I’m sitting on the couch right now watching The Land Before Time with Ruby and Elliot snuggled up close on either side of me. We just ate a huge pile of cookies and some fresh milk and now we’re all buried under silkies while Julian rocks peacefully in his swing. A fire is blazing, the snow blankets the world outside, and I feel very cozy staying inside and happy to not be tempted by the nice fall days that could lure me to do too much while instead I get to recover, rest, and recuperate. Ophelia is sleeping and Andrea just left after spending three wonderful days with us. Daddy is still at work for a couple of hours and then he has tomorrow off for Thanksgiving. Ruby had a half day today and she’ll be off from school on Thursday and Friday as well. These past ten days have been amazing, magical, life-changing, and completely wonderful and I want to go back to the beginning and try to remember how we got to this place.
For nine months we talked about what our lives would be like with a 4th. We imagined, we dreamed, we moved, we prepared, we rearranged, we prepared some more, and we rearranged again, and again, and again. We were most concerned about how we would get through our bedtime routine and how I would handle taking care of a baby and three little ones. This new baby was the biggest reason for sending Ruby to school, and while it was difficult at first, I’m so glad that we stuck with it because she loves it so much, she is learning so many things, and I don’t know how I would have managed doing homeschool kindergarten and taking care of the other three.
But all of that planning and preparing couldn’t get us quite ready for what was to come as much as just diving in and getting used to this new life. I thought that we would need extra help especially preparing dinner and getting the kids to bed, but with a big winter storm snowing us in, we didn’t really get the help that I thought we would need, and it turns out, we didn’t need it!
I knew how important it was to have a baby moon, especially when Ruby was born and EVERYTHING was new to us. We didn’t want people coming over and telling us what to do before we had a chance to figure it out for ourselves. But with baby number four, I didn’t really think that a baby moon was possible or even necessary, but it turns out I was wrong! Whether we had planned for it or not, we got a baby moon! We had my mom, grandma, and sister there to help us on day one, and then we were on our own for the rest of the week. It was a wonderful week and it was so cool to see all of our lives transform as we became a family of 6.
The first person that I noticed to change and grow was Scott. He has always been an amazing father and husband, but he stepped up to a higher level than I even thought possible after this birth. I knew that I really needed to take advantage of his week off to recover so that I could take over when he left and so I spent a lot of time sleeping in, resting, sitting in one chair or another, cuddling, and demanding one thing after another. Scott was there before I could even ask him to come, he did things before I even saw that they had to be done, and he was constantly busy keeping the kids dressed, fed, and happy, the house clean and picked up, laundry taken care of, food prepared, the kitchen cleaned, and he was always there to make sure that I had everything that I needed. He was so attentive to our needs and so in tune with what needed to be done and I just fell in love with him all over again. In this week of sleepless nights where we were constantly at least a baby’s length apart, he made me feel beautiful, loved, appreciated, and so much more.
It’s just amazing how much our lives have changed since having kids and instead of trying to balance the way our lives used to be with the way our lives are now, we have simply embraced the way that they are now without any pretenses about trying to recreate the past. In some ways, I think this is an easier task for the mother. Carrying a child for nine months and then having them need you constantly during that fourth trimester forces you to be there. All a mother has to decide is if she’s going to do it begrudgingly, simply waiting for the sleepless nights and sore nipples to pass or if she’s going to embrace it with a passion that consumes her. Easier said than done, I know, but when you carry a child in your womb, you feel like they are a part of you forever and always. Even as my children grow, I still feel like we are connected by an invisible umbilical cord. Every joy they experience I do too and every sorrow they encounter is one that breaks my heart as well.
But the father is needed in a different way. One that isn’t quite obvious at first, but is just as important as the mothers’, albeit in a different way. I see our kids desperately seeking their father’s approval and love, and I see them beam and grow in very strong and powerful ways when he encourages them. He is more practical than me. Sometimes I look at my little angels as if they are perfect and can do no wrong, but he is so good about gently guiding them to learn about the rules of what is right and wrong. He tells them about the world and patiently answers all of their questions, he wrestles with them roughly when they need to fight and cuddles them gently when they need to be loved, he tells them about his passions and encourages them to seek theirs, he introduces them to new things that make them feel so cool, connected to him, and respected like how to fix computers, play Minecraft, cook, do dishes, enjoy books, and more. But the most important thing that he gives his children is his honesty. His love is honest—it is not forced, he does not do these things or give of his time because he is supposed to or it is expected of him. He truly enjoys it. He loves being a father and he tells me and the kids this constantly. To have a father who parents with such joy, not begrudgingly while wishing he could be out on the town or doing the things “he wants to do”. This is what he wants to do, this is who he wants to be, and our children will grow up with this knowledge at the very core of who they are.
Kids can sense when you’re doing something out of duty or if you’re doing it because you completely enjoy it with every fiber of your being, and it is obvious to anyone who sees Scott interact with his children that he is madly in love with them and loves to be with them. I think that this stems from the love that we share with each other. When you go back to the beginning of Scott and Stacey, you will find two people that are completely, madly, and deeply and passionately crazy for each other. This passion has grown deeper with every adventure, every change, and every child and we still can’t keep our hands off from each other just like when we were in the beginning stages of our relationship. I love him so much and the thought of spending our entire lives together watching these children who we birthed, raised, loved, and cherished grow into adults and have children of their own warms my heart and makes me happier than anything money, prestige, or status could ever offer. As we become grandparents and reflect on all that our love has created as we settle into our “golden years”, I simply can’t imagine a better future.
The Kids Have Changed Too
The way that Scott and I have changed and grown is more obvious, but as we welcomed Julian into our lives the kids changed too, although in more subtle ways. Ophelia was quite indifferent at first, but she is going through perhaps the biggest change of us all. Now she is no longer the little baby and mommy’s lap that used to be reserved just for her is now being shared my a helpless little infant. She loves standing on my footstool while I nurse and she says, “Baby! Baby! Goo goo ga ga!” It’s so cute! She gets a little jealous if Scott gets her up and she sees Julian on my lap, but then Scott will take Julian and I cuddle up with Ophelia and then she’s just fine. Other than that, she hasn’t really shown any other signs of jealousy. We’ve treated her like all of the other little siblings with a new baby and have tried to give her lots of extra attention and we haven’t pushed her to acknowledge the baby unless she is ready to do so. She loves looking at him and saying, “Baby sleeping!” or if he’s laying on the floor she’ll pet his head and say, “Baby. Gentle.” just like she would with a kitty.
Elliot has been through the roof happy with his new brother! After being so indifferent after Ophelia was born, it’s been so nice to see him so excited for a new sibling. His enthusiasm is so vibrant and he gets so loud, but Julian LOVES it and looks right at him. I think that he heard Elliot’s voice in the womb very clearly and really recognizes it. Elliot loves cradling his face and showing him things and talking to him about fighting and video games and Minecraft. He is so excited to have a brother and wants to know when he’ll be able to wrestle, fight, and play. It has been so nice having extra time with him while Ruby is at school and Ophelia is sleeping or busy. I know it won’t be long until he’s in school too or too busy to need me as much as he does, but for now, he’s my special cuddly guy and it’s just so fun to spend all day every day together.
Ruby is a little mother hen and she is truly quite helpful. She loves to tell Julian stories and sing to him and every time she sees him she wants to see if he’s awake and give him a kiss. She is always wondering why he is sleeping so much and wants to know if his eyes are open. “Sorry dear, he’s probably more awake at night than during the day”, I tell her. She is so good about getting me things that I need and keeping me company while I’m nursing or holding him. She is also so helpful around the house picking things up and helping us with cooking or other projects. We were so worried that she would want to stay home with us while Daddy had a week off, but she was really excited to get back into her school routine and hardly noticed what was going on at home while she was gone.
But through all of the positive aspects of change, there have been some bumpy and rough parts too. It’s hard to put my finger on what has been rough exactly, but there just seems to be a bit more angst, feelings that are hurt a little more easily, fights that erupt over seemingly unimportant things, and everyone just seeming to need a lot more attention. I’m so glad that we have limited our contacts and excursions and have instead focused on being a family and meeting the needs that everyone has as we stretch, grow, and change to welcome this new addition into our family.
Julian and I Get to Know Each Other
With this being my fourth birth, I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing now, but each child is different and unique and while there are certain techniques that are universal, these ten days after Julian’s birth have been all about the two of us getting to know each other. First of all, after going through thrush with Ophelia, I was very happy in the end of this pregnancy to finally beat my reoccurring yeast infection by eliminating sugar and processed foods along with buying some really great cotton boy cut underwear. 🙂 But breastfeeding and sleep were still the two biggest challenges that I had to face.
Julian latched on right away and I thought we were going to have an easy breastfeeding relationship, but that hasn’t quite been the case. The initial latch on was painful, but that’s kind of normal, so I didn’t think anything of it until it was still hurting over a week later. My nipples were also kind of slanted, a tell tale sign of a bad latch. So I pulled up his lip in search of a lip tie, and sure enough…there it was! Ruby had this and as a result she wouldn’t latch on for very long which resulted in her taking in too much air, getting gas and hiccups and well as not nursing long enough to get the fatty hindmilk (green poop was a tell tale sign of this) which resulted in her being really fussy. I had no idea why until our midwife pointed out Ophelia’s lip tie. She said we could cut it with a scalpel, but I simply couldn’t imagine doing that! Plus, it could heal back together. She suggested rolling her lip up several times a day to stretch it out and after she latched on to make sure her top lip was rolled up by coaxing a finger underneath and helping it to flip up. By doing these techniques, her lip tie ended up not being a problem.
So, I’m implementing the same techniques with Julian, but getting results has been slow going. I can’t get him to latch on while reclining in bed and I either have to sit up and really lean forward or go to our rocking chair where we somehow always seem to find the perfect latch. I know that we’ll figure it out eventually, it’s just hard when he needs to eat every two hours throughout the night and I’m oh so very tired.
I remember reading somewhere that babies are really tired after birth and so they will sleep pretty much nonstop for two days. I think that this happened with Ruby and maybe Elliot too, but I was not fortunate enough to have that for Ophelia or Julian. Part of it are the afterpains that totally shocked me with Ophelia. I was more prepared for them with Julian, but they were still painful. The uterus has more work to do to contract and get down to it’s normal size with each child and so the contractions that help it to do so that are brought about by nursing can be as intense as labor. I had an afterbirth tincture that I took to help with this, but what really saved me was having a heating pad ready to go. I put it on my belly and it really helped to melt the pain away.
That first night, I was able to swaddle Julian and lay him between us and he slept for one five hour stretch…the most he would sleep at night for the next ten days! I usually prop up about ten pillows all around me and hold my babies close while leaning back on a well positioned pillow to sleep at night, after I tried many times with no success to put Julian inbetween us, I ended up doing this with Julian too. It just takes awhile to get used to sleeping this way, but by day ten, I’m so tired that I could probably fall asleep standing up if I had to!
The next few nights, sleep was a bit more difficult. Julian would sleep really good during the day, but at night would get a little more fussy. I kept trying different strategies until I found something that worked. Sometimes he really liked it when we did skin to skin, other times he liked to be swaddled, and when I couldn’t console him in our bedroom (we tried to be quiet so as not to wake up Scott and Ophelia) I came out to the living room where he could be awake if needed. One time I had to swaddle him, have him suck on my finger, and shush him to get him to calm down, but he usually just wanted to be awake, so I would watch some Once Upon a Time until he fell asleep and then came back to bed.
It’s so easy to get frustrated in this first month when babies do not have their circadian rhythm or produce melatonin to help them sleep at night, but I know that the best thing to do it try to sleep any way that I can, get through these first four weeks, and know that eventually he will fall into a pattern and I will get more sleep. I feel like I’m really well equipped to survive for awhile without much sleep and it really helps that we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. I took it easy as much as possible, especially during these first ten days, and that really helped.
I know from recovering from the other births that I need to take advantage of the extra help that I have in the beginning and do whatever I can to heal so that I can get back on my feet quicker and not backslide. I really didn’t bleed much at first and my bleeding kept stopping, but then if I would go up the stairs or walk around too much, I would bleed fresh blood again. I tried my best to not do too much, but there is really only so much that I can stand sitting around and running a household with three other children (even with help) requires a lot of work, so I didn’t worry too much about it.
My recovery downstairs was really quick. There was one little spot that stung if pee got on it, so I would spray a peri bottle on myself while I peed and sprayed some bactine on it afterwards. It stopped stinging on the third day. The thing that hurt the most were my hips from Scott pressing so hard on them! I think something may have gotten out of line on my left hip because it was so tender and hurt to even walk. It has taken ten days for the pain to fade and it’s almost gone now.
I tried wearing my girdle a few days after birth and I couldn’t even fit it over my belly. After Ophelia, I was determined to heal my diastus recti and I wore my girdle day and night which really helped me to get my figure back. But this time around, I knew that the process might take awhile longer and I am totally fine with that! There are more important things in the world than having a flat stomach. Once my stomach shrinks down a little more, I’ll try to wear it for a few hours at a time and then work my way up to wearing it for longer periods. I also look forward to working out again, but I’m going to give it a good six weeks before attempting anything.
As soon as he was born, we saw his peaceful personality. Hardly a cry and those wide eyes looking around ready to take in everything the world has to offer. Coming into the world in such a peaceful atmosphere and settling in to the sounds he became familiar with in the womb certainly helped I’m sure, but I can tell that his personality will reflect these traits that we see right now. I am amazed at how well he’s able to turn his head to look at different voices that he hears. He does like to sleep a lot, but when he’s awake he is so extremely aware , focused and calm. Just like when he was in the womb, he likes to be awake right after we put all of the kids to bed. It’s such an amazing time for Scott and I as we snuggle up on the couch together and cradle him in between us so he can see both of our faces. And then we gently coo to him and he looks back and forth from Mommy to Daddy with his big wide eyes and his mouth pursed into a little o.
His limbs remain still and his body calm as he patiently accepts all that is happening around him, and then just like a snapping twig, he’ll erupt into a powerful and monstrous cry and we know that he’s had enough of the world and wants to be safely cradled back in his mother’s arms to nurse and be rocked back to sleep. I remember with Ruby how I would hardly be able to step into the shower without her screaming and crying, and once again, it could be just because we’re all more comfortable with this world of parenting, but Julian can stay with Daddy or others for quite a bit of time before needing Mommy again.
We bought a really nice (and expensive) swing thinking that he would like sleeping in it at night, but it’s just too loud of a contraption to keep in our bedroom so we have it in our living room and it works great for naps. After Julian was born, Scott and Elliot took a trip to Meijers for groceries and I had him pick up a little vibrating bassinet that is extremely portable and easy to move around. I drag it from room to room and Julian loves sleeping it is during the day, but at night, it’s just easier for me to hold him. We have a bunch of little bouncy chairs from the other kids, but he’s too little for them yet.
I love taking pictures and videos of him every chance I get. He changes so gradually, but when I look back to the beginning I can see the enormity of his change. I know that I am going to be busy and I may not write in my journal as much as I have in the past, but I wanted to remember every moment and feeling of Julian’s birth and how our family changed as he joined us.