Welcome 2013. I have a handful of goals on the horizon, but as far as resolutions go, I always have the same one: I’m going to live the life I sing about in my song.
All day long Tom and I have been walking past each other and saying “Seven!” and then shaking our heads in disbelief. Seven! Ella is seven! I don’t remember anything from being two, and very little about being five, but I remember everything about being seven. How did my tiny, mewing newborn become someone who will potentially remember this day for the next 80some years? If that is the case, I hope she remembers these things about today:
When I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, she said “An Egyptologist, a chef, a writer, a midwife, a sculptor, and a mom. I think you will need to live with me to take care of my babies, I am going to be busy.”
When we went around the table at dinner and said what we love about her (a birthday tradition), Becky said she loved Ella because she smells good, and proceeded to lick her.
When Alice realized that, despite now being 5, she could not read, Ella comforted her and promised to start teaching her tomorrow.
Ella spent a large portion of the day with her nose in her new Kindle, and finished two Magic Tree House’s, and a Judy Moody. She’s thanked Tom and I at least 20 times.
After dinner, when we were all “caked” out (4 cakes in two days), we dared each other to do a faceplant in it, and laughed our heads off in the process.
I hope she remembers how many times I told her today how proud of her I am, how much she lights up our days, how excited I am to see her grow up, and very, very lucky I am to be her mom. I meant it every time.
Five years ago I gave birth to a force of nature. My Alice, my Cricket, she has pushed me, and pulled me, and made me laugh every single day of her life. She sobbed into my chest last night that she didn’t want to grow up, because she didn’t want “you to not be my mom”. As soon as I reassured her that I would always, always be her mom, she sat up, scoffed, and said dryly “What they heck am I freaking out about then?” and then rolled over and went to sleep. Oh child, I may never understand you, but I sure do love you.
Good morning. I guess. Zzzzzzzz.
I wake up just as Tom is leaving for work. He’s a good man, and knows that every minute of sleep I get is another minute of the day i can maintain my composure. He’s already fed the kids, so I plant myself in front of the computer and drink coffee.
Becky is doll obsessed lately, and changing her baby’s diaper is a constant activity.
Penny sits (briefly) in her carseat, and doesn’t even scream. Her teeth hurt, and she is pretty sure it’s my fault.
The girls come upstairs and I prop them all in front of a dinosaur show so I can tackle a few projects. #crunchymomfail
Homeschooling lesson plan: check
Finish wrapping our advent books: check.
Penny refuses to nap, so I clean the rest of the upstairs one handed.
I set Alice and Becky up with a computer game, and Ella up with math work, so i can go lay down with Penny.
I run upstairs, stop a fight over the computer headphones, help Ella set up another math project, and throw some leftovers from thanksgiving on a plate to nuke since it’s 11 and I haven’t eaten yet.
Two bites in, Penny is awake, and pissed. I think it’s time to start using the buckles on her seats, oops.
I give up on morning nap and put her in the baby carrier so she can scream at me in comfort. Becky and I play color bears for a while, while the big girls play dressup downstairs.
I kick Alice and Becky outside, since it’s above freezing (barely).
Ella escapes the mandatory relocation by organizing the shoes, emptying the dishwasher, and just generally staying out of my way. Smart kid.
Butternut squash for dinner, baking it early in an attempt to actually have dinner done on time.
Lunch. Penny falls asleep somewhere in this span of time, but not for long.
I clean up while Alice distracts the baby with a rousing game of “Ring around the baby”.
Mandatory quiet time after lunch. Ella reads, Alice plays with magnet dolls, and Becky falls asleep. Thank goodness. Penny is back in the carrier while I do laundry and mess around on facebook.
Also: more coffee.
Sarah and 2/3rds of her boys come by around 3, right as Becky is waking up (and peeing in my bed, arg!), Penny is screaming in her chair because mom isn’t holding her, and the two older girls are mid-wardrobe change. I only half apologize for the chaos, she doesn’t care.
We sit and chat and knit and pass babies back and forth. Penny falls asleep easily in my lap, and I wonder who this baby is, and where the screaming one went.
Tom gets home near 5, as Sarah and her boys are packing up to go. I finish the soup, make burnt beans, and have the kids set the table and clean up their rooms, while Tom tries to calm down Penny, who is lamenting the tortures of infanthood. I forget to take pictures of dinner, but empty plates and bowls means success.
Tom takes all the girls downstairs to get ready for bed while I pick up upstairs. Hilarity ensues.
I manage everything but the dishes. After the kids’ bedtime Tom tackles the half that can go in the dishwasher, I’ll get to the pots and pans tomorrow. (Maybe).
I nurse penny upstairs while checking facebook, and she (briefly) falls asleep. I try not to move. Becky comes upstairs to find a book, and Penny is awake again.
I head downstairs and get into bed with Penny. It’s 7:30pm, but I’m fried. The girls come in to give us kisses.
and then they go to sleep.
I lay in bed and read for an hour or two, nursing Penny. Zzzzzz. Back in bed at last.
Oh bloggy blog, I swear I have not forgotten you. Between Facebook being so much faster to access, and this blog install being buggy, I have been discouraged from blogging in the last few months. I keep thinking I will finally take the time to figure out how to export my blog files (they are too large for the auto-export), or connect my blog and facebook, or at least how to back the whole damn thing up already, but then I get distracted. I can’t imagine what by.
If you would like to keep up with me until I figure out this blog rehab, email me a link to your facebook account and I will happily add you.
When I started this DITL, I had assumed it would be a record of the day Penny was born. Instead, it was the day I was taught a lesson in patience. I have been sitting on these pictures, unsure whether they were worth posting, since it wasn’t the DITL I had imagined. I said something to that effect to Tom recently, and he pointed out that it was a really important day – it was the last day of my last pregnancy, a milestone just as important as a birth. Oy, this man. I think I will keep him.
So, an overdue DITL.
On the night of the 10th, I was manic. The kids were finally asleep, and I was rushing around changing sheets, organizing birth supplies, and bugging Tom to help me make my belly cast. I had one from each of the previous girls’ pregnancies, and was suddenly sacred that, at 38 weeks, I was going to miss my opportunity to make one of Sam’s pregnancy. He was skeptical, suggesting that I should wait until i was bigger, which made me laugh. I felt planetary. Belly cast, now.
Once we had finished, we went to bed. It was late, close to midnight, and I lay in bed reading, trying to be sleepy, feeling Sam wiggle around. I watched her movements and tried to convince her to turn, to move out of her posterior position, which she had been in for my entire pregnancy, and into a more labor friendly position. I knew I COULD push out a posterior baby if I needed to, but it would be a lot easier on both of us if she would please, please turn. I fell asleep somewhere after 1am, book on my chest, lamp still on.
At three, I woke up, a swift kick to my lungs shocking me awake. I was fairly used to this by now, and rolled onto my other side to try to get Sam into a different position. Rolling over at 9 months pregnant is a feat, a 5 step coordinated process. half way through this roll, I felt, and heard, a pop. I stopped moving, and laughed. I tapped Tom on the shoulder, and asked if he was asleep, one of the stupidest questions possible at 3am. “I think, maybe, my water may have just broke.” My water had not broken with the previous three until pushing, so I really did not know. That strange sensation of ‘popping’, almost like a joint cracking, had been described to me enough times that I thought I knew what had just happened, but I was not sure. Tom was immediately awake, but confused. “You think… what?” This time when i laughed, I felt a huge gush of water, which made me laugh harder. I swung my legs around, to get out of bed, and felt a flood. I was laughing so hard I could not breathe, and Tom sat up in bed, even more confused. “My water” hahahaha “just broke” hahahaha “and there is SO MUCH.” hahahaha. The idea that there was this much water in my entire body was absurd, let alone in my uterus. I walked the short distance to our bathroom, leaving a trail of puddles along the way, and laughed, and laughed. I changed my underwear twice, three times, before giving up and putting in a large pad. I came back to bed and told Tom that today, we would meet our baby. We lay together, giddy and tired, waiting for the contractions to start. I had a few, but nothing intense.
Around 4 I gave up sleeping, and went upstairs to call my midwife and prepare the house. The sun was just coming up, and I started taking DITL pictures. I loved the idea of showing Sam “the sunrise on the day you were born”.
I was so, so excited. I had always said I wanted a labor that started with my water breaking, since it seemed so much more definite than the “Is it labor?” labors I had had previously.
We had a bed set up in our office, so I lay there and tried to rest while the rest of the house slept. I called my MW, and we agreed she would come by around noon if I had not called her back in active labor before then. My previous births had been fast once things shifted into gear, and we both wondered if my water breaking would cause an even faster birth.
Laying in the quiet office, my contraction picked up. I could still feel Sam moving, shifting, safe and cozy. I talked to her, told her how much I loved her, and how thrilled I was that today I would see her sweet face.
The kids, by some miracle, slept in until 7. Becky woke up first, and cuddled with my belly. “Today we will meet Sam, and you will be a big sister!” I said, and she grinned.
And then everything stopped.
We had anticipated this, since I had not been able to get into a decent labor place with either of the last two births with kids around, so we had made plans for them to leave for the day. I can not stop mothering long enough to get into a firm labor place, so away they went, Alice and Becky to Gretchen’s, and Ella to Sarah’s for soccer practice.
While Tom went to drop them all off, I took a shower. I stood and looked at my naked, swollen body, and wondered at how I had done this four times.
I lay back down in the office, and willed the contractions to start again. Okay, body, we can get going now.
Eventually I fell asleep.
Tom came back, and was at a loss. He is a doer, a fixer, and this non-labor labor left him with nothing to do. I put him to work setting up the birth pool.
I bounced on my birth ball, watched Buffy the Vampire Slater, and ate. I had sporadic, wussy contractions for hours. My MW, Cathy, came by, heard healthy heart tones, and told me to give in to this process and stop overthinking it. I laughed, because she knows me well enough to give that kind of advice. Me? Other think things? Never.
I realized I had forgotten to wash towels for the birth, and rushed up and down the stairs a few times, trying to get move Sam into a better position. Posterior babies often have this kind of stalled labor, and I was sure if we could get her turned around, we would have a baby right away.
You can come out now Sam, there are clean towels.
After lunch, as we were reaching the 12 hour mark, I started to get anxious. My midwife is more liberal with the timelines than an OB, but even she has limitations on how long we could go with broken waters. I knew I still had plenty of time to safely labor, but being on any kind of time table scared me. Maybe this having my water break thing wasn’t so cool.
Tom and I went for a walk around the block, and stopped at Sarah’s house to pick up food. She had taken Ella to Meghan’s house, and we stood in her kitchen and talked and laughed while she finished up dinner for us. I kept on a brave face, but she saw through it, and sent us home “to have a baby!”
Instead we went home to putz around and wish the kids were home because we were bored.
The birth pool mocked me.
I finally dozed in a dark room for a few hours that afternoon, waking up occasionally to record a contraction. No pattern, nothing I couldn’t talk through. I tried not to lose hope. We still had 8 hours of the day left, she could certainly be born soon.
I got up, spent some time in the garden, did yoga, and waited.
Gretchen came by around 5, at the same time as Cathy. Gretchen is an amazing cranial sacral and massage therapist, and she offered to work on Sam and I to get her into a better position. Tom stood and watched, and both he and Cathy saw the moment Sam finally gave up the posterior position and turned around. Thank god for talented friends. Cathy left to eat and rest, but promised to stay close, just in case things picked up now.
My mother in law was out of town, and while I knew Meghan would keep the kids if I asked, I also knew that was a lot to ask, since they had never had a sleep over before, and she already had house guests. If labor had been active, I wouldn’t have given it another thought, but at this point I just wanted to act like I wasn’t still leaving little amniotic fluid puddles around the house.
The girls were tired, and did not fight bedtime. They were a little bummed I had not produced a baby while they were gone, but mostly they just wanted to go to bed.
Gretchen came back over, and we went for a walk. Sam was still in a good position, and we both anticipated things happening soon. They had to, right?
9pm, still pregnant, not as excited. I called an amazing acupuncturist, who just happens to live two blocks away, and asked if she could come work on me in the morning. She offered to come by as soon as her kids were all asleep. She stayed for an hour, poking me, laughing with me, reading me passages from David Sedaris’s newest book. My contractions picked up, and I felt renewed.
Rebekah left around midnight, and I had to officially give up on the idea of Sam’s birthday being 7/11. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would still be pregnant on 7/12. I was determined to sleep for a few hours, sure I would wake up while it was still dark in active labor.
I woke up because it was sunny outside.
And that’s when I stopped taking pictures, and the actual birth story begins.
I was confused. And disappointed. And scared. It had been more than 24 hours since my water had broken, and even though Sam and I were both healthy and safe, I knew it was only a matter of time before the timer ran out for us. Rebekah had offered, the night before, to come back and do another session in the morning before her first appointments, so I called her at 6am, and asked her to come over. I also called my midwife and asked her to come. Nothing much was happening, but I was tired of waiting alone. Tom had been amazing and supportive, but he was not Cathy.
Rebekah came by around 6:30, and as soon as she started working on me, things picked up again. The contractions were still sporadic (7 minutes apart, 15 minutes apart, 4 minutes apart), but getting more powerful. I sat on my birth ball, draped over the arm of the couch, and cried. Cathy walked through the door at 7 and told Tom to start figuring out how to fill the birth tub. I scoffed, because I was never going to have this baby, duh. The girls woke up, and Tom kept them occupied in the other room until my father-in-law could come get them. I wanted to kiss them goodbye, but could not get myself together long enough to do so, and knew I would scare them if I came out crying and contracting.
Finally, I was in something resembling labor.
Rebekah had morning appointments, so she had to leave somewhere around 8, but we were not worried. All I had needed was a jumpstart, now things would start happening. But, as soon as she took her needles out and left, things stopped, again.
I stomped around the house, muttered angry words at my cervix, and begged Sam to just come out already. I was past being sad, I was angry. I knew soon we would have to have a talk about how much longer we could let labor go on like this, and I just wanted to have my damn baby already so I could avoid that talk. Cathy convinced me to go for another walk, and I stomped around the block, having two decent contractions the entire time.
We got back to the house around 8:30, and Rebekah came back over. I assume Cathy called her to come back, since acupuncture had helped so much before. I sat down on the birth ball, and Rebekah started putting needles in. I felt things shift. I needed to be up, moving. I walked from room to room of our house, pacing, trying to squirrel away and avoid everyone talking. Rebekah took the needles out because they were bothering me, and used the tuning forks on my back and points on my legs and feet. I paced, she worked, I paced some more.
I updated facebook with a status about not being sure I was actually pregnant at all, it was probably just hamburgers. Rebekah called me out on it when she checked facebook on her phone. I told everyone they could go home. My midwife reminded me that I was thinking too much, and gave me a couple herbs to help me relax.
Contractions never found pattern, but I had stopped chatting, and was making those loud, wide noises when I did occasionally have one. I chanted “Open, open, oooooopen” to get over the crest, and then moaned my way out of them.
Suddenly at 9, I announced I was getting in the pool, in the living room. I did not feel like this was “it” or that I needed the pain relief, but damn it, there was a nice warm pool right there and I was getting in. Tom got in with me, and as soon as he did, I had a massive contraction. I signaled for a bowl, and heaved while contracting again. Tom and I both got excited, since big contractions and throwing up were two of my transition signs in previous pregnancies. I handed back the bowl, had one more decent contraction…
and then things stopped. AGAIN.
Tom and I floated around, trying to enjoy the break. Cathy and Rebekah hung out in the dining room, and I apologized to Tom for being so slow. He laughed at me, and held me. Five, then ten minutes passed. I had a small contraction, and asked Tom to go turn off the air conditioner, and bring me water. He jumped out, turned off the AC, and left the room to grab my cup. Suddenly, I was hit by a contraction, my chanting of “Open” no longer long moans, but desperate. Tom rushed back and jumped in the pool, and Cathy and Rebekah came in, ready. I fought to get out of my bottoms, and only managed one leg. I reached down to feel where Sam’s head was, and said “I feel her, her head is RIGHT THERE!” and laughed. Another huge contraction crashed down on me, and I was pushing.
With Ella, pushing had been an hour of unfocused work. With Alice, I never actively pushed, but rather just let a contraction happen, and then was holding a baby. Becky was harder, because she came out at an angle, and was wrapped up in her cord. I had really been hoping for another Alice birth, especially since we had gotten Sam turned around into a good position, and panicked a little when I pushed once, twice, and nothing happened. I changed positions in the water, and waited for another contraction. It came quickly, a short push, and her head was out. I told Cathy, and she felt, quickly realizing Sam was wrapped up in her cord as well. I held back from pushing while Cathy unwound her, and then Cathy sat back and told me to catch my baby. I pushed again, and she slid out into my hands. I lifted her out of the water, and sat back.
“What just HAPPENED?” I laughed, and asked the time. It was 9:37. We had been walking around the block an hour earlier, and I had told facebook I wasn’t pregnant afterall just a half hour ago.
I sat back in the water with Sam in my chest and stroked her head and back, stunned. I rubbed her back, coaxing out a cry, and marveling that it was over. Tom, still in the water with us, reminded me that we did not yet know if she were a boy or girl. We quickly checked and all cheered when we saw that she was a girl. Four girls! We have four daughters! Tom cut her cord, I wrapped her in a warm towel, and she latched onto the breast as soon as it was offered.
About this time my friend Sarah knocked on the door. She had kept Lily overnight the night before, but was leaving to Montana that morning and had to drop her off. Cathy answered the door, and, knowing how close Sarah and I are (and that she is a crazy homebirther like me) asked me if it was okay if Sarah came in. I said “Sure!” and Sarah came back to the living room. A few months earlier, when Sarah’s third son Simon was born, she invited me over just a few hours after he was born. I had been so honored and overjoyed to have met him so early, so it was only suiting that she met Penny before we were even out of the birth pool.
Sarah only stayed a few minutes, and then the next bits are not nearly as memorable – we got out of the pool, delivered the placenta, took a quick herbal bath, Cathy did the newborn exam, and then I showered.
By the time I got out, the living room was back to normal, the pool was gone, and my bed was ready. I was 100% exhausted, and crawled into bed with Penny to sleep.
The girls came home that afternoon, and then the next month is a blur. Tom was able to stay home for most of it, which was amazing, and I am sure contributed to my being able to (so far) avoid the postpartum depression pit.
In retrospect, each time I have given birth I have learned something vital to becoming the kind of mother I want to be. From Ella’s birth, I learned that I am stronger than I had ever imagined, and that I would walk through fire for my children. Alice’s birth reminded me that Thomas and I are stronger together than we are apart, and that laughing through pain is healing. Becky’s birth was a powerful lesson in connectedness, and the importance of trusting my instincts. And lastly, Penny’s birth taught me to let go – of my expectations, my fears, and this notion that I have any control over these tiny people. I can guide them, I can soothe them, and I can love them with every breath, but that has to be enough.
I am so blessed.
Most of the time I am okay with it, the fact that we will never have a son. I am so in love with our little family of four girls that it seems obvious that we were always supposed to be together, and a boy in the mix would seem out of place. I longed for a son, I expected a son, I dreamed of a son. Four times out of four, I was instead blessed with a daughter.
I have learned that it’s not an either/or situation, this mourning. I can be sad that I never met our son, while still being absolutely content with our family ‘as-is’. We know we are done with babies, and in making that decision, I had to come to terms with giving up the idea of ever meeting this almost-son. Most of the time it doesn’t phase me at all.
But sometimes, I find a picture of Thomas as a little boy, and I just can’t believe that the son we welcomed never showed up. “He would have looked like this” I think, knowing that that is irrational. I have no idea what our son would have looked like, any more than I know what my girls will be like as adults.
Expectation is a tough thing to let go of though, and if nothing else, parenthood has given my a lot of practice in just that. Letting go of what I thought I could control, what I thought I wanted, where I thought this journey would take us.
His name would have been Thomas Samuel, the 6th or 7th Thomas on Tom’s side, the name handed down generation after generation. After some deliberation about what to do about the tradition (offer to let a cousin take over if they have a boy, save the name in case we are able to adopt some day, change one of the girls names to Thomasina*) Tom finally decided to hold onto the name. “Maybe someday one of the girls will choose to name their son Thomas. I guess I better work on being the best dad ever, so they want to use it, huh?”
Girls, I hope someday you read this and know that A) I would not trade you for all the tiny boys in the world, and B) if you have a son, I will probably call him Thomas even if you name him something else, so save yourself the confusion. I’m calling dibs on naming your babies, decades before they are born. I’m really going to enjoy being a crazy grandma.
*Thomasina was never really an option, because I do not dislike my kids. Apologies to the Thomasina’s out there. I hope you go by Tommy or Tamsin, because that is actually pretty cute.
Ella overheard Tom and I talking about a potential move* this morning, and was agahst. “I don’t want to move. I like our house. I like my school.” I remembered suddenly how hard it was to move as a kid. I did it more than most, and but never built up that ‘military brat’ outer shell. I went into every new town wanting to be accepted, to make friends, to stay.
Tom and I looked at each other, and sighed. “We know, baby, but wouldn’t it be exciting to get to live in a big city, with lots of museums?” I asked, playing devil’s advocate, even though I am not convinced all the bones in the Smithsonian are worth more than my patch of green garden.
Ella’s voice quavered. “I don’t want to be far away from my best friends.” I chewed on my lip, and hugged her. How do I comfort her and convince her that she will make new friends, when I dread the possibility of having to build another tribe – when I am almost certain I couldn’t replicate the friendships I have here?
Alice watched us from across the dining room table, drawing. She shrugged. “Don’t worry Ella. We are your best friends and we will never leave you.”
*Yes, this is on the table again. I have a feeling that, as long as Tom works for this particular agency, it will continue to be an issue (or oppertunity, depending on how you look at it).
“The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions — the little soon forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimal of pleasurable and genial feeling.”
This summer has flown by, and now that fall is creeping up on us, I feel the need to make a list of the small things I missed here on the blog, but that i am so grateful for.
Baby friends (aka forced cousins, or maybe arranged marriages).
This girl, who has the best laugh, and who is just starting to give us a peek into her thoughts.
Our amazing garden, brought to you by neglect and decent weather.
Birthday parties with piñatas
This girl, who is so thoughtful and kind. I have to remind myself daily that she is six, still so little.
Watching these relationships form, these bonds strengthen.
Pool days with friends.
This girl, who is as fancy as she is ornery. Who else would wear a party dress to the park on a cold Tuesday, and then play in the splash pad after being told “No” 15 times?
This guy, who somehow makes everything more fun.
A new sister-in-law
Our very productive chickens
And Penny. Penny Penny Pen-a-roo. What was our life without her? I can not remember.
Are we all caught up now?
It’s been quiet around here, but not because I don’t have anything to say. It turns out that having four children is a lot of work; more so when you are a crazy lady and think “Homeschooling! That sounds fun and easy!”
Wait right here baby, I need to help figure out this math problem.
The fact that we are “doing school” right now at all seems crazy on the surface – Penny just turned a month old, Tom is back at work, our district doesn’t start for another couple weeks – but it’s honestly part of what is saving us on these long days. I’ve discovered over the last few kids that a sense of accomplishment – like I am a productive adult – is closely tied to my sense of self worth. So, everyday we have a plan, a set of goals, and if we manage to get half of our checklist finished I walk around feeling like supermom. Sure, I could direct that energy towards housework, but that isn’t nearly as much fun.
As far as the particulars of this year, our plan is to focus on Ella’s work Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and Alice’s work Tuesday/Thursday, while Ella is at our wonderful homeschool center. If we work straight through, we have about 2 hours a day scheduled, though with snacks and diapers and nursing and play, we rarely *sit* for long. We are going eclectic again this year, pulling from all types of learning philosophies and curriculums. Alice’s work is literature based (Five in a Row, and similar), while Ella’s work is all over the board. I’m expanding her subjects this year (last year was primarily just reading and math, this year we’re throwing in geography, history, languages and music), and I am loving that as long as the directions are clearly written, she can manage most of her work on her own. I don’t believe in pushing kids to read before they are ready, but I also am realllllly grateful she taught herself so early, since it simplifies our days when I do not need to stand over her and read every set of directions multiple times.
The homeschool center starts classes after Labor Day, and Ella already has her backpack ready (and was thrilled when one of her teachers saw us across a parking lot recently and came running over to say hi). As much as I love homeschooling, I know I would struggle if we didn’t have this kind of support and outlet, and my little social butterfly would as well. Technically I could send Alice this year as well (she is not 5 until December, but could test in easily) but neither she or I are ready for that. She needs the year to be *four*, and I need the year to relax into having *four* children. I am intimidated thinking about what our days will look like in 5 years, when all four are actively “in school”, but right now we are just taking it one checkmark on the list at a time.