Happy Hostage

It’s 6 AM and I have about 10 minutes to write a post before my darling baby, Catalina, wakes up and wants to be fed again. If I’m lucky, I might get 30 minutes.

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I thought for sure she would be my easiest baby. But, of all my children, she is the one baby that doesn’t want to be put down and left alone. I’m hoping this passes after the first few weeks.

With my previous babies, I could lay them in their crib or bassinet after they were fed and they would dose off to sleep. This would free me to do what I wanted to. Catalina, on the other hand, will fall asleep while I’m holding her and wake up crying a few minutes after she realizes she isn’t in my arms.

I’ve also had to feed her 8 times almost every night. When she does better, I can get through a night with just 5 to 6 feedings. If I want her to go for longer stretches, I have to cradle her in my arms so she feels secure and wakes up less. But this means I have to be in an inclined position. Waaaah!

Even though Catalina is my fifth child, going through this stage again makes me feel like she is my first. I suppose this is because of all the energy and resolve I’ve had to invest in taking care of her. Even though I prayed diligently during my pregnancy to have a baby who was easy to take care of, she has turned out to be my most challenging. First, there was the confinement at the hospital. Now, it is her feeding schedule and personality. I feel like such a rookie. I also feel like a hostage!

I feel like my liberties have been taken away. I feel like I am being controlled by a 3-week old infant! My sense of duty makes me fulfill all my motherly responsibilities and of course, I love her to bits, but on the flip side, I am a little bit resentful that she is a “difficult” baby.

How ungrateful the human heart is! How selfish I can be as a mother! I wanted a baby that was easy to control and now that I find myself being controlled by Catalina, I am grumpy. I’m ashamed to admit it, especially since I know women who have ached and longed to have a first child. Here I am, with my fifth, ranting about the un-pleasantries of motherhood. Somebody slap me.

Edric has commented several times, “What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you accept that this is what it is?”

My initial counter-thought was…you have no idea what you are talking about. Do you have to breastfeed every 30 minutes or 1 hour? Do you have to perpetually hold an infant so that you can’t even use the toilet or take a shower? Are you awake at 3 am, looking at a very awake baby and begging her to fall back asleep so you can too? Have you put your whole life on pause, including very important responsibilities and the activities you enjoy so you can be available 24/7 to meet the needs of your child? Do you change poopy diapers and wipe a poopy butt every other hour…

Of course I didn’t say this. Edric has his own cross to bear. It was one of those useless, imaginary dialogues in my head. And besides, he was right. What’s wrong with me?! I love my babies. I wanted to have another child. Edric may not understand what it is like to be a mom, but he was right about accepting things for what they are.

I can’t force-fit Catalina into this baby mold…this idea I have about what all MY babies should be like. So, either I change my perspective or I continue wallowing in self-pity and miss out on enjoying this stage.

When I woke up this morning thinking about how hard it has been, a wonderful thought came to my mind. God ministered to me by reminding me that he doesn’t allow difficult circumstances without reason. For every challenge, he supplies greater faith, greater capacity, and greater grace.

He is definitely teaching me to be thankful and grateful. I have the privilege of being mom to another healthy, beautiful child. She is a gift from the Lord and not an inconvenience or an interruption like I am ashamed to admit she sometimes feels like…especially when I am really tired and want to change her personality. She may be more needy, clingy, and demanding than my other kids were as babies but on the brighter side, she doesn’t projectile vomit like Tiana would after every feed. That was pretty miserable. And she doesn’t pee on me like my boys would. That was always gross.

Thankful people are happy people. I haven’t been rejoicing too much this past week because I haven’t been grateful.

Thankfulness is saying, “Lord, this is not what I wanted but you know best so I thank you for putting me in this circumstance. Help me to trust that this is exactly where you want me to be right now and give me your joy so that I glorify you with the right attitude and behavior.”

The Lord is also teaching me to be humble. Sometimes I can act like such an expert for having been there and done that when it comes to being a mom and having babies. But here’s a reality check. Everything I am able to do and everything I know is not to my own credit. My enablement comes from God. Successful parenting is possible only when I remain connected to the source – Jesus Christ. The moment I feel like I am completely capable on my own, I’m in big trouble.

Honestly, I was assuming that this was going to be a breeze. My overconfidence bordered on arrogance. I had this vision of homeschooling while holding my baby in one arm, writing in the afternoons, reading stories to my kids, cooking meals for my family, pushing my baby in a stroller to the park, and being able to go out on dates with my husband. ALL FANTASY!

Greater faith, greater capacity, greater grace. God knows I need this more than I need an easy baby. Will I be able to do all the things I listed above? I imagine that in time, the answer will be yes. For now, I’ve got to go attend to Catalina who needs to be fed again or wants to be carried. But I’m smiling! I’m choosing to be a happy hostage because God’s word says… Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:3-5

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Comments

  1. Hi Joy! 🙂

    You have brought back memories when my own children were teeny tiny babies. The moment I would lay them down on the bed, they would wake up and start crying. I have tried the rocking chair, but they too know the uncanny difference between me standing up or sitting down. Truly amazing, their senses, don’t you think? ;))

    With each one, I had to dance them to sleep & at the same time, I had to learn how to sleep sitting up, cradling them, and snatching some zzzzzz’s whenever I can. And just like you, stare at my brood who are all sound asleep in the middle of the night as I stand awake, alone, carrying the baby who just doesn’t want to be set down.

    All I can tell you is.. THIS TOO SHALL PASS! hahaha! What’s funny is everytime I have a baby I’d proclaim it was gonna be my last pregnancy because of the “nightmare” that is mommy-hood. But then I’l “forget” & find myself pregnant again & doing the whole process all over again. Now, all my 3 kids are grown up and can I just say, as cute and as adorable dear baby Catalina is, I’m glad I’m not you right now. ;))

    BUT. Now I can say all my hard work has paid off. My kids love & cherish me so very much, giving me sweet surprises now & then, taking me out on dates now that they are much older. And it seems that all that hard work in the past is worth every single kiss, hug & proclamation of love that they offer me.

    I wish you strength & patience Joy, in the months that lay ahead. You are a wonder mom, and you are a super hero in my eyes! Kaya mo yan! 😉

    Love, Jane.

  2. begging her to fall back asleep in the middle of the night..glad to know that I’m not alone in this department! 🙂

  3. Hi Ms. Joy,
    Will share you something…by Steve Wiens: To Parents of Small Children: Let Me Be the One Who Says It Out Loud
    May 3, 2013 17:02:32
    I am in a season of my life right now where I feel bone-tired almost all of the time. Ragged, how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-the-end-of-the-day, eyes burning exhausted.

    I have three boys ages 5 and under. I’m not complaining about that. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But I know that there are people who would give anything for a house full of laughter and chaos. I was that person for years and years; the pain of infertility is stabbing and throbbing and constant. I remember allowing hope to rise and then seeing it crash all around me, month after month, for seven years. I am working on another post about infertility that will come at a later date.

    But right now, in my actual life, I have three boys ages 5 and under. There are many moments where they are utterly delightful, like last week, when Isaac told my sister-in-law that, “My daddy has hair all over.” Or when Elijah put a green washcloth over his chin and cheeks, and proudly declared, “Daddy! I have a beard just like you!” Or when Ben sneaks downstairs in the morning before the other boys do, smiles at me, and says, “Daddy and Ben time.”

    But there are also many moments when I have no idea how I’m going to make it until their bedtime. The constant demands, the needs and the fighting are fingernails across the chalkboard every single day.

    One of my children is for sure going to be the next Steve Jobs. I now have immense empathy for his parents. He has a precise vision of what he wants — exactly that way and no other way. Sometimes, it’s the way his plate needs to be centered exactly to his chair, or how his socks go on, or exactly how the picture of the pink dolphin needs to look — with brave eyes, not sad eyes, daddy! He is a laser beam, and he is not satisfied until it’s exactly right.

    I have to confess that sometimes, the sound of his screaming drives me to hide in the pantry. And I will neither confirm nor deny that while in there, I compulsively eat chips and/or dark chocolate.

    There are people who say this to me:

    “You should enjoy every moment now! They grow up so fast!”

    I usually smile and give some sort of guffaw, but inside, I secretly want to hold them under water. Just for a minute or so. Just until they panic a little.

    If you have friends with small children — especially if your children are now teenagers or if they’re grown — please vow to me right now that you will never say this to them. Not because it’s not true, but because it really, really doesn’t help.

    We know it’s true that they grow up too fast. But feeling like I have to enjoy every moment doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels like one more thing that is impossible to do, and right now, that list is way too long. Not every moment is enjoyable as a parent; it wasn’t for you, and it isn’t for me. You just have obviously forgotten. I can forgive you for that. But if you tell me to enjoy every moment one more time, I will need to break up with you.

    If you are a parent of small children, you know that there are moments of spectacular delight, and you can’t believe you get to be around these little people. But let me be the one who says the following things out loud:

    You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out a way for your children to eat as healthy as your friend’s children do. She’s obviously using a bizarre and probably illegal form of hypnotism.

    You are not a terrible parent if you yell at your kids sometimes. You have little dictators living in your house. If someone else talked to you like that, they’d be put in prison.

    You are not a terrible parent if you can’t figure out how to calmly give them appropriate consequences in real time for every single act of terrorism that they so creatively devise.

    You are not a terrible parent if you’d rather be at work.

    You are not a terrible parent if you just can’t wait for them to go to bed.

    You are not a terrible parent if the sound of their voices sometimes makes you want to drink and never stop.

    You’re not a terrible parent.

    You’re an actual parent with limits. You cannot do it all. We all need to admit that one of the casualties specific to our information saturated culture is that we have sky-scraper standards for parenting, where we feel like we’re failing horribly if we feed our children chicken nuggets and we let them watch TV in the morning.

    One of the reasons we are so exhausted is that we are oversaturated with information about the kind of parents we should be.

    So, maybe it’s time to stop reading the blogs that tell you how to raise the next president who knows how to read when she’s 3 and who cooks, not only eats, her vegetables. Maybe it’s time to embrace being the kind of parent who says sorry when you yell. Who models what it’s like to take time for yourself. Who asks God to help you to be a better version of the person that you actually are, not for more strength to be an ideal parent.

    So, the next time you see your friends with small children with that foggy and desperate look in their eyes, order them a pizza and send it to their house that night. Volunteer to take their kids for a few hours so they can be alone in their own house and have sex when they’re not so tired, for heaven’s sake. Put your hand on their shoulder, look them in the eyes, and tell them that they’re doing a good job. Just don’t freak out if they start weeping uncontrollably. Most of the time, we feel like we’re botching the whole deal and our kids will turn into horrible criminals who hate us and will never want to be around us when they’re older.

    You’re bone-tired. I’m not sure when it’s going to get better. Today might be a good day or it might be the day that you lost it in a way that surprised even yourself.

    Breathe in. Breathe out.

    You’re not alone.

    This post originally appeared on The Actual Pastor.

    • Hi Joy,

      I’m a 1st time mom with my 1st baby who just turned 1 year old 2 weeks ago and she’s exactly like Catalina in terms of the carrying and “neediness”. We’re dealing with separation anxiety at this point with our baby. I also feel the same way you do and i just wanted to encourage you that God is our enabler and that we will be grateful that this is all we have for the “demands” of the baby rather than other frightening threats. this blog by Pastor Steve Weins also was very helpful to me when i read it a few months ago. Be encouraged 🙂

  4. My son Jose was the same way as Catalina now. I had a change in perspective after reading the term “high need baby”. Certainly sounded better than “difficult”. It really took him a long while to get over being high need, but in retrospect It was an adventure for me! Joy, I am so cheering you on. Smile through it 🙂

  5. As they all say, every new baby is different from the last one. My first-born was like that too. He would always want to be cuddled and held (so I would wear almost all day in a sling), he wants to be rocked to sleep and stay cradled so he would have longer sleep (and I do this even if my back already hurts), he was verocious feeder (we are still breastfeeding until today), and he doesn’t want anyone else but mommy only. Talk about major exhaustion—it would even cause minor bickering between me and my husband because I’m just really tired and he feels helpless for me. I also would like to think that he was a “difficult” baby, but upon reading Dr. Sears, he says there really are babies who are “high-need”—those who need more nurturing than the others.

    I agree with you. It takes perspective and gratefulness to appreciate where you are now regardless of how tiring it can be. When I was tempted to throw in the towel and join my son when he bawls, I think about all the other mothers who had to contend with not only caring for a newborn, but newborn with special needs or have difficult illnesses to keep them alive and thriving. God sure knows our capacities and he is the one who helps us accomplish the very role he has bestowed upon us. And yes, I say AMEN with you on Philippians 4:3-5. Let’s rejoice for this wonderful motherhood that we get to experience! 🙂 Blessings to you Joy! 🙂

  6. Wow how comforting it is reading ur blog. God reminds me to rejoice always no matter how difficult life maybe. Just this very moment when I have plenty of complaints but God responded immediately by reading ur blog. Thank you ms. Joy for the inspiration. Thank God for the realization. Now I can smile because im grateful and I have to always rejoice. God bless you and your family!

  7. I’m ashamed to admit it, especially since I know women who have ached and longed to have a first child. Here I am, with my fifth, ranting about the un-pleasantries of motherhood. Somebody slap me.

    To be honest I was thinking about this while I was reading your blog. Grabe naman she’s complaining about her challenging her baby is.While some of us who lost our babies or can’t have babies will change places with her in a heartbeat.

    Thank you for this prayer “Lord, this is not what I wanted but you know best so I thank you for putting me in this circumstance. Help me to trust that this is exactly where you want me to be right now and give me your joy so that I glorify you with the right attitude and behavior.

  8. tinette de la vega says:

    keeping you in prayer, joy!
    thanks much for inspiring and encouraging.
    i needed this. God is faithful to us both. hehe!
    hugs and God bless.

  9. Thank you for your very honest entry. 🙂 Oh my gosh, my daugther was the exact same way when she was an infant. She refused to be put down. I slept sitting down for three months with her in my arms. When she was 6 months and learned to sit on her own I thought it would be easier for me, but I admit that it wasn’t. She would not play on her own without me beside her. She would not sleep for long hours unless she was cradled. I was her hostage. I learned to pee with a baby in my arms. I admit that I had difficulty enjoying motherhood during those times. But as most Moms do, I nurtured her despite the challenges. Our baby is 19 months now and she is still quite attached, but this time I am loving it. She is the sweetest and shows her love for us very openly. She insists that we spend sufficient time together as a family every day, playing and hugging and telling stories. She treasures togetherness. Id like to think that this characteristic of hers was specially designed by God to bring our family even closer than before. It was hard in the beginning but “rewards” to our little family now are beyond words. I pray the same for your little one, that she be an instrument of God to continue to bring your lovely family together in love and faith. And I pray for your during this challenging time, that God give your “super power” strength day by day ☺

  10. Reading this post brings back memories of having Matti. He was colic and constantly crying (more like screaming as if he was in pain) starting from day 1. I slept only an hour each night since he woke up every 30seconds and wanted to be held. I resolved that not sleeping was easier than having to wake up every 30 minutes. I was a hostage and felt helpless not knowing what my baby wanted I even began asking God if e was punishing me for something I wasn’t aware of. Most mommies glowed with their first born, I had dark circles around my eyes, and didn’t have time to dress of fix up. It takes a constant heart check to face this situation and yes, grace and endurance from The Lord. I just kept thinking it would pass sooner or later (mine took 6 months before I got to the 3 hour feeding intervals). And today, he’s two, still doesn’t sleep straight but I love him and he makes me laugh so much. I researched how things could be better for him and paured it with prayer. Hang in there Joy. But i empathize with you. There is purpose for this season and I can’t wait to hear more of what God will teach you.

    • wow, all along i thought my son is the only one who cries every 30 mons! this went on till he was 1.5 years. it was really tough and i must admit i was traumatized. after him, my husband and i havent had another?

  11. Ms. Joy, hi. Thank you for always sharing your life experiences with us . It means a lot to see ourselves in others so we can bring each other up and encourage one other. Thank you for always being courageous enough to tell your honest story. We can see so much of Christ in you and in your family! Praise be to Him!

  12. Joy,
    I empathize with you. Really, I do. But you know, in a way, I envy you because when you got a high-need baby, you already had experience with four babies (plus, you’ve got yayas). The perspective that comes from previously raising four babies is priceless! My eldest was a high-need baby and all I heard from well-meaning elders was “You won’t be able to do anything if you keep on carrying him!” and sadly, I listened. The bond formed during the early years is – well, nothing can beat it. I learned to carry my subsequent babies for as long as they wanted to and they were so much easier to take care of. So be thankful and enjoy this time. And keep the posts coming, they encourage us so much!

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