Hard Lines and Hand Holding

At ten past four in the afternoon I made a strong attempt to place my four week old daughter in her baby swing and cook dinner while my older boys played at the table where my visiting grandmother was folding our laundry.

I raced into the kitchen to pull together enough ingredients to make a passable dish called “meatloaf’” and found myself standing at the kitchen island looking at life clutter. Bills I keep forgetting to pay sitting right next to the check book and the pen that I intend to use and still manage to forget about day after day.

My toddler runs past holding an armload of legos falling behind him one at a time in a deadly trail on the floor. I am now cooking in a booby trap and the mission has gone from making a quick meal to keeping my toddler alive while I make anything edible over heat.

I’ve succeeded in retrieving hamburger from the fridge and sautéing half an onion while my mind wanders to my marriage and my husband. We have so much, and we have each other but I wonder in those brief seconds if I’ll ever see him again. See him in the sunlight as it glares in our bedroom window as two optimistic and childfree people sleeping in on a Sunday. I’m not entirely sure if we’ll pass a hump in our life stage of having a lot of very small humans and have new and exciting things to talk about. If his job and my child rearing will be all that we are.  What if this is all that there is and what if that’s really completely okay?

I made a book for my husband as a stocking stuffer this Christmas. It was just a silly little composition book made of recycled materials containing about a hundred blank pages. I did my solemn best to fill those pages with things I love about him and appreciate him for. He still hasn’t read it. He knows it’s there, he gets the gesture and yet he still hasn’t found the time to read it.

There’s some hurt feelings harboring in me and my eyes did mist over when he confessed he hadn’t read it but I stifled the tears before they could brew and steep into a fight. A gift is meant to be opened by the recipient when and if they choose. I have to hope he won’t forget about it the way we forget doctor visits and the obligations that pile up on our countertops, eventually making their way into the trash can.

He’s not life clutter and we are not meant to eventually make our way into a recycling bin.

Three children have been brought into this home and our stories intersect around them and work. Attention to anything else takes planning and consideration. I had a conversation with my husband yesterday about how I want to hold his hand but our hands are always full. Then I took an introspective look at how I became a shrew who constantly wants to know what he’s thinking. We look like a real life Rom-Com starring a realistically overweight postpartum version of Katherine Hiegel and a busy, handsome husband who comes home to chunky under mixed meatloaf. We even have my grandma starring as Alice from the Brady Bunch.

Time is cruel and harshens up the softness we carried in our youth, turning into rough lines that get deeper and deeper with age, with stress and with children.

Romance is putting on our jackets and mittens and taking a walk down the driveway every Monday night to bring the trash to the curb. You gotta make your own breaks. Chips are down…or something.

The sauté pan needs attention and the hamburger is still waiting to go into a pan and be seasoned with something. My baby girl starts to whine from her swing in the other room. We are now down to seconds before I have to shut down this whole dinner operation to breastfeed the upset newborn.

Rather than throw my hands up in Monday/dinner/motherhood frustration and cry over a Chinese takeout menu, I ask my grandmother to cook dinner while I take my time to sit down and nurse the baby. Of course the toddler wanders into the room to demand in nonverbal grunts that I read to him while I nurse. He is shortly followed by his four year old brother who becomes instantly jealous of all of the babies on my lap and chooses to do some insane yelling show off act requiring all of our attention.

I am constantly acutely aware of the Bose noise cancelling headphones that I did not get for Christmas.

All these kids want is me. And here I am stuck feeling like I am not enough for any of them.

Somehow though something always gives and there is always enough.

Some Sunday the light will burn into our windows stinging my eyes awake and my husband won’t complain about his job or waking up with the kids and I will appreciate the gift even more because I’ve been through the passage of time, worn the lines and waded through the life clutter without landing in the recycling bin.

*update: my husband reports he has read the book I made him and it really did cheer him up. Little victories feel big.
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Bringing Home Delilah and Postpartum truthiness

The snow was falling hard and fast. It was a heavy, wet snow that we typically get here in New England, and we are accustomed to several inches of snowfall. This being the first storm, being on Thanksgiving eve, with me 39 weeks pregnant, we were leaving nothing to chance.

Powerlines and tree branches were snapping as we packed our hospital bags with toothbrushes and cell phone chargers. We had at least half a foot of unplowed snow to bust through to get to the hospital and my contractions were 17 minutes apart.

We jumped into my husbands truck with glorious 4 wheel drive and skidded out onto the road to make “early” headway to the birthing center.

My contractions were four minutes apart after only half an hour of driving and checking in.

Two hours of ouchholymotherofgodwhatinthefuckishappeningtomybodygetthebabyoutnow and we met our beautiful baby girl.

It was a lot of swearing, the nurse asked me to tone it down and I was all “no way motherfuckers, I don’t have any drugs, you are going to let me swear.”

We relaxed in the hospital and the nurses helped us change diapers and burp the gas out of the baby so I could sleep and breastfeed Delilah. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at the hospital in our room, which turned out to be perfect and mellow. The staff was not the least bit annoyed to have to take care of me on Thanksgiving, which I appreciate.

We stayed for 48 hours and then were released, bringing baby Delilah and a bundle of new baby nerves with us.

To my absolute joy Delilah did nothing but sleep for a bunch of hours. She didn’t even poop the first day she came home. She was nursing like a champ and my milk production was through the roof. She was my dream child.

I’ve spent the last five days at home in a hazy postpartum state. I cried all day yesterday for the hell of it. My body and my hormones are trying to make sense of things, and sometimes it just results in a good hard cry.

I’ve had my Grandma here helping with food and cleaning and my husband stayed home for half of the week to assist with the older boys. When my husband goes back to work tomorrow I’ll probably be reduced to another pile of tears and ashes.

My nipples are taking the abuse of feeding the newborn with a lazy latch. All of my babies had a lazy latch and I crack and bleed and feel abused and used up. My poor vagina was ripped open like a Christmas present and I gingerly bathe my battered body and dab shea butter on my boobs when everyone is sleeping at night.  My kids put Christian Grey to shame and make him look like a total pansy.

My belly now holds the remnants of Chinese takeout and zero life. No kicks and jabs. My postpartum body is flabby and loose and I don’t care. There’s a little freedom to having sprung life from your loins and you’re allowed to look a little fat. Plus, it’s the holidays, we all feel a little fat. I get to cover it up in a cozy sweater and forget about it until April.  Plus, nobody has a muffin top if they buy the right yoga pants.

Viva la cookies!

My bladder is perhaps the most mixed up organ of all. It was used to going pee every five minutes, regardless if there was a toilet or not. Now I no longer feel the urge to pee and instead get a cramp in my abdomen that alerts me to use the potty. I can hold it for hours baby. Yeah, I’m bragging.

It’s physically been a relief. Since expelling the fruit of my womb I am no longer swollen and sweaty. I can take three steps without a pee leak, I can eat a normal amount of food instead of the metric shit ton I was shoveling in during pregnancy. My varicose veins are already starting to flatten out. Goodbye vulvar support hose.

My stitches hurt, but hey, you can’t win ‘em all.

My kids are adjusting as expected to our new baby. We brought her home over Thanksgiving break so we all bonded for a few days (read, my four year old drove me bat shit and I’m so glad he has school today). My toddler thinks the real baby is a doll and I have to protect her accordingly, otherwise he’d smash his toys into her and step on her head. Delilah never leaves my protective custody during the toddlers waking hours, making him insanely jealous so I hold him too and risk busting a stitch. My four year old now acts two. And he’s being a nasty little shit who needs attention but seeks it like a desperate chick in a failing relationship. He whines and begs and throws things. I placate him with ice cream and TV.

Hey, I’m not trying to win any parenting awards or get a reality show; I’m just trying to survive.

Perfection and expectation can suck it. It’s cold outside, we have a new baby and we are all regressing rather well here.

I haven’t moved our Elf on Shelf for three days, but I did buy him a cute sweater to make up for it.

Oh well.

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Ordinary, Boring, Mom Stuff (A Play by Play)

An ordinary day in the life of an average mom who forgets her phone, never replies to people in a timely fashion, forgets the Karate uniform and has approximately three hundred places to be and things to do. Sometimes I wonder how I survive, sometimes I feel genuine gratitude that the problems are small but mostly life is just happening while I’m busy cleaning coffee and Listerine off of the floor.

This was my day.

5 am: Wake up to pee again and struggle to fall back asleep. Get a charley horse and contemplate getting up to beat my legs with a stick to make them numb. Pregnancy is awful. Fall back into fitful sleep while making ten mental to-do lists.

7:45 am: Husband turns on lights, wakes me up and demands that I help him take care of the kids. Fine, but only if I have to. I begrudge everyone for ten minutes while I wipe the sleep off of my eyes and my brain.

8 am: Husband scrambles eggs, kids watch cartoons and mom packs lunch.

8:15 am: Breakfast battle ensues. Force remote out of kids hands, make them sit down to eat and listen to a string of complaints about how much one kid hates eggs/French toast/cereal/life (in general, not just the cereal brand).

8:20 am: Get shoes on and jackets/backpacks gathered.

8:30 am: No seriously, hurry up and get your damn shoes on, we’re already late. Why does it take you ten minutes to put on crocs? Your fingers are nimble, you can do better.

8:31 am: Baby screams as daddy drives away to school drop off and work. “DADA DADA DADA!”

8:35 am: “DADA!”

8:40 am: Make coffee. Shit, are we seriously out of coffee? Why am I the only one who buys stuff for this house anyways? Clearly, I’m unreliable.

8:45 am: Baby is in the kitchen being eerily quiet. Turn the corner to find that the baby found a K Cup under the counter but instead of saving it for me, he has chewed through the foil and we are now seeing what the insides of a K Cup look like all over the floors.

9 am: Done cleaning the floor, done cleaning the baby. Time for some TV with “Kelly and Michael”.

9:05 am: Baby toddles in with his favorite book, the same one we read fifty times every morning. There goes any chance I had of not beating my head into a wall this morning.

9:30 am: Hey baby, I’m all done reading that book now. Maybe you need some independent play time so mom can wash her face and brush her teeth. I go into the bathroom, followed by a whiney baby saying “up up up up up” while he waves his frantic little hands and starts to cry. Pick baby up and attempt to do the face/tooth washing one-handed, but become frustrated and decide to put the baby down. The baby then climbs the counter, reaches the shelf, pulls down every bottle and gets one open before I can even bend or wrangle.

9:45 am: Clean giant puddle of Listerine off of the bathroom floor and clean the baby, again.

10 am: Attempt to put the baby down for a nap. Spend twenty minutes getting punched in the face while captain adorable tries to fall asleep.

Oh what luck!

10:20 am: Whew, the kid is sleeping.  Tenderly tip toe out of the room like I’m diffusing a bomb. Success! This feels like spring break. Only now instead of doing Jello shots I get to dig out a bra to wear and unload the dishes. Same thing.

10:30 am: Dishes done, attempt at finding a bra is futile so I opt for a nursing tank top. I’m pregnant so nobody actually cares that my boobs are sad looking and in need of some support. Yoga pants, check.

10:45 am: Organize a few of the things the kids destroyed this morning and try to find the baby’s shoes while also folding laundry.

11 am: I realize time is flying and I need to sit down now if I’m going to get to sit down at all for the rest of the day. The TV sounds good right now. I flip through boring, relentless and mind-numbing morning shows starring some musical guest that released their first album twenty years ago and the View is now their big “come back” platform.  I text husband, “we’re out of coffee. I guess someone is going to have to die today” and spend ten minutes entertaining day dreams that he’s running out to get me coffee. He’s not, obviously.

11:30 am: The baby is whining upstairs in the crib. I waddle up the stairs to go pick him up. I waddle back down the stairs holding him. I feed him some grapes and milk, pull out his shoes and get him ready to go to school pick up.

12 pm: School pick up. The nightmare portion of the day. The school is situated at the top of a huge hill in the woods that I trudge up while holding the baby’s hand in mine. The baby gets distracted by every stick he sees on the grass and twenty minutes later, we reach our destination. The kids are waiting outside on the playground for pick up, and by waiting I mean running around and/or hiding from their parents. I finally find my child among the many and begin the process of gathering the things he scattered all over the school. I stuff the things I recognize as mine into the little backpack and spend ten minutes telling my kids that we’re leaving in two more minutes. Half an hour later…

12:30 pm: Exhausted pregnant lady on the verge of screaming is now hauling two kids and a backpack down a steep hill towards the minivan. It’s the new walk of shame.

12:40 pm: The kids are buckled in, the things are gathered and I’m only having moderate contractions. Oh, I forgot to sign the kid out of school for the twentieth day in a row. Whatever, at this point I’m going to pretend I never knew a sign out sheet existed and just play dumb. I need a coffee from a drive thru window and I need it now.

12:45 pm: From the backseat, “waaah mommy, why are you getting coffee? I wanna gooooo hoooome! Waaah!” I successfully resist the urge to yell profanities at the small children in the backseat. I chug my coffee in twenty record-breaking seconds and immediately my blood pressure returns to normal.

1 pm: Pick up my grandma and get on her case about her meds again, make sure she calls her pharmacy, chase the baby away from all of the dangerous and unbaby-proofed stuff in the house. Drive everyone to my house to pick up the phone that I just realized I left behind. The kids have a doctor appointment at 2:30 so if I play my cards right we’ll only be five minutes late instead of thirty.

1:30 pm: Everyone is unloading into my house, the baby runs away. Chase him down the driveway at top waddle speed. Get lured into pouring cups of juice, cutting up grapes and breaking up fights over cheese sticks and toys.

2:30 pm: Oh shit. The doctor! Somehow in the melee I forgot the doctor. Everybody get in the car, now! There’s no time for shoes or jackets! Just go!

2:35 pm: Arrive at doctor with half of our clothing, but still only five minutes late. We burst into the waiting room, panting. It’s a shot visit, so I pull out all of the stops and promise a trip for toys and chocolate after our shots.

2:40 pm: Every surface of the waiting room has been sufficiently touched or licked by my kids. If we didn’t have measles and Ebola before, we do now. They call us in. They have a nasal spray option for the four year old. Thank god almighty that this day is not a total wash.

2:55 pm: My screaming toddler recovers from his shots, we put away all of the office toys that the kids destroyed and we all emerge from the office sporting new puppy stickers that should say: “I survived”.

3 pm: Walpharm. We stop at the drugstore so the kids can pick out the toys that I stupidly promised them while I wait in line for my own flu shot. I might be signing up for a staph infection, but whatever, just give me the shot so my kids can buy all of these monster trucks and chocolates and get out of your store. My grandma realizes she wants a flu shot too. Double that wait time then. Better hurry up pharmacist, I can’t hold back these kids from wrecking your store down to the studs.

3:30 pm: Home sweet home. Fifty dollars’ worth of monster trucks, Halloween candy and batteries later, we are unloading at our house. The kids rope me into pouring milk, getting granola bars and making me help them find that one little lost thing that they have to have right this minute. The thing I haven’t seen in six months that I probably gave away. That thing.

4 pm: I slump down on the floor while the kids play. I’m convinced that I can close my eyes while they play together. But that’s not going to happen because their version of playing together is actually just them fighting over toys and me putting the toys on top of the fridge. So that’s pretty relaxing.

4:30 pm: Today is make-up day at Karate. Riiiight. Shoes back on, back out the door. I forgot the uniform. But my husband saves the day because he knew I would forget the uniform again and he pre-emptively grabbed it on his way to work so he could meet us there all prepared. I make my grandma stay with the toddler as her penance for being my blood relative.

5 pm: We’re hungry and tired but damnit if we don’t get into that karate dojo and high kick with the best of them. Of course that didn’t happen. My kid spent the entire class crawling on the floor when he should have been standing, chewing on his karate belt and managing to misinterpret every direction his instructors gave him. Oh well. Mom ran out of shits to give when she woke up this morning and the toddler ate her coffee.

6 pm: Home! Karate uniform changed, dinner is on the stove and the kids are killing each other. There’s a loud boom and someone is screaming. I halfway care enough to peek at the damage. As expected the toddler is screaming on the floor. My husband takes over dinner so that I can play with the kids in a last ditch effort to keep them alive. We play…phone. The baby loves to pretend everything is a phone. So for way too long we sit at the table holding non-phone objects and repeat “hello, hello, hello” into them as if they are real. This is stimulating stuff.

6:30 pm: Dinner! We all sit down to eat. I immediately start stuffing my face, my preschooler throws a tantrum because dinner is spaghetti and not hot dogs or happy meals, my toddler smashes his food into his face and my husbands’ eyes roll straight out of his head and onto the floor. My grandma thanks god that she’s hard of hearing and we all dig deep, deep down inside of our patience reserves to ensure that nobody snaps. Ah, family.

7 pm: The baby announces from his booster seat that it’s “bath time” and demands to get down by just pointing and screaming. Husband does the baths, grandma does the dishes and mama does…the sitting. Because, pregnant.

7:30 pm: the kids are in Pajamas, reading stories with mama who’s just trying not to cry or fall asleep.

8 pm: Close the door to the kids bedroom. Breathe a heavy sigh of relief. It’s time to drive Grandma home.

8:30 pm: Get home and stress eat six thousand calories of Halloween candy, hide the evidence in the garbage can and take a shower. Discover one of my kids clogged the drain with play dough. Oh my god.

Life as a mom isn’t glamorous and it isn’t exciting, but it’s really, really busy. We have nothing to prove to people who don’t see our worth, but we do more than we know for the people who depend on us. Take a look at your day, is it any wonder you’re exhausted? You’re awesome moms. You’re doing it all, and you’re doing your best, even though it feels like a mess and it ends with a headache.

I never did find my actual phone and I’m sure there are a hundred messages waiting for me. Sadly I couldn’t check them on the toddlers toy phone. There’s a pile of letters I had to send out today, and yesterday and the day before and I still haven’t done it. Tomorrow is another day for that.

I cannot wait for my 5 am charley horse.

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Baby Maddox

Being who I am, it’s easy for me to access my humor and make light of a tough situation. I’ve never been someone who can pull from deep emotional places with ease and remain unaffected. It’s easy to put my funny on like a band aid and cover up sorrow and pain with a smiley face. (Or in my kids cases, a Ninja Turtle band aid face. But not the blue one, the RED one)

I started following the journey of a young family not unlike my own about three weeks ago, thanks to Facebook and the ability to communicate and connect without ever meeting someone face to face. Being enormously pregnant with my third healthy (knock on wood) baby leaves me particularly vulnerable to the emotional stories of less fortunate babies.

Like baby Maddox.

Born just a month ago, Maddoxs’ short life is already full of more medical trauma than anyone should ever have to suffer. Maddox was born with a congenital heart defect in addition to a few other complications that I can’t quite spell or pronounce. His mother Charlotte has spent her days as a Maddoxs’ mom visiting him in the NICU and recovering from birth while managing the familys’ one year old boy and trying to figure out how to get to and from hospitals. She should be at home snuggling her new baby, nursing him at two, four and six am, and changing poopy diapers.

This family instead has to worry about feeding tubes and IV’s. They have to keep monitoring him for breathing and his pacifier labors his breath. They had the brief joy of bringing home baby after weeks of hospital stays and deliberations about heart surgery. Things were looking up.

But the family couldn’t get the at home heart rate and apnea monitor they needed to safely keep baby Maddox at home with them. Insurance is denying them the equipment and the rental cost from the hospital was completely unaffordable.

Yesterday, baby Maddox returned to the PICU with pneumonia in one lung.

We are awaiting updates and hoping his pneumonia is cleared while the family tries endlessly to work for their insurance to cover a monitor and heart surgery for this tiny, beautiful trooper who has a will to live that is far bigger than his little body.

Watching their story online, seeing weeks worth of his baby photos and hearing his mother tell this story since his birth has tugged my heart and inspired me to share this with you all.

Plus, this face. Oh my god, this face.

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Baby Maddox, without his breathing tubes so that his mother could bathe him, swaddle him and brush his hair. I can’t imagine not being able to do those things every day for my babies.

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He is so cute. Tape, tubes and all.

Seeing baby Maddox with his tubes and tape is emotionally hard, I can’t imagine living this with my own children and I am sending all of my positive energy to this family.

You can keep up with baby Maddox on his Facebook page here:

https://www.facebook.com/prayersforbabymaddox

The family has a gofundme page set up, because as you can imagine they need equipment and time to heal as a family.

http://www.gofundme.com/HelpingMaddox

I’m not the praying type, but if you are, send one out to baby Maddox tonight.

Thanks for reading you guys. I have some amazing, supportive blog readers.

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The Selfish Pregnant Woman

When it comes to baby showers there are a few different camps that people fall into. The first one being my camp. I’m ring leading this camp by not only continuing to have babies well past the socially acceptable limit, but also by having a baby shower for every single baby that takes up nest in my apparently cozy uterus.

The next camp is being led by people like my grandmother. The camp, “well in my day you got one shower and that was it. Everything is so different today!”

The other camp is the “I don’t really care how many showers you have if there’s cake and wine” camp.

The perception of women who host multiple showers is that they are greedy and looking for attention. We should already have everything we need and stop asking people to fund our offspring.

It’s true, the swings and cribs and the car seat are all big and expensive items that you will probably only ask for one time and you will probably only ever be gifted one time. Nobody wants to keep milking loved ones for brand new stuff for each baby, mostly because we’re not all spoiled Kardashians. What our camp does want is some attention. Some positive juju flowing to our growing bellies and the often forgotten chance to talk to our friends and family about ourselves and our pregnancies without always focusing on the older child. Yes, you heard me right, we do want to feel selfish.

Mothers aren’t granted endless opportunities to take time for themselves, and mothers with more than one older child are usually forgotten about in the trenches, covered in mud or chocolate and left to fend for their pregnant-selves while the pack carries on without them.

The baby shower slows down the spinning. Anyone who comes to your baby shower is subjected to caring about you and your new baby and yes, damnit, that feels good. It’s not about bathtubs and monitors; it’s about taking precious time and feeling a little bit of the emotional gravity that having a new baby carries, playing a fun game and remembering that people do love you. Every pregnant woman who selflessly walks the earth for nearly ten months while giving life to an unseen and unknown child deserves to be showered. No pregnant woman left behind. And left behind is exactly how I was starting to feel.

The world moves fast. New jobs, promotions, weddings and divorces are happening in a constant flow in the lives of everyone. Schedules are a mess of soccer games, ballet and “oh shit, I forgot his karate uniform again!”

A baby shower feels like one more obligation, setting up, cooking, showing up, and buying a gift all sits on a to do list like just “one more thing”, one more obstruction in a weekend plan. One more stop on the way to field hockey.

In the end, for a woman who has had two showers, two babies and understands obligations, it means so much more that her friends and family took the time to show up. The act of showing up is the one that means the most. Being there, being a team, rallying around to watch someone swoon over a pink or blue onesie is the kind of support that lacks in a quickly turning world, but carries through into a greater feeling of support and community.

Everyone deserves that.  As selfish as it is.

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Babies are delicious. Here’s proof!

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A diaper cake that I brought home and stared at in my kitchen while I ate leftover cake. It’s that adorable.

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I’ve been swooning over all of my beautiful things. These in particular were handmade by friends. Something handmade counts as two gifts, the time it took to make and the act of giving it itself.

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These were designed by shower guests. They did an amazing job. One of the artists was my six year old niece. Like I’m ever going to forget that memory.

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Pregnancy; The Toughest Mudder

I am eight months pregnant. If you’ve been following along, you know it’s my third baby. If you’re new here, hi! I’m eight months pregnant with my third baby! I feel overdue for some good whine. Buckle in, it’s go time.

Now that the baby bump is obviously more than bloat from a ham sandwich, I’m getting comments from the public, whereas previously I was really just getting cautious glances towards my middle. I could read the look on people’s faces; “whoa, maybe she’s pregnant or maybe she’s getting fat”. I know that it’s hard to tell. Having two back-to-back pregnancies has done wonders for my body. Wondrous triumphs in swelling, bloating and weight gain. Is there a Nobel Prize for maternal sacrifices in pregnancy? No? Well work on it then. My chins need validation.

I now have to wear ankle boots or spring for “wide calf” knee high leather boots because my legs are like expanding tree trunks and my leather boots don’t even zip up my calf. Not that my old shoes matter anymore since my feet grow a half size with every pregnancy, and no, they don’t “shrink back down”.  I started having kids in a comfortable size nine; I’ve worked my way up to an eleven. If I had a red nose I could make it official and just be a clown. I wonder how much their shoes cost.

Talk about first world problems.

Also, all of the maternity clothes that I salvaged from my last pregnancy are a full size too small, because I still had twenty pounds to lose from my last adorable baby bump when I started growing this one. I am far too cheap to buy any more maternity clothes, so I wear long tank tops under too-tight maternity tops and huge yoga pants that I roll all the way up my belly. I look like Winnie the Pooh, except with yoga pants. I’m Winnie the Poohs’ soccer mom.

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I digress, let’s travel back to the comments I get.

When I’m out shopping with my kids at Target or the grocery store my toddler is usually running away from me and my three year old is usually crying for fruit snacks. It’s times like these that some smart ass decides to chime in;

“Oh boy. You’re busy. Your hands sure are full.”

YEP. They sure are. Glad you noticed. Now kindly get the fuck out of my way unless you have something awesome to say, like; “Oh boy, you’re a rock star! You look amazing! All those kids and you’re still so put together! I didn’t even notice the sweat on your upper lip!” Or maybe lying isn’t your thing so you could, I don’t know, grab a bag of groceries and put it in my car for me if you absolutely cannot abstain from making an asinine remark you kind stranger, you.

Or my favorite comment ever, and I think it came from a friend, not a stranger but with my pregnancy brain firing on one busted piston I wouldn’t honestly remember if my own mom said it. It’s a doozy nonetheless.

“Well at least you can’t get pregnant while you’re pregnant!”

What? Do you think I’m having any sex right now? Yes, my two young children sleep effortlessly through the night and my energy stores are so high that by nights end I am RARING to go. I don’t even care that the nature of the statement is super personal, because it’s that ridiculous.

Imagine me, sitting in bed sweating after a two hour bedtime battle with two kids under four, with my feet propped up on a pillow, laying on my left side while putting away a whole box of pop tarts. Move over, Angelina Jolie’s leg, there’s a new sex symbol in town.

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This pregnancy experience is not much different or more spectacular than my previous pregnancies. I know the drill; it’s all pretty standard text book stuff. Sciatic pain, pelvic pain, thigh pain, Charlie horses all night long, constipation, lots of swelling, peeing my pants more than Lisa Rina does in her new depends campaign, and my varicose veins continue to spread and ache.

The only new and newsworthy item is the varicose vein that has spread into my groin. My doctors warned me this could happen from the beginning, and there’s no real preventative care. You just get to suffer until you’re ready for this contraption to aid the swelling and discomfort.

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I’m like pregnant batman, but unfortunately the chic purple leotard is not included. Neither is my cape.

I walk around with searing, pulling pain in my crotch all day long. I expect this is what it feels like when men get a nut-punch. Maybe that should be its own book, “What To Expect When You’re Punched In The Nuts”. The pain is the only reason I signed up for something called “vulvar maternity support”.

This pregnancy also comes with the demands and care of two other little kids. It’s less than ideal relaxation.

With my first pregnancy I slept all the livelong day. And everyone around me was super supportive of my naps. These days I try and put my head on a pillow and someone screams for yogurt, or spills yogurt, or falls off of a chair. (Seriously kids, knock it off. Mom’s tired.)

People used to ask me how I was feeling: “oh wow, look at you, you’re glowing. How do you feel?” but now that I’m on baby number three the general public is like “whatever, you obviously love having pregnancy cankles and vulvar support, otherwise you would quit getting knocked up.”

Not only am I not getting offered a free seat when I’m out in public, but if there is a seat available, my kids steal it from me anyways.

It stands to reason that the more kids you have the less sympathy and compassion people have for you. I can basically hear people’s looks when I grunt from a ligament pulling, or moan from a dull back ache. (It’s like I have ESPN or something.) I suspect people are thinking; “toughen up. If you can’t handle it then maybe you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant”.

Maybe I’m putting my own issues onto other people, or maybe people can be jerks. I know from experience because I used to be a jerk too.  Until one day, it was me who needed the support and encouragement and found it nowhere.

I feel like a social leper. Pregnancy isn’t airborne (thank God) but people steer clear of me like I am something to fear. “Crikey, there’s the rare breed who dared to have more than two kids, avert your eyes before she asks you to babysit”.

Having more than two kids makes you ripe for a public shunning. Even though after one baby is born the world cannot wait for baby number two. If there’s one thing almost all women have experienced it’s the pressure to procreate to appease others.

Before your stitches even heal your family is begging you to get pregnant again, but you shouldn’t fall for that shtick unless they are seriously considering buying the house next door, baby sitting weekly and helping you run out for diapers and milk twice a week. You should also take into consideration the gender of your first born. Because everyone expects you to miraculously produce one child of each gender and be “complete” in your procreational success. If your second child is not the preferred opposite gender of the first born, you will inevitably be asked if you will “keep trying”.

You probably should take off your sock and stuff it into the mouth of the person asking you that question. For they are now dead to you, you do not need them, move on.

When you end up with two kids of the same gender and a third baby on the way you might hear this; “well if you have three you have to have four otherwise the balance will be off”.

Say what now, crazy? Who’s balance will be off? Yours. Your balance will be off permanently because I am going to shin-kick some sense into you if you ever say that again.

I need a village. It takes one to raise a child I hear, and I have three kids to raise.  So I probably need a Quiverfull cult with the Duggars at the helm to come and rescue me, rub my feet and tell me I’m pretty.

I is smart. I is kind. I is important.

My stomach has a brain growing inside of it. Let’s try and embrace that for the next few weeks while I embrace the hell out of some pop tarts in my judgment-free bed.

And when you see me at Target wrangling my kids and waddling as fast as I can with shortened breath, you can say “hey lady, good job”.

And that’ll do.

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The Completely Unspecial Unspectacular Birthday

“Mom, who drew on your belly?”

Now, my son is only three so it would have been inappropriate to throw him out of the window when he picked up my shirt and took a long look at my big, pregnant belly.

Instead I said, “nobody son. People just get those when their skin stretches out, like when they’re having babies.”

My husband thought the appropriate and helpful comment to contribute was “kiddo, do you even know how many babies were in that belly?”

Him, I could throw out of a window. My endless drip-supply of love for my husband keeps me in check. Or something.

There’s a je ne sais quoi to this “extra” baby. The surprise has worn off, and been replaced by exhaustion, fatigue and general “I don’t give a fuck-ery”. I’ve been too busy to really notice that tomorrow is my birthday and I’ll be another year older, meanwhile I’m still staring directly at the calendar reading the words “soccer practice”, “baby shower”, “sons’ birthday party”, “anniversary” and Halloween, while I try to remember which date I have a doctor’s appointment and whether or not I double booked it with the kids vaccinations.

Another year, another month full of obligations and responsibilities. I have adapted to my reality, and made the appropriate adjustments, the house isn’t some neatly organized photo out of “Real Simple” magazine, but with systems in place I’m starting to figure out how to be happy in this new role I’ve created for myself of “never ending baby maker”. And making time for my couch is pretty high on the priority list these days.

Last October the Fifth I turned thirty. I was happy to wave my nostalgic goodbye at the mistakes of my past and move into “thirties adulthood” with a prepared sense of purpose. It seemed like a milestone, my husband planned a surprise party for me, and he sent me out shopping while he took care of the kids and put out some food, and gathered our friends. It was a sweet gesture, it was appropriate, and it was miles apart from previous birthdays in my past.

In my twenties my husband and I would take weekends off together to celebrate my birthday, and we would travel to different cities, see bands, go out to bars and waste money like a couple of youngsters with the freedom to not care.

Even with one child in our quiver, we found a way to get a sitter, take a trip and party into my twenty-ninth year.

What I wouldn’t give now for one ounce of that excited feeling and the energy to nail one thrilling day, to bottle it up and dispense it as needed. Every time I think about tomorrow, I feel heavy. The pregnancy is like a weighted blanket, I’m never allowed to forget about the responsibility that I carry, both physically and metaphorically.

My life is not about me anymore. Whether I find it fulfilling or annoying (depending on the day) is of no consequence, and I’ve developed a healthy ambivalence towards the mundane tasks of waking up and changing clothes and brushing teeth, only to end the day putting the kids to bed with the same book, and the same nightly routine.

When a day pops up that is supposed to be “special” it suddenly feels like pressure to do. Do something, be different, be who you want, do what you want; this is the day that counts. The weighted blanket sags a little heavier over my body and my will to take a nap strengthens.

What I want and what I need have become the same huddled mass of tangible things from China that can be purchased in a breezy two-hundred dollar trip to Target on a Monday night.

Special would be the clock learning to stand still while I accomplish putting away the shoes that my kids constantly grow out of. Special would be my back pain clearing up and giving me the movement and ability to fend for myself that I had a year ago. Special would be a late night, with s’mores that won’t go straight to my thighs and wine with a smooth finish and cozy sweaters and peace and quiet.

The reality is rain, mosquitoes and the ever present shadow of motherhood that keeps me from fitting into cozy sweaters in adorable, imagined settings.

Reality is annoyance, it’s sweat on your upper lip and forgetting to wear deodorant.

It’s bad breath and farting in front of your spouse. (I don’t do that)

It’s getting comfortable with a bag of Reese’s that you’ll regret tomorrow while you surf a hundred channels for one decent thing to watch.

I think I know what I’ll be doing for my birthday. And I think thirty-one is going to be just as imperfect, busy and muddled it should be. With stretch marks and uncomfortable conversations.

kids and leaves

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