Dear Santa, I’d like a new body for Christmas.

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Disclaimer: This post may stray into the area of whining. And I’ll probably say fuck. You’ve been warned. 

 

I’m so fucking (there it is!) tired of being sick. As a kid it was constant ear/nose/throat issues. It’s a miracle I still have my tonsils, adenoids  and other random body parts that can be taken out without issue. I’ve drank gallons of the yummy goodness that is amoxicillian. So much so that even now, at 32, I can’t resist the urge to lick my kids spoon (yes, I know, WEIRD! You all have funky parenting quirks, don’t judge) after they’ve taken their medicine, because you know, they stop giving you the yummy stuff when you’re old enough to swallow a pill. My nine year old begs me, “Never tell Dr. Thomas I can swallow pills!” I feel like I’ve had one giant sinus infection my entire life. After having Addison the mental health issues started with severe post partum depression and on occasion anxiety, which can make you feel just as “sick” as a physical illness. After Maggie it was Celiac. After Chessa the intense, rip my skin off in my sleep rash (no joke, I woke up bloody almost daily.) The rash led to allergy testing. And just when I think I’ve pin pointed what causes the rash it comes back. 

On most days I feel like this can’t be my reality. I can’t really be allergic to pork, chicken, egg, milk, peanuts, carrots, and potatoes. Oh, and throw in oral allergy syndrome, which is when your mouth, lips, tongue, and throat becomes insanely itchy directing after eating fresh fruits. Every morning when I wake up I walk down stairs stare at my fridge and think, “what the fuck am I going to eat today?” It’s depressing. It makes me irritable. I’m not a pleasant person to be around on a daily basis. My mental health is on shaky ground to begin with, and this is going to push me over the edge. So, I cope with it by saying, “Eh, a little of this won’t hurt, especially if I take my Zyrtec.” I have NO self control. None. If I’m put in front of a pizza I will eat a slice. So, socially, I stay home a lot now. There are less temptations at home. 

For a couple months now I’ve been getting this weird pain, kind of like indigestion, deep in the middle of the bottom of my ribs that I’ve always attributed to eating something I shouldn’t. I get bloated and it goes away rather quickly. Last week I had one episode that lasted about a half hour. Friday it lasted 8 hours. Intense stomach cramping, vomiting, headache, At one point I looked at Steve and told him I’d rather be in labor (and I’m pretty sure you all know how I feel about ever doing that again.) A friend mentioned my gallbladder, I did some research and every symptom fit. I had them all. It was also accompanied by the “seek emergency medical attention immediately” label. By the time I read that the episode was over and I was able to sit up a little and eat some jello and an apple. I decided if it happened again I would head to the ER before it got so bad I couldn’t move. I also read that if it was my gallbladder I should start drinking water to help flush everything out faster. Saturday morning I woke up weak and still had the headache, but I was feeling better. Sunday I ran some errands with Maggie and while we were at the grocery store I started feeling the familiar achy beginning of an episode. I bought a large bottle of water and rushed through and got just the basics we needed. By the time we got home I couldn’t carry the groceries in. The weakness was setting in. I texted Antonette to see if she could come hang with the kids. It just kept getting worse, but I kept drinking water and it was passing much quicker. By the time we got to the ER I was at the height of it, but still able to talk and sit, unlike Friday. I drank about 130 oz total during this one and it was much less severe and only lasted about 3 hours. The thing that scares me the most is how exhausted I am after it’s over. My entire body shuts down. I can’t keep my eyes open and I typically fall right to sleep. The headache and weakness lingers into the next day, but I also feel so hungry. It’s bizarre. 

Being in the ER for almost 5 hours gave me lots of time to research. While there I shifted from “Get this fucking organ out of my body so I can move on!” to “Crap, my body does kind of need it’s gallbladder, how do I fix this?” The u/s of my pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and right kidney showed nothing abnormal. My blood work showed slightly elevated white cell count, but nothing the ER doctor was worried about. So, yeah. I have heart burn according to the ER. I don’t buy it. Deep down I feel like it most likely has to do with food. But again, that brings me back to the “What the FUCK do I eat?” question. I’m feeling pretty lost right now. I know I probably need to see some sort of GI specialist, therapist, and dietitian, but considering the fact that we owe money to about 5 medical offices around town that’s not even a possibility. So, for now I’m chugging water, following my diet so strictly, and  crossing everything that it will help.

Thank you all for the prayers and good thoughts yesterday, it helped reading them even though I didn’t have the energy to write back to everyone. 

When you know better, you do better.

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I consider myself more spiritual than religious. My husband is a cradle Catholic, so Catholicism is all he’s ever known. I was raised Lutheran and feel the pull back to the Lutheran church on a weekly basis. I became Catholic 7 years ago when Addi was a teeny baby because I wanted my family to all walk up to the alter together each week. Now, 7 years later, I’m a pretty crappy Catholic. I don’t go to Mass regularly. I’ve never been to confession. Transubstantiation? Can’t get behind that idea. The one thing I adore about the Catholic faith? Mary. The amazing woman who gave birth to Jesus. As a mother myself I’ve always felt a pull towards Mary. I find strength in her.

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Walking up to The Grotto from the lakes.

Steve and I had our first night out with no kids since Chessa was born. I had every intention of taking Chessa with as usual, but when our sitter arrived she was sleeping. So, we went to places close to home just in case I needed to get home to nurse a grumpy girl. Chipotle, mango sorbet with gummi bears, and a new geocache at Notre Dame? Our perfect date night. The new cache was a multi step that took us out near the lakes. On the walk back to the car we headed towards The Grotto and I felt this pull. I find The Grotto to be one of the most peaceful and relaxing places. We knelt and the first feeling I felt was an overwhelming sadness about the frustration I’ve been feeling with Maggie lately. I’ve never been so impatient, snappy, and rude to one of my children before and it’s not ok. I’m expecting her to fit into this mold that my first three kids made and it’s not working. I got a little teary and asked Steve if he would go light a candle with me. As I stood and lit my candle I prayed to Mary and just soaked in the warmth of the hundreds of candles surrounding me. I can do better by that little girl. I can be a better mom to her and she deserves better. She’s having a hard time being two, and I need to respect that instead of trying to change it. On our walk back to the car Steve and I talked about how to be better parents to her and starting tomorrow I’m going to appreciate her for who she is and not who I want her to be.

Taking off the training wheels.

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In my last post I mentioned that Noah has taught me that age three can be wonderful. Three was an extremely frustrating age in my past experiences so I expected the same with him. Imagine my surprise when his third birthday came and went and he was still this cool kid, actually even cooler! Because I understood him. I got what made him tick like I never had with my other kids. Shortly before Noah turned three we discovered Sensory Processing Disorder, a long diagnosis for a kid who’s senses are either under or over responsive to every day stimulus. It started with my desperately searching for an answer to Alaina’s problems and ended with an “AH HA” moment about Noah as well. As I read The Out of Sync Child  I sat with tears in my eyes because not only did I realize this book was describing my kids to a T, but because I was right all along! My kids didn’t need to be medicated. They didn’t have ADHD, as so many people had been kind enough to suggest. They needed an occupational therapist to help them regulate their bodies. Learn how to calm themselves when their engine runs fast. Stimlate themselves when their engine runs slow.  And Steve and I needed someone to say, “When Noah does “X” you need to do “Y”. For Noah, he didn’t feel pain. He couldn’t eat without stuffing his mouth SO full he was gagging and throwing up. He quite literally would bounce off the walls. And chairs, and couches, and cars, and fences, and people. You get the picture. During his initial evaluation we discovered he is a sensory seeker and had low tone in his core. While working on his eating issues we discovered that one side of his jaw was weaker than the other so he favored chewing on the strong side so we did exercises to strengthen the weak side. We used a mirror so he could visually see when his mouth was full because his brain wasn’t getting the signal until it was so full he was throwing up. I can’t tell you how many times over the last 8 months my decision to do therapy was questioned.

“Oh, my kid only eats PB &J and he’s fine. He’ll outgrow it!”

“Lots of kids are picky eaters!”

“He’s just a BOY! Boys are wild.”

A mother can tell when something isn’t right with her child and seeking help for all of the things that everyone kept telling us was “normal boy behavior” was the best choice I’ve made yet in my son’s 3.5 short years on Earth thus far. I’m writing this post because we should be at therapy right now, but last week Noah graduated OT!  Every Monday at 9am for 8 months Noah and I have gone to “play” with Mr. Chris. For him that’s exactly what it was, playing. They pretended to be pirates and caught rings with a foam sword, dove into shark infested crash pits to rescue hippos, tried not to run over the mice on the walls with the crazy car (which Noah of course turned into trying TO run over the mice on the walls), and dipped random food into random dips trying to get him to eat something other than a peanut butter sandwich while not puking all over the table. One day he ate an entire bologna sandwich dipped in syrup. I was repulsed and thrilled all in the same breath. The day he ate a carrot I jumped on Facebook and gushed as if it were his first steps.

Every therapy session he made strides. We had a few back peddles, but kept chugging along knowing that Chris was there to keep us on the right track. He was our training wheels on this crazy sensory processing ride. You know that awkward phase when your child is learning how to ride a bike and most of the time you can see they are balancing alone, but for those one or two times that the bike starts to tip the training wheels are there to catch them? That’s how the last couple months of therapy have felt.  Each week I could go back and talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what we needed to change. I was getting the hang of giving him the sensory input he needed, but I still had times where I would hold back tears and feel like a failure. Like the time we tried the Wilbarger Brushing Protocol. Disastrous! Amy and Antonette can attest to that. They got to experience Noah on what we not so lovingly refer to as Brushing Day. Yet it works beautifully for Alaina. It’s such a trial and error process, that I can’t imagine not having an occupational therapist to lean on for advice. As of last week Steve and I are on our own to make this work for Noah. I feel prepared, but it’s still daunting. Luckily Chris has told us that if we ever need to come in for a “tune up” to just call. My house now has a trampoline in the living room (and soon to be back yard), a homemade crash pad in the front play room, and so many messy gooey crafts in the craft drawer that I’ll never get all the paint, putty, or play dough off my dining room rug, but its a small price to pay for sensory regulated kids!

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Wearing his plastic “Winner” medal proudly and holding his green stretchy lizard. His prizes for Graduation Day.

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Told him he could pick anything out for breakfast on our way home from therapy. Brightly colored sprinkle donut-shocking!

Can you tell it was an exciting day around here? If this piques anyone’s interest, and you decide to type “Sensory Processing Disorder” into your Google Toolbar, I’ll save you the searching. Probably the best checklist you’ll find:

http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/sensory-processing-disorder-checklist.html

Ha, Ha, Mommy!

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I’ve got to start this one off by saying I love all my kids equally and unconditionally, however I can absolutely rank them in order of the amount of frustration they cause me. Maggie is number one on that list. In the past I’ve been known to utter the words, “Two is nothing! Wait til three!” and “I love two!” I’ve been eating my words lately. Noah and Maggie are changing my views on two and three. Sometimes two is hard and three can be great.

Yesterday was a particularly busy day for us. I had a few errands to run between dropping the girls off at school and picking Alaina back up for therapy.  Bank, Target, Vitamin Shoppe, Meijer. Easy enough right? Bank went off without a hitch because no one gets out of the car. I needed three things from Target all at different ends of the store, of course. After colleting all my items I start to head to the check out and notice this:

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Me: Maggie, where is your shoe?

Maggie: I threw it.

Me: You THREW it? *sigh*

So, off we go on a 20 minute detour through Target searching for her shoe. Normally I would have just said screw it, it’s a $7 tennis shoe, but because of Maggie’s toe walking these are the ONLY shoes that stay on her feet. Finally, I look at the clock on my phone and realize if we don’t move on I’m not going to make it to the other stores I needed to get to. As I push our cart into the check out Maggie lifts her bum up, pulls her shoe out from under her and says, “Ha, Ha, Mommy!”

My Village

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We’ve all heard the “it takes a village” quote when it comes to raising children. The other night something Noah said made me think about how my village is much different than most of my friends’ villages.

Tuesday night on our way home from therapy in Michigan, Antonette and I were chatting and as we ended our call I gave her my usual, “if you want to come sit on my couch later I’ll be around.  And if it’s any temptation Glee’s on tonight and there’s plenty of dinner!”  When she walked in the back door later that evening I was sitting on the couch attempting to calm down a really grumpy baby and Steve was working on his latest Mr. Fix It project.  Noah came running in the room yelling, “DAD! Antonette’s home!”  Not Antonette’s here. Antonette’s HOME. We all started cracking up. He knows she belongs here, and while this isn’t her home that she lives in she’s a part of our home when she’s here.  I love that my kids recognize that.  My village is my friends.

Most of my friends have a lot of support from their families. When I ask them who is babysitting their kids the typical responses I get are the in laws, grandma, grandpa, an aunt or uncle.  Someone blood related.  I don’t have that. For various reasons we don’t have the physical support of our family.  I know I can pick up the phone and call and text my Mom, Gram, and Aunt whenever I want but it’s just not the same as having them sitting on my couch with me so I can quickly shovel dinner in my mouth before the baby starts crying again. And as far as in laws go, well, I’m not going to go there.

At the end of my pregnancy with Chessa I had a very emotional conversation with my Gram.  I was starting to panic a little about running a household of 5 kids. 4 is hard, how would 5 change things? The kids I can handle, the rest of the crap (laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc) that comes along with this mothering thing I kind of  really suck at.  Eventhough I’m an only child, I grew up in a large family. I watched both of my Aunts raise 4 children and it gave me such an intense desire for a large family too.  BUT,  my Aunts had an invaluable resource I’m not able to tap into.  My Gram.  Growing up I just assumed when I had kids I’d have similar family help.  I never thought I’d have to stress about who would come over if someone was sick and I needed to run an errand or who would sit with the sleeping baby while I ran to get the other kids from school or what the heck happens when I realize on a Sunday night no one has underwear for school. Well, the sick kid comes with me and the sleeping baby gets woken up and my kids have had no undie days around here.

My Gram had four kids too and then had a heavy hand in raising me so she gets it, but she was also really good at all the other “stuff” too.  Everytime we talk she gets such a depressed tone to her voice and says, “I hate that your mom and I can’t be there to help you. You need help.” I assure her that while I wish they could be with me too,  I have a support system that is amazing.  Yes, I do need help, but thank God I have my friends.

One of my favorite memories from Chessa’s birth is when when my midwife’s birth assistant, Steph, watched Antonette pick up the garbage bag full of laundry from the birth and walk out of the room with it. She looked a little confused and surprised and said, “She just took all the laundry!”  I responded with, “Yep, she does dishes too!”  Those are the kind of friends I have. The kind who will take my birth laundry to their own home to wash it.  So while my house is rarely spotless and Addison can rarely find that one pair of pants she just has to wear, with my little village I keep my head above water and enjoy this time while they are little.  So, thank you to all of you who make my life a little easier on a daily basis. Whether you’ve  held a sleeping baby, folded a pile of laundry, made me dinner, spent a holiday with us when we were bummed about not seeing family, or just sat and had a cup of coffee with me when I needed a chat (if you are ever interested in this option I’m ALWAYS up for a coffee date!) know that you are important to me.

10 things I learned on my first day alone with 5 children.

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1. Do not trust a two year old who asks to sit on the potty. She will sneak away and poop on your floor.

2. Do not attempt to stretch out a Chessa feeding any longer than two hours even if it means holding your pee til your eyeballs are floating. At exactly 121 minutes she turns into a banshee.

3. Everytime Chessa cries Maggie will cry. Gonna take awhile to get used to that one.

4. Chick fil a has a gluten and dairy free kids meal now. I ate two. Shhhhhh.

5. Waking up at 5:30 am means you are ready for bed at 4:30 pm. Your kids will not be down with that idea. Maybe I should have set the clocks ahead a couple hours?

6. Telling your usually responsible 7 year old, “Sure, go ahead and make yourself a snack.” will end in shredded vegan cheese all over the living room the one time you try to sneak a 20 minute nap.Which wouldn’t upset me nearly as much if I didn’t have to pay as much for a bag of cheese as I do a pack of diapers.

7. If it weren’t for Antonette I’d probably have lost way more than the 20lbs I already have since birth. Thank God she feeds me. Oh, and she buys diapers too. You know, for the toddler up there ^ who pooped on my floor.

8. Your first day alone with 5 kids is not the time to let your three year old son wear a Super Man cape all.day.long. He will think he actually IS Superman and act accordingly.

9. Even if you haven’t needed breast pads your entire week post partum leaving the house to take the baby to visit a classroom of 8 year olds will be the ONE time you do need them. Thank God for the awesome sweatshirt Tracy bought me and for the mental clarity to stop before walking out the door and grab it.

10. As crazy as this day was, it was my crazy and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Day Three

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First off, could this face BE any cuter?

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I’ve had 5 babies. Hearing those words, typing those words, it’s still unbelievable to me. 10 years ago right now I was preparing to graduate college and planning a wedding. If someone would have said to me, “10 years from now you’ll have 5 kids!” I would have laughed and said they were crazy! Yes, the plan was always a big family, but 5 kids in 8 years? Wow. I had Steve fairly on board with 4 (although from the name of this blog you can see that he was more keen on three) and neither of us really thought 5 was even an option. I always wanted 5, but I knew he didn’t so I didn’t push it. God had other plans for us though, and as I look at Chessa snoozing next to me I can physically feel that my heart is finally full. There was still this tiny little gap and now that she’s tucked her little 7lb self in there there is no doubt in my mind our family is complete and I’m looking forward to the next stage of watching them all grow into amazing people.

So, back to the “I’ve had 5 babies” thing. You would think after 5 babies I’d have this whole pregnancy, birth, post partum thing down pat. Granted, every one of my births has been unbelieveably different from the one before, but there are similarities that run through them all. The most outstanding similarity is Day Three. Nine years ago I started this journey completely trusting the medical community with my body and my child. It failed me. Twice. So, after Alaina and Addison on Day Three I blamed them. I sat, I cried, I blamed everyone I could think of from the nurses who roughly shook my babies to get them to cry to the doctors who preformed procedures I hadn’t consented to for the horrible feelings I was feeling. With Noah I had an amazing natural birth, but still Day Three came and there was that flood of doom and gloom again. Maggie, I blamed Day Three on the unplanned transfer from my homebirth to the hospital for a c-section.

Yesterday was Day Three. I woke up yesterday morning and almost immediately the tears started. I layed and nursed Chessa with the other four kids crawling around our bed watching cartoons. When I got out of bed I was hit by a wave of exhaustion, soreness, and loneliness. I immediately reached out to my my friend Teran and started typing out an insanely long text to her about how lonely I felt and before I even hit send she called me to check on how I was feeling that morning. We have this wonderfully bizarre connection, and I’m pretty sure she knows how I feel before I do. I burst into tears and just unloaded on her how alone I felt and how every inch of my body ached. Laying down and sitting makes my tailbone pain worse. Standing makes my cramping and abdomenal pain worse. I felt like I just couldn’t win. After listening to me rant finally Teran said to me, “Christina. It’s Day Three.” I of course was like, “What the hell does that mean?” And then it hit me. I had a big “AH HA!” moment. My usual way of dealing with Day Three is to get the heck out of the house, even if it is just to the grocery store. However, towards the end of my pregnancy I started having some mild anxiety and it seems to be creeping back because just taking Chessa to her first doctor appointment on day two was enough to make my chest tighten and a sense of panic set in. I was going to have to come up with a new way to deal with Day Three this time around.

Most woman come home from the hospital after 48 hours. Think about your Day Three. Your nurses aren’t taking care of you any more. No one is telling you how adorable your baby all day anymore. Your milk fully comes in and adds extra pain on top of the already existing aches and pains from birth. Your baby morphs from this peaceful angelic creature who slept for 2 days straight into a demanding angelic creature who seems to sleep MUCH less (although Chessa is still a dreamy baby, I don’t remember liking my other kids this much on day three. Kidding. Kinda.) With a homebirth your sense of time after the baby is born is sort of skewed. I didn’t expect the Day Three crash b/c none of those factors were there. But, crash I did. Hard. Thank God for good girl friends who provide endless hours of comedic relief to take my mind off The Crash. Jill is already starting her antics (she had Maggie rolling over at some insanely early age thanks to her persistance) and Antonette is already trying to teach her inappropriate words (one of Maggie’s first words was Beer.) I have been truely blessed with the friends I have made during this crazy Motherhood thing. Today’s the day to pick myself back up and keep moving on. Looking forward. I promised Alaina back on Tuesday that if I was feeling ok enough I would take her to therapy so Miss Maria could meet Chessa. Say a little prayer for me that the anxiety stays away.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me lately why I want to be a post partum doula, and the answer is simple- Day Three. Now that our family is complete I can’t wait to help other moms through their Day Threes. I’ve had 5 Day Threes and each one has sucked just as bad as the one before it. No woman should be alone, with out another female, to support her on Day Three. As much as our husbands love us they don’t get it. They are also going through their own adjustments after birth, and I think that often gets over looked. I think it’s especially important for woman like me, who don’t ask for help.