W, X, Y – “We’re [E]xcited for You!”

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

excited dogThis is the phrase I’ve always wanted to hear from my family when we announce a pregnancy, but never have. Actually, want I really want to hear is, “CONGRATULATIONS!! We are so happy for you!” And I would like it to be genuine. But, apparently, that’s too much to ask.

With every baby, there’s been some reason for them to be disappointed, worried, annoyed, or whatever else. Because of that, they have never rejoiced with me about the discovery of a new baby. Not even once. And it makes me sad.

With baby number one, I wasn’t married yet. I was in my 20s and about to graduate college. They were, understandably, less than pleased. But I really think it had less to do with morality than it had to do with me making them look bad.

With baby number 2, they were still waiting for my hubby and I to realize that we would never make it, and should never have gotten married in the first place. This second baby was just going to make it more complicated when we finally came to our senses and got divorced.

With baby number 3, we were starting to teeter too closely to being “big.” On top of that, my mother reminded me of an article I once showed her regarding ADHD and family size. The author concluded that it was best for those with ADHD to limit their family size; she felt they were incapable of juggling the demands of family life. Since I had been diagnosed with ADHD my first semester of college, I, too, must be incapable of handling family life, especially the demands of a large family.

With baby number 4, we were officially big in their eyes. My father asked if we were trying to keep up with the Duggars. (Because 4 is super close to 19…) After I joked about being a good subject for reality tv, he made a really hurtful comment about the fact that I’m pursuing a masters degree and reproducing. I love my Daddy dearly, so it really hurt.

With baby number 5, my parents refused to acknowledge that I was pregnant. Several weeks after they found out my mother said, “Don’t worry; we’re not mad.” I was well into my second trimester before they asked when I was due.

I think, maybe, this is why I’m so sensitive when strangers make rude remarks about my family size. I want so desperately for my family to celebrate my pregnancies, but they refuse. Somehow, I think that makes it harder to accept strangers’ negative reactions. You might think that it would toughen me up, but it doesn’t.  It makes me extra sensitive.

And, just in case you’re wondering, I don’t ask for anything from my parents. They don’t even babysit, so it’s not like my family size is a burden on them in any way. They just don’t approve, and they make sure I know it. And like I said earlier, it really makes me sad.

I can’t imagine what they will say or do if we’re ever blessed with baby number 6. I’m sure it won’t be great, but, for some reason, I just can’t let go of the hope that they might be really excited for us.

V is for [Lady Parts]

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Mack-TruckI’ve only been asked about this sensetive topic twice in person. Both times it was a friend who asked, so I wasn’t offended.

I have a girlfriend who was verbally attacked in the grocery store by some crazy lady who made some incredibly inappropriate comments about how she could probably park a Mack truck in the land down under.

Crazy people aside, it’s a topic I frequently see asked in online forums where mommies-to-be gather.

So, just in case you’ve ever wondered, (or you’re a crazy person wondering whether the hateful things you say to mothers of larger families are accurate) everything goes back to normal. And fairly quickly. The human body is an amazing thing. Women’s bodies are made to give birth. Except for rare tragedies, birth does not permanently damage our bodies. Not even the more sensitive parts.

Sorry, Mack trucks, you’ll have to find somewhere else to park.

R is for “R” you done yet?

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

Some of my crew at our friend's baptism on Easter.

Some of my crew at our friend’s baptism on Easter.

“You’re done now, right?”

It feels like I get asked this every time I leave my house.

I know a guy who has 10 children. He said that his response to curious folks is this: “If you had 10 million dollars and someone wanted to give you another million, wouldn’t you want it?”

That’s a cute answer.

Even though I’ve been asked hundreds of time, I never know what to say. I just smile and sheepishly say something along the lines of, “Oh, I don’t know. Guess we’ll have to wait and see…”

People always seem puzzled by my response. But it’s the truth.

When I was in high school, I used to say I wanted 5 kids. Once I had two, I decided that was crazy talk and I didn’t want any more. I obviously changed my mind at some point and had baby number 3. After my third child, I decided it might not be so bad to be completely open to whatever happened indefinitely, even if that meant we ended up with a small army. After my fourth, I was heartbroken because I thought I might like to have more kids, but could never see myself going through labor and delivery again. Now, here I am holding my precious baby number 5.

I love my family. We are perfect just the way we are. If we never had another baby, I’d be ok with that. Our home is full of love and laughter and chaos.

But every new baby multiples that. And, as they grow, they bring a new personality and a new perspective into the mix. Each child is a completely unique and unrepeatable person that we wouldn’t have the joy of knowing if we hadn’t brought them into our family.  That’s why it seems crazy to me to say I’d never want to have another child.

So, now I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell the strangers in the checkout line: I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

K is for Keeping up Appearances

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

50s familyI recently took dinner to a friend from church. She just had her 5th baby and 5th c-section. She answered the door and she looked FABULOUS. She was dressed cute, had makeup on, her hair was curled…the works.

I complimented her appearance and she said something like, “Well, we had our two week checkup today. I couldn’t take all the kids to the pediatrician looking run-down and haggard.”

I knew exactly what she meant.

Every time I take my family anywhere I put so much pressure on them and myself.

I fix my hair and put on makeup. I frantically try to find something to wear that is cute, clean, somewhat stylish, happens to fit my postpartum body, and also provides easy access for nursing.

As for the kids, I ensure they’re clean and well-dressed before we leave the house. Then, on the way to wherever we’re going, I spend several minutes reviewing appropriate behavior for whatever setting we will be in.

When we get back in the car from wherever we’ve been, I review every detail of their performance that could have been better. I even include my poor husband in the review.

It’s insane. (The above description of my behavior really doesn’t do it justice. That’s the sugar-coated version. I’m really kind of a lunatic.)

Because we have a somewhat large family, people often say ugly things to us in public. Over the years, I’ve worked really hard to try to eliminate everything that strangers can possibly critique or use as ammunition against us when we’re out an about. I guess I figured that if we appeared perfect, they wouldn’t be able to say anything ugly.

But the truth is, it hasn’t worked. Even when my kids are looking pristine and on their very best behavior, people still say ugly things.

So I quit.

Or at least I’m trying to.

I’m really trying to quit putting on a show for everyone. I’m really trying to just be us, for better or for worse. I’m really trying to stop making myself and my family crazy.

I certainly still expect my kids to behave appropriately, but I’m shifting my focus. I’m teaching them to behave appropriately because it’s the right thing to do, not because I’m worried about what some stranger might think or say.

I’m done keeping up appearances for the sake of my family.

…And because I’ve finally realized that I can’t control what other people think, say, or do anyway…no matter how hard I try.

 

 

 

H is for “How Do You Do it?”

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series. 

2014-03-06 15.37.40“How do you do it?” This is one of the most common questions I get asked. People observe my family size and automatically assume that I must be more patient, more organized, or richer than they are. The truth is, I’m not. I’m probably a lot like you. And I haven’t uncovered any secret parenting advice that makes everything magically fall in to place either.

I’m just a mom who loves being a mom (most days) and who is willing to do what it takes to make it work.

Just like you, I take my challenges one day at a time. I prioritize and problem-solve the best way I know how.

Sometimes I even have to swallow my pride and ask for help.

I wish I had some secret parenting advice to share. Then, maybe I could write a best seller and travel and get rich sharing my secret with the world. Then, I wouldn’t need to be patient or organized because I could just hire people to help with whatever tasks I didn’t want to do. But, alas, that’s not the world I live in. And I think I prefer it that way.

When my friends become new mommies they always call and ask me for my secrets. I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I probably leave them disappointed. All I say is,

Never count the dirty diapers or lost hours of sleep. Only count the precious moments like baby smiles and the “wuv you”s uttered by your toddler.

Remember that you and your husband are a team; it’s way too easy to make him the enemy and take things out on him.

And, most importantly, be patient with YOURSELF. You’re just learning how to be a mommy. It takes a lot of hard work and will stretch you in ways you never knew you could bend.

G is for Grateful

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

My family of 7 can be a lot of work. Some days I find myself so completely drained and exhausted that I can’t quite remember what it feels like to just be me. (That usually means my priorities are some how out of whack and that I’m not taking care of myself, but sometimes it takes me a few days or weeks to figure that out.)

Other days, my heart is so full and overflowing that I don’t have the words to adequately express the joy that my family brings me.

Today was a lot more like the former.

Caring for a newborn is exhausting. Because I nurse my baby and I co-sleep, I literally (Yes, literally.) have someone on my person about 23.5 hours a day. I’m not complaining about this; I’m just stating the facts. The truth is I wouldn’t trade either of those for a little more time to myself. This very needy newborn period is short-lived and well worth it in the long run. But that doesn’t change the fact that it takes a huge toll on me. If I’m not careful to take care of myself, it can easily become overwhelming.

Christmas Morning fun 2013. We're our own party.

Christmas Morning fun 2013. We’re our own party.

One of the things I like to do when my attitude is getting out of whack is list out the reasons I’m grateful for my big family. The list of reasons varies from time to time and isn’t in any particular order, other than the order things pop in my head.

Today I’m going to share one such list with you.

I am grateful for my big family because…

  1. My kids always have someone to play with.
  2. And they have someone else to play with when the first playmate makes them mad.
  3. There’s always someone to curl up and snuggle with.
  4. Life is never dull.
  5. There’s a chorus of people who are excited to see you if you’ve been away briefly.
  6. We all learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is priceless. Every child has their own perspective and observations. I get to see the world through all of their eyes.
  8. When I’ve got my hands full, there is always someone nearby who is willing to help.
  9. There’s always enough people to play games. Board games. Card games. Duck, duck, goose. We’ve got the players!
  10. Dinner time conversations are amazing! Sometimes they’re hysterical. Sometimes they’re surprisingly insightful. You never know what might pop out of the kids’ mouths to the captive audience at the dinner table.
  11. And you never know how the next kid might run with or twist whatever was just said.
  12. We have tons of inside jokes.
  13. We have many natural opportunities to learn basic skills like sharing, taking turns, expressing frustration appropriately, etc.
  14. And we all provide each other with plenty of opportunities to serve someone besides yourself.
  15. All of our little athletes have an automatic cheering section at their games.
  16. Kids come up with really creative solutions to problems. We get creative solutions from all of them, so we usually get a solution we can work with.
  17. We get a lot of tax deductions.
  18. Christmas Morning fun 2013. We're our own party.

    Christmas Morning fun 2013. We’re our own party.

    We’re the life of the party. Every extended family function gets kicked up a notch when we arrive with our family.

  19.  There’s always something to celebrate. (Baptismal anniversaries and birthdays) x 7 = lots of parties
  20.  When we work together, we can get the whole house cleaned in an hour.
  21.  Seeing my older kids with my babies is such a phenomenal gift. I can’t explain what it’s like to see the big ones care for and find joy in the littles. They truly delight in one another. It’s beautiful.
  22.  Some women never get flowers. I get weed bouquets nearly every day.
  23. There’s always a reason to laugh.
  24.  Imaginary games get really amazing with multiple imaginations at work.
  25.  Little voices singing little songs always make me smile.

25 is a nice number, so I’ll stop there. But just remember…

There’s nothing that can change your attitude quite like a little gratitude!

SST # 6: Looking for our New Groove

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330Our sweet Sophia has been here for 3.5 weeks now. She is so perfectly amazing! But having a new person in the house, especially a demanding newborn type that doesn’t sleep very much, throws everything off. I like to imagine that my household normally runs like a well oiled machine. (I have a very active imagination.) But, thanks to our sweet little one, everything that used to run so “smoothly” has gone up in smoke. I don’t say that with any resentment or ill-feelings. Everything is exactly as it should be. Our life as a family of 6 no longer exists, so it only makes sense that there will be an adjustment period while we learn how to function as a family of seven. Before long, everything will be running along “smoothly” again. In the meantime it’s up-and-down and trial-and-error until we figure this thing out. This week I caught a few glimpses of our new life as a family of 7 falling into place. Those glimpses are my small successes of the week.

1. Date night with my hubby! Yes, it’s true! Our sitter was already in the habit of coming over on Monday nights for our childbirth class, so we decided to keep the routine going. We’re planning to have her over every other week for a real date night. I’m so excited! We spent our night out hitting up Costco for food for Soph’s baptism reception and then had an absolutely fantastic dinner at Bonefish Grill. Bonus points because Josh won a gift card for Bonefish at work. I think we spent around $20 for a fantastic evening. And Sophie was so good! I carried her in my fabulous Gemini baby carrier and she barely made a peep. Extra bonus points because I got to enjoy sweet snuggles and baby bonding simultaneously with my date night.

2. I got up with the kids. Since I’m awake quite a bit during the night with the babe, I’ve been sleeping in most mornings. But, one day this week, I was up with the kids at 6 AM. It made for a super smooth-sailing day and got me super excited about failing back into a routine. Granted, it only happened one day, but, like I said, these are just glimpses of what life will be like when we find our new groove.

2014-03-26 12.57.213. Andy learned to change a diaper! My sweet 8-year-old asked if he could learn to change diapers. At first I said no. He asked a few more times, and I finally decided that I need to take help where I can get it. So I taught him. And he did great! I’ve only let him change the 16-month-old. And only wet diapers, not dirty. But he is so proud of himself. And I’m very grateful for the help!

4. I ran an errand BY MYSELF with all the kiddos. I had to go turn in some paperwork at the church and return a casserole dish to one of the guys who works there, so I loaded up all the kiddos and we went. This is a really big deal for me. It usually takes nothing short of an act of God to get me out of the house for the first time when we add a new family member. Not knowing how to juggle them all in public really overwhelms me. But I did it! Well…sort of. We only went up to the Church, which isn’t exactly “public.” (Everyone who’s there during the day knows me.) And it’s only 5 minutes from my house. And only Ben, Sophie, and I got out of the car. And it was a quick errand, so there wasn’t much time for anyone to melt down or anything. But, hey, I put them all in the car and went somewhere BY MYSELF and that counts for something.

So there you have it. My small successes for the week. What are yours? Share them over at CatholicMom.com!