So, I’m not going to write a birth story since I’d rather not revisit the insanity of it all. I’ll just say that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I wish that my water hadn’t broken early. I definitely got a taste of the curse. Only by the grace of God and Payton’s steady presence did we make it through those 30+ hours. And even then, the journey of parenthood had just begun! I will never again judge any mom for what she chooses while giving birth, how she chooses to feed her baby, or what a family does to survive the first month! Although it is pretty amazing how much sleep you can survive without.
Well, we did survive the first month together as a family, albeit not without it’s ups and downs, which apparently everyone goes through. Being insane, especially during the first two weeks is apparently normal! Can you hear the snarky in my voice? I can hear it as I type. I wish it wasn’t there, but I can totally hear the “it’s not fair” creeping in.
So, if I were to weigh in right now, I’d say we’ve hit a bit of culture stress/shock, whatever you want to call it. I knew it would happen right about now, but I didn’t know when the shiny would completely wear off and I’d want my mom—and weirdly enough, Walmart. I never though I’d ever think about Walmart. I don’t even like Walmart! Today Payton was suddenly struck with missing Academy Blvd. in Colorado Springs and then we both really wanted Chik-fil-a, specifically waffle fries, sweet tea, and chicken nuggets. It’s strange what gets lodged in your brain as “comforting” or “normal.”
After spending two days with nasty food poisoning and then two more with a baby who had a mild fever and liked to spew everything up, I especially wanted to go find my mom, even if she would just tell me to buck up and press on. Then I thought of how long the plane flight would take with Finn and thought, “Nevermind…” Both of us losing all of our fluids from both ends while trying to keep a baby fed and loved was excruciatingly hard (praise God for friends and neighbors who brought food or even just held Finn and burped him when it felt like we couldn’t go on). We felt like we were at the end of ourselves, but we probably would have felt that way no matter where we were at.
And yet, hearing from those who have gone ahead of us on this same journey, we know this is only the beginning. That’s when the questions begin to burn in your mind: Is He worthy? Is this whole thing worth it? If we’re not fully convinced and allowing God to continue to convince us, we’ll either head back to the States or maybe become ineffective–even bitter–people just living in a different country wishing we were somewhere else.
“Though my heart and flesh may fail, but God is my strength and portion forever…” When my dear friend shared this verse, I felt it screaming my name. My flesh had for sure failed and my heart felt like it was dying too. As we were shakily standing outside looking at the banana trees, I told Finn that I wanted to go home. But then, I felt like I had to tell him more about how God had showed us so clearly that we were supposed to be there and how miraculous his story was. After recounting a few details, my heart began to remember God’s faithfulness. Later that day, God provided some spare time to read His Word. I started reading Peter’s first letter and found comfort and sustenance in the truth as I was feeding Finn. I laughed as I read about longing for God’s Word like a newborn longs for milk as Finn was feeding. It never made sense until I’d seen Finn looking for food. God began to pull my heart out of it’s own inward thoughts and restore it to the proper aim.
And not only were our hearts and motives weighed in this past month, but Finn was literally weighed in at the neighborhood clinic this past week. He hated it and screamed most of the time, much to our chagrin—not very culturally appropriate of him, eh? But he did make our hearts happy by gaining a whopping 3 pounds in one month! It meant we were feeding him enough and he was growing.
Some fun bits of baby culture here we’ve encountered during our first month—mostly “oops” on my part for wreaking havoc unnecessarily!
-Babies are wrapped or swaddled in blankets—no onesies by themselves. If a baby cries, they are undoubtedly cold, even if it’s 83 F—unless they are in the sun right after they are born to keep away the jaundice. (They do not have the same concept of cold, hence why there are no words for frostbite, ice skating,)
-Babies should also have hats on when outside, especially if they are headed out on the motorbike.
-Babies are usually kept flat for a while and not in the fetal position out of concern for the structure and formation of their bones—there are certain positions that seem to be permissible for them to be in, but others aren’t allowed until certain months.
-Kissing babies here looks more like sniffing them
-Babies don’t usually go out of the house for 2 weeks or so, but usually more like a month, but especially not on the motorbike before 2 weeks! Oops!
-If a baby feels yucky, you should always try rubbing minyak telon on their bellies, which is a warming oil they use here. It smells kind of like tea tree oil mixed with other things.
-Baths should always be given around 3pm – a common question is “Have you given your baby a bath by yourself yet?
If I do use a baby carrier of any sort, people at the store ask me where the baby’s legs are if he’s curled up inside
-Finn is always inappropriate by holding his head up before he’s allowed
So, as you can see, there are a lot of differences, but here’s my final observation that trumps them all.
-Babies are given utmost attention and love by all of the neighbors here—everyone loves babies and wants them to be happy and healthy! Babies are people magnets, although that’s pretty much true in any culture. One time in the store a herd of little kids kept looking at Finn and peeking at him from around the corner. When I told them they could come see him, they squealed with glee, pinching his cheeks and jumping up and down. It just goes to show the delight and joy babies bring to everyone around them. That should in turn make my heart happy too!
So, as we’ve been navigating this new road, we’ve tried to find the middle of the path where we can blend new culture and old culture. There are certain things that matter and other things that really don’t need to be an issue. There really is no need to make tidal waves when it comes to whether or not Finn has a hat on if he goes outside. It’s just easier to put the hat on his head and enjoy blending in a bit. But when it comes to carrying him for multiple hours, I might opt for “kangaroo style” because the traditional sling hurts my back. It’s a bit of give and take.
At the end of the day, I’ve had to weigh in on my attitude and double check my choices. Did I make choices based on what I felt was comfortable or could I have loved the people around me a little more?