"When we had our children, our ideas changed somewhat. Thenceforward we lived only for them; they made all our happiness and we would never have found it save in them. In fact, nothing any longer cost us anything; the world was no longer a burden to us. As for me, my children were my great compensation, so that I wished to have many in order to bring them up for Heaven" -- Saint Zelie Martin, mother of St. Therese of Lisieux, canonized October 18, 2015 along with her husband St. Louis Martin.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A must read

Check out my sidebar for the link to Anima Christi: Soul of Christ by Mother Mary Francis.

I'm not finished yet, but this is a spiritual powerhouse.  I love Mother Mary Francis (now deceased, formerly the head of an order of Poor Clares in New Mexico).  This would be a perfect Lenten read, but don't wait.  Buy it and make it your summer spiritual read.  I find myself gasping with the power of her insights, and laughing by turns.  I think I'm going to do a book club on this book in the fall if I can manage the time.  It's just that good.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Back to Births: Number 5

It's hanging over my head, so I'm going to launch into my fifth birth story, whether or not I'm feeling a little winded.  Then you, my readers, can read these birth stories at your leisure. Now that I've fallen behind, you'll have to scroll to find them, but hopefully they'll all be here at some point.

After my less-than-perfect (second) home birth experience, I thought I should head back to the hospital.  
I just thought that my midwife here wasn't what my first one had been, and also, I was closing in on 30.
Somehow it seemed that once I was in my 30's (even if only for three months) I should be in a "safer" environment.

Keeping in mind that I still had never not induced, once again I pushed to induce early.  I seriously wish I had not been so traumatized by my 9 pound first baby and had the courage to trust and wait for natural labor. But I didn't. And this baby, induced a week early, was a 8 pound 12 ounce boy...so, I still felt justified.

I had spoken with my doctor about having fast labors and big babies and she was more than happy to schedule an induction.  I told her that pitocin did not work on me or my sister (did I say this in birth story #2? I was on pit for two hours, my sister was on all day, neither of us went into labor until they broke our water).  I told her I wanted them to break my water. She was fine with that. I also mentioned that I had had two water births and that I thought it helped. She said there was a jacuzzi tub at the hospital.  I was happy.

The morning of induction my husband and I arrived, ready for a baby. The nurse said she was going to start the pitocin.  Except we weren't planning on that kind of induction. We said the doctor agreed to breaking my water. She called the doctor (who wasn't there yet) and she got permission to break my water. I went into the halls to walk. The nurse came out a few minutes later (fifteen) and said that if I wasn't in active labor in a half an hour (from induction, so, in fifteen minutes) they'd be starting pitocin. There are many reasons why that's ridiculous, but I agreed.  30 minutes after induction I was on my side, with heavy back labor, my husband dutifully counter-pressuring my back with each contraction. I was at 7cm dilation, and felt like I was "getting there".  The nurse checked my progress and announced that the baby was in anterior position.

I had never had a baby in anterior position before, so I asked if this was ok.  She said yes, but it could cause labor to be much slower and more painful.  Thankyouforthat. Honestly, at 7 cm dilation, in active labor, those kinds of helpful tips aren't so helpful.  I asked what might help. She suggested I change positions. I sat on a birthing ball. I put my head lower than my rump. I was in pretty serious labor and wondering how I could get my baby to flip (which was unnecessary, and never happened).  I asked if I could get into the jacuzzi tub.  She said "I could see if I can get an order for that...usually it's not allowed if your membranes are ruptured...and we need the fetal monitor, so you'd have to come out to get readings..." (I would dearly love to know just how many times those tubs have been used, ever!)  I said to skip it.

Finally, I sat up one last time and a nerve in my back tripped. A "zing" of pain surged in my spine, and remained. I asked for IV drugs. I had never used them before and thought I might get through by just "taking the edge off".  The drugs stopped my labor.

An hour later the drugs wore off, my back pain was still there, and I headed into transition labor (these are the contractions that get that baby out!)  I was struggling to manage the contractions since the drugs left me woozy.  I asked the doctor to check me and I was at a 7 and a half.  One half centimeter in an hour, but that was because of the drugs slowing progress down.  At the time, I didn't think of that. Apparently neither did my doctor.  She said I might need pitocin to get my contractions to be strong enough to deliver the baby.

I knew one thing: I was "ok" now, but I could not handle transition strength contractions plus pitocin.  I
panicked and tried to figure out if I should get an epidural to handle the extra pain that pitocin would bring.  The anesthesiologist was called in.  The nurse checked me: I was at a NINE! (For those less schooled in labor, you push at 10 cm.)  Instead of saying "girl, you are so there! This baby is coming, give it one more contraction!" I was looked at in the eyes and very seriously and intensely told "This is the absolute last minute if you want an epidural!"  I got one. The pain was instantly gone. And my blood pressure dropped. Drastically.  My less-than-collected nurse had a distinct note of "concern" in her voice as she read my blood pressure numbers to the anesthesiologist.  They began giving me fluids. I felt sick, I felt faint, the numbers kept dropping.

At this point I looked at my husband, seated next to me with his head in his hands and through his fingers he raised his eyes to me and mouthed "I love you".  He had done this once before in an extremely scary plane flight into Denver, where the turbulance was tossing our plane to and fro and children were crying and I was praying desperately that we'd land safely.  In other words, I thought that death was a distinct possibility.  I thought "I'm going to see Jesus" and tried to collect myself to make an act of contrition.  How bad is this?

Well, they stabilized me and my son was born alive and well in about a minute.  That birth experience wasn't really what I had hoped it would be.  Number six was back at home.  Stay tuned.

Nearing the end

The school year is drawing to a close at my house.  I often think we could use a few more weeks to fully do justice to our year's curriculum, but more often than not, I have to simply accept that it is over.   My children are a little like wild horses when the long midwest winter comes to an end (well after April has passed).  It seems cruel to keep them indoors when we've come through six months of keeping constructive inside during inclement weather.  Whenever the sun is out, and usually this is in our final quarter of the school year, I go into "streamlined mode" of homeschooling.  What I require of my children is simply a set number of pages from each workbook, and they're done for the day.  I do science with them as a group, but besides that, I let it go.  Since I'm not doing elaborate arts and crafts or writing projects, they can usually get the workbooks done in between 30 minutes and 2 hours, depending on their grade level.  The positive side to this method, is that for the final month of school, we burn through those workbooks, which otherwise might have gone half completed.  Once they notice they're "almost done" with a workbook, I challenge them to push hard and finish it off so they can be done for the year.  As the workbooks dwindle in number, their excitement for the summer grows.  I ordered new swimsuits a couple of weeks back, because I knew that we'd need them soon and I need a whole bunch of sizes, so I didn't want to wait too long.   That was enough for my kids: they demanded we get them goggles so they'd be ready for swimming.  My oldest informed me of the opening day of the local pool.

Obviously, I love homeschooling.  I just get a thrill out of educating my children.  It's definitely one of the most edifying aspects of my parenting.  As a mom, there's not just a ton of daily work that I get to feel satisfaction in accomplishing (think dinner or laundry) because it needs to be re-done daily.  Of course we'll revisit the water cycle or the Civil War again every so many years, but there is a real amount of learning accomplished each year.  That said, even I start looking forward to the new routine, and the break, of summer.  The hours of schooling can be turned toward other projects, like gardening. I can go for a walk to the park with the kids at 10 a.m. and not feel like I'm getting a late start on our day's work.

Since I leave for my in-laws in the southwest every summer, some of the projects I'd love to do (like gardening) can't happen while we're away from home.  Still, I'm outside in the sunshine a whole lot more, and that's just healthy and restorative.  We all need to recover and renew.  We need to clear our minds and strengthen our bodies...that have grown a little pale over the long winter.  I love the rhythm of the school year and summer break.  I'm glad that as a mother I don't have to lose that by working a job year round, with only weeks of vacation time each year.   It's a blessing, and one of the perks that come with being a stay-at-home mom.  This isn't to say that working men and women don't have their advantages.  But I figure it doesn't hurt to acknowledge one of the benefits I receive from my vocation as a home educating mom.:)

Gretchen Knuffke: Big families..what we wish you knew.

Gretchen Knuffke: Big families..what we wish you knew.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Singing with three year olds

My new 3-year-old:
"xyz, klm, qrs (random letters)...I won't sing with you ever again".  (Her version of the alphabet song) Little sweetie.              


This morning we were singing Old Mac Donald together. I began and let her fill in the animals. First, she chose "pig" (with an "oink oink here and and oink oink there"). Second verse:
me: "and on that farm there was a---"
her: "butterfly!"
me: (stunned pause) "ei-ei-o" ... "with a flutter flutter here and a flutter flutter there".

you just never know.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

so how come...?

I've got a question.  I'm pregnant.  So is my sister (yea!!!).  So.....why do some women not get sick?  And why do some women not gain weight?

I get it if we all have to suffer these things.  But it's REALLY hard when a bunch of your very own sisters don't.  I'm trying to grow in humility, but mostly I'm feeling very sorry for myself.  Except for the fact that I have children. Quite a good number of children. And they are more than worth it.  And there's always Granny Yoga classes for later.  ...that and reconstructive surgery.
You think I'm kidding you.
I am. hahahaha
I crack myself up.

love this

My children have the best reactions to the news that someone is having a baby. It gets me every time.

me: "Aunt ---- is having a new baby!"

daughter #2: "Is it a boy or a girl?!"

Without fail someone asks this.  At which point I remind them that we don't know yet. But it's all just so exciting!!! We love babies!!!!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Spring has broken!

I'm taking a break from my posts on baby stories. Quite honestly, I'm worn out!

The daffodils are in bloom, slightly past their prime now.  The tulips are ready to burst. I have some hyacinth that look so frilly against the forest that borders our yard. I plan on lining our forest with bulbs this fall, so that next spring I'll have even more in bloom.  The first flowers of Spring are such a celebration after a long Northern Midwest winter.  I have lots of plans for my yard, but since the plan is that we will again be headed Southwest for the summer to visit my in-laws, we'll see what I get done.

We are finishing up track season, with indoor soccer over as of last Saturday.  Phew! With four children in competitive sports this year, my husband and I are re-assessing our family's activity quota.  Given that my kids are sports fiends, I am not sure how we'll find the balance.  Funny thing is, I'm making all sorts of plans for this summer.  I want to do swimming as usual, but also try to do horseback riding since it's just the right area of the country, and because I have one little boy who really wants to gallop. This little boy doesn't usually want (or ask for) much.  He's my easy one (#3), and I'd love to make him happy on this little wish.  Finally, I am determined to find a piano teacher in my parents-in-law's hometown.  I am absolutely certain that three months off would be devastating to our arduous efforts over the past 9 months.  Our three week Christmas break (plus two weeks during the floor renovation) almost killed piano in our home.  We're finally making progress again.  My children think I'm ruining their summer. Wait till they hear my math plans!  I fall short of everything I aim for, so I'm sure my children will have a delightfully free and easy summer. Still, a mom has to try.

Along these lines (of game-planning for the summer), I have decided to find an ob-gyn to do my monthly check-ups while I'm there.  I'm not sure I feel secure being out of a doctor's care for that long otherwise. Not with this being my eighth, and let's face facts, I'm not 22 anymore.  I hope I can swing that. We'll see.  I'll have to have my doctor's permission to go from this end anyway.  They're usually fine with my flying. I just have to see about the time in between visits.

Well, that's my update for tonight. Random thoughts, yes. But a nice break from difficult labor stories!

Little suggestion:

Don't try to read all of these birth stories at once! There are just too many babies in this family!:)

Number 4

Everyone has that "number". You know, the "one" that made the difference.  Sometimes it is the first that changes your life radically and the rest just follow.  I think I most often hear it's #3.  Well, as you now know, my #3 was my "validation delivery", and that little baby was the best sleeper, best nurser, and of the happiest disposition.  I was sailing high with my darling daughter and two little bear cub boys to love.  For me, it was #4.
We had gone through a ton of family upheaval.  Well, we had moved cross-country twice by the time my third child was 10 months old.  When he turned a year, I was thrilled to discover I was pregnant again.  Then the sickness kicked in. I had been sick before, but this was a new level. My nausea was debilitating.  I tried all of the homeopathic remedies and was left laying on the couch meditating on the sweet release that death was to those who suffer in this world. Yes, I'm a bit melodramatic at times.
Further, I didn't know any midwives in the area. I began to track some down.  The midwife I had used with my third was so highly recommended and so "perfect" in my estimation that it was hard to be happy with someone else.  We did find a very competent, certified midwife by the time I was about 5 months pregnant.  At this point I had already begun my prenatal care with a AMA ob-gyn. I hesitated about how I wanted to birth this child.  I decided to go for that perfect delivery again.  But as with most things in this world, we rarely get repeats.
My midwife wasn't as excited about inducing labor early as my previous midwife had been.  I was still under the misconception that if I did not induce early, I'd have an over 9 pound baby, tear, suffer violence on all levels, and be more traumatized than ever.  Not knowing this hidden fear, my midwife made the BIG mistake of guestimating that my baby was around 10 pounds as I pleaded for an induction.  When she saw my tears, she started hedging on her position.  I didn't get the induction before my due date, but at 3 days overdue she was willing to check me. The following day she broke my water and, as usual for me by now, the baby was born two hours later: my second girl, only almost a full pound lighter at 8 lbs3oz.
The problem with this delivery began when the bathtub slowly drained and left me with diminishing water.  The water was also much less hot than I remembered with my first bathtub delivery.  I sort of felt like I was just sitting uncomfortably in cool water...in a lot of pain. Then, my placenta detached slightly on the slower side, resulting in a minimal increased amount of bleeding.  Whether it was that, or just childbirth, I felt really exhausted after the baby was born...for a few days.  When my three older children came climbing up on the bed to see the baby,` it was really too much for me.  And then I received a lot of "opinions" about the name I had chosen.  And indeed, I ended up changing the name before the midwife filled out the paperwork.  It took me probably three years to come to peace with that.
My beautiful girl also was born with a family trait that comes from my husband's side of the family: she had almost no bridge to her nose.  She has a darling nose now, but pediatricians have noticed this in my children and the scary thing is that...they look a little down syndrome.  I clearly remember holding my breath as my pediatrician examined my baby, and I had a sense of doubt when he said "you have a healthy little baby here." I waited a moment to see if he was going to add anything to that.  I sort of knew deep down that she was fine, but a mother worries.  Looking back, I think this played a role in my psychological state postpartum; trying to convince myself that my baby was ok.

Aside from that concern, my little girl was far more petite than her siblings had been, and I worried that she was thriving.  At one year old, she had an allergic reaction (to pineapple, we think) and she had full body hives.  I had never had an allergic reaction in the family before, so I was worried. My baby was fussy and needed to be held until she was about Three. Luckily her little brother was a laid back dude, who weighed the same amount as she did by the time he was three months old (20 pounds! Actually, his sister was about 22 at the time, but still).  I called them my "twins", even though they were 20 months apart.
Six years later this child is now moving into the "upper half" of our family and she insists that she is one of the "big kids".  The truth is, she's a middle child.  She is shy and sweet, but also incredibly strong-willed.  She makes very deep friendships, and just about anyone she meets becomes an instant friend.  She loves playing on swing sets, making mud pies, gardening and school.  She is competitive and very tough--with her two big brothers to make sure of that!  She is a "little mother" to her younger brothers and sisters.  She is a huge help to me.
As a mother, I have learned so much about trust, about unconditional love, about mothering through the fears and the unknowns.  You learn to make peace with imperfect moments in the past.  You learn to love a child at the same time as you learn how that child needs to be loved.  My heart expanded, and my fourth child, my most difficult in many ways, became one of the greatest blessings to myself and our entire family.