Mom Brain

Soft baby skin against mine,

A giggle and a smile.

Whisper-shouting in my mind:

“Remember! Remember! Remember!”

So many moments like this forgotten.

Seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years,

Remembered only in hazy, unspecific pictures.

Remembered like a sunset I must have seen because the sun sets every day.

 

Is it enough to know it happened?

To know it must have happened,

Rather than remembering like a picture?

They grow so fast

One day they are baby soft and two-teethed

And the next they are tall and slender and mostly grown.

I will keep shouting, “Remember! Remember!”

And hope that it works now and then.

Advertisements

Stop shoulding on people!

I am probably the one-millionth blogger to write a post on this subject. This is not an original thought. The title line is often a plea to “stop shoulding on yourself,” by saying no to things you are constantly feeling you “should do” when they aren’t right for you. Or something like that. You understand.

Scrolling YouTube in search of an entertaining BuzzFeed food video (there are so many!), I noticed the thumbnail for a “clean your house in thirty minutes,” video and it reminded me of tips I’ve gotten from friends or online about keeping my house clean. My mind wandered and I thought about cooking and how apparently if I was a serious cook, I “should” totally have my own garden. I could hear friends or acquaintances saying it in memory – “Oh, you should totally have a garden! Your kids would learn so much responsibility!” And then everything else. I “should” do the _______ diet plan because it works so well and it’s not even that hard to follow. I “should” do something different with my savings because what I’m doing now isn’t good enough. I “should” get a certain curriculum for my kids because it’s just so amazing. On and on and on.

I will admit that sometimes these well-meaning friends and acquaintances “should” me because I have mentioned that we’ve hit a roadblock with learning and need to figure things out, I’m having a hard time losing my baby weight or I would love to garden but just don’t feel like I have the time. I know mentioning these things sounds like an opening for advice but sometimes it’s better not to go there. I try not to complain because I know it’s an open door for opinions but I also attempt to be honest about where I’m at and admit that my life isn’t perfect.

I’m getting better at owning my decisions. I’ve been married for thirteen years, and I’ve been a mother for twelve. I’ve decided that a garden is just not something I can invest in right now. I have seven kids and going to the gym (or doing a DVD workout) and being on a diet of any kind, let alone one that requires me to prepare my own separate meals, is just not something I can do without sacrificing my sanity. My house is NOT going to be perfectly clean – ever. A little bit of clutter is at least a semi-permanent fixture in my home.

I have a suggestion (not a “should”). If you feel tempted to tell a friend that they “should” do anything other than have a wonderful day, try using a question instead.

“Have you considered having a small garden and letting the kids do all the work?”

“Have you thought about the _____ plan to lose some weight? It worked really well for me.”

“Have you heard of the _____ method of decluttering? Maybe that would help.”

Etc.

It is a much gentler method and even if the answer is, “No,” down the road if she’s struggling with the issue again, she’ll remember a gentle response from you instead of a “should” that might make her question her decision or her abilities.

I believe that we can all help each other out by sharing ideas and experience, but we don’t always know what the other person is going through and how our “shoulds” might come across.

 

The Birth of Simon Felix

Time again for another birth story; my seventh. Simon was born on September 27th, fourteen minutes “late” as I was in labour on my due date the day before but he came after midnight instead. His birth was a mix of fast and slow, peaceful and chaotic. It was not as I expected and will take me time to process but he is a beautiful, healthy boy and we are both alive.

2016-09-27-11-05-29-1

I believe that I started early labour or at least pre-labour on the 25th. I had contractions enough through the night to make a solid sleep quite difficult. Nothing too intense or painful but steady. They tapered off by morning but I also became aware that baby’s head did not feel as though it was down anymore. Like my other boys, this one had moved in and out of head-down position many times during the end of pregnancy. I messaged a friend who is a maternity nurse (the one who was with me during Sam and Oliver’s births) and asked her for her advice on what we should do. She suggested calling the obstetrician’s office to see what he wanted me to do as he would be the one to turn the baby if it wasn’t head down. I called and waited less than an hour before hearing back from him that he wanted us to go get things checked out and that the staff in the birthing centre would call him if they needed him.

Lacey came over with her kids for a visit in the late morning but by then we knew things were happening so she came prepared to stay with them if we had to go in. Once we knew what the OB wanted, we gathered our things, ate some lunch and left the boys with her to go to the hospital with Jenny. Once were in a room, a nurse confirmed that the baby was not head down but she did not check for dilation because my contractions were so infrequent. The staff called the OB to let him know about baby’s position and he said he would come back at five. It was just after one o’clock at that point so the thought of waiting so long was a bit disheartening since it seemed I wasn’t anywhere near active labour yet. He also wanted us to wait at the hospital rather than going back home, just in case my water broke or things changed and an emergency response was needed.

We walked the hospital, walked around the outside of the hospital and rested in the exam room as much as possible before he came back. He was late – he finally got to us just before six, confirmed that baby was transverse and with the help of an ultrasound, moved him into a head down position in the exam room. It was very gentle and quick which didn’t surprise me considering how it was with Oliver and how much room I seemed to have. We were moved to a regular delivery room and my water was broken. Very quickly it was clear that this wouldn’t be a hands-off birth as there was heavy meconium in the fluid. I was put on monitors and tried to find good positions to labour in to get things moving. I started having regular contractions right away but they weren’t very strong.

Over the course of the evening, I moved from the bed to standing to rocking and in certain positions, Simon’s heart rate would drop a bit. The nurses figured that he probably had his cord tucked under his arm or something. So we’d move into a better position and give that some time. I was calm and things seemed mild at that point. Dad brought Mike and Jenny some supper around seven and I had a few crackers and hummus but otherwise just focused on labour. After a few hours, the doctor ordered pitocin which I had no argument with since it was used with Oliver and helped things move really fast. The nurses figured they would barely give me any and I’d be delivering. However, a few hours of pitocin gradually being turned up and I still had made very little progress. I felt like I was willing him to move down, willing myself to feel an urge to push but the last time they checked me, sometime after eleven, I was only six centimetres dilated. Through this whole time, certain positions were not just making his heart rate drop but plummet. I went from using the gas to get me through a contraction to hearing his heart rate slow way down and then being given oxygen and having nurses wiggling my hips to get the baby off of his cord. His regular heart rate was steady around 145 but during these drops would get down to the 50s. Trying to focus on my breathing while hearing that in the background was so hard. It was clear that the staff was becoming concerned as well.

The OB came back around 11:30 and immediately expressed concern over my slow progress and the monitor strip showing these drops in the baby’s heart rate. I agreed that the slow progress seemed strange. Oliver started out as an almost identical situation – not head down, needed to be moved externally, water broken once he was head down and then pitocin administered to get his head to move down with stronger contractions. And in his case, I was lying down with a spinal the entire time so gravity wasn’t there to help. It had taken about an hour and a half after my water was broken with Oliver and we were going on six hours at this point. The doctor quickly said, “We need to get your baby delivered.” I knew what this meant and rather than focusing on how upsetting it could be to consider a second c-section, I understood quite deeply that this baby was genuinely in danger. Something was not right and I think I knew it for awhile.

Just like my experience with Sam, that was the point that everything started moving quickly. The bright lights came on so to speak, extra tubes were put here and there, I signed consent forms and extra nurses came rushing in. It was a blur but in the middle of it, Jenny was visibly upset and I knew it was important to address it. I was incredibly calm and I will forever be thankful that with God’s help, I was able to keep my peace through the entire experience. Jenny was tired and confused and scared but I told her that I would be okay, that the baby would be okay, that all of this had to happen to make sure our baby was safe. I told her to pray and sleep if she could while she waited for us and then they whisked us away. Various nurses checked on her throughout the surgery until Mike was able to go back to the room with Simon. Thankfully she doesn’t seem affected by it now and she told me that she was able to identify a fear of losing one of us as what was most upsetting to her.

For the third time, I had a spinal administered while in labour. I didn’t have a comforting and familiar nurse with me this time and felt a little out of sorts through the process. I wanted Mike to be with me so badly the whole time I was being prepped. Finally I was lying down and numb, the curtain was up and there he was, capped and gowned and by my side. I was amazed at that point how quickly things moved. We had been warned numerous times that our baby might not cry when he was born because of the meconium in the fluid and then the decelerations in his heart rate made this seem even more likely. We experienced what felt like a miracle when we heard him cry immediately after he was pulled out. He was taken to the side to be looked over and it was a minute before someone said, “Time of birth?” and then, “Baby..?” and we heard, “Boy!” as a response. I laughed again, just like I did with Oliver. If you can have three or four boys in a row, you can certainly have five or six of them in a row.

We waited quite some time, during which I groggily asked over and over where my baby was, until finally a nurse walked over with him and handed him to Mike. I asked for my oxygen mask to be removed and Mike to move Simon closer to me so I could kiss his head. His eyes were wide open and he was moving his tongue around. I remember him catching fuzz from the blanket on his tongue and that I wanted to take it off but my arms were strapped down. My face started itching at some point during that time and while I can’t remember if it was before Simon was brought over or not, I remember asking Mike to scratch my face and it was never good enough. I also felt sick to my stomach a few times and had to throw up, once while Mike was there and once after he and Simon left. It was the strangest thing to feel like vomiting but be unable to use any stomach muscles to bring it up. I don’t remember feeling any of that in surgery with Sam so it was frustrating and made me feel very unsettled.

After Mike left with Simon, I waited for surgery to be done. This part felt so long and I had no idea why. When the actual surgery was over, the OB said that he had used dissolvable stitches, told me that the baby’s cord had been wrapped around his neck and whole body and I heard someone say that I had a lot of blood loss but everything else was quite blurry. I started shaking badly once I was closed up and just wanted to go to sleep. They didn’t move me to a recovery room but left me in the OR to recover, listening to the sounds of instruments being counted and cleaned up and people leaving one by one. I have no idea how long I was there before a few familiar nurses came and moved me off of the table onto a stretcher. They took me back to my room where Mike and Jenny waited with Simon. It was close to two in the morning at this point and everyone was exhausted. Jenny was bubbly with excitement still but I knew they needed to get home to bed soon.

Simon weighed 7lb 10oz and was 21 inches long – kind of a skinny little thing. I expected a big baby because of how quickly I expanded and how much weight I gained but in the end he feels so tiny. He’s right in the middle of all the other birth weights – three brothers were smaller than him at birth and the other two and Jenny were bigger. He nursed well right away and thankfully my milk came in at a reasonable time before he had time to get impatient. We came home from the hospital a bit earlier than we should have but I couldn’t stand the thought of more time in those beds. Because of the blood loss, I was very weak and on Tuesday was falling asleep in the middle of conversations or texting strange things to people because my fingers would fall on the screen in the middle of writing. I didn’t need a transfusion but will need extra iron for awhile and I am very limited in what I can do at home. Mike will be off for awhile, probably the whole month. Very unexpected but totally needed for me to be able to recover well from both the blood loss and the c-section.

This birth experience was so drastically different than any of the others. I knew very quickly that this was one of those c-sections that no one could ever say was unnecessary. I have acknowledged that Sam’s probably was as I had given birth to four babies before him and so a breech presentation shouldn’t have meant an immediate c-section. But this time, I knew my baby wouldn’t have been born safely without surgery. The day I left the hospital, I also found out that the cause of my blood loss – placenta accreta – would have made a vaginal birth end very differently as well. The placenta did not detach when the OB went to remove it and instead opened up blood vessels underneath it and caused a great deal of blood loss. Because it happened in surgery, it was able to be immediately dealt with. Had I given birth vaginally, I would have likely hemorrhaged and then been sent for emergency surgery anyway. I was also told that my uterus was paper thin at the bottom so I was fortunate to have not ruptured – another blessing of never making it into really active or intense labour.

I have been on a roller coaster of emotions this week. A second c-section first felt like a loss of future VBACs, even though I had been told a week before that there was no reason to consider myself a VBAC after this birth. Then I started thinking that I could find someone to let me have a VBA2C. When the OB did his discharge exam, mixed into the “your incision looks great,” was the news about the accreta and the thin uterus. I asked him what that meant for future pregnancies and he said, “I would tell you not to have anymore but I can’t make you do that.” As someone who imagined having babies right up until menopause, this was like a dagger. He didn’t tell me that it would kill me but I know that I just moved into a much higher risk category.

We have prayed and talked and I have cried an awful lot. I don’t feel the same despair as I did but I have come to the conclusion that it is highly likely that if we have another baby, we will have to expect the high possibility of a hysterectomy after a planned c-section. It feels like a better option than being done suddenly without any warning and a hysterectomy would actually be easier for me to be okay with than any form of birth control or sterilization because of our personal convictions on the subject. In the meantime, we will pray hard for full restoration of my body, for thickening of my uterus where it has thinned out, for a full miracle of a new uterus if that is what is required. My heart longs to birth more babies but I also know that I don’t need to have all the answers right now. The last thing I want to do is to get so lost in this grief that I miss Simon’s infancy. He is so precious and beautiful and I don’t want to let this time go by in a fog.

Our other kids are in love with their little brother. Elias has easily shown more interest than everyone else (possibly combined) and practically begs to hold him every day. Jenny hasn’t expressed any disappointment in another brother and neither has anyone else. When I was still in surgery waiting to see Simon, I turned to Mike and said, “Six sons, what a legacy,” and I keep thinking it. It really does feel incredible.

img_0148

 

 

The significance of Seven

Mike and the kids call it “Simy” – a combination of the names Simon and Amy, but I have just been thinking of it as “Seven.” The last two months have been challenging, tiring, exciting and surprising. I realized now that my last blog post was made more than a week after I knew I was pregnant again but obviously was still keeping it quiet. And those first few weeks weren’t very different than normal for me. I was still decluttering, working out, eating somewhat decently. And then it all hit at once and keeping it a secret wasn’t an option and continuing along as I had been wasn’t either. I traded workout clothes for pajamas and decluttering for puking and sleeping.

I have told myself that this is a season. This will pass in time – hopefully relatively soon. I have felt a bit better in the last week but I have already gained an astonishing amount of weight because I feel hungry all the time and way worse if I let myself stay hungry. I also had a scare this week and so I’ve been resting even more than normal, just when I was getting to the point where I thought I might be able to start doing small workouts again.

This pregnancy feels particularly significant – there was a long time in our marriage where our plan was, “At least four; no more than six.” Our hearts and minds were changed along the way and so when I found out about this one, there was a different kind of excitement for us. The kids were all predictably thrilled (I’ll post our announcement video at the bottom) and while no one else was really surprised, I have really only had positive encouragement from friends and family.

This last Monday, I got to see this little person on a quick ultrasound to make sure everything was okay after I had some cramping and bleeding. It jumped and waved its arms and legs and seemed to even do a somersault. Reassuring and beautiful. I wish I had video of it but in the moment, I was just transfixed watching that screen. I’ve never had an ultrasound this early (it was at eleven weeks) so it was a new experience, knowing that that tiny little thing – so clearly a baby already – was only the size of a Brussels sprout but so active.

I already feel like I’ve been pregnant for a long time – in another week, it will have been two months since I found out. I’ll be glad to get into the second trimester and hopefully have a lot more energy and a lot less morning (all-day) sickness.

Here’s the video of how we told the kids. I especially love that it was Elias that figured it out after we kept giving them clues. 🙂

Natural Mothering

This is not a rant. It’s not. Because I don’t rant any more. Honest.

I just “overheard” (in the way one does on the internet) someone saying something about “natural minded mothers” in relation to baby wearing. Inferring that baby wearing makes you a natural mother. Does that mean that NOT wearing your baby makes you unnatural?

Well, I’m of the opinion that doing what comes naturally to you is natural mothering. If it feels natural to wear my babies, I do it. There have been times when I did it a lot, in fact. I even own an Ergo and a Moby Wrap! If I find it uncomfortable and it is easier to alternate snuggling them in my arms with using a bouncy chair, that’s what I do. It feels natural to me. I didn’t read in a book that any of those things were good or bad, it’s just what I do. If you tried to breastfeed and it just didn’t feel right, didn’t come naturally to you, I’m not going to look down on you or berate you for bottle feeding. It’s different than what I do, but whatever. What feels natural to me may look unnatural to you.

We all love our kids, right? We want what’s best for them AND for us, right? My theory is that the very best we can give our kids is the REAL us, who we are without apology. What feels right and good to us without feeling like we need to follow a specific system lined out in a book (or multiple different books) written by someone we’ll never meet.

This is also a confession: I lived the perfectionist parenting life for a long time. I hurt my kids with it. I hurt myself with it. Eventually I realized that it was strangling me. I was following someone else’s rules that might work well for many people but just stress me out. So I relaxed, walked out of that perfectionism and I am now at peace with my parenting. The thing is, perfectionist parenting can fall on either side of the scale. I have known people who have been so convinced of a certain system that they have sacrificed their children to it, not to mention their sanity. It suddenly becomes impossible to do something you want to because at some point, someone or something told you it was “wrong” or “bad.” I’m not talking about abuse here – I’m talking about giving your eight month old yogurt even though you read somewhere that you shouldn’t give them any dairy until they are one year old (that would be my story, or part of it, anyway).

And listen, I know what some people will think when they read this, because it’s exactly how I used to think. “But the way I’m doing things has been proven to be good for children. It’s right, it’s best, it’s good.” Okay, I’ll give you this much: It may be right, best and good for YOU, but you can’t possibly say it is those things for every other mother out there. We are all different women so why would we all be the same type of mother? Is it because we feel the need to prove ourselves as good moms? We shouldn’t need to prove anything to anyone – we should just LOVE on our kids.

What is right, best and good for ALL children is this: food, shelter, love and a mama who is free to do what feels right, whether it’s in a book or not. If no one else is doing it or everyone else is doing it.

Nearly one year

Nearly one year

This is my Sam. He will be one tomorrow, which is a little mind boggling.

I always like to think back to the day I had my babies when they have birthdays.

One year ago, we had dropped our kids off at Mike’s parents and came home to try to get some rest before going in for a scheduled induction in the morning. We prayed before bed that I would go into labour on my own before then. That didn’t happen.

One year ago, I had no idea what the next day would bring but I did know a secret – that my baby was a boy. My doctor slipped and told me two days before he was born. She was telling me test results from an ultrasound and happened to mention the word “testicles” somewhere in there. Yeah, girls don’t have those. I drove home with the news that induction was necessary (something I wanted to avoid) and that I was carrying a FOURTH boy. Samuel. We knew what his name was already. Mike didn’t want to know what we were having so I didn’t tell anyone else either. It was my secret. One known only by me, my doctor and a nurse named Nikky, who has since become my friend.

One year ago, I had no idea that my baby would use my uterus as a swimming pool as I was in labour with him, turn from being nicely head down, to transverse to breech all in one day. But he did. I didn’t know that a c-section was really a possibility. But it was.

One year ago, I thought my baby was fat. At least nine pounds, maybe even ten. He was eight pounds nine ounces at birth, hardly heavy enough to be called fat, although he was definitely chubby.

One year ago, I had no idea what joy this boy would bring – my peace and freedom baby. Today he claps his hands, waves goodbye, stands on his own and gives very slobbery kisses. And those are not new things to me with four older children, but they are incredibly precious just the same.

I love you Sammy boy. We all do. Happy Birthday!