So Far, Five Kids is Manageable Chaos

On New Years Day 2019, I gave birth to my fifth baby (and fourth girl!). The immediate postpartum period was difficult for me, because my aunt died of an accidental overdose the same week. I would definitely seek out more support caring for my older children if I could do it over again. Thankfully my depression and anxiety didn’t become too severe, and besides some lingering anxiety, I feel back to my regular self.

Since most American women do not have five children anymore, I don’t have too many local women to look to for advice. I dived into this sort of blindly. So far, it appears that life with five is manageable chaos.

  • There is NO such thing as a “quick trip” to the store. Getting my toddler and baby into and out of their carseats is work enough, but I also have my three girls squeezed in the back of the minivan. They often annoy each other back there, just when I’m unable to quickly pull over! It is actually one of the hardest parts for me personally, the constant in and out of the van for even simple needs.
  • My food bill is scary. I no longer buy organic produce unless it’s on sale (7.99 vs 2.99 for a pack of strawberries!), but there are still 7 people in this house and we EAT. A LOT.
  • Sometimes, everyone goes crazy at the same time. This is when I really feel overwhelmed. This usually happens right after I get a little too cocky thinking “I have this parenting 5 kids thing down! Look at how wonderfully behaved my little cherubs are!” That is when my kids have to remind me how outnumbered I am with the baby needing a bath from a poop explosion, and while I am gone for a few minutes the toddler smears cream cheese all over the couch, and the girls decide to fight over the same barbie despite an ENTIRE BOX full of barbies. Phew.
  • Meal times are crazy. Everyone wants something different, so at least one child is complaining about the meal. Then, it’s like whack-a-mole getting them to stay sitting.
  • Nothing is cheap anymore. A little toy for 5 dollars? Multiply it.
  • Your house is never neat. I sweep, mop, and vacuum. I scrub, clean, and pick up. Someone inevitably spills juice and drags mud across the floor the moment I put the mop away.

But you know what? It’s worth it. Life with five kids is a wonderful, beautiful, love-filled, awe-inspiring, manageable chaotic way of life.

Shalom

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Trip to Sterling Hill Mine Museum

I took all five of the kids to Sterling Hill Mine Museum, with a group of other homeschoolers. My oldest daughter Noemi was scared to go at  first, because she had ideas about it collapsing on us. I convinced her to come, and she loved it! My 6 year old daughter Liora was excited to go, but once we got to the part of the tour where they discuss the dangers the miners faced, she panicked. She cried the rest of the tour! Thankfully, she enjoyed the next two florescent rock exhibits and finding her own rocks to take home. Chasing my two year old through the mine wasn’t easy either, but he really enjoyed himself!

After the tour and finding our own rocks, we sat down outside for some lunch. Then, we left to join the group at a local park. The kids ran and played and exhausted themselves. I felt blessed to be there, it was a good day.

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A Hard Winter

Winter can be particularly hard for those of us with mental illness. This winter has hit me harder than usual.

When January 1st came along, I gave birth to our sweet baby “Ryn”. It was a much desired end to a difficult and tiresome pregnancy, and the birth went well but it was fast and painful. I had seemingly no time to just rest and enjoy my newborn. My older children were gone for just one night, and then I had the main responsibility of caring for them and our home again. I had to prepare to attend my aunt’s funeral, and my mother was in mourning. I felt alone, and very busy.

I struggled to feel attached to Ryn because of everything going on. I loved her, no question about it, but I lacked the elated over-the-moon in love feeling I usually have. I felt depression wrapping its sticky arms over me, and anxiety climbing up inside of me.

I reached out to my husband, family, friends. I let people know “hey, I’m having a hard time here.” It helped, and I was able to spend some time alone with Ryn; I developed that intense love I had been looking for.

We were also hit with the flu in February, which in a big family takes weeks to go through everyone. It felt like I was hit by a truck, while caring for sick little ones.

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We stayed in bed for days, nursing and resting.

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I felt a need to distract myself all the time with mindless things. Simple tasks felt impossible and overwhelming. The less I did, the more stressed and worried I became.

My husband and some friends reminded me to focus on only the most important things. Dishes in the sink, laundry to fold? That can wait. They gave me permission to not be perfectly on top of things.

I have slowly gotten better and better, but I’m not fully there yet.

Another thing I have to remind myself of–prayer. It seems that when I need to rest in His presence the most, I hide and rely on myself. Very foolish thing to do, because when I finally do open scripture and go to Him in prayer, I feel relief and peace.

Spring is coming soon. My oldest child will be turning 8 YEARS OLD! I’m looking forward to the sun warming my skin, and the smell of the earth renewing its life. I dream of long hikes with my children, and time spent playing outside.

In the meantime, I have to keep trying and believe it is enough.

Shalom

Coping with Post-Partum Blues

I have so much on my heart, but this cloud of sadness and anxiety leaves me in a state of inertia. Wanting to speak, but sitting silent.

My 5th baby is here, and 24 days after I brought her into the world, I’m finally fully bonding with her and feeling some of the cloud lift.

My pregnancy was hard and not very enjoyable. Typically I love being pregnant. So, I waited for her birth.

Her birth came on fast and fierce. She was my fastest labor by far, and I couldn’t shake this feeling of being unprepared. I couldn’t enter into a “birth space” state of mind. My desire was just to get it over with.

Her birth came days after my aunt died suddenly, so I met life and death in the same week. Her first outing was to a funeral.

I didn’t have much of a break before I had no choice but to dive back into life with the kids, and responsibilities.

I usually have at least a few days to enjoy the “cocoon” of just baby, husband and I.

So, I felt the depression sneak up on me. The anxiety started to come over me. I wanted to crawl into bed, put the covers over my head, and leave the world.

Of course, with 5 children this was impossible. Not only that, but with my experience of depression, I knew hiding would only sink me deeper.

Instead of hiding, I reached out. I took a friend’s advice to have skin to skin time with the baby. I took the babies first bath with her. She LOVED the bath! She was so calm and peaceful. It felt like a return to the womb. I drank her in, enjoyed her, focused on her alone. It was then that I was able to open my heart more fully and get to know her.

I also took the advice of many wise women friends who told me to relax, be gentle to myself, and not stress over the laundry or dishes. I had JUST given birth, they reminded me. This helped me to rebuke the thoughts of “you’re a failure” ringing in my head.

Now we are nearing one month post partum and I am connected with my baby girl, and the emotional cloud to getting brighter and lighter every day.

I’m thankful I have learned to always SAY SOMETHING before getting truly depressed. This has saved me from a lot of suffering.

Please reach out if you don’t feel well. Come out of hiding and say something!

Shalom.

Freebirth Story on New Years Day!

*There is some nudity in these videos of my birth, but not very graphic*

On New Years Day 2019, I gave birth to my 5th baby! My 4th daughter, and 2nd freebirth/unassisted birth. I was 40 weeks exactly, she was actually born on her guess date. I had contractions from my 2nd trimester, which became increasingly frequent and strong in the week or so leading up to her birth. I felt a certain change in the strength of them in the 24 hours before labor began. I woke up around 4am on 1/1 and watched a show on Netflix. I went to my rocking chair in the living room and put up my swollen feet. I felt my belly getting stronger contractions but still slept in between them.

My husband woke up around 7am and asked me if he should call out of work. I told him to ask me again soon and I would tell him. I was not certain that I would have the baby yet by then, but while he got ready I decided that even if I didn’t give birth that day, I would need his help with the kids regardless.

Things picked up really fast after this. We were in the kitchen together as the kids woke up, and my husband noticed my contractions were awfully close together. He was keeping an eye on the clock and told me they were about 5 minutes apart. He was surprised by how close they were, and I was feeling certain that baby was coming now.

I called my mom and told her to come get the kids around 8:30am. By 9am, I had sequestered myself in the bathroom where I held onto the sink for dear life as the contractions rocked me. I could not deal with being by the kids, so I called my mom and basically told her HURRY UP BABY IS COMING.

She flew over here and grabbed the kids for me. As my husband put our son into her car, she pushed on my hips for me but then she said, “how do you know the contractions are actually doing anything?” “have you had any bloody show?” I remembered then why she can’t be my birth support with a UC, she means well but her questions were not helpful. I only ever had bloody show or a mucus plug with my 4th baby by the way. I had no obvious signs of cervical dilation, neither was I concerned at all about checking myself, but I simply could feel their power and knew they were doing their job.

She left with the kids and finally my husband Fernando could come in and help me. I had him give me counter pressure on my lower back for a few contractions, then I asked him to run the shower and get in with me. It was very nice to have the hot water on my back and to be close to him physically. He stood in front of me and I leaned into him. He saw I was anxious, because of how fast I went from “maybe labor” to “holy moly this hurts”. He reminded me over and over that I was capable, and strong, and that my body knew how to have the baby. He also reminded me to BREATH. I took some deep breaths and calmed down.

When I felt ready to leave the shower soon I told him to come out and get stuff ready for me. I was having many contractions now, and occasional breaks of a few minutes or so. Those breaks were like heaven for me. In my head I was thinking about escaping the pain, but I would talk back to myself “that is because the baby is almost here, your almost done”. I left the bathroom with a towel around me, and stood by the living room table. I had a pillow on the table that I leaned on, as Fernando pushed on my lower back and reached around me so I could squeeze his hands. It was around 10am and I KNEW I was in transition and baby was coming shortly. I was also resisting a bit, because I had no time to mentally go there.

I was not zen like at this point. I banged on the table, threw a bottle of water, and cursed through contractions. I also did not care one iota. I just wanted to get through this and I kept picturing myself resting with my baby as motivation.

I felt things shift and pressure building. I moved to my previous births “birth spot”, on my knees and leaning over my bed with pillows. I had my husband do something that I never imagined before, but it just kind of happened and felt perfect. He came behind me on his knees, and he leaned over me in a bear-hug type position. The pressure of his weight against my hips and lower back felt awesome and being surrounded by his body and holding his hands was perfect. It actually felt very sensual despite the pain I was in, and it was not the first time I felt sensual towards him during this labor. It was not sexual exactly, but very sensual.

I was being totally consumed by the contractions and the pressure was very intense. My body was bearing down, and my belly was squeezing baby down very hard. My water was still intact. I took out a hand-held mirror and watched my vagina to try and distract myself. I never bothered to watch before, it was a good distraction. I thought I saw the baby’s head and got excited, but it was my own tissues being pushed from the pressure. I knew baby was right there though.

Sure enough, the next contraction came, and I felt her deep in my birth canal. I was in a lot of pain but breathing through it. I put my hand down there so I could feel for the head, again, as a nice motivation and distraction. That is when everything let loose. My water exploded, poop came out, and my vuvla was opening up for baby’s head. I felt the head right there, almost out. My husband was still behind me and I knew all those fluids were getting all over him, but I thought “well, I have to give birth so he can handle that” lol

Next came baby’s head, and then the body just slipped right out! I was SO RELIEVED to have given birth. It was right about 11am.

Right away I noticed it was a GIRL, and we both laughed so hard because I swore the whole pregnancy it was a boy. She was crying immediately, and her cord was very short. I asked for a towel because she was so slippery, I could hardly hold her. She sounded like she had some gunk in her and we considered sucking it out with out mouth, but it didn’t seem too bad, so we just waited, and she was fine.

I was sitting in a pool of blood and bodily fluids, everything was everywhere. But I was so excited to have my baby! She was beat up from her quick exit, but we realized she looked like me! Finally, after the other 4 being my husbands twin.

Fernando helped me move into a reclining sitting position. I was in a bit of pain still, so I didn’t want to sit directly on my butt. I got to know this little person who I carried for 40 weeks. She nursed, and her latch was perfect. She was wide awake and taking it all in.

I decided to try and move into a better position to birth the placenta after about half an hour of needed rest. It just didn’t come, but I was still bleeding a lot. I felt healthy, so I was not concerned. It was about an hour after birth when I stood up for a while and told Fer to cut the cord, so I could focus on birthing the placenta. But, I had a feeling that it was an emotional block. As he went to gather supplies for the cord, I put my hand over my belly and told the placenta to let go, it was ok to let go. I realized I was holding onto the placenta with my fears, because birthing the baby hurt so much. As soon as that fear released, the placenta detached, and I felt it coming out. Just in time, Fernando caught it in a chux pad for me.

I felt incredible for it all to be over! We wondered over our newest daughter and laughed and kissed. We cut her cord after about two hours and I showered off. I was bleeding quite a bit, but I decided to just keep an eye on it and it slowed down later to a normal level. I ate a banana and drank some juice and felt overall very healthy and strong and happy.

So, the birth was fantastic as far as health and autonomy. I love being in my own home, and I love birthing with only my husband. It was a very difficult birth as far as pain levels, and my guess on that is because it was my fastest birth by far. Typically, I have hours to get my game face on and prepare. But this was go time from the start. I learned a lot about my strength, and it was a way to grow closer to my husband because I relied on him so much. I wouldn’t change it for anything, and I am so happy to add her to our family.

Big Family Chaos, Letting Go and Letting God

Two days to my due date with our 5th baby, and after weeks of trying to keep our home clean and organized…it’s all falling apart. The holidays, the contractions, the chaos of four little ones who are inside most of the time lately; it is just impossible to maintain for very long.

Then, the sudden death of my aunt. While mourning her loss, it also means less help from my mother and other close family members as they (understandably) move their focus to the immediate needs of preparing to say goodbye to her. Not to mention the emotional pain they are coping with.

My husband is stressed over his job, and what his options are. He has worked his whole life, including military service, but he has also battled bipolar disorder for most of his adulthood. This has lead to difficulty in getting gainful employment and keeping it. He has been in solid recovery for the last few years, but it takes time. He knows that we need him, and he is worried. I am worried that he is worried! Not a good cycle.

Then, my oldest daughter goes from slightly sick to throwing up all over the couch today. I’m helping her get cleaned up and praying to God “Please, please do not let me get sick too!” I can’t imagine having to give birth while ill. And how long before the other kids get it and start throwing up too?

So there I am. Big and pregnant. Cleaning puke. Chasing my all-maniac-boy toddler. Managing arguments between the middle two girls. Squeezing my son onto my lap to nurse for the millionth time. The floors I meticulously swept, mopped, and vacuumed are a mess again. The bathroom that I scrubbed on my hands and knees has to be cleaned again. The toys I put away are on the floor, again.

And so, I started thinking, “how do I let go?”

How do I accept that no matter how much I clean, it will once again be a mess?

How do I accept that germs do not care that I am pregnant, and my kids still need me to help them when they are sick?

How do I let go of worrying over my husband so much, and allow him to figure things out?

How do I accept death, in the midst of bringing new life?

How do I really accept that I cannot decide when this baby is born?

It all reminds me that I really am not in control of much. Life is MESSY. Especially with a big family. But, it is a beautiful mess.

This verse comes to mind for me;
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ” Matt 6:33

Seek first the Kingdom. Seek after His righteousness. All these things (our needs) will be given to us. In other words, LET GO. STOP worrying so much! The Father already KNOWS what we need, and he is a GOOD father who takes care of His children.

Shalom.

Grieving My Aunts Sudden Death, Right Before Giving Birth

I received a text message from my mother before I had gotten out of bed, “Call me when you’re up. It’s important.”

I immediately got out of bed, my heart beating faster. I knew something very bad had happened, because there is no way she should ever text me like that otherwise. I tried to prepare my still sleepy mind for terrible news. Somebody I love must be badly hurt, or dead. I just didn’t know who. Part of me did not want to know, but delaying the phone call would not change anything.

I went into the bathroom and quietly called her. There were no typical pleasantries. We both knew there was only one reason for this phone call. There was no way to sugar coat the news, “Aunt Cookie is dead”.

Then, silence on my end. My head swimming with the abrupt finality of those words. Injured, or sick leaves room for hope. Death is unforgiving, leaving no space for second chances.

How? When? What on earth happened?

Not so many details yet. She was at a friend’s house. She overdosed on her medications. No one knows if it was intentional, or accidental.

She was hospitalized recently for suicidal depression. She had battled depression her entire life, but she had lost over 100lbs in recent years and seemed to be doing better. Did she do it intentionally? Then again, she was known to occasionally abuse her medications. In an attempt to get relief from her mental stress, she would take too many benzos or opiates. That is an easy way to accidentally overdose, and given her age and health status, it would be even easier.

Either situation leaves us in sudden grief. A poor decision made in haste, clouded by depression. She is gone. There is no way to bring her back to us. My cousins, and second cousins have lost their mother and grandmother. My mother and aunts have lost their sister. I have lost my aunt.

And I am nearly 40 weeks pregnant.

How do I manage death and new life simultaneously? How does my family embrace, and celebrate a new addition; while saying goodbye to another loved one?

And then, the practical concerns that plague those coping with death. The Funeral. The wake. What if I go into labor at the same time as the funeral service? How could I possibly miss it? How could I ask my mother to help me, support me, watch my children during labor if she is supposed to be saying goodbye to her sister?

All of this is sitting inside of me, eating me up.

We describe deep sadness as our “heart breaking”, or “soul crushing”. It is a not just a figure of speech, it literally feels as if my heart is breaking and my soul is being crushed. There is a physical element to emotional pain that is undeniable, and it is with me all day today. I am carrying that heaviness, just as real as my toddler on my hip and heavy baby in my womb.

I didn’t have a way to prepare for this. Life is often interrupted by a series of uncontrollable events. We are really not in control of many things, despite pretending otherwise.

As a believer, this is a time for me to get grounded in the Word. To remember that He is in control, and knows all things. He is our comforter, our healer, and our refuge in times of need. I have to trust in Him, to continue to guide this pregnancy until birth. I have to trust him, even in the face of death and loss. I am reminded of my mortality as well. We are not promised tomorrow, so let’s make the best of today. And remember to tell our loved ones how much we value them in our lives, because you may not have another chance.

Shalom.