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Friday, May 31, 2013

Joie de Vivre

So it's been a little over a month since my last blog post, but, hey...  I've been busy.

Our newest addition, a.k.a The Chipmunk, was born on April 26th at 12:18 a.m., weighing in at a healthy 7 pounds, 11 ounces and 19 3/4 inches long.  We are all smitten.

And a little tired.  I'm not complaining, really.  He is the sweetest newborn.  He eats well, sleeps well, and has a very pleasant natural disposition.  But he is, after all, a newborn.  So by "sleeps well," I mean that on good nights I get about four hours of uninterrupted sleep and on not so good ones I get what feels like four minutes.  During the first three weeks of his life, this did not bother me.  This past week has been a little rough.  When I hear the tell-tale rustling in his bassinet that tells me he is awakening in the wee hours of the morning (yes, I'm a light sleeper), it takes every ounce of my being to get out of the bed.  I want to be grumpy.  I want to cry and switch him to formula so someone else (namely, my hard working and little-sleep-getting-as-it-is husband) can take care of Chip's middle of the night munchies.  I want to feel intolerably sorry for myself.  I am one of those people who loves to sleep.  I love nothing better than a good nap, preferably under a light blanket and the gentle breeze of a good ceiling fan.  I need sleep.  I'm like Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde when it comes to the level of sleep I'm getting.  Ask anyone.

So it's no surprise that I've had something akin to suicidal ideations in the middle of the night lately.  New parents get these feelings.  They are natural and a part of this thing.  Or are they?  It would never have occurred to me to even question the psychological effects of new parent sleep deprivation were it not for the fact that for those first three and half weeks or so I didn't have them.  Me, the worst middle of the night mom on the planet, was bouncing of out bed at 2 a.m. full of joy and gratitude for the squeaky little bundle that was building up a good cry if he didn't get his milk STAT.  And while I was sleepy during the day, I was still happy and somewhat functional despite the occasional incident such as leaving the grocery store only to get to the car and realize I left the actual groceries behind.  (The grumpy, unsympathetic checker acted like I was crazy upon my return despite the presence of my 5 year old, 4 year old and infant.  Really?  I have to explain?)  So what's the difference between now and the weeks prior?

I've come up with lots of different ideas.  First, that the sleep-deprivation had a cumulative effect and I had just finally reached my limit.  The problem with this theory is that this is baby #4 for me and with the others I felt the effects of a lack of sleep within days (if not hours) of not getting my usual shut-eye.  Second, dietary changes.  I have given up dairy since, like my others, The Chipmunk is sensitive to cow's milk.  The problem with this theory is that I indulged in a large scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and felt even worse upon awakening (and gave the baby a tummy ache).  There were others, but you get the point.  Finally, I had to admit I did not know what was different.

Then, in church last Sunday, the priest said an interesting thing.  It's a miracle I even caught it since I was actually not in the sanctuary at the time, but in the bathroom with Baby Girl (who conveniently needs to use the restroom almost every single time the homily begins).  What preceded this statement and what followed was, unfortunately, no more than background noise for me, but I heard clearly and succinctly the quote, "Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."  I googled it later and found it attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest.  I like it.  It rings true and it provided the key to my midnight misery.  As usual, it was all about God.

Is that to say God has not been present this week?  Hopefully you know better.  God is always present.  What varies is our awareness of His presence.  In those first blissful weeks of The Chipmunk's life, I was overcome by gratitude for him, continually in prayer thanking God for this miraculous little person, for his life and his good health.  Somewhere around week three, for a variety of reasons, worry entered into the scene. I started to obsess over details.  Was he eating enough?  Was he sleeping too much?  And what on earth was that crusty stuff on his left ear?  You get the picture.  I made the subtle and insidious move from gratitude to anxiety and within days (if not hours) the whole happy house of cards came crumbling down.

My children are my life and my greatest joy in the world.  They allow me to live with joie de vivre (everything just sounds better in French, doesn't it?) and I don't know what I would do without them.  So why do they sometimes seem to be the enemy, the ones stealing my peace, my energy, my sleep?  In fact, they aren't.  It's a lie.  Sure, they may wake me up but if I'm grumpy and lethargic I have no one to blame but myself.  If I'm a wreck, it's because I have once again separated myself from the true Source of joy, the One who gives it freely, abundantly and permanently.

Luckily it's an easy fix.  God does not withhold Himself from those who earnestly seek Him.  All I had to do was pray.  When it was time to nurse the baby again and I felt as if my eyes were glued together, I reminded myself that I was not my feelings and prayed a prayer of gratitude.  I forced myself to really look at the baby when I picked him up from his bassinet, to see the miracle right in front of me.  Not immediately, but eventually, my joy has returned.  Even in the middle of the night, running on four minutes sleep, I am grateful and happy, enjoying the presence of God and of the fantastic mini people He has entrusted to me.  My treasures, my greatest gifts, my joys.