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.

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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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Coming Clean*

Since the advent of the viral blog post on Facebook, I keep reading all of these supposedly supportive blog posts that talk about how we are all okay, even with all of our imperfections.  And how accepting we all should be.  And it’s true, which is why I’ve decided to just be myself from now on, whether or not you like it.

because I didn’t want to make you feel badly about yourself, thus eliciting another viral blog post.  But it’s true.  I’m awesome.  And although I don’t judge you, and love you dearly, even with any and all imperfections, I’m afraid you’re going to judge me, so I take steps to make sure that we appear to be similar.

If you were to make a surprise visit to my house right now, it would be immaculate.  Everything in its place, decorated seasonally to perfection.  And yes, I have four children under the age of eight.  I have a bowl of organic fresh fruit on my table, and homemade chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven as I type.  The laundry is all done, neatly folded and put away.  Even my fitted sheets are folded perfectly.

If you give me some warning that you are coming, I quickly put the kids to work—I tell them to make a mess of their toys, so that you don’t feel badly.  I have a piece of plastic that I light like incense to make it smell like I’ve been burning the food I’m cooking.  See, I don’t want you to be overwhelmed with how I manage to pull it all off, so I hide it.  It makes me uncomfortable when you start to compare yourself to me, and feel like you don’t come close.

But, hiding it is exhausting.  So I’m telling you now—if you can’t deal with how less-than you may feel when you visit me, you probably shouldn’t come over.  It stresses my children out to have to make a mess for company.  I don’t really like the smell of burnt plastic.  My kids don’t want to eat pedestrian foods like macaroni and cheese and hot dogs—they want kale and chard salads, tossed with homemade vinaigrette that they helped create.

I had a baby a few weeks ago, so I try to put on an air of overtired and overwhelmed, but really, I’m in my element.  My children are all almost perfect.  The Bigs never talk back, never whine, and trip over themselves to be as helpful as possible.  They clamor for more homework and resist watching television, because it’s so boring compared to playing imaginative pretend games and writing novels.  My two year old never throws tantrums, and asks when he can take his afternoon nap.  He is also fully daytime and nighttime potty trained, and reads chapter books, if you were wondering.  His two favorite words are ‘please’ and ‘thanks’, and he tells me regularly how much he loves me.

And my baby!  He’s only three weeks old, but he already sleeps through the night.  He is a breastfeeding champ (of course we would never ever poison him with formula), and was born vaccinated against all childhood diseases, thus eliminating the need to ever poke him with a needle, which might cause him distress.  On top of that, he never spits up.  Ever.  Well, unless you pick him up.  Then he’ll try to share his meal with you, because that’s polite.  Also, he has quickly caught on that we have to keep down with the Joneses.  But, he doesn’t ever spit up on me, just people who come to visit.

When I left the hospital after birthing him, my fourth child, I not only was able to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, but they are all a little big on me—size six was just too large for a girl like me, so I guess it’s time to go shopping and find some size four pants.  I guess that’s just the benefit to caving into my pregnancy cravings for grilled salmon and mashed sweet potatoes.  My newly diminished size is a little awkward, because of course, since I’m breastfeeding, my figure is a bit top heavy right now, and my boobs haven’t fallen at all as a result of four years of breastfeeding (and counting).

Every night, I prepare a perfectly balanced three course meal for my family, using locally grown meat and vegetables.  My wonderful husband comes home from work, jovially bounces into the house and throws all the children into the air, occasionally even juggling them (not Fitz, yet, of course).  We all have a dance party before we read portions of the Bible together and say a family prayer.  Then our children ask to be excused so that they may get ready for bed, and we sneak upstairs to watch the Bigs help the Littles prepare for bed, and then listen to them saying heartfelt personal prayers to God.  All four children are in bed and asleep by 7:30, and Kullervo and I then drink a glass of wine, talk about the news and discuss politics and religion.

So, there you have it.  I’m out of the proverbial closet.  If you can’t deal with it, I don’t think we can really be friends, because putting on airs for you has been a bit tiring.  I did just have a baby, after all.

Baby Fitz, sleeping as always

Baby Fitz, sleeping peacefully

*Some parts of this blog post might not be completely accurate.

Homemade chocolate chip cookies

Homemade chocolate chip cookies