Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Here's how it is for us.

I find myself drawn to every article and blog post that discusses having lots of kids.  Am I seeking advice?  Comfort?  Reassurance?  All of those, I suspect.  I feel like an anomaly, having this many little ones.  I don't have any close friends with more than 2 kids, therefore few sounding boards.  (Though we do have three neighbors down the block with three older kids, and I see them as hope that, in fact, one can survive all this.

It turns out, though, that 3 kids is not all that uncommon.  According to the U.S. Census, 28% of women have 3 or more kids by the age of 44.  I find this to be pretty shocking, because I often feel we are swimming in children.  It seems that we are the anomaly, having this many children.  Three children.  Who does that?  What I can't seem to figure out is what sort of spacing is common. 3 kids under 5 seems pretty crazy.  2 kids under 2 seems even crazier.

Here are the things that I find so notable about our numbers so far.

1)  The sheer physicality of this time is astounding.  When I sit down at the end of the night, after the kids are in bed and the necessary chores completed, my whole body aches.  I feel I have run a race.  Each and every day.  Much of this is the age of the kids, I know.  I am often having to lug a baby in a carseat in one arm and a squirming toddler in a snowsuit in the other.  Or I am picking up a toddler and putting her in the high chair whilst I am holding a baby in the other arm and giving him a bottle with my chin as my third hand.

2)  I don't necessarily long for the naps to align themselves.  While it is a nice break when it happens, it is a nice break when anybody is sleeping.  If one or two of them are sleeping (the baby and/or the toddler), that gives me a chance to spend some quality time with the big kid.  That's when we spend time reading or chatting.  If all the naps aligned, I would never get alone time with anyone.

3) I am so thankful that I was a hard ass with the girls sleep.  When I found out I was pregnant with Teddy, I decided Greta needed to become a perfect sleeper.  We did cry-it-out, and she is a perfect sleeper now.  I read other blogs where women are getting up with all of their kids, and I just know I couldn't handle that.  I can't be a nice enough person.  Better they cry a little bit and figure out how to sleep, than cry a lot later on because Mom is too tired to be nice to them.

4)  The car seat thing doesn't even phase me anymore.  I used to get annoyed with having to strap one kid into a car seat.  I absolutely dreaded dealing with three kids in car seats.  I care less now than I did with one kid in a car seat.  Because really?  It doesn't matter.  It is what it is, it's not going to change.  If only I could start to feel that way about the messy house.  It still drives me nuts, every single day.

5)  The husband has really stepped up to the plate.  Whereas before he left me to do a lot of the parenting (and parenting prep), he now steps up to help constantly.  It has made a huge difference.  We're lucky if we get an hour to ourselves at the end of the night, and often have to forsake sleep to make it happen.  But at least we're in it together.

6)  When the kids are awake, there is no space in my head for anything other than parenting.  The days go oh-so-quickly, even if we're stuck inside, because every possible moment is filled with some little person's want or need.  For the most part this is fun.  But I also find it's affected my health.  With three plugged ducts, a round of mastitis and a UTI turned kidney infection, I have realized that I don't even make time for my basic needs.  Feeding myself, giving myself water and a bathroom break, are often put off until nap time and bed time.  With my latest infection I realized something has to give.  I now pump a lot less than I was.  And I force myself to drink a lot more water.  So far, it has worked out better.

7)  My poor oldest.  She has always been so independent.  So with the advent of two littler ones, I have relied on her a lot.  She loves it, in some ways.  But I also know that I probably expect more out of her than most 4-year-olds can deliver.  I often forget she's still so little.  It's not until I have a rare outing alone with her that I remember she's still a little kid.  She is not as grown up as she so often seems in the presence of her younger siblings.  I have to remind myself constantly to cut her more slack (and often fail to remember this altogether until the husband reminds me that I'm not being fair to her).  We still have a contentious relationship.  I am reading a book on parenting preschoolers to hopefully remedy that.  It has helped a bit so far, though I have a long way to go.

8) It is fascinating to see even little Greta learn to help.  She has become pretty adept at finding Teddy's pacifier when he's crying.  The fact that everyone is pitching in, without even having to be asked, is something I hadn't expected.

This is life with three, two months in.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Holding on by our fingernails: 2 months as a family of 5

He almost always has a skeptical look on his face.  I think he's wondering how he got assigned to this particular family.
Little dude, this post is a lot less about you than it is about us.  Because you do what babies do.  Namely, everything but sleep.  I should be used to it by now, but I am not.  The reality that you are a troubled sleeper is finally sinking in.  There is no magic age you need to hit in order to sleep better, I think you are just a generally crappy sleeper.  Up 3 to 5 times every night.  It is terrible.  Your longest stretch is from about 7 to 12 most nights, though sometimes it's just 7 to 10.  But the earliest I could climb into bed, if I tried very hard and got all my chores done quickly, would be 8.  And if I want a moment to myself, then it's more like 9.  I have learned that if I do that, and don't have a drop of alcohol (which upsets my sleep just enough) and don't have a drop of coffee after about 8:30 in the morning, then I can survive with some grace.

But gosh, all that is hard.  I am such a night owl, always have been.  I feel a bit crazed going to bed so early.  And I love to have a beer after the kids go to bed.  And I love coffee.  All these things... go against my nature.  Against my habits.  Sometimes I do them anyway, and then I am tired and grumpy and lose my temper, primarily with MJ.

I think that if you were our second child you would have been our last.  Someday you'll have to thank Greta for being a pretty great sleeper.  The upside, that gives me hope, is that you generally go to sleep pretty easily.  Sometimes I look over at you in your bouncy seat and you are sound asleep.  Without a peep, you just drift off.  So at some point, maybe you'll become a good sleeper?  I have nothing against sleep training this time around.  When I feel you are ready, it will be time.  For the sake of everyone in this family, mama needs better sleep.  I can't forsake everyone else.  So that is coming down the pipeline.

This has been a tough month.  I really should be writing more, because I'm sure my sleep deprived brain will remember nothing.  We went with some friends to a cabin up north, which was lovely.  Just to get away for a couple days.  No chores to do.  Arriving to a tidy cabin with no toys scattered everywhere.  No bathrooms to clean.  Getting to just chat with friends, in spite of our children's early bedtimes.  It was lovely.

There was also a bout of mastitis two weeks ago.  And a clogged duct before that (or was that last month?).  I've never had these problems before, but have already had three of them since Teddy has been born.  We did a bit of breastfeeding this month, but he's still just terrible at it.  Nurses for a bit, just enough to take the edge off his hunger, and then he's hungry again 20 minutes later.  I still end up needing to pump because he doesn't nurse well.  I tried to just go for it while we were at the cabin and hubs was there to help, figuring baby boy would figure it out if that was his only option.  But no.  I basically just spent 2 solid days nursing.  It was terrible.  So I still try to nurse on occasion, but have pretty much given up hope.  Especially after that bout of mastitis, it's just not worth risking that he doesn't empty me and then I get a clogged duct.  In fact, now that I think about it, I think it's been about 4 days since I last even tried.  This recent study again makes me question whether the hour (usually more) I spend pumping every day is truly worthwhile.  Even Greta has come to hate my pump, because she knows it means I will be sitting down, not playing, not doing what she wants for a while.  She hears me say "I have to pump" and freaks out.  I don't know how much longer I'll continue.  I have stopped pumping as much at night, usually just once or twice, for the sake of more sleep.  That has helped, though doesn't do any favors to my supply.  Ugh.  I'm just tired of thinking about it, stressing about it, wondering if I'm making the best decision.

Teddy has remained healthy despite a few viruses making their way through the house.  Protective benefits of breastmilk?  Responsible hand-washing habits?  Who's to say.  This month, he became happy just sitting there.  He did not need to be constantly held.  If he's well fed and not overly tired I can set him down while I wash dishes or eat lunch and he just looks around.  His sisters make sure he has plenty to look at, so I can't imagine he's bored.  And Greta has started to learn how to be nice to him.  Which includes getting his pacifier when he cries and not trying to scratch his eyeballs out.

We also found a nanny this month.  She's a college student, an early education major, and the girls just love her.  This past week we had our first date night, and I also had an afternoon to get some work done (in preparation for this class I'll be teaching this summer).  I was so nervous about finding a nanny, and leaving the kids with someone we didn't really know, and I now feel so comfortable.  Greta climbed right into her lap like she'd known her forever.  In fact, I've never seen Greta so comfortable with someone she didn't know.  It is the best feeling to have a nanny hired and feel completely comfortable with it all.  On top of that, she actually picked up after the kids (something I've had such a hard time getting a babysitter to do!)  She is everything we were hoping for.

All in all, I can mostly just say we're surviving.  We knew having kids this close in age would be challenging, and we were so very right.  Our social life has mostly disappeared.  Anything other than just surviving with the kids is a rare event.  Part of this is the cold, which has been extreme this year.  I am hopeful that when the weather turns Teddy will be sleeping better, and we'll reach the magical land of well rested, home made meals, long walks for exercise and all those healthy things that will make us better.  In the meantime, here we are.  Thankful for the amnesiac effects of fatigue and early childhood on us and the littles.  But also making sure I record this so as not to think this was a magical, care free time.

I love you little man.  I'm so glad you're part of our family and you really do make everything feel complete.  Perhaps all these wake-ups are just your way of insuring you get some quality one-on-one mama time, just like the girls had in their day.  I'm trying to soak in your babyness while I can, and remember how fleeting these days are.  Give me a few more zzz's and I promise to do a better job at all of that.