I am not my own

October 17th, 2010

“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?

What tether?

Share it!

14 Responses to “I am not my own”

  1. sabrina says:

    I’m so glad you’re feeling better. I love what you’ve written here. I love the picture of your family’s lamb. What an illustration. I’m learning the same lessons in my life that you’ve shared here.

  2. Dad says:

    Susanna, you write very well in the middle of the night! Your narrative is a very poignant reminder to all of us. In similar situations, I have been helped by the words in verse three of the very familiar,”How Firm a Foundation”:
    ‘When through the deep waters I call you to go,
    The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
    For I will be with you your troubles to bless,
    And sanctify to you your deepest distress.’
    God is blessing you …and us through you. Thank you for being transparent.  We’re so glad you are feeling a little better.

  3. Amy says:

    Oh Susanna! Thank you for this post! Very convicting to me in the regards to contentment. I did chuckle at this bit though:
    “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”
    Don’t we all wish we could be like that at times! Thank the Lord for His wisdom!
    I received your card! THANK YOU SO MUCH! :) What a blessing!
    Love to your family!

  4. Stephanie Blanchard says:

    Susanna, I’m not an Iron Maiden mama with “only” four. Thank you for this wonderfully descriptive picture story. It speaks volumes to me at this point in my life.

  5. Joy Horton says:

    Susanna – I don’t know how you do it but AGAIN you’ve made me cry!!!! Especially reading “What tether?” and seeing that picture of you and Verity! CRYING!!!!! You don’t look tethered at all, but completly at peace and in love!

    Your outlook is SO inspiring and I am like you in that I have not been given large physical reserves, etc. and cannot do all the things that “fun mamas” do but within my “tether” I do find contentment, as do our children.

    Bless you, Susanna. You are SUCH a precious woman of God and your faith is inspiring and encouraging to me.

    I love you and am SO glad God has relieved your pain!!

  6. Tami Swaim says:

    You my dear are a great writer!  And your hair cut…gorgeous!  Looks really nice.
    The last two time Mark had to go away for two weeks I became badly engorged.  It’s always one side that gives me the most problems (thankfully not both).  I guess when he’s gone and I’m left doing the daddy part and mommy part it’s just too much.  We’ve learned to put more on to the older boys for when Mark is gone so that this doesn’t happen.  Well, I’m at that stage where most Americans (especially family members) look at me in disgust for STILL nursing my baby even though she’s over 1 year.  Ugh!  “Oh, why would YOU still have problems with engorgement and leaking.  Aren’t you finished nursing yet?” This mostly comes up when I have to decline from over night activities or long activities that keep me too long from Moriah.  I’m expected at this time to have more liberty in this area.  Who’s business is it anyway!  HA…Oh well I ‘spose I need to have patience for ALL MANKIND!  …including for those who make it their mission to ‘correct’ our line of thinking for our own family…>>>gulp<<<

  7. Tami Swaim says:

    well, I just looked up Mastitis and see that I wasn’t struggling with mere engorgement but it is more like the description for Mastitis.  I’ve learned something new.  Well, yes I do have six children but I just never went to Polish doctors (and no longer having health insurance here in the states) I just never really had the term for this group of symptoms.  …interesting…

  8. Alice says:

    “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.”

    Yes, this is me. And actually, I would have been the baby at the side of the trail, but for modern medicine. I was born with pyloric stenosis. But even surviving that, my adult life–especially surrounding bearing and caring for children–has been this reality.  Your post really blessed me (again :-). I am going to pray for the ability to look at my *tethers* as blessings. Bless you, Susanna!

  9. Misty says:

    Beautiful picture!!!  I am so glad you are feeling better.
    You know I needed this reminder today!  Normally, I am the one always going right up until labor and up and go soon after (with the baby in a sling!) =)  Now, I am almost feeling bad for “sitting around”  but must listen to good people like you and remember that my most important job right now is grow 2 babies and stay healthy so I can be home and meet the needs of the rest of my family.
    You are a blessing!

  10. Susanna,
    I am sorry that you have had this happen, but how thankful I am for your attitude! What a wonderful example for all of us. I have been praying for you and will continue to do so!

  11. Anna T says:

    Dear Susanna,  I am praying for you and sweet Verity.  Would you like an extra set of Medela pump flanges, etc…?  I’ll gladly mail them to you.  Sorry to put this here, I already closed out of my e-mail and have a few more things to do before bed : ) !!  Please let me know, I’ll gladly send them (I used them approximately twice and then reverted to my over 10 year old Ameda pump).  Take good care of yourself and your family…    

  12. Susanna says:

    As I read each of your replies, I am overcome with thankfulness at the WONDERFUL people God has put into my life!  Bless you all!

    Anna, THANK YOU!  That would be so helpful if you are sure you won’t need them!

    Misty, I know exactly how you are feeling, BELIEVE ME!  But when you look into their faces, you will see that it was worth every sacrifice you made!  I have so much joy in my heart for you!

    Dad, I forgot to explain when we talked on the phone that I actually started writing this post the evening before (Friday night), worked on it during the Saturday pumpings, and finished it up during the late Saturday night pumping, so that I was satisfied enough to click “Publish” the very last thing before sleeping.  Most of the time I can’t “spit it out” very quickly. :)

  13. Anna T says:

    Hi Susanna,  I’ll send them to you!!  I’m also going to send an e-mail.  Enjoy your day!!

  14. Marilyn Osborn says:

    Thank you for this post.  It ministered to me.  I love the picture of you and your treasure!

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