The truth about four…

…it’s hard and people will look at you with a weird squinty eyed judgement but since you’ve made your bed you must lie in it, even if there’s a faint smell of urine from the potty training one.

But if you want to have a ‘couple more babies’ then I recommend the following;

1. A big car.

D’oh! But seriously we’ve been to see some apparent seven seater cars in showrooms and put all the salesmen to shame because the cars they’re shown us aren’t true seven seaters. With four car seats you need to have four real seats that have iso-fixes for the car seats, plus one for mummy and one for daddy.

I remember waddling into a Honda show room thirty weeks pregnant with three car seats under my arm (it’s amazing how strong you get from holding so many children) and the heavily scented gentleman with cheese for a smile looked at me with such disappointment, he knew he wouldn’t get a sale that day as any seven seater car he showed me just wouldn’t work.

2. Lower your expectations of sleep but don’t rule it out.

As with any child rearing there comes with it a little troll who walks about with bad breath stealing sleep or at least that’s how it feels. The minute your toes get toasty and your back muscles release the tension of the day into the mattress a little whimper will come from somewhere and with all muscles fully contracted once again you’ll try and work out which child it is and how quickly you’ll respond but routine will save the day.

I am a firm believer of routine. Routine comes in like a large bosomed nanny with her aprons strings flying in the wind to save the day. She lets me know to ignore that cry she’ll settle in five minutes or to go to that cry.

Routine has saved my sanity. Routine allows me and the children to know exactly where we are and what we’re up to at any given moment in the day. It is hard to stick to it and like any good dictator worth their salt there will be consequences of not following the routine. An overtired toddler tantrum or a kick back from a pre-tween who doesn’t want to finish her tea but when seven thirty pm comes and the final call for ‘I need a wee’ or ‘I need a drink’ ends there is calm and in come my two very best friends, rest and sleep. Stick to them, hold them fast for although brief at times it won’t last. Sleep will come to stay again for a whole night and when it does you can tackle any amount of bed wetting, food throwing, ‘don’t forget your school bag’ shouting any day can bring.

3. Become elastic

The trouble with four so young is their developmental stages are so vast. Around the dinner table I can be talking to the oldest child about the first man on the moon and the perfect 23 degree angle the earth holds in space, to sounding out first letters…’P – P – P’ to my four year old. I can then be singing old Mac Donald for the fourth time to my toddler whilst serving dinner on a spoon sounding like an aeroplane to a weaning baby.

Your brain has to learn to compartmentalise which voice for which child, somehow mine gets stricter the older each child gets? And understanding how each one responds to you and how you love them is one key I am still learning. Turns out my older girl needs words of affirmation while my boy wants cuddles over words but not too many because too many makes him girly, apparently??

4. Cleaning toilets

You’ll become a dab hand at cleaning toilets, yes because there will now be six of you using them but mainly because children forget to flush the toilet. There will more often than not be a long forgotten turd moulding itself to the porcelain that you’ll have to scrub away whilst the scent feels like it’s decaying your skin like some kind of nuclear bomb went off down there. Just make sure you whip around the bathrooms when guests arrive with a full bottle of Harpic and a strong scrubbing brush.

5. You won’t think it possible…

…for your heart to be so full. You look at one womb fresh, pink, pudgy babe and wonder how on earth you lived life without them in it and then it happens again, and again, and again. You’ll be completely consumed by bafflement and wonderment at how your heart is once again expanded at this beauty that shot out from between your legs. It’s like the first time every time. The second, third and fourth were equally as painful and beautiful as the first and frankly its a good job my husband can’t medically provide anymore as just the reminder of that sweet moment in time makes me want a fifth…then I remember the whole after birth, the sleep stealing troll and the weird squinty eyed judgement from people and think, yes. Four is good.

A labour of Hope

Nearly six months into our last baby and I realise I’ve never shared about the labour!

Let’s be honest we all love a good labour story and I love to (over) share so settle down because it’s story time…

It all began on a Monday.

I was summoned in earlier than planned because babies growth had plateaued and the waters around her were reduced. The powers that be seemed concerned so demanded I came in after the weekend to be induced but I was devastated as I would miss my only boys birthday and the chances were high this baby would land on the same day. So sure my kids would all hate me because we somehow can’t conceive at any other time, I began to pray hard for a different birth-day.

Monday came and so accustomed to the maternity ward at Royal Preston I nearly donned some scrubs and began doing ward rounds myself. We said our hellos and Husband and I settled into the bay and began series one of our boxset binge.

There was a couple in the bay opposite us who were very keen to introduce themselves. They popped their eager heads around our curtain and with big smiles, and a puppy dog spirit we couldn’t help but adore, they told us they were Lucy and Dave and do we want anything from Booths? And oh this is our first baby and we are SO excited!

Ben and I lay there watching their exuberant show and simply said, it’s our fourth. With my four fingers still in the air their smiles disappeared and they skipped off to Booths.

I didn’t get my first gel until late that Monday night. When the doctor finally came in to examine me I whipped my knickers off in such a blasé manor she looked away a bit rosy cheeked.

By 3:30am Tuesday morning nothing was happening. My husband had gone home and the lady doctor came back to give me a second round of gel. This time I was more demure in my downstairs approach, I didn’t want to embarrass her again. I got under the sheets this time.

By this point I had gotten zero sleep as one lady was throwing her guts up in a bay across the way and my new sweet friend Lucy had turned into a right potty mouth as her contractions were ramping up. As there is only a thin curtain between each women in the most personal time of her life I could clearly hear how she was developing. The poor love was only 4cm yet she sounded like she was being tortured. Thankfully they moved the lovely Lucy onto a side ward to crack on behind thicker walls. I considered popping my head around her curtain but the once sweet Lucy sounded like she would have murdered me had I done so.

By Tuesday lunchtime still absolutely nothing was happening. Baby didn’t wanna budge and the midwives kept saying things like, ” your cervix is too long”. I had to google where my cervix should be at any normal point in time never mind now. And of course I was still missing my boys fourth birthday.

By the third gel things started to get interesting. I’d had a long lavender bath and a walk to try and spot Lucy and Dave. In the end I decided to jump on the ball and listen to my Mumford and sons album. Perhaps some aggressive drum beats would stimulate my womb?

By teatime on Tuesday night the midwives on Maternity A were sick of me. We’d shared life stories and vagina banter long enough and there was finally a room on delivery suit for me but my cervix still didn’t want to budge so they had to break my waters and while sitting on the toilet letting my waters dribble out I prayed a final prayer…

‘Please Jesus not today. Give my babies different birthdays.’

Still listening to aggressive guitar riffs contractions began to rise slowly and steadily. Meanwhile the Liverpool game was on and my husband had settled himself into the ‘comfy’ chair to watch the game. He would emerge from the green light of the screen every now and then to offer encouraging words ‘doing well love’, ‘keep going’

By 11pm I was worn out and the midwives thought it high time to get me on the go-go juice to increase my contractions. Baby was much too high, cervix much too long and mother was much too exhausted to carry on. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and if the Liverpool match didn’t end soon my husband would have the phone up his nose.

I opted for an epidural and not because of the pain but because I knew I could lie down. Pacing around to let ‘gravity do its work’ was frankly soul destroying after two days. The anaesthesiologist came in to let me know all the keys facts, things that could go wrong etc but all I saw were her lips moving and no sound.

During contractions they began to insert the epidural. With my first baby I progressed way too fast to have the epidural and it was absolute agony to be so still during contractions. As my contractions slowly began to progress now I prayed good and hard that I wouldn’t go through the same thing.

As the mini procedure started in my back I began to pray and everything went quiet and still and I experienced a peace I know all too well only Jesus can bring and it was beautiful. I was so far into myself that the midwife had to tap me on the shoulder and ask if I was okay. I recall them asking Ben and remember him briefly popping up out of the green glare of the Liverpool match to mutter, “ah she’s fine” before dissolving away again.

Alas peace was over all too quickly and of course just like my first daughter, the epidural didn’t fully work. Contractions naturally came barrelling in like a pack of calf’s let out of the barn for spring. Leaping, running and moo-ing they came and all that was numb was my right buttock. Midwives told me to roll onto my left to see if that would ‘drain the drugs’ to that side. It didn’t work but what it did do was make baby drop into that side. She skidded down into my left hip like a curling stone and stuck there. She hunkered in deep so for every contraction a fresh wave of burning hell ripped through my abdomen and hips. I then rolled back to my right side and onto the thoroughly numb butt cheek to see if she would drop that way. She didn’t.

After half an hour of playing pinball with the baby in my wombs the midwife decided to knead her out during every contraction and like a good dough that’s been kneaded well, baby ‘rose’ to the occasion and blessed us with a head. A good 5-10 minutes later and her head was fully out. What felt like an hour later she finally burst into the world at 1:09 am Wednesday 10th April, a day after my boys birthday.

Thank you Jesus.

During the whole labour and the Liverpool match we hadn’t once discussed names and just like every other baby before her my husband picked the name. By this point post labour my brain can barely recall a blink let alone choose a baby name.

Hope was the outcome. Hope because of the two losses that proceeded her and Hope because that is the gift she gave us. She is officially our last Hope, the fourth and the final. She completes the set.