Baby Spica Cast Adventures (part four)

Poppy is 6 months old now and we have officially been living with a spica cast for 12 weeks. She gets her final cast off in just 2 weeks. I can hardly believe it. I can’t wait to snuggle her little body, give her a bath, take her for a swim, not stress about the weather, let her play in the sand…and the list goes on. She will have to wear a brace for some months afterward, but that’s a walk in the park compared to what we have been doing.

I got sad the other day thinking about how she is already 6 months old. Her “firsts” feel like “lasts” to me, knowing that my baby making years are over. And although I have held her obsessively and played with her constantly, I still feel as if the whole thing is flying by. The saying, “the days are long but the years are short” is really resonating with me lately.

Rather than just enjoy every moment, I (like all the rest of you) have to do life too. I have to feed people and clean stuff, answer hundreds of questions and break up hourly fights. I have to work on 50 million things and in the midst of it all, there’s this hip dysplasia junk. Some days I feel like it has slowed me down in a good way. It causes me to look into Poppy’s eyes and sing her songs longer than I might have if nothing was “wrong.” And other days it feels like it’s eating up my precious time. Worrying about it, driving to children’s hospital, replacing the moleskin on the cast edges.

I have been feeling nudged these past couple of weeks to stop waiting for this to be over before______ (fill in the blank.) Before we go to the beach, before we do fun things as a family, before we settle into a good routine, before I take a deep breath, etc. With so many things in life, it’s really tempting to wait until.

I hear it all the time. “I will travel after I get married.” “We will start a budget when our life calms down.”  “I will have that hard conversation after that event.” “We will buckle down with our discipline really soon.” “We will go to counseling when I’m ready.” “I will start taking care of myself eventually.”

The practical work of setting priorities, managing time and pacing ourselves can be overwhelming, especially with loud children and so much mail. But somehow it’s already 2016, I am 42 years old and my 10th wedding anniversary is in a couple months. My kids legs look so long and 2/3 of them are babies no more. Believe Steve Miller when he says, “Time keeps on slippin, slippin, slippin, into the future.”

So my word for the day is deliberate. Life done consciously and intentionally. Plenty of us side on the extremes- either hyper controlling our calendars and our every move OR living so reactionary that nothing we hope to do ever gets started. I think in both extremes, we look back and wish we had cultivated more special moments.

What are you waiting until? 

Invited In

Our little Poppy gets a lot of attention these days. We get plenty of stares and strangers asking questions- because it’s not often you see a baby in a cast. People are curious (and mostly kind) and I’ve found that if I engage them, they do their best to encourage. And sometimes they say dumb things. But most people just end up ooo-ing and ahh-ing over Poppy’s sweet round face, her clear blue eyes and her smile that just won’t quit.

And I’m glad to engage. I am generally at ease with others and I don’t have deep wounds of betrayal, so letting people in comes pretty naturally to me. I have obviously welcomed people in by sharing and blogging so it’s my own fault that it takes a half hour to walk across the courtyard at church lately. It’s like having a new puppy.

I recognize that it is not always a simple choice to open up. It isn’t always safe. It isn’t always productive. It can come with unsolicited opinions, input and even criticism. And once someone has been brought into your stuff, they feel invested and want to have a say in what happens next. It can be complicated to invite others in, but it is often better than choosing not to.

You know the friend you have that never tells you what is hard until it’s already solved? “That WAS a rough time, but now I’m better.” They might think it makes them appear strong, but mostly it just exposes their fear. Like my roommate who wouldn’t tell me before she was interviewing for a job or going on a first date. She didn’t realize at first why she was hiding things (or even THAT she was hiding things) but after talking through it she admitted she was protecting herself. If she didn’t get chosen, then people wouldn’t even have to know she tried. Or if she told us after the fact, she could play like she didn’t really want it anyway. It killed her to put herself out there because it felt vulnerable.

True vulnerability is exposing my current self. Sharing my unsure, speaking what I think and feel now, showing my ugly and being in the midst of the thing and inviting someone in. The “I have already conquered this” stance creates a wall of protection and keeps others from really meeting me in the depths.

Stories of my past can help others understand me and give context, but they are no substitute for vulnerability. The practice of sharing before I feel good about it, before I’ve overcome it and before it’s solved is crucial.

But then who? Who do I choose to hold my things carefully? I don’t want them dropped and I don’t want them used against me later. I don’t want to feel ashamed or to appear silly and weak. Of course these are the very reasons we use to talk ourselves out of being vulnerable. And all those things could happen- this is risky business. Your people aren’t always going to do all the things you need. I have failed people who have shared deeply with me, I know I have. But the more chances I get to be that sort of friend, the better I get.

So if you don’t like where I am going with this and your “run for the hills” response is welling up, here are 3 good, golden, bright, WORTH IT reasons to invite others in (and a kick in the pants from Brené.)

It’s brave. Bravery opens up chances that guarded people don’t get. Like Bear Grylls, unprotected and open to experience whatever comes. Brave people experience thrill and rawness and all the feels.

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

It connects us. Receiving acceptance from someone that knows the real you is powerful. The sort of connection that is rooted in intimacy can bring joy, healing and can create pathways for other kinds of depth.

“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”― Brené Brown, Daring Greatly

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
― Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

It allows support. The reason that I blog is because I am convinced that there are golden threads woven into all of our experiences. Good, valuable and meaningful things that need to be drawn to the surface. For me and for you. But the unexpected benefit of sharing this way has been the personal support and encouragement I have received (and have been able to give.) When we are deeply connected as people, support overflows.

When Poppy first started using the pavlik harness, we learned that all she could wear were onesies and baby leg warmers. After my first post about the hip dysplasia and the crazy harness, leg warmers came out the woodwork. Every pair were given to us. This might seem small, but it is tangible and represents the thoughtful ways others contribute to lightening my load.FullSizeRender (2)

It is fair to say that if you are dealing with deep wounds of betrayal or if shame has a hold on you, all of this sounds flowery and unrealistic. Even just plain not worth it. You’re saying to yourself, “I can buy my own dumb leg warmers if I need them.”

But living fearfully, disconnected and alone is not really life at all. Give yourself time, but not too long. Eventually you must pursue healing and take steps toward healthy people. “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” ― Brené Brown

God created us to live abundantly, to be deeply known and to hold each other’s hands while we do it. And His ways always win out in the end.

 

 

The One Thing Every Good Dad Needs

I grew up with a dedicated father and I know what a gift that is. He miraculously figured out how to “dad” well, even though he only met his own father once and had no example to follow. And of course he isn’t a perfect father (as no man is) but he is a great one.Steph6

I know how he coached almost every team I played on and how he was present at each important event in my life. I know he thinks I’m smart and that I should probably run the country (or at least whatever place I work at) and how he thinks I never hustled enough on the field. I know he protected me, made sure I wasn’t lazy and made me laugh with dumb songs he made up. And I know that he taught me what he knew about God and how to live life well.

I don’t know about all the things he sacrificed, all the ways he hurt or how many hard decisions he made. I don’t know every challenge he had to overcome or each dream he set aside for us. As kids looking up to our dad, we don’t see all the pieces to the puzzle.

It’s a different experience to watch fatherhood from the seat of motherhood. My husband and I are working out our parenthood side by side and so I get a front row seat. I get to share in his thoughts and fears, defeats and delights and I see what goes into each day of being a dad.

brian&kids

photo by the fabulous Paloma at http://www.palomalisaphotography.com

Watching Brian work through the stunningly big job of being a dad has taught me more about fatherhood than I’ve ever known. As we talk through the struggles, I have discovered that the single biggest challenge of fatherhood is to find balance.

How much does he work to provide well and contribute to the world with his career, yet be home to support and enjoy me and our kids? How can he have high expectations but also make home a safe place to fail? How much time is okay to take away from us to nurture his own health and hobbies? How much does he teach vs. how much should they discover? How does he give our kids both firm discipline and tender understanding? How much protection? How much freedom? How does he give them both roots and wings?

Balance means to “keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall” or to “offset the value of one thing with another.” There are plenty of dads out there that just can’t figure out how to do that in life and the effects on kids can be rough. Finding balance everyday as a dad is a huge challenge. For every thing/person that gets his attention, another one is not. And dad’s attention is a very valuable commodity.

But for every dad that is showing up, being teachable, expressing love, establishing priorities, trying again when he fails, asking God for wisdom and finding ways to achieve some balance- I salute you.

As you honor the fathers in your life today, tell them that you see it. That you recognize there are 30 million things a great father should do- and that how they manage to figure out how much of this and how much of that is a beautiful thing.

 

Baby Spica Cast Adventures {part three}

This whole “baby wearing a cast” thing requires a lot of trial and error no matter how much research I do. This week includes trying yet another sleeping position, introducing solid food a bit early in an attempt to avoid diaper blow outs and looking for a stroller that she’ll fit into. But so far, we are surviving and folding it all into our daily lives. Dare I say that it’s starting to feel kind of normal?

Almost every day Brian says to Poppy, “Sorry you have to wear your hard pants today baby.” Of course she just smiles because daddy is talking to her, but it’s still hard to see her all stiff and restricted. Our sweet little one has to wear her hard pants all summer long and I’m pretty sure it’s more difficult on us than it is on her.

She will have a total of 3 casts if all goes according to plan. Her first cast change was this past Monday. It was like surgery day (they even called it surgery) but without as much worry or pain. Our babe went under anesthesia again, lost the smelly cast, got x-rayed, got bathed and came out with a new cast. It was a long day, but as usual she was a little baby champ.


Right after the procedure we met with our doctor and the report is that both of Poppy’s hips are progressing well. The one that was fixed surgically is holding and should continue to grow together properly. The “good” hip that was responding well to the non-surgical treatment (pavlik harness) showed that the socket is deepening as it should be and looks great. Phew.

He said that Poppy will be in this cast for 4 weeks. We were expecting 5-6 weeks so I got excited. Then he said that her final cast will likely be for 6 weeks but that hopefully it will be a “bermuda shorts” style cast. That would be like wearing hard shorts instead of hard pants. Woo Hoo! The “May Gray” and “June Gloom” we have here in coastal southern California has been a welcome sight so far, but having a smaller cast when the hot days come would be such a relief.

So I walked out of that consult room feeling good. Anytime things are better than we expect it boosts our spirits. Each new challenge requires digging up some gumption and asking God for the grace to accept the reality. So when something is better than we thought it would be, it’s like a treat. A little reprieve, a lightening of the load.

But just as easily, something worse than we expected can take the wind out of our sails. We went back to see her in recovery and after kissing her sweet face, I pulled back the blankets and realized that her new cast (although clean and fresh) is not better than the last. It seems huge. It goes up higher on her torso and comes down closer to her ankles. Her legs are even further apart. My heart sank. Big deal right? It’s just a couple more inches. But it felt like a big deal. The cast covers more of her body than it did before and that makes me sad.

But then the recovery room nurse asks me, “Is she always this happy?” Yes. Yes she is. People ask me how I get her to smile for every picture and my big trick is this- I say “Hi Poppy” and she smiles. Her cheerfulness is regularly pulling me away from my pouting and replacing it with big doses of perspective.

Up and down, up and down. These things can feel so discouraging at first. But then this strange work of peace happens and I feel myself adjusting. Again. Adjusting to the harness, adjusting to the idea of surgery, adjusting to the cast, adjusting to a different cast…and before I know it, things don’t feel impossible anymore. There’s no question that having my 4 month old living in a spica cast is wearing on me and I am counting the days until it comes off, but we’re doing it.

It’s amazing what we can get used to. The human capacity to adjust is incredible. Something about having this bulky cast now will make the final stretch with the “shorts” cast feel like a breeze. From where I stand now, the months we thought she’d be in the harness doesn’t sound so hard at all. Call it survival or perspective or resilience but I am thankful that God placed it in the hearts of the humans he created. He sure knew we would need it.

Baby Spica Cast Adventures {part poo}

It happened. The dreaded diaper blow-out in the spica cast. I have had multiple dreams about it and it was as bad-even worse- than I imagined. It got all over the inside of her cast and even came out one leg opening. I used 100 wipes, a few swear words, a rubber spatula from the kitchen wrapped in wipes, a blow dryer, a flashlight and a lot of help from my 4 & 6 year olds since Brian was at work. I will spare you the pictures, but I took some to send to Brian so he could “live through it” with me. I have reached a new level of parenthood today.

It sort of feels like the first time your new car gets scratched. It hurts, but you are kind of glad that it happened and it’s over. The worrying about it happening is almost worse. The bummer in this case is that it will just happen again, no matter how careful we are.

On a good day, the spica cast looks like this (to give you a reference point) and the diapering is complicated. Our current regimen is to tuck a newborn diaper into the opening and then wrap a size 5 diaper over the cast. Some people also recommended putting a poise pad or something in-between the two diapers. She would normally wear a size 2 diaper. Hoping my Costco sized box of 2’s still fit her when this party is over. cast

Thankfully, Poppy will get a new cast in two weeks. Since she is so young and growing so fast, each cast will only last 4-6 weeks. Two weeks is a long time to have traces of poop in her cast, but we don’t really have a choice. The first two weeks the cast smelled weird and medicine-y and now it smells like baby poop. Lovely times over here at the Day house.

Each time she gets a cast change (most likely 2 more) she has to go under anesthesia so she can be completely still. They will put her under, give her a bath, x-ray her hips to check progress and then apply a new cast. So needless to say, we aren’t doing that more often than necessary. Here is a video that shows the crazy process.

Back when Poppy was in the pavlik harness, people would say, “at least she doesn’t have to be in that terrible cast some kids have to have.” Now we are in that terrible cast and I feel like I’ve been inducted into some club that I never wanted to be in.

But I was reminded the other day what a gift this wretched cast is. A friend mentioned that her nephew who has Cerebral Palsy just went into a Spica cast in hopes that he will have a chance to walk someday. The world of Orthopedics, including the pavlik harness and the spica cast, can do incredible things.

This frustrating chunk of fiberglass is doing good and I will keep trying to make peace with it. Even when it gets smelly. It is holding Poppy’s hips in place while they heal and grow healthy. Sometimes it’s the things we dislike most that are doing the most good.

BRIGHT SPOT 

I should probably leave you with this…

Keeping it because…next week.  Labeling it to ensure it doesn’t get used to scrape cake batter off the mixer bowl.

poopIt has been one of my favorite kitchen tools for 10 years (got it at my bridal shower- thank you Lori) and I use it almost everyday. Time to buy a new one for the kitchen.

 

 

Baby Spica Cast Adventures {part one}

Two weeks ago, our 3 month old baby had hip surgery. The day went really smoothly-we were perfectly on time and organized-which isn’t always the case. But as is always the case, we were incredibly well taken care of. Our big kids went overnight to their “cuzzies” house, our dog went to “Camp Barry” (my dad’s house) and one of our closest friends brought lunch from our favorite local deli and drinks from our favorite local coffee shop. Set up for a good day.

But of course I was still anxious about a few parts of surgery day- not being able to feed her for 4 hours before, the risks of anesthesia, seeing her in recovery and ultimately not being able to make her comfortable. The day came and went and although there were really hard moments, I felt grace & mercy pour over us.

In the half hour before surgery, Poppy was hungry and getting sad that I wasn’t feeding her so Brian took her. A few minutes before the OR nurse came to get her, she fell asleep on his arm. The nurse gently took her, trying not to wake her up, and headed down the long hall to the operating room. We watched the nurse (through some tears) bobbing and swaying the whole way. She kept her asleep until the mask took over so she wouldn’t be afraid.asleep

Poppy was swollen and in pain when we got her to her room and the night ahead was rough. The doctor said that her hip socket was covered with a layer of tissue pulled tight like a drum and he had to cut an ‘X’ in it, slide the ball joint in and then suture the tendon to keep it in. Surgery was necessary and even though it’s hard to see her tiny baby self going through this, we are grateful that she got it done early.IMG_7779

Since she isn’t really used to being mobile, the adjustment to being in a spica cast has been easier than it could be. Plenty of kids (and adults) have to endure this long after they have learned to crawl and walk and are not content to lie on the floor and bat at things that make noise. But she’s still frustrated. She has had some good days, some bad days and in general is sleeping like crap. 😩

But she is the best baby. Mostly happy and smiling all the day long. Harper has been making up songs to sing to her and my favorite (and the one she sings most often) goes, “You’re the queen of all the babies. Poppy, you’re the queen of all the babies.”

But I’m so tired and in need of some strength. Every morning I’ve been listening to this collection of hymns sung by Chris Rice. I’ve been hanging on to the promises in these songs and willing my sleepy self to face the day with the strength of Jesus. The thing about music is that it dances through my mind hours and hours after I’m done listening. “Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I hath needed, thy hand hath provided…”

We decided to write out some of these promises on Poppy’s cast. Brian chose a verse from Lamentations 3 (where great is thy faithfulness comes from). “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” I chose the truth from Jeremiah 29 that “His plans are to give our Poppy girl a hope and a future.” And the kids wrote that they loved her and decorated it pretty. 

One day at a time. That’s all we can ever do.

cast signing

Rocking her new tattoos

But it’s gonna be hard

So the doctor said she still has to have surgery. We prayed and you prayed and still we have to face the dreaded surgery. And I am so thankful that my baby girl will be able to walk and run and twirl someday because this is available to us. But I am disappointed that God’s plan for this whole deal is different than mine. Mark my words that eventually I will be grateful because of the lessons and the deepening and the yada yada yada. But this feels crappy and it’s not what I want.

And yet God promised in Romans Chapter 8 that He “works ALL things together for good, for those that love him and are called according to His purpose.” And I have witnessed that more times than I can count.

But I am dreading it. And feeling frustrated that God didn’t just change the story.

That’s the thing. As much as I know about life and suffering and the good it can produce, I still don’t want to do hard. I don’t want my baby to be in pain. I don’t want to hold off on nursing her for hours before surgery so she can go under anesthesia. I don’t want her to wake up in recovery with her little body in a cast. I don’t want to rent a special car seat and not bathe her for months. I don’t want her to have to wait to roll over and crawl. I don’t want her (or me) to sit on the sidelines all summer because she can’t get wet or get sand in her cast or cool off when she needs to. Ugh.

But I tell myself to quit my bellyaching because life is hard and it is much much harder for so many. And I teeter-totter back and forth between “I hate this” and “this isn’t so bad.” I want to pray this surgery away because I want God to be known and shown to be the healer and miracle maker that He is. But I also want to get out of doing hard things. And I want my little Poppy to get out of doing hard things.

This ant farm has been in the living room for almost 3 months now. IMG_0512

IMG_7390Harper gave it to Sawyer for Christmas and we had to send away for the ants. The ants arrived the day we were at the hospital bringing Poppy into the world and Sawyer was so elated that Brian made sure they set up the deal and released the ants as soon as he got home. These creatures have been doing the hard work of digging paths to make sense of the world (green gel) they live in. And besides the fact that most of them are now dead, I feel like we have the same work ahead of us each day. The other day I actually sat watching and cheered them on.

Hard is good. Hard is good. But maybe that’s not really true until years later when the hard things have dug their passages through the muck and uncovered treasures that we wouldn’t have otherwise found.

When God doesn’t do the miracle we asked Him for, it feels like a big blow. This big and powerful God of mine that cares about my cares, didn’t come through.

He didn’t come through in the way I wanted Him to, hoped he would, expected Him to. But whoa…hold on there tiger, HE ALWAYS COMES THROUGH. He is doing something good. He didn’t walk out of the doctor’s office. He isn’t going to forget the surgery date or the frustrating days and sleepless nights ahead. He will be present as we dig those tunnels through the muck and discover the treasures. And His presence will meet us, keep us, hold us.

This is yet another opportunity for depth. Deeper compassion, deeper commitment, deeper love. And if I’ve learned anything from writing, it’s that I often discover the same things over and over again. So I leave you with this- from my first blog post 2+ years ago-

But I also want depth. In my relationships, in my work, in the way I see the world. More than anything I want to see God and frankly that depth often finds its route through our aches and longings. Suffering makes things dark and cloudy, but if we wait long enough and dig deep enough, He’ll be there. Every trial has some golden threads. He weaves them in to remind us that He loves us and that we’re not alone. 

“He is near to the broken-hearted.” Psalm 34:18

Jesus makes a lot of “I am” statements (I am the light, the door, the shepherd, the truth…) and ultimately just says “I am.” Period.

“I am here.”  Not just “I was” or “I will be,” but now, “I AM.” Wherever you’re at, He is sufficient. He lacks nothing. He is complete.

Woven throughout scripture and throughout my life is the truth that He digs deepest. He reminds us, He pursues us.

And when he reaches us, He has what we need.

Thanks for praying with me and for pouring out your love and support during our hard things. I know your things are hard too, and I’m glad we can dig through the green gel side by side.