Pregnancy Advice, from the Experts(?), to a Mother of Three

The holidays are over. Fun, food, gifts, family, visiting…

… wait… where’d my SLEEP go?!!! I’m sure one is supposed to get at least ONE morning to sleep in during the holiday break!

You mean I missed it? I missed my chance?

I’m going to lay my head on the table and cry now.

Sackett Man kindly told me the other day that my being tired right now, in this third trimester, is good practice for March. If I think I’m tired now…! Ohhh, just wait! Of course I refrained from pointing out that we have three children already, so I am well aware of the malady that afflicts twelve out of ten mothers who have new infants. Somnus Privatio is the technical term. We know it by it’s common name: sleep deprivation.

I have been feeling the effects of Somnus Privatio most acutely this pregnancy, and was interested in the possible causes. I first looked up the effect on the mother’s body of growing a human being from scratch. It’s actually quite incredible and also a bit… well, almost unbelievable. Did you know that in order to successful nurture and grow another human being, the energy output of the body is equivalent to running a marathon? Every day? Without having trained first?

No wonder I’m tired. I’ve been running a marathon every day for 202 days!

I also have kids. Three of them. Did you know that kids are a major cause of Somnus Privatio among parents?

I’m pregnant, and a stay-at-home mom of three, and I homeschool. I have Somnus Privatio coming out of my ears.

To combat this fatigue, experts say one should get plenty of safe exercise, lots of sleep, and naps. One should schedule one’s nightly routine so that one always goes to bed at the same time, and make sure you get 10-12 hours of sleep. Don’t eat 2-3 hours before you go to bed, but a eat a snack right before lying down to combat any heartburn or queasiness! Don’t work too much in the evening as that will keep your energy levels up and mess with being able to go to sleep. If you’re tired, sleep! 30 minute catnaps through-out the day, whenever you need one.

Now I realize that much of this advice is for new mothers who have the luxury of owning their own schedule. But what about for us veterans who lost said ownership years ago?

Safe exercise? I’ve decided that taking care of three children under the age of six counts.

A scheduled nightly routine? My kids have a nightly routine. Mine consists of ‘get done what I can now that the kids are in bed, fit in time with Sackett Man, and hope I remember to brush my teeth before I topple over on the couch in the middle of what I’m doing!’

I’m kidding. It’s not really that bad.

(Yes it is.)

10-12 hours of sleep? That sounds lovely! When I’m retired and mature that luxury will at last be mine! Mwa ha ha! For now I’ll have to do with 7-8 hours. Chopped up into little bitty pieces with bathroom breaks, little kids, and a teething toddler. (So make it 5-7, depending on the night.)

Don’t eat too close to bedtime, but eat something so that you don’t get heartburn? Well, because I’m efficient and organized… (don’t laugh! I heard you laughing!)… I like to combine the two and just get it over with in one go.

Don’t work too much in the evening? A) If I have work that needs to get done, guess what… it needs to get done. My husband and children like having clean dishes to eat on and clothes to wear. B) By the time evening rolls around, if I don’t have to do any work (aka: Sackett Man did the dishwasher, and no one is in danger of needing to wear a pillow case or towels  the next day) I’m usually way past the point of of even contemplating more work, much less doing it.

“If you’re tired, sleep. Take as many naps as you need.” Okay, this is my favorite one. Really. Because in my experience, unless you’re lucky enough to be staying at home even before children, you can’t sleep whenever you want. Much less when you have kids! I can’t even take a 2 minute bathroom break without something happening. What would happen if I checked out for 30 minutes?!

“Sir, do you have any idea what happened here today?”

“No, officer. I came home to a pile of smoking ruins, my kids in a tree looking like Call of the Wild, and my wife standing in the middle of it all in a crazed daze muttering ‘I just took a nap. All I did was take a nap!’ ”

I even get this advice from the nurses and doctors when I go in for my prenatal appointments. I’m tired? Take a nap. Get more sleep. Take a relaxing bubble bath. Go in for a spa treatment. Read.

Again, I know that 99.9999999999% of the advice is for new mothers. You know what is lacking? Practical advice for the rest of us. What can we do when we’re tired?!

Someone needs to write a book.

Here are some things that I do:
A) Sackett Man and I had several conversations, and I ‘accidentally’ left some web pages open on the exhausting effects of pregnancy upon the woman. So he knows, is aware, and I ask for help. I don’t whine about my aches and pains and weariness and the kids and whatnot, and then expect him to magically know what I need. I ask for it. I say: “I did this and this, and we (I and the kids) did this and this. I’m really tired and sore now, and really need to sit down. Could you switch the load that’s in the washer, and load the dishwasher after supper? That would help me so much!”

And guess what? He’s happy to do it!

B) I drink tea. No, I’m not kidding. I avoid almost all herbal teas as there’s this whole what’s-safe-and-what-isn’t thing. I drink: black tea, green tea, and peppermint tea. I am quite serious when I say that a cup of hot peppermint tea is relaxing and rejuvenating (I don’t care if it’s only in my head; it works).

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C) I try to stay organized. I get up one morning, and sit down with a steaming cup of coffee. One cup of caffeine is not going to kill you or harm the baby, I promise. Just don’t drink 3 or 4. I open my planner and my computer, and I take the time to organize my calendar and plan my son’s school, my doctor’s appointments, the grocery lists… whatever I can think of. One day of organizing can take the stress (and thus weariness) out of a dozen weeks.

D) I cut back on sugar. No, I’m not on a sugar-free thing. I just try to eat smart. I eat lots of vegetables, good grains, hearty proteins… I don’t put sugar in my coffee anymore (sadness) because it’s one daily thing that can make a big difference. No harm in indulging a bit during the holidays or if you get that sweet-tooth craving, but all in all… moderation! Moderation! Moderation! Also, if you can’t or don’t eat a lot of that good-fatty-fish doctor’s like us to eat, take fish oil. I get the enteric coated fish oil (the coating keeps that fishy after-taste from happening!). Fish oil does amazing things in regards to health and mental/emotional feel-good. I started taking it when I suffered postpartum depression after my first pregnancy, and I’ve never stopped! A healthy diet can help more than you realize when it comes to weariness.

C) I don’t ‘exercise’ when I’m pregnant, but I don’t just sit back either. Firstly because I can’t. I have three children depending on me. And I firmly subscribe to the belief that: If you don’t use it, you lose it. Lift those laundry baskets and keep your arms trim! Use your abs when you do things, not so that it hurts and you end up with sore crampy muscles, but so that you can feel them working. When you lift things or do stairs, use those leg muscles and buttocks! Tighten it up! You’d be amazed at how much you can stay fit just doing the everyday. And when it comes time to have the baby, you’ll be so glad you did. Keeping yourself moving does actually help combat weariness (even if it does nothing more than distract you!).

D) Realize and accept that you won’t get it all done, and that’s okay. Pick what needs to be done. Your family needs clean clothes. Clean dishes. Food. Your kids need your time. Your husband needs your time, too. (A healthy marriage makes for a much healthier, happier family.) The floors should be swept once a week. Clean the toilet every week or two. Change the bedding every couple of weeks. Make sure the cat gets fed every day. You know, the important stuff. Because you know what your kids will remember the most later on? You. Not the corners of the carpet being crumb-and-fuzz-free, not the house being Martha-Stewart-perfect. You. Did you take care of them and love them? Or were you crabby because you were over-stressed trying to do it all?

E) Do set a time of evening when you stop moving. If someone needs underwear and socks, throw them in the washer earlier in the day so that all you need to do is throw them in the dryer that evening. They can rummage in the dryer the next morning for their clean underwear. Somewhere between 8:30 and 9:30 at night is when I stop. And I mean stop. I don’t think about the work around me, the next day, the next week… (unless there’s something that needs to be thought about)… I just relax and be. I open my eyes and look at my Sackett Man. I breathe. I recline against the couch pillows. I watch whatever it is we choose to watch. I talk with my beloved about whatever (the day, some frustration I have, a problem, the new movies coming out in theater, what our favorite foods are…). I rub his neck, he rubs mine. My thoughts wander hither and yon, or just settle and I go blissfully blank. I let myself get tired and drift off. And after a while Sackett Man gently rouses me enough that I can walk to bed, and I crawl under the covers and return to sleep.

And pray that none of the three critters in their rooms wakes up before dawn.

“Stories of Our Children: Part Two”

We may not have been ready before to become parents, but after our little lost one, we were more than ready.

We began trying soon after for another child, with no success. I have always had some problems with hormone levels, which meant that I have always worried that I would have trouble conceiving. Three years passed, trying to conceive, and failing. During that time I learned I had polycystic ovarian syndrome, a confirmation for me that there was something wrong with me. I was broken.

I struggled. At times I had such feelings of brokenness, inadequacy, and failure, a sense of something being broken and wrong with me inside, as though I’d been made wrong. Sackett Man was always there, no matter how up or down I was, loving me and encouraging me. I thank God every day that He gave me Sackett Man as my husband; without him, I don’t know what I would have done.

Then came news, deep in the middle of winter, that would change our lives. We learned that one of Sackett Man’s relations was expecting a baby boy. She didn’t feel she was ready to be a parent, to be the kind of mother she wanted her child to have. She was still young, still unsure of where she wanted to go with her life. Her then-ex boyfriend was also not in any position to raise a child. She wanted her child to have a stable, Christian, married father and mother, with a good and steady home, who she felt would raise the child as best as possible. So she decided to put her child up for adoption.

The moment she told us about her decision I felt an instant connection that I didn’t fully understand. I ignored it, and we supported her the best we could, but it quickly became a matter of desperation for me. After our loss, I could not imagine giving up your child. She remained fixed on adoption, and my feeling of desperation increased; all I could think was that another child was going to be lost. I knew it sounded irrational, and tried to fight against it, but finally I told Sackett Man that I thought we should offer to adopt her child. At first he was against it, worried about the adverse affect it could have on the family relationships. Would it be too awkward for her, when we visited? Would she have a hard time letting go? Would there be trouble if she still felt maternal urges even as we tried to be the baby’s parents? Were we ready for such a big step? I didn’t know; and at that point, I didn’t care. The connection I felt was so strong, as if it were my child she was carrying. All I knew was that if she was serious about going through with adoption, then I wanted him, with a passion.

For two months we prayed and talked, and I cried. She was nearing her seventh month, and we still hadn’t asked. I felt like time was running out.

And then it happened: she asked us. She had been hesitant, she said, because she didn’t want to create an awkward situation for us… but then she thought about how much we wanted a family and how hard it had been for us, and she finally decided it was better to ask and leave it up to us.

It was such an answer to prayer! I laughed and then I cried. We said yes!!! Absolutely, we wanted to adopt!

I thought that would be it, we would move forward with all of the legalities and red tape and in the end we would have a son. If only I had known. The ex-boyfriend still hadn’t even consented to adoption. If he did, then he had to consent to us being the adoptive parents. They lived in a different state than us, so we had to comply with two separate states’ adoption laws. We still had to be evaluated and looked into in order to receive approval for adopting. We had to find lawyers. We had to figure out if we needed just lawyers (since it was an in-family adoption) or if we had to go through two adoption agencies and lawyers.

Then one evening in late summer we got a phone call. She was going to look into other families, because she was too afraid that if her ex-boyfriend found out we were the adoptive couple, he would back out of the adoption deal altogether (because then she would have the upper hand, so-to-speak, since we are her family).

I have rarely felt such horrible desperation and anger. We thought that the ex had known about us; to find out he was okay with adoption, but hadn’t been asked about us, was a complete shock. We prayed, begged, and waited. I went from being completely fine (because I refused to think about it) to being a complete mess. I ranted and raved between bouts of tears.

A week later we got another call. She had decided to brave her ex-boyfriend’s unpredictable nature, and told him. Not only did he agree to us being the adoptive parents, he was excited about it! He had met us and gotten to know us the previous Christmas, and actually felt relief because he knew us. His child was not going to disappear into the void, given to some strangers.

At this point we only had three weeks to finalize all of the legal details, go through a home inspection, get approved, and get ready for a new addition to our lives. I went into a nesting phase to end all nesting phases; my office was completely emptied of everything. I swept, mopped, and then got on my hands and knees with a toothbrush and a sponge and scrubbed until you could have eaten off that floor. I cleaned the walls. My mom gave me a dresser she’d had in storage and the baby bassinet she’d carefully stored in her attic for years. I cleaned it all and set it up in the room. I added a changing table and a rocking chair.

And after those two  days I turned to the rest of the house, whether it needed it or not.

Being a family adoption, we learned that the process would be naturally faster. And we only needed lawyers, no adoption agency, which sped everything up even more. The home inspection was all of one hour long. The inspector, before she left, assured us that– although she had to submit the paperwork– our approval was pretty much guaranteed. Another blessing from God!

The same day, that same hour even, we got the call that our boy was born, eight pounds of long-limbed beauty! The moment the inspector left we threw our things into the car and drove three hours across the state line and to the hospital. I was shaking as we entered the hospital room. He was laying in his little hospital crib, sleeping, but the moment he heard Sackett Man’s voice he opened his eyes and searched the room until he found the source, and then he couldn’t stop looking at Chris. He quieted and snuggled into my arms whenever I held him. I couldn’t believe how beautiful he was, how big his eyes were, how his fingers curled around mine. I had been dreaming about him for three chaotic, crazy months, and now everything just stilled as we looked at each other.

We named him Roman.

I was a mother.

I was a mother.

We stayed with my in-laws that first week. I was honored and so, so happy when she (the bio. mother) let Roman come home from the hospital with me. I slept in a twin bed by his crib, and I fed him with a bottle throughout the night.

Needless to say, that first night was long. He woke up every hour and a half, and finally I just pulled him into bed with me and wrapped him in my arms and held him close. Then he slept. He’d just wanted me.

I quit working full time, to stay home, and I was so happy! Roman fit into our lives as though we’d had him ourselves. I couldn’t believe how natural it was; our lives had been turned upside down in a matter of months, but we couldn’t imagine it being any other way.

Three months later we had the final inspection (that insured that we were being good parents and that Roman was thriving), which lasted all of ten minutes, and then we went to court and the papers were signed off and filed. Roman was officially ours.

All we ever wanted was our own child. God answered our prayer in a wonderful, beautiful way.

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Stories of Our Children: Part One

It was a Sunday, late morning. I stood in the store aisle, nervously looking at the selection before me, knowing I had to get back home before Sackett Man returned from Church. I had stayed home after waking up feeling horribly sick to my stomach, just as I had for the past two days. And just as it happened the last two days, by 11:30 am the nausea magically disappeared.

I couldn’t be.’ I thought.

And yet here I was, surrounded by dozens of small boxes that spouted promises of ‘Results 2 Days Sooner!’ ‘Test Before You’ve Even Missed!’ ‘Get 3 tests for the price of 2!’ I made my selection, paid for it, and hurried home, hoping to discover, before Sackett Man returned, whether or not my suspicions were correct.

The results were positive.

Our reactions were not so much. We wanted a family, someday, but we were young… very young… I was barely 22. Sackett Man was working two jobs. I had a part-time job and was in college full-time. We barely saw one another, just trying to get a good start on life and finish school so that we could give our future family our entire focus.

And did I mention I felt, suddenly and wholly, far too young? I didn’t know if I was ready. Having a baby was HUGE, and I was determined to be the best mother I could be, and an even better mother than that with God’s help. I just didn’t know if I was ready now.

The first few months passed. I grew out of my jeans and moved into maternity pants. My aunt ecstatically surprised me with the gift of some adorable maternity shirts she had found on her last shopping trip. I began to feel okay with it, even to look forward to it, despite the panicky flippity-flop of my heart that still happened once in a while. I was cute in the clothes. People told me I was glowing and pretty. We began to think about names, and to get hesitantly excited about the fast-coming day we would have our ultrasound and find out if we should be buying blue or pink.

The day came. I was five months pregnant; it was the week before Finals. My college friends were dying to know. Sackett Man, my mom, and I went to the appointment and watched with baited breath as the picture of our little one appeared on the screen. *He* was there, adorable and cute, little legs and arms curled in.

He didn’t move.

The doctor frowned, staring at the screen.

He moved a little, but it quickly became clear that he was so still because there was almost no amniotic fluid. At all. The doctor continued to frown, and after the ultrasound we waited in the exam room nervously for him to come back and tell us the results.

I don’t remember, anymore, the doctor’s exact words. They were washed away in the understanding, the awful, horrible dawning of understanding, that we were going to lose our baby. He had Potter’s Syndrome. His kidneys didn’t develop properly. That explained the lack of amniotic fluid, since amniotic fluid is made primarily of the baby’s urine. We were ready to put his name down for donor kidneys, in the hopes we could save him once he was born, and then we were given the final blow: without amniotic fluid, the lungs also don’t develop normally. In our baby’s case, his lungs hadn’t developed at all.

There was no saving him.

I could deliver at any time. I might have him that night, as sometimes a woman’s body, telling that something is wrong with the pregnancy, goes into labor. Or I could go full term.

I barely remember the following days and weeks. They became lost in a fog, filled with tears and numbness and grief and prayer after prayer after prayer, begging God for something. Anything. I didn’t know what to pray for, so it was wordless and pleading. My husband prayed and pleaded with God to heal our son. He knew the miracles of God, knew that if it was in God’s will He could and would heal our baby. I wanted to pray for this miracle, but my breaking mother’s heart couldn’t bear to hope only to break again. So I left that prayer to Sackett Man, and I just prayed that God would bring an answer sooner rather than later.

I talked to my son. I held my belly and sang to him, every day, trying to convey to my quiet child still within me how much, how very much I loved him. How much I would always love him. How much I would miss him during the intervening years, till I got to heaven and would see him again.

In the middle of the night, late in July, I awoke to horrible stomach cramps. I don’t remember what I had eaten the night before, but I remember thinking it was the worst case of indigestion I had ever had. I tried to just ride it out, as one usually does, and then tried to sleep, but every time my eyes slid shut the cramping woke me up again.

I finally got up and walked around, hoping the movement would help things sort out. It did help my stomach cramping, except then my back began to cramp. Vise-like and crippling, making my knees buckle and my eyes water. It only took a few of those for me to grab my phone and call my mom. She told me to get my husband, to call an ambulance, and that she was driving over as fast as she could. I hung up and somehow managed to make my way to the bedroom. Sackett Man woke up, bleary and in shock. By the time he understood what was happening I knew it was close, it was too late. I got into the tub as he was on the phone, and barely a moment later our little David was born. Mom arrived a few minutes later, as I was catching my breath and trying to recover from the waves of dizziness that had taken me.

David was moving. Unable to breathe, but reaching for me just the same. In the short minute I had I held him, washed him, and told him I loved him.

I grieved most of that day. It didn’t fully hit Sackett Man until we entered the funeral home that afternoon, and he had to carry his son in and give him up. All we could do after that was hold each other. Even the Memorial Service we held at our house, with family and friends and our pastor, was a blur that we just tried to get through.

I won’t give any pat remarks about how God pulled us through it, how we drew closer and rested in His unfailing love and comfort. While true, those words cover the reality with a sugar-coating. We were not okay, not at all, but we knew we would be. We had lost our son, but we knew that he was with God and that he was not suffering. Our hearts were broken, but God continued to steadily fill us with His comfort and surrounded us with an amazing number of people who cared about us and supported us. There were times we felt empty of grief and were able to smile, and times we cried and cried and felt like nothing would ever be right ever again.

Sackett Man healed faster than I did, but that was due in large to the fact that I developed post-partum depression about eight to ten months later, and then one of my sister-in-law’s announced she was expecting. With the loss and the depression, it was not a difficult slide into bitter jealousy. I knew I shouldn’t; it was wrong of me to focus all of my resentment on her. She was lovely and kind and caring, and was very careful to be thoughtful and considerate around me. It was my own heart that was still in grief that was causing the issues.

I clung to Sackett Man, and I clung to God. He promised that nothing would ever separate us, that everything good is from Him, that He could take even a bad situation and mold it into something better. I didn’t know WHAT He could take from this, but Sackett Man and I had never, ever been closer or more in love with each other. We were ready for a family; we WANTED a baby now more than anything. Our lives and priorities had shifted for the better, and settled into something solid and sure. I had discovered that no matter how crazy, unpredictable, and horrifyingly unsteady the world was around me, God had proven His promise to be there and to be the same. It was true. He never changed. He never wavered. He heard my whispers and my wails. My son was safe now, forever, with Him, and someday I would see him again.

The storm had been wild and horrible, but I was beginning to see a break in the clouds.

And the next year, the sun came blazing out, and God revealed the wonderful, bright eyed, eight pound miracle He had waiting for us…

Chocolate Therapy

It’s eight in the morning, and I’m here at my table, having watched the sky grow from dark to blushing pink to blue (thank you, baby daughter, who got me up so early). I am finishing up the comic for my nephews today, and wrapping the last gifts for the last extended family gathering, which will be had at my house. I am also going to indulge in some fantastic cups of indulgent, velvety, rich homemade hot chocolate. Why? Because I’m nervous, and nervous = chocolate therapy.

“Why are you nervous?” One might ask. “So far it sounds like you’re just doing art, which you do all the time anyway, and having some family over. What’s the big deal?”

Well, tomorrow, early in the morning, my husband is having knee surgery. I know that isn’t the biggest thing in the world; not the most dangerous, or most fearful. But he’s never had surgery before. He’ll be out for it, and intubated (“Just in case”, the doctor’s say. That’s not very reassuring.), and then out of commission for two weeks. I’ll need to make sure our two boys (5 and 2) don’t leap on him or bump his legs during that time.

And I’m his wife. It’s my job to worry about him.

He’ll be fine; probably the hardest part, for him, will be the two weeks of inaction. Sackett Man is a man of movement. He’s always doing. So not doing is probably going to give him a worse case of Cabin Fever than our -45˚ weather ever could.

It’s only -10˚ today, by the way. We’re having a hot streak.

My mom is graciously watching our boys tomorrow (I’m keeping the baby girl), so that I can be with Sackett Man. Thank you, Mom!

And today: today I am mixing up my homemade hot chocolate mix. And having some of it. It’s really the EASIEST thing in the world to make, and it’s so, so good!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

2 1/4 cups Cocoa Powder (I use Dutch Cocoa)

1 1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, and mix.

Add 2 Tablespoons to a cup of hot water, and then added a splash of milk at the end (like one does for coffee). YUM!!! Garnish as you wish: with nothing, or marshmallows, or whipped cream… you get the idea.

NOTE:

If you want to have just a little bit to try (who wants a tub of something they don’t like?) then do these amounts:

1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

2 1/2 T Cocoa Powder

1/8 tsp Salt

This will give you a good amount for sampling purposes.

Then if you like it, you can make the tub!