tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Archive for the category “Things no one tells you about before you become a parent”

I love you, but I really don’t like you.

“I love you, but I really don’t like you and can’t be near you right now.” That’s the message I just sent three of my four kids off the bed with (the fourth is only a baby, so he isn’t old enough to get this message yet). Does this make me a horrible mother? Probably, but I’ve reached my limit and I know I can’t be the only mom out there feeling this way.

It is Friday night and I’ve been pushed beyond my brink at this point. This week has been hard, so have the last two or three. I’ve been a virtual single mother lately, through no fault of my husband’s. I’m a work widow. My poor husband has been working 12 hour workdays on a good day. Other days he doesn’t crawl into bed until after 2am. It is temporary and I know that.

He’s tired, I’m tired, and the kids don’t sleep. Our bed has become a revolving door of children lately. There is the baby, who is expected to keep us up, but aside from him waking to feed, he isn’t that bad. Then there is our first grader, who will sleep through the night most nights, but wakes way too early and clumsily stumbles into our room looking for electronic devices each morning. Our soon to be five year old has developed a fear of everything (again) and has been having nightmares. Most nights I can convince him to go back to sleep in the empty toddler bed in our room, but lately, he has been waking up again in that bed and wanting to crawl in with us. This is problematic because, despite having a king size bed, our bed is already crowded. That’s because that empty toddler bed in our room belongs to my almost three year old who never sleeps in it anymore and he is my worst sleeper of all. He wakes within two hours of finally getting to sleep (usually not long after I’ve finally gotten to sit down and attempt to relax for the night). He wakes again just as I’m falling off to sleep each night. He has night terrors for 20 minutes and wakes up the baby. He kicks, toss and turns, flails about, and yells out in his sleep once we have finally given up and let him into our bed. No one in our beds sleeps well.

The mornings come too early, with too little sleep, and very little cooperation from the three kids I need to get out of the house to school. It has been cold and wet and traffic near my kids ‘ preschool has been horrific lately for such a small town. I feel like I spend all morning getting kids in and out of car seats, shuttling them to and from school. I have very little time to get anything done on the two mornings a week that I’m down to one kid. Most of the time I’m tired and just want to crawl back into get, but there is grocery shopping to do, errands to run, toys to pick up, dishes to clean, and the never ending mountain of clothes to be washed, folded, and on the rare occasion, actually put away. We paid people a good amount of money to come clean last week, thinking we could spend the weekend relaxing for a change, but the house was a disaster area again by the next morning (by the next evening my two oldest had peed in the bathroom sink and pooped on the bathroom floor, on purpose). When the two middle kids get home, it is a never ending cycle on meal prep and clean up. Then hurricane first grader gets off the bus and tears through the house. The homework battle begins, melt downs ensue, and the baby is screaming; the witching hour is upon us. Magically, a dinner that everyone refuses to eat makes it to the table, several glasses of milk are spilt, food dusts the floor around us, and another pile of dishes collect, just incase I didn’t have anything fun to do once the kids are in bed. After dinner, I herd cats upstairs and into pajamas. We have the “did you really brush your teeth?” argument (spoiler alert: they didn’t) which always ends with a breath check that makes me really wish I hadn’t (why do they think the rotting food between their teeth smell won’t give them away?). Then the real juggling act begins!

Have you ever put four kids to bed by yourself? Oh, you should try it sometime, it is fun! First is the baby, who isn’t like my other kids were as babies. My other kids could be put on a boob and fall asleep while I multi-tasked, not this one though. This one was born a fighter, he was a preemie, so he seems to think that everything deserves a fight, even going to bed. A lot of rocking, jiggling, back patting, and sshhing are necessary to get him to sleep. Meanwhile, his brothers bounce off the walls like idiots, jostling him or kicking him in the head every time I almost have him a sleep. Once he’s finally out, I attempt to read to three boys who all want to be next to me. News flash: there are three of you and I only have two sides, you can’t all be next to me. I attempt to get them to all take turns sitting next to me as I read the required 20 minutes of reading each night. When reading is done, I attempt to separate kids by sending my oldest to his room with an electronic device (nothing like ending the day the way you started it, with more screen time) and I try to get my middle two to lay on opposite sides of me in what is suppose to be their shared, full sized bed. Usually this is about when someone gets impatient with me as I set up the baby monitor and wakes the baby back up. Once the baby is back asleep and the middle two are almost asleep, my oldest usually decides it is his turn to wake up one of his younger brothers. I finally get the middle two to sleep, the baby may or may not be awake again, and I go lay with my oldest who then likes to play a game called “annoy the crap out of mom so you won’t fall asleep.” Usually it is close to 9pm when I’m finally able to sneak downstairs, it only took 2+ hours to get them all to bed, temporarily. Then there is cleaning up from dinner to be done, a dog to feed, and lunch for school to be made. I finally get a chance to sit and turn on a show so I can unwind before bed when, you guessed it, the Middlest wakes up.

On top of this daily grind of my typical day, I’ve been trying so hard to not yell at my kids, I try to do fun things with them, and be in the moment. It’s not working. I’ve tried all the things people and articles tell you to do. I try letting the mess go and just be with the kids; the mess just gets bigger. I try making healthy food they usually love; they don’t eat it. I try talking calmly to my kids and laughing at the horrible things they do that I know I’ll laugh at as I tell people about them later; they just continue to do horrible things. I plan fun activities that we can all enjoy, things I might actually be able to relax during, like tonight’s living room camp out and movie with popcorn; one complained the whole time while another made repeated messes that I had to keep getting up to clean. You name it, I’ve tried it, and all I’ve gotten is exhausted, frustrated, and taken for granted. I’ve had it! Tonight, after several weeks of this, I started to really think that I might just need to go back to work so I can escape and let someone else raise my kids. How awful is that?

I love my kids, but I really have not liked them very much lately. There just seems to always be one who has to make things miserable at every moment of my day. Sure, they can all come together and act like total animals at the same time, nearly driving me insane, but can they ever come together and just allow a moment to be peaceful and enjoyable; no way!

So what am I suppose to do? I’d never find a job that will make enough to pay for four in day care, not that I even have time to look. Besides, I love my kids, even if I don’t want to be around them right now. If I got a job, the first morning I had to leave them would be precisely the moment I’d decide that I really do want to be around them after all. I guess my only solution is to sneak downstairs, heat up the dessert I decided not to share with them, and attempt to devour it while watching a few seconds of tv before someone wakes up. Wish me luck!


Blurred lines: My Little Ponies and Ninja Turtles

The other night I bought a cute little My Little Pony Tshirt for my almost five year old, who had begged me for it after seeing it on the wall at the store. It was half off, so I obliged. When we got home it was hung up next to my almost five year old’s other recent prized bargain, a Hello Kitty back pack, gifted from a neighbor’s daughter who no longer used it. These two things are just a few items from the collection that is gathering from my almost five year old’s favorite cartoon icons. Some people might find this strange, since I am the mother of four boys. That’s right, my almost five year old is a boy. A sweet, wonderful little boy who doesn’t see gender lines.

T is the second of four boys and will be five in two more months. He is very much like all other boys his age. He loves superheroes (Marvel and DC, he doesn’t take sides). He loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninjago, and Adventure Time. He wants to be a fire fighter (and maybe a farmer) when he grows up. He plays sports and goes to Farm school, where he loves to play in the mud and feed the animals, and when he’s not in school, he loves to ride his scooter and his “two wheeler” bike that he is super proud of riding without training wheels. Just a “typical” boy, who also loves to get his nails painted, his favorite color is pink, enjoys watching My Little Pony, and wanted nothing more than a Monster High Doll for Christmas two years ago.

So what does all this mean? Nothing. It means that my son is who he is and doesn’t see gender lines. He sees the world the way more people should, as an open and limitless, unbound by sex or gender. Unfortunately, most people don’t see the world this way. Most people like to categorize and label things. Most people like to tell others that things are wrong or meant for other people. Most people will try to crush my guy and his spirit as he grows up. They will try to force him to conform to what they expect of him. His older brother has already experienced this.

Only a year ago, I used to paint all my boys’ nails, it was the only way I could coax them into letting me cut and file their nails. We’d play nail salon. I bought colors like metallic silver, sparkly blue, and green for the boys; colors I thought society might allow my kids to wear without ruining our fun. Then it happened. I painted my oldest’s toe nails the Sunday before he began a gymnastics camp with T; Monday afternoon he came home and asked me to take the nail polish off and hasn’t worn it since. Someone had obviously said something to my oldest about nail polish being for girls and with that comment, they stole from me that special quality time with my oldest in which he would sit in my lap, cuddle into me, and talk to me as I painted his nails. From that point on, those gender lines became more solidified for my oldest, despite his desire for them not to be there. When his brother first started watching My a Little Pony, my oldest made comments like “that’s a girl show” and refused to watch it with him. T didn’t care, he watched it anyway, he loved the show. Then my husband found my oldest hiding in his room with my iPad watching it alone despite his brothers sitting downstairs watching it together. He acted like what he was doing was somehow wrong and shameful. My husband told him that it was ok to like the show and encouraged him to go watch it with his brothers. Now the three older ones watch it together most of the time. Then this week, while we were in the store where I bought the My Little Pony shirt, my oldest showed again, how the world had already begun engraining gender lines into him. When his brother crossed that imaginary line from the boys’ clothes section into the girls’ clothing section, my oldest was sure to point it out. T again didn’t care, he just knew he had seen a shirt that he loved and that he wanted to see it closer. As I began to look at the price on the shirt and check the sizes against him, my oldest son seemed to get confused. He knew that his brother was in the girls’ section and for some reason he shouldn’t be, but neither his brother nor I seemed to get that, we were both acting like it was ok. At this point my oldest began walking though the store from side to side stating which section his was in, the “boys’ side” or the “girls’ side.” Then the came to the athletic wear and there didn’t seem to be a clear side in that section. The sections were no longer separated by an aisle, they just seemed to blend into each other. This seemed to catch him by surprise. He came running back to his younger brother and excitedly told him “over there, there is no boys section or girls section, they just blend!” It was like he had found the perfect place for his brother.

I love my sweet little almost five year old. I love his humor, his sensitivity, his individuality, and the fact that he loves the things he loves, no matter what others say. I worry for my little guy though. I worry that over time, the world will crush him and not allow him to be who he is. I worry that too many people will draw lines in the ground and tell him which side he needs to be on. I wish more people would allow the genders to blend more seamlessly. After all, the only thing that really makes someone a “typical” boy or girl is the ability to adhere to our expectations of a certain gender. If we eliminate those gender lines, we allow people to just be themselves.

So you think you’re exhausted?

It is something I hear people say all the time. It is usually the first thing said upon waking in my house. “I’m so exhausted.” We all seem to feel this way no matter how much sleep we get. The thing is, I’m not sure people really understand what exhaustion really feels like, at least not until they are dealing with an infant under three months old.

So you think you are exhausted? Well, I hate to break it to you, but you probably aren’t. For all you childless people out there, I don’t care what your work or social schedule is like, you don’t have a clue what real exhaustion feels like. Sure, lots of people have to get up early for work or are up late, but usually, once they fall asleep, they are solidly asleep for several hours. Even those who have trouble sleeping, get some sleep. My brother is a fire fighter who works 24 hours on, 48 off. He complains all the time that he didn’t sleep well at the fire house and that he is “exhausted” and I just laugh. The thing is, he doesn’t have kids. He goes home and naps and gets decent nights of sleep when he isn’t working.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t just the childless that are confused and think they are exhausted. Pregnant women think they are exhausted too. I know, I was just one of them (for the fourth time) not that long ago. Sure, pregnant women are tired, their bodies are working hard at making another human being. As the pregnancy progresses it is harder to get comfortable at night and you have to get up 20 times a night to pee, but if you think this is exhaustion, you are in for a big surprise once you bring that little one home. I remember laying in bed at night, feeling as big as a house, my body achy, my mind racing about all that needed to be done before the baby came, and needing to pee yet again. I’d wish that the baby would just be here already because maybe then I’d get some sleep. Oh how disillusioned I was.

Even those with kids aren’t really exhausted like they think they are. Other than my new baby I have a 2, 4, and 6 year old. We play musical beds with them all night long. My two year old is a terrible sleeper, always has been, and he still sleeps in my bed with me. My husband and I are up several times a night, sleeping in uncomfortable toddler beds or uncomfortable positions with my toddler’s feet jammed into our ribs or face. We would constantly wake up “exhausted” and complaining. Or at least we thought we were exhausted. It is funny how quickly our brains allow us to forget difficult or traumatizing situations, allowing the pain to dull with time (if our brains didn’t work that way, women would never have more than one kid). Of course we were wrong about feeling exhausted. Just the other day, my husband and I were reminiscing about the months before our new baby came and how we thought we were so tired because our two year old didn’t sleep well. We had a good laugh and thought longingly about how we couldn’t wait to be that tired again, instead of feeling the way we do now.

You see, no matter how exhausted you think you are, unless you have an infant under three months living in your house and you are their main provider, you have no idea what exhaustion is. The worse thing for me right now is, my infant isn’t even home yet, he is still in the NICU and I know I’m in for a whole lot more hurt when he does come home. As exhausted as I think I am right now with staying up for a late night pumping, waking 3-4 hours later to pump again, and then again first thing in the morning, combined with the constant back and forth to the NICU and dealing with three other small children, I know this is nothing compared with how it is going to be when the baby finally comes home.

For the first three months of an infant’s life (longer if they are a preemie like my fourth one), babies can’t regulate themselves and think they should still be in the womb. This is often referred to as the “fourth trimester.” Babies under three months are adjusting to life outside of the womb. They don’t know how to soothe themselves, they have no idea whether it is night or day (nor do they care), they are use to getting food whenever they want and except this not to change, and they aren’t use to the noise and temperature of the outside world. All these things make a baby very fussy (or colicky) and very demanding. So for the first few months of a baby’s life the parents are pretty much at the mercy of the baby’s demands. Babies tend to like to eat every 2-3 hours, but they aren’t very fast eaters and it can take 30-60 minutes for a baby to finish a meal. The problem is, the baby doesn’t realize it just finished a meal an hour or hour and a half ago, so the baby wakes to eat again 2-3 hours after he started to eat last. If your baby is on a two hour feeding schedule and the baby takes almost an hour to eat, you have to start the next feeding only an hour after you finished the last feeding. Babies don’t just eat three meals a day either, they eat round the clock, which means that your sleep is interrupted every 1-3 hours to feed (and good luck if you are someone who doesn’t fall back to sleep easily). The other wonderful thing about newborns is, they tend to get gassy and need their diapers changed not long after eating. If you leave your baby in a dirty diaper for very long they will get a rash and be even more cranky which will not lead to sleep for either of you. Babies also like to spit up all over themselves and you, so if you thought all your household chores would be put on the back burner for a while, you were wrong. New parents find themselves doing loads of laundry almost daily (often washing the same stuff twice because they were so tired they forgot about the clothes and left them in the washing machine too long instead of putting them in the dryer, so now they have a musty smell). Then there is the issue of food for the parents and siblings. When I had my first kid, I often choose sleep over eating, but now I have three other kids who depend on me for food, so I no longer have that choice, I have to feed them. Add all this to normal everyday activities and they add up to exhaustion and I mean exhaustion.

When you are a parent to a newborn, then and only then do you realize what true exhaustion is. You experience exhaustion like no other. I’m not talking a few bad nights of sleep or a few hectic days exhaustion, I’m talking three months of constant lack of sleep exhaustion. I’m talking, 2 hours of consecutive sleep at most, while listening to every little noise you hear, it hurts to wake up exhaustion. I’m talking, haven’t showered in weeks, not eating, eyes barely open, could be mistaken for the walking dead exhaustion. You will learn to survive on a level of exhaustion you never knew existed (or in the case of parents who have other children, levels you forgot existed). Those first three months will feel unsurvivable and never ending. You will feel ready to give up on life and crave the sweet eternal sleep of death, but continue to push forward out of pure love for this child that has turned your life into this blissful hell of new parenting. And just when you feel like you can’t do it anymore, your baby will hit that sweet three month mark where everything will magically get better over night. I know, it sounds hard to believe that all of a sudden, all at once, everything gets better, but it does. I didn’t believe it the first time either, now I count down the days with each kid. Not long after that point, you too will return to the point where you think you are exhausted, but already you have forgotten what exhaustion really feels like and that you are not in fact exhausted, just a little tired.

The cow says “Moo”

I have a love-hate relationship with my pump. Ok, that’s a lie. No mom is going to tell you that she loves her pump, but like me, most moms will tell you that they love what their pump allows them to do, which is to provide their baby with the best nourishment out there, breast milk.

I hate pumping with a passion. It is annoying, awkward, uncomfortable, and time consuming, but I love being able to give my kids breast milk instead of formula, so I pump. With my first two boys, I pumped mostly because I was a working mom and couldn’t be home to feed my babies on demand. I also
liked the freedom that having pumped milk in the fridge or freezer gave me; I could go out for more than a few hours or sleep a little longer and let my husband give the baby a bottle. Of course this freedom came with a price. Everyday I had to haul my pump and accessories back and forth to work where I was a teacher. I had to spend what little, precious planning time I had pumping, I spent my lunch half hour pumping, and just for good measure, I usually had to pump again once more right after school. This left me chained to my pump which meant no socializing, no run errands to make copies or check my mail box, I was pretty much stuck in one spot for about 20 minutes or so. I pumped for my first two boys, almost every day, right up until their first birthdays. With my third son I didn’t pump nearly as much because I stayed home with him. I was thankful for that, but I still pumped on occasion so that he could be bottle fed if necessary. When my third child was a little over a year and we moved states, we decided that we weren’t going to have anymore kids and I was all too happy to get rid of my pump and never have to use it again. Then we decided to have one more and he came early, so here I am, back on the pump.

My new little guy was born too early to be able to breast feed. The huge task of sucking, swallowing, and breathing is just more than his preemie abilities can handle right now, so he is fed by a tube to the stomach. The tube does feed my little guy breast milk and I have every intention (hopefully within the next week or two) of breast feeding him when he is able to, so I pump. Every two to three hours, like a dairy cow, I get hooked up to the noisy, hospital grade pump for about 20 minutes so I can make milk for my smallest guy. It becomes part of the daily schedule and while I’m visiting the NICU or am just hanging out at home, it isn’t a huge inconvenience. When I’m all done, I’m even a little proud of the amount of milk I’ve made for my little guy. I keep my husband involved by putting him in charge of bagging and labeling the milk, as well as cleaning the pump pieces. This way we at least feel a little useful, doing something for our little guy who is currently being cared for my multiple doctors and nurses. The times that I really hate pumping come on the rare occasion when I venture out of the house for any amount of time (which means planning around pumpings) and even worse, night time pumping. At night, I usually push my limits to four hours before pumping, but even then, that means staying up later than I would like for an 11:00 or 12:00 pumping and then waking up around 3:00 am to incredibly full, uncomfortable breasts that need to be pumped. My husband helps me set everything up close to the bed before we go to sleep so that I can minimize the work I have to do at that ungodly hour, but it still means I have to sit up for upwards to a half an hour pumping away. Then the pieces need to be cleaned and the milk stored (I make my husband do that part, you know, so he gets to experience the fun with me). Then I get to get up nice and early and do it all again. I know some people are probably thinking that this can’t be worse than waking to nurse a baby every two to three hours, but this is my fourth kid, I’d kind of mastered the night time feeding thing so that I was able to do it with minimum interruption to anyone’s sleep. By my third kid, we usually only did one diaper change in the middle of the night and I usually just put the baby on the boob during that first night feeding and then just slept with him, so when he woke a few hours later to feed again, I just switched breasts and put him back on a nipple and went right back to sleep (don’t get me started on the whole co-sleeping with your baby being dangerous story, that’s a fight you are not going to win with me). So the fact that I actually have to get up, sit up, pump, bring things up and down stairs, and just think more in general around 3:00 every morning is more than I did when I was breast feeding the other boys. I can’t exactly fall back to sleep as I pump, though I’ve jolted awake many nights worried that I had and thinking my milk was left out too long and now spoiled, making that exhausting time wasted.

In short, pumping is exhausting and unfun to say the least, but I gladly do it for my preemie son. While I don’t love my pump or pumping, like most pumping moms, I love what it allows me to give to my baby. So here is to all the moms out there who have or are pumping for their babies, whatever their reasons for it. Pumping is a job you will probably never be recognized or congratulated for, but you should be. Keep up the good work! Moo.

Pregnancy’s unexpected curve ball

Each pregnancy, like each child, is different. A mom might experience some similarities between pregnancies or they may all be completely different. For my first three pregnancies, they were pretty similar and uneventful. I experienced extended periods of nausea and varying amounts of puking with each one. The only thing to stand out from one pregnancy to another was that in the last month or two of my last pregnancy I developed high blood pressure and was put on medication. Still, nothing big or concerning. Of course, after having three healthy and relatively problem free pregnancies, I should’ve realized that a fourth pregnancy was pushing my luck and something was bound to go wrong.

From the first blood pressure check at my first doctor’s appointment at 10 weeks along, I have had high blood pressure. This isn’t something that I normally have when I’m not pregnant and again, I only had issues with it for the last month or two of my third pregnancy, but not since then. After months of making excuses for it and trying to just relax, I finally had to go on medication for it. After a month and a half of medicine and adjusting the amounts, my blood pressure was still very high (I can’t imagine why considering I have three boys six and under at home). The doctors continued to monitor me and set me up to see a specialist. On Thursday night, a little over a week ago, I developed a headache that was pretty bad and just wouldn’t go away despite ice and Tylenol. By the time I went to bed, I could literally hear my heart pounding in my head and I was having shortness of breath. My blood pressure was about 174/101. I decided to wait it out over night, mostly because it was late and I had three sleeping children and no one to watch them if I were to go to the hospital. The next morning I felt a little better, but figured I’d better call my doctor just incase since we were headed into the weekend. My doctor wanted me to come in to be checked out and monitored, which I pretty much expected. What I hadn’t expected when I left my house that morning was that I wouldn’t be returning home for possibly more than a month and that I’d be no longer pregnant when I did return.

I was only 29 weeks and 1 day when they admitted me to the hospital over a week ago. At first I was told it was just going to be a 24 hour monitor of the baby and me. However, it quickly became clear that there was no way I was leaving anytime too soon. Even scarier was that there was a very real possibility that my baby was going to be delivered in the next 24 hours at just barely 29 weeks. My doctor was so convinced of this possibility that she wouldn’t let me have anything more than ice chips for at least 24 hours and that was only after several nurses begged for some on my behalf.

They started me on a magnesium drip to bring my blood pressure down. For those of you who have never experienced this, I hope you never have to. As soon as they start the drip, an instant sensation of burning creeps through your body starting at the IV sight and traveling until it has reached every vein in your body. As it reaches your chest and stomach, you begin to feel violently ill and like you are going to pass out. Then your face begins to burn and feel like it is melting off despite the fact that your body is shivering and cold everywhere else. I eventually passed out for a bit and awoke to a reprieve from the violent nausea I was feeling, but my face continued to burn while the rest of me shivered. It was very hard to remain conscious for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. During this time, I attempted to call and text family members (including my husband who was home caring for the kids) to let them know what was going on. I’d eventually be overtaken by another wave of magnesium and feel the burning sensation creep up the base of my neck and eventually wash over my head making it impossible to keep my eyes open. When I did close my eyes, it was like I was on some sort of horrible acid trip or something (I can only assume, since that is not something I ever experimented with). I would see crazy colors transforming into different shapes behind my eyes. I felt limp and heavy, like I couldn’t move, but then I’d suddenly feel like I was falling, jerking my eyes open to find myself still in the hospital bed, all the while, my face was on fire.

After about 24 hours, they finally took me off the magnesium. My face began to cool and I was able to remain conscious for longer amounts of time. They’d brought my blood pressure down enough that I was no longer at risk of stroke and the doctor even agreed to let me eat something, though she warned that there was still a risk of needing to deliver until they had my blood pressure permanently stabilized. It still took about another 24 hours to get the magnesium completely out of my system and during that time they began experimenting with different drug combos and amounts to try and find something that would permanently keep my blood pressure at a safe level.

As I regained my faculties and was able to finally think again and even allowed to shower, the reality of what was happening and what laid ahead of me began to sink in. Not only did I have severe chronic high blood pressure brought on by pregnancy, but I was also diagnosed with preeclampsia. The baby was doing fine at the moment, but because of this diagnosis, both mine and the baby’s health were at risk of going downhill at anytime. Preeclampsia can severely affect a mother’s vital organs, such as the kidneys and liver, as well as affect the placenta and the babies growth. The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. At 29 weeks, that was not a good option, so instead, the baby and I were going to need to be constantly monitored. This meant, I was going to be on bed rest in the hospital until the baby came. Of course, all these health problems also meant that I was not going to be able to make it to 39 or 40 weeks and that the new goal was to try to make it to 34 weeks before they would take the baby.

I am now 30 weeks and 2 days and they seem to have finally discovered a drug combination that is holding my blood pressure steady without leaving me unable to function. My doctor is optimistic that I will make it to 34 weeks, but my condition is unpredictable and could change at anytime, so each day I keep this baby in is another small victory. My blood pressure is down enough that I only have to be monitored every four hours instead of every hour. The baby is monitored 2-3 times a day for about an hour and I have a weekly ultra sound. I am still confined to bed with the exception of being allowed to get up to use the bathroom and take a daily shower. My boys are at home with their dad and my mom. I get to see them on the weekends and we Skype nightly. Aside from trying to keep sane while laying in bed the next several weeks, I am in the process of coming to terms with the fact that my baby will be born a preemie and spent time in the NICU. I do feel like putting my story out there for others to read and hearing about other people’s similar experiences is helping me to cope and mentally prepare for many of the possibilities and realities of the weeks to come.

Pregnant and sick

Oh I remember a time, in the distant, distant past, when getting a cold meant holding it together until the weekend and then spending the weekend in a NyQuil induced coma, only emerging from bed to use the bathroom or get a refill of chicken noodle soup or juice. By Monday morning, I’d shower and feel ready to face the world again. It was such a wonderful way to deal with a head cold or flu and NyQuil always gave me the craziest dreams. Now though, dealing with a cold isn’t that easy. For approximately 7 years now, I have been either pregnant or nursing, and when you are either of those things, your options for treating an illness become severely limited and you become willing to try just about any crazy remedy in hopes of feeling even small relief from your symptoms.

This new year has not been kind to my family thus far. We have had the stomach bug rip through our house for a week and a half and two different versions of head colds, and it is still only January. I am currently dealing with my second bout with the head cold, but this one is way worse than the first one. At about 8:30 every night (the time in which I’d like to crawl into to bed and pass out due to the cold) my nasal passages suddenly plug up so completely that I can’t breathe when I swallow and I feel completely claustrophobic, like I’m being buried in sand. It is the worse part of this head cold, worse than the sever cotton mouth that leaves painful dry patches on the back of my throat from sleeping with my mouth open, and worse than the fluid pressure ear aches I get from sleeping on my left side (the recommend sleep side at this point in pregnancy). I feel like I’m going to go into a full blown panic attack when this severe nasal blockage occurs. Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t have constant congestion or a running faucet of a nose all day long, it is just that it becomes unbearable suffocating just before bed. At this point of the night, I want nothing more than to be able to breathe normally, crawl under the covers, and pass out. As a stay at home mom of three young kids, I don’t get to “call in sick” and lay in bed all day, so I’ve already spent my day feeding, clothing, and running kids everywhere on top of cleaning up constant messes and trying to keep up with laundry. Sure, I’ll try to lay down during the day, but usually I can’t even get my kids to sit through a 25 minute program without bothering me for a snack, something to drink, pause the show so they can go to the bathroom, or just my youngest wanting to give me something. And since my kids don’t nap, I don’t either. I my house becomes a giant mess as I attempt to do just the bare minimum to survive and even that is more than I have energy for, so by 8:30 pm, I am done. Unfortunately, my sinuses are telling me otherwise.

This is when every remedy, no matter how strange sounding, becomes appealing, as I desperately search for a way to help myself feel well enough to sleep, even for just a few hours. First I try the basics; nasal rinses, steamy baths, and breathe right strips. Then I move on to various teas (which if drank to close to bed, make me have to get up to pee all night) and broths. I start adding essential oils to my bath, strange things to my drinks, and consider eating boiled garlic cloves despite a major garlic aversion during my pregnancy. I put vapor rub on my feet and cover them with socks. I massage my sinuses and touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth. I boil water and mix it with apple cider vinegar to inhale (despite being told it will burn). I soak socks in freezing water and then put them on with dry wool ones on top. Any suggestion someone gives me, I try, but nothing seems to work. So I suffer and pray that the cold makes its way out of my system soon. When I finally do manage to fall asleep at night, I dream of a time in the future, a time in which I’m neither pregnant nor nursing, a time which I can again take NyQuil and retreat in a medicated coma when become sick. I know that time is still 2-3 years away, and who am I kidding, I’ll still have young kids, so I won’t be able to spend uninterrupted hours in bed sleeping, but a girl can dream, if she can breathe well enough to get to sleep.

My life now

Here’s my life these days. TMI warning.

I feel sick because I need to eat, so I eat. Then I feel sick because I ate. I take an anti-nausea pill to help feel better. Then I get constipated from the pill, which makes me feel bloated and sick from my lack of ability to poop. Then I feel nauseous again, but I also really need to poop. Eventually I end up on the toilet trying to push out a poop while puking into a bucket. And then my stomach is empty and the whole thing starts again.

This is my life now, and I’m way past the usual period of morning sickness. Oh the fun life of a pregnant woman.

Kindergarten and a vasectomy

Just about a year ago, I was preparing my family to start a new life, in a new state, far away from all our friends and family. At the same time I was planning a birthday party for my three sons, who were turning 1, 3, and 5. It was at that point in time that I looked at the life I had and I looked at my future ahead of me and I thought, “Yep, I’m done. Our family is complete.” Fast forward a little less than a year to this fall where I found myself faced with two major life changes; my oldest starting all day kindergarten and my husband finally making the appointment for the vasectomy he had been promising for over two years (yes, before our youngest was even out of the womb). Suddenly, I realized, that nothing will make you question your life decisions more than a kid starting kindergarten and a husband’s impending vasectomy.

I swear it, a year ago I was done! No more babies for me! I was down to a happy size six, I had two out of three kids out of diapers, and I was finally able to free up some room in my garage by getting rid of all the baby toys and clothes that my youngest had out grown instead of saving them for the next one. I felt free! So when my husband told us that we would be moving away from everyone that we knew shortly after my youngest turned one, any sadness that I felt about “my baby turning one” was overtaken by the terror of “oh god, I can’t imagine having another kid without all my friends and family around to help. I’m not sure how I’m going to survive without them all with the three kids that I’ve already got!” So as I packed and purged in preparation for our move, I dumped all things maternity and baby that I could. Goodbye maternity clothes and post-baby-body clothes. Goodbye newborn to 9 month baby clothes. Goodbye co-sleeper. Goodbye Bumby, bouncer, glider, and high chair. Goodbye double stroller, the other two can walk. Goodbye anything baby related that we wouldn’t need in two months when we finally unpacked!

As we got settled in our new home and I started to unpack, it felt good to not be bogged down with all the baby stuff that had cluttered our lives for the past five years. The kids were growing up and becoming a little more independent, playing for longer stretches without needing me to entertain them or intervene. They were doing more and more on their own, so my husband and I began to entertain the idea of getting our lives back a little and began imagining the things that we would soon be able to do with the kids getting older. This went on through the summer until late July, that’s when my husband came home with a date for his vasectomy. He would do it at the end of the summer, just before our oldest started all day kindergarten. I should have been over the moon at the idea of all the freedom we were about to have, but instead, it all hit me like a ton of bricks. By summer’s end we would be starting our first child down the road of full time school. It would only be a matter of time until he’d be off to college (like 13 years)! We’d also be sealing our fate and ensuring that there would be no “oops-baby” a few years down the line, like we always joked about. Our years of parenting young children was suddenly getting so short. To make it worse, my kids were so darn cute! Were we really ready for the beginning of the end?

That’s when I came up with a crazy idea. What if we just threw caution to the wind and let fate decide our future for us? After a vasectomy, a man has 3-6 months in which he could still be potent before he starts firing blanks. What if we just had at it from that very moment until, well, pretty much forever? If we got pregnant before my husband’s boys ran dry, then it was meant to be. If not, then it wasn’t meant to be. Surprisingly, my husband agreed. I guess I wasn’t the only one suffering from the effects of the life decision questioning events of kindergarten and a vasectomy.

Death by parenting

I’m sure that I heard from multiple sources that having kids is a lot of work and exhausting work at that, but I don’t think anyone ever told me that having kids might kill me.

I have three boys; three very active boys. Whenever people see me braving the outside world with these three boys (who are spaced out in age at two year intervals), they make comments like “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!” Or “I bet they keep you busy.” But unless you’ve had three boys this close in age, you have no idea what it is really like.

As of this fall, my sons will be 2, 4, and 6 years old. Fun ages for sure, but also very trying ones. My almost 2 year old is at an age where he wants to be just like his older brothers and thinks he can do what he older do, but he lacks the motor skills and sense of danger that his older brothers have begun to accumulate with age. In recent days he has decided to: ride his riding toy down the middle of the street (twice), attempted to climb to the third story on a play structure, pushed a step stool over to our bar stools in order to climb up to the bar, tried to ride his brother’s Razor scooter, fallen and split his chin open on said Razor scooter requiring stitches, continual climbed up on and hung off of any and all tables, danced on the coffee table until he feel off backwards, jumped repeatedly from the coffee table to the couch, tried to figure out how the lawn mower works, stood on chairs to reach the water machine on the refrigerator, found out what happens when you put plastic toys in a fan, and attempted to climb the hill across the street and then jump off the hill into our neighbors backyard. Those of you with a two year old might think that sounds like a typical day for you. Those without a two year old might think that is enough to do a person in. Well, that is just one of my three boys. My almost four year old isn’t as daring, but he tends to be on the receiving end of his older brother’s wrath most of the time, which leads to lots of tears and many falls. My middle son takes falls (pushed or otherwise) from chairs, tables, scooters, stairs, beds, couches, and the stone wall. He also gets hit by many things such as: toys, plastic bottles, Legos, clothes, pillows, controllers, shoes, and balls. There is no end to the bumps and bruises, scratches and scrapes that this one gets. As for my oldest, my almost six year old, he is the most trying and troublesome one of all. Not only does he make constant demands upon me with no ability to wait for things, but he is also at an age where he is constantly pushing the envelope and doing things he knows he shouldn’t be doing. I feel like this past month I have become a warden constantly doling out consequences and enforcing punishments. He is going to kindergarten in a few weeks and I’ve been trying to explain to him that he is going to have new responsibilities, but also new privileges. He has taken this to mean that he is now a big boy and can do all sorts of big boy things that he clearly isn’t ready for. Among these privileges that he mistakenly thinks he has are: the ability to use art supplies, including scissors and paint, whenever he wants, taking a shower in the bathroom that doesn’t have a shower curtain, riding his bike halfway down the block with the 11 year old neighbor, ride his bike in the street, use a knife to cut food, cooking things in the toaster oven, turn the electric fire place on, go outside without permission, and using tools such as,hammers and nails, while I’m putting the baby down for nap.

All of these recent “adventures” with my boys are raising my blood pressure and some days (like today), I feel like my head is going to explode. My heart has skipped a beat more times than I can count in the last month or two, and I’m pretty sure the amount of grey hairs I have has doubled since summer began. The fact that we’ve made it this far into summer vacation with only one ER visit amazes me. If school weren’t just around the corner, I’m pretty sure I would just collapse and die one day soon and my official cause of death would be “mothering three young boys.” Let’s just hope I don’t have to change the name of this blog anytime in the near future.

Best laid plans and co-sleeping

So I’m a bed-sharer, there, I said it. Co-sleeper, bed-sharer,whatever you want to call it, my kids sleep in my bed with me. I am very aware that this is a frowned upon activity in this country; trust me, I’m aware (I hear it almost daily from my neighbor). But this is a choice I have made, even if it might not have been part of my original plan when I first became a mother.

Though my life before having kids is a bit hazy, I’m pretty sure I never thought to myself “hey, wouldn’t it be grand if, in my future, I were to have three kids and they all (or at least 2 of the 3) slept with me every night until they were five or older?” I’m pretty sure that if I’d thought that I would’ve have had myself committed. Yet here I am, almost six years into this parenting thing and two out of three of my kids sleep with me every single night while the third sleeps with my husband in a different bed. No, not ideal, but it works for us, right now at least.

It didn’t start this way, it just kind of progressed to this point. When my oldest was born I had a crib in another room and a co-sleeper in my room. I used to put him down in the crib after swaddling him and nursing him to sleep and then tend to him two hours later when he woke to nurse again. The problem was, in the house we lived in at the time, my bedroom was upstairs and his bedroom was downstairs, directly off the garage. That made me uncomfortable, so I used to bring him up to my room when I retired for the night. I would nurse him back down and then lay him in the co-sleeper. When he woke in the middle of the night, I would get up with him, go downstairs, and nurse him back to sleep before attempting to put him back down in the co-sleeper. The problem was, half the time I was so tired I began to fall asleep in the rocking chair, and the other half of the time, he would wake up as soon as he was laid back down into the cold co-sleeper, and just about every time, he would wake to feed a again within thirty minutes of me finishing this whole process. So basically I was getting no sleep. After two months, I had to return to work, so I knew I needed to work something out so I could get some sleep at night. That’s when I stumbled upon a solution. I found that a lot of times during the day, I was so tired that I would pass out with the baby in bed as I nursed him and we slept much better. My concern at night was that my husband would roll on top of him. So I figured out a way to prop the baby up on a pillow with my arm around him and angle him just right so that I could plop a boob in his mouth as soon as he began to wake so that I didn’t have to fully wake up and could get maximum sleep (with a newborn that is). This worked and as he got older, I enjoyed cuddling with him. At the time I was working during the day, so co-sleeping at night gave me a chance to bond with my baby. By the time my second baby came, we had moved to a house with bedrooms all on the same floor. My oldest was starting off the night in his crib and even sleeping through the night in his crib, on occasion, and I continued my co-sleeping tactic with baby number two. Before baby number three came along, my oldest was spending most nights in his own bed and my middle child would at least start off the night in his own bed. The problem was, they often woke during the night and came looking for us. My husband was getting up with the older one and bringing him back to his room, but then my husband began falling asleep in my oldest son’s bed and not returning. By the time my third son was born, my husband had got to the point where he would just go to bed in my oldest son’s room so that he didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night, while my middle son started off the night in his room, but eventually wandered into my bed. So it all just evolved over time as something that worked for us in order to get as much sleep as possible with three small children in the house. Sure, some nights we don’t get as much sleep as we like (okay, most nights), but I figure, we are still probably getting more sleep than we would be getting if we were playing musical beds all night like we used to. When the kids are sick, or teething, or having bad dreams, it doesn’t matter whether they are in their own beds or our bed because we aren’t going to get much sleep anyway. At least this way I have my own pillow and am not hanging off the edge of a toddler bed.

My husband and I are okay with our arrangement for the time being and we know that it is only temporary. The problem is, other people don’t seem to be okay with our arrangement. Normally I’m not one to care what other people think, but when I have to listen to people constantly tell me that I “need to get those kids out of (my) bed,” I begin to get a little irked. Yes, everyone has an option and they are entitled to it, but I don’t need to hear it. You raise your kids your way and I’ll raise my kids my way. Still, people feel the need to give misguided advise. When the boys were young, it was a constant commentary on how unsafe it was to sleep with my babies or that I was “spoiling” them and that I should just let them “cry it out” or they would never learn to self-soothe. Now I hear things like they are too old to sleep with me and should be in their own rooms, or that it isn’t right that my husband and I don’t sleep together, it will ruin our marriage. So for all those people who have felt to the need to constantly share their loving, but critical options on my sleeping arrangements, let me share some information with you.

First off, co-sleeping with your baby is perfectly safe, if you take the correct precautions. Both Dr. Sears and Dr. McKenna support co-sleeping and have research to show that, when done correctly, co-sleeping can decrease the chances of SIDS and can provide many benefits to both mother and child (Dr. McKenna, Dr. Sears) . Secondly, whether people realize it or not, co-sleeping is the cultural norm in 90% of the world and is practiced by nearly 200 cultures (cosleeping ). For whatever reason, we here in the US seem to think that every child needs their own bed and their own rooms. People forget that it wasn’t that long ago that multiple generations lived under the same humble roof, sharing both living and sleeping space. It is really only in the past 20 or so years that people have begun building these McMansions to live in, banishing children to their own wings. As far as spoiling a baby, their is no such thing. For nine months that baby is cuddled, comforted, and soothed inside the mother. On they day the child is born, they don’t just suddenly adjust to all the bright, harsh sounds and lights of the outside world and no longer need to be comforted. If that were the case, we would be born like other animals and walk out of the womb. For this reason, I refused to let my children “cry it out” (I won’t even go into the psychological effects I believe it has). That’s great that my neighbor kicked her kids out of her room when they were four days old or that a former co-work of my husband started to let his four week old “cry it out”, they have to live with those decisions just like I have to live with mine. Children are really only little for such a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things (despite what it might feel like at 2:30 am for the third night in a row of tearful teething). I want to cuddle my boys as much as possible while they will still let me. They aren’t going to be still sleeping in my bed when they are 18 (I’ll probably be lucky to get a hug from them by that age). When my boys are ready, they will begin to sleep on their own, in their own beds; after all, they do have them. As for my husband and I, people shouldn’t worry about our relationship, I mean we did manage to have three kids. Plus, I’m not sure my husband really wants to sleep with me. On the few occasions in which we have shared a bed recently, he usually moves to a different bed by 1:00 am because he says I’m too restless of a sleeper; I’m not sure he ever wants to share a bed with me again.

Each family needs to figure out what works best for their own family and what works for some might not work for others. I’m a bed sharer and I like it. For those of you who aren’t, don’t judge; after all, I’m not judging you for isolating your kid in a dark room each night.

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