I Have FOUR Children, and I Know What Causes it!

“Do you know what causes that?”

“Wow, your hands are full!”

“Are they all yours?”

Lately, I have noticed more of these kinds of comments when I’m out with my four little darlings. Maybe it’s because school is in and we homeschool so our family stands out even more during morning trips. Maybe it’s because my youngest is getting close to 1 year old, and causing mayhem. Maybe it’s the line of three little girls behind me like ducklings!

In any case, I hear it often now. People are genuinely surprised to see four children together with their mother. The fact is, most of the women my age who I grew up with do not have any children yet or at most 1 or 2. I have a veritable gaggle of kids compared to most 2 kid families these days. There isn’t anything wrong with a small family. but my little team raises eyebrows!

We went to the YMCA this week (just me and the kids) and we went swimming. After we swam, and I herded all the kids into the dressing room, an older woman stopped me my exclaiming “ALL YOURS?” My oldest at 6 years old piped up “Yep! All of us!”

The woman then offered to hold baby brother so I could more easily assist the girls in getting out of their wet suits and into dry pjs (easy for bedtime!). She was very kind, and helpful. She didn’t hide her amazement but it wasn’t meant in a negative way. Not all people who express their shock over our family are negative about it!

I think four is the magic “big family” number. It tips the scales in our society. Going out for pizza becomes too expensive with four. Your minivan gets full with four carseats/boosters. Four kids make you want to cry at your grocery bill. Four is..four! A lot.

Yet, it doesn’t always feel like a lot to me. I am an only child, and I always loved how it felt to be in a big family home. I loved how there was always something going on and people around. It felt safe and comfortable. The girls are very good with baby brother, and are already asking for another boy.  I told them that I can’t pick a boy or a girl, much to their disappointment!

Maybe I should start to coach the kids on hilarious comebacks to the “hands are full” and “are they all yours” comments. All in good fun, of course!

In the end, I love our family size and can’t imagine it any other way; weird stares and all!

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30 Reasons Why I am Choosing an Unassisted Birth for my 4th baby….

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  1. I am stronger than you think I am
  2. I refuse to allow myself to be abused during labor again
  3. I am healthy
  4. My baby is healthy
  5. Pregnancy is NOT a disease or illness
  6. Birth is a normal physiological process, not a medical emergency
  7. I am prepared for the worst, but will not expect the worst with no reason to
  8. I deserve to be comfortable
  9. I deserve privacy
  10. I deserve respect
  11. My baby deserves to be born into a calm environment
  12. My baby deserves to not be taken from mommy
  13. The pain is more manageable at home
  14. Intimacy between myself and my husband matters during birth
  15. I will not endure harassment, coercion, and disrespect in labor again
  16. I am stronger than I think I am
  17. I want my husband’s hands to be the first to touch our son
  18. I want to eat, walk, drink, and rest as I feel lead
  19. I believe my health and safety is at risk the moment I walk into an ER with a healthy body and normal pregnancy
  20. I am sick and tired of cervical checks
  21. I cannot stand those (not evidence-based) fetal monitor bands across my belly
  22. I do not want anyone telling me what to do with my body
  23. It will be powerful, difficult, life-changing and beautiful
  24. I know what is best for my baby, and would always put his health before mine
  25. I am sick and tired of defending myself against unwanted medical procedures
  26. Birth is not scary!
  27. 1 out of 3 women get major surgery, that is too high of a risk for me
  28. Most routine practices in American hospitals are NOT evidence-based medicine
  29. America’s maternal death rates are *rising*
  30. Peace instead of PTSD

Journey to Breastfeeding Part4 (Extended Breastfeeding/Toddler Nursing)

After I abruptly weaned Liora, my 13-month old daughter, my pregnancy continued normally. It took a month before Liora finally seemed to give up on asking me to nurse. I felt heartbroken over ending our nursing relationship long before she was ready, but I comforted myself with the knowledge that we had 13 beautiful months. My belly grew and before I knew it, I was ready to meet my third child (another baby girl)!

Zipporah was born when her big sister Noemi was 3 years old and Liora was 20 months. I assumed that after months of not nursing, and not asking to nurse, that Liora would never start again. But when Zipporah was 4 weeks old and we had established our breastfeeding relationship, I decided to offer Liora the opportunity to nurse. Part of me felt strange offering, if I am honest. I had never breastfed a toddler before and my newborn looked so little compared to her. Yet, in my mother’s heart I knew that she was still a “baby” and needed me just as much.

I resolved to offer and if she wanted to nurse, I would allow it. If she wasn’t interested, then I would let it go and be proud of the 13 months we had. To my surprise, Liora was not only interested, but she started nursing again as if she had never stopped! It quickly became a daily ritual for us, and then she began asking multiple times a day to nurse. I was thrilled to have the chance to breastfeed her until she was ready to stop!

I think that having the time to cuddle close with mommy and nurse helped to ease any feelings of jealous between Liora and her new baby sister. I realize that there are other ways to do that, but breastfeeding seemed to be the most natural and helpful way for us. I got over the feeling that Liora was “too big” to breastfeed rather quickly, and I enjoyed stroking her beautiful blond hair and having time where my wild toddler would sit peacefully with me.

Now that isn’t to say that were no problems, because as much as I was grateful to offer my toddler a time of rest and excellent nutrition, I could never nurse both her and the baby at the same time. The difference between a newborn latch and a toddler latch gave me the nursing aversion feelings when I tried to breastfeed them simultaneously. So, I stopped trying to nurse them together and as long as Liora was nursing alone I didn’t get those dreaded feelings.

The biggest issue we had was with nighttime nursing. At this point I was bed sharing with baby Zipporah who was about 3 months old and Liora was also spending at least half the night with us (hubby and I got a king size bed). Zipporah was nursing frequently during the night. I am not sure how often, but basically any time she stirred I gave her my breast and went back to sleep. But now Liora was also wanting to nurse and that caused some serious problems.

It would go like this;

  • Liora wakes up and starts nursing back to sleep
  • Zipporah starts crying to nurse
  • I try to unlatch Liora in order to nurse the screaming baby
  • Liora starts crying hysterically “NURSE NURSE NURSE!!!”
  • Zipporah is happy to be nursing but is now wide awake from her sister screaming
  • I try to unlatch Zipporah in order to calm Liora
  • Zipporah starts screaming
  • Cycle continues…

Now, why didn’t I just nurse them at the same time? First of all, the nursing aversion. I absolutely could not tolerate the sensation of tandem feeding my newborn and toddler. It just was not an option for me, I tried (really!). Second of all, I did attempt to override my horrific nursing aversion feelings and put my body into a contortionist position to tandem feed, again not working (my back, ouch!).

I made the decision that in order for me to continue breastfeeding Liora, who was by now 2 years old, I would need to night wean her. I realize this is a bit controversial. For some the fact that I choose to nurse a 2-year-old is controversial in and of itself. However, for others it is controversial to night wean a toddler when they aren’t ready. I personally felt that it would harm our nursing relationship if I struggled to resentfully night nurse Liora. I wanted to keep the wonderful daytime nursing sessions that we had, and continue to give her all the great benefits of my milk for as long as she desired. That said, I knew night nursing had to end.

I cannot say it was easy, but we did night wean. Because she was old enough to understand, I told her that from now on we would only nurse when “mr.sun is up”. I would nurse her right before bedtime and tell her “remember this the last time we nurse before mr.sun comes up again”. She seemed to understand what I was saying, and so when she asked to nurse later at night I would tell her “remember, we can nurse when mr.sun comes up but not now because its nighttime”. She cried and protested, and I felt so terrible about it. I almost gave in but I knew that would only confuse her and prolong the process. Eventually, she accepted me cuddling her in close during the night and as soon as she saw light enter the bedroom she would say “we can nurse now mr.sun is up!”

This is the thing, in my opinion, when it comes to breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler both mom and child need to be happy with the arrangements. Some mothers are content with nursing toddlers or preschoolers on demand, day and night. That is wonderful, and I truly wish I had the same feelings! But some mothers really need some space either at night or with limited feeding during the day. I believe that around 18 months old is when it is safe and acceptable to gently cut down or night wean. This is just my experience and opinion!

After night weaning, our nursing relationship continued in a really enjoyable manner. Liora is my wild child, so it was so convenient to have that one thing that would always calm her down. That one thing that turned my rough and tumble girl into a sweet little bundle in my lap. Nursing! It was also a relief whenever she got sick because I knew I could offer her something easy to digest and filled with wholesome nutrients and antibodies! When she went through picky stages, I knew she was getting my milk and therefore didn’t worry about it like I did with her older sister.

I nursed Liora and Zipporah together until just a few months ago, when my milk dried up from my 4th pregnancy. Liora was 3 years and 3 months old, so we had more than a year of a reestablished breastfeeding relationship. I was sad to end it, but I knew that I have limits during pregnancy when it comes to nursing after my milk is gone. She didn’t protest this time. She didn’t cry this time. She had cut down a lot on nursing by herself, and this time I felt she was okay with it. It didn’t feel rushed or forced, nor did I feel guilty or like I was stealing something from her that she deserved.

Liora still asks me every once in a while about nursing. I am currently 6 months pregnant, and I told her that if she wanted to try again after the baby is born, I would be willing to let her try. She will turn 4 right after the baby is born, and I don’t know if she will really want to nurse or if she will be able to latch correctly anymore. That said, I do feel open to allowing her the chance to nurse if she really wants it. I doubt I would be willing to nurse three little ones too often, so I would limit it to about once per day if she really wanted to. Again, those are just my personal limits and feelings. But would I feel comfortable nursing a 4-year-old? Yes, absolutely I would.

I believe that breastfeeding is a gift, in fact the Bible repeatedly refers to lactating breasts as a blessing. Women did not wean their little ones as babies, they weaned closer to age 3 or 4 on average. It is most likely that Messiah Yahushua (Jesus Christ) himself nursed until that age. We are often uncomfortable with this in our society, which I find unfortunate for the health and well-being of moms and children.

I shared this journey with you all because I want you to know that you’re not alone if you choose to breastfeed beyond the baby stage. If you choose to nurse your toddler or preschooler, that’s okay! It is a gift, and you should feel blessed to have given it and to have received that blessing. If you are pregnant, please consider my story and those of many other moms. Follow your heart and your child’s leading. Don’t allow society to scare you away from something you know is right for your family, if you do believe it is.

Shalom.

Homeschooling Nature Walk&Crafts

Today the girls and I (and hubby) went for a walk at a local state park with some other homeschooling families. Our oldest is 5, so we are new to officially homeschooling but I sure like what I see so far!

We decided to homeschool for a lot of reasons, but one of them was the desire to spend more time with our children and give them a flexible personalized education.  I loved watching them run and play outside with other children. I love that they are with children of a range of ages, giving them the ability to play well with children a little older or younger (as well as have conversations with adults). They were able to use their bodies and senses to learn and exercise but all of it was fun for them, so it doesn’t feel like a chore.

The mother who started the event had two creative ideas for the nature walk crafts. The children (and some big kids/adults hehe) made nature bracelets. We wrapped duct tape sticky side up around their wrists and the children added flowers and clovers and leaves to them as they walked the trails. Then, after our hike we came to a picnic area and created big nature collages with the ferns, flowers, leaves, moss, etc that was collected along the way.

I am looking forward to what homeschooling has to offer us as a family, and what kind of relationships my husband and I and our children will develop along the way. Bring it on!

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Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 3 (Nursing Aversion, Pregnancy)

Baby Liora and I settled into a nursing routine. I knew when she would want to nurse, and she knew exactly how to nurse. My breast was her comfort, her nourishment, her contentment. She would rest her chubby baby hand above my breast and fall asleep dreamily. Often times I would hold her there after she unlatched and gaze at her beautiful face, smiling at something in her sleep that I couldn’t see. What do babies dream about? I wondered.

Soon she was crawling, and she loved to move! This was a much more adventurous baby, I realized, than my oldest. I had to baby proof many things I never had to think about before. But still, we nursed. I was still that safe haven to come home to after exploring and moving her body around.

She began sprouting teeth! Now many moms will say “once they have teeth, it is time to wean” but my baby didn’t seem ready to wean at all. She was nursing often, including at night, and besides one or two episodes of biting after she dozed off at my breast, her teeth were no issue for me.

I loved laying down in bed with her and nursing her to sleep. I adored how peaceful it was. I lovingly stroked her golden hair, which was by now growing longer. I was so enamored with her! It was a joy having this special place together, something we shared only between ourselves. It was an extension of the womb, my body caring for her body, my substance giving her strength.

Perhaps that is why I was caught so completely off guard when it fell apart. I never imagined, on those sweet nights nursing her, that in only a month she would be weaned. But deep inside my womb, another life had quietly buried, and announced their presence by altering our nursing relationship.

My milk began to dry up, totally. I had read that most women lose a lot of milk, some lose all, and some lose none. I was not prepared for how quickly my body took my milk away from Liora. I was hardly pregnant before I noticed that I was waking up each morning totally dry, whereas before I was covered in milk from night nursing.

I decided that even without milk, I would nurse Liora for comfort. She was SO attached to breastfeeding, I knew she was not even close to ready for weaning. But I was caught by surprise, I began to detest nursing her! How can this be? What is wrong with me? Why do I feel this horrible feeling every time she latches on?

Nursing Aversion!

I had never heard of it. I would not learn what it was until well after my 3rd baby was born. I had no idea why all of a sudden, whenever Li started to nurse, I wanted to scream and rip out my hair and tear her off my body. It was the worst sensation. I started begging God to give me pain rather than this creepy-crawly-scream-and-run feeling. It is impossible to explain unless you have felt it. It is not being uncomfortable. It is not painful. It is an unbearable sensation.

Perhaps, if I had been aware of this possibility I could have endured it. I don’t know. Probably not. I have so much respect for any woman who has, because I quickly could not nurse her.

Even when it broke my heart. Even when everything inside of me said “nurse your crying baby! She needs you!” I tried. I tried so many times. But each and every time the sensation was immediate and intolerable.

By 13 months, Li was weaned totally. It took two weeks of her daddy staying up with her all night. She couldn’t be near me because she wanted to nurse. I felt horrible. I was so sad. I thought it was all over, she would never nurse again.

But, I didn’t know there was still a future for us as a nursing couple. This journey was not over yet….

The Birds and The Bees; How I Told My 5 year old, and What I Learned.

Today I had the first of what will be many conversations about sex, with my five-year-old daughter. Yes, the birds and the bees. More specifically, how babies are made. I had been trying so hard to avoid this conversation with her. You see, I am pregnant with her baby brother and she really wanted to know how on earth that happened!

My daughter, Noemi, is a bright little girl. She is a critical thinker. She wants real answers, and she wants to know “how” and “why” for everything; including how babies are made. The first time she asked me the question, “THE Question”, my heart jumped into my throat. She’s just a little preschooler! Surely I must avoid actually explaining this to her! I refuse to lie to my children, so I settled on a vague but essentially true explanation. It went something like this;

*Deep Breath*

“Well, sweetheart…a man has a..a seed. Yes, a seed.
And, well, you see…uhhh…this seed goes into the mommy’s belly and..
Uhhh…it meets the egg from the mommy and…well..a baby is made
And grows inside the mommy’s tummy.”

There. I said it. I stared into her big brown eyes and hoped my explanation would satisfy her. My mother gave me basically the same story around her age and I remember being really confused. A seed? I imagined that when a boy reached a certain age, his father would solemnly hand the boy a box, and inside that box laid the baby seed. The boy would give the seed to his wife, who would of course swallow it because that’s how anything gets into your tummy, and a baby would grow. This is obviously wildly incorrect, and hilarious, yet I chose the same story for my own child. I am my mother now. That’s another story.

Anyway..

Noemi was not satisfied with this crazy answer. She wanted to know “but how does the seed get into the mommy?” At that point I realized I was totally unprepared for these questions and so I deflected them. I told her “well, you know…lets buy a book and discuss another time. Ok sweetheart?”

Except, I didn’t buy the book. I did research some, but I never purchased any, and I hoped deep inside that she would forget and never ask me again until sometime close to her wedding day.

As my belly swelled, and the presence of this baby brother became more pronounced, the questions from my daughter continued. She did not forget. She was not satisfied with my “men and women fit together like a puzzle and that’s how we make a baby” explanation. Which is too bad because I thought it was pretty clever.

Then, tonight she asked me questions about her baby brother and she wanted to know if he had a seed, like daddy, to make a baby one day. I told her that no, he didn’t yet, but one day when he was older his body would make a seed to create his own baby. This lead into “THE Questions” again. But this time, I knew I could no longer ignore her.

She asked me with sincerity, with genuine curiosity, and she really wanted to understand. I came to realize that I was making this an issue. I would cause her to feel that this was some mystery that she dare not discover, or even worse, something to be scared of or ashamed to hear about. I decided on the spot that today I would not distract her. I would not lie. I would give her the answers to her questions the best I could.

So, I began with where we started. The seed. The puzzle. Her questions continued, direct questions I could no longer avoid. She is only five years old! I felt that somehow this was a point of no return that I wasn’t ready to cross yet. I didn’t want her to know. But why? If she was old enough to have the question, then I ought to answer it. So, I did.

I allowed her to lead the questions, offering no more information than she herself requested to know. I clarified which body parts exactly-a penis and a vagina- were involved. I told her that yes, they fit together, and that is how the seed enters the mothers body. She thought the penis would detach, and I had to stifle a big laugh, until I explained that the penis stays on the man’s body. She said some other funny things, but other than her eyes widening in surprise for a moment (at which we both laughed at how “crazy” this sounds!) she was not greatly affected.

She didn’t fall apart from the most basic knowledge of sexual intercourse and procreation. She did not morph into a teenager before my eyes. She is still innocent. She is still my baby girl. But now, I hope with everything in me, she will trust me to answer her questions about her body and sex and babies. I realized tonight that this was not the end of our conversation, it was only the very beginning. I am grateful to have gotten over my own hang-ups and insecurities and fears, in order to offer to what she deserves; honest answers to her questions.

I am sure her idea of what sex looks like is still pretty far off from what it actually is. That’s OK. She is finally satisfied, for now. As she gets older, it is my prayer that she will come to me with more questions. It is my prayer that she will trust me not to shrink away from the truth. It is my prayer that she will come to see her sexuality as a gift from her Creator, to be used within the parameters he has given to us in the Scriptures. There is nothing perverted or dirty or bad about sex and making new life. I hope she honors and respects this great gift. I pray that one day, long from now, she will come into her marriage bed feeling open and beautiful and free. I pray she has the knowledge necessary and the confidence to begin her sexual life in a healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually) way; and that I can feel blessed to have been a part of that learning.

May we ALL be granted the wisdom to speak with our children about their bodies and sex in a godly and truthful manner. May we ALL see it from our Creator’s point of view, and not shame our children for asking sincere questions. May we show them the gift this is, and explain the importance of respecting it and ourselves.

May it be so. Amen.

Shalom.

Journey to Breastfeeding- Part 2

Baby Liora was about 1.5 weeks old. I threw out the rest of those tiny bottles of formula. I didn’t want them tempting me and taunting me as I tried to nurse my baby. I began to feel as if I was never wearing a shirt. I was always topless and putting her to the breast. As difficult as that was, I started to feel as if we were making progress. My nipples never hurt or bled like they did with my oldest, her latch was perfect again!

And then, the growth spurt!

Now listen, when you say you want to breastfeed your baby the hospital will hand you a packet of information about it. I remember reading and being told that the baby will nurse approximately 10 minutes on each breast every 2-3 hours. My baby wanted to nurse much longer than that, and it was rare she would go 2 hours between feedings! I felt as if she was nursing 24/7.

The packet told me 10 minutes on each breast! And every 2-3 hours! Surely something must be wrong, because all of a sudden at around the same time every evening she latched on and refused to latch off. I sat on the couch, after three hours of nursing, and cried heartily. What’s wrong with me? I can’t do this! I can’t live like this! This is awful!

That is when I stumbled upon a website called kellymom.com, and it quite possibly saved my breastfeeding relationship. Apparently, you should take that handy packet they give you and throw it in your recycle bin or create a bon fire with it. It is useless, and inaccurate.

First of all, newborns love to nurse. They need to nurse! This is how your supply increases. This is also how they are comforted. Remember in my first post I discussed ditching the pacifier, well our breasts are natures real pacifiers! We pacify our babies at the breast, and we keep our supply regular as well.

Second of all, there was no mention of growth spurts! I was caught off guard completely when Li went hours on end nursing. I thought my supply must be gone. I must be starving my baby! Nope. She was just growing. She was just doing what babies do. It can be frustrating, but I promise it does not last forever. It is usually only a few days of extra nursing, and then your back on track.

I was thankful to know that she wasn’t suddenly starving, and also that this would not last forever; because let’s face it, 3 hours of nursing non-stop wasn’t very fun.

One major benefit was nighttime! Now I know often you hear that formula helps a baby sleep, but I really disagree with that. I formula fed my oldest and this is basically how it went….

  • Feed her a bottle before nighttime, rock her sleep and place her next to me in her co-sleeper.
  • Wake up two hours later with her screaming blood murder.
  • Slowly drag myself out of bed, and hold her in one arm as I shhhh shhhh her and make a bottle.
  • Warm the bottle. While she screams.
  • Take screaming newborn to my rocking chair and give her the bottle.
  • Burp her. Get formula puke on my shoulder.
  • Stand up and walk her around the room, patting her back, get her back to sleep.
  • Lay down in bed.
  • Wake up an hour or two later with her screaming bloody murder.
  • Repeat. ALL NIGHT LONG.

Yeah, not very relaxing or conducive for good sleep!

With my Liora, my first breastfed baby, I had her sleep in my bed with me (yes, it absolutely IS safe when done correctly) and this is how our nights went….

  • Nurse baby in my rocking chair before bed.
  • Baby falls asleep at my breast. Awe, so cute!
  • Read a little bit.
  • Go to bed with baby.
  • Baby starts to stir and make little noises.
  • Latch baby to breast while not moving from sleep position, or fully waking up.
  • Go back to sleep while baby feeds herself at my breast.

Guess which situation gave me better sleep?

So here we were, moving right along in our nursing journey.

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Nursing newborn Liora with big sis Noemi next to me

Things were starting to improve a lot. By the time she was 1 month old the days of struggling to latch her were long gone. Now, I had my toddler in the front seat of my grocery cart, and the baby under one arm nursing, while I pushed the cart with the other arm and finished my food shopping! NO joke, I really did this.

I was feeling a pro, finally. But there was still one problem left unresolved. I would keep saying “I am trying to breastfeed”, I still didn’t trust my body. Until one day, I was sitting at the edge of my bed nursing Liora when it dawned on me, “Wait…I AM NURSING!”

It sounds like a simple thing, but in that moment I realized that I had won. My body had not failed me. My baby did not need formula or bottles or pacifiers. All she needed, for the next five months of her life was ME. That’s it. Just me. I was enough. I was feeding her!

Those chubby thighs? My milk did that. Those adorable chubby checks? Yep, my milk again. I looked at my baby contentedly nursing and almost said out-loud to myself “I AM A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER!”

And the journey continued…