On Mondays at In The Backyard, the posts will be focused on this book project, from the heart behind the words to the process of bringing a dream to print.
Today, Megan shares her story!
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If I were to give you full access to my home, allowing you to open cupboard doors and sift through piles of books and paperwork and half-finished projects, you would call me a liar when I confessed this to you: I am a closet perfectionist.
On the surface, disorganization reigns in my personal affairs. My attempts at crafting betray sloppy execution, and more often than not, my children leave the house in wrinkled clothes that rarely match. But the truth is, for as long as I can remember, I've battled crippling perfectionism that demands a level of excellence in all that I do that far exceeds what another person would expect from me.
My husband Kyle and I were married for six years before I got pregnant with my oldest daughter, Dacey. That's plenty of time for a perfectionist like myself to both imagine all the ways I could fail horribly at parenting while at the same time researching remedies to the problems common to parenting. I had built an arsenal in my mind of weapons that I would utilize to defend myself and my family from becoming a case study in bad parenting choices.
A few years before Dacey was born, I was given a book that appealed to the part of me that desperately wanted to do things The Right Way for all things baby. Not only did this book offer assurance that it would protect and nurture the marriage through the tumultuous times of new parenting, it offered as a bonus the fact that following the plan laid forth in the book meant that baby will sleep through the night at 6 weeks! If not by 6 weeks than by 8 weeks, for sure! And so I became an evangelist for this book long before Dacey first danced for us on the ultrasound screen.
When our oldest daughter was born via emergency c-section, something in me shifted. Far from being concerned about The Right Way, I was just thankful that we had both it made it through alive. So that first night, I asked everyone to leave to go get sleep, but really, I just ached to have some alone time with my daughter. By the end of the first night, I had pulled Dacey into bed with me, and already I felt guilty for breaking one of the “rules.” Yet I already felt powerfully attached to her. My bonding with her was instant and fierce beyond what I had dreamed possible. In those moments as she slept peacefully beside me in that hospital bed, I knew deep inside that following the prescriptions of the book I had nearly memorized would be difficult.
Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe the internal conflict and turmoil of those first few months of parenting.
Dacey was an incredibly high-needs baby. She needed to be held, she needed to be rocked to sleep, she needed so much from me and I found myself sinking under the unexpected weight of mothering. After some initial struggles, breastfeeding went smoothly for us and I got her right on to the feeding schedule the book suggested.
When it came to the sleep schedule, however, we failed miserably. She would not go to sleep without being rocked. She would not sleep longer than 45 minutes at a time. She would not sleep through the night at six weeks (or at eight weeks or at twelve weeks). She would not self-soothe when left to cry on her own.
And I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave her to scream and cry herself to sleep, knowing all she wanted was me. I rescued her every time, and we rocked many miles in our rocking chair, tears streaming down my face as the words of that book played over and over in my mind, a voice accusing me of setting her up for failure in every area of her life.
These were the dark days, and thinking back, one low point is a memory of waking up one morning with a sense of dread and misery at the start of the day, knowing that all that lay ahead of me was more skirmishes in the great battle that was teaching her to sleep the way she should be sleeping.
Our story is complicated and has many layers, and so today I’m peeling back just the first layer to share with you. In the pages of the book, you’ll read much more about the reality of those days when I tried so desperately to fit my family into this perfect, orderly, predictable mold extoled by the book and the advice of others. You’ll read about the feedback I got from friends and mentors and I’ll share my breaking point and how God rescued me when I was crying myself to sleep.
In the midst of writing this, it was time for me to go wake Dacey up to get ready for school. I watched her stirring in those pre-alert moments, the same full checks and long lashes that I studied so intently when she was a new baby. She’s six now and those exhausting days of infancy are history. She has been sleeping so wonderfully for so long, you might think that I’ve long since forgotten those dark days, but I haven’t. Give the surface a scratch, and it’s all right there, and I feel it all again so acutely.
I want you to know a little of my story today because I need to assure you that, as Laura wrote last week, my starting place was messy and painful and it is soaked with tears and it beats with a broken heart. Through this book, God has called forth redemption, inviting me to share the bumps and bruises and occasional moments of sunlight piercing the clouds so that we might all focus on the only One who is perfect.
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We would love for this series of weekly posts to provide a climate of conversation and community.< Our desire is to foster safe and open discussion here, so we welcome your response regardless of whether you agree or disagree with our philosophies. Please feel free to offer feedback and to share your own thoughts and stories!