thoughtful, gift. Tears rolled down my cheeks and some sobs came as I drove toward the setting Texas sun. Memories- all of them good- filled my mind, along with thanksgiving and hope for my friend.

Good-bye #2 was to my parents, particularly my Mom, who had been with us since Story was two days old. I cannot thank my Mom enough for all of her help. My Dad also got to visit when Story was first-born, over the 4th of July, and again when he flew out at the end of July to collect my Mom for their drive back to NC. I can't convey how heart-breaking it was the Sunday morning they left. Five and a half years of living in Texas, and there's not a single good-bye that I haven't cried over. Some have been worse than others, but I always cry some. But this one was the worst ever. Worse even than that first trip down Water Oaks Drive with my brand-new husband. I can usually at least keep it together until I'm alone, or it's just me and Andy, but not this time. I must have started crying an hour before my parents were fully loaded into their SUV. I couldn't bear to watch them pull out of the driveway. After they had gone, I crawled back in the bed and sobbed myself to sleep. There's a deeper ache now that Story is a part of our family, because of the joy that she brings us all.

Grandmomma snuggles Story on one of their last morning together. 
Before moving on to some other challenges, let me give you a little silver lining to these good-byes. Robin and our wonderful friend Leslie (whom Robin has been traveling around Europe with) challenged me to a photo war called "Story vs. Europe." As they went around Scotland, London and Paris over the past few weeks, they sent me goofy pictures of less-than-picturesque European sights. And then I countered with something cutesy that Story was up to (mostly sleeping). It's been fun. Thank God for iPhones.

Story vs. Airport Delays = Story win

Story vs. Coffee with one of our students in London = Europe win 

And, as for Mom and Dad, I've loved taking photos and videos throughout the day to share with them. Additionally, I bought a plane ticket to head out to NC during Andy's September drill weekend. Having that date on the calendar has made it easier to adapt to the distance.

The card mom left for me when after she returned to NC. Love the encouragement to be a big girl.  Just what I needed at the time. Watch out for those boots. ;) 
Another big challenge came after these good-byes, and was, in a roundabout way, related to them. My body was stressed and exhausted, and responded by producing less milk for Story. I was really concerned, so I called my nurse and she gave me some suggestions, including a prescription medicine that I could begin that day. I wanted to do everything I could, so I  had Andy pick up the script that evening on his way home from work. The next day, I noticed that I felt "off." Since the good-byes were less than a week old, I thought I was still adjusting to being alone with Story. The next day, though, was really terrible. I was agitated, could not sit still, felt hot flashes, had blurred vision, and could not control my emotions. Around 3PM, I called Andy, crying. I thought I was experiencing postpartum depression. It seemed rather sudden, but I reasoned that the good-byes and the anxiety over Andy's upcoming drill weekend, had brought it on. Andy did an incredible job comforting me. He called his teammate and told him he needed to stay home for the weekend. When he got home from work that evening, we sat down together on the sofa and spent some time in focused prayer. Tears came as I struggled to sit still, feeling completely out of touch with my real "self," but desperately wanting to feel normal. It had been a struggle to focus on anything the entire day, even Story. But after the prayer, I felt like the Lord said to me, "it's the medicine you are taking." And with that, I asked Andy, "Did they say anything to you at the pharmacy about side-effects of that medicine?" "Yes, they said if it affects your mood, contact your doctor." BINGO! Relief came as I realized that I wasn't struggling with postpartum depression, I was experiencing a side-effect of the drug! I followed up with my doctor the next week and she was pretty amazed that I'd experienced what she called the "black box" side effects of this particular drug. They're apparently very rare, but can cause major issues, including permanent facial tics! I cannot express how those two days have changed my perspective on struggling with chemical imbalance. I've had respect for chemical imbalance, ever since I learned about brain chemistry, but I don't think I've ever experienced it first-hand to a great degree. But whatever happened in my brain while I was on that medicine, it made me not me, even though I desperately wanted to be myself and be able to care for Story and Andy. The thought of living in that state for even one more hour was unfathomable. As soon as the Holy Spirit let me know the cause, I stopped the medicine. But I have a deeper understanding now, of how incredibly difficult it is to have a chemical imbalance that leads to depression/anxiety, etc. and how hard it can be to regulate medicine to help with that. For me, this was a short-lived, though acute, problem. But for some people in my life, there is an ongoing struggle to find that right balance that makes their brain most functional so that they can be their best for the people they love. And because of this first-hand experience, I am filled with greater compassion and understanding than ever.

Milestones and Events 

At two months, Story weighs 11 pounds, according to the bathroom scale... which I'm pretty sure is a little off, so don't hold me to that. Her official weight will be recorded at her two month appointment on Friday. I have no idea how long she is and I'm not motivated to try to stretch her out and measure. But she's outgrown nearly all of her newborn things, and 0-3 month clothes fit best right now.

Getting bigger
She's started smiling some, but those smiles come on her own terms. I caught a little one on this video. I'm really looking forward to smiles being a consistent part of our interaction. :)

As you can also tell from the video, she loves to move her arms and legs. In fact, right now, she's sitting in her high chair as I type at the kitchen table and those feet are flying!

The other fun thing she's trying out is her voice. She's gotten a lot more vocal in the past month. Before, she was either silent or crying. Every now and then you'd get a little coo, but now she's experimenting with different tones, pitches and volumes. We love hearing her little voice as it develops.

She's a bit of a dainty eater. I certainly wouldn't mind it if she ate a little bit more, but hopefully her weight will be on target when we go to the doctor. And she's not a bad sleeper. Andy puts her down in the crib at night, starting around 10PM. Some nights are easier than others, but she's usually asleep in her crib by 12:30 at the latest and can sleep through until sometime around 5-6AM. We split the night up so that Andy is responsible for anything that comes up between 10-2 and I'm responsible for anything between 2-7. That way, we're guaranteed a solid block of sleep every night. We're sleepy but not exhausted.

We're using the Wonder Weeks app to help us understand her development. Right now, she's going through a "leap," which means that her brain is changing to help her understand something in the world better. During a leap, she gets pretty grouchy and definitely loves to be held by Mommy and Daddy.

One of Story's favorite spots during a leap. 
We had some special events in the past month. First, we had a visit from my Aunt Judith and Uncle Torrey, who were in Dallas visiting their daughters, Shelley and Alissa. They drove down to Austin on a Sunday afternoon to visit with us. My cousin Shelley and her family also came down later that night, and we all got to go out to dinner. They spent the night at a campground nearby, and Story and I enjoyed another visit with them on Monday. It was wonderful to have family visit our home. :)

Aunt Judith

Shelley, Christopher and Kayla 
Last weekend, we celebrated Andy's birthday, as I wrote about in my previous blog. Story had a babysitter- my friend and former student Nicole, who drove up from San Marcos. It's a blessing to have babysitters that you're comfortable leaving your two month old with. Nicole sent me this funny picture while Andy & I were having dinner.

This past weekend, we took our first family 'venture. We drove about an hour west toward Johnson City and spent the afternoon at Pedernales Falls State Park. It was at least 100 degrees out, so we hiked around the falls just a bit before heading to the swimming area. There was water- always a big deal when going somewhere during a Texas summer, but it was warm. A bit of a disappointment for Andy & me, who love the refreshing spring-fed waters found in many central Texas rivers and swimming holes. But better for Story, who had her first experience "wading."

Lessons and Prayers 

A few days ago, I was putting away some of Story's clothes while she napped in her rock and play in the living room. I like to put iTunes radio "lullabies" station on while she's falling asleep, and this song by the Dixie Chicks has become a favorite.

I listened to these words as I put away tiny socks and soft blankets, and I was all of a sudden overcome with the desire to worship God. I hit my knees on the spot and held my palms open, overcome with gratitude for the sweetness of this time in my life. But then I realized that not only do I have so much to be thankful for because I can sing a song like this to Story, but that God sings a song like this to me. "How long do you want to be loved? Is forever enough?"  My Father God loves me enough to sing a song like this and make it 100% true. Because of Jesus, we have exactly forever. "Is forever enough? Cause I'm never, never giving you up?" makes me think of the promise in Romans that nothing can ever separate us from the love of Christ. And the tears came. It was beautiful.

Another lesson I'm learning about is the "new normal". One of the girls in my Square One class told me about a post-natal yoga class at Yoga Yoga Northwest, and Story and I have been going every Wednesday since. One of the things I like about the environment of the class is that it's a very supportive little community of new moms. I don't find myself hating my soft tummy so much when I'm in there with other moms who are also trying to gradually regain some strength and flexibility. There is a lot of talk about the "new normal" of your body, because it never really returns to the way that it was. I didn't like this at first, but the idea is growing on me. I finally realized, "What was so great about the old normal? Isn't there always room for growth?" I'm not just talking about my physical body, though that's definitely a part of it. I'm talking about my entire sense of self- how I spend my time, my goals, my desire to perform. In the past few days, I've decided that the whole business of being Meredith needs a new normal anyway. One that's a little more restful, more interruptible, more open. More to come on this development.

As for prayers, the biggest one on the horizon is for my transition back to work. Before I got pregnant, I thought I would never want to stay at home. I love being a teacher, and our school community is so central to our life here. But during pregnancy, God challenged me to let go of my own ideas and put His plans before mine. So even before Andy lost his job, I prayed for God's will for our family about where I should be in the fall. After Andy lost his job, we prayed together that God would give us His vision for our family. He answered by showing me that I needed to sign my contract. I'm clinging tightly to this revelation as I transition back to work this week because as much as I love being a teacher, I love Story even more, and I am going to miss her so much. Thanks to a friend and co-worker, we've found a great in-home childcare for Story to start this week. I am abundantly thankful for the opportunity for her to be in a Christian home while I'm at work, but it's going to be really hard separating from her this week. My heart aches over it, and I don't even really want to write about it. But I need prayer. I'm asking you to ask God for His confirmation that I am in His will, and that He will give me peace and assurance in Him as I return to school for in-service this week.

Thankful for the chances I've had to just snuggle and enjoy my little girl these last few days. Andy grabbed this shot of us asleep on the couch one morning before he headed out the door. 

Love this crazy selfie of our little family.

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