Motherhood & Parenting

Birth Stories Are Never Boring: Twins!

And we’re back to my Birth Story Series.

For those of you who are new to this series, click HERE for Baby #1 and HERE for Baby #7.  (Yes, I know, these are a little out of order.)  Today, I’m writing about Baby #2 and Baby #3, for you see, we unexpectedly had twins, nine years ago.  So here we go.

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Here are the twins with Big Sister.  A year or so later in 2009

Pregnant with Twins

This was a wild ride.  We were so excited to be pregnant again, because we wanted a big family.  Our little girl was just one year old, and she would get a new brother or sister before she turned 2!

But this pregnancy was different from my first “dream” pregnancy.  I was growing wider and wider faster than the time it takes to blow up a big balloon.  Everyone would smugly look at me and say, “Well, this is your second baby.  Of course you’ll be a lot bigger.”  I knew that, but would insist that, “No, this pregnancy really feels differently.  I think I’m having twins.”  At this point, most people smiled and laughed at me.  But if I said it once, I said it 50 times.  “I think I’m having twins!”

And I was right.  A week before my scheduled 20-week ultrasound, I began having severe lower abdominal pains, and so I was ushered to the ultrasound room to see if anything was wrong.  The technician squeezed that cold gel on and maneuvered her magic wand, as my husband and I gazed at the screen.  Hmmm, I thought, there seems to be a lot of arms and legs in there.

Sure enough, twins!  We both laughed and laughed, and I felt vindicated.  So we celebrated and ate at Taco Johns.

This was also about the time that I began having contractions too, which landed me right in Bed Rest.  This was not fun.  Thankfully some very kind friends helped watch my daughter, and we also received quite a few meals.  But in the meantime, I reread the Lord of the Rings series and listened to Rush Limbaugh on the radio for entertainment.  (If you haven’t read the Lord of the Rings, you should.  It’s so good.  And as for listening to Rush Limbaugh, I can only say that I was desperate.  We didn’t have Catholic radio at the time.)

Towards the end of my pregnancy, however, my body had had enough.  I began to retain fluid and my blood pressure skyrocketed.  I was preeclamptic and made to come back to the hospital the next day at 5am for an induction.

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Lots of swelling going on here.  This was taken the night before delivery.  It hurt just to stand. Flattering, no?

Labor & Delivery

We were excited, nervous, relieved–all of it.  What was this going to be like?  There was only one thing I knew.  It would be drastically different than my first labor and delivery.  First of all, I had to be in the operating room, in case of an emergency cesarean section. And secondly, I was given pitocin to start the contractions and an epidural to block any pain.  It was wonderful to not feel all that pain!  (With my first, I did not have pitocin or an epidural, and it was dreadfully painful.)

As I said, I went in at about 5am and by 10am was ready to push.  It all happened so quickly.  Boy # 1 was born easily, but whisked out of the room so fast that I didn’t even hear him cry.  I was worried, but was not able to ask about him because immediately after he came out, multiple nurses were sharply told by the doctor, “Hold that baby in place!  We don’t want him to flip!”  The doctor wanted Boy #2 to stay in his head-down position to avoid a c-section, so the nurses firmly held him by pushing down on my lower abdomen.

He did stay in place and was born just minutes later.  And I heard him cry, which was a relief.  He was alive and healthy!  And so was the first one, I would soon find out.

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Here they are.  A day old.  They shared a bassinet in the hospital and afterwards.  I didn’t have the heart to separate them.

I asked my husband what he remembered about all this, and he said, “I sliced through the doctor’s glove while cutting the first umbilical cord.  He wasn’t very happy with me.”

In the end, it was all so very beautiful – a great gift from God.  Even though I had to take some kind of terrible magnesium drug for the eclampsia afterwards, I was only so grateful to have three children!

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Motherhood & Parenting

Birth Stories Are Never Boring: Baby #1

I kicked this series off with the story of my latest baby girl, #7, born about six weeks ago.  (Click HERE for that one.)  Now it’s time to back up and start from the beginning.

First Pregnancy

My husband and I were married on the feast of St. Agnes, January 21st, 2006.  From the earliest part of dating, we both knew that we wanted a big family.  So once we were hitched, there was no waiting for such things as a bigger home or more income.  Nope.  In fact, we were renting a little craftsman-style house in Duluth, MN, and I was still finishing up my degree in Catholic Studies in St. Paul.

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This was the cutest house we’ve ever lived in.  There was a balcony off an upstairs back bedroom too.

It took us a whole month to get pregnant, and we were excited!  She was to be the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  Our first move was to move, literally.  We didn’t want to live in Duluth anymore, as it seemed to snow perpetually–something called “Lake Effect” snow.  (It’s terrible.)  And we wanted grandparents around.

So six months later we ended up in North Dakota.  (This is where my husband was born and raised.)  He promised me that on the western side of the state, it didn’t snow very much and was warmer.  I remember him saying, “Sure it’s warmer!  We used to golf in December in Dickinson.”  HA!  Our first three years here were record-breaking snow-fall years.

In any case, my first child was a dream pregnancy.  I could have been one of those pregnant models in those fake, glossy maternity magazines in OBGYN offices.  (You know, the ones that make every real mother feel terribly for having swollen ankles and stretch marks.)  I was able to run a few miles all the way up until two weeks before she was born.  I had zero problems.  You bet I felt great!

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Me.  Eight months pregnant.  Getting ready for my sister’s wedding.

And I had no idea what was coming, for I came from a small family and had never even held a baby until mine was born.  You could say I was about to have the shock of a lifetime.

Labor & Delivery

After arriving in North Dakota, settling down, and purchasing our first house, it was time to have a baby.

The night of November 13th, after my husband and I had just gone to bed, I suddenly felt a wetness all around me.  Naturally, I wondered if maybe I had accidentally urinated?  I had read that that could happen, so I went to the bathroom to check.  Then I yelled for my husband to go get that pregnancy book, so I could look it up.  This water didn’t smell like urine after all.

It was, of course, my “bag” of water.  Contractions began soon after that.  I did know enough that I’d probably have plenty of time before needing to go into the hospital, so I took a shower at 11pm, put my makeup on, and styled my hair.  Who knows how long it might take?  I wanted to look good.  (Vain.  Just vain.)  Then we drove to the hospital.

I had also read in some condescending pregnancy article that it was best to not have any drugs or medication, if possible.  So I decided to not have an epidural, or any other drugs.  I was going to do this all on my own and show all those other “weak” mothers how it was done.  (What a self-righteous prig I was.)

Well, it was a long, long 12 hours of sheer hell.  And I deserved every pit of pain too.  In the end, I broke down and had a dose of Nubain because I started to hyperventilate.  Again, I had no idea what to expect.

Thankfully, after tearing and with the aid of an episiotomy, Baby #1 was born.  And I was relieved.  What an experience.

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My dad holding her – both an absolute blessing from God.

The Worst Was Yet to Come.

I didn’t know, however, that the worst was yet to come.  Remember, I had no experience with babies whatsoever.  None.  I didn’t know that I’d be up all night.  I was used to my 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.  I didn’t know that I’d have hemorrhoids.  I didn’t know that nursing a baby could hurt so badly – like someone with a knife slicing off my flesh and then burning it with red hot coals.  This mothering business was painful!

My own mother, God bless her soul, came to help me for a few days.  She was wonderful to have around, especially to hold the screaming baby for a few hours, so that I could sleep.  But she only stayed for a short while.  The night before she left, I remember bawling uncontrollably in my husband arms because I felt like I was living in a black hole, with no light at the end of the tunnel.  My life would forever involve a screaming baby and a terribly aching body.  I had a complete meltdown.

Truly, the next two months were very dark.  Looking back now, I can see that I was suffering from Postpartum Blues or Depression.  It was mentally, physically, and emotionally draining, but I survived it, mostly with the support of my husband.  He was just as clueless as I was, but was able to keep his wits about him.

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Lots of crying.  From her and me.

I learned a lot from this pregnancy.  Firstly, never again would I look down on any mother who would choose to have medication during labor and delivery.  In fact, I think it would have helped me greatly to relax, especially since absolutely everything was so new to me.  Secondly, I would never again scoff at any mother having difficulty with nursing, or getting up at night, or anything else related to motherhood.   It’s just downright hard at times.

Conclusion & Light At the End of the Tunnel

While this first pregnancy was awesome, easy, and glamorous, everything afterwards was not.  It was confusing, dark, and difficult.  Thankfully, I would never again experience that kind of postpartum darkness again.

And of course, it was all worth it.  Every bit of it.

Stay tuned for future additions of, “Birth Stories Are Never Boring,” as I attempt to relate Babies #2,3,4,5, & 6, wherein the pregnancies increase in difficulty, but where the labor and deliveries become a little easier!

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I couldn’t resist one more photo.  She was (and is) so beautiful.  And worth it all.
Motherhood & Parenting

I’m A Bad Patient

When I’m pregnant, I’m a bad patient.  Let me give you an example of what I mean.  The following is a pretty accurate account of how my prenatal appointments begin.

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Pregnant Mother.  Not me.  I could only hope to look this glamorous.

Beginning of Prenatal Appointment

A nurse enters the room and after checking my vitals, she routinely asks me, “Have you been taking your prenatal vitamins?”

“Nope.”

Glancing at me suspiciously, “And, why not?”

“They make me constipated,” I lie.  I just don’t like taking them.

“I see.  Have you had any alcoholic drinks during this pregnancy?”

“Yes.”

Clearing her throat, “How many, would you say, a week?”

“One or two.”

Incredulously, “And do you smoke, too?”

“No, but my grandma did with all 8 of her pregnancies, does that count?”

(Naw, I didn’t really say that; I just thought it.  I’m probably going to burn in hell.)

What the Point?

Now why would I say all that–the not taking prenatal vitamins and then willfully drinking a glass of wine during a pregnancy?  It’s not that I’m anti-vitamins, for I do think many people benefit from taking them, especially if their diets are lacking certain nutrients.  And it’s not that I think everyone should enjoy a glass of wine while pregnant either.

It’s just that for me, not having the one and occasionally enjoying the other make me a happier wife and mother.  We do not all have to be the same, for we are all wonderfully different.

As an aside, I did take prenatal vitamins with my first pregnancy, and maybe my second, out of fear.  I thought that if I didn’t, my baby would be born without a limb or missing half her brain or something.  Well, I’ve had six other children since then without vitamins, and they’re all very normal.

As for drinking a glass of wine, I’m just thankful that some doctors actually see the benefit of this.  Again, it’s not that I think it’s for everyone, but for me, one glass here or there has only ever done me good.

The Appointment Goes On

Back at my typical appointment, I further the dismay of everyone when I refuse the DTAP vaccine and the flu shot and regularly skip my appointments, especially at the end, when I’m asked to come in weekly.

Now if I had any real problems or concerns, of course I wouldn’t skip my appointments.  But weekly?  This is just too much.  Not only do I not want to step on their scale one more time, but how can anyone find time for this?  No, I have other priorities.  If I’m going to take time away from my children, it’s not going to be to sit in a waiting room for an hour.   I’m going to have coffee with a friend.  Or lunch with my husband.  Or anything else, if I can help it.

And that DTAP vaccine?  It’s not that I’m against vaccines.  It’s that I had that vaccine with my last pregnancy, and I don’t feel comfortable receiving it again in less than two years.  So, no.

And the flu shot?  I had Influenza A one year while pregnant, and yes, it’s really terrible, but I don’t like putting stuff in my body that’s not absolutely necessary for survival.  So again, nope.  I’ll take my chances.

But please don’t misunderstand me, if you like receiving shots, that’s just fine with me.  For as I said above, we are all wonderfully different and free to choose what works best for us.

My poor doctor though.  He puts up with a lot.  I guess I’m just a bad patient.

 

Motherhood & Parenting

Birth Stories Are Never Boring: Baby # 7

Birth Stories are just never boring, at least for mothers anyway.  Birth stories are also never alike.  Each one is unique, and it’s all a miracle.

Today I intend to begin a new series, as I will write the Birth Story of each of my babies, and since #7 is fresh in my mind, I’ll begin there.

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Baby #7 at her Baptism yesterday.  7 Days Old.

Pregnant With Baby #7

Now I know that many of you enjoy being pregnant, but I, however, do not.  Let me say it again, I do not enjoy being pregnant.  Man, is it difficult.  For whatever reason, usually around halfway through my pregnancies, my body decides to commence Braxton Hicks contractions every time I attempt to move.  These uncomfortable contractions, along with the cumbersomeness of a large, pregnant body, do not allow for me to exercise, let alone walk up and down flights of stairs or even walk out to the mailbox without pain.

In any case, it’s just not fun.  And I am always very glad when labor begins.

Emotional Breakdown

Last Monday, which was President’s Day, I was particularly fed up with my pregnant self.    That morning my poor husband, who happened to be home because of the holiday, received an earful from me lamenting my inability to do anything I wanted.  “I can’t go for a walk.”  Sob, sob.  “I can’t even bring this pile of laundry downstairs.”  Cry, cry.  “I’m going to be pregnant forever, and it will be winter forever, and the sun will never shine again!”  Hysterical, emotional, breakdown.  “I hate being pregnant!!”

I then stomped out of the room and put myself in Time Out, whereupon I apologized to my unborn baby and to God for losing it.  Deep down, I knew that all of those statements were lies.  Truly, I only wanted God’s will to be done, not mine.

I then prayed the opening line of the Apostles’ Creed.  “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.”  I stopped and glanced out of the window at the blue sky and thought about this Creator of Heaven and Earth.  God is a good God.  He knows what’s best for me, and His timing is perfect.  I prayed for the grace to accept His will, and I begged Mary to help me, and then I walked out of Time Out and apologized to my husband.

Labor Begins

A half an hour later, I noticed a trickle of blood.  Any amount of bleeding during a pregnancy is obviously not good, so I told my husband and called the hospital.  They immediately scheduled an appointment for me at the clinic, as I was 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant.

So, after we calmly told our children that Grandma was on the way over, we drove in.  It was about noon.

At the clinic, a Physician’s Assistant examined me and promptly sent me over to Ultrasound to make sure everything was ok.  Then she saw me again and decided I had better head over to the hospital to be monitored, as she didn’t know the cause of the bleeding because everything looked normal.

Since the PA was not overly concerned, and since we were hungry from having missed lunch, we decided to hit up Jimmy John’s first before going to the hospital.  At this point, we kind of knew that we weren’t going to be sent home, and furthermore, that the hospital wasn’t going to feed us.

It was while sitting in the drive-thru that I began to have a few minor contractions.  Nothing serious, though.  And nothing painful.  So we ate our sandwiches and filled the car full of gas too.

By the time we rolled into the hospital parking lot around 1:30pm, my contractions were a bit more regular, and when the nurse examined me, I was dilated to 3 cm.  So I asked her if my doctor happened to be around?  She said no, that he was on his way home from their satellite clinic a few hours away.  The reason I asked was because I knew that if he was there, he’d break my water, and we’d get this party started.  He, of course, knowing my history of early deliveries.

I then boldly asked her to tell him to drive straight over to the hospital and break my water.  She laughed, and then sent me over to Labor and Delivery, as she also thought I wasn’t going home without a baby.

Well, that nurse did tell my doctor, and he actually did drive straight over.  (He’s so awesome.)  He strolled into the room at about 3pm, ordered the nurses to get my IV hooked up, and said he’d be back in an hour to break my water.  Alleluia!  (I know it’s Lent, and you’re not supposed to say Alleluia, but really, that’s what I thought.)

At 4pm, he came back, broke my water, and real labor began!  I knew it would be quick, from previous experience, and it was.  I chose not to have an epidural this time and only requested a dose of Nubain, which is a drug that goes through your IV.  It doesn’t take away the pain of the contractions, but only makes you care less.  I can only describe it as making you feel a little “loopy” and more relaxed.

Well, it was intense; I pushed three or four times; and she arrived.  She would have come even sooner, but she was facing sideways, instead of down.  But she was perfect.  She is beautiful.

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Here we all are on Baptism Day.  Godparents are on the left.  I’m in the middle with the baby.  My family is on the right.  A glorious day.

About That Bleeding?

Later on I asked my doctor about that initial bleeding.  He said that for some women, as your cervix thins and dilates, your blood vessels begin to break.  I guess that’s what happened to me.

And one more providential thing…a Mass was celebrated for our family last Monday, February 19th, when our baby was born.  A good friend of mine had scheduled it last summer.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Stay tuned for more Birth Stories later on.

Homeschooling

A Day in the Life of a Crazy Fool: Part 1

I might be a Crazy Fool.  After all, I have 6 children under the age of 12, I’m a Catholic, I homeschool, and I’m pregnant.  Goodness gracious!  To most in our culture, I am a crazy fool.  Why would I do such things?

The short answer?  Because my heart is full of love.  The long answer?  Uh, I don’t have time for that because I have 6 children under the age of 12, and I homeschool.

In any case, I was asked if I might elaborate on what a Typical Day looks like in my household, and so today is Part 1.  The other parts will come over the next week or so.

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This is where it all begins.  Note the candles.  Everybody likes candles because they’re fun and potentially dangerous.  We probably need more.

6:00 am

BEEP!  The alarm goes off, and my husband and I roll out of bed, grab our Liturgy of the Hours, and begin the day with prayer in the living room.  We do this in the semi-dark, with just a lamp and a few candles.  Why?  Because there’s something mysterious about flickering candlelight, and it’s cool.

We have 45 minutes set aside for this.  The first half is prayed aloud with Morning Prayer.  The second half is spent in silence.  During this time the children are also waking up, and slowly they join us.  They grab a blanket and crawl up on the couch in silence.  I’d like to think they’re praying too, but probably, they’re just zoning out.

So as not to worry when this time is up, and for very practical reasons, we program our coffee pot to be done at 6:45.  When it beeps, we’re done.

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Coffee’s done!  Let’s get this party started!

6:45 am

At this point, many things happen.  Of course my top priority is the coffee.  So, I grab my cup and head to the computer for a half an hour of work.  My husband, Blessed Saint That He Is, commences Math with the eldest.  (I hate math.  See HERE for that one.)  Children 2,3, and 4 begin handwriting and math facts.  Children 5 & 6 wander around and mess with stuff.  You know, like tear books off of shelves.

7:15 am

My husband showers, I shower, and the older children finish up their Early Morning School and begin their next task.  Child #2 makes the toast.  (Click HERE for an account of that.)  Child #3 practices piano.  Children 4 & 5 set the table.  The Eldest finishes her math.  And the toddler?  Uh, she’s busy wrecking something else.

8:15 am

Breakfast and Morning Time.  Stay tuned for more on that in…A Day in the Life of Crazy Fool: Part 2.

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“Quick, Mom’s not looking!”  Mom from the other room yells, “I heard that!  Get back to work!  Somebody get that baby away from the bookshelf!”*

*Hmmm, Yelling?  Guess I should reread my post about that…