Monday, June 8, 2009

His Training Grounds

Let me share a story with's long but worth the read... :)

Eleven years ago we were blessed with our first-born. I had spent 9 months reading and learning all we could about babies...I learned about newborn sleep cycles, how to breastfeed successfully, and how to change a diaper without letting baby fall off the dressing table. We had taken childbirth classes and CPR classes. We were PREPARED! (You can laugh here...if you're a parent, you know we are never fully prepared for these little creatures!)

Fast-forward to birth day. After 29 hours of labor (wait a minute, isn't the average labor supposed to be something like 14 hours??? The book said so!!!), our little bundle of Heaven was born. She was alert and breastfed like a champ! Things were going well, and I was oh so happy that I had read all those books! After holding her for hours, the nurses suggested we put her in her bassinet and get some well-deserved sleep. I wrapped her up like a burrito and nursed her one last time and put her down. Then it happened...

I was still trying to get comfy in the hospital bed when our little bundle began to cry...I patted her, and she cried louder. The moment I picked her up and began to nurse her, she was content and would drift to sleep in my arms. I lay her down once again, and the moment her body touched the bed, she'd wake again and cry. The nurses assured me that all newborns sleep and if we left her alone, she'd drift to sleep. But apparently they forgot to explain that to the 3-hour-old-burrito-wrapped bundle! By the time we left the hospital, all the nurses were stumped, saying, "Well, we've NEVER seen a newborn like this one! Good luck!" With that farewell, they sent us home with our angel and some serious bags under our eyes.

On the 4th day of no sleep, we did the unthinkable...the thing that we had been severely warned never to do... We put our baby in bed with us, and miracle of miracles! SHE SLEPT! She'd wake to nurse, but we managed to do that while sleeping too...and PEACE filled our home at last. But, guilt beat me up on the inside. I was a first-time mama, and all the experts and seasoned moms were telling me it was not the best thing to do. So, I kept trying to make my baby be like typical babies. I kept trying to put her in her crib and crying in huge frustration when she wouldn't sleep in it even 5 minutes. Then one day a good friend of mine called to see how I was, and I broke down sobbing. She listened to my sad tale and then said something that would change my life. She said, "I think you have a high need baby. I will bring you a book that may help you out." In a few days I was reading Dr. Sears book about High Need Babies, and for the first time since I gave birth, we finally had someone in our corner! There were 13 high need characteristics, and our baby had 12 of the in other words, even in the world of high need babies (which are rare!), she was a HIGH END HIGH NEED BABY! God had surprised us...huge curve ball!

Very few people understood, but with our Dr. Sears book, prayer and a lot of faith, we began to follow his advice on parenting our Hannah. We began to practice faithfully this thing called "attachment parenting." I carried her in a baby sling every waking moment of the day and slept beside her at night. I nursed her "on demand" instead of the typical baby feeding schedule. I responded to her cries immediately and never let her "cry it out." (Well, once we tried to let her cry it out, and she was at the point of throwing up when we scooped her up and realized that Dr. Sears really did know what he was talking about!!). We kept her with us in church services, even with several concerned people asking us to please take her to the nursery where babies belonged (even though she was quiet as a mouse...after all, she was nursing the whole time under the blanket!). This was hard because we didn't fit in anywhere, and we were in a sense "out there" and very much on our own. BUT out of our crying bundle, we began to see a calm peace take place...she knew we were there for her and began to be have a content spirit (as long as she was attached to us...literally, I couldn't put her down even for a minute or else she'd cry into hysteria!). She was not (and still isn't) a typical child, but God called us to parent her according to her "bent" and how He formed her, no matter what the experts or Aunt Bertha says is best for babies. We had to form our own version of "normal," and we had to just stand firm when we received opposite advice from well-meaning people. (We LOVED everyone for trying to help, but they just didn't understand).

So why on earth do I tell this story?? Well, it occurred to me recently that all that struggle with understanding our baby...and all the "swimming against the current" to parent her the way she needed rather than the way "typical children" were parented...ALL of that long road of constant attachment parenting is now the foundation for this new road God put us on. We're currently in "training" for adopting a special needs child from another country. There are several layers of "issues" we are facing in this adventure, and we take this calling seriously...we are preparing as much as we can. And the big word that keeps popping up over and over again in book after book is "attachment." Grace will need a different kind of parenting...not for "typical children" but for a child who will be 3 years old physically but 0 years old emotionally. She cannot be left to "cry it out" or else the feelings of abandonment will be deepened. She will need an intensity of parenting that will attach her securely to us, allowing her to realize that we will not abandon her as she was abandoned in the past. We need attachment parenting in its purest, most concentrated form. And it hit me recently that though we can never be fully prepared for our adoption (just as we couldn't be fully prepared for our biological child...there are surprises in every bundle from Heaven!)...we do see that God HAS prepared us in a unique way for the road ahead. We have a priceless foundation that we learned from our Hannah. We know all about attachment parenting...we've been there for the 24/7 attachment process of a high need baby (I carried Hannah in a sling every waking moment until she turned 2...she nursed until she was 3.5... and she slept in our bed until she was 4). And guess what? She's doing great, and we're doing great! :) Even to this day, we hear comments like, "I've never met a child like Hannah," but now it's in a positive way...she's just unique! We'd do all that hard work of attachment parenting all over again! In fact, when our sons were born and were NOT high need babies, we still parented them with attachment parenting because it was an incredible blessing in disguise. And now we're in the process of getting slings again and preparing to attach another sweet bundle (Chris is even wanting a backpack carrier so that he can also carry her...Mama has to share our girl!). I actually find myself looking very forward to all those days with her in the sling against me...and all the nights of reassuring her that Mama is here and everything is okay. What an amazing turn of events over the past 11 years...all orchestrated by God, the one who created every baby special! And to think...I CRIED during all those hard training sessions in the beginning!

Please be encouraged today if you are in a situation where God is asking you to do something that nobody else understands. If the road is hard today, remember that it may very well be the foundation to something really amazing down the road. God prepares us in mysterious ways. His training grounds aren't usually easy but always worth it! Lord, may I always submit to your ways, even if I don't understand and even if nobody understands me either!