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.

L is for Labor

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 first moments as a mommy.

My first moments as a mommy.

Every labor is different. That’s what they say. After being in labor 5 times myself, I completely agree. This is what I’ve experienced:

Baby Number 1: I woke up having contractions in the wee hours. We hung around my house until mid morning, but still arrived at the hospital way too soon. I was only dilated to 4, but they decided to admit me. I got an epidural a short time later. It completely stalled my labor. The nurses kept saying I needed pitocin to get things going again. They called the doctor-on-call several times; he was golfing. He didn’t want to come in, so he wouldn’t order the pitocin. My doctor finally came in at 8:00 the next morning.  He started the pitocin and everything got moving again. I was so hungry and exhausted after being chained to the hospital bed by the epidural for so long. Finally, after 32 hours of labor, 2 hours of pushing, very little sleep, and no food, my sweet Andy arrived and made us a family.

Baby number 2: I went in for an office visit and was already dilated to 5. She sent me home, and I came back the next week with no change. My doctor ordered an induction because she said the baby might just “fall out” whenever I finally did go into active labor. Oh how I wish I knew then what I knew now. I went to the hospital, got induced, and took the epidural. About 8 hours later, after 20 short minutes of pushing, my sweet Jack was born in front of an audience of about 15 people. It was the first day of nursing school and apparently my delivery was just the spectacle they needed to get things going. It was absurd.

Baby Number 3: Supposedly, my baby was getting too big to deliver vaginally, so my doctor ordered an induction. I went to the hospital, got induced, and took the epidural. 8 hours later, after 2 quick pushes, my Ben was born and placed in my arms. This was the first time I had ever been given my baby right away. It was the most beautiful moment of my life. At 8 lbs 6 oz, he was the smallest baby I’d delivered up to that point.

Ben's delivery

Snuggling Ben right after delivery.

Baby Number 4: I learned a lot between baby 3 and 4 and decided I was done with all the unnecessary medical interventions. I woke up in labor around 1 AM. I was timing my contractions and  soon realized that this labor was moving very quickly. I woke my husband. He went to wake up all the kids and get them loaded in the van. In the meantime my water broke. We rushed to the hospital and arrived just in time to push the baby out. We dealt with the most unprofessional medical staff that night, but my baby was born safe and healthy after only 3 hours in labor and a few excruciatingly painful pushes.

Baby Number 5: My husband and I took a Bradley Class together to prepare for natural birth. This was the best labor experience I’ve ever had. I started having mild contractions at Lowes around 6 PM. They never started progressing so I finally went to bed around midnight. I woke up around 3 AM with more intense contractions. We went to the hospital around 7 AM.  I was already dilated to 7, but still had 6 more hours of labor ahead of me. After being told I wasn’t allowed to push because the doctor needed to go down the hall to check on someone else, my baby practically delivered herself. I guess the doctor didn’t realize that you can’t just tell the baby not to come out yet.

So that’s my labor experience in a nutshell. There’s so much more that could be said about all of my labors and deliveries, but I think you get the general idea.

If we are ever blessed with another baby I’m getting a midwife and having a home birth. I’m so over all the nonsense the doctors and hospitals put women through.

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.

A is for Anxiety

Every day for the month of April, I’m blogging about Adjusting to Life with Baby Number 5. This is the first post in said series

sound-of-music-andrews_lWhen I originally decided what I wanted to write about each day of this challenge, I thought I’d write my “A” post about how awesome a baby is. Not as in the everyday, overused connotation of awesome, rather,  in the true meaning of the word. I was going to write about babies being “awe-inspsiring.”  But, I touched on that the other day. Aside from that, the first moments, and even days and weeks after, I found out about our sweet Sophia weren’t exactly awe-inspiring. They were somewhat panic-filled. And, as they say, it’s best to start at the very beginning. Because of that, like my title says, A is for Anxiety.

Sophie was somewhat of a surprise. When we got pregnant with her, I had just completed my second year of grad school in a three year program. I was working in a really bad, borderline abusive work environment. AND we had a 7 month old, not to mention 3 other kids, whom, by the way, I homeschool. Life was more than busy. A new baby was not on my radar. Yet here she was. There was definitely a pink plus sign on that white stick.

I had no idea how I was going to juggle everything plus newborn.

I felt bad for our little Leila, who wasn’t going to get to be the baby for as long as she “should have” been.

More than anything, I had no idea how this new baby was going to get out of me short of some alien osmosis procedure because I had pretty much decided I was never, ever going through labor and delivery again. (I had a really bad experience with Leila’s L&D and I was no where near emotionally recovered.)

My head and heart swarmed with all the reasons I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t have another child. Especially not right now. But I looked back down at the stick. It didn’t seem to care about any of that because it said I was going to have another child. A couple weeks later, my doctor officially confirmed it. Despite all my reasons why this shouldn’t be happening, it was. I had a sonogram picture in my hand of my little 4 week old baby. We had become a family of 7.

 

SST # 5: Thank You, Grazie, Merci BEAUCOUP!!

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330On March 1 we welcomed our precious daughter into the world. It goes without saying that it was an incredibly joyous day and the days since have been full of moments of perfect beauty. There’s something about looking into the face of a newborn, especially one sleeping on your chest, happily drunk from having consumed her fill of milk…I don’t know the words for it. It’s almost as if you catch a glimpse of eternity. She embodies peace and happiness. Total dependency, yet complete autonomy. Immortality encapsulated in a fragile human body. All of time and the meaning of existence shines forth from that innocent little person. It’s incredible!

Because of the gift of new life in our house, I feel like every moment is a great big success. Granted, some moments are sleep deprived and some moments are a juggling act as I adjust to being a mommy of 5, but, overall, holding that precious gift that we named Sophie eclipses any of the struggles that come with being a new parent. Since I’m floating on cloud nine, I thought I’d dedicate this entry to all the people for whom I’m incredibly grateful. I won’t be detailing any of my own small successes, rather I want to thank and acknowledge all the people who have been such a gift as we have transitioned into life as a family of 7. (Brace yourself, this entry is a little long.)

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Sophie. 1 day old.

1. My husband, my fabulous labor & delivery nurse, Wendi & Kevin O’Brien, the Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth, and St. Colette. Sophie’s birth day was simply beautiful thanks to this incredible team of people. After 5 deliveries, 2 of which were all natural, I feel like I have some good notes for comparison about what to expect on “D-Day.” This was, without a doubt, my best delivery ever, despite it being my second longest. Wendi and Kevin are great instructors and prepared me, and, most importantly, my husband well for the big day. Despite this being baby number 5, there is a lot to learn if you want to have a successful peaceful natural birth, especially in a hospital setting. I keep meaning to write a whole post about all the reasons why I am in love with Dr. Bradley and so very grateful for his books and our fabulous instructors, but today is not that day. Suffice it to say, I am so very grateful for them! My L&D nurse, who was also incredible in so many ways and so very supportive of our desire to birth naturally, said that she had never witnessed a natural birth go as smoothly as mine  in her 19 years of delivering babies. That is completely thanks to the Bradley Method and my husband’s fidelity to assuming his role as coach. He did a phenomenal job, and I truly could not have gotten through without him! My husband is THE reason that I was calm, cool, and collected throughout my entire labor, but especially during the hours we spent laboring at the hospital.

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Josh and Soph, 2 hours old

Above all, I have to credit St. Colette, my sweet daughter’s patroness (Colette is her middle name) and the patroness of expectant mommies. After our last less-than-stellar birth experience, I was quite nervous about this one. I spent a lot of time begging her to help me out on D-DAY. And she did. I don’t believe in coincidences, so I fully credit her with our awesome nurse (Who was called in on her day off because L&D was swamped. And who sacrificed her daughter’s volleyball game to answer that call and come in to work. And who was weirdly connected to us in a strange 6 degrees of separation type way.) and with the fact that we got THE LAST L&D room (had we arrived any later, we would have been laboring and delivering in a busy triage room) and with the fact that a new mommy room just happened to open up for us, despite the fact that we weren’t supposed to get one because they were all full. Thank you, St. Colette, for interceding on my behalf!           

2. My husband. (yes, I already thanked him, but this is for a different reason.) Josh works for an incredible company. One of their many benefits is that fathers get a two week paternity leave after the birth or adoption of a new baby. This leave is granted ON TOP of any existing vacation. While I think our growing family may make them question this lovely policy, we are so grateful it exists. Josh was home with me for the last two weeks and he did a stellar job keeping the house running. I was blown away! He even kept up with the kids’ school work, so we weren’t behind at all when he went back to work. He cooked and cleaned and cared for all 4 of the other kiddos. All I had to do those first two weeks was sleep, eat, and snuggle my sweet Sophie. It was amazing!

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One of the beautiful meals we received.

3. Kate and all the people who signed up on the Care Calendar. My sweet friend Kate made a Care Calendar  for people to sign up to bring us meals. It started on Tuesday when Josh went back to work and is still filling up with our incredibly generous friends and acquaintances from Church and our homeschooling coop. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am not to have to worry about dinner. These first few days alone with the kiddos have been challenging, so it is such a gift to just have to open the door and say thank you before having a beautiful, home-cooked meal on the table. And let me tell you, these women can cook. Everything has been so delicious! On top of being generous enough to make us dinner, these women have even been kind enough to adhere to our new dietary standards. These women have their own large families and struggles and pregnancies and whatever else to deal with, yet they took the time from their hectic lives to make us dinner. I am so grateful to them all for their incredible generosity!

Kate also took my older boys to coop last week which was a gift for them, Josh, and me. They were bummed about the prospect of missing coop, but, thanks to her, they didn’t have to. Josh had been wrangling the four older kiddos by himself for several days at that point, so I’m sure he was grateful to have his duties cut in half. And I was super grateful for how quite the house was while they were gone. Thanks again to my dear friend! You are such an amazing gift!

So that’s it for me. I’d apologize for this post being so long, except for even this doesn’t fully express my gratitude to these individuals. What about you? What are your successes this week? Link up over at Catholicmom.com

Rediscover Reverence Campaign

This is what my veil looks like. It's a champagne color, which I love because it looks blends in with my hair and isn't as bold as white or black would be on me.

This is what my veil looks like. It’s a champagne color, which I love because it blends in with my hair and isn’t as bold as white or black would be on me.

On December 8, Veils by Lily, my very favorite place to shop (often window shop) for veils, and the only place from which I’ve ever purchased one, is launching a global movement to rediscover reverence at Mass. I think this is brilliant. And lovely.

Basically, it’s a challenge to begin veiling at Mass if you’ve ever felt called to do so.

Because the very mention of veils seems to put some on the defensive, I would like to begin by saying I do not and, more importantly, the Church does not think you are failing to properly reverence the Eucharist by choosing not to cover your head at Mass.

I do, however, think it is a beautiful tradition. I’d like to tell you why.

I felt called to veil for years before I finally gave it a try. The calling started off as simply noticing the women who do chose to veil. I thought they were lovely, but I never thought I would veil. In fact, my mother has always been very vocally opposed to “those women” who veil at Mass. However, my passing glance eventually turned into a deeper pondering. Why would they want to veil at Mass? I came up with a few conclusions on my own and eventually did some internet research. The more I learned, the more lovely the practice became to me. I held a deep admiration and almost a slight twinge of envy for those who were daring enough to cover their heads. (Does anyone else see the irony in that?) But, for me, probably because of the commentary I heard growing up, it was going to take more than believing the tradition was lovely before I could take the plunge.

Because I have spent so much time thinking and praying about this topic, and in light of this Rediscover Reverence campaign, I’d like to share why I believe it is fitting for a woman to cover her head in the presence of the Eucharist. (Please note that I said “fitting”, not “mandated”,”required”, or “the Church is wrong and I am right”.) Admittedly, some of these reasons are more substantial than others, but these are the reasons that are the most meaningful to me.

  1. It is a beautiful act of humility. If a woman’s hair is the symbol of her glory (a topic which I discussed here) and Christ is fully present in the Eucharist, isn’t it fitting that I would cover my glory out of respect of the glorious presence residing in front of me? By covering my head, in the simplest terms, I am acknowledging God is God and I am not. By covering my “glory” I am demonstrating that Christ alone deserves all the glory. Moreover, I am acknowledging that any glory I possess in my nature or may attain in my life is given to me by the Glorious One who is present before me.
  2. It’s Biblical. Don’t skip this one! I’m not about to say what you think I’m going to say. While it is true that there is a cultural element to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11, look closer. I think as most women read, they are too busy getting offended and building a defense to catch one key phrase in verse 10. Paul doesn’t say a woman should cover her head because she is less than or because she is some kind of temptress or for any other reason people drum up. Paul says a woman should cover her head in worship because of the angels. This little phrase, to me, obliterates the cultural argument. Paul wasn’t imposing cultural standards because cultural standards are bound to time and place. Angels are not. Paul’s argument is not cultural, and therefore, it is Biblical for a woman to cover her head in worship.
  3. Because of the angels. What on earth does this mean? I asked one of my brilliant Bible professors, and he responded with something along the lines of, “Well, it doesn’t matter what he meant. Surely, Paul’s understanding of the angles far surpasses our own, so we should just believe him.” Not the answer I expected from my brilliant Scripture teacher. While there may be some truth in what he said, I needed more than that. And after months of having that question lingering in the back of my head, I think I may have found the answer! When Isaiah was commissioned for his prophetic service, he found himself in the presence of the angels, perhaps in heaven. (Is 6) The angels were worshiping God crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts! All the earth is filled with his glory!” (Sounds familiar, right? Sounds like Isaiah got a sneak peak of the Heavenly Liturgy we emulate with our Earthly Liturgy.) As Isaiah describes the angels, he mentions they have 6 wings: 2 to cover their faces, 2 to cover their feet, and 2 with which they fly. Did you catch that? These angels, who were created for no other purpose than to worship God, have their faces covered in his presence. Maybe this is what Paul was talking about! Maybe this is the reason he gives for women to cover their heads. BUT, even if it’s not, it still struck a powerful cord with me. (It also caused me to ponder what I consider to be acceptable footware for Mass and make some changes, especially to my summer church shoe collection)
  4. If it’s good enough for Mary, it’s good enough for me. Admittedly, this is one of my weaker arguments, but I still like it. Have you ever seen a picture of Mary without her head covered? I haven’t. Maybe this is just an accurate representation of what was expected of her culturally, or maybe her head is covered because she lived with the Divine Presence. Or maybe, as is often the case with our beautiful Catholic faith, the answer is both. Yes and yes. Yes, it was culturally appropriate, and yes, it was out of reverence for her Son. Maybe this isn’t true at all. However, as I purpose to model Mary in all I do, this is one area I can outwardly represent and remind myself of my inner striving. Interestingly, this is also what resonates with my 6 year old. Last week, I was not wearing my veil. Sitting in the pew before Mass,  my little Jack tugged at my arm and said, “Mommy, why aren’t you wearing your veil? I really like when you wear your veil. It makes you more like Mary.”
  5. A veiled woman approaching Communion is a living symbol of Christ united with his Church. Marriage is often used to describe the relationship of Christ to his Church. He being the groom and she being the bride. This is seen in The Song of Songs, it is illustrated in the parables, and is made explicit by Paul in Ephesians. Over the centuries, it has been further expounded upon, most notably by Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. When a veiled woman walks down the aisle, what is the first thing you think of? A wedding. At Mass, a veiled woman walks down the aisle, approaches her groom, Jesus Christ, whom she then receives in his entirety, uniting her life completely to his. This unification is undoubtably real when anyone, male or female, receives Holy Communion, but when a veiled woman does so, the analogy is unmistakeable. The veiled woman becomes an icon of the entire Church: receptive, submissive, and obedient to Christ her Savior. (As a side note, this is also why non-Catholics and those Catholics who are not in a state of grace may not receive Holy Communion. The reception of Communion is the culmination of our earthly Christian life, much like [although not identically so! All analogies have their limits.] the marital embrace is the culmination of married life. It is a full surrender and acceptance of the other. In the case of Holy Communion, it is not possible to fully accept and surrender to one whom you do not believe in or have turned your back on in mortal sin.)
This is what I want to get next. It's always a juggling act the hold the baby, the diaper bag, and get the veil on my head as I enter the Church. I think this veil would solve my problems.

This is what I want to get next. It’s always a juggling act the hold the baby, the diaper bag, and get the veil on my head as I enter the church. I think this veil would solve my problems.

Much has been written about why women veil in the presence of the Eucharist. There is great historical information, as well beautiful spiritual insights. I learned much from what others have said, but, as I told you earlier, it took more than that for me. I needed something I could hold on to in case I ever had to defend myself. That was truly one of my worst fears and what took me so long to embrace the practice. I was so worried about what other people would think and what they might say to me. But no one has ever said anything. I’ve never received so much as a disapproving glance. I think most people either find it lovely or don’t notice. I think the ones who are opposed to veiling are actually the vast minority.

If you’re considering veiling and have stumbled upon this blog, please don’t stop reading here. There are so many pieces more beautifully written, more humble, and more insightful. I just wanted to share the big factors for me in case there’s anyone else out there than can benefit from them. Most importantly, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and he will lead you to the information that’s right for you. As I said, I really believe that veiling is the most fitting, and I believe you will probably be guided to that realization as well.

And if you’ve already come to that conclusion – what are you waiting for? Buy a veil (or make one or improvise) and get to it! I think it would be great practice with which to begin Advent (Dec. 1) or join in a week later (Dec. 8) in solidarity with Catholic women worldwide. Even if you’re one of the few who veil at your parish, it may comfort you to know that so many others out there are doing the same thing for the first time on the same day. What a gift it is to be part of a universal Church!

Overly Sensitive

I logged into Facebook just now to be greeted by this gem. At first glance I was like, “Aww my baby sister (Katie, the OP) is such a good auntie! And Jack will be super psyched to see he got a facebook shout-out!” But then I made the mistake of reading the comments.

Katie and Meghan are my sisters. I don't know Malinda and Casie.

Katie and Meghan are my sisters. I don’t know Malinda and Casie.

I already know what my husband will say when I tell him about this. He will say, “Why did you even give it a second thought? You don’t even know those other two girls. Who gives a d*m* what they think?!”

And I know I he’s right.

But it still bothers me.

This is super scaled back compared to what some women are bold enough to say, but it still bugs me. In fact, these women didn’t really say much at all; they just revealed their general attitudes about large families, and it struck an overly sensitive nerve within me.

I wonder what Casie (and Malinda who liked her charming, “Oh thank God”) would think if I chimed in with the truth of the matter: Yes, these six children are the product of three couples, but four of the six came from one family.

I wonder what they’d say if I mentioned that I don’t really believe I have a big family. Right now, we feel about normal to me. To me, (albeit, I’m aware that statistics say otherwise) we feel average.  Should we be blessed with another child, I think we’d be teetering towards big, but, even then, I’m not really sure that 5 kiddos is enough to be called BIG.

I just hate the attitudes of people in general. I hate that children are regarded as something bad. I hate that there’s some artificial limit  imposed by society on how many people make up an acceptable family. I hate that everyone I interact with thinks they can make jokes or comments or snide remarks about my children, my finances, and/or my sex life.

I know these girls didn’t technically do any of that. But it just struck a nerve. And, what can I say, I guess I’m overly sensitive about this stuff.