Doubt

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

Last year, my daughter and I studied the book of John at Bible Study Fellowship. One theme that struck me was how John, a disciple and close friend of Jesus, identifies himself.

The one whom Jesus loved.

I was baffled by how it seemed to be new information even though I have studied John before. God’s timing is perfect – it took the entire year, but He finally revealed why this theme was so important to me.

To explain why, I need to first give you the backstory.

Our third child was born in May of 2016. She, like our firstborn son experienced silent reflux symptoms and spent her first months writhing and screaming in pain. It was gut-wrenching and we felt helpless.

Again.

Unlike the first time around, we had previous experience. We recognized the symptoms and assumed we knew what to do. Then our doctor agreed so she began reflux mediation.

But symptoms remained.

Long story short, we later learned she had a tongue and lip tie that was corrected by a pediatric dentist. Once healed, she was able to eat without choking or gulping air. Her reflux was controlled with medication.

Life settled down. She no longer writhed in pain.

And we put it behind us.

Well. Not quite.

My emotional distress over the issue lingered. I wrestled with why a child should endure such pain. And WHY it happened again to one of our children.

As feelings surfaced, I distracted myself. I reasoned – it was over, we had moved on. We had a healthy, thriving and now happy baby.

Lingering on what was felt like the opposite of gratitude. And I was grateful she was feeling better.

So I ignored it. Stuffed it. 

This was building to be more than just a little distress. Old, deep-seated emotions and pain from the first time when we watched our son struggle now mingled with the new these fresh new emotions. The old emotions had not lost their sharp, raw edge, even with the passage of time. (I’ve shared some about difficulties during my first year as a mom before. I’m not going to rehash it now but you can read about it here.)

The truth is, babies are born with all kinds of maladies and challenges – reflux is by far, not the worst. But when anything causes your child pain, it affects you deeply as a parent. This time around, our daughter’s pain also affected our other children.  They too coped with the stress of their sister’s pain and their parents’ attention being consumed by the baby.

Now, on to my doubt.

The last day of BSF is ‘sharing day’ – picture 500 women and an open microphone. Women share publicly what God has done in their lives through the study.

It’s amazing.

The morning was crazy and I was running late. As I slid into a row towards the back, I sighed with relief.

My plan was to just sit and listen to other women praise God for what He had done in their lives that year.

Then this funny thing happened. I kept having this strange thought that I needed to share. My heart started pounding and I thought – not in front of all these people.

Nope.

If the Holy Spirit has prompted you to share something before, then you know exactly what I’m talking about – whether to one person or before 500.

The heart pounding – it’s a THING.

Suddenly I’m scribbling notes with a pink sharpie on an old receipt – trying to get my thoughts in order before I head up front.

Several times in the study of John the topic of doubt came up. Each time, I quickly assessed myself (as in, not really) and pridefully said, of course I don’t doubt God!

He is who He says He is. Nothing is too hard for Him. His word is true and powerful. 

How could I doubt Him?

The most famous example of doubt is in John 20. ‘Doubting’ Thomas is not with the other disciples when Jesus appears to them after the resurrection. Thomas does not believe the disciples account and wants physical proof – to touch Jesus’ wounds.

You guys, Jesus is so kind.

He knew Thomas’ doubts and soon lovingly gave the opportunity to see and touch His wounds, without reprimand. Thomas believes and proclaims, ‘My Lord and My God!‘.

During the lecture the week we studied Thomas, we were challenged to ask God to show us our doubts and bring those doubts to Jesus. It was so compelling, I began praying before we even left the parking lot.

It wasn’t long before it was clear that I did have doubt.

I never doubted that Jesus was ABLE to prevent our children’s pain.

I never doubted He was ABLE to heal them at any time. 

We prayed and prayed. Both children were healed in His unique way, and in His time. But not in OUR Time.

So I doubted His love

For our son. For our daughter. For our family.

For ME. 

We placed our hope and faith in Him in our distress and didn’t get the response we desired. We prayed boldly. We trusted.

We pleaded and cried out before Him as we held our sweet hurting babies.

And for a time that seemed far too long, they kept on hurting.

And doubt creeped in.

Looking back, I see God’s faithfulness. He carried us, sending help and comfort, even when it felt He was far away and unresponsive.

If I had read Thomas’ story at the beginning of the year, I would have likely ignored what it challenged me to see – I wasn’t ready to face my doubt. 

But God’s loving kindness is so gentle. Before He revealed my doubt, He impressed upon me that my true identity is the one whom Jesus loves. And how the same is true for each of our children.

It is no accident that all these feelings from our firstborn were stirred up and relived with our daughter, just before starting the study of John – the gospel of love.

I will never fully comprehend on this side of heaven what God was doing when He allowed our babies to struggle. But He does show us glimpses of His work. I believe ONE reason He allowed this again in our life was to free me from the burden of doubt. 

Only after He had prepared me by showing me His steadfast love, did He reveal I doubted it. And carried around those feelings for the last 7 years.

That is long time to carry around doubt laced with pain.

So, tearfully but with unexpected boldness, I found myself speaking into an open microphone before 500 women proclaiming God’s love and confessing my doubt.

The God of restoration revealed my doubt, not to shame me, but to free me. He did it to redeem the part of my soul I had shut off from Him because it was shrouded in the fear that God didn’t really love us as I desperately needed Him to.

What a wonderful God we serve – who doesn’t leave us in our broken condition and continues to actively capture and heal our hearts! 

And He will continue to help us break free from the broken we harbor and carry around inside.

Today I stand in that freedom, knowing there will be other difficulties and hard things in my life and in the lives of our family that will challenge my faith and the truth of God’s word.

Without a doubt, there will be other doubts. 

This experience has shown me how in the past I’ve judged Thomas for his doubt.

You know what? ‘Doubting’ Thomas gets a bad-rap.

We all encounter doubts. Walking with Jesus in the midst of a broken world means we are imperfect and incapable of imperfect faith. Doubt is reality. There’s a little Thomas in all of us – when we claim to never doubt, we are deceived by pride.

As with every Bible character, their examples of imperfection and God’s loving response is left there for people just like me. And you. I’m so grateful God included Thomas’ story in the Bible to encourage us in our doubt. God wisely let us know that even one of the 12 disciples, who walked side by side with Jesus here on earth, had doubts too.

Today I stand better equipped to handle new doubts because I have experienced firsthand how Jesus knows my doubts, before I do. He does not waste them. Instead, He gently uses doubts to strengthen and embolden our faith. He draws us closer to Him and will continue to do so until we are with Him and like Him in eternity.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Amen.

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

PS: If you aren’t familiar with BSF, you may want to be! It’s an international organization providing FREE, true to God’s word, Bible studies to men, women and children. Next year’s study is Romans and starts in September – check it out!

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

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Infant ‘Silent’ Reflux is NOT Silent: 5 Survival Tips for Parents

Infant 'Silent' Reflux is NOT Silent: 5 Survival Tips for Parents | thisgratefulmama.com

1. MAKE Time For Sleep

Duh-this may seem like a no-brainer if you haven’t had a hurting baby. But our baby hurt, and could not sleep. We rarely slept more than 4 hours per night, and those were non-consecutive 40 minute spurts. Sleep broken up like that is not restorative. As days months pass, the need for any solid chunk of sleep becomes desperate.

Here are a few ideas to schedule sleep:

  • Trade off – one parent goes to bed early while the other takes the evening shift. Take turns during the week.
    • If your child cries most of the night, use a loud fan, ear plugs or noise machine to block the noise so you CAN sleep while the other parent is awake.
  • If you are a working parent, allow yourself one day a week to go home and sleep for an hour or two before picking your child up from daycare.
    • If daycare isn’t a possible outlet for you, ask a trusted family member or friend to come hold the baby while you sleep. And when they come, don’t do anything else. Just sleep.
  • Do whatever it takes to help your child sleep – I held our son on my chest in a big chair with pillows propping my arms up so he couldn’t fall for his first 3 months of ‘sleep’.

2. See a specialist

No matter how good your pediatrician is, see a specialist. A pediatric Gastroenterologist (GI) just knows more because of their specialized training. They see more cases of severe reflux than a pediatrician and have resources and ideas even the best pediatrician may not.

3. Be Honest and Transparent

While no one wants to complain about their child, it is not complaining to admit or explain what is really going on. Take time to explain why you can’t volunteer, go to an event, or why you might be late or need to leave early. Being open and honest will help others understand, give grace, and even offer to help. People who don’t know you need help will not offer to help.

Another reason to be open and honest is that sharing your experience will add a new level of authenticity and trust in your relationships. You may be surprised which relationships thrive in this time and which ones do not – true friendships are forged in fire. These are the people who walk through struggles with you. Life isn’t perfect and we shouldn’t pretend it is – don’t be afraid to share the hard stuff.

4. Seek Experienced Reflux Parents

In addition to a great pediatrician and GI specialist, others have been in these trenches before you. They have spent their days and nights loving and doing everything they can to not only soothe their child, but also to learn how to do it better. As a mom who has gone through what you are going through now three times – I know the advice and encouragement from seasoned veterans is invaluable. If you don’t know any such moms, here’s a few resources that may help:

5. Pray and Then Pray Some More

In the middle of the night, all day long, when your ears, back and arms hurt from rocking and soothing the screaming, prayer is your lifeline to the God of all creation. He made you, your baby, and He knows exactly how hard this is for all of you.

He listens, He answers, and He equips. Reach out to Him for strength, comfort, and peace.

I recently studied John 11 and was so moved by Jesus’ compassion and how deeply troubled He was over the death of Lazarus. He comforted Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha and wept beside Lazarus’ grave. Even though death had to happen for Him to show His power over death as He raised Lazarus from the grave, He took NO joy in seeing the sorrow of those He loved. And, He felt His own sorrow over the situation. Cry out to Him, He hears you. He is your help and holds you both in His good, sovereign hands when there is simply nothing else you can do for your child.

On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:6-8 (NIV)

Infant 'Silent' Reflux Is NOT Silent - 5 Survival Tips for Parents | thisgratefulmama.com Infant 'Silent' Reflux Is NOT Silent | thisgratefulmama.com

Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent – God is faithful, still.

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent: 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope | thisgratefulmama.com

Watching our third baby suffer in pain from silent reflux is not any easier than with the first or second child.

A tiny baby writhing in pain, arching their back and screaming, red-faced until they have no more breath, is gut-wrenching for even the seasoned reflux parent.

Silent reflux is still awful.

While this time around we were more proactive in asking for and accepting help, daily, we were in the trenches, trying to soothe our hurting child. And, as I shared before, this time around, we also struggled to help our older children cope.

It was not easy for our children to watch their baby sister suffer either.

Many days, I sat back and observed how our entire family was affected by our baby’s pain. I often wonder why? Now when I say why, I don’t mean the science behind it – I actually understand that quite well by now.

No, I mean WHY?

Why would God allow a baby to suffer this way?

Why our children?

Why is this so hard?

Why isn’t He answering my prayers NOW?

My emotional response is to ask why, neglecting to go any deeper. Asking why only allows me to dwell in a dark place of mourning and frustration. It is not wrong to come to this place on occasion, but staying there long does only damage. There is no hope there, and as your little one suffers, trust me, you need all the hope you can get.

Like many injustices and suffering, we may never know why on this side of heaven, so dwelling there is not a fruitful endeavor.

Instead of asking why, I should be asking where God is as we walk through it.

I don’t know why He allowed this again, but I do know where God IS.

Right here.

With me. With my husband. With our baby. With our older kids.

He has not looked away even for even one second, even thought there were times we took our eyes off of Him.

God is not surprised that our baby has reflux.

He made her. Carefully. Without mistake.

God is allowing reflux to happen for a reason, even though I want it to be over without all the suffering.

I also need to ask WHAT is God doing?  

What is He teaching our family?

What is He working out in me?

What is He equipping me to do?

For now, it is evident He is teaching each member of our family to be more dependent on Him. He is teaching my husband and I to trust Him with each child He has given us, and to parent with His strength.

And to trust His perfect timing.

I am grateful that we have already seen Him work in this situation twice before – and He has an excellent track record. God never changes. I am confident He will work here too. I have already seen how He has used these experiences already to encourage other reflux families, just like I have seen Him work for good in our family’s life because of our son’s food allergies.

I expect Him to show up big here too.

God walks through all suffering with us – comforting, supporting, equipping, and carrying us through the worst of circumstances. He gently, lovingly guides us freely offering peace, kindness, love and forgiveness along the way.

From day one.

I admit, I do not agree with our baby suffering, but God’s character is good, regardless of our circumstance.

I trust Him and believe He will use this suffering for good. The countless hours spent fervently praying over our babies for relief have not been spent in vain, although I do wish He would answer those prayers now.

He answers all prayers in His timing. And I do trust His perfect timing and care. And that His ways are higher than my ways.

He knows the entire plan for my life, my family’s life, and this sweet baby. He is working for good, in something that feels only bad. The Bible is clear that God works for the good in ALL things of those who love Him – And I believe Him. And so I cling to this truth.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

He has shown Himself faithful to me and to each of our children.

So, while we walk through this, we keep our eyes fixed on Him. We expectantly wait for Him to make His presence known.

And every day, He does.

Because He is faithful, still.

 

*I CANNOT wait to share how God has worked in this situation already – our daughter has improved SO much since I started writing this in July. In the craziness of those days, I never published this – so here it is (With a few more posts to come explaining new lessons learned about infant reflux the third time around, and just how God’s timing was perfect in this situation).

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent – 5 Ways to Help Older Children Cope

Infant 'Silent' Relux is NOT Silent - 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope | thisgratefulmama.com

Adding a baby to the family is a big adjustment.

For everyone.

And when that baby hurts and has perhaps more needs than some other babies do, it can be an even greater adjustment.

The newest sweet addition to our family has silent reflux and had a tongue tie and lip tie that caused feeding issues which caused pain and crying for much of each day for three months.

Despite the challenges, we are so grateful for our growing family. We are grateful that even though our baby hurts, she is healthy and thriving.

But watching a baby cry in pain gut-wrenching. It motivated us to seek treatment and to research everything we could find. This is our third time around with silent reflux and we are still learning. Every baby is different. There is no magic recipe for treatment that works for all babies.

For a while, it seemed like nothing could help her. But we kept praying. Kept searching. God has been faithful throughout the journey. When I have time to process the past months I’ll share what did help our daughter. She is still medicated for reflux, but it is now under control most of the time. God is so good. And His timing is perfect.

While we waited for the solution to control her reflux, we did our best. Many days we carried everywhere, all day long.

Often, she cried whether we held her or not. At least when she was in my arms, she wasn’t in pain alone.

If you’ve spent time around a baby who cries a lot, you know even the most seasoned parent can get frazzled – even a mom who cared for two other reflux babies.

A frazzled mom is simply not at her best, even when she is giving her best.

This frazzled mama has two older children who were not getting my best. Given the volume of crying, most interactions with my kids was done at an elevated volume and tone. I am not proud of some of the sharp replies and responses they got from me these past months. It is not surprising that our older children also struggled to cope. 

Our son had severe silent reflux, but he was our first child, so he had our full attention. Although our second child also had reflux, her symptoms were present more so at night than during the day, and were never as severe as her brother. Her older brother did not have to cope much with her crying because he slept through most of it.

While we are so grateful our third child has been a champion sleeper, her symptoms are expressed mainly during the day. And the pain and crying expression of that pain has been profound. In the second and third months of her life, it was not uncommon for her to cry for 5-10 hours of the day. She was either eating, sleeping or crying. There was little time or energy for anything, or anyone, else. For any of us.

If you are a parent of older children and a hurting baby, here are some tips for helping your older children cope with what is going on at home.

Infant Silent Reflux Is NOT Silent – 5 Ways To Help Older Children Cope

1. Don’t Expect Too Much

When frazzled by a screaming baby, we seems to expect older children to be on their best behavior. However, kids get just as frazzled as we do. I often found myself dismissing them, or asking them to wait for unreasonable amounts of time for basic needs because I was overwhelmed. But being overwhelmed does not mean they don’t need me as their mom, nor does it give me the right to expect them to not need anything while the baby is crying – especially when the baby is crying for most of the day.

If I am not at my best, it is not fair to expect our children to be at their best. But how should we expect them to behave? It is certainly OK to ask them to follow already established family rules – we wont’ be encouraging bad habits or lowering our standard of discipline because  that would have to be corrected later. However, it is appropriate and important to extend grace to an emotionally frazzled child who may just need more attention. Is your child’s misbehavior a cry for attention, or simply from frustration and confusion about what is happening in their home? If so, they need your help to cope.

2.Carve Out Quality Time

If siblings are struggling to behave or are emotionally frazzled, MAKE time to spend with each older child. This doesn’t have to be a big event. Take advantage of baby’s nap time and spend it with older children – household chores can wait, no matter how messy the house is. Sit down, read a book out loud, play Legos, or color. An amazing attitude adjustment can be seen in our kids after just 15 minutes of dedicated time. They need more of us. We need to make the time for them, no matter how old they are, or how much the baby cries.

3. Recruit Other Adults

After quality time, your children may still struggle. If so, it might be time to recruit some help. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and trusted family friends are perfect to lavish love on older children. Often, they do not know you need help and are more than willing to help. Or, those who don’t want to overstep may just waiting for you to ask. Not good at delegating? Check out this post for some ideas of ways others can help and have graciously helped our family. Then go ASK!

4. Talk About It

Siblings may not know if it is OK to feel frustrated, sad, or confused about what is going on at home. The crying, and decreased attention from their parents on top of the normal adjustment to a new family member can be hard for them to understand and may need help sorting through their feelings. One way to get them talking is to share how you are feeling. Tell them you are aware you’ve been spending less time, that you miss them and cherish the time you do have together. Gently, kindly share what you have noticed about their behavior and mood. Give them time and assurance that it is alright to share their feelings and that it is OK to have those feelings. Assure children that this season will not last forever, and be sure to make sure to tell them how much you love them and how proud of them you are. Repeat.

5. Get Out Of The House

It can be easy to just stay inside when baby cries most of the day. But isolation is not helpful for anyone. Resist the urge to stay inside and get out of the house. Don’t worry if people look when your baby cries – most of them think you are doing a great job. They may look only because they heard a noise. What they see is a mama who is doing her best. You don’t have to go far to escape the house. Go for a walk, to the park, the zoo, or anywhere that is out of the house and out of routine. Even if baby cries the whole time, go anyway. Crying never seems as loud when you’re outside, and you never know, you might get a break from crying if baby gets some fresh air.

 

Hands FULL. My Cup Runneth Over

Well hello there. Wonder where I’ve been these past months?

On May 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm, we were blessed by the arrival of our daughter Audra Grace at 7 pounds 9 ounces.

Audra Grace

To say things have been busy…is an understatement. In fact, I don’t have time to be writing this now, but my soul and my brain are in serious need of writing therapy.

While I expected an adjustment period, I was unprepared for what a third child adds to the mix. Our hands are FULL.

One month in, I was just starting to get used to three children. We started getting out of the house on time, and figured out how to grocery shop with a baby and toddler in the cart, and 5 year old in tow…

But when silent reflux showed up at 4 weeks, it threw me for a loop and I’m still playing catch-up.

Many days are a blur. In some ways it seems like we’ve had this baby forever, and in other ways I feel like I blinked and she’s 7 weeks old.

How can that be? The newborn period is so very short.

My hands are literally FULL. Most everything is done with one hand. The other is holding a baby… shopping, cooking, cleaning, reading to the kids while they hold the book…

At times I feel like everyone needs a piece of me, and there aren’t enough pieces to go around.

I feel worn out, and fear I am not giving the older two enough attention. I am grateful  as they throw their arms around me without judgement or resentment. But as my 3 year old snuggles in with me at night and says, “I need you, I miss you”, I feel the pang of mama-guilt mixed with the joy of being loved unconditionally by our children.

And so we snuggle tighter, and a little longer.

Despite challenges, what I see looking back on the past 7 weeks is  an abundance of blessings.

A big brother and big sister falling in love with their baby sister is one of the most precious things I have ever witnessed. I love how they are ready and willing to help grab diapers, pacifiers, and burp rags, or to just sit and talk to her. They are my second set of eyes, alerting me when she spits up, is crying, or needs something. This baby is VERY well tended to! It is fun to watch the older kids play together more than ever because their parents hands are often full. I am grateful to see how easy going they have become and how they are growing in responsibility and love.

And then there’s my husband. My hero, yet again. My rock through pregnancy and delivery. My encourager. The tenderness he has shown as he cared for me and our family after delivery is inexpressible.

Selfless. Persistent. Loving. Enduring.

This man took over so much around the house and with our kids. He entertains and plays with our kids, filling our home with giggles and squeals of delight. He brings me beverages and snacks while I feed the baby. He cooks, cleans and runs errands, all while working full time. Thoughtfully, he recruited help for me when he had to go out of town on a work trip so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. He is a full time, hands-on daddy and husband.

When we’re having a rough reflux-day, he comes home from work early to give me a break.  In the middle of the night, he takes over rocking the baby when she can’t fall back asleep. And he encourages and compliments, while graciously biting his tongue when I’m not doing the same. I am so grateful for his faithful, patient, selfless service to me and our family as he loves us through actions.

Words can simply not express just how grateful I am for him. Words fail me.

Our family and friends have blessed us beyond measure. Gifts, meals, visits with helping hands and loving arms have been given in abundance. We have been so generously cared for, the thank you card list keeps getting longer an longer (some day they will actually get written and be mailed!).

I feel the prayers of many lifting our family up as we adjust to being a family of five, and as we pray for Audra to feel better. We are so well loved, cared for, and covered in prayer. When I think I’m at my limit holding this sweet, crying child, a phone call or text message comes through checking in on us, or to tell me they are praying for us – always in perfect timing, bringing tears of joy and the feeling of being known.

And I feel no doubt that the Lord who created these precious children sees me, knows our struggles, and is carrying us through. We trust in his healing of Audra’s reflux, and that it will happen in HIS perfect timing. We trust that any present suffering is being used for good, and we expectantly wait on Him to show us exactly what He is doing here. I feel his loving, comforting arms as others selflessly step in to serve us and to lift us up.

He withholds no good thing from us.

We just have so much to be grateful for. I refuse to wish these days away, reflux or not. So we focus on gratitude, on our family, and keep our gaze on Jesus. Time is flying by, and we commit to soak it all in, no matter how busy or exhausted we are, or how much this sweet hurting baby cries.

Our hands may be full with these three precious children, but our life, and hearts are overflowing.

My cup runneth over.

 

 

Infant Silent Reflux Is Not Silent – 10 Survival Tips for Parents When Your Child Does NOT Sleep

Infant Silent Reflux Is Not Silent - 10 Survival Tips for Parents When Your Child Does NOT Sleep | thisgratefulmama.com

There are infants who sleep through the night right away, or even within a few months of bringing them home from the hospital.

We were not that family.

Read more about our experience with infant reflux:

As I’ve shared before, our firstborn had silent reflux. Acid burning, pain abounding…heartburn. In our experience, reflux is worse at night, and greatly affected his and our sleep.

When many parents say they had a hard night, it means the child was up a few times, perhaps staying awake for a (whole) hour, or that perhaps they were up at 4 am for the day. Let me be clear that I am not diminishing how this feels in the morning – tired is tired! But I think it is fairly safe to say most babies and parents manage one solid 2-4 hour stretch of sleep per night, most nights. They are tired, but are usually functional the next day.

When I say we had hard nights, I mean that most nights, he did not sleep. There were 3-5 hours stretches of crying and discomfort followed by a 40-minute nap. But even this short stretch was interrupted by writhing and painful screams.Then we repeated the crying and short nap, or he was up for the day. He did not sleep a 3-hour stretch until 10 months.

As his nursing mama, neither did I. And often, neither did my husband.

We tried everything. We held him, we tried walking, co-sleeping, swinging, bouncing, singing. In desperation we tried crying it out but it was short-lived and agonizing for mom and baby  – a hurting baby cannot self-soothe, nor should he have to.

Nothing worked.

We spoke to doctors, lactation specialists, other parents and read books, articles and blogs by sleep consultants. There were many great tips, but none helped our son sleep.

If you think that sleep-deprivation is hard on your body and mind, imagine how it affects a baby – they are supposed to sleep twice as much as we are!

He, and we were exhausted – a term I no longer use lightly.

After 10 months, his sleep ebbed and flowed along with his silent reflux symptoms until FINALLY at 15 months, he slept through the night. This too came and went, but his sleep generally improved so MOST nights were silent nights.

That is, until the reflux returned with vengeance when he was 2 1/2 and I was 7 months pregnant with our second baby. Then his sleep success derailed and we recognized old patterns of returning pain and chronic coughing. This was no sleep ‘regression’. It was sleep succession. But we will save the story of toddler reflux for another day…

Because our sleep experience was a struggle, my goal is to share how to survive – to endure, to wait for healing, and to do everything in your power to encourage sleep. But more importantly, my goal is to empathize, and encourage parents that sleep does come, even if not right away.

10 Survival Tips for Parents – When Your Child Does NOT Sleep

1. Schedule YOUR sleep

While parents may not need as much sleep as a newborn, they do need consistent sleep. When your child doesn’t sleep, sleeping when the baby sleep doesn’t work. Consistent sleep-deprivation has consequences. Parents need to make their own sleep a priority. Be creative. When our son was young, I worked. Some days I went home and slept for 2 hours before picking our son up from daycare. OR, I’d work a few longer days, and take off early on a slow day and sleep for (gasp) 3 hours! If you don’t have daycare as an option, read on…

2. Enlist help

While not all parents have volunteers to stay up at night with the baby so the parents can sleep, most have someone who will come during the day. Ask for help. And accept it when it is offered. Don’t be prideful. Don’t shrug it off. Sleep is necessary and important. Ask them to come over and snuggle your child. Be sure they understand your child might cry the whole time. Our son’s grandparents, aunts and uncles and our close friends were willing. We weren’t good at asking.

3. Be transparent

Nothing good will come from pretending everything is fine. Don’t sugar coat what is going on. While there is a fine line between explaining the facts and complaining, if you aren’t truthful and transparent, your sleep-less existence will be lonely, and without help. And, others will not understand why you suddenly traded your social life for sleep.

4. Request advice from professionals

Assuming you are already navigating reflux treatment, don’t neglect to see lack of sleep as a symptom that needs to be addressed. When sleep is this difficult, more than just a pediatrician may be needed. Request a consult with a GI doctor, ask for a sleep study, or meet with an occupational or sleep therapist.

5. Try new strategies

I cannot advocate the ‘cry it out’ method because we learned that a hurting baby cannot self-soothe. They hurt and need help. However, there are many other great options to try. It is a good idea to try different sleep positions, but instead of buying a bunch of rockers, swings, crib wedges or chairs, borrow them. Research them. We used a Nap Nanny (no longer sold, but this Dex DayDreamer™ Infant Sleeper is today’s equivalent product) with an angled back to help with reflux. It was the only place our son ever slept at all for most of the first year. Please note: the most important comment on these sleepers is to never place them in a crib. They are intended to use on the floor for baby’s safety. 

6. Join a support group

Did you know there are GERD support groups all over the world? You can find the Reflux Rebels or Reflux Support Group on Facebook. The Facebook groups are generally closed, which means only group members can see your posts. You will find people struggling with the same issues, encouragement, and wise advice from real-life experience.

7. Don’t wake the baby

If your baby does not sleep, DO NOT interrupt sleep for any reason. The theory that sleep begets sleep is true in our experience. There is no event more important than your child’s sleep if they NEVER sleep. Do your best to set conditions for sleep and then protect that schedule. If that means leaving early, coming late, or not attending something, SO BE IT.

8. Pray

The best comfort I found during this time was prayer. And scripture. It is no surprise to God that you are tired or struggling. He sees your child and He sees you. Let Him carry you, and trust that He will bring both healing and sleep in His time. AND, know that your struggle has purpose, even if you cannot see it yet. Trust His plan, purpose and promise that He is working in all things for good of those who love Him…

9. Hang on to hope

Our son struggled for much longer than we wanted him to. And there were days we thought he would never, ever sleep through the night. But he did. And now he sleeps hard, and well. Eventually, even your child will too.

10. Know you are not alone

Other moms have endured what you are enduring. Find them. They won’t waste your time with advice that won’t work, they’ll instead spend their time listening and encouraging. They will understand that not all problems can be fixed with a book, herbal remedy, fancy swing or sleep-training method and they will remind you that some problems  have to resolve with time.

 

Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent: My Experience Nursing and Caring for Our Hurting Son During His First Year

My Experience Nursing and Caring for Our Hurting Son During His First Year | thisgratefulmama.com

This is part one of two posts about nursing a hurting reflux baby. This post is simply to share my experience and struggle nursing and caring for our son who had silent reflux.

The purpose of part two is to encourage moms and equip those who support moms nursing hurting babies with knowledge of how to help. These women need your support and help; nursing a hurting child is no simple matter. In fact, nursing any child is often no simple matter.

If you are struggling with nursing, you are not alone.

It is no secret that our son had silent reflux as a baby. He never spit up – it burned both coming up and going back down when he swallowed it. Reflux medication did not eliminate his pain but merely took the edge off. This meant he hurt for most of his first year. For more about what silent reflux is, and how it is treated, read:

This story has taken longer to share because it is deeply personal and emotionally charged.

Many of those closest to me do not know the difficulty I had nursing and caring for our son, particularly during the first 3 months, and every night during the first year. Why? Telling the experience means recalling feelings of inadequacy, pain and failure that plagued my first year as a parent.

Nursing is ‘supposed to be the most natural thing’:

For me, it was not. It took a VERY long time to get the hang of it, even with multiple lactation consultations. It was physically painful for months. I felt scared, inadequate, guilty, and exhausted, but determined to figure it out. Failure was not an option.

Daytime Feeding:

During the day, he wanted to nurse constantly to soothe his burning throat. While spurts of cluster feeding are normal, this was extreme and constant. He would eat well but be frantic to nurse minutes later. While nursing, or passed out on my chest, he was somewhat calm – but his body never really relaxed.

Because he grew rapidly, his reflux medication dose was often too low for his body weight. During those transition times before his dose was increased, his nighttime symptoms, which we will discuss later, creeped into daytime. Those days and nights were truly a battle.

When I went back to work, I pumped and our daycare provider gave him bottles. For several months, he refused them and ate only as much as he had to at daycare. Then he cluster fed when I picked him up, and on weekends.  However, we were blessed when at 6 months, his daytime feedings finally became pretty regular.

Spacing feedings out:

We sought help for the constant nursing. We saw lactation and our pediatrician. They both encouraged us to space feedings out. I wanted to, and we tried. We held him as he slept, even as our limbs went numb. We tried everything to soothe him and lengthen the time between sessions. The most effective way was to hold him and do DEEP squats. Up, down, up, down, – until our legs and backs gave out. My poor husband often came home to a sweaty wife who could hardly stand up. It was not my best time. Squats – all day, every day. During maternity leave, we barlely made 1 hour between feeding start times, and we did everything physically possible to space them out.

The physical toll:

Keeping up with nursing demands during maternity leave was physically exhausting. When I should have been recovering from having a baby, I was doing continuous squats with little or no sleep (when I say no sleep, I mean actually NO sleep). The constant nursing was physically painful and draining. And I made so many mistakes – like failing to ask for more help. And not getting up to eat or drink water between each feeding because I was too exhausted and afraid to move. This left me often dehydrated, leading to other physical problems I won’t detail here. I did my best to eat healthy, despite cutting problem reflux foods (ALL dairy, citrus, beans, broccoli, etc.).

The lack of sleep and physical demands during maternity leave did NOT help recovery from labor and delivery. I was still not recovered at 12 weeks when I returned to work. At 6 months, I went back to the doctor, still in discomfort and pain. I was told it was from lack of sleep and rest for my body. Stress – it really does take a toll on the body.

Nighttime Feeding:

From 7 pm until morning, the reflux caused a different problem for the firs year. He was desperate to nurse, frantic. He began to eat, but suddenly it was like someone pinched him – his body stiffened and fists clenched. He threw his head back and the scream from his tiny body would shatter my heart as he tore his mouth away from my chest (ouch).  The wail continued, rattling until no breath was left and his face turned beet-red. We tried bottles and pacifiers. He refused. When he took a bottle at night, it too resulted in pain.

So we did our best to soothe him. Arms and backs exhausted after an hour or so, I would give in and nurse him. Still frantic, then the few moments of calm would be shattered by painful screams until finally he would pass out. Afraid to move, I held him until I got up the nerve to tiptoe upstairs to try to lay him down. If the floor creaked, or he was moved in any way, he would wake in pain. Rarely could he be transferred from my arms. Often, I stayed on the couch, holding him while he slept while trying to rest my eyes. Even sleeping, he cried out in pain, limbs flailing. I always prayed he would stay asleep, but he wouldn’t. He slept for 40 minutes, followed by a few hours of squats and pacing.

Most nights, my husband would find me weeping in a puddle and take over.

We did that every night of maternity leave and most nights the first year. He did not sleep even ONE 2 or 3 hour stretch until 6 months. Thereafter it was infrequent. He did not sleep through the night until 15 months and did not sleep well during the night until two and half. This child was in serious pain. He was doing the best he could.

Isolation: 

Because he was so upset between feedings, it was not feasible to get out of the house during maternity leave. He screamed, writhing in pain in the car and anywhere we went. We paced church hallways with a screaming child, and literally sprinted to get through Target. It was so stressful, it just wasn’t worth it.

With the snowy winter weather and screaming, we did not get out much. It was impossible to nurse around others because he would writhe and flail in discomfort as he nursed. I ended up locked in a bedroom nursing him at family events. Alone. During the day, I was too afraid to wake him, or too exhausted to talk on the phone. I quickly lost touch with many friends. I was incredibly lonely. I cannot express my gratitude to my husband, family, and a few close, persistent friends who lovingly stuck by my side.

The Emotional Toll:

The screams rattled me to the core. He was in pain and it was my job to comfort him. The one thing, nursing, that was supposed to soothe him, hurt him. I felt inadequate and like it was my fault, even though knew it wasn’t. I was failing him and could not fix this problem. At night, I became unable to sleep when he was. Since he refused bottles, I was in demand all the time. Any noise would jerk me fom sleep – wide awake, adrenaline pumping while praying he would keep sleeping. I was anxiety-ridden. I worshipped sleep but it eluded me as I pleaded and prayed to God first for relief for our son and then for sleep.

After 1-2 hours of non-consecutive sleep per night, I was a walking zombie. Looking back, I cannot believe I did not lose my job. I was underproductive and cranky. My boss and coworkers were understanding and helpful despite my edgy demeanor. I felt guilty for feeling relieved when I dropped him off at daycare and for enjoying time sitting in a quiet lab alone with my hands free. Every invitation from friend and family that required me to do something other than take care of our son, work, or sleep became overwhelming. I had no energy for anything else. Overwhelmed is a great way to describe how I felt that year.

Any physical pain from his abrupt motions and continual schedule were nothing compared to the emotional pain of not being able to help him. When I went back to the doctor at 6 months, they did a postpartum depression screening.  I answered how I thought I should. I look back now and see my shame that I wasn’t handling things well. At the time, I was afraid and unable to admit the truth to myself. At 10 months, I heard a woman from church talk about her struggles as a new mom. It finally gave me the courage to admit my need for help to my husband, and then to a doctor. I sobbed taking the depression survey and while explaining how poorly I was coping with sleep deprivation, stress of night feedings and daily life. The floodgates opened. I got help.

Much to be grateful for:

I was not alone, and neither are you. We all need support and help – don’t be ashamed to ask for it. My mom, sister and mother-in-law helped as much as they could. They drove across town countless times to bring food and to hold our son while praying over him so I could rest for a couple hours. He would often scream the whole time, refusing the pacifier and bottle. They did their best to soothe him. I am SO grateful for their help. He wore those loving arms out but they kept coming back

Our church small group blessed us with what I like to call ‘the parade of meals and encouragement’. Our close friends and family encouraged us, prayed for us, and were so gracious with me even though I was not able to be a good friend. They loved me anyway.

My husband did more squats than me and endured sleepless nights alongside me. Emotionally, he fared better than me and was my rock. He comforted, encouraged, and was unbelievably kind and gentle, even when I failed to be able to support him at all. We were a very tired mess but we were a team. I would have quit nursing if my husband hadn’t been my champion. If you support a mom who nurses ANY child, do not doubt that YOU play an important role!

God carried me through:

Psalm 63 became precious to me during that first year. My son’s name is written next to it in every Bible I own. I clung to these words in the middle of the night, calling out to my faithful Father on behalf of our son. HE was my ultimate help. The only way I made it through was by His grace and strength. Looking back, I see His good, strong hand carrying me through each and every night. He will carry you too, if you let Him.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:1-8 (NIV, emphasis added)

The JOY:

No matter how little we slept, the mornings were our son’s best moments of the day. It was certainly the time when reflux hurt the least. Smiles and giggles flowed freely for those precious moments. My husband and I often waited to enter his room together so no one would miss a second of that joy.  These moments gave us real, tangible hope.

There is no difficulty or number of sleepless nights that could ever steal our love for our son. He is a priceless gift. I cherish his first year, regardless of the struggle. He was the joy of my day and being his mom is a blessing that challenges me and brings more fulfillment and joy than I could have ever imagined. Because we all struggled, I think we felt the excitement of new skills and successes even more strongly.

Please do not take any of this post as a complaint. It isn’t. I do wish our son had not been in pain, but he was. Wishing it had been different serves no purpose. The experience is part of who we are, as individuals and as a family. And so much good came from it. We were strengthened and our relationships grew in beautiful ways as we weathered it together. It made us more reliant on God and deepened our trust and faith. It equipped us to share our experience with other families dealing with similar issues. I am amazed by the number of families we have been able to support and encourage because of our experience. These are not small blessings, and we do not take them for granted. And, we are grateful our son, now 5, no longer struggles with reflux. There is hope yours won’t either.