Category Archives: Motherhood

2 Months of Honor

It feels like mere days since I did Honor’s 1 month update. Like…last week, right?

But no. A whole month has passed, and this little boy of ours is getting less little by the minute it seems. Especially considering that I put him a 6 month sleeper the other day, and…it FIT. 6 months. He’s 8 weeks, yo. That’s just wrong.

Everything else is juuuuust right, though. Seriously, he deserves some sort of award for being the chillest baby in the land. Joely, a super sweet freshman girl who used to work in the childcare at our gym, texts me every time she’s home from college and begs to see my kids (see: suuuuper sweet), so Shaun and I snuck in a Tuesday night date while the kids yucked it up with Joely at home. Of course, we had our main little man with us, and he was the model citizen. You might even say it was an Honor to have him with us (grooooooooan. I know. so wrong).

8 weeks1

Such a chill dude.

He was awake (and happy!) for pretty much all four hours of the date, just staring around, cooing, smiling, making bubble goatees, and generally being an all-around sweetheart.

15 years ago, when I knew nothing about babies, I think I foolishly thought that those with lots of kids must surely get jaded by the whole process. Ho. Hum. Another baby. Big whoop.

But it IS a big whoop, as I’ve discovered more and more with each new little amazing human that has joined our clan. I might be getting MORE (not less) obsessed (which is saying something–because I was pretty dang smitten with Della, and she was number 3!).

I think I mentioned that Honor was sleeping great from the beginning but had yet to make the jump from 6 hours to anything longer consistently. Honestly, that was my fault. I hadn’t really hadto employ any of my more “hardcore” sleep-training techniques (letting him fuss before bed or cry a little at night) because he’d pretty much always slept for big chunks, since day 3.

But, one night, a few weeks ago, I put my mean mama mask on and put him in the bathroom when he started to stir after 6 hours and let him spit and mew for a bit (which he only did half-heartedly anyway). And the very next night, he bumped his sleeping stretch up to 8 hours and has been holding steady between 7-9 hours ever since.

Edit: I first wrote this a few days ago, but didn’t manage to get the pictures loaded (because that is the story of my life right now), and he slept a whopping 10 hours both of the last two nights!!

8 weeks

I slept 10 hours last night, and I feel grrrrrrEAT! (Also: baby feet). 

Which…is awfully considerate of him, since Theo has decided it’s time to try a little 2-year-old sleep regression on for size. Hint: it doesn’t look good on you, buddy. Mama thinks you’re the cutest toddler in the land, but she still has no interest in waking up at 3 AM to your chubby-cheeked self mouth-breathing an inch away from my nose.

As far as regular life, we’ve been pushing hard to get the house ready. It’s kind of a disheartening process. Just when I think we’ve got it in shape, the kids wake up. HA!

For real, though. It’s really, really hard to keep everything decluttered and straight and picked up when 9 people are con.stant.ly using it!

Still, the cabinets have been cleared out, their contents pared down, reorganized, wiped down, etc. The flowerbeds are completely done (and we haven’t killed anything yet!). Shaun has pressured-washed the exterior of the house. More loads of stuff than I even knew we owned have been carted off to Goodwill. (I’m starting to get downright ruthless…if it hasn’t been used in the last 15 minutes, it’s GONE).

And everyone has pitched in in his/her own way. I paid the oldest 3 a dollar each (which Della promptly gave to her grandma for her birthday…love that sweet girl!) to clean and organize my fridge, and it was 3 of the best dollars I’ve ever spent! They also completely overhauled and cleaned the pantry while I worked on closets, and it looks better than it has in years!

8 weeks4

Looking over into the kitchen and seeing moments like these–the older kids are painting the littles’ fingernails–give me such a boost of energy and motivation to keep plugging. 

As far as I’m concerned, I have ONE more space (a doozy) that serves as the game/outgrown clothes/pillow/suitcase/randomness closet, and it’s eating my lunch (mostly because I’m insisting on going through every last piece of 5 year old clothing instead of just shoving it all in bins), and the process of weeding out the stuff with the tiny stains I missed the first time and the stuff that’s just not cute enough to keep and the stuff that might come in handy (but who knows?!) is grueling for me. Well. As grueling as sifting through a surplus of possessions can be (we’re not talking about working in the rice paddies here, people).

Through it all, Honor continues to be a constant source of sunshine and snuggle breaks. MAN! I love this baby. I really couldn’t sugar-coat his existence if I tried because he’s just that sweet already.

8 weeks3

Best smile. Best baby. 

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Mama Life Hacks {#11}: Grape Juice + Activated Charcoal to Combat Stomach Bugs

A friend texted me a thank you the other day for posting this blog (which is several years old by this point) and observed that, if life ever gets too busy to post, I should just repost this one, since it was such a lifesaver and as many people as possible should see it (having been the recipient of this life-changing tip from several readers, I know how grateful I was too). 

The stomach bug has ravaging the entire East Texas area, and–while my children have emerged largely unscathed (so far) (the twins + Theo are the only ones who’ve had a short-lived bout with it after a stint in the Chick-fil-a play area #ofcourse)–you better believe that my pantry is stocked with both of these items at all times (and that they were a large part of the reason our only stomach bug this season passed so quickly). 

So! Here you go. A repost of what is currently my most popular blog post according to my analytics page (must not just be East Texas getting hit). 

If the title of this post doesn’t just steal every little bit of thunder I might have been able to conjure up for it, I don’t know what does. grape juice Still, I feel like a little more explanation is needed, so here goes:

About a year and 1/2 ago, Shaun was doing one of his marathon rounds of work trips that seem to come in waves during the spring and then again right around Christmas (when, unfortunately, everyone suddenly gets frantic to spend the rest of their budgets by the year’s end).

I had 5 kids, including 20-month-old twins, and I was pregnant with Theo. First trimester pregnant to be exact, so I was feeling suuuuuuper peppy and swell, as you can imagine.As you can also imagine, I was suuuuuuper thrilled when, pretty much the second that Shaun left for his first work trip, we came down with a stomach bug. Yup. Angels were singing and everything.

Before 24 hours had passed, every single one of my children was lying on the floor with a bowl by their sides. We couldn’t leave the house due to unpredictable puking patterns (is there any other kind?), and my feelings of thrilled-ness were just increasing by the moment. (Although, I was oh-so-grateful not to be sick myself). grape juice1 Which is when my kind, wonderful, awesome readers came to my rescue. I posted some sort of pitiful picture of us all, and several fellow mamas told me to get my hot *germ-covered) little hands on some 100% grape juice and a bottle of activated charcoal capsules ASAP.

I did a bunch of internet research and discovered that grape juice is, indeed, widely lauded as a preventative for stomach bugs. Something about the particular acid it carries is effective in combating stomach bug bacteria. (AKA the stuff that must, assuredly, coat every surface of the 7th level of Hades).

The most important thing to remember, though, is that it’s a preventative measure, not a cure. In other words, once you’re already puking, the only thing grape juice will produce is purple puke. And who needs that?

So! The next time the first victim succumbs to the stomach flu in your house, buy 100% (important not to get the “cocktail” or the “lite” or the “combined with other juices” version…you want the straight stuff) grape juice and get your kids to guzzling. If they’re anything like mine, they’ll be so excited to be given pure, undiluted juice on demand that they won’t ask why you’re suddenly so keen on their gulping it by the glassful. grape juice2 (Of course, the second Nola saw Evy being my model, she insisted: “Mama, I want my picker too!” And of COURSE, she was wearing nothing but undies, so I told her to go put something decent on if she wanted her moment in the spotlight…and this is what she came downstairs wearing. Eh. Could be worse)

The other little miracle that I mentioned is a bit of a harder sell for kids. Activated charcoal comes in little capsules that can be found at most drugstores (I found mine at Drug Emporium…is that a chain? I don’t know, but it sounds kind of shady, now that I think about it), and it basically works as an absorbent agent to soak up the bad bacteria in your gut.

I know that’s a super untechnical description of its properties, but even though I did my due diligence, it’s been a year and 1/2, and I don’t remember all the particulars. I do know that it’s safe, even for small kids, if administered correctly (be sure to do your research on amounts for small children and how often you should take it). And IT WORKS. And! It works once you’re already upchucking too. It helps to lessen the symptoms and shorten the sickness time.

Disclaimer: I think it goes without saying that I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Before you ingest anything to help with sickness, you should make sure that you’ve done your own research and consulted your own doctor if you have any questions or are unsure about dosages/usages. grape juice4 Okay, so going back to that time I mentioned when we got sick. Well, Shaun had to travel again a couple of weeks later, and you know what? We got sick AGAIN. What?? So wrong. But this time, I was stocked up on grape juice and activated charcoal capsules, and I got everybody drinking their anti-voms cocktails as fast as you could yell, “BOWL!”

And you know what? That time, only Della (our first to fall) got sick. GLORY! To mix up this lovely, magical concoction, you simply twist the capsules of activated charcoal open, and stir in one full capsule (for older children and adults; I use fractions of capsules for younger). You can do this multiple times a day (up to a point…again…RESEARCH!).

It doesn’t have a taste, and the grape juice completely masks the inky black color, but it does have a bit of a gritty texture that you’ll feel on your teeth afterwards, so I suggest downing it as fast as you can go. You can even make it a game with your kids to see who can finish first! And then everybody can snicker at each other’s black mustaches.

I’ve used this trick every time we’ve had even a whiff of the stomach crud for the past 18 months (my kids don’t get sick often, but considering our frequent trips to the gym daycare, the sickness does tend to rear its ugly head 2-3 times a year), including this past weekend (you might recall that I mentioned that we stayed home from church due to sickness), and it has made such a difference–so much so that rarely do more than one or two of us get the nastiness and then only for 12 hours or less.

So, there you go! One of my BEST Mama Life Hacks for you. I’d happily give credit where it’s due, but honestly, it was multiple mamas who shared this little nugget o’ pure gold, so my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you.

Tell me: did you already know about the grape juice trick? What about activated charcoal? Any “fun” vom stories to tell? We had a nice little incident in Subway when Della hadn’t puked for 48 hours, and I thought we were in the clear that involved an unfortunate amount of puke on the floor right near the drink dispenser + a total lack of readily available wipes on my part (#momfail), and the stingiest stack of napkins ever from the young male Subway employee who had clearly never cleaned up toddler vomit . (Oddly enough, we no longer frequent this Subway).

Any great #mamalifehacks to share? Leave them in the comments, or hashtag them on social media, and who knows? I might just feature YOU! (And then, your life would be made. I just know it).

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That time I didn’t go to Hawaii…

 

A few months before I started blogging, Shaun and I took a trip to Hawaii with Della (who was only two months old at the time).

kauai

{An evening excursion to the beach the first night we were there}

It was a fun trip, but I discovered while I was there that I don’t love Hawaii (because, apparently, if you don’t absolutely fall in love with Kauai, then Hawaii is not in your soul because it doesn’t get better than Kauai). Don’t get me wrong. Kauai is gorgeous. It just didn’t inspire the raptures in me that it does in some.

So, when Shaun found out that he would be going to Honolulu on a work trip, my initial thought was that I would try to go, but I wasn’t as excited as you might expect. Mostly because–having traveled once before to Hawaii with a newborn–I knew the limitations/challenges. Della did AH-MAZING everywhere we went…even on the 6 hour flights there and back. She hardly made a peep. And Honor is an equally chill baby, so he probably would have done well too. But still…he is a newborn. Who blows out his diaper, needs to eat often, and gets cranky if we can’t find him a quiet place to sleep.

Plus! The timing was terrible. We’re smack dab in the middle of getting our house ready to sell, and, as my friend Kristy says: “There’s nothing like moving to make you feel like hoarder.” (AKA: what IS all this stuff, and what idiot bought it?? Oh. Yeah. Me).

All that to say that I chose not to go. Instead I stayed home with 7 kids and did yard work. I know. What a doofus, right? But all I could think about was how busy Shaun usually is on his work trips and how I’m not a big beach girl and how I’d rather sell our house quickly than frolic by the pool. (Hmm…maybe not that last one).

Turns out, this was one of Shaun’s least busy trips. He got to surf and hike. He has told me more than once that I “should have come” (although, he was fine/in agreement with my decision to stay).

So, 7% of me (the whiny 7%) is all, “Booo! Poor me! Should have gone!” But the other 93% knows I did the right thing. The kids and I got SO much done (with help from my sweet parents, sister-in-law, and some awesome friends), and I know I would have been stressed by all that was still left to get done when I got back from Hawaii.

Plus, a super bizarre thing happened to my dad, which, although not his fault at all, still required a lot of running around and trouble for my mom. And that stress would have been magnified greatly by having six kids under her care. For that reason alone, I’m grateful that I didn’t go and grateful that the Lord is sovereign even down to the smallest detail.

Also, grateful that our flower beds are DONE! I’ve admitted here several times before that exteriors are not my forte. So, having that particular monkey off my back is a huge relief. We have friends whose family business is a plant farm, so last Friday, I dragged the four littlest out of bed before it was fully light and drove out to their plant farm, where our friend, Rob, proceeded to race me around helping me (code for: practically choosing for me, thank goodness) choose flowers. Then, I hustled home, unloaded the van, jumped back in and drove to town to teach my morning class. After which, I booked it home to start planting, stopping for mulch on the way. My mom and older kids were already there hacking away at my neglected flower beds.

flower beds

 

{Theo is napping and Honor is in the swing on the porch in this picture, in case you’re wondering}

I know that I talk a lot about how #hardisnotthesamethingasbad and, honestly, I think that one of the hardest and best things in mothering is child-training. Especially training your children to do the right thing–i.e. obey, go to bed, pick up after themselves, speak respectfully, work. 

Sure, potty-training is rough, but it’s less of a heart issue than so many other aspects, and training your child to be diligent or full of integrity or kind is where the true mama rubber meets the life road.

Surely, that’s why the Bible specifically commands us to: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

God knew we needed this promise. Because it’s just so much easier to do the chore yourself or ignore the eye roll or let the toddler sleep with you every night, amiright? Except that it’s really not. It’s easier at the time. But ultimately, laziness, whining,  bad attitudes, and no sleep are a hardship on everyone involved (including the whiners) and makes the inconvenience of the initial training pale in comparison. 

Not to mention that kids can be genuinely helpful. All of my kids (except Honor and–99% of the time–Theo) have been required to pitch in as we’ve organized closets, weeded, planted, swept, scrubbed trim, hauled out trash, and just generally given our house a much-needed shine-up.

honor

{This was Honor’s reaction when I told him we needed his help with the flowerbeds. #sideeye}

And, yes, there has been some fussing and complaining. But there’s been a lot more cooperation and hard work. I hadn’t told Shaun what we planned to do while he was gone (although, he knew that I would generally be working around the house to get things in shape), and the kids loved the concept of wowing Daddy with a surprise yard makeover.

Simon–who started out finding things to kvetch about–ended up being upset that he had to have any help raking and clearing our entire (very large) front yard. He wanted to be able to present Shaun with a leaf-free lawn courtesy of Simon alone. He ended up needing a little help to finish, but that idea of ownership was a huge motivation for him.

I don’t always encourage my children the way that I should, but I do try to take every opportunity to tell them how important they are to our family. Their worth is inherent, of course. But I also tell them almost daily how their help keeps a particular aspect of our household running smoothly. And they love it. They grin from ear-to-ear every time I praise their efforts.

I don’t mean to broadly generalize, but it does seem that our society has something very backward when it comes to kids and young people in general. They are handed more knowledge (much of it completely inappropriate) than they know what to do with or have the maturity to process correctly. But they are given very little responsibility or true opportunities to grow in maturity through manageable, age-appropriate tasks and goals.

What if, instead, we protected our children’s innocence while respecting their potential to contribute?

What if we trained their hearts while shielding their minds from junk and praising their authentic efforts to help?

Again, I’m far from perfect in this pursuit. But it is my goal. I want my children to honor God first with their attitudes and then be a blessing to others with the actions that follow (because just “doing the right thing” without the right heart attitude is only half the battle). And not just because it glorifies God or benefits man but also because it produces character and joy for them.

chaos

{If you’re like me, then sometimes, when bloggers claim that their house is a “hot mess,” but all you ever see are perfectly styled pictures, you think: “Yeah right. Not MY version of a hot mess, it’s not!” Well…see Exhibit A of Hot Mess Central. It definitely gets worse before it gets better. This is what happens when you empty every single kitchen drawer of its contents so that you can clean all the things}

Because I only want good for my children, but, just as hard is not the same thing as bad, easy is very often not the same thing as good.

And seeing how my children glowed when their daddy got home and gushed with pride and appreciation for how hard they’d worked only underscored just how rewarding the results of training can be.

ANYhoo, I hadn’t started this post intending to preach at you, but I hope that–if you’re in the trenches of child-training (I still am, for sure)–you’ll feel encouraged to hang in there.

My children have spent the vast majority of their spring break weeding, mulching, cleaning, and planting. And–as Ezra cheerfully proclaimed after a full day’s work–”Getting stuff done is FUN!” (Not always how he feels about it, but the fact that it’s EVER how he feels is enough to motivate me to stay the course).

flower beds1

So. Much. Progress. Want to come buy our house? ;)

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Baby Brain

You know how people are always talking about the things they’re going to ask God once they get to heaven?

Well, I’m inclined to think that–once we’re there and behold His glory–we’re not going to care. We humans are so intent on thinking that this earthly world of ours is all there is–that the affairs of it are the only ones that could possibly matter. We’re so NOW that we often can’t imagine caring (or not caring) about anything else.

If it sounds like I’m about to embark on a lengthy philosophical treatise about eternity, nothing could be further from the truth.

I just wanted to establish what I REALLY think about the subject of asking God WHY before I very frivolously claim that, when I get to heaven, I intend to ask God about the phenomenon of “baby brain.”

I’m sure I won’t really.

But here on this earth, I find myself befuddled about–well, a lot of things, including where I put my phone, which was JUST in my hands (oh yeah, it’s in my back pocket ::sheepish chuckle::). But mainly, I’m curious why, after you’ve had a baby, it seems that someone has liquified your brain and siphoned it out of your ear. I mean, I get that the lack of sleep thing is a major contributing factor. That makes sense. But the rest of it? You’ve just been entrusted with a tiny human, whom you must feed, care for, and generally shield from harm, and yet you find your IQ suddenly reduced to that of a slug. Who hasn’t slept in weeks (do slugs sleep? surely). HOW are we supposed to keep a baby alive when we’re constantly walking into rooms with zero inkling of why we’re there, and there’s at least a chance we’ll try to clean our teeth with our hairbrushes if we’re not careful.

baby brain

It’s a good thing you’re cute, you little brain-sucker. Because I used to be marginally intelligent. I think. 

And the talking? It’s hopeless. This one has been the most pronounced for me this time around. As if I didn’t already have enough names to get wrong with regular old kid brain. Now, I’ve added another name, and my gray matter is in an extraordinary state of mush, which means that I stare directly at one of my children (who knows which) and intone: “Ezra! Simon! Evy! Theo! Faith! (a cat)…ugh! N-O-L-A!!!!!”

Every single time.

I called Honor “Theo” 9 times out of 10 for the first week of his life.

The other day, I explained to Simon that he needed to get a towel from the pantry to clean up a spill because I’d already put all of the dirty ones in the dishwasher. And the most astonishing thing about that scenario is that I hadn’t actually done either of those things…just messed up the nouns.

It is a genuine struggle for me to form sentences these days, people. Often to hilarious effect. Except that, usually, I have no idea what I’ve just said. My children sure are enjoying it, though.

It’s just a constant stream of: “You said, ‘dinner.’ Did you mean, ‘lunch?’” And: “You said, ‘Drink your yogurt.’ How am I supposed to do that?”

Funny, kids. Real funny. Your mother is thisclose to the insane asylum, and you’re goading her. That’s dangerous. She is the one who makes the food, after all.

haircuts

Hey look! It’s Who’s-it, What’s-it, That girl, What’s-his-name, and What’s-her-face (plus two more that I really can’t place).

And teaching fitness classes is a total lark. I have to memorize large amounts of choreography that  coordinate exactly with specific beats of specific music. And, when your brain is only functioning at 7%, that is quite a feat. Sometimes, an unmanageable one. I do all right, for the most part. But yesterday, as I was teaching BODYCOMBAT, a song started, and my brain literally stalled. And I just stood there, thinking: I don’t even know which appendage to move first. One of my participants, who practically knows the choreography better than I do, starting moving her legs, so I followed her, even though I was sure she wasn’t quite right. We did half the track before my brain finally remembered what it was supposed to be telling my body to do.

Argh.

I would say it’s embarrassing. But many of my faithfuls have been taking my classes since I was pregnant with Della, so they’re kind of used to the drill. Abbie just had a baby. Abbie will not be firing on all cylinders for a while. ::Shrug::

know I’m not alone–that baby brain is a very real thing (even if our husbands don’t believe it).

But what I want to know is: what is the funniest/worst/baby brainiest moment you’ve had as a mama?

Mine is actually kind of major. And maybe I’ll share it someday. But not right now (I know; so mean). Honor’s hungry, and the rest of the natives are getting restless.

Whatever their names are…

P.S. If you find an unusually large number of typos in this post, well, I would expect no less.

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Mama Life Hacks {#22}: A Breast-feeding Tip to Prevent Soreness

I almost feel embarrassed to admit that I’ve gotten horribly sore (we’re talking cracking, bleeding, blistering…the works) with every single baby except Honor. After all, that must mean that–six babies in–I still couldn’t figure out how to get a good latch.

Thing was, I’d had several people–long-time midwives and lactation experts among them–confirm that there was nothing wrong with my latch. Everything was where it should be. Baby’s lips were flanged. We were good. I’ve been able to successfully feed all of my babies for a year or more (well, Ezra actually only made it to 9 months, but that child ate so. much. food that my body literally could not keep up enough supply, at which point I got pregnant, and my milk supply completely tanked), so clearly, I’m doing something right. But for the first two weeks, I’ve been in so much pain that I dreaded every single feeding.

I have several mama friends who have confirmed the same–their latches were good, and nursing was going smoothly. Except for the fact that, until calluses formed, the entire process was excruciating, every single time. Of course, I’ve also known a few friends who have never dealt with nursing soreness, regardless of how practiced or not they were, so I just figured I was among the “lucky ones.”

You know who you are: the ones who take deep breaths and hold them to stifle the screams as your baby latches (or maybe you just muffle them into a pillow…not that I would know anything about that). You stomp your feet and hunch your shoulders up to your ears until, finally, the sucking numbs the pain, and you can relax a little. At least until next time.

If this sounds familiar, then this post is for you.

nursing 1

Because, for the first time in my considerable nursing career, I did NOT get sore while feeding my newborn, and it made a worldof difference in my recovery and mindset about feeding my baby in those first few weeks. 

And I have my rock star midwife, Melena, to thank for it.

Honestly, I don’t know that she would have even presumed to tell me anything if I hadn’t mentioned that fact that I dread nursing for the first bit after I have a baby (because who wants to tell a mama of so many something that she surely already knows?). But, since I did bring it up, she asked if she could show me something that had been helping her clients. And I said, OF COURSE! Honestly, I was a bit skeptical that anything would work for me and my (apparently) sensitive skin. But I was willing to give it a shot.

Thankfully, she sent me videos to show you (the first is real people, and the second is done with sock puppets, so pretty inoffensive to even the most modest) because I’ve thought about how to describe the latching process several times, and I just don’t think I can do it justice, especially for those of you who (like me) need visual aids for this sort of thing.

Here’s Video 1.

And Video 2.

The first part of the process is a different kind of position/latching method than I’ve ever used (seen in Video 2), and I honestly found it awkward and strange (I think almost anyone would). But I still did it for the first several days because I was determined to do everything I could to avoid the pain. And I believe it helped Honor to get an especially deep latch from the beginning. (I have since reverted to my usual latching method, and it works great now that I’ve got the second part of the process down).

But the second part, which isn’t featured in the videos, was the the most life-changing for me.

Once Honor had a good, deep latch, Melena had me basically slide him horizontally away from the breast on which he is latched toward the opposite breast. Not a lot. Just enough so that, instead of being directly on the nipple, the baby is, instead, slid away (as in toward the opposite arm, not down toward your navel), which redirects the nipple toward the roof of his mouth and takes all of the sucking force of off the ridge.

Oh my goodness, y’all. It’s so simple–literally a 1″ shift at most–but so effective.

As in practically no soreness (there’s a bit of a learning curve, and all it takes is a couple of minutes of sucking in a bad position to get a little bit sore, so I can’t say zero pain).

I spent the first 3 days thinking it was too good to be true. That surely the chafing and cracking were still coming. Something this easy couldn’t possibly have been the solution all along.

Or could it?

I am now convinced that it could and is the solution to my nursing angst.

I had considered sharing but wasn’t sure how many might need the info. But when I referenced this tip in passing in one of my posts and got a barrage of comments begging me to elaborate, I knew it was something that needed a blog of its own.

When I asked Melena why more people weren’t sharing this trick, she said that she was never taught this either and can’t even remember how she happened upon the videos (that I shared above) but that they just made sense to her. So, she started sharing with her clients, and they started seeing results. She also said that she knows many lactation specialists who teach that a good, deep latch–with the baby’s lips flanged–is the only factor for success, when, in fact, the positioning of the nipple in the baby’s mouth is equally (or, as I discovered for myself, MORE) important.

I so hope this helps you guys as much as it helped me. As I mentioned earlier, it completely transformed my view of nursing in the early days. I love nursing my babies once the soreness goes away. And I am determined to fight through it at the beginning to give them mama milk. But to not have to deal with it at all? It almost feels to good to be true!

Praise God for wise midwives who risk the wrath of potentially know-it-all mamas to share their wealth of knowledge!

P.S. Feel free to pass this along to any mama friends who might need to see it. I guarantee they will thank you for it.

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7th Heaven

Because how could I not use that title at least once?

So, I have a feeling that at least 2 of you are wondering what life with 7 kids is like. And let it never be said that I mind writing for a small audience because I’m going to deliver the goods for all 2 of you right here, right now.

Life with 7 is…a whole lot like life with 6.

In other words: busy, but good.

Edit: I started writing this a week ago. So. Yeah. Very Busy. 

The end.

HA. There is not one single person out there who has read more than one post of mine who believes for even a nanosecond that I did or even could write a 100 word blog post. (Because that sentence, alone, had 35 words).

But seriously. Adding a baby to our daily life has been a remarkably smooth process, due to several factors.

1. My mom kept all 6 of the other kids for 5 days after Honor was born, which, yes, I realize, pretty well qualifies her for sainthood and makes me spoiled rotten (guilty). She even brought homemade dinner with the kids to meet Honor the day he was born then took them all back home again. And let me just say that–when you’ve had 6 kids already–5 kid-free days to rest, recover, and bond with your baby is completely unexpected…and all the more amazing for it (although, there were several evenings I almost made Shaun go get the other kids because I was missing them something fierce, and the house was entirely too quiet).

2. Once we were all back together, the crazy levels never got out of hand. The older kids, including Theo, have all been super-chill–while still extremely excited–about Honor’s arrival. (I wouldn’t say that Theo has been “super-chill” in general because, well, he’s two, and the emotions, they are strong. But he loves his baby brother).

Ezra–true to his “helper” name–would gladly hold Honor all day long, which is a huge–yes–help when I need to flip the laundry or even take a shower. Shaun has been around a fair bit, which doesn’t hurt, but the kids and I are managing pretty well on our own too.

7th heaven1

{I need to give Simon his “helpful brother” due too. This is the scene I turned around to one day from the kitchen. Gosh, those boys are sweet; also, don’t you love my clumsy baby nudity censorship?}

3. We’ve gotten back into our routine as quickly as possible. We started back to homeschooling the week after the baby came, and we even made it to our homeschool co-op last Monday and today. (Honor just hangs out with me and naps in his car seat or the crook of my arm while I grade papers…or he gets held by a succession of eager-to-help fellow homeschool mamas).

I probably would have waited longer to jump back into thick of things if we hadn’t just had Christmas break, but we all needed some schedule in our lives, and it has helped to stave off the baby blues (which I tend to get if I have too much time to think).

I even managed my first solo flight a week and 1/2 ago with seven kids (to the grocery store, mostly) and only rolled my eyes halfway back in my head at my own ding-battedness after Honor COMPLETELY peed through his outfit, and I fished around in my bag to discover wipes and a change of clothes but not one single newborn diaper. Of course, when I decided I would just have to diaper him up to his eyeballs in one of Theo’s size 4′s, I discovered I was out of those too. #meforpresident

7th heaven

{I felt like we needed a herald going before us declaring, “Here ye, here ye. Your ankles, knees, and hips are in grave danger of assault by these awesomely unwieldy car carts. HIDE!”}

Thank goodness for a nearby gas station, which sold size 2 diapers…so he only had to be diapered up to his armpits.

Shaun and I managed to sneak off to Dallas last Monday (thanks again to my nice mama) for a last minute birthday celebration dinner (for him) and circumcision date (for Honor). I’ll give you one guess which one of them enjoyed that trip more. Spoiler: it wasn’t Honor.

And last night, we had 35 people in our house for a joint birthday (for my bro and Shaun) + Super Bowl party.

Like I said: busy. But good!

4. My physical recovery has been swift and (mostly) easy. Minus some rather atrocious after-birth pains for the first week, I’ve had very little pain or issues. I attribute this to a) the grace of God, b) water birth (way less bruising than usual), c) a brilliant tip from my midwife, which made latching better and helped me avoid the nasty nursing soreness I’ve battled every other time, d) decent amounts of sleep (see below), and e) using an ingenious invention called a Belly Bandit, which has helped so much with ab/organ support.

5. Honor is a total babe of a babe. He sleeps 5-6 hour stretches at night, takes great naps during the day, eats really well, and is generally the picture of health and contentment. Even in utero, he seemed to have his days and nights straight and that has continued (at least in some small part due to the fact that we’ve been implementing our tried and true–for us–sleep-training tricks from pretty much week 1).

7th heaven2

{Hanging out with the big kids}

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t let myself worry (as much as possible) about what life with another baby in the house will be like…mostly because it doesn’t change a thing, and it doesn’t help me prepare.

cover pic2

{Hey look! I finally got a new photo that we can use as a blog-header. One that includes ALL of my children and isn’t 3 years old. How long will it take me to actually get it up there on the home page? Who. Knows). 

It helps that I’m not a worrier in general, but I can be a stresser (the two are different in my mind). But even with the inevitable hiccups and hardships that come with introducing anything new–much less a tiny human–into your life, each transition has been better than I expected–at least partially because I keep my expectations low or nonexistent.

I may sing a different tune when it comes time to stage our current house, sell it, and then move (the goal is a couple of months, but we’ll see). For now, though, I’m trying to do the next thing and not worry about the stuff I can’t get to yet.

So far, so good. Because God is good. And hard is not the same thing as bad. (Come to think of it, neither is easy…because sometimes, we just need a little stretch of unexpectedly easy to rejuvenate our spirits).

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Honor’s Birth Story {Part 2}

So, where were we?

Oh yeah. The making out.

Turns out my husband must be a really good kisser (but I already knew that) because mere minutes after he gleefully followed my midwife’s parting instructions, I experienced a 4 minute long, intense contraction. Like, as he was timing it, he kept looking at me expectantly and saying, “Done, right?” And I was all: “Um, yeah…oh! Nope! There it goes again.”

Thanks a lot, Husband.

Anyhoo, once that one finally released its vice grip, I went right back to matching socks. We had turned Fixer Upper off, since I can only do so many competing distractions in labor, but the sock folding was just the ticket to give me something that occupied my hands and at least a little of my mind.

In fact, assuming there’s a next time, I think I’ll keep a basket of unmatched socks around for labor. In fact, I think I’ll start now just to make sure I’ve got enough to work with. #sigh

There was now no doubt in my mind that, unless these suckers just stalled out for no good reason (entirely possible), I really was in labor. After the 4 minute whopper, my contractions kept coming, only instead of 10 minutes apart, as they’d consistently been for the previous hour and 1/2, they suddenly dropped to 6 minutes, and–after only a few of those–to 3 minutes.

The intensity had also ramped up at a rather alarming rate.

It certainly seemed that the safety brake on my slow body had been suddenly released, and we were careening down a rather steep hill toward an inevitable crash (car wreck as a metaphor for delivery? not too far-fetched, I say).

I mentioned that I might need to text Melena to hurry, but Shaun said, “She’s bound to be headed back our way soon, and you’ve got to do this for hours before it does any good.”

Thing is, normally he’d be right, but these were different, and I was certainly hoping he wasn’t.

Just like the contractions had felt different/sharper than usual earlier in the day, these felt even more so now. And not just sharper than earlier but sharper than I’d ever felt. I had described them as feeling like a knife being stuck inside me to Shaun earlier, and the comparison grew even more apt as they progressed.

I’ve heard that contractions after your water has broken are worse, and I can now personally attest that it’s true. As Melena put it, there’s just no cushion from the water bag to act as a buffer between the baby’s head and your bones.

By the time Melena got back around 11:30 PM, they were down to 2 1/2 minutes apart, and I was breathing and plie squatting through them. I know that sounds like the pits since squatting seems like it would put more pressure on the cervix as you go down. But, even though that’s somewhat true, there’s a certain point near the bottom of the squat at which the pressure is relieved almost entirely, and the act of moving/doing something during the swell/peak/release tends to distract, at least my mind, from the pain.

In between contractions, Melena set up the antibiotic drip and hooked me up via IV. I wasn’t thrilled about my decreased mobility, but I could still reach the socks, so I kept the dread of each new contraction at bay by returning to folding–almost compulsively–as soon as the last one was done.

labor

{I laughed out loud when I saw this picture; that was the biggest/most genuine smile I could muster at this point}

Tangent: By this point, with 6 natural labors under my belt, I’d say that I’m decent at pain management. But the thing that I find most interesting is that–had I had these kind of contractions this close together with hours to go 4 labors ago–I think I would have been panicked. I can remember literally being loopy and hazy with pain during transition with Simon. My midwife was snapping her fingers in front of my face and trying to get my eyes uncrossed, I was that out of it. But even though I’ve experienced that kind of pain since, I’ve never reached that level of grogginess again. It’s fascinating to me how our mental expectations of pain can literally determine our physical ability to handle it because this time (and with the last two), until the very end when it became one blur of constant pain, I was completely present and lucid between each contraction, conversing and doing everything possible to distract myself from worry about “the end.” God really has given us amazing physical resources, and I am never more aware of that than when I am in labor.

ANYhoo, once the antibiotic drip finished, Melena released me from the line, and I began doing laps around the kitchen and living room, fighting to walk through the worst of the contractions, which had bumped up in intensity yet again.

Melena, who was an assistant at the twins’ birth and the primary midwife at Theo’s, had never seen this version of active labor for me, since the twins’ labor progressed steadily but very calmly (once it finally kicked in after 4 days of stop-start nonsense), and Theo’s was all over the place, to put it mildly.

I don’t tend to make too much noise during labor, but when my breathing took on a wheezing sound during some of the contractions, she definitely started watching me more closely.

On my part, I had lost all track of time, mostly because of intense focus, but also because our power had flickered at some point, and the oven clock was just blinking instead of displaying the accurate time.

But I knew one thing: these couldn’t go on too much longer, and I wanted to at least try laboring in the water. I had assumed, since the water had killed my hiccupy contractions with Theo’s labor, that I wouldn’t be able to labor there during this one.

Given the level of contractions I was experiencing, though, I wasn’t worried about that anymore, and, when Melena gave me the go-ahead, I had Shaun start prepping the water.

By this point, I could feel my legs turning to Jell-o, and even as painful as the contractions were, knew it was time to let them do their dirty work.

So I slogged upstairs and did the last thing in the world I wanted to do: straddled the toilet. I don’t know why this position is so effective in letting the baby descend, but it’s worked its “magic” (kind of feels like the “black” variety at the time) every time I’ve been willing to do it.

I didn’t feel a sudden huge shift in pressure like I did right before the twins came, but the contractions ratcheted up yet another notch, and I was relieved, to put it mildly, when Shaun came and told me the tub water was ready.

I climbed in on wobbly legs, but, unfortunately, because we had had to run the hot water through the pipes until it was cold to eliminate any lingering sediment or other ickiness, the water was barely up to my belly, even after Shaun boiled two big pots of water on the stove (and no, the irony of having “boiling water” on hand for a modern home birth is not lost on me…there were clean towels too, believe it or not).

So, the first “tub contraction” wasn’t nearly as much of a relief as I’d hoped. In fact, by this point, the contractions were coming so close together that I barely had time to catch my breath before the next one started. And since I was on my tailbone in the tub, without enough water to offset gravity nearly as much as it needed to to really help, the back labor that I’d been experiencing the whole time but managing to mostly ignore because the front labor was so intense, became acutely more noticeable.

Thankfully, Shaun had another round of water ready before too many contractions went by, and he came and replenished the tub, adding cold water to balance it out until I could slide down into it.

Again, I had no sense of time by this point. I just knew that these were the most intense contractions of my life, and that, if I hadn’t been in the water, I might have been a bit out of my mind with the pain.

Lindsay, who had been checking in with me via text for days as this whole in labor/not in labor situation progressed, had sent me a list of verses to pray, and I’d been cobbling together fragments of them in my mind for hours.

“Lord you are the stronghold of my life, an ever present help in times of trouble.”

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee.”

“You are my strength and my salvation. Let me not be put to shame.”

“Whom shall I fear, for you are with me.”

As the contractions progressed in the water, and the pressure built, I added this to my prayers: “Lord, this next one is yours. It’s not mine. I can’t do it. Only you can.”

And you know what? He did. Every time I thought: no more, NO more…I realized that the last one had ended, and I had a few seconds to start over again on my jumbled up prayers.

Finally, there was a shift. Not nearly as noticeable as it would have been out of the water, but undeniable nonetheless.

Melena heard the change in my breathing and volume levels and came running upstairs to check on me (up to this point, I hadn’t been making any noise that could be heard downstairs, and she was trying to give me and Shaun space; not too surprisingly, she hadn’t expected me to progress so rapidly).

I was in so much pain that I just wanted the baby out, regardless of how much MORE pain that entailed. I kept asking the Lord for the courage to relax my body when everything in me wanted to tense my muscles up to control the pain.

By this point, the contractions were so close together that I couldn’t really tell when one started and ended, so when Melena–who needed to grab her oxygen machine for the baby, just in case–asked me whether I had a break yet or not, I just shook my head and clenched my eyes shut even tighter.

I have a distinct impression of my body simply taking over like it never had before. I wasn’t pushing so much as surrendering. To that end, I sank lower and lower in the water until my mouth and nose were covered. Because who needs to breath when you’re pushing?
I remember Shaun’s grasping my arm and trying to lift me up a bit. I’m sure the poor man thought his wife was drowning herself, but all I could think was, “Leave me alone! I am far from fine, but neither one of us is going to be fine if you don’t stop touching me!!” (P.S. Shaun is ah-mazing during labor; I wouldn’t trade him for anyone, even if he does do silly things like try to save his wife from drowning durng labor ; )).

When I finally got a tiny break, Melena ran for her car, but as soon as she was gone, a strong pushing contraction started, and I felt the baby crowning. His head came out with that push, and I heard Shaun shouting, “Head! His head’s out. We have a head!”

She was back in no time, but I hadn’t had another contraction yet. Again, though, I was just so ready for this to be over that I started pushing anyway.

I could feel his shoulders coming and Melena’s helping guide him, until–suddenly–he was out!

She lifted him out of the water and placed him on my chest, and he immediately began squawling like–well–like a big, healthy newborn.

birth

{Just FYI: the grayish streaks on my face are mascara–aka: what I get for laboring in the water without taking my makeup off from the day before…wasn’t exactly high on my priority list}

And you know what I did?

I went from being in agonizing pain to sitting up straight as an arrow in the tub, clutching my baby to my chest and gasping: “He’s out! He’s here! Praise Jesus, I’m not pregnant anymore!”

Which…is pretty much what I say every time.

But seriously. The shift was that sudden.

When all was said and done, I’d been in “real” labor for 6 1/2 hours–4 1/2 of that at rather intense levels and almost 2 hours of that at super-intense levels in the tub (if you’d asked me how long I was in there, I probably would have said 45 minutes; it all ran together).

I think that might be a record for speed for me…if you discount all of the lead up mess. Which…I sort of do and sort of don’t.

And, of course, Honor was perfect, and I felt so much better immediately afterwards that the words “worth it” don’t even begin to describe it.

new honor

 

{Honor, having a contemplative moment after getting run through all of the usual newborn rigmarole. P.S. I’ve got lots more photos from my big girl camera that are considerably better quality, but considering how long it’s taken me to get this posted with fuzzy pictures, I figured you wouldn’t want to wait for the crisper ones; I’ll post them later…maybe…no promises}

Funny side note: we’d been telling ourselves all along to completely ignore my January 2 “due date” and use the 15th instead.  Surely, he’d be out by then. Anything before that was a bonus.

Of course, when the contractions started seeming real–ON the 15th–we rolled our eyes at each other for speaking this date into existence.

But then, true to its pokey nature, my uterus STILL missed our “outside due date” by…2 1/2 hours. Go figure.

Not that any of our speculation mattered one bit. As is always the case, our sweet baby came in the Lord’s perfect timing, and we are just beyond thrilled that he’s here.

brand new

 

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Honor’s Birth Story {Part 1}

If you read my latest update before Honor’s birth, then you’ll know that I had been contracting for daaaayyyzz…which is nothing new for me. Prodromal labor–the oh-so-official title for mild pregnancy torture–is my close and constant friend when I’m waiting for a baby to come.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s not unusual for prodromal (or false) labor to establish strong, steady rhythms for long periods. It can feel very much like labor…except that–ultimately–the contractions never get stronger, longer, and closer enough together to get a baby out.

It’s fuuuuun.

Fortunately, after 5 other similar rodeos, I was not the least bit fooled by this particular bucking bronco (forgive my weird metaphors; I’m mildly sleep-deprived).

Sure, there were a few times that I thought, “All right, this could go somewhere.” But not enough to actually change anything about what I was normally doing.

And then Saturday rolled around, and the 4 youngest and I decided (code for: mama decided, and they obediently piled in the car) to do a little thrifting. We visited a few stores in a local small town, ate lunch at Dairy Queen (where a man who was leaving at the same time we were asked when I was being christened for sainthood…presumably because I had 4 kids 6 and under with me and was hugely pregnant?? I assured him that “Never” was a pretty sure bet), and then headed home where I wrote a blog post while the kids napped…and I contracted.

While we were out “on the town,” I’d had a few contractions that felt…different. Sharper. Less meaningless. I didn’t think much of it, but they just kept popping up every 1/2 hour or so, and by 5 PM, when Shaun and the boys got home from working on the new house (which is what they do every Saturday, pretty much), I was starting to pay the squeezes at least a sliver of my attention.

We ate dinner, did a little clean-up, and by that point, I was getting a decent contraction every 15-20 minutes. This had happened several times before, but not with this level of sharpness, so we put the kids to bed early and started casually timing them while picking up around the house, flipping the laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc.

My midwife, Melena, had done her absolute best to strip my membranes the Tuesday before, but ever since Ezra, my cervix has always been super-posterior and hard to reach until the very end of labor, so–while she managed to ascertain that I was dilated to a 3 and about 50% effaced (encouraging but not exactly meaningful, considering some people walk around dilated to a 5 for months)–I wasn’t expecting much in the way of results.

Sure enough, another 4 days had gone by with little to no noticeable change in my state. On that same Tuesday, she had also given me a tincture of herbs to help move labor along once it seemed a bit more real, so Saturday night, I started dosing myself with that in between loads of laundry.

And you know what happened?

My contractions stopped. Just…fizzled out completely.

Truth be told, I wasn’t even that disappointed (or surprised). By that point, it was almost 11 PM, and I wasn’t that interested in starting real labor at midnight (never mind that I’ve never NOT labored through at least one full night before).

I finished up my last chore around midnight and lay down, feeling sure I wouldn’t be up again before morning.

Throughout the night, I woke up with the keener contractions but managed to go back to sleep. Around 5 AM, though, I had several strong ones in a row and couldn’t fall asleep again. Right before I got up, though, I had the distinct impression of peeing a little on myself without any actual effort on my part and thought, “Uh oh. That’s not good.”

My water has only broken before delivery one other time–with Della–and then, it was only a small high leak that sealed itself immediately and never produced anything else until she came. Even so, it created a lot of anxiety, since it put my midwife on guard for more leakage and put me on a deadline for having her (she gave me 24 hours before we considered going to the hospital). When Della’s labor stalled after I dilated to a 6, I spent the next 18 hours frustrated and worried I would end up with a hospital birth despite my best efforts to the contrary. My labor finally did kick back in at 7 PM, and I had her by 1 in the morning, but it was still a bad association with waters breaking that has lingered with me for the 6 years since.

I shuffled to the bathroom, hoping against hope that I had just become suddenly incontinent (only time I’ve ever wished for that), but it became clear very quickly that my waters had, indeed, broken–at least to an extent.

I took a shower and blow-dried my hair (something I almost never do) and then went to tell Shaun that my water had broken. He has the same association I do, so he looked a little concerned, but we both decided to just wait and see if the contractions would keep coming regularly, at which point we would take the kids to my mom’s.

frizz

{Anybody else resemble an electrocuted poodle after they blow-dry?}

The one thing I felt a tiny twinge of excitement about was the concept of possibly/maybe/Please Lord delivering during the day. That’s happened twice (Ezra and Theo), but only because I was up the entire night(s) before laboring.

I was far from hopeful, though.

The contractions were still there 30 minutes later when I finished straightening my hair (also something I pretty much never do), and the kids were all set to get in the van.

So, off we went on our merry way–skeptical but a little optimistic.

I had 3-4 decent contractions on the 30 minute drive, but almost the moment we pulled in my mom’s driveway…they stopped.

We were at my parents’ house for about an hour, and I didn’t have one real contraction.

It was the first time I felt genuinely discouraged by the whole stop-start business this pregnancy. I mean, I’ve come to fully expect it, but at 41 weeks and 5 days, I was getting a little weary of it, and I really didn’t want to waste my mom’s time (she loves her grandchildren more self-sacrificially than any other woman I’ve ever seen and never complains about keeping them, but I prefer not to dump all 6 on her doorstep without good reason).

So, right there in her living room, my mom and Shaun stopped and prayed over me–for peace, for perseverance, for progress (i.e. pain…you can’t have a baby without that, in my experience).

We decided to go ahead and leave the kids there, trusting the contractions to return and be real, and left. I kind of figured we would go home and wait for labor, but Shaun had a better idea (pretty sure he knew that my “watched pot never boils” body wouldn’t do well with just sitting around waiting for the next contraction).

So, we went to get Thai food for lunch (yes, I went all stereotypical and ordered it spicier than I normally do, even though I know it doesn’t actually work like that). And on our way, my contractions kicked back in.

They were different this time. Sharper still. They were the kind of contractions I would classify as a 5 (dilation) but still too sporadic to be doing much.

After lunch, we headed to Lowe’s to figure out some house details. At Lowe’s I had at least two contractions that had me stopping to breathe and grab the closest shelving. Honestly, I was a bit baffled, since each intense contraction was usually followed up by either nothing for a good 15 minutes or something so piddly it was barely noticeable.

Mostly, I just rolled my eyes and kept waddling along, determined to ignore them until they really, really hurt and were really, really close.

On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store for essentials like salt, toilet paper, Hershey’s Nuggets (with almonds and toffee, of course), and…wine? Yup. Hilarious because I pretty much never drink anything–much less while pregnant–but two separate friends had suggested buying a bottle of Moscato for labor, since they know how slow/tight my body tends to be and thought a) it might help me loosen up a bit and b) would be fruity enough for my alcohol-averse taste buds.

It took us a laughably long time to even find the Moscato and even longer to figure out if there was an advantage to one bottle over another, but we prevailed in the end.

And all the while I continued to contract at random intervals and levels of intensity.

My midwife–whom I had informed of the water leakage and contraction situation that morning–had been checking in via text all day and suggested that, when we got home, I lie down.

28-year-old Abbie would have been all: “Uh uh. No way. That will kill the contractions for sure.”

But 34-year-old Abbie thought a midwife-prescribed nap sounded just dandy, and if the contractions died, well, all the better because then they weren’t real anyway.

I lay down for over an hour, awakened by a grand total of 4 strong contractions. At this point, I’d been in sort of labor for 24 hours and was pretty sure it was all just a big hoax.

As soon as I got up, though, they kicked back in a bit, so I took some more of the herb tincture and ate some dinner. 15 minutes later, they stopped…and stayed gone.

After 45 minutes of not even one contraction, I felt my old frustration at my pokey body returning, so I texted Melena something like: “What the what is my dumb body doing??” To which she replied: “I dunno. Can I come visit?”

Of course, I said yes, though I assured her it was probably a waste of her time, and she said she didn’t care and was coming anyway.

Then, I asked Shaun to get the Bible and read to me from the Psalms while I lay on the couch.

This method had “worked” twice before when I got too anxious for my own good, so–while I wasn’t really expecting anything miraculous to happen–I was still hopeful that it would banish unnecessary stress before it settled in my already tense muscles.

He read for a good 1/2 hour, and I just listened with my eyes closed, soaking in the promises, enjoying the peace, and not contracting one single bit.

Then, I got up, went to the laundry room, and hauled 2 giant baskets of unmatched socks into the laundry room (my three oldest kids fold 99% of our laundry, but they are notorious for finding only the most obvious sock matches and throwing the rest in a basket, so there was puh-lenty to keep me busy).

We put on an episode of Fixer Upper and started matching. And matching.

By the time Melena showed up around 8:30, I’d had two contractions (after an hour and 1/2 of diddly squat) 10 minutes apart, but other than noting their existence, I thought absolutely nothing of them.

Melena had a theory that, with the somewhat slow leakage I’d experienced, there was a chance that the leak had sealed itself, and the bulging water bag near his head was still intact, in which case the risk of infection was moot, and this baby could just come when he felt like it (pretty sure that was what was going on anyway, but whatever).

When she checked me, though–no small or enjoyable feat for either of us since my cervix was still very posterior–she could feel his hair.

My heart sank a bit. I mean, obviously, he would come when he needed to, but being on any sort of deadline has never done anything but slow my already turtle-paced body down, and I felt the old dread that I would end up in a hospital on Pitocin after 9 months of midwifery care.

Fortunately, Melena is just the chillest human being on the planet and a very relaxing presence, and she assured me that a hospital visit was unlikely but that she would prefer that–since I refuse Group B Strep testing and my status was unknown–we start a round of antibiotics, just to be safe.

I’m not a fan of antibiotics as a rule, but when it comes to keeping my babies safe, I’m all for ‘em.

Melena stuck around for another 45 minutes, working me through some Spinning Babies positions (basically gentle posture/stretching exercises to help the baby get into the optimal position for making the contractions effective), and I noted–almost subconsciously–that I was still having contractions every 10 minutes or so and that they miiiiight possibly be getting a bit stronger with each one.

After that, she left for the birth center to grab everything she needed to administer the antibiotics, giving Shaun and me strict instructions to…

Make out.

Oh, yes, she did.  Because, boys and girls, this kind of monkey business releases Oxytocin, which cause uterine contractions. Aren’t our bodies weird and wonderful things?

Not too surprisingly, Shaun thought this was an excellent notion and assured Melena of our absolute compliance. #men

So, off she went to the birth center, leaving us alone, one of us still hugely pregnant and contracting every 10 minutes and the other grinning like a mouse who got locked in a cookie jar.

And then…but wait. I just looked and saw that this post is over 2,000 words long already, and all I’ve only covered the part where I wasn’t really in labor, so let’s just take a break for a moment and reconvene for Part 2 soon, okay?

Okay.

Honor, who has been doing this pretty much the entire time I typed this…

honor

is starting to wake up and tell me about all of his hopes and dreams (aka: milk).

Until Part 2!

 

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#nope

I know (because some of you have emailed me as much, you sweet things) that anyone coming to my blog today is hoping for any news except that…

I’m still pregnant.

41 weeks

{Here I am in all of my royal blue, big-bellied, 41 week & 5 days glory. Looking very large and in charge and awkwardly posed thanks to photo credit going to sweet Della}

But–le sigh–it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (Please help me, God).

think that I have now officially been pregnant for the longest amount of time in my considerable reproductive history.

Theo came 11 days late, but we passed up that mark yesterday.

Simon and Della were both 14 days late on the dot. BUT! The dates in my head (that I was pretty sure of) were different (later) than the sonograms, and so I think they were probably both “only” 9 days “late.” (Clearly, they both came in God’s timing, and both were perfectly healthy–if 3 pounds different in weight!!).

#babynumber7′s dates are spot on–in my head and on the sonogram (like to the day), which means that I am now 12 days overdue and counting…

How do I feel about this?

Still surprisingly chill.

As long as I don’t think too much about the fact that I may have to evict a 10 pound baby from my body with nothing more than willpower and zero abs, I feel fine. Definitely relying on the Lord for grace when the time does come.

So, mentally, I’m as good as a hugely pregnant lady is gonna be.

And physically, I’m good too. Not even that uncomfortable. Most of the time.

Although…

I finally gave up my fitness classes this week, but it was less to do with a physical inability to teach them and more about a weariness with being asked, “Is he STILL in there???!” every time I waddled in the door.

That said, after all of that talk I’ve done in the past few weeks about how grateful I am not to have had very many “warm-up” rounds to mess with my brain, I have been contracting at regular intervals ALL. WEEK. LONG. (which was definitely a contributing factor to deciding to get subs for my classes…contracting in the middle of a jump kick is no fun)…starting Monday afternoon and then continuing with intermittent fits and starts until, well, riiiiiiiight now (yup, just got a good squeeze).

There have been two nights that I thought, “Hmmm…if these stick, we’ll have a baby in–oh–20 hours.” (Insert eye roll at my suuuuh-low body). But most of the time, I’m just ignoring them completely.

There have been other signs of labor whose gory details I’ll spare you, but suffice it to say that, one morning, when one of them occurred, I was all: “WOOHOOO! I’m going into labor soon!!”

And then, I remembered that I was 41 weeks 3 days pregnant, so of course I’m going into labor soon (one way or another), and I felt distinctly like Cuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove when he throws his hooves in the air and hollers: “YAY! I’m a llama again…oh…wait.” #underwhelming

P.S. If you’ve never seen The Emperor’s New Groove, you must, at least once, for the character of Kronk alone (I mean, he does his own theme music).

ANYhoo, as much as it feels a bit like I’ve got my bags all packed for vacation (exciting) but don’t know when I get to leave (deflating), I’ve finally learned how to enjoy being overdue.

Ready for my I’m-over-a-week-overdue-and-I-don’t-even-care motto?

Carpe everything, man.

This is hardly my normal mantra, but when I’m about to have a baby, I have learned to say yes to pretty much any opportunity to do something a little different and fun–with my family, with friends, by myself…whatever.

So, the last two weeks have been full of much-needed house-cleaning and organizing, as many get-togethers with friends and family as possible, and at least 2 dates with my husband. To say that it’s been a productive and enjoyable first half of January would actually be an accurate statement–despite that I’m down to two pairs of pants that fit and have such bad round ligament pain that turning over in bed is literally a 10-point process (bend, flex, shift, roll, repeat).

craft rooom

{My amazing, servant-hearted sister-in-law came to my house 3 different days this week and cleaned my messy craft room–among other things. She’s theeeee best!}

With Simon and Della (my technically 2-week-late babies), I spent a good 3 weeks throwing myself one pity party after another that I wasn’t having a baby by the end of the day. Sure, I accomplished things–both practical and fun–but begrudgingly. As in: I’d rather be having a baby right now than on a rare date with my husband. Hmph.

No more, though. If Shaun and are I at the movies (something that usually happens once every 4 months at most), I’m thinking, “Don’t you dare come out before I see the end credits, baby boy!” If the girls and Theo and I are out junking and having a lunch date (as we were this afternoon–hence actually bothering to get dressed in that blue outfit above), then that’s what I want to be doing.

41 weeks1

{The weather here has been nuts; a week ago, it was 15 degrees. The other night, when Shaun and I went on a date to see Hidden Figures, it was so warm, that I wore this open-toed sandals + summer dress ditty and was practically sweating…and not just because I’m currently baking a human}

Being grateful for and engaged in the moment has drastically changed my mindset about being “overdue.” I don’t love the ever-expanding belly and uncertainty. But neither do I despise them. It just is what it is. And what it is is an incentive to be more intentional with my time–which will soon be sucked up (quite literally) by a precious little (hopefully) bundle of needy, newborn joy.

house progress

{We’ve made a ton of house progress lately too…sheetrock + wall texture are done-zo. We’re moving on to permanent power, A/C, cabinetry, trim, floors, doors, and such next. It’s pretty exciting stuff! So exciting, apparently, that ,even when Hannah–sister-in-law–and I loaded the van with tons of furniture and boxes to take over to the new house, it still didn’t send me into labor}

By the way, for those of you who are worried about my chillness because you’re sure this baby can’t possibly be safe in this-here-reluctant womb of mine, let me assure you that my midwife keeps a very close monitor on all things baby–especially during these last few weeks. I’ve had weekly appointments for over a month during which she checks all the things (except dilation, unless I ask, because–quite honestly–that means nothing).

And if this little guy isn’t here by Tuesday, I have a sono scheduled to do a complete bio-physical assessment and make sure that my amniotic fluid levels and placenta are good (I had to get those with Simon and Della too and was either in laborat the time or started it shortly thereafter). Other than that? The baby comes when he’s ready, and I am okay with that.

The Lord has just been so good to guard my heart and mind with his peace that passes all understanding in pretty much every area this pregnancy, but the one thing that does still make me nervous if I dwell on it is the labor itself. Every time I picture transition or pushing, I start to sweat. You would think that by your sixth labor, you wouldn’t dread it so, but I have been. At least until the last few days. By this point, though, I’m pretty much good with anytime he’s ready–even though I know it will hurt like the Dickens.

So, who knows? Maybe I’m the one who has been subconsciously holding us up. Whooooo knows…

As always I appreciate all of your assurances of prayer and kind words. It’s actually kind of amazing to know that I’m being upheld before the Lord by–not only my own family and friends–but a sisterhood of women around the world whom I’ve never met.

Y’all are the best!

And don’t worry. I will post as soon (within reason) as there is a baby. I’d want to know too.

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In case you don’t love the stage you’re in…

First things first: no baby yet. 

Hmph. (Although, really, I’m not the least bit surprised).

Now that that’s out of the way…

I have now been a mother for 10 and 1/2 years–give or take–which, I realize, is a mere drop in the bucket for those of you with grown children. I value the advice of more seasoned mamas so much. It gives me hope. Direction. Motivation. Well, assuming it’s helpful and godly, I guess. (I’ve definitely gotten the, “Just wait ’til they’re teenagers. Get ready for hell on earth,” response before, which wasn’t terribly hopeful or motivating. Just to be clear, I’ve also been assured of just how delightful the teen years can be if you invest heavily in the early ones, and that DOES give me hope!).

So, I thought I’d share something I ran across when I was cleaning out my closet last week in a fit of nesting zeal. It was an old prayer diary/journal in which I pretty frankly outlined how much I didn’t enjoy being a mama to two little bitty kids.

Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t proud of it. I knew my attitude should be softer, kinder, and gentler. But it was the year we finished building our current house, and the particular entry I was reading was a few months after we’d managed to move in but were still miles away from being “finished” (there are enough things that we could still tweak now–8 years later–that I’ve long since given up the concept of ever truly finishing a house to the point that it stays that way).

We built our house quickly (the actual construction only took 9 months with 95% of the work being done by Shaun or Shaun/his dad), but it meant that we saw very little of each other and spent pretty much every spare second doing something house-related or “real”-life-related (you know: the day job to pay the bills, the wiping of the bottoms, the grocery-shopping, etc.). We were tired. I was up by 5 most mornings because we lived with/rented from my parents while we built, and Shaun and I were sleeping in a 3rd story dormer while the boys were on the second floor. Simon–who was a baby at the time–was up dark and early like clockwork, and I did my best to scurry down as fast as possible to keep him from waking my parents or brother up. Sometimes, Shaun didn’t get home from working on the house until 9 PM, at which point he started programming or answering emails, usually falling into bed between 11 and 12 to start it all over again the next day.

It was definitely worth it for a short season, but I think that, even after we moved in, we still had a fair bit of catching up on rest and sanity to do. But Ezra was smack in the middle of the tantrum-filled 3′s, and Simon–well, Simon was delightful, but he was 20 months and into everything (especially the construction zone rooms full of supplies and unfinished floors). Plus–and I just realized this as I think about the timing–I was pregnant (and about to miscarry…not that I knew that).

I wrote in that journal about how I couldn’t wait for naptime. About how short-tempered and irritable I felt. About how little I liked Ezra’s personality at the moment (apparently, he was a bit on the needy, demanding, fussy, whiny, fit-throwing side…sound like any 3-year-olds you’ve ever met?).

And again, as I remember the first (and only) trimester of that pregnancy, I recall how hormonally “off” I felt. Have you ever experienced that skin-crawling, don’t-touch-me, leave-me-alone-for-the-love sensation? If you’re a mama (or an adult female), surely the answer is yes at least once.

Well, I remember feeling like that all of the time.

I might not have been the hugest fan of my toddler at the time, but I liked myself even less.

By the way, if you’re thinking: “Gee, Abbie. I’m not feeling too uplifted here,” I’m sorry.

I try to be as positive and honest as I can here without treading all over our family’s privacy. But this was not my finest (or happiest) moment of motherhood by any stretch.

And I think it may be easy, as you read about the good things that have happened to our family and see our smiling faces in Sunday photos on Instagram, to assume that I’ve never struggled with motherhood. It wouldn’t be true. And it wouldn’t be what I’ve admitted here many times over. But it’s still possible to infer from what’s missing (a daily rant about the 5 glasses in a row of spilled milk and how I lost it on the 3rd) that it never happens.

It does. Because my kids and I are both very human and sinful.

And the honest-to-goodness truth of November 2009 is that I did not enjoy motherhood very much. I even wrote about Shaun’s feeling a lot of the same things, which doesn’t surprise me, since the boys really were in a challenging stage (and very close together at only 18 months difference in age), his wife was grouchy and hormonal all of the time, and he still had mountains of house-building and lay work to do every single day.

Fast forward 7 years, and the honest-to-goodness truth is that I genuinely like all of my kids (as well as love them, of course; that never changes), and I enjoy being a mama.

Well, most of the time. Because there are definitely moments–like when a certain 4+-year-old had a major accident on the kitchen floor yesterday and did nothing to stop herself–that I not only do not enjoy my de facto position as cleaner-of-all-the-grossest-things, but my attitude about it is downright ugly.

I’m still a work in progress, and the Lord is still graciously peeling back layers of selfishness and expectations (that my kids “should” behave a certain way…that I “shouldn’t” have to deal with a particular setback anymore…that my husband “should” notice and appreciate what I do more) on a daily basis.

But I can see the progress. In my children, sure, but mostly in me.

Because what has changed the most between 7 years ago and now is not so much my circumstances as my mindset toward motherhood.

Yes, when the boys were both little, I was exhausted. Yes, while I was pregnant (with the one that I miscarried), I was especially short-tempered (less so with other pregnancies). Yes, my attitude improved when my circumstances changed.

But it was in the grappling with my own self-centeredness, in the crying out to God to create in me a clean heart, in the head-down, teeth-gritted, muttered-prayers enduring of fits and blowouts and late nights that my heart truly began to soften towards these little people he had entrusted to me–that I began to expect this kind of “nonsense” and then feel genuine thankfulness when it didn’t last forever.

It was when I began to have an inkling of what it means to rejoice in the Lord always, instead of simply resenting an inevitable “inconvenience,” that my outlook truly improved. (Still a lot of improvement to be had here). And that rejoicing only increased as my children grew, matured, and showed the fruits of the labor I’d put in.

egg muffins

{If you’d told me when I only had two under two that one day those two plus their sister would cheerfully make 2 dozen freezer muffins for Baby Number 7, all on their lonesome, I don’t think would have believed it; praise God for perspective from “the other side”}

Since those baby years with my first two, there have other mothering “rough patches.” My miscarriage. Della’s six week nursing strike. Della’s yearlong bedtime strike. The entire process of training the boys to do chores when they were little. The twins’ pregnancy when I already had 3, ages 6 and under. The twins’ four-day-long labor. The twin’s first 12 weeks of life. The twin’s toddlerhood from age 2 1/2-4. (Ah, twins; what instruments of sanctification are thou).

But those periods are not what immediately pop to mind as I consider my decade of mothering. Instead, I remember the  joy of finding out that our 3rd child (who was our rainbow baby after my miscarriage) would be a daughter whom I would name Adelaide–a name I’d cherished since the first time I watched Anne of Avonlea at age 8. The fun of teaching Ezra to read (he’s a quick learner!). The fun of watching my oldest two–then 5 and 3–build their first snowman. That time the boys–who had wept and gnashed their teeth at the process of learning to fold clothes–looked up at me from a quickly dispatched pile and said, “Wow, Mama. That was easy. I like folding clothes!” The nerdy thrill I get when Ezra makes funny quips about being a “whittler on the roof,” as he diligently slices away at a stick while sitting on the (flat portion of the) roof of our new house. The twins’ excitement over meeting the new baby and the giant strides they have made in emotional maturity in the last few months. The sheer glee every person in this family feels when Theo first gets out of bed in the morning and does his signature bouncy run to his high chair, crowing, “Hung-eeeeey!” and grinning the whole way.

whittler

{My cute little whittler…who is such a dreamboat of a young man after giving me a premature gray hair or two in his younger years}

So, what’s my point?

That, if you don’t love the phase you’re in, I get that. I’ve been there. I return there on a semi-regular basis. It’s the cyclical nature of motherhood (nay, life).

But our current circumstances don’t have to define us or determine our character. And hard is most definitely not the same thing as bad.

In fact, it may be the very thing that drives us closer to the heart of God, makes us more empathetic and aware of others’ suffering, and forges a deeper awareness of just how much the Maker of the Universe loves us to give us the exact struggle that we’re experiencing.

If you’re grappling with something hard right now (motherhood-related or not), hang in there, friend. God sees you. He hears your desperate, semi-coherent prayers at 3 AM for just one straight hour of uninterrupted sleep. He loves you more than you could ever fathom.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings,because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-5

For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.“ Phil. 1:6

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Because: “He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.“ 1 Corinthians 1:8-9.

Therefore: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

I could go on naming the promises of God, but I think you get the idea. He is good. He is faithful. He is patient. He is kind.

Even (especially) when we are not.

If there’s some way that I can pray for you, please don’t hesitate to email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com.

It would be my privilege.

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