Missed Flights and Bili Lights

My little family and I were supposed to board a plane to California awhile back, but we missed the flight. We did end up making it to California in December though, for a podcast recording or two and live show.

I don’t want to get into details but we were all pretty broken up about it. Part of the issue was that we had to double back to try to find my son’s birth certificate. Between missing the flight, the season change, and the stress of digging through medical papers from birth, that day was pretty dark for me.

I’m sure other mothers are way more organized than I am, but my son’s birth certificate is stored with his medical records from pregnancy (ultrasounds, measurements, etc) to now. They are rather disorganized, but they are all together and most certainly extensive.

I brought stacks of them to his first year’s worth of pediatrician’s appointments and was a walking encyclopedia of weights, heights, number of wet diapers, and bilirubin records. We were digging through the papers on the way back to the airport and I had to keep it together, but when we returned home and began digging through the stack on the floor, I broke down. Originally I had stayed next to my computer, working fervently on anything to keep me busy.

My son walked up to my husband and began pointing through things as he organized them. I tried to tune them out, but then my son picked up a small sign that the NICU nurses had placed on his bed during our stay. It was to inform the nurses that he would not be given any formula or donor milk because he was exclusively getting my milk, but it is written from the perspective of the baby. It says something like, “Mommy is making milk just for me” or something like that. My son asked my husband what it was and my husband explained that to him that he was very, very sick as a baby and we had to take him to the hospital.

The floodgates opened as he kept going. He told our son that I saved his life by fighting for him after the doctors brushed us aside only to frantically call hours later to say they’d make a mistake. He told our son that my milk kept him safe and healthy even though he was sick. I was crying and my son came up and gave me a kiss. He said “I love you mama” and put his head on mine.

Our pregnancy was hellish. We had more issues and acronyms going on then should have been humanly possible. We were both lucky to survive it. One day we were told we would deliver at 35 weeks because our son wouldn’t survive beyond that, the next we are delivering at 38 weeks as an emergency induction.

On the day we were discharged after giving birth, we finally thought we were in the clear. We had all managed to stay alive, if only barely. We were going home, we never had to come back. We’d escaped the possibility of a NICU stay and any serious complications during labor.

We had one day at home.

One day.

One day as parents of a healthy baby boy.

One day without watching our son die every time we closed our eyes (a part of NICU PTSD).

One day of not knowing the horrors of sterile white hallways and eerie blue bili lights.

One day of parenthood where we were blissfully unaware of what it is like to have to hold down your six-pound baby as the doctors and nurses cut gashes into his feet and milked blood out of them.

One day of not despairing as a few hours in the hospital turned to days with no release date in sight.

One day of being able to hold our child whenever we wanted.

One day of not being forced to pump instead of breastfeeding.

One day of not being told that it was my fault because I wasn’t producing enough milk (they ate those words – I pumped in front of a male doctor to prove I had an oversupply).

One day of not having to sleep in chairs that weren’t meant for sleeping.

One day of not knowing what it was like to be handed a Bible to read while watching another woman’s infant struggle to breathe and wanting to break the window to throw the book as far as possible.

One day of not being told that I should go home and could pick up my newborn when he was better.

One day of not having to watch as my child was placed in a clear glass box with air holes cut in the top like a captured bug.

One day of not knowing what it feels like to lose your mind as the world starts spinning out in an elevator as the nurse tells you that you’re going to the NICU.

One day of parenthood that wasn’t haunted by the image of a 26 week gestational age baby coding in the bed next to our son’s.

One day in the eye of the storm.

One. Day.

I remember the day they let us go, they handed us a paper detailing symptoms of NICU PTSD and I glared at them. I didn’t need to read them, I already knew. Occasionally, I still have a nightmare from it, though they have lessened now that he is older.

Our son is two and a half now and we still don’t talk about or look back on his first four months. Even after we were discharged, we had home health care for him. He had to be in a bed, literally strapped down, at home. At two months old, he used to scream for hours on end as we held his hand and cried while we got just a few minutes of therapy for him. There were frantic trips to the pediatrician for issues surrounding what he had gone through.

I didn’t sleep. I ate only to keep up my milk supply. I dealt with issues from pregnancy (still do).

I don’t know if it’ll ever be easier to look back on. I somehow doubt it, highly.

What happened was not okay. It’ll never be okay. I’ll never be able to walk into a hospital and not have anxiety running through my veins. I’ll never forget that there are places in this world where infants ride the line between life and death.

But today, my toddler wants cuddles and kisses.

Today, every time an ambulance passes, we stop and he tells me, “Mama, they will be okay” and we pray.

Today, he is happy and healthy.

Today, everything is going to be okay. 

 

Audio from Live Recording from California

In early December, our family was flown out to California for me to speak at the Virtue in the Wasteland Christmas Party in addition to recording a podcast with them which you can find here. It was an amazing trip and I miss California and the folks from Legacy 1517 and ViW so much.

Here is the live recording of the show, I hope you enjoy the whole show.

Virtue In The Wasteland Christmas Party

Discernment in Recovery Groups

The Scarlet Virgins Episode #26 – Discernment in Recovery Groups

For folks who are recovering from childhood abuses (legalism, physical abuse, cults, etc), recovery groups seem like a good resource for recovery. But are some recovery groups worse for you than the thing you were originally recovering from (or at least compounding the trauma)? Kicking wounded people while they are down?

In this podcast episode of The Scarlet Virgins, Rebecca shares her thoughts on why we need to use discernment when it comes to these kinds of communities.

Listen in iTunes

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If you would like to buy the book, you can do so here:

 

What My Toddler’s Tantrum Taught Me About Scarcity and Abuse

“Get up.” I instructed, quite tersely, for the millionth time. My son and I stood outside the local post office in a battle of the wills. He wanted to go to “Nana’s house” while I simply wanted to accomplish a quick, easy errand.

From the moment we received the pink slip in the mail, I knew that the trip to retrieve the package was going to be hellish. Something about the post office sets my son off like nothing else. It could be the cranky employees who are known for being rude and mistreating customers, it could be the fact that his little internal sensor recognizes we parked in a thirty minute parking space (the time of which he was quickly taking up with his shenanigans), or perhaps he could sense my paper-thin patience wearing out. Whatever the reason, he was acting up something fierce.

He hadn’t wanted to wear clothing or get out of the car seat. Neither of these are unusual occurrences, but he couldn’t be reasoned with on this day as he normally can be. I eventually picked him up and set him down on the sidewalk so I could lock up the car. After a couple of minutes of the tantrum and trying everything possible to get him to tell me what was wrong, two women in a beat-up car elected to give me a gem of parenting advice.

“Pinch the little shithead, hard!” the woman in the passenger seat giggled, “It doesn’t leave as many bruises and it still hurts him. It’s so stupid you can’t beat the shit out of kids these days, that’s what I did with mine.”

I had no time to react before they pulled away, nor did I really want to make eye-contact with the stranger. I held onto my two and a half year old who was now in hysterics because of what he had heard and marveled at how, in the span of him displaying strong emotions, some of the outside world sees him as either a cute, little human to play with or, alternatively, a dehumanized whipping post. Because I didn’t hurt my son when he was in the middle of an emotional crisis, I was seen as a bad mother. I felt trapped between taking care of my son in a way I knew was best and having the expectation put on me to abuse him.

Several hours later, after I put him down for a nap in the car, I was waiting to go into another store. During that time, I had recounted what could have caused his outburst. It had been a combination of being jet lagged, being tired from traveling, slight dehydration (we had been out of water at the house, another reason for the urgency of getting errands run), over-consumption of sugar while on our trip, and him needing an early nap. None of which, “beating the shit out of him” would fix.

In great contrast, when I walked into the next store with him, happy as a clam as he wiped his tired eyes, the man at the door greeted us. He spoke to my son in a kind voice and helped us towards our destination. After another employee helped us find the item we were looking for and brought us cold water to drink, we were on our way out. The man stopped us to chat again.

“He is your greatest blessing from God, I hope you know ma’am.” He added with a smile, “And I am sure, your greatest challenge as well.”

I nearly broke down. Partly at having another Christian in front of me who was boldly speaking in a store as an employee, and partly because I desperately needed to hear what he was saying.

“Thank you.” I whispered.

“Merry Christmas to you, God’s blessings.”

As I drove home, I wondered how our day would have changed had we encountered the man first rather than the woman, and how all our days would go if I was surrounded by people who understood or remembered what it was like to be young or raising a young child. Who cared about my son as a little person who is still learning the ropes of living in this world rather than an annoyance in their day no matter how well he behaved. Who treat him with respect without giving him the impression that the world revolves around him.

When I was younger, I encountered a lot of different types of abuse. Originally, this post was going to be written on how to help homeschool mothers so that they don’t get overwhelmed, which I believe is a contributing factor for abuse. But in light of having a two and a half-year-old who is strong-willed and independent, I wanted to come at it from a bit of a different angle.

I firmly believe that abuse comes from (but I wouldn’t say is caused by) a lack of resources and feeling like there is no other choice. In the moment of my son and I experiencing that woman’s foul mouth, I felt like, to be seen as a good mother, I would have to do what she said. But because I love my son and believe he is made in the image of God, I knew in my heart that what she was promoting was not only abusive, but misuse of my authority as a parent that God has given me. I am to protect and cherish this young child and raise him up in a God-pleasing way, and that doesn’t include abusing him even when that kind of parenting might be more common than we would like to admit.

The lack of resources that contribute to abuse can also be not knowing what healthy is. Not having a support system so that you can get a break and breathing room. Or not having the energy, health, sleep, nutrition, or mental stability to function properly and give grace or appropriate discipline.

There can also be manufactured scarcity from social pressure and impossible expectations that cause you to lose sight of the context of your life. When you focus on everything that isn’t perfect and how others perceive you in light of that, you risk lash out in a verbally, physically, or spiritually abusive manner towards your youngest neighbor rather than seeing the whole picture. The vast majority of the time, my toddler doesn’t act up because he enjoys it, he acts up because he needs something and doesn’t have the words or capacity to convey it. Physically injuring him doesn’t fill his need.

To be certain, I’m not addressing spanking here. I’m not debating it because that isn’t the point of any of this, so please don’t make it that. I am addressing what this woman advocated for, which was physical domination over a child intending to silence the issue and break the will, that would likely result in bruises. That is never okay.

If we really want children to grow up to be healthy members of society, the first step is not teaching them that they deserve to be abused because they are having a difficult time. The first step is making sure they aren’t experiencing scarcity issues, and their caregivers aren’t either. So go a hug a mom and baby you know, ask if there is anything you can do to help. Maybe bring them a meal or play a game for a few minutes with the kiddo. Moms and babies are people too, albeit often sleep deprived and a bit stressed out.

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