Life With Nine Kids

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Baby Eight... memories and thoughts about our growing family

A New Baby is Coming!
As Everett moved from babyhood to toddler-hood we felt more and more like babies were really and truly ending for us. We felt this way with Sebastian too though...But...  -and there is always a "but" when you use natural family planning- we welcome this new baby into our hearts and home and we feel blessed and thankful for him or her. Having many, many, many children to us is just a part of our life and we embrace each baby as a gift and blessing.

The kids are completely excited and we are ready for another newborn. (We just don't think about the money, new car seats, bigger cars, teething, toddler hood meltdowns, temper tantrums, homeschooling, braces, and sleepless nights! ; ) We live in a bubble of bliss… New baby? No problem. We’ll fit the kiddo in somewhere. This is the basic attitude of big families. A lot can be solved with more bunk beds, faith, and love. Many don’t understand it, but those with big families I know seem too. 

Finding Out 
 I was afraid I'd have the morning sickness and fatigue I had with Everett.  I didn't end up that miserable thank goodness, but I was extremely whiny about the morning sickness for a little while because I just flat out gave into it. At that time I also had homeschool and toddler burn out and I just didn't feel like dealing with the added unhappiness of morning sickness. Ricky's positive and loving attitude helped so much. I didn't want to tell anyone about the baby right away because I didn't want to seem unexcited just because I didn't feel good. The news started coming out the week of Christmas but there's a lot of people that still don't know.

One night I was exhausted and ready to fall asleep. I crawled into bed and let myself sink into comfortableness. I tried to let the calm wash over me. Then I blurted out loudly, "How can this happen!? How does this happen to us??" Ricky smiled at me and scooped me up with both of his arms like a baby and said, "Well, when a mommy and daddy love each other very, very much..." I laughed at his sweetness and sense of humor. The look in his eyes was so seriously loving and wise. He effortlessly accepts our life together and the craziness it brings. I absolutely love being married to him. I love how much he loves babies. With his hand to my belly he told me that I need to hurry up and 'get fatter' so he has a baby-belly to rub. If I am nervous or have doubts -I just about ALWAYS do the first three months- about having another baby or what the future could bring he always knows what to say. I want to always remember the sincerity and love in his eyes for me and our babies/kids. He has so much faith and trust. It always helps me get through the hectic morning sickness days. The look in his eyes gives me the warmest feeling. Our life will get richer with laughter and happiness even if we get poorer in our finances and deafer from children yelling, running, playing and climbing up the walls. Whatever love and happiness and hardship and stress we will have in the months and years to come we will continue do what we've always done. I always feel like we don't know what we are getting ourselves into, but it's always okay. 

We are glad to have broken the fall baby streak! We have a lot of birthdays in the fall months:  two August children, two in September and one in October. The youngest kids ask constantly about this spring/summer and the baby. Everyone in the house seems to be talking about this June. Even at the dentist's office yesterday Sebastian asks me, "Mom how long until June again?" This baby has already stolen our hearts and brought meaning and joy to all of our lives. I feel like having a party when the baby is born, the kids can make and hang decorations, balloons, party poppers and a cake. I'll let them wrap some clothes, cloth diapers and baby blankets up. It will keep them busy. I think I'll have a tub of supplies ready for them for them and they can do it the day -or the week- the baby is born. Something fun they can do and plan all on their own.

Family is the essence that helps define our identity
Over the past five months I have reflected on and realized what a huge family we have created and how layers upon layers of family have started because of us. We get caught up with life, work, money and chores but don't always stop to think about what we have created as the result of our calling to have a giant family. I got to thinking about siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents...I got to thinking about when I was growing up and how I thought I had a big family (my parents are each one of four children and my dad remarried and had 5 children total (I'm the oldest of the five). Growing up I did have a big family, the biggest of anyone I knew. We had: big holidays, big picnics, big family turnouts at school plays/sports, big weddings, big Easter egg hunts, packed BBQ's. I grew up with a nice large group of brothers and sisters; someone to always love, annoy, and play with. I grew up with a handful of cousins, too. My entire extended family even likes loves to vacation together.

This realization did make me really sad though because I live 1500 miles away from most of these people, including every one of my siblings and parents. I wish we were shuffling our eight kids to family gatherings taking up lots of space and sharing good times, hard times, and love with everyone.  My sadness was filled with joy too though because even though I'm far away and wish I had my large family near us, our kids still have each other. They are growing up with a large family foundation, siblings and playmates. We do have family here too (his and mine) and that is special and wonderful in many ways but we still live a couple or few hours away from them and miss seeing them. When I think about all this I can't help but to imagine what our family will bloom into when our kids have kids, and their kids have kids. We have created a potentially monster size family that will grow into generations of love, morals and togetherness --if we did our job correctly.

The way we followed our hearts and beliefs as we were lead to have eight children is still somewhat surreal to us since we live in a society that thinks it's weird. However the enormous amount of congrats and support we receive is amazing, and from what I hear from other large families pretty unheard of. The majority of people we know care about us, believe in us, and respect us. It's truly a blessing and it means SO, so much to me. I hear from or read about other big families and so many of them have terrible stories to tell about strangers being disapproving, or even their own family members saying rude things to them about having a large family! I feel elated and blessed that I can say we have never had to go through that. Even so, each time we announce another pregnancy we do so semi-nervously. We feel happy and in love and excited in our home...and then sometimes we feel awkward and nervous about what other people think. Of course we shrug it off, of course it only ultimately matters how WE feel. If we are doing a great job and if our kids are happy and are raised in an awesome loving home... that is truly what matters. It's still sometimes weird to be the "weird ones" that have never heard of birth control or the ones that don’t know what "causes that." :)  So I wanted to write and remember how much I appreciate the support and congrats we ALWAYS get. This is our baby; it doesn't matter if a pregnancy is the first or the third to a couple -or the 15th- Our baby is OURS and we love him or her and that baby is already a part of everything we do and love.

On Thanksgiving Day the kids wrote things they were thankful for on our chalkboard. 
Before going to bed I saw our stick family selves with the words Big Family above it, complete with a belly on me and Sebastian holding a sword, and it filled me with a lot of joy.  During this time I was coming out of morning sickness, we were having a hard time with the flu and Everett was a very demanding and cranky toddler. It is inspiring to me that the kids were excited and full of gratitude during even some tough times.

Layla made this picture around the new year and I just love it. I couldn't believe it when she showed it to me. She worked very hard on it and there's a lot of love in it. I love how her sisters and her all have hearts and flowers on them. She wrote 'love' on her shirt and I'm touching her Dad's arm. She dates pictures herself which is wonderful. This is a family treasure I'll hang up on my wall and never take down.

We add personalized family ornaments to our tree every few years or so. This year we had to upgrade to a Christmas decoration that sits on a shelf in order to get all our names together.

Ricky gave this to me for Christmas in honor of our new baby. It says "Baby's first Christmas." I have a Santa Claus collection and every year I get a new Santa or two from family members. I teared up at how sweet and thoughtful it was! How memorable and meaningful this is!

My Grandma Wanda and Aunt Sharon brought a Christmas stocking over for the new baby on Christmas right along with the other kids'. It's not shown but it had a taped name card on it that said "New Little Baby."

 My dad sent me this email after I emailed him that I was sick, my voice was gone, and that I had a Pre-Christmas surprise --I am pregnant.
1)  Love You
2) Being sick sucks!
3) Being sick with still having Mom duties sucks even more.
4) This is the first time I have been TOTALLY surprised about your new gift from God.
5) Eight’s enough (unless its not)
6) Nine would be a baseball team
7) Ten would be TWO basketball teams
8) Eleven would be a football team
9) I am excited---- YOU having another baby seems to be the only way we get anymore grand kids
10) Get better and have a MERRRY MERRRY Christmas
11) Love YOU

A friend just sent me her copy of the newest Duggar book to read and it's the perfect timing! I'm very thankful! It's inspiring for me to read and enjoy the Duggar family after going through a lot of stress and being really cranky with the kids lately. I had just talked to Ricky about how over the past few months I started a really bad habit of taking my stress out on the older kids, grumbling at them, and being over critical of how they do things. I expressed to him the fears I had that they would grow up and be that way if I did not change. I have changed this habit dramatically over the past couple weeks and told them I was wrong to act that way and I'm sorry. Reading about the Duggars makes me feel more grounded, inspired, organized, motivated, and more thoughtful in general. We have always focused on and aspired to raise a family full of love, compassion and respect for each other as they do.

This is what I mean new little baby -you are already a person that we love. Welcome to our lives little baby, we’re so glad you’ve come to us!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


A day after we were home from the hospital I saw on our dining room chalkboard wall "Bring Nellie Home" written around flowers, hearts and other pictures from the previous week. I stood and stared at it almost welling up with tears. There are those moments when you look at your child and wonder 'what if the worst happens to my child, what if this actually happens.' It can be triggered by a sad news report involving a child or something like a medical uncertainty and scare. The moment when you stop and imagine the unimaginable can also be triggered by nothing at all, just fear and imagination. It’s called having kids.
In the hospital I soaked up her blue eyes and occasional smile as I couldn’t hide from my thoughts: what I would life be if she weren’t here? When you're in the hospital and bone scans and MRI's start being mentioned you can't help but ask yourself 'what if it is something really bad... and in our future we have to watch her die?' I then thought of other parents who were in the very same hospital just floors away from me who were actually doing just that with their own kids. It's so unfair when kids are hurt. It's a fear and terror like no other I could truly imagine, and of course I have had and probably will continue to have those thoughts and moments with each and every one of my kids. Several years ago I had to stop reading a book where a child was abducted and killed because it was too disgusting and horrible for me to even read in fiction. Even worse the blue eyed child in the story reminded me so much of Penelope that I sobbed and sobbed before finally putting the book down forever without finishing it. I'm a total basket case about things like that and totally avoid it in any form real or not.

No matter how stressful things are day to day I feel we live with a lot of gratitude, I try to pass on that thankful spirit to my kids as we really strive to see the bright side. I feel like the last few months have been really trying and stressful but I'm so thankful our family works together to make the best of it all. I hope the children learn to deal with life as it comes and to keep trying and remembering that this too shall pass. Ricky and I smile and laugh through tough times, we break up a lot of kid fights and live through a lot of toddler meltdowns, we wade through work, home repairs, chores and money problems. We sigh a lot and we hold our head from the stress, we tell each other it's going to be okay... and we have each other. We all have each other. I really try not to get too caught up in the stress because as long as we all have each other things are good.  
Penelope before she turned 6
 No one ever says 'I wish I hadn't spent so much time with my kids'
There are many things that I'll never regret that are time consuming and self-sacrificing. Co-sleeping is one of those things. Beyond just typical co-sleeping though we also lay with whatever child, at whatever age, for however long, to get them to sleep. For example Penelope is six years old and I still lay with her every night to get her to sleep. Usually we let her fall asleep in our cozy bed. Sometimes this is really time consuming, sometimes I don't want to, sometimes I think it's ridiculous because I need to get something done and she needs me at bedtime. Most of the time, however, I find it calming, soothing, bonding, quiet time. Someday she won't be my little girl, she'll be big. She won't cuddle or need me as often, and one day I'll never lay with her at bedtime again.  Sometimes we are tired and heads hit pillows and eyes close quickly; more often though she winds down by telling me about some thoughts, fears or dreams. Sometimes she tells me about something that happened that day and I get to really hear her speak and I often find myself loving her excitement and voice. It's usually during bedtime that I get to find out even more about who she is and how she feels about things. I get to hear her imagination churn on about things without being distracted by daytime sounds or other kids. She tells me about interactions with her siblings, too. Once she repeatedly reminded me to talk to Layla about something that hurt her feelings. We kept forgetting during the next day to talk to Layla, but at night she'd remember and talk about it with me. She tells me sweet things too. She'll tell me she likes that I am spending more time with her during the day (I cut out internet time and deleted my Facebook two months ago). That touched me so much that she told me that! Tonight she told me that she couldn't wait until she could run again (she's on limited movement for illness). I realize as I write this it's not always what she says but how she says it. She's just so sweet. She rubs my arm sometimes while she falls asleep. I think about how safe and warm she must feel. I think about how I slow down and take the time to enjoy my kids -not just my babies- and I so enjoy our quiet bedtime routine together. Ricky and I had a chuckle the other day over her telling me during quiet bedtime talks that she doesn't like it when daddy is on a business trips but kinda does like it because she gets to sleep with me all night long. :)

Update on the illness: Penelope's health continues to improve. She still has a cough, but she is on the mend. We had a couple more days of concern, swollen neck lymph node, fevers at night that went away and a little uncertainty about if we should get a chest x-ray. She is doing great and we are very confident now she's healing. We continue to keep her close to us, hydrated and on somewhat limited activity. She was skipping around the house after three days being home from the hospital. We had to keep reminding her to rest, rest, REST!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

I'm pregnant, this winter is crazy and we had to stay in the hospital with Penelope

I think I handle stress well until I have a stressful situation turn me into a basket case with a raging headache! We were anticipating a nice calm winter but we were wrong. I guess it’s time we had an off winter after so many years of super easy illness.

It seems like every time I get caught back up and on track something just kicks us down again and so I just post a couple sick related updates instead. It's been really crazy. I haven't had the time to even post a I'M PREGNANT with baby #8 post!!!!! (We are so happy! We think baby is a girl, due in June) I'm also behind on emails and responses, and I haven't yet been able to finish posts I have written about: leaving facebook, Christmas, various kid things and now I need to update about our Penelope's illness and trip to the hospital. I have many things in my drafts folder, so one day there may be a whole storm of backdated posts. This ones backdated as well.

Our life is not that rough, we are extremely blessed and lucky and happy, but the winter has brought us non-stop challenges and every time we get past one I think ‘boy glad that’s over!’ and we get back on our routine and then BAM something else happens that sends us spiraling backward again. We are so "behind" with school and it's so frustrating because we are all trying so hard! Since November we’ve dealt with nothing truly horrible but just a whole bunch of stuff: morning sickness, teething baby, weaning baby, household flu, upper respiratory illnesses, bronchitis, two broken teeth (two different occasions!), even more teething baby, croup, hospital trip /possible serious illness in Penelope, AND even more coughing. Not to mention a VERY unruly, defiant four year old, and a two year old that does stuff like dumps pencil shavings in the toaster. (lol.) Because of Sebastian's violent and cranky behavior lately we took our large TV and video game set up down and put it in storage.

I could write for days about our 10 hour ER and the subsequent 14 hour hospital room stay. We just got home yesterday and my head is still throbbing from the stress.

You probably think we spent 10 hours in the ER because it was super-crazy busy. Nope. We were sent over by our family doctor and seen in the ER within 20 minutes of arriving and had attention right away.
We were sent to Children's Hospital from our family practice office because our six year old daughter Penelope couldn't walk at all due to extreme pain in the pelvic area and groin. She cried out in pain even when we carried her from room to room in the house. She couldn’t even roll over in bed, and she had a fever too. Our Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) mentioned toxic synovitis as a possibility but we needed to have it checked since her pain seemed so severe. We needed to rule out something more serious (like bacterial infection). After10 hours in the ER we were ultimately admitted overnight after blood work, urine test, one x-ray, two ultrasounds and one CAT scan.

The x-ray showed no fractures or injury. The ultrasounds showed no fluid around the hips ruling out bacterial hip infection and bacterial synovitis. They said her bowel looked slightly inflamed and she had "a lot of stool." They then pursued an appendicitis diagnosis against my insistence that her abdomen does not hurt her anywhere. She complained of her abdomen hurting ONLY during and after deep abdomen ultrasounds and palpation from at least 10 doctors in a row. She is sensitive and says just about everything hurts her; I know her abdomen was not an issue, she just didn't like having it touched. She was in so much pain as we moved her around that she was given a small amount of morphine. We allowed a CAT scan to rule out other abdominal issues anyway, including appendicitis, because we know how serious that could be and they would do a scan of her hips as well. We just knew something was going on in her pelvic/pubic region! Afterwards they didn't entirely rule out appendicitis but it didn't appear to be the issue. They started talking surgery on her bowel or appendix anyway. When I questioned them about possibly taking out a healthy appendix I was told, "Well, if there is one healthy organ you could have removed but not need it removed the appendix is the one you'd want it to be." I was so appalled!  Were they just suggesting that accidentally removing an organ would be okay as long as it was one that doesn’t seem to do anything much??? Who pays for that? What about poor Penelope and the risks of surgery? Furthermore, I do not believe the appendix or anything about the human body to be useless! See for yourself.
Then surgeons meet with us to poke her more and talk to us. I was still so afraid something serious might be wrong that I didn’t come unglued and irate, but I should have done this. This is one of the best hospitals in the nation, I trusted them way too much. Lesson learned. I should have never let my guard down.

She continued to hold her pubic bone and groin area in pain every time she coughed or moved and it went largely ignored. I constantly pulled up her hospital gown in front of doctors and over her underwear I pointed to her pubic bone and said, “It hurts her HERE THE MOST.” They said they had no idea what was wrong with her and because of her pain we should stay the night. We were told she was constipated because of the stool they saw on the CAT scan, which we felt was also wrong. She hadn’t been up and around much and she was in pain and frightened at the hospital. Pooping probably wasn’t on her body’s list of to-do items. Sheesh. 

I have an Orthopedic Surgeon family member who lives out of state and once he caught wind of what was going on he said Penelope's pain is exactly what he has been seeing a lot of this winter: Toxic Synovitis. He described that parents have been carrying their kids into his clinic because they cannot walk and they have had a flu or illness recently which is now accompanied by severe debilitating hip, groin and pelvic pain. Fluid does not have to be present and that's all the Dr's were looking for, but they were ignoring all of her other symptoms!

We were given a hospital room finally at 9:30pm and three more doctors (two actual doctors and one resident) examined her until 11pm. I finally kicked them out. They wanted to give her a nose swab test at 11pm while she lay exhausted and sleeping; as one Dr. continued to poke at her while she slept she moaned uncomfortably --I told him absolutely no more!!! Get out! Thank goodness I had just experienced a nose swab for the first time back in November with the flu or I wouldn’t have known what it was really. It’s totally deep, annoying and painful! Why would they not let a child rest after 12 hours of examinations and tests!?  I felt like if I let them do that to her I’d be completely betraying her. It was not needed at that moment and she was sleeping after hardly any sleep the night before. My poor baby girl. 

During the night at the hospital she made a lot of improvement and began rolling over in bed without pain! Further into the night she also sat up without pain, and finally she could walk to the bathroom! She still moved very slowly but it was finally without crying out in pain. She said she was just a little sore.
During the night when she woke up they gave her Miralax in a large cup of lemonade that she did not drink much of. She woke up later and made a bowel movement. She did NOT have a full "1x dosage" as it says on her paperwork and we do not think it helped her make a bowel movement. The next morning she made a bowel movement on her own without the aid of anything and then again on her own today.  Not constipated. 

I began to reflect more on what had happened to her (all the tests and them not listening to us) and looked further into her symptoms. Read about it here: she had EVERY symptom EXACTLY described for Toxic Synovitis just like our family member orthopedic surgeon suggested.
In the morning I said I wanted her to be released and told them I thought she had Toxic Synovitis (viral). A doctor there agreed that it "could" be that... "Or constipation."
Children's Hospital sent us home (after sitting and waiting a full 5 hours for discharge papers) with the most disappointing care instructions:
 -Prescription of Miralax for constipation and instructions to give her Tylenol for fever.
-Follow up with our family doctor if needed.
-She can also go back to full activity/school.
I threw a hissy fit when leaving the hospital. I sorta-kinda yelled at the nurse’s station full of Dr’s and nurses. Oops. :P (don’t mess with Mama Bear!)

I asked our orthopedic surgeon family member what care instructions he gives a child for viral Toxic Synovitis and he said the following:
-Ibuprofen 3x a day for 5-7 days for inflammation and DO NOT miss a dose.
-No activity other than walking to and from bathroom and kitchen; lots of rest.
-No going to school for 5 days; too much activity there. (Not applicable to us but good to know.)
-If a fever over 102.6 for more than two days get her evaluated, it indicates the bacterial infection and she probably needs antibiotics.

We got home yesterday exhausted. Our house was tidy, new food was on the shelves, laundry was done and my Aunt, Grandma and children had worked hard at keeping everything nice and orderly. Thank God for awesome family and good kids. Sixteen year old Charlotte kept the laundry going nonstop (we were behind a few days –which is a lot when you have any kids let alone seven!) and she and the boys kept up all their chores up while we were away. What a relief after that horrible hospital trip and stress!

I was exhausted and wanted to stay home today but I still immediately called and had Penelope reexamined at our family practice this morning for a possible diagnosis of synovitits and to go over the disappointing ordeal resulting in hospital misdiagnosis and a very poor treatment plan for a still very sick little girl. Bless Charlotte, Sage and Ethan’s hearts for watching the kids again so I could take Penelope alone.  Sebastian and Everett can be such a handful right now but the big kids are so good about knowing we just need to get Penelope well! I love my family.

I reviewed all the information and hospital stay with our Family Practice Clinic Docs and they definitely agreed with me about the misdiagnosis and told not to give her the Miralax.  I was then asked if we received the chest x-ray they recommended to the hospital when they referred us over. We did not.  Apparently they have a concern about a sound in her right lung and are concerned about pneumonia. This is extra concerning to all of us today since Penelope’s cough gets a little worse every day and Penelope was discharged from the hospital with a fever.

So our treatment plan is now:
Synovitis:  Follow the same things my orthopedic surgeon family member suggests for his young patients with Toxic Synovitis. Watch for fever and to get Penelope an x-ray in 2 days if her cough is not improving, especially if it’s accompanied with high fever or if she just is generally unwell.

The family practice we go to is a holistic environment run by a medical doctor who has several RN’s & FNP’s staffed. They all have various extensive experience or degrees in homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and more.  They listen to us, work with us, and we love them for it!
Penelope was prescribed two prescription homeopathic cough medicines and they really seem to be helping her coughing fits so far. I asked if other family members can use it and they can. Sebastian and Everett are both on it now too.  Lastly he told me to keep up with vitamin D drops and probiotics.
So, that is the long hospital ordeal. I have other things to write, so many thoughts and so many thanks I owe to family members. It needs its own post. Hopefully I can find the time. 

Lastly, we haven't even got the bill yet and I am gearing up to fight the hospital stay bill for misdiagnosis and sending us home with a sick child without a treatment plan.  If any Dr. thought it could be toxic synovitis we should have been given a treatment plan for that as well. Not just told she can go back to “full activity.” I already have an attorney. That’s how fast I roll! Don’t mess with Mama Bear, because this is what you'll get.

And now this is me with my baby girl cub over the past week. 

 And now hopefully I can get a break (haha) and some happy more frequent updates will come! Because "WE" as a family are fantastic. We are in love with our baby due in June (the kids are so excited) and after all this stress and craziness we just keep pulling ourselves up and getting reorganized!