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Life with young children is hard.
I have yet to meet a parent who disagrees.
I’ve written many a blog post confirming this.
We all get it. Life with young kids is stressful. It’s headache inducing. It’s yelling and screaming and shoe-throwing-door-slamming-lion-roaring-fire-breathing-dragon-pain-in-the-buttom-can’t-go-any-longer-like this–must-have-sleep-sobbing-into-my-pillow-every-night hard.
I know I’m not supposed to say this.
I’ll get thrown into the lion pit for this.
Someone might even throw a shoe at me.
But I’m going to say it anyway.
Life with young kids is precious.
I know I’m not supposed to talk about how much I’ll miss this one day.
But the truth is,
True, I will not miss the pit-of-despair-how-will-I-ever-survive-this-little-people-are-taking-over-my-life moments.
But, I will miss this.
Right now, I am ‘in it’. I’m in this.
THIS MOMENT IS HARD.
But I won’t be in this moment forever. I have to remember that and think
Out of the Moment.
To the past…
When I saw the II pink lines and my heart leaped for joy.
When I held each squishy slippery baby and looked into her or his eyes and fell
Nursing, cuddling, connecting
To the good times gone by.
To what is yet to come,
Our ‘young children’ will one day be
They won’t want us to be with them every.single.second of the day.
They won’t want us
[Except for food. That will probably never change.
And money. If we have any left.]
They won’t need us
Like they do now for every.single.stinking.thing.
Our houses will be clean
We will be finally have time
It will be nice in many ways.
But, I will miss it also.
Right now; THIS IS HARD.
But, outside of this moment
This time will pass away, it will be gone.
We’ll have our battle wounds to remind us of this time
We’ll have memories
But this time now with our young children
Will not last forever
Out of THIS Moment.
Do these feelings/thoughts ever turn bitter and hateful?
If so, watch out! You may have a bad case of Mom Jealousy.
What tips do you have for combatting the green-eyed mom jealousy monster?
Not my favorite ‘holiday’, it causes me to grimace and shudder but not because of the scary costumes.
I’ve gone back and forth and forth and back on how I feel about Halloween..or All Hallow’s Eve, er…the Eve of All Saints? What if I put in a few more apostrophe’s – Hall’o’ween?
You see, once upon a time, I was a little girl and Halloween was a regular fun day at our house growing up. We dressed up, we knocked on people’s doors and got candy—and got to eat it and we were normal.
Until—Rosalie. [cue: Alfred Hitchcock or the Twilight Zone music]
Rosalie was the lady that came once a month or so to help my mom clean the house (I think she tricked my dad into this service when she had preeclampsia with my little brother and was on bed rest for a bit.) Rosalie was a nice enough lady and did a fantastic job cleaning the house. (I always loved coming home from school on her cleaning days to find my room all nice and fresh.)
But, Rosalie was a little crazy and had some interesting ideas about Christianity and the occult.
My mom is an incredibly smart woman, she’s classy and never wore denim jumpers or anything like that but Rosalie was such a kind woman and meant so well she got a tad sucked into her extreme ideas. The devil is bad bad bad and the last thing my mom wanted was for any of us to get caught in his claws, even if by accident.
So, suddenly anything that had the slightest possible connection to the occult got thrown out—literally.
Anything in any way related to witchcraft, spells or any other hocus-pocus was gone—including, all my troll dolls I got for my 10th birthday and, believe it or not, peace signs. Somehow even my Barbie dolls got caught in all this and zapped away also. (I think the “Halloween grinches” were in league with the Barbie-doll prohibitionists during those days.)
So that year (a.k.a the “Rosalie year”), instead of dressing up in fun costumes and collecting yummy treats around the neighborhood, we spent Halloween hiding from trick-o-treaters in our basement. Sure, we got to watch a ‘family movie’ but how does that beat free candy? It wasn’t all bad though, one year they did take us to an “All Saints Day” party out in the country somewhere with the “homeschoolers”.
Thankfully Rosalie moved away and the spell she had over my mom slowly faded away and we didn’t have to hide in our basement every Halloween; but it was never the same again. The fear that the devil would steal my soul if I even uttered the “H” word out loud held a strong grip on me for quite a while. I honestly don’t remember Halloween time after that first prohibited year – I blocked it from my memory (aside from a couple fun high school parties I could never forget)
When I got married and had kids the same childhood fears returned. Should I let my kids participate in Halloween or would I be leading them to the dark side?
My husband mostly laughed at me (as usual) so we eventually compromised, as long as I could call it “Costume Day” I would let them dress up and have one or two pieces of candy. (you see by then, I knew sugar was almost as evil as the devil himself) I was convinced this would work and they would never know the truth. Oh and they’d only be allowed to dress-up as nice happy things like pretty princesses or puppies.
Fast forward a few years (zzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZP!) I’m a mother of four and we are very much a part of the outside world withvery smart and perceptive kids.
I still get all itchy and twitchy when Halloween time comes around but decided that unless we hid in our house from about September through November 1, there is no way of avoiding Halloween. Like my friend, Monica, said, we live in the world and we can’t just sit at home watching religious movies and reading religious books our whole lives. Besides, it’s not going to kill our kids’ souls to let them watch/read/listen to something not directly related to Jesus and Mary or the Angels & Saints.
I still don’t particularly like this day but I now enjoy watching the kids have fun dressing up and collecting all sorts of horrible sugary treats (which we still limit how much they actually get to eat in one sitting because puke sucks). We talk to our kids honestly about our feelings about Halloween and have our own set of ‘rules’ (similar to these). We’ll never allow them to dress-up as anything evil (sorry, no ‘cute’ little devils) or overly grotesque or watch anything that would give them nightmares (this may have more selfish reasons – we’d sure be sorry in the middle of the night when they woke us up screaming at the top of their lungs). That said, while we don’t have to completely shun Halloween, we can’t be ignorant or use it to hide the fact the devil is out there and he’s not our friend. I still struggle though, with how to do this. Part of me hates even talking about the devil because I don’t want to give him more credit or attention than is due but, on the flip-side, I want my kids have some fear of the darker powers that really do exist; they need to know heaven is real but they also need to know hell is too and their choices in this life could land them in either of those two (or purgatory) after this.
I realized how far I’ve come when we went shopping for costumes this year and I turned to see my boys playing with the Grim Reaper and Demon masks. My former self would have totally freaked imagining the devil taking over their souls from merely touching masks like that and me having to call the priest to deliver an emergency exorcism right there in the store. Ironically, my boys decided to be ghosts this year—and I was totally cool with it. (Which proves I’ve really changed my views on Halloween or being the mother of four has made me weak and lazy – white cloth, 2 holes for eyes, 1 for mouth, done.)
Oh and about All Saints Day. I see it is a separate day—a Holy Day in fact. Why try to mess with combining the two when they are obviously not connected anymore?
However, I could always let them dress up as one of the martyrs for Halloween—would that count as both a Halloween and All Saints Day costume?
(psst, Mom if you are reading this, don’t worry, I’m don’t blame you for the past and am totally over it…can I have my troll dolls back now?)
Along with my How to Stay Sane game plan, I’ve been trying to journal my feelings/thoughts more, especially when I am irritated. This helps me diffuse so I don’t take it all out on my family (or myself). I recently wrote down a list of things that cause me great stress and irritation. Some of these I can learn to avoid/prevent but many of these are things that just come with the territory and I just have to deal. The problem (in the past) is that my hormonal/emotional/physical/spiritual health wasn’t as up to the task. I’m hoping my “game plan” will help me handle these situations/issues better. We’ll see. Here are some of my ‘Top Stressers’ in no particular order.
* Food: Planning it, buying it, preparing it, cleaning up from it. I need food, my family needs food, but it sure does get in the way.
* Kids fighting/arguing/screaming/bossing etc, etc. (Especially when baby is trying to sleep or when I’m talking on the phone.)
* Messy kitchen–dirty dishes and crumbs and trash piled everywhere.
* Clutter: Toys, clothes, random socks, books, papers, etc scattered all over the house in plain view but yet no one bothers to put them away. (Yet they notice enough to step over them.)
* Inconsolable crying. When the baby does this (Which he actually hasn’t yet but I’m sure he will at some point) or if someone is seriously hurt (i.e. severe head trauma, broken bones, or profuse amounts of blood gushing out) it doesn’t bother me as much. Other than that, when there is no apparent or reasonable purpose for the never-ending loud siren crying, it is incredibly hard to handle. This is what sets me over the edge more often than anything. Our two-year-old has gotten exceptionally good at this since our sweet babe entered his world. He did finally cut a molar and hasn’t been as bad since. I’m trying to carve out special attention for him throughout the day (reading to him, playing puzzles, giving him extra hugs, etc) but he still has a hard time handling all the attention baby needs from me. Plus he’s just at that age (2 and 3 are evil years.) He’s independent and adventurous which is great except for when he doesn’t want my help (even though he obviously needs it) and when he wants to do something dangerous/hurtful and I tell him no (how could I?!). I roll my eyes and sigh at him several times throughout the day. Then I roll my eyes at myself for tying to reason with a two-year-old. On really bad days, I turn into a roaring dragon and that’s no fun for anyone and I’d like to avoid that as much as possible. (As I’m sure the kids would also.)
* On that note, not knowing how to handle behavioral issues peacefully yet also effectively sends me into an ugly spiral of incompetent and guilty feelings as I tear myself down for not knowing how to parent my own children. I’ve read ALL the books and heard it all. Yet I still can’t get my kids to follow my every command with a smile on their faces.
* Dealing with multiple children’s issues at the SAME TIME.
* Giving my children the love and attention they EACH need.
Another goal I made for myself during and immediately following pregnancy was to have a healthy postpartum time, especially in the area of mental health. I realize I may be slightly insane if I think I can somehow stay sane during these crazy times but I’m going to try anyway.
I don’t want to say that I had real postpartum depression after my last pregnancies, I was never diagnosed with it, but I sometimes wonder if I would have been had I gone to the doctor looking for a medical term to explain away my up and down moods, weepiness, sleep-depriving anxiety, and tendency to want to run away from my family when things got really tough. (Disclaimer: I have never wanted to physically hurt either myself or my children…or husband.)
PPD sometimes just seems like a ‘medical’ way of describing the typical life of a mother, especially one with more than one child. I’d like to know what woman has never experienced at least one of the following at some point (weeks or months) after giving birth?
- Irritability or hypersensitivity
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety and worry
- Crying or tearfulness
- Negative feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, or guilt
- Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
- Difficulty sleeping (especially returning to sleep)
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Changes in appetite or eating habits
- Headaches, stomachaches, muscle or backaches
Of course, PPD can become more than normal when it causes a mother to really go crazy (all jokes aside) so it is something to be aware of and stay on top of for the mother’s health and safety and that of her family’s. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, frustrated, sad, and so exhausted you sometimes have to pull over when driving. But if these ‘feelings’ are accompanied with other physical signs like shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, chills or other “heart-attack’ like symptoms there may be something more serious going on. And, it should go without saying, if you’re having terrible death thoughts (ones you would never want anyone to know) then it’s definitely time to call out for help.
Like I said, I’ve never been that bad but I know from talking with other moms and reading stories that “normal” can quickly become very scary. To avoid this, I’ve put together a How to Stay Sane game plan for myself.
1. Be honest. (Get rid of my pride & vanity)
I have to be honest about how I am really feeling instead of trying to pretend I am perfect and can handle everything just fine all by myself. I also need to be honest with my husband. This is hard for me because I don’t want to whine and boo-hoo to him about every little thing. I also don’t want him to think I regret having our children or that I don’t appreciate him for the tremendous help and love he already offers me. The ‘Eve’ in me wants to pretend I don’t need my husband (or any man for that matter). But I do. Very much. I hate to think where I’d be or where our children would be without him around to keep me grounded.
2. Be realistic. (Prudence)
There was a time (not too long ago) I could do all the laundry, vacuum the whole house, and clean all the bathrooms all in one day–and still make dinner, help with homework and read a few stories at bedtime to my kids as well. That was then, this is now and I don’t need to live then, I need to live now. There are many different types of moms. It’s easy to look at a mom or a family and compare myself and think I’m not good enough or wish I could be someone I’m simply not. This is especially hard in the postpartum time as it seems there is an unseen source (though not so unknown) trying to make me (and other postpartum moms) feel like we should be up and back on our feet and going a million miles a minute after the baby is born. Some moms may be able to do that. Not me. And that’s ok. Right now, I’m a mother of 4 young children. I have a teeny tiny baby who depends on me for everything. Oh yeah, I’m also a wife and my husband needs me too. I don’t need to be anything else right now. I’ve asked my husband to help me keep things simple and not let me take on any major projects or new leadership roles for a while. This is hard for me because I’m such a doer. He, Husband the Wise, reminded me I don’t need a project. “This [our family] is your project.” Yes, there are many other great and important things I could do. But right now, being just a mom, is who I really am.
I also need to be realistic of who my children and husband are and let go of who they are not. More on this later though.
3. Ask for and accept help. (Humility)
If I am honest and realistic with myself and others, then I’ll be able to ask for and accept help. I’m profoundly thankful for all the meals we’ve been giving as well as help with taxiing kids around and giving them special attention, and going on special shopping errands for and with me. (Gracias, mamá!) I’ve gotten better at asking my children for help too and this has not only been a great aid to me but it’s teaching them valuable lessons as well (I hope!)
3. Take care of myself. (Temperance)
Hormones. I feel like they control me right now. (When haven’t they?) We joke about this but there’s a lot of truth to it. But even hormones can be…guided. If I treat them nice they can be my friends, instead of my enemies. Proper eating, sleeping, and lifestyle habits can affect my hormonal health and, in effect, everything else. So part of my game plan is to take the right vitamin/mineral supplements I need daily (without missing days at a time) and to eat as healthy as is realistically possible. This is a hard one The subject of food is one I both love and hate. The thought of meal planning and cooking is enough to make me go crazy. It would be easier to order in/go out or eat pre-made convenience food. But, aside from this being way expensive, it’s not as good as eating healthier and fresher home-made meals. But I can’t be a food nazi about this or it will be counterproductive and drive me crazy anyway. I’ll just have to do my best to find a good balance. I really need to just let go of the idea that I can be a super fantastic cook and a super fantastic mom at the same time. Not now, anyway. Maybe I’ll try that magic trick later.
I am also trying to get enough sleep. I read once that the number one cause of PPD turning into Postpartum Psychosis is lack of adequate and proper amounts of sleep. I’m going to bed earlier when I can (as I finish editing this post at midnight) and I’m taking the old adage about sleeping when baby sleeps seriously. I sleep while nursing the babe at night in bed and also catch a few cat naps here and there during the day with him instead of getting on the computer as often as I used to. (If I haven’t replied to your email or FB message as quickly as you need, call me!)
Exercise will also be my friend. I haven’t done too much yet since I’m still only 4 weeks postpartum but I’d like to make walking and other simple exercise a part of my daily/weekly routine. It was so helpful when I was pregnant to get out of the house for a little bit by myself or even with the kids. When I feel like running away, maybe a short jog/walk around the neighborhood would be enough to relieve that tension. (I’m not looking foward to the colder weather but maybe I’ll just have to bundle myself up and force myself out.)
4. Pray, pray, pray.
I can do nothing without God. Nothing. I need him, like my baby needs me. I need his Grace and his Strength. I’ll ask for these at night when I go to bed, I’ll ask for these when I wake up in the morning (or in the middle of the night), and throughout my day. I’ll also be grateful for what He has given me. But I won’t just pray for me. I’ll pray for others. The best way to get over my problems is to get over myself and think of others. I can offer up my petty problems and rotten days for my family, for my fellow moms, for women who’ve lost children, and especially for those women who carry the worst pain of never knowing what it means to be a mother even though they yearn so desperately for that gift. And if I can’t think of who else to offer my days for, I’ll read the news and remember.
So there’s my simple game plan to stay sane and avoid going totally crazy. I may add to it as I go along. I hope it will help but I know I might go slightly crazy from time to time still.
“Babymoon has several meanings. The original meaning is a period of time that parents spend bonding with a recently-born baby.”
These last few weeks have been blissful as we enjoy the ‘babymoon’ with our newest little miracle. My husband was able to use sick days and some vacation he’d accrued to stay home with me and the babe and help with our other three children until this week. I’m eternally grateful for having all that time with my husband here to help.
Aside from being spoiled by his extra set of hands and voice (especially with the older boys and their shenanigans), I love that we both could enjoy the babymoon together. I had the privilege of carrying our baby inside of me for nine months. Now, my husband and our family get to know him together with me.
This pregnancy was different in many ways, as most pregnancies are I suppose. It was more challenging physically, emotionally and spiritually and, as I shared, the labor and birth weren’t just a walk in the park either. But the joy-filled result of that pregnancy and birth – our beautiful & precious baby – exceedingly outweighs the challenges from those times. Since the moment he finally came out, I’ve relished every moment I get to look at him and hold him and kiss him. I’m so glad he is here and I’m not pregnant! I’d forgotten what it felt like not being pregnant.
One goal I made during pregnancy was to enjoy the moments and weeks after birth with our baby instead of getting too panicked or frazzled by everything that follows and all the family/friends visiting. Thanks to the help of my husband, and midwife, I was able to relax and just enjoy holding our baby for the first time and the last few weeks I feel I was able to really soak him in and relax and rest.
I’ve limited my use of the computer so I can focus on my baby’s beautiful face instead of the computer screen. I love looking down at him while he nurses (although my neck protests!) I love feeling his soft new skin and running my hands over his soft hair. I love smelling him and kissing him and just taking him all in. He’s been awake more and I love when he opens his eyes and bobs his head up and down looking to see me when I hold him. We stare deeply into each other and I know he knows I’m his mama and he’s my little squishy and I love him.
I love watching him with his daddy, who has some magical spell over him. Though my husband obviously can’t bond with him by nursing, my husband loves to hold him and sit next to us while we nurse so baby sees both of us when he looks up while nursing. He also falls asleep nicely with him and is very content when he holds him. This makes me happy because I know how happy it makes my husband. I also love this time for what it does for our marriage. I love how he takes care of me during this time. I get to fall in love with my husband all over again. I get to remember and be thankful I married him. This, this is what I said Yes and I do for.
I love how much our kids love their little brother and how he is interested in them and looks at them with curious admiration. Our daughter is such a little mother; she’d probably nurse him if she could. Our five-year-old son has a sweet sincere love for his baby brother. I’ve had to tell him to hold off on all the kisses and touches so he just waves at him with his sweet smile all the time. I’m not quite sure what the two-year-old really thinks yet. He’s kept his distance a little but I can tell he really loves him too, just in his own little two-year-old way. I know they will not always be so gentle and kind as he grows up and gets into their stuff so I’m enjoying this time of peace between him and them while it lasts.
The only thing I hate about this time is how fast it goes. It’s already been three weeks (tomorrow) and I’m already forgetting moments from yesterday. I wish there was a way to make time stay still. He has nothing but love for me now and I can’t get really mad with him yet. I want to hang onto this time forever. Yet, of course, I do want him to continue developing and be healthy. I’m thankful at least I can go back and remember these fleeting moments through our pictures and videos we take of him now. Although, a time machine that could let me come back and enjoy this time would be better.
Life, every moment, is so precious. Birth and death are our best reminders of this. Enjoy your day today, enjoy your family and your friends and everything. Gozar la vida.
This is a story about a baby’s birth.
It was…birth; simply put. It involved moaning, laughter, some ridiculous wailing and animal-like noises, some not nice words, lots of breathing, and various bodily excretions.
(If any of that weirds or grosses you out I would suggest not reading any further. And if you do choose to read on, you might want to get comfortable because it’s rather long.)
I’d been having contractions on and off for a few weeks – yes weeks. I’d started what I thought may have been the beginning of labor two or three times that just fizzled into nothing. I had passed all the ‘possible’ 40-week ‘due dates’ which was a new thing for me. (I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t actually ‘overdue’ until past 42 weeks.) I had put in one request to God for when I’d like the baby to come: Either a few days or a week before school started or at least a day or two after school started, but in no way would he be allowed to come on the day school started. It was a simple request. In fact, I had a friend who’s ‘due date’ actually was the first day of school and we joked about all summer and I prayed for her often as I knew that must have stressed her out—thinking her baby could be born on the first day of school.
As I shared, the night before school started, I was finally at peace. I didn’t care anymore when the baby came, I knew it would be soon and that everything would work out just fine. I went to bed feeling good since it was the first night I didn’t go to bed hoping to wake up either in labor or with a baby. Like my friend, Amanda, commented on that blog post- my mind and soul were finally truly ready to work together.
I’d been going for an evening walk every night for the past few weeks and when I went Wednesday night I didn’t go quite as far because it felt…different. I watched an episode of Fringe with my husband (yes we are weird and like that show), it helped get my mind off everything for a bit (how can you think of labor/birth when you’re watching a show about someone’s brains exploding unexplainably?). I went to bed with contractions going on but hey, what was new? Then throughout the night I noticed they kept going, quietly but steadily. I woke up around 3 or 4 to the sound of my own moaning and realized I’d been doing that for a while. After I couldn’t sleep anymore, I grunted and ooomphed myself out of the bed to the bathroom (for the umpteenth time), turned on the light, and discovered my mucus plug had dropped!
“Lord, almighty!” I exclaimed quietly to myself and then I started laughing. It was the morning of the first day of school. I looked up to God, shook my head and just laughed. “Oh Lord, you sure do think you’re funny.” I went back to the bed chuckling and shook my husband awake and told him, as I laughed, that my mucus plug had dropped and we both laughed together and then he told me to go back to sleep and rest. I tried for a bit but I was suddenly starving. I had to get up soon to get the kids ready for school so I got up and walked around downstairs for a bit, scrambled up some eggs, and swept the kitchen floor, continuing to have small contractions every 15 -20 minutes or so. I don’t remember feeling stressed or anxious at all during this time—just happy that it was finally starting while also still chuckling inside at God’s funny sense of timing. It was now just before 6 a.m. when I had set my alarm the night before to get up. I texted my midwife and let her know what was going on so she would be prepared in case things progressed quickly. In the past, my labors have all started with my mucus plug dropping followed by a baby anywhere from 8 hours later with my last one to 3 days later with my first baby. I really had no idea how long this would go on so there wasn’t any point in waiting around for it. I went ahead and got myself ready and continued on ‘as planned’ for the morning. We got the kids breakfast and everyone ready and though I was now definitely having contractions that made me pause I decided I had to go with my husband to take them or I would cry if I missed seeing my first-born son off to his first day of kindergarten. Plus I didn’t want to be left alone lest my body do something crazy and make me deliver the baby on my own. (I learned last time what my body does when I’m left alone.)
We got the kids to school and by some miracle, no one noticed me or really bothered me about when baby was coming (for the first time in a few months!), even as I walked slowly and stopped every now and then to let a contraction go. I only whispered to the kids’ teachers to be aware there was a chance someone else might pick the kids up instead of me. My daughter knew I was feeling ‘funny’ but I didn’t want her to worry about missing anything while at school. Somehow I managed not to cry as we said goodbye, thank God my husband was there with me. Then we went and got some gas for the car and then to the store for some groceries since we were out of most everything and I was hungry. The contractions had slowed down now with all the commotion but every now and then I’d have another as we walked around the store to remind me that yes, yes indeed our baby would be coming soon.
We got back home and ate some food and I rested on the couch for a while since I was now tired from having been up so early. The weather outside was beautiful. My husband played outside with the two-year-old and got out our ladder ball game we hadn’t played with in a while with him while I rested in between contractions and getting up to pee, which each contraction made me have to do. Soon, it was time to go back and pick up the kindergartener. Again, I wasn’t ready to be alone so I came with my husband to pick him up. I was so thankful I got to take and pick him up for his first day after all. We went back home and I made us lunch while swaying my hips around through contractions.
After lunch we went outside to play again. I remember at one point I was standing under the shade of the trees and the unusual cool breeze suddenly rushed through me, running its fingers through my hair and whispering messages of peace throughout my whole body. I breathed it in, looked up to our bathroom window and smiled knowing our baby would be born there soon.
I went back inside and continued resting on the couch, having contractions and peeing. By this point though, I’d also started to get a little…ahem, gassy and my body was doing a lot of ‘cleaning out’. My husband came in and commented on this a few times in his usual good-natured make-fun-of-me sort of way. (Tangent for a back story: My husband, if you don’t know, is into astronomy, so we often talk about planets and stars around here. A week or so before we were all eating dinner and the kids were talking about which planet they’d like to visit and one said they’d like to visit Uranus. However, my husband had to let them down and let them know this wasn’t possible since “Uranus is a bunch of gas.” He said it without thinking but I caught it right away and we shared a good laugh over it while our kids looked at us perplexed but also amused by our laughing. Little did we know how this would carry through to labor & birth.)
This ‘twelve-year-old’ humor became part of our day of labor as I became gassier and gassier throughout the day and we had some very good hard laughs together while I rested and contracted. At some point in the day he started calling me a “Gas Giant”. Our 2-year-old caught wind of this and soon everyone was calling me a Gas Giant. Lucky for them I was still in a good enough mood to laugh along with them. I should have challenged them to a belching contest, I would have won for sure. I’m so glad my husband was there with me to keep my mood light. We laughed about a lot of silly things throughout the day, he also gave me many hugs and kisses and we swayed and danced together during contractions.
As the afternoon went on, my contractions picked back up again and intensified. I swayed around with them and tilted my pelvis around to help baby get into a good position as he made his way down but I mostly stayed on the couch and rested still. I texted my midwife and good friend to update them and commented to my friend that I felt like I was ‘stalling’ and waiting for my daughter to return from school since I knew she really wanted to be at the birth. Plus I didn’t want to have to interrupt hard labor to worry about who was going to pick her up. Around 3ish, when it was time to get her, my contractions suddenly really intensified. I could still talk and move around between but had to stop and focus on them while they happened. I decided it would be too obvious and uncomfortable to go in the car to get our daughter but I didn’t want to be alone so we had our older son stay with me. I called my midwife to chat for a bit while they were gone and had a couple good ones that she was able to listen to. She said it didn’t sound like it would be within the next hour or anything and we talked about positioning since it felt like things were not quite as productive as maybe they could be. I had a “pendulous belly” which meant my abdomen hung down a little lower than my pubic bone. She suggested I try and hold my belly up and lean forward a bit during contractions to help the baby’s head press down more on my cervix.
For some reason this made me feel dejected. I wanted someone to tell me the baby would come soon and I didn’t want my pendulous belly to be an issue. Basically, I wanted my midwife to be wrong. (I’m not stubborn at all.)
I lay back down on the couch for a bit and suddenly felt incredibly sleepy. My husband came back with my daughter and I was so glad to see her and ask how her first day was. She went out and played a bit and I got up to get them some snack and use the bathroom—again. When I came back, I felt…different. I told my husband, “I think I’m about to enter a new emotional stage.” Sure enough, I felt a huge emotional wave flow through me and I started crying. My daughter came in and got worried about me crying and I explained that I was just so happy. I was crying because I was so happy—happy that I got to take the kids to their 1st day of school and happy they were all back safely and had a good day, and happy that now I could feel free to let our baby come—I could release.
This was a big cue for my husband; he’s gotten very good at knowing my signs for each stage of labor. He suggested we go upstairs and start getting everything ready. I agreed and we made our way to The Stairs. We got to The Stairs and suddenly they looked like a huge mountain, I actually thought of Pikes’ Peak when I saw them. I knew what was at the top of those stairs—my bedroom and bathroom. I knew what would happen up there and suddenly I wasn’t sure I was ready. I crawled up a few stairs while crying and said to my husband, “You know once I go up there what’s going to happen, right?” He knew and encouraged me, “I know, it’s ok, you can do it.” He knew exactly where I was now and knew the real labor would start soon. Then I remembered the kids playing outside and worried about what to do with them. Up until now I had assumed the baby would come in the middle of the night so I hadn’t really planned what to do with the kids. I didn’t want to leave them outside on their own and I wasn’t sure I wanted them up with me anymore like I had previously imagined. My husband asked if it would be ok if he asked his mom (who lives close by) to come get them for a bit. This was hard for me because it meant I had to admit labor was really happening and birth was really imminent. Plus, I hate to let others know I’m in labor because then it could make my labor stall since I’d have to change/hide what was going on and put on a ‘hostess’ face. I don’t like knowing people are worried about me or that they are waiting around for the baby to finally come. Also, I don’t like telling people I’m in active labor for the same reason I don’t announce to the world that I’m going to the bathroom to “pass a bowel”.
However, I knew we needed the kids gone so I agreed on the condition that she not come in the house so I couldn’t hear her or she me. I gathered up my emotions and started the hike up the stairs while my husband got the kids ready. Once I was upstairs, things quickly intensified and though I wasn’t exactly timing my contractions I’d guess they went from being every 20-30 minutes apart to maybe every 15 minutes. Each contraction caused me to squat half-way down and really focus. I needed my husband there for each one to support me and hold my belly up—which, as it turns out, did make the pain feel much more ‘productive’. As he gathered the kids and I got things ready in the bathroom I made a decision-I was ready for this baby to come now. I started saying this out loud, “I AM ready for you [baby] to come now. You can come now.” I was still crying, happy and excited that he really was coming soon! This must have distressed my daughter though because she started crying too. I think this was when she realized maybe she wasn’t ready to be at the birth after all. Her and my husband had a nice honest chat and I was proud of her for admitting she wasn’t ready so she went with her brothers and Grandma too. I gave them all kisses and hugs before they left and told her not to worry and just to pray.
As they were leaving, I realized I was about to enter “The Zone”, otherwise known as “Transition”. Except, for me, I usually have a transition into transition. I knew once I entered “The Zone” my logical/aware self would be overshadowed by crazy Labor Land animal lady. I quickly texted my good friend, “I’m going into transition, or at least transition into transition. Please pray for me.” It was good to know she was there, even if just spiritually, praying and supporting me. My husband came back upstairs and told me he thought this would be a good time to call the midwife to come over, which I agreed to as I trusted my husband’s judgment. I tried to lay down on the bed but this made me very uncomfortable and painful in an unproductive way so I stayed by the side of the bed and just rested my head on the bed between contractions as best I could. Shortly after this, I felt a new contraction coming on and knew it would be a real good one (contraction). I stood up, leaned on the bed with my arms and squat/sat on my husband’s knees while he held my belly up. I felt a lot of pressure and felt as if something might come out…I even thought it could possibly be the baby coming down already the pressure was so strong. The contraction was still going when suddenly I felt a huge release and…
My water literally EXPLODED all over the floor (there was a towel I think) and on my husband’s legs and some on his shorts.
“What was THAT??!!!” My husband was as shocked as was I. I told him it was my water! Oh my gosh– my water! We both were not expecting that and just stood there for a few seconds dumbfounded before he rushed to get some towels.
Then I started peeing, lots and lots of peeing that wouldn’t have stopped coming out even if I super-kegeled. I had made a sort of whinnying noise when the water broke and now there I was, my amniotic fluid all over the towel and floor and I was peeing like a race horse; I started laughing and said, “Now I really am a horse.” (Some of my friends and I had joked about various animal noises I could make while in labor previous to this.)
With our last child, he was born very quickly after the water broke so I was kind of waiting for that to happen again but things kind of slowed down a little after the water broke this time. I went into the bathroom and walked around a bit and tried to recollect myself. I think our midwife came around this time because I remember my husband telling her my water just broke. I glanced over at her but don’t remember if we exchanged any words. It didn’t bother me that she was there; it was nice knowing she was there if I needed her. She did a great job staying away until we really needed her.
From here on out, my memory is very foggy and I can’t remember all the details in the exact chronological order. I’m going to guess this was close to 5 or 5:30? I remember getting into the bathtub, which my husband must have filled up for me or…wait I remember my midwife doing it because she asked why it wasn’t plugging as there is a trick to it so my husband helped while I think I sat on the toilet maybe. I usually hate the toilet during labor but I was still having a lot of peeing and cleaning out going on, which really annoyed me. In the tub, I tried to relax but still couldn’t get comfortable lying down during contractions. I remember feeling increasingly frustrated by this but if we didn’t hold my belly up and squat during contractions the pain was too frustrating for me. I remember praying a few Hail Mary’s with my husband which was nice. While in there, I had contractions but the only thing that kept coming out was poop! It made me quite upset and distraught but I knew from things I’d read that it was ‘normal’. Ug.
Then, I’m not sure what happened but after one hard contraction I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. I just could not do this. It just wasn’t going to happen. I tried explaining this to them but they didn’t seem to pay much notice. I heard my midwife whisper something to my husband but couldn’t tell what it was. He told me later she said, “Transition”, as it was clear to them that’s where I was. Somewhere, deep down wherever my logical/reasonable self was hiding out, I knew this was true but I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. I’m still slightly embarrassed with how I behaved after this. I continued down the negative/wimpy downward spiral of transition, more and more convinced that I wasn’t able to do this anymore. I knew I needed to get out of there but how would I get around my husband and midwife? I had to get away…to the hospital. There, they would listen to me. They would take pity on me and knock me out while they pushed for me and delivered the baby for me. So I decided I had to run away. With an unexpected strength, I quickly stood up and started trying to get out of the tub. They asked where I was going? “Nowhere,” I lied, “I just need to…walk around a little that’s all.” Little did they know my secret plans to somehow run past them, down the stairs to the garage where I would get into the car and drive myself to the hospital and somehow my contractions would magically stop during this covert escape.
However, as soon as I got out of the tub and tried to run I realized my plan may not work so well after all. I tried to run but this brought on a stronger contraction and upset me even more than I already was. I think I might have even wailed like a baby. I wanted to get away, why wouldn’t they scoop me up and take me away? It was like being in a dream where you try and run but your legs don’t move. My midwife suggested I take a break on the toilet for a little. She might as well have asked me to sit on an open shark’s mouth, I hated the toilet during labor that much. But, alas, I had to poop again and I didn’t want poop on the carpet so onto the open shark’s mouth I sat. I had a contraction and sure enough, cleaned out some more. I hated my poop so much at this point, I even told them so. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten so much broccoli & green peppers the day before. My husband was squatting down in front me holding me and trying to keep me calm. I said, in a ridiculously baby-whiney way, “I HATE my poop! I hate it, I hate it!”
This made me mad so I punched my husband in his chest very hard. (He’ll tell you it was more like a tap).
He laughed more at this.
So I slapped him in the face. (He’ll tell you it was just a swat.)
I was so frustrated now, with my poop and with the fact that I knew I was being so wimpy and babyish about all this. I wanted the baby to come NOW, I didn’t want to do this anymore. I got up from the toilet and started stamping my feet and saying…not nice words. I didn’t care about anything anymore. Not my kids, not the baby, not praying or God, nothing. And this made me so mad at myself, I stamped my feet again and said a few more…not nice words.
It was hard not knowing just how much longer this would go on and I was getting tired but couldn’t rest or relax. It was like being stuck in a dream; I wanted to get out of transition and to the end but I didn’t want to be the one to do it anymore. I tried reasoning with my husband and midwife about this again but my midwife matter of factly reminded me that even at the hospital, at this point, I would still have to be the one to do it. I groaned, knowing she was right. I told my husband I didn’t really want an epidural, I just wanted…something…to make it easier…to make my mind/attitude work better. I needed a huge rush of adrenaline or energy to just get me working again. (Side note: I envisioned the scene from Mission Impossible where Tom Cruise injects with adrenaline into a tortured captive and she suddenly wakes up and has the energy to start shooting the enemies and running.)
I think they may have given me some of my Rescue Remedy which helped, even if only as a placebo/mind trick. They suggested I go back to the bed to rest a bit but somehow I must have known somewhere in my subconscious that he was coming soon and I wanted to stay by the bathtub (I didn’t want to get my bed and bedroom carpet all dirty either.) I was standing and leaning over the tub and the warm water beckoned me to come back in after another really good bearing-down type of contraction. I don’t remember actually pushing yet, just bearing down with my body. I climbed back in and I must have had a few more contractions. I remember reaching in to check if I could feel the baby’s head since I felt something coming out. Nope, just more poop. I said I didn’t want more of that, I wanted my baby! (Or at least that’s what I was thinking if I didn’t say that out loud.) I tried to reach in further and find his head so I could literally pull it down. “Come on, Luke!” I said this in a half cheerleader half disciplinarian mom sort of way. “Come, out!”
I don’t know how close my contractions were now but they must have been pretty close together. Another big one was coming so I think I stood up and squatted by the side of the tub while my husband and midwife supported me from the back. This contraction either lasted longer or there were multiple contractions in one. My midwife and husband had been ‘coaching’ me on my breathing and this was incredibly helpful because I usually forget to breath and either hold my breath or yell for the whole contraction until my face turns purple and my eyes almost pop. (According to my husband.) So I was bearing down, and now pushing, though trying not to force anything like I’ve done in the past. My midwife was reminding me that every breath I took provided oxygen to the baby and to my tissues to prevent perineum tearing, which I certainly did not want to happen. So I breathed, released, took another breath and released and then I reached down again to see what I felt and this time I felt his head! Oh joy! His head! His head! I knew then that I was crowning and this gave me the ‘adrenaline’ I needed to go on. I remembered my good friend talking about panting during her crowning so I did this as I supported his head coming out with my hands. The funny thing is that I don’t remember this hurting at all, maybe because of how relieved I was to know it was finally going to be over soon. I was so focused on my breathing that I couldn’t tell my husband or midwife that he was crowning. Later they told me they wondered what was going on since I suddenly had become so focused. The contraction ended and a huge wave of relief flowed through me as I knew his head was out. I leaned forward and my husband and midwife said, “Oh, his head!” I thought they knew I had crowned so was confused why they didn’t know and was waiting for the rest of his body to come out. My midwife then instructed me to get up on my hands and knees and face the opposite side of the tub. The tone of her voice indicated how important it was for me to do this. I was not worried about this, I somehow knew his shoulder might be a little stuck, so I mustered up my strength and followed her direction. She told me she needed to help get his shoulder out and that I would definitely feel it. So she hooked her finger under his shoulder/armpit and told me to push (yup, just like on TV.) So with the next contraction, I pushed and out he came! Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh, what a relief! That’s probably one of the best feelings ever.
I asked if he was out and they said yes and helped hand him to me without getting all twisted up in the cord. I laid back and held my baby and cried and cried and said, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” about a billion times while joyously crying and talking to him, feeling him, kissing him. “My baby! My baby!” It was the exact image God had given me at Mass a week or so before when I was feeling anxious/scared about the birth. I was there, in the tub, with the evening sun shining through the window blinds onto us, holding my baby and saying, “He’s here! He’s here!”
The afterbirth part went well too. With my last birth I’d handled the birth part wonderfully but not so much with the after-birth part. I had thought I was having twins but it was just my placenta which took almost 2 hours to finally come out. So this time I was determined and prepared to deal with the after-birth better. Once the contractions started up again after Luke was out I actually spoke directly to my placenta, “Ok placenta, you did a great job feeding my baby, thank you. I now give you permission to release and come out.” We laughed together about this, it was nice to be cognitive and good-humored again. We waited a bit in the tub but it was apparent I needed to move. The cord had stopped pulsating and didn’t need to be connected anymore so we went ahead cut it; Luke was no longer connected to me through the cord. I got up and then we went to the toilet again (this time I was a bigger girl about it) and soon the placenta came out! Whoooo! Another wonderful feeling. Now, now it was done! My baby was out, the placenta was out. Thank you, God, thank you!
And that’s the story of Luke Daniel’s birth. It was, as I said in the beginning…birth, simply put. No words can ever really express the true experience, especially during that dark hour and a half transition time. It’s much easier writing/talking about this after the fact. Part of me wishes I would have handled that part better but it was what it was. I grew and carried a human person in my body for “9 months” and I birthed that tiny human person. I love him, I love him so much. Though it was hard—an understatement—I would do it again for him and for all my children if I had to.
Now I will reward those of you who actually read this whole thing with some pictures.
Luke Daniel was born Thursday, August 16th, at 6:37 p.m.! He was 8 lbs 6 oz, 20/12 inches long and very precious! We are both doing well; resting, nursing a TON, and enjoying this newborn baby bliss time as much as we can before it’s over in a blink of an eye.
I’m working on getting the story of his birth from my head to the computer before I forget it all. I’ll get some pics up soon too. Thank you for everyone’s prayers and thoughts as we waited for his arrival and now!