Whoa baby baby.

I was chatting to a family member last weekend about kids and he was asking how on earth I handle four kids as one child was a challenge for him. I agreed completely that it was and it got me thinking about our numbers and how each child affected me.

One child – Exciting ( & exhausting )

The very prospect that I was now married and could get pregnant if I wanted to was a very big stamp in my ‘grown up’ book. I was now ‘allowed’ to get pregnant. That was a very novel and exciting thought to me.

The excitement didn’t wear off either from first discovery and secret smiles, to telling the world, and carrying life into a large bump and – okay not on everyone’s ‘exciting list’ – but all the way to labour! Everything was brand new to me, how I was feeling, thinking, craving. It was an exciting adventure that only I could physically and emotionally experience.

As most of you know I was told I may not be able to have children, let alone carry one due to my kidney transplant but my husband and I believe in an awesome God who can do the impossible and He did and along came our first girl.

When we brought her home and life began it was like being smacked in the face with a tired stick several times in a row, every single day and looking after her was utterly relentless but it was a joy because I’d never known a love where I would literally bite someone’s face off if they so much as laid an uninvited finger on her.

Two children – Exhilarating ( & exhausting )

In my naivety I thought I had motherhood down and so when the question; “Shall we have another?” came up I answered, “why not?” After all two’s company right?

After a reasonably ‘simple’ labour (if that’s possible?!) of just two hours my boy entered into the world like a whirling dervish. Completely the opposite of my first girl who was text book. He was born with a poorly heart and needed surgery at 3 months old, then he started teething at 4 months (!!) so I don’t think we had a solid nights sleep in months. That alone isn’t good for the mental health yet we had two kids. Everything worked. The ratio worked. One child per hand. One child per adult. A ‘normal’ sized car. One girl and one boy. 2.4. Done right?

Nope.

It just wasn’t enough noise for me. Enough chaos. Enough bodies to hold. Enough cereal to pour. So we went for number three which for me was…

Three children – Experimental ( & exhausting )

It was juggling on a whole new level. Yet since we’d already dealt with the initial juggle of two, one in each hand, three just seemed to keep rolling. The eldest was turning four and at school later that year and she wanted to be treated as a ‘big girl’ which meant a whole new independent phase for her, plus she was more than happy to be the ‘entertainment’ for the others which helped me immensely. Plus this second girl was different all over again and the thrill of guessing what she would look like and act like kept us on our toes.

( She, if you want to know, is a brown eyed, brunette, curly haired fire-cracker quite the opposite of our straight blonde and blue first girl. )

Four children – well…I haven’t got a word for that one yet but I can definitely tell you … Exhausting.

Now, in a strange Mother Earth kind of way, I feel complete. Satisfied. Full up and mostly at my wits end.

I mean I wanted chaos – I got it. I wanted bodies to hold – I got five! And meal times? I’m considering buying a trough and just pouring it out in front of them each time.

There is a constant commentary from each child about what the other child / children are doing and frankly there’s only so many times in a day you can say ‘oh right’ in an interested tone.

The baby is currently going through a growth spurt, touch of tea-time colic (apparently it’s a thing) forgetting how to sleep, post injection meltdown so cries the whole time she’s awake which doesn’t really work along side the Sonos blasting out ‘Hallelujah’ in a bid to exercise her spirit.

But I have made my bed and sometimes I wonder why I made it so big because some days I could drown in it but most of the time I happily lie in it surrounded by sweaty little bodies and stinky morning breath and it is heaven to me.

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The train wreck of nasty kind of a week

I thought I’d regale you with the tale of our worst week to date.

Of course everyday brings its trials and treats whether you have children or not but this particular week for us will go down in our memories as a nasty train that flew into our lives, uninvited, and smashed into smithereens all over us, to put it bluntly.

This is the same week that featured my near heart attack that wasn’t actually a heart attack at all but a trapped nerve in my shoulder, that should give you a taster of what we were up against.

It was a week full of extreme highs and tentative lows waiting for the extreme highs again and it all started with an unconfirmed ‘bug’. You know one of those bugs that are ‘going around’ because someone’s sisters, next door neighbours, auntie’s dog was sick one Sunday afternoon and therefore it’s fully logical that my daughter would therefore be sick too. Which she was, for four days and three nights two of which saw absolutely no sleep by me at all.

All she did was walk towards me one Saturday afternoon saying she didn’t like the apple I’d just sliced up for everyone’s afternoon snack and next thing I saw the apples again but in pieces along side some carrot, which was rather suspicious as we’d not eaten carrots in at least 24 hours?

There it carried on every twenty minutes or so for the rest of the day. Everyone was on sick watch. Any movement in my toddlers chin was reason to bolt to her side, bucket in hand. As evening came she slept in our room surrounded by towels, buckets and paper towels. I led on my side keeping one eye on her for what felt like hours as my other eye got some rest. At the allotted time, with my rested eye, I got up to feed the baby.

Feeding in the babies dark room I began to feel a little dizzy. I assumed it was just my eye playing tricks on me but the feeling got worse. Suddenly saliva filled my mouth and I knew what was going to happen. I desperately gurgled my husbands name through the baby monitor and thankfully it must have sounded weird enough for him to come dashing through. He took the baby and in one dramatic dash (nothing less for me) I swooped into the bathroom and regurgitated everything I’d ever eaten in my entire life into the sink.

By morning the next day nothing had changed in the toddler vomit routine, although I had miraculously recovered?!We moved toddler from the bedroom to the sofa where we could keep several eyes on her as she napped on and off in between throwing up. Day slowly shifted to night and sleep at last came to all. I slipped into a temporary coma as my head hit the pillow which left husband exposed to the night shift.

In the middle of a particularly deep REM I was abruptly woken with a bright light and a baby. Husband declared, as he knelt in front of the toilet, that he was going to throw up and then collapse should I need him. After a few dry wretch attempts he moved onto the latter part of his declaration and curled his body around the cold porcelain. He laid there for the rest of the feed and only when I returned to our room did he scramble back to his side to sleep it off.

The following days were a blur only to hit another vomit high on Wednesday. My eldest daughter told me she had tummy ache over chicken and rice. After an obligatory chorus about how, to grow big and strong you must actually eat something, and a rendition of the classic, ‘you need to eat what your mother has made you’ we allowed her to skip her meal and go to bed early. (We sound like tyrants!)

Not half an hour later she called me in to say her tummy really did hurt. I swapped sick buckets from the toddlers bed to the eldest in a bid to sympathise with her only to catch an outpouring of her entire stomach before it hit the bed. Which I was quite relieved about as my washing pile was warping a stud wall in my utility.

Our train wreck of a week ended with antibiotics and tummies tenderly nursing toast and water and successfully keeping it down! The final straw however, after my near death experience with a trapped nerve that is, was the following Monday afternoon. My husband rang to check in when I heard an all to familiar retching noise. I looked to all three children sat at the table their angel faces glowing with innocence only to realise it was the cat throwing up on my door mat!! I shoved his retching body back through the cat flap in a wake of suspicious carrot pieces?!

My boy was the only one left standing after the attack of the mysterious bug. We are all getting back to normal now and carrots have been removed from the menu for a while…

Drama. Drama. Drama

So I have this friend, she’s a new mum and was having quite the week. I mean there’s a bad week, then there’s a rock bottom week and there’s a whole heap of crap coming at you from a never ending train of nasty kind of week, this was about the level she was working at this particular week.

One night she was up doing the late feed when a pain began to crack through her left shoulder. She switched positions with baby and bottle and the pain seemed to shift but not leave. She gave it another minute or two and somehow felt the pain increase. She said it was a pain she’d never felt before. It wasn’t a throb or a stab it was more like a wave of pain yet she couldn’t identify exactly where the pain was coming from.

Again she changed positions, sat more upright, gave the shoulders a little rotate and still the pain remained and began to swell. A tingling sensation began to run up and down her left arm. Her shoulder blade began to burn. The pain spread right around her left arm and seemingly onto her chest, or was that just her imagination? She couldn’t recall.

“This is it” she thought to herself. So bad was her week thus far that she was already ready to meet her maker yet thinking practically for a brief minute she thought it best to go and tell her husband who lay sleeping in the next room.

She bundled up the baby in her ‘good arm’ and went to her husband.

“I’m in pain, here take the baby” she dramatically thrust the baby into her dozing husbands arms, for the second time that week, and threw herself onto the bedroom floor (as any good actress would do) gripping her left arm.

“Oh the pain. This is is. It’s text book. Shooting pains going up and down my left arm. It’s tingling. Oh my arm is going numb. What is happening?”

She told me how her husband looked down at her writhing in pain on the floor with little to no reaction on his sleepy face. Somehow, she told me remembering the moment, she didn’t feel satisfied that he was concerned at all that she may actually die right there and then.

She told me how despite being in extreme pain and calling out an accurate blow by blow account of all her symptoms and levels of pain her husband seemed unperturbed by the developing situation and instead of consoling her or even praying that God would open the pearly gates he told her she was more likely experiencing a trapped nerve, not a heart attack.

“It can’t be a trapped nerve, it’s agony” She insisted, wondering if she had the strength to roll herself around to her side of the bed to call an ambulance off her phone if he was determined to watch her die.

“Have you got pins and needles in your hand?” Her husband began

“Yes I have. Shooting pains. I can’t feel my arm. It’s agony!”

“Muscle weakness, numbness or a decreased sensation in the area supplied by the nerve”

“Stop reading out a list of symptoms, I’m dying here!”

“It’s a trapped nerve babe”

“Really? But it’s agony”

“Yeah. It’ll be a trapped nerve” he continued his face devoid of any emotion.

Like the crash of a wave upon a rock she told me the pain washed away down her left arm. The blood flow returned to her left hand with a throb. She led still on the floor doing an internal check of any other pain in her body. Once no pain was discovered she sat up and looked at her husband blankly.

“Well that was strange” she said retrieving the babe from his arms. She felt a mixture of joyous relief it was over yet strangely disappointed in the lack of her husbands reaction over his once ‘dying’ wife. She told me his face was the picture of justification over his perfect diagnosis and complete abandon of any human emotion as, in fact, he had already fallen asleep.

So ran the narrative of what was a real high point in my week, I mean my friends week! Oh who’s kidding – yes this was my story. I apparently had a trapped nerve one night while feeding baby although this was never confirmed by a medical professional just a knackered out husband desperate for his dramatic wife to stop being so, well, dramatic.

Further stories to follow of the train wreck of nasty kind of a week.

Coping

As you can imagine my brain hasn’t really been flowing with the juices of creativity this last four weeks, but I wanted to jump on to answer a question that everyone has been asking.

I have been trying to write this post for about two weeks but every time I begin a paragraph my mind fogs out and sleep calls. I tried writing on good days and I tried writing on bad days but neither one brought me the perspective I was looking for to answer the question well. The question is, are you coping? My answer on a good day, a good day being one where I have showered, drunk more than one glass of water and half a cup of tepid tea is, yes I am thank you!

A bad day would be like yesterday for example. It began with a headache. Never a good sign. I’ve been getting really bad headaches since baby was born but I now know it’s because of a lack of sleep which means waking up with one isn’t a great start.

By the end of the day everyone was overtired, cranky and full of wind. My husband had to go out again and an hour after bedtime the kids were still shouting at each other, so I began shouting back. The baby was still crying and I nearly cried back. She was so past sleep she couldn’t settle so I sat in the dark with her and I prayed. I prayed for forgiveness for shouting at my kids. I prayed for peace to fall upon the house and I prayed for strength for my husband.

The song that dropped into my heart that started an impromptu worship time is a truth that has kept my heart pumping and soul leaping despite the bone tiredness and despite the extra pressures and pains that life heaps on top of you. It’s an oldie but a goodie;

‘Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness.

Morning by morning new mercies I see

And all I have needed thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me’

Those are the moments when if you’d ask me, am I coping? I would laugh with hot tears in my eyes. Yet the real truth is, I do cope because really I am coping. Good day or bad day it eventually comes to an end and when it does I am able to recall the day as;

‘Good, with some peripheral crap to contend with that frankly I’d rather forget’

I cope because I have discovered a legal addictive stimulant called coffee ( I usually only drink tea ) I cope because I have a solid routine in my house that has kept all of us in line and in sanity, not that it works everyday. I cope because I want to thrive in motherhood not just survive and I cope because God created me to be a mother, and that fundamental truth has been driven to my absolute core.

Post Baby

Our post baby hibernation is over. We’ve been tucked up in the Cumbrian hills for the last ten days with three kids and a floppy, pink, womb-fresh girl.

It feels as though spring has seamlessly rolled into summer while we’ve been up here. The sun has been effortlessly pealing back my pasty white skin and attacking the ever spreading dark circles under my eyes.

Husband and I have once again stepped onto the baby treadmill of three hour feeds and feeling so tired it’s like a little man is sat upon our brow pushing our eyes closed. These are the things you forget when you contemplate holding a perfectly pink babe in your arms. The major lack of sleep. That and how long the ‘deflation’ process takes.

I’m in that awkward place of being too small for maternity clothes yet too big for my old wardrobe. I’ve taken to wearing my nightie all day because although highly unflattering its very comfortable. My boy and youngest girl are still questioning when the next baby is coming out of my “big tummy”. Kids give the biggest confidence boost.

For the first couple of days I felt on top of the maternal world. I was waking at 7 ready to take on the kids and didn’t feel I needed a lunchtime nap. Aah hormones. Yet as the days went by, and the relentless feeds progressed, the little man took up residence on my brow and had a song and dance. So heavy were my eyes and body after a few days the 7am wake up call completely passed me by.

The dreaded day three milk boob delivery came along as predicted and with gumption. Pamela Anderson called asking for her boobs back so harsh was the engorgement. I contemplated using the extra long sanitary towels I was quickly running through elsewhere for my boobs. I had the cabbage on ice and was wearing the tightest bra I could find. And before you ask, I couldn’t express because I can’t breastfeed. The anti-rejection drugs I’m on for my renal transplant mean doctors advised I didn’t breastfeed as they didn’t know what effects the drugs would have on my babies. So for the last five years I’ve had to strap down and ignore my newly sprouted bay watch bosom beauties beneath my chin.

Thankfully things are starting to dry up now as we’ve passed a whole week since Hope entered the world and she is as perfect and pink as I contemplated all those months ago. I haven’t had the mindset to look back on the labour, a story I’m sure I’ll get around to at some point, but from what I can recall it was awful. Possibly the worst yet but as it was my last ever labour perhaps I’ll donn some rose tinted glasses to remember it.

The kids adore baby Hope and even the cats have accepted their new tribe member. The one thing clouding my vision is the looming prospect of the back to school and work routine which is mere days away now and the big question; how am I going to cope with four kids on my own?

All this in good time, for now I’m going to enjoy the last few blissful hours of extra hands on during this paternity leave or ‘holiday’ as my husband calls it. (Can you feel my eye roll?)

Sleepless.

Apologies for the delay in my words dear readers. I’m afraid they have been on vacation while my body and mind were in a zombie like state I like to call ‘coping’.

Ben was away for three days and two rather long nights at the beginning of last week. My much appreciated one day childcare was also away and I’m pretty sure it rained too, so I have had to battle against the elements and three strong wills to survive. Safe to say I haven’t fully recovered.

My eye bags are so far down my face I’m having to put blusher on them to perk them up. In fact I’m finding I have to wear a lot of make up just to do the school run. Sure in the morning I couldn’t give a hoot especially when it’s raining and no one hangs around to chat but later on when the sky clears up I feel a lot more exposed. There’s only so much Tropic ‘Super Greens’ I can slap on my face each night to perk up my skin.

A week before my husband fled the scene … sorry went away, nap time would come around and I would potter about, put a wash on, read, write, perhaps watch a film – now? Now I go to bed. I don’t get into it just lie on top and I am gone, fully satisfied that my inner mummy siren will go off if I hear child number three wake.

So tired am I, I am beginning to wonder how I am going to push the wee tot out. The whole labour experience, in my two year old memory of it, was rather strenuous. It was like running a marathon on zero training. Like competing against Muhammad Ali having never set foot in the ring. Like rowing in the University Boat Race having never seen an oar let alone hold one. It was, well laborious and I am not convinced I can – so to speak – pull it out of the bag.

The Brixton Hicks have been parading about my abdomen since week thirty two and now they appear every evening, especially when I lie down to go to sleep. Don’t get me started on the restless legs and the desperate desire to get comfortable amongst having to pee two to three times a night. When I wake in the morning I feel as if I have never slept at all. I know it’s all a very clever work up on my bodies behalf to get me ready for the imminent sleepless nights a newborn brings but ugh, if I could only have a good sleep I would be on top of the world again and perhaps my eye bags would recline to whence they belong?

Week thirty-five!

It’s a monumental week dear readers. I am thirty-five weeks and there is no baby in sight!

“What are you on about?” I hear you cry.

Well if you recall (or if you didn’t know) my first and second babies were born at thirty-five weeks thanks to a few sweeps, some gel, lots of swaying, a spot of bouncing, some special go-go juice and sheer determination. So set on thirty-five weeks were the ole NHS, due to my kidney transplant, that when my third baby came along and they let me go to thirty-six weeks and five days (I love that extra five days) I was beyond excited. I nearly got a ‘term’ baby.

The fourth time around and after my thirty-three week scan and consultant appointment I waited to hear the news that they would likely induce me again at a similar time. Yet this time was very different. The consultant looked over my results and so pleased was she with me that she turned and said, “I’d be happy for you to got to 37 weeks”

Me: “Really?” Quick calendar calculation. “How about 38?”

Her: “Sure, but no longer than 38!”

Me: “Okay. It’s my sons birthday on week 37 so I’ll come in a day after that”

Her: “Okay. We’ll give you a sweep at 37 and if nothing happens we’ll get you in a week later.”

After a firm handshake, pinky promise, some heavy eye contact and a nod we sealed our meeting.

That’s why there’s no baby yet nor will there be until I go into chez NHS where a deft, gloved hand will reach into my nethers to see what can be released. Until then I shall waddle on hoping and praying that baby doesn’t have different ideas.

I daydream about a chunky baby. What will a ‘term’ baby be like compared to the miniature, premature sparrows that I’m used to? I imagine rather different depending upon weight, although surely by child number four all I’d need to do is sneeze and it’ll be out?