Category Archives: Motherhood

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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30 Week Pregnancy Check-in: Baby #7

When you find out that you’re pregnant as early as I typically do, the whole process can seem to drag a bit.  A girl I follow on Instagram was surprised by her 5th pregnancy–to the tune of not knowing until she was fully 10 weeks pregnant. And I couldn’t help but feel a taaaaad envious. I mean: 10 whole weeks of not knowing you’re pregnant is practically the same thing as not BEING pregnant, or…something that like that. Of course, then she had her baby at 36 weeks (the baby was perfect…no complications), so she got to skip another month. And then, I really was jealous! :)

Ha! I kid (mostly), but I was actually pleasantly surprised to realize that, last Monday, I hit the 30 week mark with #babynumber7. I mean, that’s legit. We’re getting there! And I’m guessing that, with Thanksgiving, Shaun’s traveling, birthdays (Della’s, Simon’s, and Theo’s), and Christmas just around the corner, the time will fairly fly.

Until I hit Jan. 1, and this babe is still snug as a little love bug in his mama’s belly. Because my due date is technically January 2, but if you’ve been following along for any amount of time here, you know my babies like to be well-done before they make their appearance.

I am definitely mentally preparing for 1) lots of Braxton Hicks/false labor/mental torture for the last 6 weeks or so and 2) a January 15th delivery date. Maaaaaaybe, just maybe, then I won’t get as antsy as I have during the last two weeks of–well–most of my pregnancies.

ANYhoo, since I’ve made it to 30 weeks, I thought it might be time for another check-in.

31 weeks

{I know this is not my usual “bump shot,” but I forgot to have Ezra take my pic on Monday, and we finally made it to Charleston–YIPEE!–so a GAP dressing room side-pic will have to suffice}

If my belly were a grocery basket, it would have this in it: I’ve never really done the whole, “My baby is the size of a _____________” comparison before, but apparently, Baby #7 is about the size of a coconut at the moment. Funny, since I’d have said pumpkin or watermelon with the way he’s already stretching up into my ribs. Oy.

If I could only eat one thing until he comes, it would be: nope. Still no significant food cravings. I still drink about 3 too many Dr. Pepper Icees per week (hangs in head in abject shame), but the rest of the time, I eat the exact same things that I always do (i.e. lots of fruit, veggies, carbs, and protein at home–with the occasional Thai food, pizza, or Chick-fil-a thrown in).

If I were an energy meter, my readings would be: alllll over the place. I’m finally over that epic cold I had, so I have more energy than I’ve had in weeks, but I feel like I flail wildly between CLEAN. ALL. THE. THINGS. and a constant mental chant of, “Nap, nap, nap, nap…” I would really love for the energy to stick for longer than 24 hours, but I’m happy that it exists at all, so no real complaints.

If I went into labor today, Baby #7 would have: no room at the inn. Ha! So, Theo is still in his crib and will remain so likely until we move because our babies usually sleep in a bassinet in our rooms for the first 2-3 months. BUT! Thanks to generous friends/hand-me-downs, I’m pretty well kitted it out with baby clothes. And everything else is still hanging around from the last–oh–six or so. So, I’m not too worried.

If I wanted to confuse you majorly, I would: show you this picture…

otter

…and tell you that this adorable crocheted otter, which I had Theresa (go follow her on IG! She’s so stinkin’ talented!) make for me, is a clue to the baby’s name. :)  Can’t wait until I can tell you the whole story! (hashtag so mean)

If I had my exercise druthers, I’d: quit. ha! Not really. I know I’d go fitness stir-crazy in no time. But I’m not going to lie: I don’t feel bad when I exercise as a general rule (and I always feel better when I’m done), but I am SO over pushing myself as hard as I did with my last 3 pregnancies. I can remember being terrified of losing some of my strength if I went down on my weights in BODYPUMP when I was pregnant with Della. And now I’m over here happily cutting my squat weight in half and LOLing at my silly 27-year-old gung-ho self.

Perspective and age, yo. They are good, good things.

Also, I probably still have 60 classes to teach before he comes, so…I figure I’d better pace myself.

If I had to pick my favorite cute things the kids do/say about the new baby, they would be: the way Della kisses my belly every night and quietly/earnestly says, “Good night, ________. I love you.” She’s such a sweetheart these days. The fact that Theo has started saying his name, and it’s the just the most precious thing ever (don’t think he has a clue WHY he’s saying it, but he’s a very dutiful little parrot). Oh! And the fact that Nola still checks in every now and then with: “This is a girl baby, right? ‘Cause I really want a girl baby.”

If I had my best guess as to the baby’s future profession, it would be: an American David Beckham. This kid likes to KICK. And wiggle, shimmy, jostle, and jive. He’s a mover, y’all. BUT! My midwife’s assistant said that she thinks all of his limbs are facing outward, with his spine curved along mine, which would explain why I can feel everything so keenly.

If I had to name one thing I’m doing differently this time, it would be: myofascial stretches. My midwife, Melena, (also a nurse, by the way) has me doing these exercises to align and loosen my myofaschia (the “webbing” that covers all of our muscles/tendons) in hopes of shortening labor length (she’s seen good results so far) and just helping the process to go more smoothly all around. And I’m all for it! My muscles/tendons are really tight from all of the exercise I do, and my labors are long, so if there’s even a chance that a couple of easy stretches will help, I’m game.

If I could wear anything for the rest of the pregnancy, it would be: leggings and tunics. But I don’t wear them. I hardly own a pair of leggings, so I’m usually to be found in exercise clothes or stretchy jeans (some maternity, most just a size or two up from what I normally wear) and flowy tops. Next best thing.

Aaaaand, there you go! More info than you could have ever truly wanted to know about this pregnancy.

But when has that ever stopped me from sharing anyway? (Never).

Hope you have a lovely weekend, friends! I’ll be eating my way through Charleston for the next 2 days and then returning to real life until the baby comes (at which point it becomes real, real life).

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25 Week Pregnancy Check In {Baby #7}

Welp. I’m 25 weeks pregnant today. Which means it’s about time for another oh-so-fascinating check-in on how this little guy is doing.

25 weeks logo

Overall, I’ve felt bigger this time around (even though the scale, which I’ve only stepped on once, says I have gained the same amount of weight as I had at this point last time). Rounder belly earlier. Just generally more change in my body more quickly than I’m used to. I think my body is distributing things differently. Baby’s higher than usual, for sure. I’m usually a super low carrier.

P.S. I am NOT complaining here. Merely observing a difference between this pregnancy and others.

And, after looking back at my 24 week pregnancy update with Theo, I can definitely see a difference in my shape (not bad, not good; just different), so…I guess it’s good to know I’m not just imagining things?

theo24 weeks

Considering that I started with the “faux-questionnaire” format last time, I guess I’ll just go with that again.

So, here are the answers to all of the questions that maybe no one has even asked, just in case you might possibly have been wondering.

How has this pregnancy compared to the others?

Hm…I guess I already sort of answered part of this with how I think my body’s reacting differently.

I touched on this in my recap of the first 20 weeks, but this has maybe been the hardest pregnancy yet (other than the twins’). More exhaustion, more nausea, more mood swings, more/worse varicose veins. Yippee! That said, I think I’m finally completely in the clear on the debilitating exhaustion and nausea front. I’ve only taken one nap (other than Sunday…Sunday naps are sacred) in the last month, and, in general, I have decent energy until bedtime. I’ve even had a burst or two of nesting but nothing sustained. As in, the piece of furniture I hauled upstairs that used to hold all of random toys (that I sorted, threw out, and organized the same day) is still sitting in the same place I left it over a week ago. Sigh. Baby steps (Ha).

What is this baby like?

Hmm…well, I thought he was super-wiggly and was a little worried that we had a hyper one on our hands, but Shaun claimed that I said the same thing about Theo (aka: Lil’ Chill Dude), and as I looked back on my 24 Week Update, it turns out he was right. I talked about Theo being a mover and shaker too. Which kind of makes me glad that I’m taking the time to write these. (Because aren’t we just so sure we’ll remember every little last detail, and then, no matter how hard we try to hang on, it all starts to fade? Good thing for labor. Bad for the rest).

Do you have a name yet?

Yup. :) Although…I’m not stuck on the middle name, so we’ll see.

Are you still exercising/teaching fitness classes?

I am. I teach 6 classes a week, and Tuesday is fast becoming my least favorite exercise day of the week, since I teach Grit Plyo (think: squat jumps off of a bench, tons of burpees, jack push-ups, tuck jumps, etc.) and then BODYPUMP. Grit is exhausting in its own right, but halfway through Pump, all I can think is: are we done yet?

I’m already having to modify majorly in Grit (not Pump), but I’ve joked with my participants that, by the end, I’ll be sitting in a deck chair with a glass of lemonade calling: “JUMP! DROP! PUSH-UPS!” At least I think I’m joking.

Funny story: the other day, a new childcare worker told me, “This is weird, but I had a dream about you. You were, like, 9 month pregnant and still teaching…” at which point, I said, “Um, well, that part’s not a dream. I do that every time.” And she was like, “Whaaaat? No way! Oh, and then you went into labor.” And I was: “Um, yeah. That’s probably not going to happen, and even if it did, I’d probably just finish teaching the class, then go home, eat dinner, and do some laundry before I had the baby.” #darnslowlabors

Still planning on a home birth?

You better believe it! I’m not one to say never, but, barring some kind of significant change in my mindset/midwife situation/health, I think I’m going to be a home birth girl from here ’til there are no more babies to birth. I just love being in my own bed with no one prodding or poking me afterwards. No monitors. No nothing. Being able to eat/walk around/get in the tub/just generally do as I please during labor is pretty awesome too.

Of course, I have family that is willing to take my kids for a couple of days when the baby comes, so I’m sure I would be more enthralled with the hospital option if I didn’t.

I’ll be using Melena again (one of the midwives who assisted at the twins’ birth and then was the primary at Theo’s birth after my longtime midwife, Thalia, died suddenly from a stroke), and I’m super-happy to have someone that I trust so much assisting me again.

How have people responded to your having another baby?

Honestly? I’ve made very few “official” announcements. And, in the South, if someone doesn’t give you a big toe in the door to say something (you know, besides, “Bless your heart”), then you don’t necessarily say anything at all (well, to their face…ha!).

So, while my belly is growing by the day, I haven’t gotten just tons of comments, either good or bad. I think there were many weeks of, “Has Abbie just given up and starting eating bon-bons for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?” at the gym since no one much officially knew until we got back from Colorado. But now that they do, nobody much seems to notice.

Which is TOTALLY cool with me!

I think, maybe, by this point, it’s kind of obvious that this is just what we do. And everybody has, more or less, accepted that. Our family on both sides are very supportive of our having however many kids the Lord blesses us with, so we’ve never heard a peep of opposition from them (yes, I know; we’re very thankful). And I’ve actually gotten FEWER comments lately at the grocery store. I think part of this is because we only go once a week, which is one of the few times I run errands anymore with all 6 kids with me, and the rest of the time, I usually have little kids with me while the older ones are at piano practice or Softa’s (my mom’s) house.

WHATEVER the reason, I’m completely fine with the lull in comments. (They were pretty intense when the twins were babies and both in car seats; that was quite the attraction, apparently). On the one hand, they definitely give me an opportunity to share the Lord with people, so I should desire more contact, but my flesh would definitely prefer to just zoom in and out of Walmart without too many roadblocks along the way.

Hmm…maybe I should start praying for more people to stop and talk to us.

Any big pregnancy quirks?

Um, y’all. It’s so embarrassing, but I am quite the snorer when I’m pregnant. I sleep on my side and everything, but, combine my–what? pregnancy sleep apneia?–with the cold that I’ve been fighting for almost 3 weeks now, and I actually feel a little sorry for my husband. He’s a pretty sound sleeper, though, and hasn’t resorted to sleeping on the couch yet, so I guess we’re fine.

And now it’s your turn.

If you’re pregnant right now, give me a shout out and let me know how far along you are, when the baby’s due, how many other kids you have, whether or not you snore…you know…the important stuff.

I’d love to learn more about you!

Did I leave out something that you’re just dying to know?

I can’t even imagine, but if so, ask away!

 

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The Reason Why We Have So Many Kids (Part 1)

If I had to name one question I get/have gotten asked the most over the last 5 years of blogging, it would have to be: “So, why, exactly, do y’all have so many kids?”

The “funny” answer, of course, is because we just like each other that much.

Although…as my sweet, usually demure mother pointed out that one time: “Oh brother. In your case, you’d only have to have had sex–what–6 times to get this many kids, so what’s the big deal?”

Whoa there, Mom.

Maybe I should take her on grocery runs and let her shut down all of the people who seem so worried about my bedroom TV situation.

Of course, I know that the question is not a literal one (at least I hope it never is) but an ideological one.

Why–when, in this day and age, we could feasibly control or limit the number–would we continue to have more children?

The short answer is that we believe that children, whether there be 1 or 20, are a blessing from the Lord and that we are not the ones “driving this flying umbrella” (as an animated bear named Little John once so eloquently phrased it…please tell me that there are some fellow cartoon Robin Hood lovers out there).

But you know I’m not very good at short answers, so let me just quote an exact question from a sweet reader recently and then do my best to flesh out the answers that she (and the rest of y’all) seem to want.

Here is it:

I have a question that I’ve been wanting to ask for a while now but I’ve never gotten around to it. I’ve been wondering what exactly your beliefs are about children and how you plan (or rather don’t plan) for them. What I mean is, from what you’ve said on your blog, I understand that you give over that control to God and let Him plan your family size. I think that’s wonderful and what a leap of faith! I’m curious where in the Bible you rely on for that truth. I’ve known many large families over the years (I’m the oldest of 11 myself) but often they’re Amish, Mennonite or some very conservative group (think the Duggars, which you must get compared to ALL THE TIME!).

So, one time, I stumbled upon this blog post by a woman who had converted from Protestantism to Catholicism, and one of her chief deciding factors was the Protestant church’s inconsistency in teaching when it came to birth control and trust in God.

As she said, her Protestant pastors were quick to recommend that she hold her money, her time, her relationships, and her possessions loosely, since they were not her own, but God’s. But when it came to child-bearing, they were just as quick to recommend birth control and “waiting, spacing, and planning for an ‘ideal number.’”

blessed4

She found the juxtaposition of the two ideologies jarring. And, while I don’t agree with many areas of Catholic theology, I found myself completely on board with her confusion. I felt it when, at 19, I went to standard premarital counseling with my then fiance (not Shaun), and the pastor looked at me with pity when I expressed my conviction that our number of children and methods of conceiving them should rely on the Lord rather than our own engineering. Shaun and I both felt it when various premarital counselors (“official” or otherwise) gave us their “best piece of marriage advice” (their words, not mine): “Whatever you do, don’t have kids too soon. And make sure you’re on the same page about how many you want to have.”

Thankfully, we didn’t consider Ezra “too soon” when he showed up a week shy of our first anniversary (honestly, I remember our looking at each other and saying, “Wow, the Lord planned that well,” since he was born 6 days after I gave my last Spanish final to my high school students…yes, I was a teacher in another life). And we were on the same page from the beginning about the number of children we wanted: however many the Lord has in store for us.

Another reader asked me to Biblically flesh out my reasons for believing that it isn’t our call to be “done,” citing the fact that the Bible is vague on various areas of specific life direction, including exactly when and how many children to have. I completely agree. There is no specific “thou shalt” for this topic. And, while I will reference scripture throughout this blog, I won’t pretend to know for certain how the Lord feels on this subject. I believe that being open to his leading in this area (and every other) is a matter of personal conviction and willingness and one that requires great thought and prayer.

HOWEVER.

On the flip side, I can find absolutely no Biblical basis for the bearing of children to be viewed in a separate category from all other areas of trust. And yet the prevailing modern Christian mindset is one of prevention and control rather than openhandedness.

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I was talking to a friend of mine recently who became a Christian in her teens and was counseled on her upcoming wedding by numerous Christian women to go on the Pill lest she become pregnant right away. This friend has two kids–a girl and then a boy–and she and her husband aren’t having any more, but she was still bemoaning her lack of knowledge. “I just didn’t know,” she said. “It’s what everybody told me to do, and, as a new Christian, it never occurred to me to do differently or ask why.” (She was distressed both by the physical/abortifacient ramifications of chemical birth control and by the assumption of the need to control it).

I’m the opposite. It never occurred to me to segregate childbearing from all other areas of God-reliance in my life. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my upbringing. My mom only had two kids–not because of prevention but because of her body’s inability to carry more to term. She and my dad always made it clear that they would have happily received any others that the Lord might have given them, despite the fact that we were quite poor  growing up.

Maybe it’s because when I read: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths,” that I can’t seem to find a caveat to the “all.”

Not that I wouldn’t like to find a caveat sometimes. Because my “own” understanding says things like: but, if you keep having kids, you’ll never have a waistline again. Or a clean house. Or any alone time. Or a reasonable grocery bill. Or a peaceful retirement. Or anything other than a used car (okay, honestly, this one has never crossed my mind; I like used cars :) ).

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I know that I should keep going with: your children won’t go to the best colleges (because you can’t afford to send them all), you will be considered an oddity by your community, and your ministry opportunities will be stunted.

But I don’t actually care whether my children go to college (if they want to, and it makes sense, more power to them, but if they’d rather learn a trade, I’m all for it). My community is who I make it. And, even if my only ministry is that of training up my children to be lights in a darkened world, that would be enough (I’ve already had numerous opportunities outside of that, so I really do believe that the Lord can use me and my family in a variety of ways, no matter how large we are/get).

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

I think we’re all pretty quick to assume that this means physical prosperity. That’s the American dream. But what if it were something so much better? What if it were the ultimate prosperity and sanctification of our souls?

What if, in daily taking up the cross of motherhood (because that whole dying to yourself {that is a suuuuper convicting link to click on, just FYI} business is real when you don’t get sleep for weeks/months/years on end, and your lap/breasts/womb/possessions/time are not your own), the Lord is forging a hope and a future through my children that I would otherwise be denying myself (and them) by choosing the limit of them?

blessed1

I think about the cultural norm for America. The Census Bureau numbers for 2015 show the average number of children per married couple at less than 2. That means a) that we’re not even replacing ourselves and b) that if I followed that norm, I would not have: Della, Evy, Nola, Theo or Baby #7 (possibly not even Simon). I can’t begin to fathom my life without even one of my sweet babies (or my kids’ lives without their siblings), and I am in awe of the fact that the Lord might have more already planned for me, prepared since before the foundations of the world, known in the deeps before they ever enter my womb, just waiting to offer me an even more amazing form of “prosperity” than I can even begin to comprehend at this point.

But…isn’t that kind of uncertainty about your future number of kids scary? Yup. But so is giving sacrificially when your husband works for himself from home (or in any other kind of position, for that matter) and your source of income could run dry at any time and being open to fostering-to-adopt or moving to another country for mission work.

And yet, I can find nothing unbiblical about any of those things. They are, in fact, mandated in the Bible when he tells us to give with abandon, care for the fatherless, and share the gospel to the ends of the earth.

And then, of course, there’s this verse:

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children[a] of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.[b]

I don’t think that this means that those who have less than a “full quiver” (whatever that means, exactly) will be “put to shame” (my mother certainly wasn’t), but it certainly seems to view having children–even an abundance of them–as a positive thing.

I can’t write this post without reiterating one of the most crucial things that having lots of children has done for me. It’s not even a “side effect” that I could have really anticipated as a young woman with a conviction but no great yearning for a passel full of children.

Because, truth be told, I never had idealistic dreams of many small hands tugging at my skirts, and I am almost never immediately enthralled with the idea of another baby once those positive signals show up on the test. (It takes a few days). Mostly, it’s the pregnancies themselves that I don’t love, but this much I can tell you: not one single one of my other “objections” has ever been anything other than fearful or selfish.

And that is the great side effect of bearing children of any number, as I’m sure every mother reading this knows. It makes you less selfish. Or at least it should.

blessed

As I said, this is true no matter the number, but I can’t deny that my own navel-gazing has lessened as each new child has joined our family. As our family grows, my own self-importance (not to be confused with worth) has diminished. And, y’all. It is so good.

Because I was never mine to begin with. I’ve been bought with the blood of the lamb, and every last precious child that he entrusts to my arms (and sometimes initially fearful heart) is simply a priceless loan from heaven. It’s a loan I can never repay and one which–like the manager who had much and, when he did well, was given even more as a reward–I desire with all my heart to steward well.

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Mama Life Hacks{#21}: The Penny System

So sorry for the radio silence, y’all. I have been fighting The Cold of Death since Saturday, and I feel like I’m just now emerging from the fog of hacking coughs and congestion into something resembling normalcy. Yip-to-the-ee.

So!

One of the questions that I have been asked fairly often over the past year or so is:

Do you still have outside help (aka: housecleaning help) in your home?

I have answered it here on the blog, but I know some of you are new, and (OF COURSE) not everyone reads every post, so I thought I’d answer it again:

No, we no longer have any cleaning help at our house. Nothing happened. Except that my kids got older and more capable of pitching in. I really feel like teaching them to be responsible for the home they live in is one of the best ways of instilling Biblical stewardship that I can convey to them, so when it became obvious that, between all of us, we were perfectly capable of handling the jobs that Teresa kept up with, we made the necessary adjustments (just FYI: by this point, Teresa had another job and had only been coming sporadically anyway, so it wasn’t a drastic change).

Teresa is our neighbor–a lady who had never been an “official cleaning lady” before but who needed a job when I needed some help. Shaun found her, actually, after I had a hormonal exhaustion fueled breakdown on the phone while he was gone on one of his (then) frequent work trips, and she was an absolute Godsend. She started working for us when I was about 5 months pregnant with the twins and continued until they were two…give or take. (I can’t remember exactly when she stopped coming). And she was wonderful because she did everything from helping me hang wallpaper to cleaning the refrigerator to the aforementioned laundry. She was a true renaissance woman, and I am so grateful for the blessing she was to us in a time when I had 5 kids, 6 and under, including twins. If I could, I would give the gift of House Help to every mama with little kids.

I answer the housekeeping question today because, as we clean, sometimes we need a little extra motivation to be excellent, and recently we have stumbled upon something that’s really motivating us to work hard.

For lack of a better term, I’m calling it The Penny System.

penny

{See those labeled jars? Yup, they’re a big part of the system. Also, see that pencil? It’s actually a “piggy bank” that holds all of the pennies…except the ones we keep out for rewards}

And it’s ridiculously simple…because any time I try to put a complicated system into effect in my house, it fails. Every. single. time.

So, what is it?

Well, Shaun had a big stash of pennies saved up. We had some cute jars with labels in the cabinets. Et voila!

A simple, effective system of reward (and sometimes punishment) was born.

Basically, we wrote (um, Shaun wrote…not my handwriting…although, I don’t know why I’m pointing that out because my handwriting’s not very good) all of the kids’ names (minus, Theo’s) on glass jars, and then we told them that, every time they did something that fell into a certain category of behavior, they’d get a penny.

penny1

Of course, the little girls were all, “WHOOO! I get a money in my jar!!” Because they have no clue how inconsequential a penny is. But the older kids, while excited, were a little daunted by how many “good deeds” it would take to save up for anything worthwhile.

Until we told them that the pennies themselves are not spendable. Instead, they are to be used as tokens, which can buy privileges. For example, the other night, both Ezra and Simon paid 2 pennies apiece to stay up 10 minutes past bedtime to play Rat a Tat Cat (totally fun card game…highly recommend) with me and Shaun.

penny4

(I doubt you can read this, and it’s hardly an exhaustive list, but that white paper has the gist of our Penny System tasks and rewards on it).

To earn those two pennies, they did something out of the ordinary from their usual list of chores (for which they are compensated in actual money).

Shaun made a quick list of categories and possible actions that could earn pennies (usually just one, but sometimes several).

Some are attitude related (helping without being asked with a cheerful spirit) and are somewhat arbitrary as to whether they are rewarded or not. Simon changed Theo’s diaper the other day without being asked (not something I have him do normally anyway), and you’d better believe he got a penny for it. But then, he wiped up a spill in the middle of dinner without being asked and did not. Both were thoughtful gestures, but as much as we want them to feel motivated to go above and beyond, we also don’t want their desire to help to be fueled solely by an expectation of reward. More often than not, when they do something unusually helpful or kind, they do get rewarded, but they know not to complain (and don’t, actually) about the times when they are not. (Because the fastest way to lose your penny is to complain).

Other categories are more straightforward. For example, Ezra, Simon, and Della have all received 10 pennies for memorizing all 66 books of the Bible. It was on the list. They did it. They got their prize.

The twins are only 3 (almost 4, though!), so their pennies usually come from attitude-related tasks. I mentioned that we work hard to encourage respectful speech. But the twins just weren’t doing a good job of asking without pretty much demanding whatever it is they wanted.

So, we explained that they would get a penny every time they said, “May I please,” instead of “I want.” We’ve been at this for about a month now, and although they’re not perfect yet, they’re better. And if they don’t ask correctly the first time, they almost always correct themselves without being prompted.

Not only that, but as we repeat the same positive actions over and over, everyone is getting a little better about looking for ways to be extra-helpful with a good attitude.

The thing I love the most about it? (Other than the results). I don’t have to hunt for a marker or order a chart. I don’t have to buy stickers or keep up with rows. It either happens or it doesn’t. And, as they “pay” us for their privileges, we are even recycling our “tokens,” which means that the system has a lot of long term potential.

I realize that, if you don’t have a lot of pennies lying around, this isn’t ideal for you, but you could use anything from paper clips to buttons instead.

I do think the penny idea is kind of genius (especially for little kids) just because we’re dealing in actual money, but I’m sure the system could work for a variety of circumstances with a little bit of tweaking.

penny3

{I really love my Paint and Prose “Just Roll With It” print}

Anyhoo, I just thought I’d share something that’s actually working for our family to make us extra-mindful of caring for our house and each other.

And I’m also thinking I’d be a whole lot more motivated to go sort the laundry if someone were going to put some pennies in a jar for me.

Anybody? Any…okay fine. I’ll just go do it. (Apparently, I need to work on the attitude aspect of this whole business).

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You asked. I attempted to answer (Part II)

If you already read Part I, then you already know what Part II is about, so let’s just jump right in, shall we?

{Just be warned that, if you thought last time was long, holy cow! Several more questions rolled in, and this one is a doozy, y’all}

I’d love to hear how to deal with some of the more negative sides of pregnancy with so much (seeming) ease on your blog. Varicose veins, exhaustion, homebirth nay-sayers, etc.

My (seeming) ease on the blog definitely has a lot to do with the fact that this is not an acceptable place for me to vent. Sure, I am as honest as possible, but I am not here to complain. My husband gets an earful every now and then, so just know that, just because I don’t say it here, it doesn’t mean that nothing ever bothers me.

HOWEVER, in answer to your specific topics:

  • VARICOSE VEINS ARE FROM THE DEVIL. Oh. my. word. I DESPISE them. I never really had them before the twins (just a few light blue lines in the back of my right leg), but they’ve progressively gotten worse and worse until they hurt like the Dickens, and I’ve stopped wearing shorts or “shorter” skirts of any kind because it literally looks like my right leg is diseased (yippee!). My mom says that Bilberry is a good supplement to take, and my midwife recently told me about Butcher’s Broom, which is supposed to help a lot, so I’ll be ordering both of those very soon. I used to take a Vitamin K supplement, which I need to get back to. Just lazy, I guess.
  • EXHAUSTION IS ALSO FROM THE DEVIL…but a good reminder that I truly cannot do it all while I’m pregnant. I have given myself so much grace the last two pregnancies to nap as much as possible, even if it means telling Ezra and Simon that they may put on Peppa Pig for the twins and Della while Theo sleeps, and they are required to read quietly in the room with them while I lie down for 45 minutes. Much harder to do when you have little bitties, but chances are, they take naps, and I’ve learned to just lie down when they lie down, regardless of the laundry piling up. Also, I drink It Works Greens–a natural source of fruits, veggies, fiber, and energy. It helps.
  • HOME BIRTH is awesome. I don’t like the pain, but I LUUUUUURVE being in my own bed holding my wee babe. I have never for a moment felt unsafe, and I know that, if a complication arises, my midwife will be very swift to send me to the hospitable 10 minutes away. Maybe it’s because of where I live (conservative, family-friendly area), but I haven’t dealt with too many naysayers. I do know that my mother-in-law, who is a nurse, gets some flack from her colleagues and will sometimes come to me with questions. I just answer them and tell her to tell them to mind their own business (nicely, of course). :)
I’d like to know about having more kids. What’s it like? How much more does each child bring of chaos and stress. I’m really hoping to have more, so just any and all info on adding another child and large families in general.

Hmm…there’s this adjustment period every time we have a new kid that feels both strangely peaceful and insanely chaotic. We don’t know what our new normal is, but we’re also not doing nearly as much as we usually do because, hello, new baby.

There are usually a few nights in a row whose soundtrack is: “Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind…up in here..up in here.” For real.

Pretty quickly, though, new routines start to emerge. And patterns of behavior that are causing either chaos or order become clear. We tweak. We adjust. We lose our tempers. We apologize. We extend grace. And then, sooner than you’d think, we adjust to the new normal that is however many kids, and it’s all good.

Notice I did NOT say “easy.” Because #hardisnotthesamethingasbad

Also, the younger they all are, the crazier it is. Because they’re soooooo neeeeeedy. I find myself in a really sweet spot at the moment of having two (almost three; Della’s getting closer) really helpful, sweet, thoughtful older kids who are a genuine source of support and encouragement to me. They’re not perfect. But then, neither am I. And most days, I can rattle off a list of what they need to do, and they just get it done (after I repeat several items on the list several times, of course. They’re still boys).

A perfect example would be the homeschool co-op I mentioned on Monday. The first morning was pretty hectic and crazy-making, even though we’d prepared the night before. The second time was better, but I still had to do a lot of reminding. This week was thisclose to perfect. Everybody knew what was expected, and Ezra asked me multiple times: “Mama, what else can I do to help?” Next week, hopefully, we’ll have Simon and Della on board, and we’ll be golden.

It’s a constant process of adjustment, give and take, and recalibration. It’s far from perfect. But it’s definitely doable. Joyful, even! (Some days…should be all days…but just keepin’ it real).

From your blog posts you always seem to be so patient and calm— how do you do it?! Can you share how are you able to juggle homeschooling, housework– cooking, laundry, cleaning, organizing, etc. with teaching aerobics, grocery shopping, just motherhood and all that comes with it?! Do you have a large circle of support from family, friends, babysitter? I have 4 kids and there are so many days that I feel so impatient exhausted and overwhelmed. I sometimes feel that I am just on survival mode. Would love to hear how you manage everything. Do your kids play sports that you are required to chauffeur them around? What meals do you prepare and can you start sharing more on your blog or Facebook, recipes? Thank you so very much.

Like whoa. That was a lot of questions, girl. ;)

But good ones. So, here I go…laughing all the way because a) NO, I am NOT always calm and patient and b) I had no idea that was the impression I gave on my blog.

I lose my temper, same as anyone else. But I find that, if I’ve had a decent amount of sleep, taken the time to do Bible reading, and EATEN (huge for me; I have issues with “hang-er”…”h-anger?” I have no idea how to spell that so it doesn’t look a) weird or b) like something you should put clothes on), I can usually deal with most of the crazy in at least a semi-gentle (sometimes full on kind; sometimes all I can manage is business-like) way.

I have major triggers. For example, getting out of the door with 6 kids is always challenging, but I expect that, and it doesn’t bother me too much. HOWEVER. If I’m late, and the twins (it’s usually the twins) decide to have a meltdown as we walk out the door, I turn into Nazi-Mom, barking orders, and doling out discipline willy-nilly. So…I try (oh, how I try) to avoid those triggers. Some days, it’s unavoidable, and I do okay. Sometimes, I lose it and have to apologize. But “knowing thy (my) self” (what brings out the mean mama in me) and PRAYER are about the only things that help me keep it together on those overly emotional days when it feels like every screech is an ice pick to the brain (and then, there are 3 days in a row that are totally zen, and I start to feel like I’ve really got this mama-ing thing licked…which is pretty much the moment when the Lord lowers the humble boom and shows me just how much I have yet to learn).

In answer to the rest of your questions: HERE’S THE THING. I do NOT do it all. Not really. But I genuinely do not feel crazy most of the time either. Mostly because I keep it simple.

Yes, I cook. Yes, I clean (with help from my kids). Yes, I home school (although, we’re doing the co-op, AND my mom’s helping again this year, so I won’t have as much…except that the twins are starting preschool work, so…yeah…we’ll see). Yes, I exercise. But I do NOT: volunteer anywhere (not anymore, anyway), attend a Bible study, always take a daily shower (#ew), attend a MOPS group, or….insert any number of things that lots of other moms do that I just don’t. My life is pretty basic: home, husband, kids, family, friends, church, gym, blog (oh, and then there’s that whole building a house and running a business thing, but let’s not talk about those right now, m’kay?). When I complicate it beyond that, things get wonky. (See the last two I mentioned + being pregnant; oy!).

I naturally struggle with physical (as opposed to time) organization (slowly but surely getting better as I get rid of more and more stuff), so I have to keep that SUPER-basic. There’s always at least one legitimately messy room in my house (usually my bedroom, where all of the extra stuff that doesn’t have a true home goes to die). And I have plenty of unfinished projects that have been waiting on my attention for ages.

All of the things that I seem to do well and/or effortlessly are my strong points. Of course, I’m going to seem good at those. I like to exercise. I’m a good (albeit simple) cook, and I spend a lot of time training my children, so we get along well and keep the house in okay shape most of the time.

But for every thing I’m good at, there are ten that escape me. And I’m just over here marveling at what Y’ALL do: cleaning your baseboards and windows regularly (whuuuutt?), making your own kombucha, gardening, doing really fun/creative projects with your kids, reading 3 educational books a month, crocheting, learning a new skill, getting dressed in real clothes every day (ha!), etc.

We all have strengths and weaknesses, and I’ve learned to play to mine and let the rest go to the extent that it’s not laziness (although, sometimes, there’s some laziness involved).

As far as meals, here are a lot of my go-tos plus great suggestions in the comments.

As far as kid recreational activities: yes, we have a few. So far: piano and soccer…for all three older kids. They don’t seem to mind the sameness one bit and have expressed zero interest in doing something different. Heaven help us when the day comes that they do.

As far as a support circle: I don’t use regular babysitters (as long as you don’t count the gym childcare) or nannies, but my mom is an angel and takes my big kids home with her one night a week (they’ve been doing this since they were each 2, respectively). My in-laws are also very sweet and will take the older kids or even all of them on the weekend occasionally. So, while I’m rarely without ANY kids unless I’m teaching an exercise class, I still consider myself blessed with help.

How do you discipline your kids?

Such a loaded, loaded question. Y’all be nice, okay?

So, I think this question has more to do with teaching them to do right rather than punishment (based on the fact that it was attached to another question that seemed to imply this). As in: how do you teach your children to be disciplined?

And I just have to return to training. And repetition. And NEVER growing weary of doing good.

Yes, we have to punish. We do spank (especially when they’re younger), use timeout, and take away privileges (especially when they’re older). We also talk about the “heart” of the matter (the why of the action and the sin that’s causing it) all. the. flipping. time.

I have zero interest in raising robot children who “follow the rules” by rote without ever thinking about why they’re doing it or who they’re doing it for (the Lord, others, themselves, in that order), only to discover, 15 years later, that they don’t have any reason to continue.

As far as the practical nitty-gritties, this one is huge for us: TERMS OF RESPECT.

Our children are required to say Yes/No Ma’am/Sir to every single adult they encounter. They are required to say “May I please” and, “Thank you” when they ask for/receive something. And they are required to make eye contact with the person with whom they’re speaking. “Yeah,” and “Okay” and “No,” are not acceptable responses. And they are required to do all of this with a cheerful attitude, instead of a sullen one.

Some of you are probably thinking: “Basic.”

Others are going: “Dude, they’re hardcore.”

Shaun is originally from the North where the Ma’ams and Sirs aren’t as much a thing as in the South, and he was originally skeptical of my wanting to do this. But now he’s TOTALLY on board.

Because here’s the thing that we have found with our children: respectful speech often dictates respectful actions. (It’s like that whole bit in James 3 about the tongue being like the small rudder that controls the whole big ship).

A slouchy, grouchy, “Yeah, Mom,” is often followed by dragging the feet and whining about a chore.

A cheerful, “Yes Ma’am,” is often followed by swift execution, which makes us all happier because I don’t have to nag or punish, and they’re done with the task more quickly.

It’s such a simple thing, but it is SO hard to train because it takes so. much. repetition. Once they’ve got it, though, I notice a difference/improvement in both behavior and attitude almost immediately. (I’m already starting to train Theo to say “Yes ma’am,” and he’s hilariously resistant, the little sinner).

Between talking about doing things “as unto the Lord” all the time and striving to address each other respectfully, I don’t have TOO many issues that need actual punishment with the older ones these days (usually just a bit of “come to Jesus” attitude recalibration). The youngers are another story (as noted above, Theo is juuuuuust getting into his “expressing my independence stage,” and it’s both fun and “fun”), but I believe they’ll get there.

Have you dealt with any jealousy among the younger ones yet? Also how do you get your little ones to sleep through the night when you nurse? We are at the brink of 11 months and my not so little guy refuses to sleep through the night which makes this mommy exhausted with a 3 and 8 year-old during the day.

Nope, no jealousy yet, thank the Lord. I’ve had my worries before, but they’ve never come to fruition. My kids fight, sure, but they also really, genuinely like each other–again–thank the Lord.

Oh, and here’s the post I wrote on my go-to sleep-training tips (most are too young for him, but maybe you’ll see something that helps).

What is your stance on sleepovers?

Honestly? Not a big fan. I would make exceptions for close, trusted friends/family, but I remember all too well some of the junk that I was exposed to (that still sticks in my brain 25 years later…close your eyes, Mom!) that I wish I hadn’t seen at such an early age (or ever) on sleepovers.

We haven’t had to address it hardly at all (yet), but we will do so prayerfully and as Biblically as we can when the situation arises.

I’ve got a bunch of little kids (4 to be exact, with the oldest at age 6). When, do you feel like is the turning point for their going from helpless to genuinely helpful?

Side note: when I read this, I think, “Oh, Mama. You are one busy woman. Bless you.” And then, I remember, “Duh. I have 4, 5 and under, and will soon have 5, 6 and under.” Ha! It really does help to have a couple of older ones to balance out my perspective, though.

I think the magic number for us has been between 6 and 7. They’re still pretty limited on tasks, but they’re able to communicate well and see problems that need solving like: Mom needing helps carrying things to the car. They also start to take a little more initiative and ownership of their responsibilities around that age. But, of course, your mileage may vary. You might get a very early or late bloomer.

It ever hard to say “we are open to as many babies as God sends us.”? I hate being asked “so are you done?” or “this is the last one right?” I also cringe at my own embarrassment at answering this question. Maybe I need to just practice saying it so I can answer the question and move on! It seems I always stand there stammering and embarrassed trying to defend or explain our family. Oi! It’s a joy to follow your blog. Keep up the good work mama!

I get it, girl.  I do. But I don’t mind being asked the question because I’ve begun to see it as an opportunity (that I wouldn’t normally get) to tell people about the Lord. I understand the cringing, though, because it’s hard not to project what we assume people are thinking of us (cuh-razy) onto their expected reaction once we tell them. I usually just say, “No, we’re not done…at least as far as we know. We leave the ultimate number up to God, so we’ll see how it goes!” Insert big smile. I haven’t yet met a person who will respond (outwardly) negatively to that response. They very well may be thinking, “You’re nuts,” or, “Glad it’s you and not me,” and that’s fine. But at least I’ve had a chance to give the Lord the credit, and eeeeeevery now and then, it leads to something more meaningful.

What are your reasons for homeschooling? I have homeschooled and now we are trying public school. I would homeschool 100% but I feel like my sanity is an issue! But I totally love homeschooling! So tell me your perspective please!

I feel like my sanity is an issue!” This made me laugh.

We home school because we genuinely believe that, for our family, it is the best and most effective way to raise lights in a darkened world. THAT is my primary goal in education–not math, reading, writing, or history. Although, OF COURSE, we teach all of those diligently, and I believe that God made our brains to soak up the knowledge of all of the goodness and order with which he imbued his creation.

I believe that, as their mother, I am called to be the primary influencer of their learning, and I don’t know how to do that if they’re gone 8 hours a day.

We also love the flexibility it provides our large family to spend lots of unstressed time together and to explore God’s creation/take trips at odd times of year/keep going during the summer (which we did at a more relaxed pace this summer).

There’s also so much opportunity for tailoring each child’s education to his/her own learning needs AND the opportunity to speed ahead in areas of strength and take your time in areas of weakness.

I know homeschooling is not for everyone, but we love it (yes, the kids too!), and it’s truly ideal for us.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Aaaaand I’m out…of words, thoughts, ideas…all of it.

Well. Almost. There was one question that I’ll address in its own blog post, but for now, I think I’m done.

{Doesn’t mean I won’t answer more in the comments if you think of more}

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You asked. I attempted to answer.

Okay, so it’s only taken me, um, well, I’d rather not count how long, to finally get a post together answering some of the (really great!) questions y’all asked about motherhood, but let me just put a big ol’ disclaimer out there: despite being a mother to almost-7, I am NOT a mothering expert. I know what works for our family. I know lots of things that don’t work. And I know what the Bible says. That, plus a lot of prayer and a really wise, supportive husband, is how I get it done each and every day.

I think most of you were already aware of all of these caveats, since your questions are about how we do our thing. But I just wanted to reiterate it, just in case someone who isn’t as familiar with this blog comes along and thinks that I’m trying to lay down some sort of motherhood law for the whole land. Do I think some things are universal? Sure. But every single mama + kid combo is different (whether you have 1 or 13), and I would be a fool to think I have “it all” figured out. (I don’t).

Phew.

Okay, moving on.

I don’t think there’s any way that I can get through all of your questions in one post, so I’ll be splitting them up into at least two, but I thought I’d tackle a handful in no particular order this morning as I sit at my “grading table” at our home school co-op, having already blazed through a stack of grammar workbooks (I’ll share more about this new part of our routine sometime soon).

All right, here we goooooo…

How do you handle bedtime with that many? I have one, and it’s a nightmare.

Honestly, although I will freely admit that some of my most challenging mothering days were when I “only” had two kids, and they were both very small (they are 18 months and 3 days apart, so my days were filled with a whole lot of bottom wiping and tantrum subduing with very little conversation beyond grunts and baby babble), I don’t remember really having a bedtime battle until Della hit age 2. Before that, she was the easiest kid in the world to get to bed, and the boys were good too. Part of that is due to sleep-training from an early age. Part of that is due to natural temperament. Part of that is due to the fact that we’re pretty consistent with our bedtime rituals, so they knew what to expect.

But, at age 2, Della suddenly decided she was afraid of the dark, and thus began a cycle of bedtime meltdowns and middle-of-the-night wake-ups. They really didn’t end completely (and were dealt with with lots of prayer, midnight counseling sessions, and various rotating methods of calming her down) until we moved the twins into her room (and even then, there were some hiccups), but she did eventually work through a great deal of her fearfulness and can now sleep in the dark and go to bed without complaint.

I give you that long, convoluted history to encourage you that, if you’re still in the stage of only small ones going to bed, you may have some training to do yet, and that’s okay. Just hang in there!

At this point, though, Theo goes to bed around 7:30-8 without (much) complaint in his crib in the dark in the nursery.

And all of the “older” kids know that when we tell them to do their bedtime routines (usually around 8), they are to: potty, put on p.j.s, and brush and floss their teeth. The olders help the youngers, and while it can be a bit of a chaotic process some nights (depending on the twins’ level of orneriness), it gets done. Shaun then reads them a Bible story and prays with them. I bring them their water and give them hugs and kisses. And then we turn out the lights, and they go to bed. If they talk quietly for a little while, that’s fine. If they are loud and rowdy, they get disciplined.

Honestly, I think the absolute most important thing is consistency and routine (almost always, but especially with things like bedtime). Because they know what to expect, they don’t complain *too* much (except, of course, if, heaven forbid, we ever skip our nightly sip of water or any other such atrocity).

I spend all day giving and giving of myself until I feel like there’s nothing left. What do you do to recharge and reclaim at least a little bit of your own identity?

Okay, so first of all, the absolute, complete, and total truth is that my identity is in Christ, and my life is not my own. HOWEVER, I know exactly what this mama means, and my answer is very simple, albeit two-fold:

1) I write this blog. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it also allows me to “talk” to all kinds of women that I wouldn’t otherwise encounter. It helps me to know I am being a blessing (I hope) to others–that I have a ministry outside of my primary one, which is, of course, my family. AND it helps me exorcise a few of my writing “demons.” Because I think my life would be the poorer if I didn’t writing anything.

And

2) I teach fitness classes. I get so many questions about how I make time for exercise with so many kids and homeschooling, but the fact of the matter is that my gym has childcare, and I get paid to exercise, so it’s a total no-brainer for me. We go every afternoon M-F, and it’s kind of my happy place. As well as another opportunity for ministry (and social engagement for my children). Yes, sometimes, it’s stressful to keep up with prepping for my classes and hauling the kids to the gym, but I always feel better/refreshed/energized afterwards…even when I’m pregnant and dragging my tired body along. I honestly think that a gym membership with childcare is pretty much the golden ticket of paradise (only a slight exaggeration). Even if you don’t like to do hardcore stuff like I do, you can take a stroll around the track with a good book in your ears or a dip in the whirlpool tub.

No matter how much I advocate for selflessness in motherhood, we all need a little something to recharge and bring a little joy (outside of our children) into our lives.

At what point do you feel comfortable leaving your child/baby with others? And maybe too personal but do you use a breast pump? If so, do you have any suggestions or recommendations?

My gym accepts babies at 12 weeks, so that’s when they start going there. Before that, they’re pretty much always with me or, possibly, a trusted relative. That’s about the same time I would leave them with the church childcare or anywhere else I feel comfortable. As far as breast pumps, I have used them a fair bit, but I am SO low-tech. I have only ever had any luck with an Avent hand pump (I’ve never even tried the electric kinds).

I am just wondering how you wrap your mind around motherhood- this is vague- but I mean, with each child I feel like it’s been a huge adjustment for me and it takes me awhile to figure out where I am as an individual when all the dust settles of a new little blessing. I guess identity and goals and such. I am a believer and I know that my identity comes from Christ first of all. Maybe I am not making sense- but basically how do you wrap your mind around another life you are in charge of?

So, this kind of touches on that earlier question about recharging and identity, but–honestly–the best thing I can do to prepare for each new baby is to do the practical/concrete things and then trust that baby to the Lord. And pray for him every day. I don’t have a lot of rituals. I don’t even think too deeply about it. That may sound cavalier. But I have found, consistently, that if I think too much about the reality of another baby, I start to worry. What if they don’t sleep well? What if they have colic? What if the current “baby” doesn’t adjust well or is jealous? NONE of those are things I have any control of whatsoever, and the more I own that and “with all prayer and petition, present my requests to the Lord” and let his “peace that passes all understanding” fill me, the less I stress. Then, I’m prepared with some level of composure to deal with whatever challenges the new baby does present. I’m by no means perfect at this, but I’m getting better.

Okay, folks. Is anybody still awake? Hopefully, that was more helpful that snooze-worthy. I’ll be back with the rest of the “answers” soon (I’ve already written them, but this post is already out-of-control long).

Hope you have a lovely Monday!

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