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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

how I knew I was ready to be done having kids

This questions comes up in the discussion group all the time: how do you know you're ready for another child? How do you know you're done having kids? 

It's a loaded question for sure. So much to consider and process, emotionally and mentally. There is the reality: what can we afford? How will we as parents manage another child? There are the emotions involved and the feelings of having that little newborn in your arms again, going through the baby stage all over again with its ups and downs. There's the future to consider: how will we afford daycare and college bills someday? But how will we be with just the one or two we have, not having another, would we feel complete or missing something? So much to think about. 

Everyone's story is different. Everyone's financial situation is different. Everyone's capacity to handle certain things is different. 

Like I could have not have had another child if my big kids were younger, but some people have kids back to back year after year and it works for them. This type of decision is one that's not made lightly, and it really depends on who you are and what your family structure is like. 

Here is my story, in hopes that it helps you in figuring out if you are done having children. 

When my son turned a year old, we talked about having another baby. I wasn't ready. I'd just stopped pumping and wanted my body back to run for a while. So we waited until he was 18 months old before getting pregnant again. It worked well for us. We knew we wanted at least two children. That was such an easy decision, not much to consider.

When my second, daughter, was a year old I was NO where near ready to think about having a baby. So we said probably when she's two years old. Well two years old came around and I wasn't ready either. Just felt like we were getting into our groove, I was figuring out the two kids thing, couldn't think about adding another one, wasn't sure we could handle that. So we waited longer. 

We reached a point in the next year or two where I questioned if we'd ever have a third child, if we really could handle that in our family, financially and otherwise. The time period came around in the fall when we'd said we'd start trying for a baby and I was really not ready to start trying. It was my decision. I thought our money situation was a mess, trying to pay things off and earn more money. I thought our kids behaviors and ages were chaotic and we were just trying to manage that without getting super stressed. Everything seemed off timing wise to add another into the mix. 

So I started picturing, what if we don't have another one? What if we're a family of four? Can I be happy and content, complete with that? Can I move on from this dream I've had in my head of another child? Do I really want another one, or am I missing the baby stage like so many moms do once their youngest is walking and talking and running into toddlerhood at the speed of light? 

I started picturing not having another one. I became depressed, honestly. I was so sad and moody those few months when I felt not ready to have another, but not sure if we'd be ready some time soon. 

It was then that I realized, yes, I absolutely wanted another child. I was not OK saying no to that dream. And here's the thing, when imagining another child, that's what I imagined: a child, not a baby. Not the newborn phase where they are cute and cuddly and stay in one place. I wanted the child, the person, the sibling for my two big kids. 

I envisioned my children someday, all three of them, standing side by side at a graduation party or taking care of me and my husband when we're older. I envisioned the Christmas pictures every year. But I didn't picture the one where my kids were young and there was a third baby. I pictured the photograph of three kids in elementary school sitting, holding hands, laughing. I pictured the people they'd be, their personalities and the things that made them uniquely ours. 

I wanted more than another baby to cuddle. I wanted more than that feeling of a baby kicking in my belly. I wanted the person, the family member, for a lifetime. I wanted that bigger family. And that's how I knew. 

To me this is a distinct difference from just reminiscing about the past and missing the baby phase. Every mom goes through that. But usually it stops there when they cuddle someone's newborn and then move on, thankful not to be the one getting up in the night. For me though, after a few months of not being ready to start trying and picturing, what if this doesn't happen for us, am I OK with that or no? And then picturing the vision of my three children sitting side by side, I knew. I just knew.

So we planned for our third child and I was so utterly happy. The fog of sadness and confusion, questioning if we would do this, it lifted instantly when I decided that yes, this was what I wanted. We have never been in denial: we knew it'd be chaos and hard at times. You never have the right timing or enough money for these things, that's for sure. But we decided we wanted it for the long term and started preparing. 

My husband got a raise at work, thankfully. We paid off more debt to be more financially stable for a third child. We sold a lot of things in our house, downsized and decluttered, knowing what a third baby would bring into the already tight quarters of our small house. We talked about getting a bigger car that we could afford. We considered the baby stuff we already had saved and anything we thought we'd need to purchase, and how that would fit into our plans. We talked about how this may affect our two big kids. We talked and planned and dreamed. And then made it happen. 

Fast forward seven months into pregnancy and my doctor was asking about a long term plan: birth control? tying tubes? Were we done, would we have a fourth? When I was younger, even before having children of my own, I wanted four. My husband wanted four. We both come from families of four siblings. Then we had one child and instantly said, "uh, no we're good with three!" Then we had two kids and thought, "well, maybe just 2 and a half kids..." on the fence, not sure what we could handle as parents. 

When pregnant with our third, the pregnancy was so challenging. Much more tiring, difficult, and more ailments than the first two. It hit me early on, I was done. I was grateful for what we had. We were really complete. It wasn't just a financial decision or a logistical decision based on our small house, though those mental things came first for sure. It was something I actually felt inside, I believed, I was content with: we were done. Our family was complete with three kids.

I never imagined I'd be that woman. The one who actually knows when she's done. They told me, "you'll just know." And I thought to myself, "Not me, I'll be the person who will always want more kids even though we make a mental decision to be realistic and stop at 2 or 3." I didn't know if I'd ever lose that longing feeling to hold a baby in my arms after carrying them in my belly for nine months. I really wasn't sure I'd ever feel that.

But I did and I do. I know for sure that we're complete. It's bittersweet some days. There are moments now where I'm putting away newborn and 0-3 clothing or the infant bouncy seat he is way too long for, where I reminisce about all three babies who wore those clothes or sat in a seat like that and it's sad. But it's not the type of sad that makes you want to do it all over again. It's the "we're content and blessed" type of sad and "we can move on to other fun stages now with our awesome family." 

I'll admit that when it was time to sign the paperwork to tie my tubes at the doctor's office, I cried on the way home. It was just so final. That chapter of my life, the one where it was possible to get pregnant and possible to carry life (still the most amazing thing I think I've ever done or will ever do again) was over. Forever. It was my decision, I was ready to make the decision, and yet it was so sad to do so. I held my growing belly tighter that night and tried so hard to memorize each and every jab and kick from the inside, knowing I'd miss that most of all when it was no longer a possibility. 

I text my husband saying how sad it was, that it was hitting me. He wrote back something so sweet that I'll never forget. He said that yes, it's sad, that part of our life is over, but how amazing it is that now our family is complete and we get to watch them grow and move forward toward all the fun things in store for us and our beautiful children. We get to start really living our life now knowing we're ALL here together now. I love that... it's so simple, but true. 

So to you, if you are wondering if you should have another baby or not... don't just think about finances and don't just imagine what daycare is going to cost or where on earth you'd fit more baby stuff in the house. Those ARE important, I'm not going to deny that. You should consider those things. But they aren't everything. Don't just imagine timing... there's no perfect timing. I had this last baby at the worst possible timing for my job, and it's all working out in the end. It is what it is. You cannot control all of it. 

To those of you who aren't able to make the decision for yourself, because of health issues within your body or health issues within your children, or some other major life experience that means adding another one is too much to bear... my heart breaks for you. It's hard enough to actually make this decision on my own free will, I can't imagine the decision being made for me. Make sure you process this, grieve the loss of the choice to have another child, and talk through it with someone you trust. 

To others, if you can live with picturing NOT having another one for a few weeks, then perhaps you're ready to close that chapter of this long motherhood book you've been writing the last few years. If you are devastated by the thought, actually feeling depressed and with this deep longing inside that you just are not ready to be done, your family is not complete without one more child in it someday... then perhaps you are ready to add another one to your family.

It's not an easy decision either way. Be sure you put time into processing it both on your own and as a family or couple. 

I'll leave you with this, something I tell many moms, something many moms told me and wrote about in blogs and books and discussion groups before I got pregnant for the last time: you'll never ever regret having another child when you lay eyes on that sweet little blessing that you created. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

getting through the tough parts of pregnancy

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing. It's also one of the most difficult things women go through. All pregnancies are different, and yet women can relate to one another when talking about their symptoms. I asked the Mommy Stories Facebook group for some suggestions on how to deal with some tough pregnancy symptoms. Here are some ideas.

Worst symptom and how to deal:
  • heartburn and slept in reclining chair, Tums everywhere in bags etc 
  • charlie horses in calves at night
  • lower back pain- get exercise ball to sit on
  • round ligament pain
  • constipation - miralax helps 
  • sciatica pain - chiropractor, massage, physical therapy
  • varicose veins
  • peeing yourself -pads
  • insomnia - nap if can during day and go to bed early
Morning sickness treatment:
  • ginger snap cookies
  • ginger from health food store
  • ginger ale
  • sipping small drinks throughout day
  • chewing gum
  • eat something first thing before getting out of bed, like crackers
  • saltines 
  • eat small meals all day long
  • carbs - bagels!
  • Zofran
  • peppermint candies
  • sea bands
  • lemon water, lemonade
  • eat small meals 
There are so many various symptoms with pregnancy. Whatever you are experiencing, it's good to contact your doctor. They are there for you, they won't ever want you to hesitate calling. Spotting can be normal, but it can also be worrisome so call if this happens. Don't wait too long to ask for help either. I had sciatic hip pain with my second pregnancy from four months on. I didn't go to physical therapy until about eight months along. I wished I'd gone sooner, as it was SO helpful. I highly recommend physical therapy. I did it with my last two pregnancies and it worked wonders to make me feel better. Whatever is going on, ask for help.

Exercise like walking, yoga and swimming can do wonders to help you feel more like yourself and stay stronger longer into the pregnancy also. 

Take care of that awesome body of yours! 

making the most of the last pregnancy

I am a few months past my last pregnancy. I knew it would be my last, three kids would make our family complete. Being the last pregnancy, there was much I wanted to memorize and savor during the sometimes long and tough days and weeks.

There is something to be said for doing this monumental pregnancy thing for the last time. The last time your body will carry life. The last time you will watch your belly grow in the mirror of the bathroom when you step out of the shower. The last time you'll feel those kicks and jabs, the flutters, how amazing that feeling is.

To me, knowing this was my last pregnancy, I wanted to remember these moments. I wanted to enjoy it as much as possible. I wanted to make sure I took advantage of all that being pregnant has to offer. There are a lot of tough parts to pregnancy, but oh so many sweet parts, too. Things to be celebrated for sure.

Photos by Photography By Kay

Here are some suggestions of things to enjoy while making the most of your last pregnancy:

  • Announcing the news - Take your time with this part of the process. Don't rush too soon. Let it sink in between you and your partner first. It's so awesome to tell people, but then at the same time once you tell people it's not your little secret anymore. It's out there, it's all anyone talks to you about, which sometimes can feel overwhelming, with the comments. So enjoy the few weeks or months where it's just your sweet surprise. And then find the coolest way ever to announce it, Pinterest if you have to, this is your last time doing this, make it count. 
  • Maternity Pictures- I am a big believer in maternity pictures. I look back at these pictures of me, taken just this past July, only a few short months ago, and I already forget that I looked like that. Sure, I'm bigger than I'd ever been in my life, but there's something so beautiful about that big old belly and the glow on my face, the sparkle in my eye as I was about to become a mom for the third time. It's cliche, but true. So document this part of your life experience. You won't ever regret doing it, but you may regret not having those pictures someday. 
  • Put your feet up. When else in your life are you going to be allowed to sit down as often or take as many naps if you need to? Never again really! So enjoy it. Take advantage of resting as much as possible. Your body has earned the right to do this after a few pregnancies now, but also it's good for you. Enjoy the time where you are supposed to cater to your body and rest. I took a nap every single day just about with this third pregnancy. I hadn't done that in the other two. This time, I took advantage of resting with the big old belly. I still love reminiscing about those naps. 
  • Go shopping. Sure it's great having the repeat maternity clothes from your last pregnancies, but it's also nice to treat yourself to something new, stylish and fun with this last pregnancy. There are awesome things you can find in great shape at consignment stores, too, so check those out. 
  • Do all the things. Do the things you won't ever be able to do again after you're done being pregnant. Take a birthing class or breast-feeding class. Park in the stork only pregnancy parking at Babies R Us. Create a baby registry to remind you of things you need. Get the special stretch mark cream. Get a prenatal massage. I was psyched when my husband got me one for a gift for my birthday. I'd never done this with the other two pregnancies and it was nice to look forward to it in this last pregnancy. It's fun to do all of these things that you aren't going to get a chance to do in the future. It makes the tough parts of pregnancy easier. 
  • Celebrate. I believe in having a baby shower for every baby, not only because yes sure it's helpful to get diapers and gifts for baby, but mostly because babies are amazing and so are the mothers who bring them into the world. This is a big occasion, it should be celebrated. So don't feel weird or selfish or something for having another shower. If someone wants to throw you a party, ENJOY! Be spoiled and swooned over. It's the only time after your wedding day that you'll be so spoiled, and you deserve it. Creating life is hard work. Enjoy being supported and loved. 
  • Treat yourself. Every single doctor's appointment this time around I stopped at a nearby consignment store and found myself a new maternity item or a baby item. I got myself an iced drink. I gave in to my cravings, even when they were salty fries or fast food. I let myself have what I wanted, without going overboard. I let myself indulge. It's hard work building a human. Let yourself enjoy this last time around with a few treats every now and then. You deserve it. 

Enjoy this final pregnancy.  It won't come again, and there is something bittersweet about that. You should feel proud about what you've accomplished. I know most women don't enjoy every moment of pregnancy and that's normal and OK. Try to enjoy some of it though to make the time go by faster and easier.

getting the big kids involved with preparing for baby #3

It's always important to prepare your children to become a big sibling. This is oftentimes done by reading books, talking about baby growing in the belly, etc. But I found with adding a third baby to our already busy household we needed to include our kids on everything every step of the way so they felt adjusted and prepared as much as possible for baby's arrival.

Our kids were 4 and 6 1/2 this summer as we prepared for the baby to arrive in the fall. They had many questions and wanted to be involved in everything we did as we got things out and ready for the baby.

Here are some ideas for you as you prepare for #3! Some of these ideas may be slightly different for you if you're preparing toddlers for a third sibling, as mine were preschool and school age, but hopefully they help.

Preparing the house for a third baby!
  • Get equipment out one at a time. And do it slowly, so they have time to play around with it. Let them play with it. Let them get used to the idea of having a baby in there. We did the swing one weekend, the bassinet a few weeks later, the crib weeks later, etc. Some of this was deliberate so as not to overwhelm the kids with too many changes at once, but also it was due to timing - you're busy, no time to do it all at once! 
  • Celebrate baby. Kids are typically excited to have a sibling coming, so let them get in on the celebrating. Let them pick out an outfit or toy for a gift for baby. Take them to the dollar store or Target and let them choose a rattle, bib, bottles, outfit, etc. and don't influence what they choose, let it be their idea.
  • Little helpers! They love to be involved. It's how they process what's about to happen and change. Let them help decorate the room. They may suggest putting a picture in a certain spot that you're not totally in favor of, or hanging up a blanket that you want to put in the closet... but it's their way of expressing excitement, so let them do it their way. Have them put the toys in the bucket, stack diapers in the bin on the changing table, pick out which changing table cover pad to use first, pick out socks for the hospital bag, etc. The more you let them feel in charge, in control, and helping, the more excited and happy they'll be, less jealous. 
  • Let them play! The baby won't need these things for a while, so let your big kids explore a bit. Let them play in the baby's room, with the baby's things, toys, rocking in the chair, etc. My 4 year old had so much fun with the baby toys and honestly it was fun watching her play with her old toys again. She restacked the books a million times and read them to me as I folded laundry. It was nice bonding moments before we were busy with baby around. 
  • Practice. It's fun to let the kids pretend baby is here with a doll and practice how things go. Teach them how to hold the baby, hold their head, rock them, whisper when baby is sleeping, etc. Let your daughter use baby clothes for doll clothes to practice, as well as diapers.
  • Be open with the body changing. Talk about how much bigger you're getting. Tell them when you feel baby move, and have them feel baby kick if possible. It's a cool thing, sometimes weird for them, so the more you help them understand the physical process the better. Some moms even take their kids to ultrasounds and doctor visits to hear the heartbeat. 
  • Take a walk down memory lane. My kids had tons of questions about what it was like when they were in my belly. It's fun to look back at pregnancy pictures and show them their baby books.
  • Visit the hospital- We had a great time touring the hospital with our kids, showing them where the baby would be born. It's important to talk about this process- where the kids will be when you have the baby, who will take care of them while you're in the hospital, etc. We talked about this with them about a month before baby was coming, just in case baby came early. We didn't talk about it a lot but just made sure they knew it was coming. 
  • Prepare the big siblings- We took a really fun big sibling class for free at the local hospital. You can even take classes at hospitals where you aren't delivering. It was a great night for us with our big kids. They even got a doll to practice diapering and feeding. They still talk about what they learned in their big sib class. There are lots of big sibling books to read also. 
  • Ask their opinion- Everything is changing, even things they aren't aware of just yet. So let them be in charge of a few things that don't matter. Ask their thoughts on where baby's car seat should go in the car, if they mind moving to the back row for baby to be closer to mom in the front. I let my daughter pick out the socks for baby to wear home from the hospital, and help me pack diapers in the diaper bag. I asked my son where he thought we could put the baby in the car, even though I already knew where I'd put the baby. It was good for my big kid to come up with the idea on his own, so he didn't feel it was something being done to him but rather something he was a part of.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

enjoying maternity leave - make the most of this "downtime"

So you're home with baby. How snuggly and blissful-  exhausting and busy of course!

It's one of those amazing times, yet so busy and such a blur, you won't remember all of it later down the road.

Now that I've returned to work after my third maternity leave of 3 months, I'm reminiscing and realizing I'll never have a time like that again where I'm wearing black stretchy yoga pants every day, barely showering and taking naps in the middle of the morning AND again later in the afternoon. I'll never have a time again where I'm attached to a sleepy, cuddly, yummy smelling newborn. It really is a super busy time, but it's a wonderful bonding and family time, too.

Here are some ideas for making the most of this "downtime" (clearly you are BUSY, but it's also a downtime from your regularly scheduled life of working or not napping every day!): 
  • Connect with old friends- I had lunch with a former student and her new baby, how amazing to connect again. I called up my dad's old girlfriend to say hi at breakfast. When else will you have so much time to get out (of course I didn't do this until the last month of 3 months at home, too busy before that!)
  • Treat yourself often. Every time I left the house and actually got somewhere on time or showered, you better believe I was getting my favorite bagel or iced chai at Starbucks or fancy chapstick at Wax-Mart. It's OK to treat yourself. Get your favorite lunch to go for takeout after you practice getting the baby in and out of the car seat. Stroll through the cute store near the doctor's office just because you can. You are doing A LOT for someone else right now, it's OK to treat you, too.
  • Slowly walk around Target. Ohhh the joys that Target can offer a very tired new momma and a sleeping baby (hopefully)! Enjoy this more than anything else. I went out one day in my pajamas- no joke, what I'd worn to bed the night before - and leisurely strolled Target up and down every aisle, just looking, not needing much of anything. Blissful. Every single other time after maternity leave that I've gone to Target, it's been rushing in and out, quickly getting the vitamins because we ran out at breakfast or speeding toward the back of the store for a birthday present or getting to the checkout line only to remember I didn't get the toilet paper and zooming back for it. Ugh. Target is for leisurely shopping. Enjoy!
  • Update the baby book. Order the pictures of the first bath, the homecoming day, the hospital. You will not have this much time pretty soon, so spend a nap time with baby snoozing and you updating the details of her birth. You will forget those details too soon, unfortunately, so write it down.
  • NAP! Yes, sadly, it took me a few kids in to really learn this lesson- NAP when baby naps! SO important. I get it, SO much to do. Shower even. I get it... but it's NOT worth it. Sleeping IS worth it. Sleep, momma. Sleep! Even if you lay down for 20 minutes, it's better than powering through the cleaning. That cleaning can wait. With my third baby, I napped daily, sometimes 2-3 times a day with him. It was blissful. Sometimes he was in his bassinet next to my bed, sometimes he was snuggled in my arms and I lay staring at him, unable to sleep thinking of how amazing he was. But I NAPPED. It was rest I wish I could get now!
  • Wear comfy clothes only at all times. When else can you do this besides maternity leave? Wear those yoga pants. Keep out the maternity leggings. There is NO reason to wear anything that has buttons or zippers. None. Enjoy relaxing in the clothes. Your body did a lot. Let it be comfy.
  • Eat big lunches. You probably barely got to finish your coffee or bagel this morning. You aren't sure if anyone is bringing dinner or if your other kids will need you to help with homework or something at dinner, so enjoy your lunch solo. Take yourself out to eat even if you can manage getting out of the house with newborn. But eat lunch. A big lunch. Not just salads either, indulge in pasta or large sandwiches on fresh bread and extra cheese. Meet friends out if they are around. But eat. You need the calories to heal and produce milk if you're nursing anyway. 
  • Catch up on social media, emails, etc. like it's your job. I updated my address book, deleted the 1230 emails in my account I barely use, and messaged back some old friends who wrote to me a month ago on Facebook. When else will you get a chance to do these things? It'll feel good to get something done like that instead of just cleaning up spit up and poop.
  • Talk about your baby nonstop. It's allllll good! You just brought a new human into the world. OF COURSE you are going to want to talk about that! It's OK to talk about it. Have FUN talking about her or him. Share pictures. Post pictures 5 times a day if you want. Be "that" mom if you have to (I hate that term. I am that mom. I do not care.). It's all good being proud of the little one you created and now have kept alive for 38 days. Be proud and talk about it. Living and breathing a baby in all day long, every hour or two feeding and burping and getting to sleep- it's ALL you're doing. What else would you talk about, the weather? It's OK!
  • Let your body be. Let it recover. Rest. Eat healthy foods and treat foods, it's all good. You will get back in shape LATER. Not during maternity leave. OK this is  BIG one to me. I get so frustrated hearing moms trying to get back into shape after having a baby, or wondering why their pants don't fit 2 weeks after popping out a melon. MOMS, do you realize what your body just did? It's OK. I firmly believe 9 months to gain all that weight, AT LEAST 9 months to get it off. And it's OK to not look as strong or feel as muscular. It's OK to have flab around the middle and to not fit into your pants. I've lost ALL the weight by the end of maternity leaves times three... and yet wore maternity pants to work all three times 3 months later. IT'S OK. Our bodies do this huge thing, then they change and change again after baby is out of us. Let your body heal. Focus on your baby. You will get back to being in shape, later rather than sooner. It's OK.