It is well with my soul

This is not written as a “Poor me! Pity me please!” post. This is to give those who have the fortune of not experiencing chronic pain (or chronic health issues of any kind) a glimpse. I am determined to be a voice for the untold numbers of people fighting a battle every. single. day.

My fingers ache. Bone deep pain. They are slow to respond to my brain’s message to move. Having to grab something with finger strength and grip alone is difficult. My fingers are hesitant to change position if they’ve been in one position for very long. Mindlessly loyal to the status quo. “We’re good here! It’s too much work to move! Thanxbye!”  I find myself looking at them to get them to move. Gently (sometimes not so gently) urging them to do as they’re told. They feel swollen even though they’re not. That feeling of too-full, overripe. Like they may split open like a past ripe melon.

My head. Low grade headache is the norm. I can not remember what it feels like to not have a headache. Migraines 3-4 times a week. Sometimes it feels like my skull is made of knives and my brain is bouncing off them. Sometimes it feels like my head is in a vise that is being tightened. Sometimes like a knife through an eye (or temple)  into my brain. Foggy brain. Words called forth disappear into vapor. Default emotion being numb or depressed or worn out. I joke that I have a “Man-brain” now- I’m almost totally unable to multi-task. We’re depending on Noel’s memory and that is a little scary!

I have burning pain down both arms and sometimes the backs of my legs. In my arms it’s constant. The only thing that changes is how badly it burns. From a low-burn to throbbing, aching flame. My head feels too heavy for my neck. Sometimes it’s so bad I have to sit in “my” chair and recline a bit to take the pressure off my neck. My neck and shoulders are tight and ache. Turning my head to either side hurts. Shooting pains up my head and down my arms.

Last October-early November, I realized I’d had a headache or migraine everyday for at least 2 months. I’d just adapted to it. Which is absolutely frightening. How quickly does dysfunction or illness become “normal” to us! What else have I adapted too that is harmful and destructive? I went to my doctor, I take headaches changing very seriously now after a friend’s brain tumor. He ordered a brain MRI. That came back clean. At the urging of my wise friend, I requested a Cervical Spine MRI. This came back with some items of interest. Herniated disc. Syrinx. The syrinx brought in the neurosurgeons. Waited 3 weeks to hear back only to discover they did not want me as a patient. Second referral. Waited weeks. Finally called the big city hospital only to discover my doctor’s office hadn’t sent the information they were supposed to. More weeks go by in incredible pain. Holidays and anniversaries. I’m checked out in pain. Or from the medicine. Finally see neurosurgeon. He doesn’t think my pain is from the syrinx or hernia (which is tiny). Orders another round of scans. Brain to butt. Wait weeks for results. Finally get a blow off call. “Everything looks great! Come back in a year so we can check the syrinx!” Super!

Everything looks great!!!  I’m bedridden many days. Parenting from a pillow. What now? Physical therapy- I got kicked out. “I’m not helping you. There’s no point in continuing.” More pills. Vicodin, cymbalta, lyrica, topamax, nortryptaline, nabumetome, toradol, tramadol, flexeral, steroids, imitrex. Meet with local neurologist. Who hadn’t read my file before seeing me. Proclaimed that I had sleep apnea. Get a cpap and you’ll be fine! But we’ll try propranalol for migraine prevention- just in case. He made sure to tell me that it wouldn’t cause weight gain like some other meds… One week of taking it and I gained 14 pounds. Super. More vicodin, gaba-pentin, also trigger point injections- which worked 1.5 times. Occipital nerve block. Nothing. Have two sleep studies. Get a cpap. I’m sleeping better but the pain is the same. The circles under my eyes are the same. Did I mention I went off everything? I don’t drink alcohol or consume artificial sweeteners, so that was easy. Also no caffeine, gluten, citrus, nightshade, dairy, eggs, blah blah blah. Supplements! Yes! Magnesium, CoQ10, Iron, EFA’s, Multivitamin/mineral, garlic, cayenne, and I can’t remember what else.

Chiropractor, physical therapy, massage, myofascial release, epsom salt baths, prescriptions, essential oils, natural supplements. Blood tests to rule out Lyme, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and all the other usual suspects. All negative.

And prayer. Praying without ceasing. Family and friends praying for me. Crying and petitioning God on my behalf.  Having hands layed on me. My head squeezed tight and commands for the pain to go in Jesus’ name whisper-screamed in my ear. Asked how I’m doing and giving an honest answer to be met with; “Don’t claim that!” “You’re healed in Jesus’ name!” “Read more healing scripture!”

I was in crisis mode for over 6 months before I realized that this crisis wasn’t a crisis anymore. This was my new normal. For how long, I had no idea. But I had a family and life had to happen. Birthdays came and weddings came and important days came and I had to get out of bed. We couldn’t keep eating takeout and fast food and frozen pizzas that my saint of a husband brought home. Bills had to be paid and I’m the bill payer. So I had to choose to make a sacrifice. Birthdays, weddings, special days and commitments I’d stupidly made (thinking, surely I’ll be better by then! Ha ha.) had to be honored and followed through on. Laundry had to be done. Supper had to be cooked. Life must continue. So I cooked and baked and decorated and celebrated and photographed and helped and it was lovely. Once an event was done, an obligation fulfilled, my body would collapse. Horrific migraines- so intense that I’d rather be in labor again than experience that pain. Exhaustion. Pain from head to toe. Sometimes for days after. This was the choice I had to make. To be present for my children, my family, my loved ones. I had to suffer.

It hurts to be touched. I hug my children anyway. I cry when my 4-year-old asks me if I’m better and if he can touch me. It hurts to drive. I drive my children to activities and homeschool events anyway. It hurts to use my camera. I take photos anyway. It hurts to sit in most chairs. I go places anyway. It hurts to chop and stir. I cook anyway. People with chronic health issues do it anyway. When they can. Sometimes they just can’t. “They’re missing church again!” “They aren’t at their child’s event again!” “They didn’t bring food to the potluck!”

My skin thickened. Scar tissue. From the judgement. The comments. The silence. The assumptions. The disappointment. The isolation. The rejection couched in spiritual words. I am embarrassed to say that I have feared man more than God. My focus shifted to pleasing man and worrying about that rather than on seeking God. Hurt and pain from people caused me to assume God was waiting for me to do it all correctly. That He was maybe angry, definitely impatient for me to say the right things, do the right things, then He could fix me. If only I would (fill in the blank) I started to feel condemnation when reading His word.

But then… Oh I love that… But then!!!!

Mine eyes were opened, my heart set free. A confrontation with a person (which, random, right?!?!?) A weekend filled with renewing and fulfilling conversations. The book of James. The “Oceans” song by Hillsong. A Sunday school class and a sermon at a church in North Carolina. Beta-testing a personality study, and more things that  I just can’t remember. Brain still foggy. I believe that through my suffering I am being perfected. Perfected meaning, being completed. I do not believe that God sent my pain. I believe He is using it for good. I am a stubborn, opinionated person. I have learned mercy and grace and humility through this experience. In possibly the only way I could learn it. By having to receive those things from others, from God and from myself.

I am no longer focusing on people or the why. I am focusing on the who. (whom). Nothing about my pain has changed. Nothing. We are pursuing a procedure that could help relieve some of the pain. Insurance has to approve it. It may make a giant difference in my pain. It may not happen. It may not help. That’s not the point. The point is that I’m not a victim. I don’t need to apologize or strive. Through the suffering, through the storm in my life, Jesus is still here. He is with me. He is for me. The point isn’t a perfect life with nothing bad happening. The point is when the trials come, and they are guaranteed to come, it’s not if they come but when they come. James 1:2-4 “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Instead of running around trying to “do everything right,” like there’s some formula for a perfect life, I’m focusing on God. On Jesus. I’m reminding myself that everyone is in a battle. We don’t see most of what people are fighting. Yet we are so very quick to judge. To assume. To think that if they’d just do it how we did it, they wouldn’t be where they are. I’m learning to respect each person’s journey and story. To not limit God and assume He can only work in one way. He is the God of abundance and beauty and variety. My eyes are finally able to see Him in the storm and the darkness. He is the light and the hope regardless of circumstance. The strong tower that will keep me, keep you, safe. And that is more than enough. It is enough that I really and truly can say that it is well with my soul. Right now. In the midst of this storm. In the dark of night. It is well, it is well with my soul


Just Give Me The TMI Crown Already…

I got all riled up after reading a news article about breast feeding. Here’s a link to an article about the horrors of a man bottle feeding his baby girl.

I keep having to delete and start over. I is riled up. Consider my hide chapped. Breathe, Lindsey… Men, if you do not want to read about nursing infants and the gory details, than you should leave my blog now.

I am writing this as a breastfeeding mom. I nursed 4 kids. The shortest length was 7 months. That means I’ve lactated for over 28 months. I have experience. I’m almost an expert! Or something…

What I’m about to say is going to shock some people, but I don’t care… Ready???

You can be a good mom. No, you can be a great mom and never breast feed your child.

Shocking, right? Gird yourself for TMI zone….

When I had my first baby at the advanced age of 22, I was going to nurse. For lots of reasons. And for lots of reasons nursing my baby ended up damaging me and hurting me. We worked with the Lactation Consultant and she threw her hands in the air and said, “I have no idea how to get this kid to nurse.” My body was so damaged from nursing that after less than 2 weeks, we had to quit nursing and pump. Pumping allowed me to enjoy 4 mastitis infections in less than 2 months. After 2 months of pumping, I tried to get my son to nurse. He finally did. Well sort of. He never nursed right. It hurt physically every time he nursed. Which with a 2 month old is every 3 hours. That’s a lot of pain and stress and dread.  I really, really, really did not want to do formula. Big bad evil formula. I looked into switching him to goat’s milk. I talked to 5 different people and got 5 different answers about cautions, or concerns about goat’s milk. So with no viable alternative, at least in my crazy brain, I just kept on nursing.

What I had been expecting to be a beautiful, bonding, healthy experience with my sweet baby was instead painful, stressful and depressing. I would tense when I heard him cry, or when I knew he was hungry. Our first night home from the hospital, my milk came in. No one warned me about how bad it could be, how I should have a pump to relieve the pressure. Noel ended up driving across town to Wal Mart in the middle of the night to buy a pump. I was crying, the baby was crying, and when Noel got home and opened the pump only to discover that it was MISSING A PIECE!!!! AND WOULDN’T WORK!!!!! He started crying too. One of us threw that useless thing against the wall. One of the worst nights of our lives! Still is 12 years into our marriage! I finally got a pump from a good friend and thought things would work better. I was wrong.

My baby was fussy, so fussy. He would never stay awake to eat. I called the hospital late one night to ask a question and the nurse I was talking to asked what I was doing with the milk I was pumping to relieve the pressure(which had nothing to do with why I called). I was just dumping it because I was too exhausted and overwhelmed to deal with keeping it in a clean way. She yelled at me, “That is liquid gold you are dumping down the drain!” I hung up on her and cried. Thanks for the help, lady.  I heard from women, “I’ve never heard of a baby not nursing.” And other really helpful comments. Not everyone was horrible, but in my crazy, the horrible is what I remembered and believed. Some of the horrible was accidental; people just trying to be helpful. I realized that some of the horrible was purposeful. It was that competition/knock-others-down-so-I-can-feel-better-about-myself-thing that women do so well.

Newborn babies don’t have many needs: clean diaper, sleep and food. Here I was failing at the simplest of things, what on earth was I going to do when the baby got bigger and had more difficult and complex needs? The challenges of nursing and insensitivity of others made me think I was a horrible mom. I felt like a failure constantly. I was depressed and scared. What on earth was I thinking becoming a mom? I couldn’t even feed my baby right!

Just to be clear, most of the pressure was coming from myself. I don’t even know if anyone could have forced me to switch to formula. I can be crazy, stubborn, determined.  I nursed that kid for 7 painful, stressful, depressing months. And he thrived. He was huge! The only problem he had was he was a projectile spitter-upper. Yuck. At 7 months, he was eating a lot of foods, so I weaned him(my milk supply was waning) and switched him to goat milk. Guess what happened. He quit spitting up. Totally. I laughed and cried about that one. If I’d have known he’d quit spitting up I’d have switched him earlier!

Months after weaning him I realized how insane I had been. How depressed I had been. How digging my heels in about nursing had been a mistake. Me breast feeding my baby had made me a worse mom. It stressed my relationship with my baby. It wasn’t worth it. Nursing my first born was not worth what it cost me physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. I would have been a better mom if I’d just given the kid some formula.  But it was too hard to give up my dreams and expectations. Too hard to accept that I wasn’t in control, and never had been. I promised my husband that if nursing was that hard with any more kids we had that I’d quit after a month and just give the kid formula. An emotionally healthy mom trumps the physical benefits of breast milk.

I over-share to make a few points. In my situation with my first born, people looking in didn’t know all the details. Some people assumed I was just clueless or stupid or a drama queen. How helpful would “Breast is best!” be to someone like me? Not helpful at all, in fact more harmful than helpful. Another point is that I tend to have to learn things the hard way. But once I figure something out, I’ll never forget it, and I’ll share it with other people so they don’t have to struggle as much as I did. I also share so that people don’t think they’re alone, or that they’re crazy or a failure. I learned so much from the challenging experiences I’ve had with pregnancies and labor and babies. I was such a black and white person! Black/White. Right/Wrong. Up/Down. It took these really, really hard experiences for me to see grey. To learn that grey is acceptable. Life doesn’t have to be so extreme.

One of the important things I learned was that it’s great to have ideals and standards (especially regarding pregnancy, birth and parenting), but sometimes we have to let them go. Letting go of an ideal or expectation doesn’t mean that you quit or compromised or failed. It means you’re mature enough to not be in control. You’re mature enough to not turn molehills into mountains. Just let it go.

The definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. How many of us are insane in more than one area of our life?

I also learned that there are different stages in your life. Different seasons. Same for other moms and families. What works for you now may not work for you in 1 or 3 years. What works for your friend now may not be right for your family now. It all comes back to not beating each other (or ourselves) up. I used to roll my eyes at statements like those, but I’ve lived it and I know it to be truth. You need to do what’s right and best for your family in the season you’re in and those seasons are going to change. So if you are wise, you will make changes also!

For moms to criticize other moms for nursing or not nursing (or a million other areas that moms differ) is totally inappropriate, judgmental and wrong. I’m not going to be a part of that! Yes, there are some moms out there who really are horrible, but they’re few and far between. Instead of turning our noses up and whispering about other moms and their horrible decisions and how their children are going to end up stupid, crazy and criminal because they were formula fed or went to public schools or were from a broken family!!! THE HORROR!!! (by the way I am all three of those things ;) The latter, not the stupid, dirty and criminal.. At least not most days… ) Or patting ourselves on the back for not being like so-and-so. Instead of that, let’s encourage, help, exhort and love each other! Let’s accept our differences instead of condemning everyone different than us! Radical, I know, but imagine what our world would be like without the criticism and insecurities!

Some of you may read this and start to feel defensive. Please don’t. I am not judging you if you made the same decisions I did and would choose to make them again. I’m also not judging if you totally and completely disagree with everything I’ve said. I’m responsible for me. You are responsible for you. I just want for women(including myself) to make good decisions for their families and themselves in their season. Decisions based on health and love and abundance and truth, not out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of not measuring up, fear of not fitting in, just plain old fear. That is a horrible way to live. I know. I lived it and it was a miserable experience!

I want you and me and our daughters to be free from the inner and outer critic. To accept Grace from God and each other. To give grace to ourselves and to each other. To be free to be who we were created to be. To believe we really are fearfully and wonderfully made. If we’re so caught up in criticizing and condemning and reveling in self righteousness, we’re missing it.

I don’t want to miss it!

Do you?