Monday, March 28, 2011

Conflict Resolution

There is a definition and a rule that we heard somewhere years ago, that a fight is over when you can both laugh about it, and that you should not talk to other people in a social setting (as opposed to a counseling setting) until it's over. In this blog (which is more social than counseling) I am disobeying that rule.

We had home group a few days ago, where we are talking about conflict resolution. I shared about how I have learned in our 20+ years of resolving conflict to wait until a good time to talk about something that is bothering me until my husband is ready to talk. For him, these moments are few and far between. He is primarily a man of function, not feeling. He has things to do, important things that need done and he is the only one to do them. He pays the bills, does our taxes (I owed the city $4.00 this year), writes my hardship letter to get out of jury duty, fills out adoption and birth certificate paperwork, changes light bulbs, and cleans the lint off the dryer vent (keeping our house from catching on fire).

Most of what he does is unappreciated by anyone, but is necessary and critical. In addition to all those types of things, he also works, and works hard. He puts in more time than is necessary to do a better job than is required. He is a team player, picking up others' slack if necessary, because it needs done. His boss is a tough and tiny woman from China, and they compliment each other well, with her intensity and fire and his peaceful strength. Often in the evenings there are conference calls, reviews to do, and emails to catch up on.

The computer is a big part of his job, and is also part of how he winds down when work is over. He enjoys what I call putzing, researching future gadget purchases, reading reviews, watching the best of youtube, reading on-line news. And we often can't tell if he is paying bills, catching up on work e-mail, or just messing around. It is an impenetrable wall of focus and concentration, one not easily mounted.

One of my favorite horrible things to say is, when there is chaos and babies are screaming all around, diapers needing changing, a child has just lost a limb, another is weeping of a broken heart, and the man is still sitting there, typing, working, reading, whatever, and looks up and asks, "What? What's wrong?", I quote Woody from Toy Story, "Nothing that concerns you spacemen, just us toys!"

The thing I have learned (but don't always abide by) is that in a conflict with my husband, I can build my house, or tear it down. With my words, with my actions, with my tone of voice, I can make this a happy home and a strong relationship, or I can make it ugly and burdensome and painful.

So, having given this stellar piece of advice at home group on one day, I spent the next two days ignoring it. Oh I didn't lay into him, like I felt like doing. But I fumed, stormed, and nearly ate myself sick. We weren't on the same page in an area of parenting. He thought I was making too big a deal of it, I thought he had his head up his butt. An area we had previously seen eye to eye about was now, somehow, up for grabs, and in case of a jump ball here, he wins.

Part of the problem was that I lacked some information in the initial conflict. Also a factor is that in my first attempt to resolve I disobeyed two of our cardinal rules of engagement. One, we do not do well on the phone. If our relationship was limited to phone conversations, we would not last. Two, I was talking to him while he was on the phone AND on the laptop AND watching a ball game. I had, maybe, a 10th of his attention. What a joke! But I pursued it, and it was a belly flop.

The hard part of this philosophy of honoring my husband by waiting until he is ready to talk is that HE ISN'T READY TO TALK AS MUCH AS I WANT HIM TO BE! He isn't anywhere near as big a talker as I am. Heck, part of why I have this blog is because I want to talk more than anyone wants to listen. I have always had a larger than typical friend base because I talk more than a normal selection of friends has the time or patience to listen to. I am a verbal processor on an extreme level and no one has enough time to listen to me think things through.

So this conflict resolution thing is a tough one because we (like most, if not all, married couples) have irreconcilable differences. I have described my hardship with him, but his hardships with me are many, and much more difficult. A man who grew up in an immaculate house now is dwelling in a pig sty. Oh, we get it cleaner every few days, but I know that most people would be horrified if their house got as messy as ours is when it is clean. The clutter could drive a neat freak crazy, the dirt could drive a germaphobe off a bridge.

And then there are all the side effects of having 12 children. If we limit everyone to 3 pair of shoes, that is still 72 shoes floating around. There are 24 jackets and coats. We get at least a hundred new toys every Christmas. We have 7 matching barstools in the kitchen, and another that is broken, and another that doesn't match or have a back but the kids fight over. The kids routinely move several of these into the dining room, where there are 12 chairs, 6 strong metal ones, 3 remaining from our dining room set (one has lost the back), 2 hand-me-down wooden ones most of us are afraid to sit on, and one brown chair we stole from the church. The children like to watch each other play on the computer, so they create a veritable traffic jam of kitchen and dining room chairs, a cross between an amphitheater and a junkyard. Also in the kitchen/dining room are a high chair, a kiddie table with two chairs, a happy seat (stationary walker thing) and two pumpkin seats to kick your way through. To top it all off, at the end of the dining room table, where Dad likes to set up his laptop, there is just enough space between his chair and the wall for small children to run pell-mell through and pull his power cord out of the wall and drive the man, who always takes perfect care of his stuff, bonkers.

And that's just one part of the house. We live in a land mine for a peace loving man like him, one who likes to have a place for everything and everything in its place.

My way and his way are not the same way. How can two be one, who are so very different? Only Jesus can do this thing. I've said this before (redundancy is a way of life for me) parting the Red Sea, walking on water, turning water into wine, healing the sick, raising the dead - these are all child's play compared to the miracle of unity.

Jesus meets my needs. He will meet my needs. He will sometimes do it through my husband. But Jesus, not husband, is my source. He will heal my heart. He will help me to forgive. He will give us wisdom about parenting our children. He is never tired of hearing me talk. He doesn't mind that I have told this story before. He is not busy or in a bad mood or tired. He even sees the beauty of the clutter of my world, and He will give me the courage to try again to honor my husband by cleaning it. And at the same time, He will give my husband still more patience as he faithfully walks through life with me.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How you do it . . . x 12

This is a question I get a lot. It's a silly question, really, because it implies that I'm doing it right or well or in a way anybody else would want to emulate, when, in reality, I'm just barely scraping by. But, for the inquiring minds who want to know, so they can learn how NOT to do it, here it is, a day in the life of the amazing supermom.

(disclaimer: this is what happens on an ideal day, and does not necessarily represent my together-ness on any actual given day)

A good day begins the night before, so, before I go to bed, I have the following things in order: I have a shirt ironed for my husband to wear to work, a double padded diaper on sk11 (child number 11), 4 diapers for sk12 (3 for night-time feedings, one for next morning), clean diapers for sk 11 and 10 for morning, and the makings of a dry bottle for sk11. If I'm really good, I've got my clothes laid out as well.

Morning is the hardest part of my day. On a typical morning I choose more sleep rather than a shower, so my morning begins with one of the three babies being brought to me, but usually I have two or all three pretty quickly. This is most tricky when sk10 comes first because she wants to nurse, but the new baby gets first dibs. Fairly often, if my big kids are sleeping, I can be found nursing 2 and giving a bottle to a third. I am stretched thin but very happy at these moments (can you say psycho/octomom?).

My husband and I pray briefly before he goes to work. This is a tiny but huge moment of connection between he and I and God and has made a huge difference in our marriage. It is funny, because every day he says, "do you want to pray?" and I say, "I ALWAYS want to pray" and then we do. I think, why not ask if I am ready or just say, "Let's pray." But that's the kind of guy he is, unassuming, preferring me each day. So funny.

Then I try to pull it together enough to go down stairs. I usually delay until at least one big kid comes in (in this context, "big kid" is defined as someone old enough to carry a baby safely down stairs, at this point the line is drawn at sk6, who is almost 8 yrs old, and who, incidentally, carried newborn sk8 to the attic when he was 2.5 and she was 3 days old, 6 itty bitty lbs.) to help me get downstairs. Hopefully I brush my teeth, get fully dressed (days don't go well when I never get out of my jammies) and carry down supplies (the used up morning bottle, my phone, clothing for different babies) and a baby or two.

Breakfast at our house ranges from get your own cereal to home ground whole wheat pancakes, depending on mom's energy level, what supplies are on hand (e.g. do we have milk that is about to go bad), and if there is anywhere we have to go today. If I had a decent night's sleep and we aren't going anywhere, I make breakfast, usually 2-3 times a week. If there is a practice or doctor appointment later, or I'm tired or late coming downstairs, I ask each big kid to get their own and their buddy's breakfast. The oldest 7 can do their own cereal/instant oatmeal, and the two youngest already ate, so there are really only 3 requiring help, and their buddies are the big girls, so it works out ok. (not that the big boys can't help, it just isn't always their instinct as much as the girls)

Sk7 with help from 2 and 9 have breakfast kp (kitchen patrol) duties, getting dishes in the sink and wiping the table down. If supper didn't get cleaned up the night before (which happens) the supper kp people pitch in as well, sk 5 and 8. There are two tables to clean up, because we don't all fit at one.

When that magic is over, in my dreams I walk on the treadmill, with a kid (sk10, the one most likely to try to climb onto the treadmill while I use it) strapped on my back, but that hasn't actually happened yet, so we'll just pretend.

Then we do "family worship." Family worship includes some of the following elements, and sometimes all of them: Worship, lead by sk2 on guitar or sk4 on piano, with or without sk5 on djembe; Bible reading, either from the Bible or Egermeier's Bible Story book (and I frequently reinforce that even though they are Bible "stories", they are true because they are in the Bible); prayer time (one at a time, just me, just someone else, small groups like 'the kids on that couch', partners, buddies); listening to God time, sometimes written down, sometimes not, sometimes not shared; marching orders/pep talk for the day.

Then we have been going into 'group school'. We read our history, poetry, literature, science, from Sonlight curriculum - currently level 6, which works for a range of ages. It is not meant to work for 2nd through 9th, but I have not yet pulled off doing 2 cores without having Barney, Elmo and Martha the talking dog nanny my preschoolers. As it stands,they hang with us till they can't stand holding still and being quiet any longer, then they go play. If they play close by, it becomes a war of the decibels to see who lasts longer, their racket or my weakening vocal chords. If they go upstairs, we engage in covert ops from time to time, checking on their progress as they systematically dismantle the family closet or defile all the toothbrushes or empty previously full toilet paper rolls.

Bunny Trail: While I am not a blanket trainer (teaching small people to stay on a blanket, playing quietly, used by lots of big families, including the Duggars) I have experienced in recent years that small people can learn to be still and quiet(er) for a period of time. We started doing this when sk9 was small, well under a year, and my big kids did not enjoy the torture, as I required him to stay on my lap and still during family worship. But while we hated the process, we were all amazed when he sat still and quiet for an entire wedding. It can be done. Mrs. Duggar did it with twins and a toddler.

Usually there is just a little time between group school and lunch. All the older children (oldest 8) have varying degrees of individual work to get done throughout the day, and use their age-appropriate levels of responsibility to get it done, using the time before family worship and after group school and after lunch to make it happen. Which means, sk1 and 2 need almost no prompting, and 3 through 8 need something between little reminders to being beaten over the head with a 2 by 4 to get it done. (just kidding, no 2 by 4s were harmed in the raising of my children) This is what most of my life feels like it is about. Trying to get people to do their school and chores, to manage their time, to understand priorities and consequences, grrrr.

We have several 'helps' in place: chore charts, reward system, built in accountabilities (for example, sk3 has to help sk7 with math, neither can mark it off till it is done, so the big kid helps the little kid to be responsible, and vice versa), little privileges given to those who are done, and consequences of good things that don't happen or bad things that do for those who don't finish in time. But the battle is mine, it is agonizing, and exhausting, and I do not love it. It is, of course, penance for a lifetime of procrastination on my part. I deserve it. I will bear my cross, but between you (the world wide web) and me, I do not love it.

Sometime in the afternoon, children come to me and require me to do their spelling or phonics or whatever subject with them, so they can check it off their lists. I have tried having a more rigid schedule, but it seems to work better to have them come to me when they are ready. If two or three or four need me at the same time, I ask, 'is this all you have left?' and do the people farthest down on their list.

All of the children also have an item on their chart that says, simply, "HELP MOM." This is my catch-all. They ask, how can I help you mom, and I say go scrub the toilets with your fingernails, go wash the poopy diapers, do the dishes, hoist the mainsail, swab the deck, avast me hearties, aargh! Actually, I get to give them an age appropriate task that helps me out in a pinch and gives them the appearance of the attitude of helpfulness, or of a child who will help once only per day and that with the requirement of an imminent reward. (Mom: hand me that thing Kid: is THIS my help-mom? Mom: No, this is just part of you helping mom, you help mom all the time, this doesn't count as the only time you will be helpful today!)

Supper is the bane of my existence. (Oh, I forgot to mention lunch. Lunch is worse than breakfast - help yourself and your buddy - ramen noodles, sandwiches, leftovers, or on a rare day I make a round of bean burritos.) I know supper will happen each day, but mostly it sneaks up on me while I'm in the thick of getting the most resistant to finish school or am basking in the freedom required to do a little laundry or talk on the phone or fall asleep nursing on the couch. But inevitably breakfast, lunch and whatever snacking happens (woe to anyone who dares leave a box of cereal out, only to watch it disappear before our very eyes) wears off and people get hungry for supper, and Dad comes home from work and everyone has this expectation that there will be new food, not recycled leftovers, available for consumption by the masses.

So, ironically, after a day's penance for a life's procrastination, I again try to pull something delicious, cheap, healthy, and simple out of my butt, with sides, no less. Sometimes I pull it off. Sometimes I invent something horrible and pay for it by eating it for my lunch for a week. But we have a number of relatively simple standbys that are ready to be thrown together quickly, helped by having some precooked frozen packages of chicken, turkey, and ground beef in the freezer waiting to become part of a pot of chili, red or white, soup, or a casserole. Most people eat most of what I make, and I'm usually willing to let them make themselves a sandwich after trying what we're all having, because odds are, we don't have quite enough anyway.

After supper I am often too tired to make people clean up, and we make the nightly decision whether to sacrifice our children to the gods of electronic entertainment for the sake of world (or household anyway) peace or to actually parent them.

And then there is bed. On a good day, we read to everyone after teeth are brushed. On a really good day, we tuck them all in. And when we're feeling especially convicted, or when they are nervous because of a neighborhood fire or a movie we shouldn't have let them watch, or when we have something heavy on our hearts, or they're sick, we might actually pray with them.

Then we crash. Or do laundry. Or foolishly watch a movie. Or ignore each other while we putz on our various individual electronic devises, usually while nursing, and nodding off.

It's not that impressive, and I left a lot out. If you have questions, you can leave them in the comments, and maybe I'll answer them:) And if you are frightened or disgusted, well, there are lots of other blogs you can read. Lots.

This just in . . . I just saved my eldest daughter's life. She had a piece of popcorn husk lodged between two molars, down below the gum line, was in tears, Daddy tried to get it out with a knife to no avail, and I popped the little sucker out with a toothpick, with tears running down her cheeks. I AM the amazing supermom.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Creme de la creme

On Wednesday nights, we drop off 9 children at Awana Bible club at a nearby church and then run errands with the three youngest. We talk about just having one of us stay home and the other one go to the stores, but neither wants to be the one to stay home, and I want so badly to have some time with my husband that I'd rather take 3 babies to Walmart or sit in the van with them while he runs into other stores than not go.

Which means, we walk around the stores with 3 very small people and attract sometimes a large amount of attention. Especially from Black people who notice our 11th child who is adopted and has beautiful brown skin.

To tell the truth, she has beautiful everything. She is stunning. Her eyes, her hair, her skin, her smile, her personality and temperament - she is exquisite. She could not be more spectacular in any way.

And people notice this, and comment. Of course, for those brave enough to ask, the first thing they want to know is why we have so many in a short span, and are we babysitting or fostering. But when the reality dawns on them, as it did last night when my husband said, no, they are all ours, they say something like, "Wow. Somebody gave up a beautiful baby."

And I feel bad about it. I feel guilty. Like it would be okay if I had adopted an ugly baby. But I didn't. I adopted the creme de la creme. The cream of the crop. She is as beautiful a baby as I have seen in my life. And she is the most pleasant, delightful, easy to parent baby we've ever had in our family.

It doesn't matter to the strangers who comment that we said yes to her before she was born. We knew she was a girl. That was all. When we walked into her birthmom's hospital room and met her for the first time, we were both struck by how beautiful she was. But it didn't matter. We were already committed at that point. Healthy, sick, weak, strong, physically, mentally, spiritually perfect or marred, we were in.

It is the same with our other children. We have 12 healthy, beautiful, wonderful children. People like to call us lucky. I don't believe in luck. Luck is a way we account for good or bad things without crediting or blaming God. To say God has given us 12 blessings is to acknowledge that He is also involved when someone tries to have children but doesn't, or has a miscarriage.

If someone survives a disaster and we say they were lucky, that's okay, because the people who didn't survive just weren't lucky. But if we say God protected them, we acknowledge that He allowed those who perished to do so. He didn't protect them.

No one is comfortable with the idea that God is involved in that way. Believers don't like to think about a God who gives to some and not to others. Luck is a much easier friend/villian. And some feel God is as unpredictable and unworthy of trust as is Luck.

How deeply involved is this God? Big things, small things? Stock market, tsunami, card games, ball games, regular season only, or championships as well?

I think He is very involved. I am uncertain what is caused and what is allowed, but the fact that He CAN prevent or protect or provide and sometimes doesn't makes that somewhat of a mute point. If He didn't cause Job's family and fortune to perish (and I think an argument could be made that He did pick that fight), but could have prevented it from happening, it makes precious little difference if He is passive or active - His passivity is itself an act of indifference.

Or is it?

This is what I am certain of.

1. God is good. He is only, always, ever good. He cannot be anything but what He is, and that is good.

2. He loves me. Not only that, He loves every single human He made. He IS love. He is a more true definition of love than any feeling or relationship or experience any of us have ever known. Every manifestation we know of the concept of love we know because of a creation of His that gives us a glimpse of love, but only a shadow.

3. All power is His. He is God. He can do anything. Nothing can oppose Him.

Since He is good, He is love, and has all power, I trust Him.

You might say, "Well that's easy for you, everything goes your way. You have healthy children and food to feed them and good health insurance." And that would be a legitimate point. Satan made it, regarding Job. Of course he trusts God, he has everything. But, take away his wealth, his children, his health, and then what will happen?

I don't want to take that test, but I hope I would pass.

I don't know why God has blessed me. I don't know why some ask for children and don't have them, but I have a full dozen. But I believe God gives them and knows what He is doing. Children are a blessing from the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is His reward.

As for our adopted treasure, we said yes. We showed up. A young woman was unintentionally pregnant and felt the best thing she could do for her daughter was to place her for adoption, and eventually decided the best place for her was in our family. She had every opportunity to change her mind. She didn't.

I don't want to spend my life apologizing for God's goodness in my life and trying to explain what He did or didn't do for someone else. He is good. In the end, every eye will see and every mind will know His goodness.

For now, I just have to say, yes, we are ridiculously and inexplicably blessed by God. Not only do we have an abundance of biological masterpieces, we also have the Mona Lisa of adopted babies. We said yes. Over and over, we have said yes.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

To whom much is given . . .

much is required.

Sometimes I get discouraged. Sleep deprivation doesn't help. I am tired only partially due to a newborn. I also stayed up late doing laundry one night recently, and twice have stayed up to watch a movie with my husband (his love language=me watching a movie with him, not my preference, watched The Social Network, saw half of it one night because he watched it and I got sucked in, saw the rest last night because I had seen the other half and wanted to see the beginning).

Being with people who disapprove of my life and choices wears me down. Whether they are strangers, friends, or family, I have not learned the skill of not caring what people think.

(laughing out loud because I'm typing about being discouraged and overwhelmed while holding two babies)

Having sick children feels like failure. In the same way we begin to yearn for spring in the dead of winter, feeling like we'll never be warm again, I am longing for my children to be all healthy again. It's been the weirdest collection of symptoms without a diagnosis, all different things, just dribbling along. I don't mind little sick people all that much. I can clean up a bed full of vomit, diarrhea down the leg and on the floor, give a shower in the night to a croupy toddler or wipe little snotty noses all day and not mind too much. But having big kids laying around with a half fever, a wimpy appetite and a sort of sore throat is hard to deal with. I just want them to feel better.

Last night, I started a conversation with my husband with the question, "This doesn't seem to bother you, how do you handle it?" But our talk eventually moved toward the condition of my home school records and another thing to add to my too-long to-do list, and the sinking feeling that my husband thinks I'm not very impressive either.

Checking anything off that list feels great to me. This past weekend I hung up two laundry baskets full of shirts and matched two baskets full of socks. But child #10 frequently gets loose in the family closet and wants to wear everything she sees, whether it belongs to her or not. Small people put socks on feet and hands to become lions and tigers or ice skaters and there goes my carefully matched and jealously hoarded sock collection.

And the list of things to do is long, and many of the tasks require my full attention, which is so rare and precious, and that is discouraging too.

This assessment of the new normal can be discouraging. Each time a new little one comes home, I am astonished at how little time I really have to do anything with 2 hands and a brain. But this is a little different. Basically, for the first time in my long and glorious (or not) mothering career, I have come to a point where I have a hard time being alone with my smallest 3. I can do it, but it is hard, and, well, discouraging. Nursing a baby takes a lot of time. Nursing 2 babies takes longer. And nursing and bottle feeding and diaper changing and rinsing and washing and hanging and drying all my Bumgenius diapers (don't be impressed, could I honestly afford to put them all in disposables??) takes a whole lot of time. (And I should mention that holding a certain 6 month old is the aquatic equivalent of sitting on the front row at Sea World during the Free Willy show, you have to change your shirt or wear it wet.)

On the other hand, and this is the silliest thing, I feel so thankful at the silliest things. I feel like a dragon on a pile of gold sitting in my laundry room with all the diapers and clothes that God has provided for all the blessings God has given, sleeping in the beds God has also provided in the home He has given us, paid for with $$ from the job God has blessed my husband with. I am blessed. My cup runneth over. I don't want it to change. The Lord is my Shepherd - I shall not want.

He leads me beside the still waters. My children often bring me a big dripping cup of it. He makes me lie down in green pastures. My husband will soon be teaching our sons how to mow the green pastures. And my daughter is planning what to grow in her garden. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies - I do not have to wait for a safe peaceful moment for restoration and nourishment. Right in the middle of chaos, insanity and various attacks, I find Him faithful and more awesome than I knew.

Goodness and mercy follow me, asking if they can have an orange, and can I peel it, or can they have some chocolate chips. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, because I'd be lost without Him.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It is time

My twins are about to turn 1 and 6 months. People are done bringing meals, mostly. It is time for me to begin eating more appropriately. I just want to go on record here. I am not talking about a psycho frantic crazy diet. I just need to eat things that are good for me and not eat things that are bad for me. Fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean meats, good dairy - all okay to eat. Chocolate, brownies, ice cream, cookies, refined grains, etc. - these I will save for birthdays, special occasions, not eat all day, every day, whatever I want, whenever I want it.

To review my reasons for wanting to eat healthier:

I want to weigh less than my husband (a lot less).
I want to not have high blood pressure.
I want to be a person my daughter (and all my children) can respect and imitate.
I want to feed my spiritual and emotional and physical needs with appropriate and healthy "food".
I want to feel better and be smaller.

Tomorrow may not be stellar, because I haven't shopped or planned for healthier eating. I will wait another week to start walking, I think.

Anyway, just wanted to go on record, going to start to try. Here goes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The amazing supermom rides again

Do you know what I did today?

I got up, nursed one baby, grabbed a shower, shaved pits and ankles, nursed another baby and fed another baby a bottle. I am the amazing supermom.

An hour later, I nursed a baby while flipping home made whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes (mine had pecans in them too). I am the amazing supermom.

At least once today I nursed two babies while giving a third a bottle. I am the amazing supermom.

This evening, I had a baby on my back in my Ergo, was nursing a baby while carrying the following: my water jug (empty), my phone and charger, a bag of wet cloth diapers, a small canister of formula, and a small trash can full (and overflowing) of poopy cloth diapers and soiled clothes . . . and came up stairs with all that. I am the amazing supermom.

I also won solitaire on my phone 5 times today.

This week we went to a drum lesson, a training set at the house of prayer, Awanas, the dentist, the allergist, and a friend's yard so my eldest son could pick up their dog's poop. We did most of our school most days and have most of our laundry clean and some of it put away. Wonderful people who love us are bringing meals every other day, but other than that, we are beginning to breathe and move on our own, and it feels good.

My husband and eldest are both eating in a healthy way, and I think I will join them sometime soon. For now, I'm enjoying the calories I think I deserve while nursing two, and the grace, as He gently leads this nursing ewe. And I'm enjoying all the little triumphs along the way.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Long day

At the end of a long tired day, I think I can call it a good day. A long day, a hard day, a stretched nearly to my limits day. The low point: when I dropped off the big four at the HOP and took the youngest eight home. I realized then how different 3 under 2 is from 2 under 2. Lots of neediness, lots of demand, not very helpful middle aged kids and an exhausted mommy. High point: when the eldest daughter told me I look pretty. I love that child so much. Love the rest too. Achy love, wanting so much to do the best job possible, wanting to draw them to Jesus, wanting to set a good example, wanting to train and inspire and nurture and encourage. The end of a long day of breaking up fights and instructing and teaching and admonishing and butt-kicking. Changed diapers, served meals, cleaned up, washed diapers, found the laundry room floor, nursed, fed bottles, taught school, drove around, gave snacks. A good day, I think. Will try again tomorrow.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Preparing to launch

Today is our last day of having Daddy home to help. Tomorrow is the beginning of "normal" life. Hmmn. Not that I intend to go at Supermom pace tomorrow or this week. If corporate chics get 6 weeks, I guess I can have a couple more days to get all oriented.

The problem with that idea, though, is that when a corporate chic takes 6 weeks, her co-workers don't take the time off with her. In fact, they all probably work harder because she isn't. If a school teacher takes maternity leave, there is a substitute teacher who takes her place in making sure everything happens as it is supposed to.

But for a home school mom, who calls in a sub? Who makes sure everything gets done? There is no relief pitcher. My children are fairly well trained, but they are, in the end, children. If they were capable of doing everything without me, they wouldn't need a mother.

So to some degree, I'm not really taking time off, because being their mother is my life, and it is a critical part of their lives. Instead, we will whittle it down to what my IT husband calls "the critical path". Math, spoons, socks. Diapers, food. Survival mode. And even survival mode is a stretch for us right now. T-minus 10 . . . 9 . . . 8 . . .

"We don't have any apples, we don't have any oranges. Can we have orange soda?"

Friday, March 04, 2011

Whine and cheeze

I should have written this before I started feeling better. I wanted to talk about post partum wickedness when you are old and fat. I have tried to know if it takes longer to recover from childbirth now that I am older, or have had more children, and I'm not sure.

It is different. With a first or earlier babies, there is more tearing and tenderness where the baby comes out. The hard is in the initiation. First time nursing, first time giving birth, it's hard because you haven't done it before.

But with later deliveries, there are other challenges. There are afterbirth contractions, there is a stretched out uterus to get back to normal. There is an older body. Taking enough time to nurse well, taking care of myself, and especially, taking care of the other children. This was perhaps the biggest challenge for me this time.

When there is another baby who doesn't walk but who is way over the limit of what a new mom is supposed to carry, that is difficult. She doesn't need her mama less, she needs me just as much. And with the added challenge of a very insistant, still-nursing toddler, when I came home, I felt like I had given birth to three infants. And having this new boy who seemed to be peeing less, pooping less, I just was really questioning my adequacy for the job at hand. (especially when I couldn't lift anyone or go on the stairs without gushing - tip for postpartum stairs: go very very slow, slow for a snail, tedious for a turtle slow, take a step, rest for a while, fools the body, makes for quicker recovery)

Can I do this? Can I nurse 2? Can I give 3 littles the attention each needs? (I can hear the I-told-you-so's piling up - I told you, if you think I'm an idiot and bad mother, don't read my blog!) Can I discipline the preschoolers, teach the youngin's the 3 r's, give the hormonal ones therapy and help the high schooler with geometry proofs and chemistry? Will I ever go on a date again? Leave the house alone? Go to the store? Get my bangs cut?

I haven't gained a child, I've lost an arm. And my confidence. And my pluck.

But I haven't. Yesterday I started to feel human again. Today I am the little train that could. I only have one child more than I did 2 weeks ago. It's like an 8% increase. It will be okay. I'm not any more super than I was with 2 or 7 or 10 or 11 kids, but I'm not any less.

I still have access to the same resources, I still have the same counter-cultural values and beliefs. I can still do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So here's my new song (you can't hear the tune, of course). It does not pretend to be very original, but it is my theme song, anyway.

Jesus Christ, You are my strength
As I rise up today, You alone are all I need
The more that I abide in You,
The more that You are all I have,
The more that You are all I need

Teach me in the wilderness
To lean on You there
I don't care
I know You are all I need

Like manna in the wilderness
Take me away, till I say
Lord that You are all I need

You are my strength
You're my beloved
I can do all things
When I am in You

You are my bread
Your love sustains me
You satisfy me
When You are all I have
Because You are all I need

Strength in the wilderness, abiding in You . . .

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The chromosome question . . . answered?

Knowing I would be induced, I thought a great deal about whether my baby was going to have Down syndrome. I obsessed about it. I was afraid of what it would mean, especially immediately after birth - if he would stay in the room with me, if he would nurse, if he would be in the NICU, if it would be different than my other babies' postpartum hospital stays. I know that is short sighted. I wasn't thinking about having Down syndrome for his whole life. Just the immediate future.

I was even concerned about if I would be able to focus during labor, or if I would be thinking all the time about whether he would have it. I needn't have worried. Labor is not about meeting your baby, it's not about ending a pregnancy, it is about labor only. Nothing else.

But when he was born, and was across the room with my husband and the nurse and the doctor and they were all talking, I could hear my ob pointing out all the reasons he didn't have it, and I was fine. I didn't care. I don't know if I would have cared if he did, but I didn't care that he didn't.

They walked across the room to weigh him, and I saw him, for the first time, on the scale, and I gasped at how big and healthy and gorgeous he was. And then they brought him over and I held him, and I wept for relief, just that he was alive and here and mine. And I told him how glad I was to see him and how I've been thinking of him all day and all night and how happy I was to finally meet him. And it had nothing to do with chromosomes.

In the next couple days at the hospital, I took inventory, and wished I was the kind of mama that always did that, but I'm not. I wished I had a couple other of my newborns to compare him to, but I didn't. Is the skin on the back of his neck thicker? Is the gap between his toes big? (Never mind that Jambo's big toe gap was so big, we said he had opposing big toes.) Do his ears seem low, (do they wobble . . . ) or small, or folded over? Is he like our other people? Well, no, he is himself. And all the time I usually spend trying to figure out who he looks like was spent trying to figure out if he looked like, well, like he had Down syndrome.

I don't think he does.

In the hospital, he didn't poop very often, but not concerning, and he didn't pee that much, but I didn't worry. When we came home, I got concerned about his output, started adding an ounce of formula, then pumped mama milk after feedings, to make sure he was taking enough in. Then the inevitable nursing strike came, a 3 hour argument between mom and son (I won). Then we did the old SNS with pumped milk for another day, but that is not sustainable. All the time wondering - is this Ds? Is he one of those kids that doesn't look like he has it, and doesn't seem like he has it, but has sluggish bowels and a weak suck?

But I don't think he has it. Tomorrow we will have blood drawn and an ultrasound on his "renal" system, to make sure, to get it off the radar, and out of my mind. But I am pretty sure it will be negative.

And I have peace. I am content. I do not know what the journey was for, and I don't need to know right now. I feel a tiny bit silly for dragging everyone there, but not a lot, because of the critical moment it is in the world of Down syndrome diagnoses. I think, if our potential has raised awareness for anyone, as it obviously has for us, then it is worth it.

I am nearer my God for the journey, and that is good. I am nearer my husband, and my children, and that is also good. And if, someday, God really does place one of those treasures in my womb or my heart and in my arms, that will also be very good.

He is always good. Even when He seems not to be, when He seems silent, or absent, or cruel (have you noticed my servant Job?) still He is good. He cannot be other than He is. And He is good.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Birth stories, part 6

The arrival of Little Red
Winter, 2011

After being on blood pressure medication for 3 weeks, (Labetalol, 100mg 2x/day {8am and 4 pm} to 200mg 2x/day to 200 mg 3x/day, in case anyone needs to know) and having my blood drawn each week, the doc said my ldh (a liver enzyme) was steadily going up. This is what happened with my 8th, but it was high enough at 37wks3days to induce. This time, we had kept it at bay and it was just on the line at 38 wks. So I agreed, to my ob's delight, to be induced the day before my due date.

I was divided about this, for several reasons: my 39 wk blood draw showed my ldh had actually gone down to under the limit, for obvious reasons I prefer not to be induced, and I didn't want to play God and let my impatience take over. On the other hand, my doctor and husband both felt good about going ahead, not waiting to get sicker, not waiting to have to do it.

So, after a weekend of knowing it was going to happen (first scheduled induction in 6 kids or so, that was weird - knowing this is our last ______ before Dozer, last popcorn and candy night, last time going to church, etc.), we got the call Tuesday morning. They had said we would go in by 9 or 10. We got the call at 5:45, to be there at 7:30! My plan of having a good breakfast was out the window. I tried to choke down a hastily made turkey sandwich (gag) and part of a bagel but my mouth was nervous and my stomach wasn't interested - but I never missed it.

At my last visit I had measured 2 cm and 60% effaced. So I was hoping for a 3 the morning of the induction. No. I was 1-2. Hmmn. My nurses were all named Sue, and the main one was a good one, one of the tough ones who has been there a long time and knows her stuff. That was good. We did the briefing, a resident came in and acknowledged that it was possible she would deliver the baby, if things went fast at the end, that was nice. Dr. Brooke.

They hooked me up to the pitocin and I had contractions for about 3 hours, some that got my attention, but not very consistent. I tried to rest, but was nervous and excited. We watched TV some during this time, I had cranberry juice, it was okay. Around 12 I was at 3 (which was nice, to have gained a little without too much pain) and my doc asked to have my water broken. Now I know this is controversial, and I don't know if perhaps it would have been better otherwise. There is a part of me that would love to be in that natural, labor-at-home, no-intervention camp, but I've had enough issues with blood pressure, etc., not to have that option, and I can't afford to get bent out of shape when things don't go my way. They don't always, and that's okay too.

Water broken, pretty soon the contractions picked up and before long I was having to work. I leaned over the back of my sat-up bed, which worked well during contractions but not between them, and they were far enough apart that there was some time between them. (In fact, they were never ever really closer together than 3 minutes, consistently anyway.) So my nurse was a fan of the birthing ball, and I did that for a while. I was a little chicken of it, because, um, well, I'm short and fat and was not sure I could keep my balance, but hubby sat behind me and it worked okay. I found the more I hurt, the bigger area I needed to rock and roll on that ball. So at first he was right behind me and I was pushed up next to the bed. Then I backed up and he backed up and the ball made "much bigger circle". (Fiddler on the Roof)

When I am in good hard labor, I do not like to be touched. So my poor husband is asking if he can do anything, and I know people who have counter pressure and back rubbing and I just don't want any part of it. We have a joke, from The Apple Dumplin' Gang, I just say, "Clovis don't like to be touched," and he understands.

At 2 o'clock, I was at 5. From then on, it felt like transition could happen any time. Now that may sound silly, but my transition from 5 to pushing has gone fairly quickly in the past, sometimes, and this was no different, eventually. But not for a while. I kept asking to be checked, and kept being a 5, kept crying wolf, kept feeling stupid. And I wouldn't care, except that I wanted my doctor to be there. But I didn't want him to have to leave patients during office hours only to come stand outside and wait for a long time - and I didn't know. So after about 2 hours of being at 5, I agreed to an epidural. I wasn't progressing. The contractions were wicked, but not long enough or close enough, and I knew I was going to need more pitocin (was at 11) and didn't think I could take it. He wasn't coming down, I was doing everything I knew to do but couldn't relax and suspected an epidural would do the trick.

The thing I had wanted to avoid regarding an epidural was the sit in bed all day and do nothing, don't move, stuck baby with a bruise on her head kind of epidural. So I was okay with getting one here, knowing it wouldn't be long. On the other hand, I was very nervous that I would go through all the trauma of having one placed but not get medicated in time to push. Yeah.

So the anesthesiologist came, I got on the side of the bed in a little ball (not too uncomfortable, if you're not having CONTRACTIONS!)(but I was), and she got it in, except that it went into a vein, which is apparently not where you want it. So she pulled it out and started over. And all the time, I am more and more sure she's not going to get it in in time. And all I could think was, "I just want to have ONE contraction I don't feel, just ONE.

As you can guess, I didn't even get one. I got on my back, they started giving me medicine. With each contraction I kept asking (whining), how much longer do you think it will take? And they kept saying ridiculous things like, 10 to 15 minutes. I think I was just deciding whether to relax, or wait for the pain to stop, and finally something in me clicked and said, the heck with it, I'm pushing. (And the nurse checked me right in the middle of that moment I think and realized it was too late.)

So I said the magic words we had all been waiting for for 2 hours - "I need to push." She said, "don't push." I said, "I'm pushing." And she said, "I know you are honey." Little Red was half way out and they said, now you really have to push, so I did a mighty push and my son came out on the bed. Dr. Brooke came in quickly and did all the uncomfortable things they do right after you have a baby, and I felt a whole lot of it, but I think some of the epidural had kicked in a little.

Red (red hair, red skin - neither will stay that way) was over with Daddy and the nurse being checked out, doing well, but I couldn't see him and didn't know really what was going on, just kicking myself for getting another stupid epidural that we have to pay for but I got no benefit from whatsoever. Oh well, I say. It distracted me through the last leg, maybe relaxed me a bit, maybe got me in a better position . . . in the end, I have a son, I had him naturally, without drugs, and he is marvelous. 8 lb 4 oz, right in the middle of my boys, bigger than any of my girls.

After all my labors I like the line from the end of the movie Hook, that the little guy says when Pan is flying away: Now that was a great game.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

upcoming episodes

Look for coming episodes in the Adventures of the Amazing Super Mom, including . . .

The Amazing Super Mom gives birth for the eleventh time to her 12th child

Unlocking the mystery of the extra chromosome

Whine and cheeze, a really old chic complains about the impact of being old and fat on postpartum recovery

The continuing adventures of the supermom and her minions as they attempt to finish the school year with 3 children under the age of 2

. . . sorry no adventures today, but two-handedness is an extremely precious commodity . . . and my butt hurts.