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!
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.
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!”
Her hair is lighter than it used to be
I marvel at her long slender legs
That were once short with baby fat
Those big eyes are still big and beautiful
And right now they are wild with wonder
A stunning ebony butterfly, with pearl white spots
And a splash of powder blue around the bottom wings
Has flown over my 5-year-old daughters head
Her bare feet pound the sand as she runs across the beach
To catch it.
Then, little sisters come following close behind
Their exuberance angers the oldest one
Who understands the butterfly will disappear
At their chubby hands grabbing
I mediate their bickering, and soon
The fun of the chase continues.
The oldest stands still, hands out stretched
Hoping this lovely creature will grace her arms
She. Is. So. Beautiful.
The child who opened my womb
Who gave me the honor of… Mother
Her beauty is as unique and exquisite
As the butterfly she longs to hold onto—
My heart expands like open fields,
Like the depths of the ocean,
Like the canyons deep.
Will she know her own beauty
After the tender moments of childish innocence
Will she know her strength
After her heart is broken for the first time?
Will she know that a thousand years with her
Is not enough time?
Not enough time at all.
My oldest daughter,
I look at you
And I see the brilliance of creation
I see the mercy of heaven’s King
Who saw it fit to bless me
You—this girl running across the beach
And splashing in the water
Holding, loving, and confronting
You—the one who opened my womb
And made me Mother