Life With Nine Kids

Friday, June 28, 2013

Toddler Sibling Love ...and family

Afternoon napping with big brother Everett (2.5)
Oh, toddler and newborn baby joy. Things I've said to Everett (2.5) already this morning:

  • You are trying to nurse her? Humm. Cute. Well I think only mommies nurse babies.
  • No you can't nurse me, I'll get you a snack.
  • Please stop touching her... stop, STOP touching my baby!
  • She cries when you do that.
  • Don't touch her eye.
  • Sure you can pet her on her head. (He says he wants to pet her all the time lol!)
  • No, don't touch her face.
  • Ummm thanks, now stop touching her for a little while.
  • You just held her. She's sleeping now.
  • Careful that's her little foot.
  • Rub her head not her face.

The kids got home yesterday from a trip to see family. They were gone three days and I enjoyed the peace and quiet but also missed them. When they got home last night they engulfed me with smiles, stories and everyone wanted to hold the new baby. They missed her so! They excitedly told me about all the family they saw, how they swim so well (Penelope uses just arm floaties now!) and how they had dessert every night. I adore the happy blessed life they live. I hope I teach them to appreciate it always. May I raise them to always love family, dessert, and the simple pleasures of life. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Newborn With a Fever

Our newborn had a fever. She seemed different too. I described her as “not well” which when it comes to a newborn that means we need to think about going to the Dr. or hospital. Thankfully the not well look wore off quickly and she started acting better within an hour or so. We soon noticed she had gas for a bit and that's what seemed to make her act "not well." She never cried or screamed, but she moaned and fussed. Once the gas was out she settled down and we took her to bed thinking we might be at the ER by morning because of the low grade fever. By morning she seemed comfortable but the fever had spiked to 101.7, we think. We weren't sure the thermometer we were using was correct. She also hadn't nursed in 5 hours. I cried and we started packing hospital bags, diapers, cell phones, laptops. Over the course of that time she finally ate and looked very well and happy. She opened her eyes a lot, followed us with her eyes, watched us and just overall looked happy. I realized at that moment how well I knew her in just 11 days. I knew what was normal for her, I knew what she liked, I knew how she wanted to be held, how often she ate and wet, what her poop looked like, what facial expressions are normal for her, how and what time of day she wanted swaddled. I knew how to lay her down so she was comfy and I knew how to burp her best. When other people see my newborn they see a small sweet infant that needs cared for, I see a baby who I've bonded with and who I know with my soul. She just did not seem sick enough for an ER visit. The thought of handing her over was agonizing and it seemed extreme. We couldn't fathom our healthy, breastfed, alert baby going through those tests needlessly. Her temp slipped down a little again; it still in the "go to ER range" but not very high... we waited. 
Aunt Sharon and Grandma came and got the other kids so that we could go to the hospital immediately if needed. We were so thankful for the peace and quiet during such a stressful situation. They thought the baby looked great too and even Grandma, a former nurse, supported our decision to wait it out a bit longer.
Ricky went to the store three different times over the day: to buy a rectal thermometer, an ear thermometer and then finally a breast pump. (I wanted to pump off some foremilk in case too much was making her gassy, it seemed to help.) Ear thermometers aren't thought to be reliable with infants but we found it was. Rectal temp has a higher reading than other means of temp taking but is considered best for newborns. We took those things into consideration when deciding how high her fever was. We poured over webpages of medical advice about fever, meningitis, ER visits with newborns, and personal testimony from parents. Of course for as many stories that said ‘we took our baby in, and she had meningitis’ there were just as many stories saying it was horrible ‘they put our baby through hell and back with invasive testing and never found anything wrong.’ Better safe than sorry is a great rule of thumb when it comes to your kids, but common sense and instinct are also tools we use. So we had big decisions to make.

We have long known a newborn with a temp of 100.4 or higher is cause for concern and generally warrants an automatic ER visit. Taking her to our family Dr. would yield the same recommendation; take her to the ER because if she has a fever certain things are ruled out by testing --but she’s probably okay. We know that once in the ER nearly all babies under 3 months old and all babies (neonates) under 28 days old are automatically given a spinal tap, complete blood work up and a urine test (usually by a catheter). This is then followed by a standard 72 hour hospital stay and antibiotics. If we went in we knew we had to be ready for all of that.

It’s so hard to be an educated, involved, clear thinking, decision making parent in a sea of uneducated parents and a one size fits all health care model. Parents like us are sometimes bullied into things and threatened with social services for going against medical advice. We’ve always been very fortunate and had good professional health care givers, but you never know. So we sat at home counting every wet diaper, each time she nursed, every sound she made, every poop and every coo. We even counted how many hours she slept, all very diligently. There wasn’t a noise or movement she made that we weren’t hearing and seeing. Our bags were packed just in case.

Her fever kept going down all day. It spiked back up once or twice but not too bad. I’d get upset and scared when she wouldn’t wake to nurse, but within minutes of my tears and self-doubt starting up she’d latch on, wake up, eat, pass gas while briefly fussy, look around at us for a while, wet a diaper and then we’d do it all over again.

I noticed over hours of searching that I could not find anything online reassuring about staying home and observing a young baby before heading to the hospital. I didn’t find hardly any parents talking about fever, newborns, or medical choices, let alone very many questions regarding the invasiveness of routine “mandatory” procedures.

Her fever finally stayed steady between 100.3 and 100.5. She was doing great and it climbed down from there. Ricky and I collapsed into bed relieved. We looked at her so peaceful and healthy looking. Ricky mentioned how sick she'd look if she was hooked up to wires in the hospital and crying. We were so relieved we hadn't gone in yet.

Overnight her low fever left and she was eating and waking every 2-3 hours again, instead of every 3-4 hours. She’s been fine since.

 Worth mentioning in case other parents are stumbling across my blog looking for illness information:
The degree of fever is not always a good indicator on how sick someone is. In the case of meningitis it is just something to go off of. It’s a warning sign. That is why they say to go to the hospital, so they can monitor the child and get tests running. Meningitis is rare but there’s a lot at stake and babies can go downhill quickly. The absence of these serious symptoms: stiff neck, bulging soft spot, screaming/crying, not wanting to be held made us very confident about staying home but the “what if” thoughts did keep coming. Generally it's hard to tell how a newborn is -especially if they are sleeping. Our baby was waking and alert every 4 hours and wanting to be held and talked to so we luckily had that to go off of. In addition breastfeeding gives babies a huge advantage over illness so if she wasn't getting antibodies and gut protection via colostrum and breast milk we would have been a lot more worried as well. But we were still plennnnnty worried! We find new experiences, new scares, new joys, and new challenges with every new child we have!

Links added later:
When a trip to the hospital brings a visit from CPS

Spinal Taps Carry Higher Risks For Infants And Elderly, Study Shows   
An X-ray-guided spinal tap procedure fails more than half of the time in young infants and should be used sparingly, if at all, for those patients, according to a new study. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Postpartum: Notes from week one (June 15-19, 2013)

Sat June 15th- It's very trying to welcome a new baby and then have nearly all of the kids in the entire house get a cold in the same week; coughs, sore throats, sneezes, tears, fevers. (It's been something that's been coming on slowly before the baby was born, it's not a surprise but we were so hoping it wasn’t going to escalate to full blown colds.) 
I got a message from that said my order is shipping. I felt super smart. Six months ago I scheduled a bulk box of organic mac and cheese shells and organic ravioli (Annie's) to be shipping right after the baby's due date. I love when I'm so smart 

Our new baby is precious and sweet and lovely. 

Mon June 17th- Everett's inconsolable right now. Ricky's trying to reason with him in the kitchen. He just doesn't feel good. I'm so thankful he at least slept well last night so that I was able to sleep well or I'd be fried today. I was so tired yesterday (Father’s Day) I thought I was going to ...die. Last night was my first full night of sleep since the birth. (Nursing while sleeping is still sleeping to me.) I realized yesterday I made a huge mistake by not getting more sleep immediately postpartum. Ricky and I stayed up super late Sat. night and watched TV. When I went to bed at 2am kids started waking up bothered by colds at 4am. Everett was up for good by 5:30am…huge mistake on my part. I think Everett will lay down for a nap really soon and so will I. Baby girl is doing fantastic and sweet --she is such a sweetie. She was making cute faces for us this morning and is pooping right now :) She's doing really awesome. She loves being swaddled, some of our other babies did not, so Ricky went to Target and bought Swaddleme blankets. 
Snug as a bug!
 They are great! She looooves them. Nursing her at night is more comfortable for us both because she's all tucked up in them and the kids holding her is so much more controlled and secure to. I’m glad she likes to stretch out, too, but these blankets are awesome!

Yesterday (Fathers’ Day) I slowly felt true effects of sleep deprivation and hormones crashing. I always describe sleep deprivation for me as feeling like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By around noon I feel like I could go crazy at any moment. I really feel like I’m coming apart at the seams when I am sleep deprived. I don’t mean one night of bad sleep, but multiple nights or after something like the excitement of giving birth and then not resting enough. I took a nap on Father’s Day but didn’t fully recover from the insane split personality feeling until getting good night sleep where no one woke up, bed hopped, or coughed a night. Thank goodness. Ricky’s pretty torn up without sleep too (he looks like a total zombie without sleep) so I don’t usually want him to get up much with the kids. The kids usually end up wanting me anyway so then both of us end up tired the next day if we both get up. So Sat night sucked but Sunday night was good. In hindsight I should have told Ricky I was doing poorly on Father’s Day but I didn’t want him to know how miserable I was, though he could tell I wasn’t myself. He told me over and over how much he appreciated all I do and that he should tell me more and that he’s sorry I look so tired. It was sweet. I think he was trying to combat overwhelmed postpartum mama hormones by filling me up with compliments. :)

Mon June 17- Sleep stores replenished. Had a good morning outside and a good day inside playing with the kids. We found stuff to do with them and they stayed busy for the most part.

Tues June 18- I love the things they say Everett heard the baby fussing and made it to her about 12 steps before me, he was leaning over her side sleeper with his shirt pulled up and trying to hover over her saying "baby nurse, baby nurse" hahaha I'd have taken a picture but I didn't want him to squish her in the time it might have taken to take a picture.
Sebastian just came up to me and said, "Ohhh babies are so cute, they are so sweet, mom, they are the sweetest...except for Everett now, he's SO MEAN!"
Penelope asked for me to cut her hair short, really short, because it keeps falling on her baby sisters face when she holds her. We just cut it tonight. 
 Penelope says she's "so happy" about six times a day, and she talks to her sister so much. She said to me, "Being a big sister is a hard job, right mom? But fun too, right mom?" I love when she follows up questions with "right mom?" It's sooo cute.
June 19, 2013 Day
This morning Penelope (6) sternly told a misbehaving Sebastian (4), "Be good Sebastian! This is Mom's second day with dad gone."
Oh, bless her little sweet heart. <3 br="">
Yesterday was my first day home with the kids. We made pencil holder cans (out of tin cans and decorated paper) and gingerbread cookie men. Sebastian made me laugh so hard about his gingerbread man. He noticed the girls' faces, made with mini-chocolate chips, looked better than his. He whined at me and told me his looked like a zombie frog. When I looked at his cookie I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Thank goodness he didn't get his feelings hurt and he just made a darling scrunched up unhappy crooked smile of a face at me instead. I love those moments, unless they hurt a kids feelings, then it's awful! But he took it in good stride and I helped him fix his face.
The day went really well. I felt good, Ricky called midday to make sure I was feeling good. He’s going to take more days off but we just aren't sure when. I kinda think next week will be harder than this week. He's unsure because the kids are sick and extra needy this week. Mostly the colds are dissipating though except for the lingering hacking coughs that persist sometimes.
By 4pm I felt tired and done. I really couldn't wait until Ricky got home. Unfortunately he had a dentist appointment in the evening so I had to wait a little extra long for him. I had the kids in the bath and baby girl was sleeping soundly when he arrived; bedtime and story time was largely uneventful, thank goodness.
Everett has moved out of the bedside sleeper. ((yay!)) At two and a half years old he still loved it despite the fact he was squished into it most of the time (the mini Arms Reach Co-sleeper). I tried getting him out months ago but he wasn't ready; now he hasn't slept in it since the baby was born! I put her down in it at bedtime the day she was born and he smiled so big and told her and me his bed was her bed! Oh joy! Oh sweetness! I hoped this would happen. Me telling him the baby needed it and trying to move him from it was too abstract before she was here, but now that she is here and he sees she's smaller and needier it's time for him move on and he understands. He's been sleeping in a cot in our bedroom which Penelope used to sleep on. Penelope meanwhile has finally moved on to sleep with Layla ---the big sisters are hanging out a lot together and I feel Penelope has found a new sense of identity being an older kid now and not a preschooler or a baby like Sebastian, Everett and the new baby. It's glorious, bittersweet and simply adorable.
I haven't had to lay down with Penelope to get her to fall asleep comfortably since a few days before baby girl was born. I miss her. I miss her as a newborn, I miss her as a baby, I miss her as a toddler, I miss her as a preschooler. Kids leave you. Every stage that passes is something you'll never get back. I try to record their voice, write down things they say to preserve them because the truth is they leave themselves and me behind. They blossom into new people over the course of weeks, months and years...and I'm left holding memories together like collage pasted to my motherful heart. There is so much I thought I'd remember that I don't. Everett's voice is something that I wish I could hear forever. He told me yesterday patting the baby's head: 'Ittle, 'ittle, 'ittle bay-bee girl, I 'ove 'ittle bay-bee girl.
 The toddler talk is cute enough, but his voice and the sweetness behind it melts me!
June 19, 2013 Evening
From 3-7pm things went crazy. Crazy toddlers, unhappy newborn wanting to nurse and whose Swaddleme blankets were in the wash. Someone tiny and loud was really not happy about the absence of the Swaddleme! Blankets are out; it’s all about the Swaddleme for his little girl. I’m amazed.
The kids have had colds and coughs and now Sebastian got an earache. Sigh. While the kids and I tried to make dinner Everett pinched, yelled, and ran around acting Crazy. Then later he did it all over again. I wish I could say it is post baby jealousy, haaa....he’s been like this for a year! Insane toddler! 
June 21, 2013 
One week Birthday wishes to our baby girl. She has a name in progress and we're trying it out within the family and searching for a middle name. 
I felt guilty we didn't tend to or even pick our strawberries very often this season, why go through the work of growing them if you aren't going to pick them!? Then out of the blue, while quietly picking some sad looking nearly bad berries for our fruit salad tonight, Penelope (6) said, "Mom you're awesome because you are picking strawberries with a baby." My heart melted and I laughed happily. I'm so glad she pointed out that joy to me. I wanted to write it down to remember forever. 
I had a feeling today. I opened the fridge to put something away while I had baby girl swaddled and close to me with one arm. A familiar overwhelming feeling of perfection filled my heart, I love having a child in my arms. It makes everything in life sweeter. I also had a feeling of ease as I moved around the kitchen gracefully. Making breakfast, putting things in the fridge, wiping the table. Little monotonous regular tasks with a baby in my arms. I felt like I was doing something grand by being a mom, taking care of her, and taking care of the rest of the family. I can take care of my baby and everyone else too. I am doing it. Here we go...number 8. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Welcome Baby Girl! You Are So Loved!

3:26am June 14, 2013 we welcomed our baby girl! I birthed her in a mere half hour from start to finish, and caught her in the bath/shower. I'm writing the full birth story as fast as I can and will share more pictures soon! We are really happy and overwhelmed with the joy over our new arrival. We call her 'baby girl' for now, we have not named this treasure yet but we love her so much. The little kids follow me around like love sick puppy dogs asking to hold her constantly.

Family backyard picnic with Aunt Sharon and Grandma Wanda the day after she was born

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Memories of the Last Days of Pregnancy

I was lying next to Penelope the other night when I looked over to see if she was asleep yet. What I saw by the glow of the night-light was her blue wide-eyes peeled open and a smile on her face as big as the moon. She had her hands at her chest with her fists clinched in excitement. Her legs wiggled when we made eye contact. I was surprised she was still awake and whispered, "Are you excited thinking about the new baby?" "Yes!" she squealed.
The three youngest kids always ask to see baby and rub the baby belly at night. Everett often places his head to my belly, kisses, laughs and pats. They've seen home birth videos online and pictures of their siblings being born. They understand how babies grow and how they are born and it makes the big belly more real to them I think. I map out where and how the baby is laying in there so they can visualize it. Layla likes to see the birth photos of her siblings but doesn't like seeing hers. I think that's interesting, and it matches her quirky personality. Everett loves watching birth videos, which is pretty common for this age group. He asks for more over and over. He loves seeing babies emerge and as they cry for their first breath. His face lights up like it does when he sees a fire truck –total magic. I know just how he feels (about the baby magic, the fire truck thing is cool but not all that magical to me personally haha).
As the weeks melted by from 36 to 38 to 39 weeks I started thinking we wouldn't do a belly cast. We did one with 3 kids (Penelope, Sebastian, Everett) and I assumed we'd do another but the weeks started slipping away and we didn't have any supplies yet. Finally I bought some supplies and wondered if they'd arrive before baby did! It's so fun to see the shape of the belly and have as a memory. I really do remember more about how they were in the womb and what the movements felt like when I see and hold my casts. It's also just a neat form of personal artwork. Ricky and I have always casted them alone after the kids were in bed as a quiet relaxing date night activity. I have always been pleased at the attention to detail my dear husband takes with the cast, he's artistic but many people don't know that about him. He gets really into smoothing it out and making sure the shape is true to my form. It's something worth writing about so I remember, because in between casts I've forgotten his intentness on the artwork. I love thinking about it now. At 39 weeks 4 days, after getting everyone else asleep for the night, we told the girls of the house they could get out of bed; we surprised them by including them in cutting plaster strips, helping their dad dip them in warm water and smooth them out on me. They thought it was really neat. Layla said she had a lot of fun and for years she thought that there was a place that you went to try on bellies and buy a cast that fit you, she didn't ever think about or understand plastering! I thought that was so interesting and cute. I love how kids think, how else was she supposed to know though?! They enjoyed helping and I was really glad we decided to let them be a part of it. We have a roll of plaster left that I told them we could make fake pull-on and-off broken arm casts for fun! They loved that idea.
A couple weeks ago Layla made a household family chart for baby's birth date. She made two charts, one for June 6-9th and one for the 10th-15th. They keep adding more dates on as their guesses don't pan out correctly. It's so cute and a real treasure to see the kids' names written with dates and times and watch as they cross them off themselves as the days tick on by. They are so involved and so excited.
In our experience babies come when you least expect it. Since I've felt like I was prepping for labor for 2-3 weeks now (a very helpful thing the body does to make natural labor and birth easier!) I half expected to have the baby sometime in the last seven days. However, I've only had one baby "early", Penelope two days early. At the time it seemed like she was really early though; the previous babies had each been born at 42 weeks. (two weeks past their due dates). Due dates are an obsession with people, really babies come when they are ready. Every day I wake up I'm glad I have another day to prepare, clean, rub my belly, take a picture, charge the camera battery. :)
Baby was quiet last night. “She” is usually kicking like a crazy thing! I had more of the same deep twinges and at 11pm and when Ricky fell asleep rubbing my belly I got up and cleaned the bathroom, mopped the bedroom floor and finished 2 loads of laundry. For good measure I set a clean stack of towels and receiving blankets on the bathroom counter. I felt I could sleep through the tightness and pre-labor (pre-labor is something your body can do for weeks) so I went to bed and slept like a baby --even though Everett crowded into bed three times. I woke up with Ricky's good morning kiss and of course he said, "No baby yet..." :) He agreed it's always when we least expect it. 
Today is 40 weeks.
Yesterday I had nice firm deep pressure and cervical pressure/twinges all day long. It reminded me of what dilation and labor is like (for me). It reminded me of the work, effort, and triumph. It reminded me that ‘oh crap I'm totally going to have this baby soon!' After a regular stressful day at home yesterday (nothing bad, just a regular day cleaning house with crazy kids.) around 2pm I hear:
"Mom! Everett's bringing a chicken inside..."
 This is exactly why I'd never go into labor during the day: too much excitement. Night-time is safer. (That's why most mammals labor at night) Everett laughed like an ornery little turd as he ran around the living room in circles after the chicken - then the chicken hopped on the couch. I put it outside, a bit flustered because I just mopped the darn floor and I’m in the middle of 20 other things. He cries to me, "Noooooo me play my chicken, my chicken!" I told him to play with his chicken outside then!!
I get back inside and Sebastian says "We had a chicken in the house once, then twice, now three. Three times we've had a chicken in our house now." Overall, in the span of the last 4 years in this house that might be a low estimate. I've brought in at least two before.  

Today I picked up the house, made the bed, switched laundry, made breakfast and had a list of simple things for the kids to do when they woke up all before 7:30am. We finished up simple chores and I told everyone to get ready to go to the park (homeschool play day). As we were leaving I painted the hallway wood floor I have been trying to paint forever! It’s a circle hallway in the middle of our two story house. The circle leads off to doorway that include a bathroom, master bedroom, the upstairs, kitchen dining room, and living room. I love it. It never occurred to me until now that I should call it a roundabout hallway! I love our old house! I’ve never seen anything like a “roundabout” hallway before. Anyway, ever since we ripped the carpet out in favor of the wood floors underneath I’ve wanted to paint the hall floor. It’s not an easy task because it’s smack in the middle of the house. It requires stranding yourself to one side or the other --not very do-able with kids. So today I decided to paint it halfway and then load up the kids in the car, paint the rest, and then leave the house for the park. It worked! Finally I did it, I got our floor painted… on my due date. 

On his way home from work I sent my darling husband to the dollar store for a couple things, poster board for the creative kids that are on an art making binge was one of them. He came home with candles too and said, “I thought you might want some soft light for the birth, these were the only unscented ones I could find.” What a love. He's so thoughtful. Every morning and night he asks how baby is and how I am. It' so neat after doing this so many times it's not just the same ol' thing but a different day. Everyday is new, every baby is special, every moment counts, every day is a gift. A few mornings ago the alarm went off at 6am and as usual he asked how baby was, I told him the baby didn't move all night and I don't like that. He rubbed and pushed gently on my belly until the baby moved. "There's the baby" he said. And these are the things I want to remember. The little personal moments in time that make my days bright, my blessings plentiful, and life so rich.

This morning I'm sipping on Third Trimester Tea and feeling happy as a clam my wood floor is painted. I should tend to some outdoor things today (which includes more painting!), and try to keep the kids out of the house as much as possible! I don't really care when the baby decides to come, I just really don't want the kids messing the house up and eating all the food! lol! I'm slightly OCD so I want everything in it's place and ready when I have the baby. I just heard from Aunt Sharon and her and Grandma are coming over! We love when they visit. Family and food ...the greatest gifts.