Category Archives: Motherhood

My Mama

Yes, I realize that Mother’s Day was 5 days ago, and I let it go by without a peep pretty much (unless you count the obligatory me and my peeps–ha–photo on social media).

Such is life right now.

I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t write a post for it and that I forgot to post about our Paint and Prose Call Her Blessed print for Mother’s Day, and Shaun said, “It’s okay. Right now, it’s not M is for Mama. It’s M is for Moving.”

Word.

But still.

This past Sunday was not only Mother’s Day but my mama’s birthday, which happens every so often when your birthday is smack in the middle of May, and I thought I should take a moment to brag on this woman.

This is my mom, Beth.

softa1

It’s no glamour shot (my choices were limited because my mom hates having her picture taken), but considering that she’s literally covered in grandbabies doing that expert Softa thing she does, it’s kind of perfect.

She is the kindest, most selfless, most servant-hearted woman I know, and I daily strive to be more like her in word and deed.

Growing up, she was one of my best friends, and that has never changed. And now, getting to see her love on my kids has unearthed a whole new level of respect and admiration for this woman who raised me and my brother with so much care.

But what makes my mama truly remarkable is that–while she has given me a shining example to follow–she had to forge her own path to motherhood.

Her own mom, while not vicious, was married to a man who was, and it drained her of intentional kindness. My mom was the middle child–the one whom her mother always told her just seemed older than her years and whom my grandmother treated as such, even when she shouldn’t have.

My grandpa, whom I remember only in shadowy half-recollections that consist of a gesture or scent (cigarettes) more than anything, was nice to my brother and me, by all accounts. But the same cannot be said of his treatment of my mom, whom he would regularly “spank” with a leather belt until he got all of his angst out over such grievous infractions as a glass of spilled milk.

It literally hurts to think of my mom being neglected and abused because she is so quick to pour herself out for her family. Her life has never been easy–still isn’t in many ways–and yet she chooses to be Jesus to me, my children, my husband, my brother’s family, and so many others day in and day out.

My mom is a quiet woman, except if you know her well, in which case she converses easily and willingly. She carries strong convictions and is passionate about truth (a trait that she passed along to me). And she doesn’t just preach it. She acts on it, regularly giving of her time, money, and other resources to numerous outreaches and ministries the world over.

For the past two years, my mom has helped me home school my kids two days a week–a mutually beneficial arrangement (I hire her) that gives my kids access to an absolute wealth of knowledge (my mom has an MA in English and History and is a born teacher; she’s even teaching my kids Hebrew).

They call her Softa (the Hebrew word for grandma–our family has always had a heart for Israel and even lived there twice), and it’s so fitting because she really is a “softie” at heart. Not to mention a worker. If there’s laundry on the couch, she folds it. If there’s a kid in the bath, she washes and dresses him. If there’s a box to be packed, she packs it.

My childhood was not privileged from a monetary standpoint (although it was in every other way). We were barely-making-it, beans-with-no-cheese-at-the-end-of-the-month, secondhand-everything poor. But my mama still chose to stay home and home school my brother and me, while my dad worked long hours, often leaving early in the morning and not getting back until after we were in bed. She scraped together enough to sew my costumes when I got the roll of Marta in our Community Theater production of Sound of Music. She put aside a few precious dollars every fall and spring so that my brother and I could play YMCA soccer and softball/baseball. She endured multiple miscarriages (but for those, our family would have been much larger), and I’m sure she was often down, but I never saw it. You could chalk that up to childish narcissism, and that would be true. But my mama is not now, nor ever has she been, a complainer.

And now that I’m grown with my own brood, she continues that record of relentless self-sacrificial love to me and my children.

She never turns me down if I ask her to keep my kids. She makes dinner for my brother’s and my family every Friday night, which is when we go pick up my three oldest kids who get to stay with her every Thursday night. She helps me redo my flowerbeds because she has a green thumb which, sadly, did not get passed along to me. The toy room at her house is beyond stuffed with everything a grandchild’s heart could desire (all bought for pennies on the dollar from some thrift store or some clearance event or another…in that way, I am my mother’s daughter).

Sometimes, I want to grab my children by their shoulders, look deep into their eyes, and tell them, “You have NO idea how blessed you are to have a Softa like her.”

I never knew any of my grandparents well, so the fact that my children have 4 living grandparents who love them (because my in-laws are fabulous as well) is an aspect of their childhood that I am beyond grateful for. I can only imagine the stories they will swap years from now as they reminisce about their times together at “Softa’s and Sabba’s” and “Grandma’s and Grandpa’s.”

My mom is the unsung hero of my life, without whom I would be a much more stressed out, clueless mess.

I know many of you do not have this kind of support system, and I truly feel for you. Because, although I know I could survive without my mom’s help, I’m sure glad I don’t have to. Not simply because I wouldn’t have the support but because I would be missing out on a cherished friendship.

So, even though I’m late in saying it, and my tired, fuzzy-brained words are far from eloquent, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to say, Happy Mother’s Day, Mama! Your example of continual giving is such a testimony of the life-changing power of Jesus’s love, and I am grateful for and love you today and every day.

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Dig Deep

I do not tend toward depression.

Now, before you think, “Gee, thanks for the update, Abbie. But…why…are we talking about this?” I have a point.

I needed to get that first part out of the way to establish where I am coming from as a personality.

I am a pragmatist. I’m not a huge planner or dream-chaser. I’m a day-to-day-er. I balance on a fine line between doubting that anything “big” will ever happen and believing that all of the everyday stuff is probably going to be just fine.

I don’t have huge emotional mood swings as a general rule. For better or for worse, I am fairly consistently…ME.

With all that said, I’m no robot. I have feelings and lots of them. And sometimes, those feelings are “down.”

The other day, I had dinner with a friend whom I consider an equally even-keeled sort. Not overly emotional. Not prone to high highs or low lows.

But then, she said this: “So…do you ever just get so depressed that you don’t even want to be a mom anymore? Like that you’ve messed up so many times or are just too tired to keep going?”

Now, this friend of mine is a good mama to two sweet little boys. She is patient and kind with them. She stays home with them all day while her husband often works long hours, and she doesn’t complain…to me anyway. Her confession surprised me because she “doesn’t seem the type” (I think we would find that we are all “that type,” if we’re willing to be vulnerable enough to admit it).

I must have hesitated a little too long when she asked me this because she quickly blurted, “You don’t, do you? Yeah. I didn’t think so. That doesn’t seem like you. Never mind.”

She’d misunderstood my pause, though. I hadn’t NOT answered because I couldn’t relate. Instead, my mind had been running back over the many times I’ve felt exactly how she was describing.

I admitted as much in this post.

Most notably, after the twins were born, I experienced what I now realize was at least a mild version of Post Partum Depression.

For months, I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. You wouldn’t have known it from the outside. I was still doing all of the things–breastfeeding twins, part-time homeschooling Ezra and Simon, reading to Della, making lunches and dinners, changing diapers, teaching fitness classes, blogging, laughing at my husband’s jokes.

But I had no joy.

My favorite day of the week by about a million is Sunday. I’ve said it before. I love worshiping with my family in the morning, eating lunch with my family when we get home, taking a nap as a family in the afternoon, then eating dinner together and watching a movie as a family in the evening. Sunday for me is a mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional sigh of relief.

But I can remember standing in my kitchen on a Sunday evening chopping vegetables as my three oldest children played on the living room rug with my husband and the twins napped forehead to forehead–a scene that would have normally filled me with an enormous sense of contentment–and feeling…Bleak. Sad. Despondent.

Like this vast black hole had opened up and sucked in all of my ability to appreciate goodness.

I told my friend all of this–that I had experienced this with the twins and that I have had other, less significant bouts of it at other times. And she said: “So, what do you do? When you feel like that, how do get out of it?”

And I told her what my mom always told me when my hormones got the better of me as a teenager, and she caught me indulging in an episode of adolescent ennui at its finest.

“Dig deep in the Lord. When you are down, lean into him.”

Ugh. Even as a Christian since an early age, I didn’t love that advice when I was 16. I remember thinking: “C’mon, Mom. Surely you’ve got something more practical than that to offer. Where’s the offer to take me shopping or buy me a pint of Rocky Road?”

Of course, almost 20 years later, I know that my mom–who does struggle with despondency sometimes and had a mother who couldn’t get out of bed many mornings–was teaching me something so much more profound than “eat your feelings.”

Ice cream (or wine or chocolate or movies or girls’ nights out or new clothes) will only numb the ache for a day at most.

But digging deep into the Lord, crying out to him, meditating on his promises, memorizing them, taking the time to wallow–not in our sadness–but in the knowledge of his love (even if we don’t *feel* it at the time) has lasting benefits that go beyond even just pulling us out of our current funk.

I’m not saying it’s a quick fix or a bandaid or a magic cure.

In Matthew 5, Jesus does not say: “Blessed are those who are happy all of the time.” Instead, he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”

It sounds like he knew a thing or two about being downhearted. And about empathy.

Psalm 34:18 promises that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” But it does not say whenhe does. In other words, as much as I would have loved to have enjoyed every moment of the twins’ infancy, when the Lord did pull me out of my depression four months later, I could still see his hand in all of the times he had said, “Wait,” instead of, “Yes,” in response to my pleas for relief.

Nehemiah 8:10 says: “The joy of the Lord is our strength,” but I think that verse is often misunderstand. People think it means the “happiness,” the “emotional high,” the “giddiness” of the Lord is our strength.

But I’m inclined to believe–based on the context of that passage and what I have learned from personal experience–that the joy of the LORD is nothing like the joy of humans. That it is a rock-solid confidence in his goodness and faithfulness rather than a fleeting emotion.

Romans 15:13 says: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Emphasis mine).

If that doesn’t sound like my mom’s admonition to “dig deep in the Lord,” I don’t know what does. As you believe in him. That you may overflow with hope. 

Maybe you are struggling right now because the Lord wants you to lean more heavily on him than you’re willing to when everything is hunky-dory. Maybe your sadness now is preparing you to overflow with hope into a fellow mama in the future when she tells you that she’s miscarried…again. Maybe your current depression is a reminder to pray for those who are likewise poor in spirit.

I don’t know.

But 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.” Philipians 1:6.

He’s not done with us yet, friends. Our current struggle does not define us. And it is for our good.

Because hard is not the same thing as bad.

So, if you ever feel like my friend and I do about motherhood (or anything else), dig deep. Push your roots down deep into the fertile soil of God’s word and love for you. It may be months or even years down the road before you witness the fruit of your digging, but it will come. That much, I can promise you.

Disclaimer: I am in no way discounting those who chronically struggle with depression, nor am I trying to be glib in any way. I hope you can read my heart of encouragement and true empathy here.

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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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