“I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: ‘Bless you, prison!’ I…have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: ‘Bless you, prison, for having been in my life!’” ~Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
When I was a young teen, our family acquired a mama sheep who in due time produced lambs. One of these lambs was a single-minded male who did not acquiesce to Mom’s idea of tethering him to a stake during the day. Day after day, no matter when I would go outside to hang laundry or climb a tree, I would hear its incessant bleating. Invariably, it would be straining at the end of its taut rope.
I don’t know whether it would ever have resigned itself to that situation and just munched its grass contentedly, as good sheep do. Before it was even half-grown, one of my younger brothers came tearing into the house yelling that the lamb was strangling. We all rushed out to see. Mom did her best to loosen the rope which by now was buried deeply into the thick wool around its neck…but it was too late. I can still see the whole scene in my mind’s eye.
And that scene has been coming back to me over and over again recently.
I’ve been living with a short tether. My tether is primarily fashioned of a few simple and apparently inflexible black and white realities:
We still have a goal to get Verity breastfeeding…
…which means I must keep up my milk supply…
… so I take herbs, eat a lot, drink a lot, rest a lot, pump every three hours, and stay relaxed…
…which restricts my other activities.
Having the goal of nursing also means it’s best to keep the bottle-feeding process as close to natural as possible…
…which means I try not to delegate the bottle-feeding to others…
…which restricts my other activities.
This is not a naturally relaxed person being forced to keep moving. This is a person who naturally move-move-moves being forced to hold still.
I live with this tether every moment of every day. A few steps too far in any direction and <yank> goes the rope around my neck. <yank> It’s time to stop and pump, bag and label milk, wash bottles and pump parts. <yank> It’s time to wake Verity, change her, and give her the bottle again, work her therapy into the spare minutes while she is awake. <yank> It’s time to rush in and out of the shower now to fit it into this cycle. <yank> It’s time to swallow this handful of supplements, <yank> down this plateful of food, <yank> gulp some more water. No matter what else is going on in life, <yank> goes my tether at close, regular intervals.
At low points I have toyed with the thought of quitting. “What if we all sacrifice for months on end, and she never does nurse? We are doing this with no guarantees that it will succeed. Is it worth it?”
After so many day-in-and-day-outs that I’m losing track of them, more thoughts began to tickle the back of my mind this week, “Maybe this tether is all in my head. Maybe I can do more than I’m doing and it won’t affect our nursing goal. Look at all those nursing mothers taking their children to pick pumpkins, go on hayrides and Buddy Walks, enter their creations in the local fairs, even simply to play at the park. I’m not even doing justice to all that cries out to be done here at home! Maybe I’m just getting lazy and not trying hard enough. What happens if I give myself more space to run? I don’t care, I am just going to try it.”
I spent two days trying that out, and guess what? I can’t live that way and eat properly, drink properly, rest properly, or get all six pumpings into the day. I got the worst mastitis I’ve ever had– fever, chills, aches, and the most agonizing pain. And my milk supply went south.
Sigh. Guess I can’t be one of these Iron Maiden kinda moms, slingin’ a nursing baby in the front and a toddler on the back, hiking a mountain trail, fueled by three carrots, twelve sunflower seeds, an avocado, and a handful of kale. God has just plain not given me very large physical reserves. And since Verity and I need all these supports to make this work, I should just be thankful that God has provided them for us.
You knew that, Susanna. You’d have been one of the pioneer women who got buried with her baby on the side of the trail. Face it.
<yank> Back to reality. Back to resting, eating, drinking, living within the little circle around that stake in the ground. Thanking Him for mercifully relieving my intolerable, debilitating, burning pain, and for loving friends who prayed for me. Thank you too, loving friends!
Back to reveling joyfully in the purpose God has given this time of my life.
What is that purpose?
Solzhenitsyn blessed his prison.
As profound as that concept is, Paul did better than that in his joy-filled letter to the Philippians, “…my imprisonment is for Christ.”
In a small way, I identify with Paul as he spoke about his chains. And if God has designed this part of the journey to be a bit like house arrest, then may my imprisonment be for Christ. On purpose, and with joy.
“…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body…”
Huh. When I live like that, I don’t feel any tether.
Did I say tether?