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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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.

5 Reasons Having a Big Family is Good for Kids

I often see in the news that my generation does not want children, and I see this in my life when I reconnect with old school friends. I am definitely in the minority, being married with children. Of those who DO have children, it is rare to find a family with more than two.

I understand there are many reasons women and men have for putting off marriage, and for limiting family size. Most cite their education and career goals as being the priority. Many of them may end up having children later in their 30s, or even 40s as it becomes increasingly common.

But what about the idea that having more than 2 or (gasp) maybe 3 children, harms the children themselves?

“You won’t have enough time for each child!”

“It is too expensive, the kids miss out!”

“You can’t show enough love to each of them!”

“The older kids raise the younger ones!”

“The kids resent their siblings!”

I would like to address these common objections here with experience from my big-but-getting-bigger family of 6 (soon to be 7).

  1. We make time for each child. Sometimes that means scheduling a special mommy/daddy and me day with one child, alternating who it is. During the week, Daddy takes individual kids out for a walk around the neighborhood. They enjoy some time alone, getting all the attention for themselves. I rotate which child goes food shopping with me (they actually love this haha). Also, we homeschool! I spend a lot more time with my children than many parents do for that reason alone, even though I have more of them.
  2. I do not find babies or toddlers to be expensive, they don’t need much and since I have had children already we reuse many of the same items. When they get older and want to participate in activities, it can get costly but this is where we teach them how to think critically about what they want to do the most. This past year classes included dance,music, robotics, and cheerleading for part of the year. This coming year there will be dance, music, choir, cheerleading and STEM. This does NOT include the many free or low cost activities available, often at a steeper discount for siblings. We have a YMCA membership which allow us to swim, and take classes for a low fee or for free. We make serious use our local libraries, who always have fun and free classes for the kids. State parks are favorite as well, and we have some nature loving kiddos. Lastly, many of us homeschoolers get together and make our own fun for free.
  3. Of course we can show enough love for each of them! Our hearts expand with each child. I have a mommy sixth sense for which child needs some extra loving, and make sure to check in with them regularly. We foster trust and communication, so that they can come to us if they need anything, or feel left out. Not only does mommy and daddy give them love but they have the added benefit of many siblings who love them. The older kids adore the hugs and kisses from baby brother!
  4. The older children do NOT raise the younger ones. This accusation often comes when people don’t understand the dynamics of a large family. In order for a bigger family to keep the household running well, everyone pitches in. That includes chores, and helping with the little ones. That said, I feel it is a benefit to give children (including the littlest members) some responsibility. We love each other, and families help one another out. This is our home together, so we all chip in to keep it nice and help each member of the family. I would never give my older kids too much responsibility, and believe me, it is momma alone who is ultimately responsible and takes on the majority of the work. I do not delegate child-rearing to my other children, and much sure that nobody feels like they are being unfairly burdened. They love “babysitting” their baby brother, and enjoy helping him and their sisters.
  5. All siblings get on each others nerves sometimes, but we really make their relationships a priority. They are best friends, and when we take them out individually they always insist on bringing something back for their siblings. I was amazed at how they adored their baby brother, even my toddler followed their lead and never expressed much jealously (unlike when I had two children, and my oldest wanted to return her baby sister). I am expecting their newest sibling in January and they are all very excited to meet the baby, in fact, they keep hoping for TWINS.

So there you have it, I do not buy the what they naysayers are selling. Big families are often close, and homeschooling is something that I believe fosters even closer relationships between siblings (and parents). If your typically sized family is happy as it is, wonderful! But do not allow society to convince you against adding more if it is your hearts desire.

Children are a blessing and a heritage!

Shalom

6 Awesome Things About Homeschooling

So, it is January 2018, and with the start of a new year comes renewed focus on our homeschooling goals. Although grade levels are basically irrelevant to us, I am currently schooling a 1st grader, kindergartner, and preschooler. Here are some of the awesome things that homeschooling has given to us this week.

1.) Bowling with friends counts as school-

We had some Hump Day fun with other homeschooling families at the local bowling ally. It was the first time my daughters played an entire game without loosing interest. If they went to public school/private school, we would not have been together in the early afternoon. I loved watching their excitement at hitting the pins, and it was nice to take a little break together. (The moms also had time together!)

2.) This is the age for art-

One of my beliefs about early childhood education is that art is just as important as any traditional subject. Children learn so much when given materials to create and explore with color. Imagination is important in our home! I think it’s awesome that I get to watch them create their masterpieces, rather than have them handed to me at the end of the school day.

3.) Dance like nobody is watching-

Similar to my conviction that art is extremely important for learning, I love taking my younger two daughters to dance class. It gives me time to hang out with my 1st grader and baby, while the middle two learn some new moves!

4.) Learning at their own pace-

My almost-7 yr old and my 5yr old girls are on the same reading level, but it really does not matter. At home, neither is behind or ahead, they are simply where they need to be. We can go further in some subjects, and take longer in others, according to their individual needs. Nobody gets left behind in homeschool, and nobody gets bored either!

5.) Sibling love-

I think it is really awesome that my children get to spend so much time together. They have a deep love for one another. Yes, they do fight sometimes! But, they are also best friends. One of my greatest desires as a mother is to see them maintain close friendships as they get older. I believe homeschooling helps foster that!

6. Freedom!

As a homeschooling family, we have a lot of freedom when it comes to how we learn, when we “do school”, and what tools to use to get there. I love being able to shape what our weeks, months, and years look like without being tied to a schedule that I did not create. I relish the educational and time freedom that homeschooling gives our family.

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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Our first month homeschooling kindergarten!

Soooo…our first homeschool year has begun this month. My oldest child is 5 years old, so she is officially a kindergartner. I also have my nearly 4-year-old daughter doing preschool and a 2-year-old. All of this while 9 months pregnant! I am less than 2 weeks from my “due date” and I have been experiencing a lot of prodromal labor (i.e very slow going early labor). Yet, here we are starting our “official” schooling journey.

This has been a learning experience for me too. I have not been as organized as I imagined I would be. We are basically unschooling, along with a general schedule and a list of the subjects we will cover each week. That said, I am really pleasantly surprised by how much my children have been learning in this more casual style of school. The girls are all very young yet, so I consider imaginative play and a lot of outdoor exploration to be just as important as workbooks and more traditional schoolwork.

Both my 5 year old and my preschooler have been doing math randomly, every day, without any prompting on my part. They will frequently take objects from the kitchen table, or toys from their bins, and then proudly explain to me how many they have left when some are taken away and how many more they have when some are added. I went over more traditional math lessons with them a few times, covering basic subtraction and addition, but now they are taking those lessons and using them during the day by themselves!

Another example is learning shapes. This is more of a review for my kindergartner, but I also added 3D shapes for her such as a cylinder and cube. We did some fun coloring workbook pages with shapes, read a book about shapes, and then we did some slightly complex puzzles with shapes. They had to find shapes that would fit into a pattern on a card they were given, for example they may have a butterfly shape and then need to find which shapes are needed to complete the picture. After we did this, they both come up to me constantly excited to show me a shape they found (my kindergartner told me the farmhouse had a cylinder, my preschooler told me the refrigerator was a rectangle, etc).

They are truly taking in whatever lessons we have and applying it during everyday life.
We take weekly trips to the library and bring back a haul of books. Reading is a big part of what we do, and that has always been the case. I started reading to my oldest when was 6 months old! I showed her baby picture books, and she has always loved reading. My middle child is extremely energy, so it took longer for her to be able to sit through books. I am happy to say that she is usually very good about sitting for reading now, especially when she can pick books out at the library herself that interest her.

We are also going over Spanish, which has been the hardest for me to teach. My husband is bilingual; his parents are from Colombia. He didn’t speak Spanish to them enough, and he was gone for some long periods due to illness. I am sad that they aren’t learning as native speakers, but they are all still so young that it is very possible for them to become fluent if we work on it now. I am teaching it to them through books, and making their own books with words and pictures. We are also using song and memory cards. When this baby is born my husband has promised to speak exclusively in Spanish to the baby, I think this will help our other children as well because they will hear the words on a daily basis in regular language. My mother in law will be coming to stay with us shortly after the baby is born, so she can also help with Spanish while she is here.

Our local homeschooling group (a loosely joined together county wide group) as been wonderful. Some of the mothers really do a lot to put together great activities for the children, such as a nature walk and nature craft that we just love! Even better, the state park this occurs at is only 10 minutes away! We just started this back up because the classes ended over the summer, due to the oppressive heat. They girls made beautiful nature looms, and my younger two children had a blast playing with moss. They also get the chance to run and play outside with other children, getting exercise and making friends.

In addition to this, all three girls are in dance class (yes even my 2 year old!). They love dance! We also took a trip to the museum of natural history last month, and we plan on taking big field trips at least every 3 months. This keeps things new and creative, while learning in new environments. I already have tickets for my oldest two children and I to attend our first children’s targeted ballet (Beauty and the Beast). The library often has activities they can do for free, and we have a YMCA membership which will be super important during the cold months when outside physical activity is more limited (although we WILL be in the snow).

So, this is just the beginning of our homeschooling adventure. It is not easy to be home all week with all the children, but I could never see myself sending them away for school 5 days a week for the majority of the day. It would be so different. We are forming strong bonds as a family, and I want the ability to keep our lives flexible and adapt to each of their needs. There is so much positive in this, it is worth the hard work! (Even 9 months pregnant)

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Peace and blessings to you all.