To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool

If you know us, you probably know that we have been considering homeschooling for our kids, on and off, for about as long as our kids have been in school.  It’s an incredibly complex decision, and not for the reasons that I would have guessed.

Here’s the thing.  We have special needs kids.  They aren’t delayed and they don’t have any of the other issues or problems that people assume when they hear the words ‘special needs’.  But, all the same, they have special needs that a school is going to be hard pressed to meet.  Oliver and Hazel are off-the-charts smart.  Both were reading at age 3; Hazel is in kindergarten and reads on at least a second grade level.  Oliver is in second grade and reads on at least a sixth or seventh grade level.  Oliver intuitively understands mathematical concepts and remembers everything he reads.  Hazel’s writing skills and attention to detail are incredible, considering her age, and her spatial skills are probably better than mine. Continue reading

Helicopters, Freedom, Broken Bones, and Risks

So, I read this article (op ed?) in The Atlantic.  You should read it too, especially if you have kids, even more so if you tend towards being hypervigilant about what they do, when, and with whom.

Oh the guilt!  The guilt!  There’s the actual guilt, the guilt you assume you should feel, the observational guilt, and all sorts of other guilty feelings.  There’s so much guilt that guilt starts to sound like a dumb word.

These are a few of the things that I regularly feel some measure of guilt about:

  •          Not spending enough time with my kids
  •          Spending so much time with my kids that they don’t know how to play on their own
  •          Being nervous when they want to do risky things at the playground
  •          Going camping with them, telling them to go explore and get dirty and do whatever, and have them look blankly at me              like I’ve told them to go walk on the moon
  •          Not enough activities
  •          Too many structured activities
  •          Letting them out of my sight
  •          Not letting them out of my sight

Seriously.  I can drive myself batty going around and around and around with these issues.

I remember being an elementary schooler, walking to the school bus stop alone (a little more than a quarter mile away, if I remember right), and waiting for the bus with a handful of boys (they were all boys!).  I remember snowball fights.  I remember them teaching me to play hockey (sort of).  I remember one boy getting seriously injured because of a snowball (ice) fight.

I remember learning to roller blade with those boys, and going too fast down a really steep hill, and having to hobble home, legs scraped clean of skin.

I remember taking my dog for walks, all alone, to meet the boy I had a crush on so he and I could walk around the neighborhood together.

I remember being in middle school and biking for miles and miles with my best friend.  Her brother’s bike had a radio, and we would listen to music while we biked everywhere.  The library, the school, around her neighborhood.

I remember walking through the woods and getting lost.  I also remember finding shortcuts to the nearby shopping center, and walking to the stores all alone.

I felt so grown up.  I felt like I was taking risks, but I also felt confident about my ability to take on those risks.

I participated in organized sports.  I remember family game nights.  But I spent a lot of time alone as a kid.  And it was okay.

In fact, the times that I actually had the worst, most traumatic experiences of my childhood were actually when I was being supervised by “trusted” adults.

But yet, all of that said, I can’t fathom the idea of letting my kids walk to school alone.  Or go outside and explore the neighborhood unsupervised.  Or walk to a store alone.  Or even run far enough ahead on the walk home that I can’t see them.

Part of that is their ages, I’m sure.  Oliver just turned eight.  Hazel is six.  I think (hope) it’s natural to be more hesitant with your oldest child.  Part of it is that I really like walking to school to pick them up, and I really like hanging out with my kids.  I’m trying to give them more freedom to experience “danger”—Oliver gets to use sharp knives at dinner, not just butter knives.  And I let him help me cut vegetables.  I let Hazel cross the street unsupervised (I was feeding the baby—I didn’t even watch her out the window!).  I sometimes let Oliver stay in the car when I’m running errands (I hope that’s legal).

So, why is our entire society so bent on keeping kids carefully under wraps?  I mean, obviously part of it is fear driven—in our age of the 24 hour news cycle, one Horrible Thing happening to one child affects all of us for days or weeks at a time.  It feels more prevalent than it is.  It’s still a Horrible Thing, but one Horrible Thing happening to someone else, somewhere else makes us hug our children so tightly that they can’t breathe, and we don’t realize that our children are more likely to suffocate than suffer from said Horrible Thing.

I wonder if part of it is also control.  We can’t control if our kid gets cancer, or is the loser at school who gets picked on.  We can’t control if they will be autistic, or bad at sports, or if they will experience Horrible Thing.  But we take on the illusion of control by not letting them out of sight.  By keeping them close.  By making sure their activities are monitored at all times.  By not letting them lose.  We can keep them from having their feelings hurt, their bones and hearts broken, and ever having to deal with whatever it was that made our own childhood insufferable.

Except, of course, we can’t control all those things.  And at what cost do we keep the others under control?

Kullervo and I were heartbroken (me) and furious (Kullervo) when we took the kids camping and while we (Kullervo) set up camp, we told the kids to go explore the campsite.  Find bugs.  Dig a hole.  Have an adventure.

They didn’t know how.

WHAT HAVE WE DONE????

I don’t worry too much about my kids getting hurt, honestly.  The thing that makes me cringe is fingers getting squashed in doors, but that’s small and just as likely to happen regardless of supervision.  I have a fear of falling, so when Henry climbs really high on a playground, it makes my stomach lurch.  My stomach reacts that way to circus performers on the high wire, too, I might add.  I try not to let it affect my kids—I try really hard to look away and let them take those risks.  (Although thinking about that makes me also fear the judgmental looks from other people should my kids fall off the playground equipment.)

So, aside from fear and control, there is the other issue—why do we think we should spend all of our time with our kids?  There’s the guilt factor.  Obviously, we should want to spend all our spare time with our kids, right?  But why do we think that?  I don’t want to spend all of my time with anybody—I’m an introvert and really want to put my head in the sand and avoid all y’all folks and hope you go away and leave me alone.

My kids are fantastic.  I love spending time with them.  I love hearing their ideas—they’re smart and funny and creative and silly, and they help me be smart and funny and creative and silly too.  I love playing games and reading with them.  I love going on hikes and yelling at them to ENJOY NATURE DAMMIT.  And their school day is SO LONG, and their bedtime is SO EARLY, so I actually don’t get a lot of time to just BE with my kids.  We certainly can’t do all the things together that I want to do.  But I also can’t be on all day long.

And they’re still kids—which means that a lot of the things they want to do aren’t interesting and a lot of their jokes aren’t funny (to grown ups).  Cases in point—Hazel just told me two new jokes today:

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Daddy!

Daddy who?

Get me a beer.

 

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Interrupting table!
Interrupting table who?

EAT YOUR DINNER.

Not funny.  At all.  But yet Oliver and Hazel are currently in our basement cracking each other up with their horrible jokes.  Kids need other kids around because kids get that stuff.  And they need time away from adults to be able to explore all of the horrible jokes they want without annoying anybody.

I’ve also noticed how much my kids gain from me severely restricting screen time.  They had a half day of school today, and came home and immediately wanted to watch television.  I said no.  They wanted to use the iPad.  I said no.  I said they were being too loud (Henry had just gone down to nap), so I sent them to the basement.  They played truth or dare.  They told unfunny jokes.  Now they are playing pretend.  All of which they would have missed out on if they had had the television on.  I’ve watched them take their boredom and turn it into creativity.  I’ve seen them build towers of milk crates (and climb them, and fall down).  I’ve seen them come up with weird games to play in the car on long drives because they don’t have a television in the car.

I want my kids to be kids.  I want to hang out with them, I want to spend time with them, teach them what they need to learn.  But perhaps I need to remember—perhaps we all need to remember—that part of teaching kids, part of raising them, is giving them opportunity to fail and opportunity to take risks and mess up.  It’s certainly easier to help them learn to make good decisions when they’re younger than when they are older and are taking on riskier behavior.  If they are confident that they can take risks, if they know that they can make good decisions without parental supervision, maybe when they are being offered cigarettes or drugs or alcohol, or pressured to have sex, they’ll be able to say no because they will know their limits and they won’t need to take those risks in order to feel like they are more grown up.  Maybe the high they get from living their lives fully will outweigh the high they would get from using drugs.

So, all that said, what do I do to implement this?  There are definitely downsides to kids playing unsupervised—oftentimes, other people’s kids are rotten.  Or is a moderate level of unchecked bullying okay, because it helps our kids develop a thicker skin?  Is the social hierarchy of unsupervised kids harmful, or does it teach kids negotiation skills, political skills, and other skills that (sorry to say it) will be necessary in the work environment when they get older?  And with other parents helicoptering their kids constantly, is it possible to avoid the guilt of giving my kids more freedom (obviously they love their kids more than I do because otherwise I would want to be with them all the time, right?)?  And the guilt of being afraid of the judgment of said parents?

How much freedom do you give your kids?  When do you start giving them more freedom, and what freedoms do you allow?

She Tried To Take The Leash

I think I missed an opportunity to experience something beautiful today.  Why?  Because I’m prideful and insecure.

With five inches of snow yesterday, school was canceled and today there was a two hour delayed start.  Since we’ve had the baby, Kullervo has been taking the kids to school in the morning, with a two hour delay, the responsibility fell on me.  The kids were ready for school, and with snow and ice and salt all over the sidewalks, it seemed obvious to me that babywearing an infant and pushing a reluctantly riding toddler in the stroller was not enough while taking the other two to school.  Clearly, I needed to bring the dog along.

There is a method to my madness-with this terrible weather and the snow and the ice and the salt, I haven’t been walking Dally like I was before the baby came.  It’s been too icy for Kullervo to take her running at night, because it’s even harder to avoid ice in the dark.  Also, he’s been crazy busy at work (if he still exists; I don’t know that I’ve seen him enough recently to be certain that he isn’t just a hologram or a wonderful dream that’s going to fade away).

So, this morning I put the dog into her face harness.  I have multiple harnesses and collars for walking her; my ideal would be for her to just naturally walk on a loose leash… her ideal would be to RUN! RUN! RUN ALL THE TIME!  I have a pinch collar that I’ve been training her with, and a face collar that annoys her to the point that she won’t pull.  Snow, ice, salt, baby, and toddler and all, I figured today wasn’t the day to train her, but get her some exercise.

So we walked to school.  The sidewalks were thankfully not too bad on the main road—in fact, they were perhaps oversalted in front of the schools.  I mentioned to the kids that we should have brought a brush and dustpan because there is a salt shortage in the stores, and our sidewalk is relatively treacherous.  (Sorry, neighbors.)

I kissed the Bigs and they held hands and trudged into school, stopping to pick up some clean snow to eat on their way inside. I convinced Henry to climb back into the stroller and turned around to head home.  I started walking home when Fitz’s hat fell off, into some slush.  No big deal, right?  I retrieved it, shook it out, and then attempted to put it back on his head.  But with my mittens on, I couldn’t get a good grip.  No big deal, right?  I just had to take my mittens off.

In order to take off my mittens, I had to unwind the dog leash from my hand.

As soon as I gave Dally some slack, she started edging away.

Henry decided it was time to stand up in the stroller and lean backwards, causing the stroller to begin to tip over.

So, I had a hatless infant, a struggling dog, a tipping toddler, and mittens tangled up in the leash.

I just needed a minute to sort everything back out.  To pull Dally back and get her to sit so I could re-mitten.  To instruct Henry to sit back down and make sure the stroller was steady.  To secure Fitz’s hat and put my mittens back on.  I could totally do it, it just needed some juggling.

A woman approached me from behind, and attempted to take the leash.  In the moment, I was confused.  I resisted.  I said I was fine.  She, wordlessly, attempted to hold onto the stroller.  I resisted. I said no thanks.  I sorted myself out quickly, and walked on.

I have seen this woman before.  In fact, to be honest, and to my current shame, I haven’t had the kindest of feelings about her.  She’s an older Asian woman who picks up her kindergarten grandson from school when I am picking up Hazel.  I see her regularly.  She doesn’t speak English.  And I have been certain that she has thought nasty things about me because she has fussed over me when I’ve had Fitz at school pickup—attempting to help cover him up with a scarf, etc.

I have assumed that she has been judging me, thinking that I’m incompetent or that I shouldn’t have a new baby out of the house or that I’m doing everything wrong.

As I was walking home this morning, though, I was imagining what it would have been like if I had allowed her to hold onto the dog, or push the stroller, and we had walked together.  I was thinking about how uncomfortable I would feel, walking with someone I couldn’t speak with.  I’m an awkward enough conversationalist that when you throw in a foreign language I’m pretty much dead on arrival.  But, then I started wondering what if I had let her anyway.  What if I had let a stranger help me shoulder the load?

I realized that the unkind thoughts I’ve had about her, and the assumptions I’ve made that she is judging me are all me and my own insecurities.  She hasn’t said anything—she doesn’t speak my language.  The actions that she has taken, that I assumed were assertive and presumptive—what if they were an older woman reaching out to a younger woman to help?  What if they were the acknowledgement of the challenges of juggling multiple children and responsibilities, and an attempt to lighten the burden?

I don’t let people help me.  I don’t ask for help, and I am very resistant to accepting it.  I like that about myself, but it has a flip side.  I am lucky because I have good, wonderful people in my life, and I’ve had good friends basically smack me over the head and help me over my protestations.  One friend once said, “I know you don’t need help. I know you can do it all on your own.  But I am going to help you anyway.”

I’m always surprised when people show up for me.  When people are willing to go out of their way for me.  Like, sobbing into my pillow at night surprised.  It’s clearly something broken inside of me that makes it so hard for me to accept it.  Something that, for all of my independence and can-do-it-all-by-myselfishness, I need to fix.

I might have missed an opportunity today.  I might have spent the rest of this year walking in companionable silence with an older woman from another country, someone who was gracious enough to try to help someone clearly juggling too many things.  Someone who was willing to put herself out there for someone else even though she couldn’t communicate her intentions verbally in a way that I could understand.  I might have gotten to know her over time, gotten to understand her, gotten to learn from her.

But because I’m too prideful to accept help, and because I’m too insecure to realize that people who offer help aren’t offering it because they are critical of how incompetent I am, I didn’t.  Because of that, I might have missed out on something beautiful.  At the very least, I certainly missed an opportunity to let someone else lighten my load this morning.

Now, in writing this, I see obvious tie ins here to Jesus Christ and to my Christianity and my willingness (or reluctance?) to accept His sacrifice for me.  I’ll leave that alone for now, and spend some time on my knees working on that.

From John the Baptist to Mormon Missionary

Kullervo grew a beard.  Why?  Well, why not?

I kept trying to feed him locusts and honey.

I kept trying to feed him locusts and honey.

He’s an adventurous eater, but apparently the bugs weren’t filling enough or whatever.

Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur

To punish me for the bug incident, he made me learn American History.  Did you know that Chester A. Arthur was a U.S. President?

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn?  Clark Gable?

He spoke with an Australian accent… or was it Southern?  However, his swash-buckling swordsmanship was too much for this post-partum mama, so he called me a dear and told me he didn’t give a damn.

Off to preach the word!  The word of LAW, that is.

Off to preach the word! The word of LAW, that is.

He may look like an LDS missionary, but this dude is just headed off to work to gain people’s trusts so he can take their estates.  Or something like that.

Whatever he looks like, I love this man.

Milestones

There are milestones.  There are the ones people talk about (First smiles!  First steps!) and the ones that people don’t talk about (First time the baby manages to shoot liquid poop all the way across the room mid-diaper change, spraying your next door neighbor in the face. (That was Henry; sorry, Scott)).

Yesterday/today we had one of the lesser known milestones.

All six of us were bathed in the same 24 hours.

I realize that Fitz is six weeks old, so that sounds sort of gross.  But I will defend our situation, while still being proud of our accomplishment.

Babies don’t need baths every day.  Henry loved taking baths from the beginning, so part of his nighttime routine included one.  Fitz isn’t as wild about them; I bathe him when he smells too much like spit up for Kullervo to want to hold him (he’s lactose intolerant).

Oliver and Hazel don’t needs baths or showers every day.  They’re old enough to not be too gross, and young enough to not be too gross.  They need to get clean two or three times a week.  They need to wash their feet more often.

Henry needs to be washed when changing his diaper doesn’t leave him smelling any better than before.  And after most meals.

Kullervo showers every night before bed (definitely the cleanest and nicest smelling of the lot of us).

I shower when I can.  I have four kids, including a six week old who is pretty sure that if he is not being held constantly that the world might be ending.  (It’s fine if the world ends and someone is holding him, he just doesn’t want to die alone.)  Kullervo is in tax season, so he doesn’t leave work until 8:30 or so most nights, and when he gets home, I finish (start) making dinner, we eat, and we wind up talking so much that we run out of evening.

And I can’t sleep with wet hair.

I’m not a particularly smelly person (don’t tell me if I’m wrong; pretty much my whole existence depends on me not being totally gross without a daily shower).  But I don’t shower every day.  Get over it.  I don’t smell, my husband doesn’t care, my kids don’t care, and I don’t have time.

But, yesterday marked six weeks since Fitz was born.  Yesterday after school, Oliver, Hazel, and Henry all took a bath in the big tub downstairs while I folded laundry with Fitz in the ergo carrier.  After I put the older three into bed, I gave Fitz a bath.  Kullervo showered last night, and this morning I sneaked in a shower while Fitz stared at the side of his bassinet and Henry watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Six people.  Clean.  Twenty four hours.

It’s a milestone.

I think Henry and I will celebrate by jumping in mud puddles.

Practicing hopping for maximum splash outside!

Practicing hopping for maximum splash outside!

The First Six Weeks

Since Fitz is my fourth baby, people assume I know what I’m doing.  I ought to know what is normal and what isn’t.  I should remember how long the bleeding lasts, whether that much spit up means my baby is dying, how to function on no sleep.  It’s fine when most people assume that—I don’t need anything from most of them.  It’s unfortunate when the people who are assuming I’m totally on top of things are doctors.  My doctors.  My baby’s doctors.

Tummy time?  I had totally forgotten that that was a thing.  Vitamin D drops?  I have vague, fuzzy memories of forgetting to give those to all of my other kids too.

Here’s what I remember from the first six weeks of each of my kids:

OLIVER

Baby Oliver, one week old

Baby Oliver, one week old

After I had Oliver, the first six weeks were a nightmare of epic proportions.  The hospital force fed him bottles against our wishes, even though I was perfectly able to breastfeed, because they said that my milk should have come in and it hadn’t yet.  I didn’t get to see him until I was able to get up and walk to the NICU.

I remember cracked, bleeding nipples, and a narcoleptic baby who would only sleep if he should be eating, and pumping just to get some relief from the awfulness that was breastfeeding.  I remember Kullervo calling the women from our church to ask them about cracked, bleeding nipples because I wouldn’t call anyone and I just cried all the time.  I remember not sleeping at all because Oliver didn’t sleep at all, and only getting relief from the crying when Kullervo would take Oliver into the tiny bathroom of our tiny New York City apartment, turn on the shower, and we would close that door and the door to the bedroom and turn on white noise so I couldn’t hear, and maybe could get some sleep.

I also remember that I was so thirsty.  All the time.  And the crying.

I remember Oliver being somewhere between one and two weeks old, and we decided to go for a walk.  So we packed a diaper bag, buckled him into his car seat that would snap into the stroller.  Kullervo carried the car seat, the stroller, and the diaper bag down 49 stairs (4th floor apartment).  We didn’t even make it fully around the city block before I was tired and in tears and sat on a bus bench to recover, because it turns out that recovering from a near vaginal delivery and  a c-section takes a lot out of you.

And I remember visitors—my sister, my brother and sister-in-law, my dad and stepmother, friends from church.  People brought us gifts and meals.  I felt loved, and taken care of, and terrified because I was totally out of my league with this awful tiny human who clearly came out broken because he only ever cried and it may never end.

HAZEL

Baby Hazel--one week old

Baby Hazel–one week old

Hazel’s delivery was so much easier than Oliver’s.  By a factor of a zillion.  The people in the hospital were nicer.  Hazel got to stay in my room with me, and that made breastfeeding so much easier.  I remember the second night in the hospital when she wanted to nurse all. night. long.  And I let her (much to my boobs’ dismay).  I remember Kullervo’s aunt and cousin visiting us in the hospital, our dear friends and neighbors (who brought Oliver two new trains—Bill and Ben), and everything being easier.  I also remember calling both my mother and my mother-in-law one evening from the hospital, and both of them were busy, and I cried and cried and felt so alone.  For that, I blame hormones, not them.

I remember the breastfeeding pain.  Oh, the pain!  I had to get a refill on my narcotics post c-section to deal with the nursing pain.

I remember my mother coming to visit, and Oliver squashed his fingers where the elevator doors opened and closed.  Because my cleaning is not up to par for my mother, she cleaned our apartment and criticized my weight (and my inability to stop eating Cadbury Crème Eggs).

And I remember it just being nice—Hazel was a dream baby, Kullervo was in law school, so he was able to be around a lot.  Oliver still went to his nanny’s house every morning, so his routine was stable, and life was good.

HENRY

Baby Henry--one week old

Baby Henry–one week old

Henry was supposed to be about the same size as Oliver and Hazel, who both hovered close to 8 pounds (8lb3oz for Oliver, 7lb13oz for Hazel).  His delivery was the first time that I was really hesitant about the surgery.  It turns out that having a baby yanked out of your belly sort of takes a lot out of you, and I said to Kullervo before we went into the operating room that I didn’t want to have another baby—if we had another, I wanted to adopt (whoops).

Henry was a big baby—9lb6oz, and because he was so big, the hospital staff was anal retentive about his blood sugar levels.  Now, this being my third baby, I knew that it takes a few days for milk to come in, and that colostrum is awesome, and that babies are born full and tired.  Being born is exhausting, and warrants some extra naps.  The doctors, even with their fancy medical degrees, did not agree with me and kept poking him to test his blood sugar levels.  The morning after Henry was born, the pediatrician came into my room.  I had refused to give Henry formula, choosing instead to stick my boobs in his face every time he woke up.  The first words that this pediatrician said to me were, “You are making a big mistake.”

I firmly told her that she could leave my room until she was ready to come back in and say, “Congratulations!  Your baby is beautiful!  How are you feeling, new mama?” and that I wasn’t going to listen to any of her medical advice or admonishments until she treated me like I had just had a baby.  Then I burst into tears when she left the room.  When she came back in and tried to scare me with ‘possible brain damage’, I retorted that she should maybe specify which part of the brain was going to be damaged because if it was the part that would turn him into a sociopath, I would be okay if that part was damaged.

Henry, like Hazel, spent the second night in the hospital wanting to nurse all night long.  And I let him.  I think it stimulates milk production and comforts the baby.  Unfortunately, it does that at the expense of the new mama, but considering that I was going to have a brain damaged baby because I had the audacity to trust my body to keep this kid alive—which it had done marvelously up until this point, I might add, I was scared not to.  I remember falling asleep breastfeeding, and the horrifically mean night nurse yelling at me that I was not allowed to sleep with the baby in my bed.  I just couldn’t win.

The first six weeks with Henry were a blur.  It was close to Thanksgiving, and we had endless company and no time to recuperate.  We had wonderful friends nearby who knew that I would push myself too hard, and who, as a result, wouldn’t let me walk my kids to school or take on too much.  I remember it being a magical time, as three year old Hazel decided that she needed to perfect her cartwheel, so I would watch her do hundreds of cartwheels in our living room while I breastfed the baby.  I remember thinking that we could have another kid; that this was just perfect.  And I remember getting more narcotics because the breastfeeding pain was excruciating again.

FITZWILLIAM

Baby Fitz--one week old

Baby Fitz–one week old

Fitz’s first six weeks aren’t over yet—he’ll be six weeks old on Thursday.  His delivery was different—I could smell them cauterizing (I assume) the scar tissue; I could smell my own burning flesh.  It made me want to throw up.  The doctors were talking about how they couldn’t see anything because of all the scarring; they were worried they were going to cut my bladder.

They don’t tell you how cold it is in the operating room, or how bright.  Grey’s Anatomy lies with its mood lighting; those rooms are BRIGHT.  The spinal block makes me shake, and the cold makes me shake, so I spend the entire time just shivering; it’s exhausting.  Being naked and exposed on a table is not a great feeling either.  I forget that after each baby—how vulnerable-making the whole delivery of a baby is.

Fitz wasn’t a giant; he was 8lb1oz, so nobody freaked out about blood sugar.  He did have some breathing issues, so they took him away and I didn’t get to meet him for five or six hours.  It’s still weird to have a baby and go to the recovery room and the maternity rooms and not have said baby.

The thing that really set apart the recovery from Fitz’s birth, though, was the spinal headache.  It started a couple of days after the surgery, and progressively got worse.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me; why getting up gave me such a headache and so much nausea that I didn’t keep down any solid food the entire time I was in the hospital.  There were a ton of births when I was in the hospital, so I wound up with nurses who weren’t labor and delivery nurses, and that might be why they didn’t catch the headache and tell me how to manage the pain sooner (lie down!  If you ever get one, LIE DOWN!).  My cousin came for the last two days that I was in the hospital, and thank God for her because it meant that Kullervo could stay with me in the hospital that night, and I was so overwhelmed and felt so awful that I needed him there.  We played gin rummy and read and it was a sweet time, holding our sweet, sleeping son while we spent time together.

I had forgotten the sleepless nights.  I knew about them academically—‘oh, yeah, you don’t get a lot of sleep’—but that’s different from living it.  Fitz isn’t a terrible sleeper-if he cosleeps with me, he’ll only get up once or twice a night (usually) to eat.  But still, the amount of tired is crushing.  The amount of mess building up—the dog hair inhabiting the corners of rooms (and all of our clothes), the laundry that is done but hasn’t been put away, the toys that are out and all over the floor… all of that adds to the fatigue, and the fatigue means that I’m too tired to deal with it.  It’s a messy cycle.

I had also forgotten the bills.  It isn’t enough that I am in the midst of shoving a boob into someone’s mouth every few hours, changing incessant diapers and cackling maniacally over each cloth diaper that gets peed on mid-change, and hallucinogenic throwbacks to the 70s from the lack of sleep.  So, of course, the hospital, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, the person who walked into the room on accident all send bills.  Vague bills (one of the line items: miscellaneous charges—seriously).  I have to weed through, figure out if there are mistakes, pay what needs to get paid, argue what is incorrect, and hash some details out with the insurance company.

Then there was the stomach flu.  Let’s face it—there is no good time to spend 24 hours upchucking your insides.  But it seems especially cruel when you also are breastfeeding a tiny human every three hours.  I went an entire day where I did not eat or drink anything—I tried taking sips of water when I’d gone thirty minutes or so without throwing up, but it would just come right back up, so violently that it felt as though my stomach was actually turning inside out.  The upside to my wretched day of sick was that we got a foot of snow that day, which mean that Kullervo’s office was closed and the kids were off school.  There is no way that I could have picked them up from school or been a parent at all—I slept almost all day.  I woke up to feed the baby and stress about whether I was going to run out of milk, or whether the breastfeeding would actually make me more dehydrated.

The first six weeks of a new baby are so hard.  It gets marginally easier with every baby—you become more and more confident that it’s really hard to accidentally kill a baby—but it is still challenging.  Finding the new normal is critical—juggling four kids and all of their individual needs is going to be an ongoing balancing act.  I’m sure that some days I will get it right and manage to spend time with each kid individually, respond with love to their struggles, give them all healthy meals and even get some of them clean.  Some days I will fail, and my kids will go to bed dirty, after a meal of leftover frozen pizza, freezer burned corn, and chocolate chips, all crying because I suck.  Most days I’ll probably fall somewhere in the middle.

Now, the important question:  which of my one week old babies look the most similar?

Baby Fitz--four weeks old

Baby Fitz–four weeks old (gratuitous extra photo)

I Needed You And You Were Not There For Me

I needed you and you were not there for me.

You would have hated asking people for help; you must know that I am the same.

In a new city I had to ask new neighbors and new friends for help.

You abandoned me while I was pregnant.

You missed this huge event in my life, and you will never get that back.

You abandoned me for the delivery of my child.

You will never see my newborn.

You will never see my one month old son.

That time has passed and isn’t coming back.

You hurt me. 

I didn’t realize you still had the power.

I don’t want to give you any part of me.      

Until I get past the hurt

Until I learn how to not be vulnerable to you

Until the emptiness of abandonment fades

I can’t talk to you.

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