Saturday, October 29, 2016

7 third-trimester takes


It's funny, one of my biggest dreads has not been having a baby at all, but being in the third trimester.  Historically, it's been a really horrid time for me, and considering the second trimester was mostly eaten up with feeling lethargic and awful, I had a lot of fear that the third trimester would only be worse.

But it really hasn't been!  I mean, I know it will only get worse as the due date gets closer, but so far, I feel fine.  Better than I did for most of second trimester, that's for sure.  I feel energetic and optimistic.  I feel like starting fun projects.  I feel like taking the kids to the park even if they aren't whining at me to go.  I feel like socializing with friends.  It's been a long time since I really felt like doing any of those things.

I wish I knew what has made things so much better.  The midwife was quizzing me at our last appointment -- have you been taking vitamins?  Getting more sleep?  Did you wean the toddler?  No, none of those things.  (Though perhaps Miriam is scaling down and perhaps that helps.)  I have been getting outside more, for sure.  This weather lately has been gorgeous.  But it's hard to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg -- have I been feeling better because I've been taking walks a lot, or taking more walks because I finally feel like I have the energy to take them?  I do know that walks that seemed like a million miles a month ago, seem like no big deal now.  I often walk a mile with all three kids and the dog, which means our pace is very slow, but instead of feeling like I am trudging along while herding cats, I feel like we're having a leisurely, pleasant time.


And feeling good makes me feel optimistic.  If I have time and energy now to spend on my own projects, that means I will have time and energy in three months to take care of a baby.  Part of why I felt so panicky while pregnant with Miriam is because I was extremely overwhelmed and not handling life well with two, so I knew I would struggle with three.  (And I was right.)  But I am not extremely overwhelmed at the moment.  Miriam is over two.  She's not a whole lot of trouble -- well, not compared to the trouble she was at 18 months, anyway.  And the boys are BIG.  They are really good at managing themselves.  Today I had a taco and a soda to share with them, so I handed Michael the taco and Marko the soda and they shared with each other.  Without fighting!  When I look back on how they used to bite each other several times a day .... well, there's no comparison.  These days I might go for some time without seeing a sign of either of them, and I don't worry because they know the rules and generally follow them.  If they had an issue, they wouldn't be attacking each other -- most likely they'd run to me tattling.  Tattling is underrated. What's bad about seeking adult help when you're over your head dealing with an interpersonal problem?  That's what I want them to do!

Here's how easy my life is: I get to take a shower every day if I want to.  And no one kills each other while I'm in there.

Now, I'm still sticking with my resolution to focus on the present.  It will surely be harder to have four kids than to have three, so I'm trying to soak up my time with three.  (And to get some things done while I still can, like getting Marko reading more independently.)  I'm enjoying taking them places, taking pictures of them, getting one-on-one time with each of them.  The other week, we went to the playground and they were having a fine time, but I talked them into trying out the trails.  And then the trail forked and they wanted to take the longer trail ... so I went with it and we had a fun adventure!  It's been so long that I've been approaching parenting with the attitude of "put as little effort into it as possible and never do anything extra, because I'm barely managing the bare minimum and can't afford to make extra work for myself."  Now it's more like, hey, you know, if I want to, I can bake something today!  Or we could do a craft!  Maybe work on something educational!  Why not?

Lots of adventures, lots of pictures.

And all this stuff both makes me feel a lot happier about life in general, and less terrified of the new baby.  Because if I'm happy and managing fine now -- well, that's a good sign.  And it stops the clock I have running in my head of "time I've spent being miserable/not accomplishing anything I wanted due to having children."  One shouldn't count the cost, but one does, and I've spent a lot of years on baby-having.  Yet most of those years have not actually been miserable or unproductive, so why assume the remainder will be?


Well, that's the good news.  The bad news is that my back is in rather horrible shape.  I thought, after it was doing so well when I was pregnant with Miriam, that I had cracked the code on pelvic girdle pain and just wouldn't get it anymore.  No, apparently it's more complicated than that, and while the tricks I learned last time do help, I'm constantly discovering new things that screw it up.  Once my pelvis is out of joint, it's in pain all the time, whenever I move.  I'm getting better at putting it back into place, but after this has happened, it's fragile for some time thereafter, so I screw it back up rolling over in bed or lifting a heavy pot.  If I can go a week or two without injuring it, I'm sure it will be less delicate, but that never happens.

The good news is that exercise seems to help, not hurt, so it's not holding me back from walks.  It does hurt to walk sometimes, but it seems to keep the joints mobile enough to keep away the extreme pain and stiffness I get when I sit for too long.  Ditto for the way the kids have a million demands that make me run up and down the stairs all day -- it doesn't seem to be making anything worse.


Ooh, but I have exciting good news!  A friend of mine handed down a spinning wheel to me which she inherited from her grandmother.  Along with it came an entire trunkload of wool, some of which I probably won't use, but some of which is very nice.

Now wheel spinning is not quite like spindle spinning -- you have less control, plus you can't take it with you and do it for five minutes at a time between stuff -- but I am addicted to it anyway.  It's just so mesmerizing watching the wheel go around and the yarn just pile onto the bobbin.  And it's much, much faster.  There are definitely projects that I'm going to be using that wheel for, even while others require the spindle.


In less cheerful news, we're starting to get really worried about Marko.  On the one hand, he's really a delight to be around, a good listener, whip-smart, and tries very hard to be kind.  On the other .... many of the worrisome behaviors that have troubled us for years, which we've assumed he'll grow out of, he hasn't.  He still chews on his collars pretty much all the time.  He throws major gale-force tantrums if you say something that isn't literally accurate, or if you try to switch up a routine he's dependent on.  His stammer is still severe enough it keeps him from communicating with most people outside the family, even though he's finally reached the point of wanting to talk to other people.

Adding these things up, plus many other minor concerns, has settled us on taking him for a developmental evaluation.  After all, we figured, knowledge can only help us help him. But I'm surprised how much anxiety it's given both of us.  I mean, what if he winds up with some kind of diagnosis?  Isn't there something wrong with putting a label on a child?  Does this mean we've failed him by not getting him assessed before now?

I have to keep repeating that nothing is going to change my beautiful child; a label of any kind won't transform him from his wonderful self to some other, more damaged, kid.  And it wouldn't mean all his quirks are now bad.  They're a part of who he is.  At the same time he seems to be held back in some ways from things he would like to do by those same quirks, and it would be nice to be able to teach him how to manage the world we actually live in a little bit better.

*bites nails*   Well, the appointment is Tuesday, so I'll just be here worrying till then.


The kids are very excited about Halloween.  Marko and Michael are going as skeletons.  Because I loathe commercialism, I am spending just as much money on black clothes and white paint as I would have on premade costumes.  Oh well.  They can have skeleton pajamas to sleep in hereafter. I won't repeat past mistakes -- these costumes are going to be comfortable and they will be able to move in them!

I thought I would have to decide for Miriam, but nope -- she made up her mind immediately when I asked her, and has been quite steadfast about it.  She wants to be a kitty.  And when she knocks on the doors, she's going to say "meow meow meow."  The cuteness. It's unbearable.  For her, I bought a costume, because they had them at Aldi for nine dollars and there is no way I could make something that looked equally cat-like for any cheaper.  I mean, it's basically just jammies with ears and a tail.  But I'll assuage my crafty conscience by painting whiskers on her.  She'll like that.

I am disappointed, though, that the kids didn't stick with their original ambition (dreamed up November 1st of last year) to be Luke, Han, and Leia.  It would have been super adorable.


The election is super close now.  Like I need more anxiety in my life.  Right now I have a whole calendar of Stuff to Worry About: first, getting Halloween costumes done in time; next, Marko's appointment; third, election; fourth, Christmas presents; fifth, having a baby.  By my calculations that doesn't allow me a lot of nights to not lie awake stressing out in.

Oh, and I forgot the World Series!  I am very worried about this.  I want the Cubs to win -- John's family has been waiting for them to win the world series for three generations! -- but if they don't win, imagine the disappointment, since they've gotten this far.  And though the odds-makers say they're favored -- well, I just can't believe the Cubs will ever win.  Last night I spent three hours watching them fail to score.  It was not an enjoyable use of my time.

Anyway, I'll be happy when the election is over.  However, I fear the anger that's been stirred up by it won't dissipate overnight.  The people who said all Hillary supporters will go to hell are still going to be there.  So will the people who said grabbing women was no big deal.  Once you've said this stuff, it's out there, and enemies made in an online debate aren't necessarily going to kiss and make up.  I do a bit of debating, from time to time, but I've had to bail on more than one discussion that got ugly.

And gosh, I really hope we don't end up with a reality-show star as President. Even if it means we basically have to have Frank Underwood from House of Cards.  I remember some months ago hearing the Philippines' new president being characterized as being like Trump, and now he's apparently killing people by the scores.  So, you know ... I would like that not to happen here.  (Though maybe news gets distorted from countries away -- is it really that bad, Enbrethiliel?)

While I'd like to hopefully remark that perhaps we'll get Rand Paul or someone like him in 2020 -- let's get real.  The Republican Party has been shattered, and the largest shard is the Trump shard.  The establishment, social conservatives, and libertarians can't be counted on to stand together -- in fact, this election has shown that they'll mostly just move Trump-wards to get in on that sweet, sweet popularity.  So I foresee some long, dark years in the GOP, where they abandon everything I liked about them, while at the same time not winning elections because most of America still doesn't like Trumpism.

Anyway, I guess I can pride myself on not having unfriended anyone this election season, and if anyone has unfriended me, I don't know about it.  And it seems that's the best anybody can hope for.

How have you all been?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Going from one to many

So, frequent commenter Sojourner is going to have her second child any time now, and it seems a good moment to write a bit about what it's like to go from having one kid to having more than one.  Some people say it's incredibly hard, others that it's actually easier to have several kids than just one.  In a way, it's both.  It's easier in some ways and harder in others.  But one thing is for sure -- it changes the whole dynamic, a lot more than adding more kids later does.

1.  It makes you less invested.
As an empathetic person, when I had just Marko, I found myself completely emotionally entangled with everything he felt.  He was having a bad day -- I was having a bad day.  He was happy -- I was a success as a parent.  We were super close, and it was kind of sad to lose that closeness when Michael was born.  But on the other hand, sooner or later I would have had to become less entangled, because it certainly isn't healthy for a mother to be that emotionally reliant on her child long-term.

When I had Michael, the emotional flood coming from Marko was diluted and I didn't automatically get carried away with it.  I was able to distinguish between one or the other of them having a hard time and everything being terrible.  And when one child had a tough day or a tough stage, I was a lot less tempted to think I was a failure as a parent because I would have another kid still doing fine.

2.  You get way more overstimulated.
Again, it's partly a me-specific thing -- I'm very sensitive to noise and touching as it is.  But when I had only Marko, I wasn't often "touched out."  He wasn't very high-needs and there was lots of time in the day when nobody was touching me or making any noise.  Multiply the kids and you increase the stimulation by a lot.  I started having to plan for it, which sometimes meant putting myself and Michael in a different room from Marko so I could nurse without Marko also trying to touch me or talk to me.  It was hard -- I felt like a bad mother for not being able to snuggle every child at the moment they wanted to.  But it does get better, because kids slowly reduce their need for touching.  Michael is happy with one big squeeze every once in awhile, and Marko is finally learning that he can ask for a hug instead of just coming over and leaning on me till I tip over.  Miriam's the only one who's very physically needy -- well, her and her baby brother or sister, because babies in utero somehow sap my tolerance for overstimulation just as much as they do on the outside.

3.  Eventually, they play together.
I thought I would have to wait at least a year before my kids would play together, but nope -- Marko came up with games Michael could play from when he was a few weeks old.  He would pull a chair over behind Michael's bouncer and "play bus," or he'd show his toys to Michael.  It was super adorable and it's only gotten better.  I basically don't play with them anymore because they entertain each other -- I'm for providing food and snuggles, not games, and that suits me fine because playing kid games isn't my bag.  They do fight, but on the other hand, I do feel they've developed a ton of social skills by playing with each other so much every day.  They know about bargaining with each other to find a game they both like, about negotiating for a desired toy, and how people play with you more if you're nice.  And their verbal skills surely have been helped by having hours a day of talking with each other -- and that means they don't have to be exclusively talking to me all day.  (Though don't get me wrong, they do talk to me a lot.  Sometimes at the same time.)

4.  Logistics can be hard.
Dealing with two awake kids in the middle of the night is a nightmare unless you have help.  I'm not going to gloss that one over.  And bedtime can involve a lot of juggling.  At this point I manage bedtime pretty easily with all three, even if John is out, but you may remember that for a long time this was my nemesis.  Details like getting shoes on everyone before leaving the house, or figuring out when to go home from the park when Miriam is bored and the other two want to stay forever, can be challenging.  With multiple kids, you are forced to plan more instead of drifting through the day like the free spirit I prefer to be.

5.  They eat SO MUCH.
It isn't just that I have to buy three times as much food.  It's that their appetites influence one another so somehow they are eating ALL THE TIME.  I mean, it goes something like this.

7 am - Miriam is starving, demands cereal.
7:15 - boys see her eating cereal, demand toast. Miriam sees their toast, rejects her cereal, and demands toast too.
7:30 - Marko finishes his toast and wanders off.  Michael has a sandwich.
7:45 - Miriam throws her toast on the floor and wants a sandwich.
8:00 - Marko wanders back into the kitchen and realizes Michael had a sandwich.  He now wants a sandwich.
8:15 - Marko is finished and leaves the kitchen.  I make tea for myself.
8:30 - Miriam sees I'm having tea and wants some.
8:45 - Michael sees Miriam drinking tea and wants milk.

This goes on ALL DAY.  I am not kidding.  I do better when I get a little ahead of them and make something nice that we can all eat and then all be finished, but invariably if there is only a little of something, they all want it, and if there is lots, two out of three kids don't like it and want something else.  When I'm cooking, I have no problem with slipping one kid a little bite, but I have to resist because it attracts the others .... and, like locusts, they leave nothing left.  In the past I've been a strong believer in letting kids' appetites direct what and when they eat, but you just can't do that with multiple kids if you want to ever not be making food.  More and more often I've been trotting out my mom's phrase -- "The kitchen is closed, no more food till noon/three/six."  And I'm sure it's not bad for them to have some structure to their food schedule.

6.  You get to enjoy just watching them.
It's really fun to watch kids interact.  They talk to each other, hug each other, play.  Marko is the bossy one, by virtue of being the oldest: he comes up with complicated games and tries to enlist the others, with mixed success.  Michael is the happy-go-lucky one -- happy to go along with Marko's plans at the outset, but rapidly getting bored and introducing non-canon wackiness.  And Miriam is the empathetic one -- cheerily handing toys to anyone who seems to really want them, hugging and kissing anyone who is sad.  One of the most hilarious parts is listening to them talk about the way they think the world is.  Without the interference of an adult to say, "Well, ACTUALLY the ocean is too large to build a bridge across," they come up with crazy versions of reality.  They'll learn the way things really are later -- in the meantime, they're hilarious to listen to.

7.  Babywearing no longer solves everything.
Well, unless you're a lot more buff than I am.  I drew the line once their combined weight hit 40 lbs.

8.  You don't get breaks.
Even if you're lucky enough to have only kids who nap (ah, how blissful that must be!  I wouldn't know) what are the odds they will all nap at the same time?  You certainly are not getting a nap, not without the aid of the television at least.  (If you are anti-TV, the sooner you get over that, the better.  I'm not kidding.  It helps a whole lot when you have a toddler and a newborn, and you can always phase it out later.)  So you are on from wakeup to bedtime.  I have always managed, eventually, to coordinate their bedtimes within an hour or so.  I don't know if all kids are amenable to this, but I sure hope so because that off-duty time is necessary to my sanity.

9.  You will feel horribly guilty.
All mothers feel guilty, and more so if you have multiple kids.  Because there will be times when they both need you at the same time, and you'll have to choose one to take care of.  The other will cry and you will feel like a terrible person.  You will worry that you are picking favorites (and you are, but only till the next one needs to be your "favorite") and that one or both of your children are being neglected.  The fact that you care about this will probably help you not actually neglect them.  But it's hard, I'm not going to gloss that over.

10.  But sometimes, you'll feel like a star.
Those moments when everything comes together and you successfully schlep all the kids to the store and back without disaster -- you'll realize you are really, really good at what you do.  The meltdowns your youngest throws at you will not phase you, because you'll have seen these stages before and you know what to do -- and that they pass.  People will question you, like they did when you had one, and you can just say "oh, I have x many, I know what I'm doing."  It just doesn't get under your skin the way it did when you have one.  You work out ways to make your life easier and ways to manage things that, at first, you thought you couldn't possibly handle.

I am very glad I have more than one child.  Sometimes I wish I'd spaced them out more, but I have no regrets at all about going past one.  It really has enriched my life and theirs, despite the struggle of adjustment each time we've added one.  (And don't get me wrong, just because more than one is good, doesn't mean I want to have an unlimited number.  I haven't changed my mind about that.)

Good luck, Sojourner!  Hope your next child is as mellow as can be.
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