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One of my facebook friends recently posted this:

“I love my kids but anyone that says they don’t like the “empty nest” didn’t marry their best friend.”

Her youngest child just went off to school for a year and her oldest three are married (and thus out of the home). I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been married, but I’m guessing it’s at least 25+ years.  It’s just always fun to see people happy about great marriages – especially when they’ve been married for more than 2.6 seconds.

I read her status and wondered “How do I get that!?” Not how do I get a great marriage? Not how do I marry my best friend? My question is mostly: “What can I do so that in 25 years from now, when my kid(s) are grown and gone, I’ll still feel like I’ve married my best friend?

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while. I was reading a book by John Rosemond (called New Parent Power!) that spoke to this briefly:

In the years since World World II, we have become increasingly and neurotically obsessed with the raising of children. Something that used to be a fairly commonsense responsibility has taken on the trappings of science. … Within the child-centered family, the implicit understanding is that the children are its most important members and the parent-child relationship is the most important relationship. …

Well, if you want raising children to be difficult, you need only to put them first. By putting your children first in your family, you guarantee they will become manipulative, demanding, and unappreciative of anything and everything you do for them. …

Again, its a question of priorities. In a two-parent family, the marriage must come first. After all, the marriage created the family, and the marriage sustains it. The marriage preceded the children and is meant to succeed them. If you don’t put your marriage first and keep it there, it’s likely to become a mirage instead.

It’s a concept that’s foundational to most of his advice: the marriage must come first and children should not be the center of the family. It’s what makes parents happier and it’s what makes children happier.

I want that! I want 25+ years to go by and for Jeff & I to send our last one off to college . When we do, I want to say “Love ya kids, but get out! Daddy and I gotta cuddle!”. I don’t want it to be “No kids!  Come back!  Don’t leave me alone with this stranger called Hubby!”

I’m beginning to realize how hard it is to keep your marriage front and center while raising children. Children will take all the attention that you are willing to give them. They don’t start out independent in any way, shape or form. And it is easy to want to give them all your time and energy.  They’re fun – the questions they ask, the smiles that they give, the new milestones that they reach. They’re unique – each child doesn’t something a little bit different and has their own personality. Eventually, their needs can dominate the family schedule with school, church, sports and other events.

Kids are cute, fun, unique and needy. Particularly, the first several months of your first kid’s life are i-n-t-e-n-s-e. At least, for me, it was. You’re learning so many new things. You’re making decisions you’ve never made before. It can take alot of focus. In fact, it can take ALL of your focus if you let it.

How you prevent a kid-center marriage probably doesn’t have a magic formula. There’s no “do these 5 things together and you’ll be fine”. I’d guess there are some generalities though: keep talking, keep having fun, spend time together. How and when you talk is up to you. How and when you have fun is up to you. How and when you spend time together is up to you.

Kids will take all the energy and focus that you let them. Seems to me it is important to give them lots of energy and focus, but not ALL of your energy and focus.  Now that I’m staying at home, I am hopeful that I have more time to focus on my marriage.  That doesn’t mean giving the boys sticks and knives to play with and to ignore them, but to make sure I have time for Jeff too.  Our marriage will sustain our family!

It’s officially been 1 month since my last day of work.  Since then, we also welcomed Baby Ben into our family, so the time has been full.  Thought it’d be good (for me) to document some of my thoughts on how the ‘Not Working’ thing is going.

Answer: I LOVE IT!  Since I’ve been employed since I was 15, the closest thing I can compare ‘not working’ to is my maternity leaves where I took 6 weeks off work.  Which is pretty fitting because if I was still employed, I’d be on maternity leave right now.

But this is pretty different than my maternity leaves.  For a couple of reasons:

  1. I knew that my maternity leaves were temporary.  The time was limited and I knew that I was going back soon.
  2. I still continued to work during my maternity leaves.  Not full-time, of course, but I dialed in to keep my email Inbox as clean as possible and to respond to anything critical.  I had people doing parts of my job during each leave and I knew that I was putting a burden on them.

This time?  I can’t work even if I wanted to.  No access to any company resources.  Why?  Because I’m not employed there!  I might wonder what people are doing while I’m gone, but it doesn’t cross my mind often.  I don’t know what meetings I’m missing.  I don’t know what decisions they have to make.  I don’t know what software enhancements they’re designing.  I just don’t know.  I don’t have to worry about the work that’s waiting for me when I get back.  That makes it infinitely easier to not think about my past life.

Right after Ben’s birth, I had this thought: “Man, having Baby #4 sure is easier than Baby #1!”  I chalked it up to confidence brought about by experience.  But I don’t think that’s the cause of my calm nearly as much not having to think about work and what impact my absence is having on my co-workers.

I wrote about this almost 5 years ago, but so far, my experience is proving it out: Being a Stay-At-Home Mom seems to be emotionally great!  My attention isn’t divided and that is very freeing right now.

 

 

I feel like I’ve opened a daycare.  A daycare that only takes in my offspring, but a daycare none-the-less.

Here’s just a glimpse into what my day looks like.  This is an example of “a picture is worth 1000 words”.  It happened when Jeff brought the 3 oldest boys up to the hospital to meet Baby Ben and we tried to get a picture of the 4 of them.

4Brothers

Our 4th child – Benjamin James was born yesterday!

BenjaminCollage

(Note: This a very girl-friendly post, so if you don’t like reading things like ‘dilated’ and ‘cervix’, this would be a good post to skip.  No hard feelings!  If you like these types of posts, you can also read the birth stories of Phinehas, Stephen and Samuel.)

Tuesday, June 21st 

I had been having contractions over the last couple of weeks – even going to Labor & Delivery to get checked out last Saturday.  Turns out I was mostly dehydrated and my uterus was irritated, hence the contractions.  A couple of big containers of water and they would stop.  On Tuesday, I had my scheduled appointments with the perinatologist and my OB.  The previous week, I was dilated to a 2 and was the same on Saturday.  So I was looking forward to seeing if I had made any move forward.

1:45 AM – Sammy woke up in the middle of the night.  That isn’t typical for him, but 1/2 a bottle later, and he was asleep again.  I, however, was not.  I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went to sleep on the couch.

Eventually, unable to sleep, I turned on the TV to watch Netflix and ate some soup.  I was having contractions again, but they felt different – they weren’t “full abdomen” contractions like I’ve had in past labors.  The contractions were low.  Some were painful, but not majorly so.  So I made a conscious effort to drink lots of water in case it was dehydration again.

5:15 AM – I was sitting watching TV and felt a big gush.  My water had broken!  Luckily I was on the leather sofa, which is easier to ‘clean’ than a bed!  It felt like A LOT of water.  With Stephen’s birth (my other labor where my water broke before being in the hospital), I don’t think it broke completely – just started leaking, but this time, it seemed like a full break!  I rushed to the bathroom, waking up Jeff on the way.  Called my mom, who was going to come over to watch the boys.  Called my doctor, who was out of town and spoke to his partner and she agreed that I should go to the hospital.

6:00 AM – Got to Labor & Delivery and got signed in.  In our room by 6:10.  Paperwork done with the nurses around 6:30.

7:00 AM – The nurse checked me because my contractions were not strong.  Had my water not broken, I wouldn’t have even been timing them or giving them too much thought.  I was still only dilated to a 2, 50% effaced and baby wasn’t descended (at a -3 station).

7:30 AM – Because he had been suspected to be breech before and they couldn’t detect where the head was, they did a quick ultrasound to confirm that he was head down. Not breech!  No need for a c-section!  They decided to start me on pitocin in hopes of getting the contractions going that would push him down.

8:00 AM – Started the pitocin at a dosage of 1.  They increased the dosage every 1/2 hour by 1, so 8:30, I was at a dose of 2 and at 9:00, I was at a dose of 3.

9:10 AM – Contractions started to be painful.  They weren’t very close together and they weren’t very long, but they were painful.  By 9:30, the pitocin was increased to a 4, which is as high as we ever got.  The nurse put in the order for the epidural.

10:15 AM – The anesthesiologist arrived and got the epidural in on the first try!  For a couple of my births, it took a few different tries.  Contractions were strong and I was crying at this point – somewhat from the pain, somewhat from the pitocin, but also just from the pure emotion of it all.  And once a hormonal woman starts crying, you just gotta let her cry!

10:30 AM – The nurse checked me and I was dilated to a 5, 80% effaced and baby had moved head down to a -1 station.  Good progress in the right direction.  We placed ‘bets’ for when baby would be born.  Jeff said: 11:43, I said 12:05 and the nurse predicted 12:15.

11:34 AM – The nurse turned off the pitocin.  Baby’s heartbeat had always been tricky to find – meaning it was easy to find and it measured well, but he moved just enough just often enough that they had to keep re-adjusting the monitors.  And they didn’t really like the way that his movement was steady – they expected more ups & downs just because of contractions.  The doctor was called in to check me.  I was dilated to an 8, but was really ‘squishy’ (whatever that means), so they decided to deliver.  This was mostly based upon my history that in the last 3 births, I never had to push very long.

11:53 AM – After 4 sets of 3 pushes (maybe 10 minutes worth?), Benjamin was born!  Turns out he was posterior (sunny side up), which can be more painful than face down, but since I had an epidural, it wasn’t a big deal for me!

After – He was put on my chest right away and we did skin-to-skin for an hour.  They didn’t even really rub him off majorly and didn’t weigh or measure him for about an hour.  They did put that little hat on him, but that was it – it was mostly us cuddling on the bed.  We tried to breastfeed around 12:30 and got a good latch (a first for me!)  He was very awake and alert and has lots of hair (although it’s very light).

Of course, they did eventually weigh him and measure him.  His stats:

  • Weight: 6 pounds 12 ounces, making him my 3rd smallest baby (which is ‘funny’ because a week before birth an ultrasound estimated him a 7 lbs, 7 ounces, which would’ve made him my biggest baby).
  • Length: 20 inches
  • Head circumference: 13.5 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

38 weeks!

Summary:  Still pregnant, despite some really strong contractions this weekend.  Contractions that clearly didn’t go anywhere.  Beyond that, here’s what’s happened (so far) this 38th week of pregnancy.

Monday, I went to the hospital for a version

  • Since Baby had been breech the week before, I checked into the hospital yesterday for a version.  They did a quick ultrasound and confirmed: baby wasn’t breech anymore.  I suspected that was the case, but I didn’t want to be wrong, so I kept the appointment anyway.  They sent me home – no big deal!

Today, I went to my OB:

  • Since I’m a stay-at-home mom now, I got a babysitter for my kids since I had back-to-back doctor’s appointments.  But I decided to take my oldest, Finn (4 years old), with me and the babysitter kept the youngest two.
  • Easy peasy doctor’s appointment!
  • Baby’s heartbeat was in the 140s.
  • My blood pressure was good.
  • Baby was still head down.
  • I was down 2 pounds again, but not concerned.
  • I was dilated at 2 centimeters (aka: no change), but now 50% effaced.
  • My doctor is out of town starting Thursday through Wednesday, so he again reminded me that if I go into labor then, it will be one of his partners that will deliver me.

Today, I saw my perinatologist:

  • A super quick appointment.  Finn and I had an hour to wait in between appointments, so we enjoyed some cheese, chocolate milk and a salad from the hospital dining room in between appointments.
  • At the appointment, they were able to get the measurements that they needed really quickly and saw that everything was fine with baby.
  • My perinatologist still recommend inducing end of next week when my OB gets back as that is week 39 and I’m AMA (Advanced Maternal Age).  aka: old.  I still hope that I go on my own before then.

37 weeks!

Well, I was wrong about the baby being born on June 11th.  Here it is June 12th and he isn’t born yet.  Tis okay, because I’m just officially today at 38 weeks, but this post is supposed to be about last week – week 37!

 

This was week was a little more exciting than last week – it was my last week of work! It feels surreal in many ways – it hasn’t fully sunk in yet.  I’ll try to post more about that later, but it doesn’t feel real to me yet.  (How could it?  It hasn’t even been a full weekend!)

Tuesday, I went to my regular OB.  

  • Baby’s heartbeat was in the 130s and I was measuring on track.
  • Baby was head up again (breech)!  We discussed what to do and given the fact that I think he flip flops around a lot, we decided to wait to schedule a version until week 39 at which time, we’ll try to flip him, but also then immediately induce.
  • Unfortunately, my OB is out of town from the end of my week 38 to the end of my week 39, making the induction scheduled really close to 40 weeks.
  • The ‘downside’ to that is that if I do go into labor on my own before then, it’ll likely be a c-section.  They just don’t train doctors to do a vaginal breech delivery anymore.  He’s comfortable doing so, but any ‘younger’ doctors that I’d have to see since he’s out of town, wouldn’t be comfortable doing so.
  • YUCK to that!  Another option, if I do go into labor, breech and he’s out of town is to ask for my perinatologist – Dr. B.  He normally wouldn’t be involved in my delivery, but he has seen me and he’d be comfortable with a breech vaginal delivery (assuming, of course, there aren’t any other reasons to do a c-section).  So I’ll keep that card in my back pocket.
  • My weight was down 6 pounds, which gave them concerns.  But, in reality, I think it was just freakishly high by 6 pounds the week before and now is back to normal.  They seemed to accept that.
  • I’m still just dilated to a ‘2’, but now about 25th effaced instead of 20% effaced.  Not much progress and again, not a sign of anything.

Wednesday, I scheduled a version.

  • As I thought about it the rest of Tuesday, I didn’t like the decision to wait until week 39 to try to flip baby.  I just thought the chances were too good that I’d go into labor on my own before then and I want to minimize the chances of a c-section.
  • So I called my doctor and asked for a version to be scheduled earlier than that.  He agreed, so one is scheduled for Monday (tomorrow), the beginning of week 38.
  • There’s always the chance that we won’t be able to flip baby.  There’s always a chance that baby will flip back to being breech.  Heck, there’s always a chance that by Monday’s appointment, he’ll have flipped on his own and we won’t need to do one.
  • But I wanted to do what I could to increase my chances of not having a c-section.

Thursday, I went to the perinatologist.

  • I had a student do my ultrasound/biophysical, so it took a little longer than normal.  A regular technician did some measurements too (and the perinatologist himself always looks around), but everything looked good!
  • My amniotic fluids weren’t measuring high anymore (but they had only barely been high before) and we didn’t have any problems ‘catching him breathe’.
  • They estimate him to be at 7 1/2 pounds – 50th percentile.  Not small.  Not big.  Just right!
  • Baby was head down now.  Not fully engaged (aka: as low as he could be) and was a little off to the side, but he wasn’t breech.
  • So: Tuesday’s appointment: breech.  Thursday’s appointment: not breech. Flip flopping!  But I’m keeping my appointment for the version on Monday.

Exciting week with lots of flip flopping!  Just keep waiting – things always change!

36 weeks!

Here we go — time for the final countdown!  Except, well, I don’t know when the countdown will end.  But it feels that way.  Here’s when I’d normally have started going to the doctor once a week.

Except…I’m old.  So I have to go twice a week.  Once for the normal OB.  And once for the perinatologist.

Tuesday, I went to my regular OB.  

  • Once again, uneventful.
  • Heartbeat was in the 130s.
  • Baby was head down-ish.  He was a little off to the side, but still head down — just not perfectly up & down.
  • I’m dilated to a ‘2’, but well, that’s not anything as you can be a ‘2’ for weeks.  And weeks.  And weeks.  About 20% effaced.  Which again, you can be for weeks.
  • They took blood to test my iron levels and my platelet counts.
  • My weight is up 6 pounds!  6 pounds in 2 weeks!!!!  Course, this is after gaining a total of 2 pounds over like 2 months, so I guess I was due for some weight gain.
  • My blood pressure is where it should be.  I still have major swelling in my feet (now both instead of just the left), but it isn’t in my face or hands (my rings still fit), so it’s normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Thursday (today), I went to the perinatologist.

  • This was my first time having the biophysical ultrasound.  Took a little longer than the ultrasounds that I’ve had with his office – probably as long as the anatomy ultrasound that you have at 20 weeks.  With this ultrasound, they were looking for specific things to get an idea of how fast/slow the placenta is aging.  Looking at baby’s movement & heartbeat, placenta bloodflow, and baby’s practice breathing, and amount of amniotic fluid.
  • Most everything looked good!  Baby moved well, bloodflow was good and his heartbeat was good.
  • They estimate size and he’s just under 7 pounds, which is at about 50th percentile.  That’s great!  My biggest baby so far has been 7 pounds, 7 ounces.
  • It did take a while to see him “take breaths”.  I had to turn on my side before they were able to catch that on ultrasound.  No big deal, they said – that can happen and is hard to catch sometimes.
  • One imperfect thing is that my amniotic fluid was actually high, not low.  It was very borderline, just barely too high.  My perinatologist wasn’t too worried about it and will keep an eye on it.  Dr. Google says that can cause pre-term birth, but I’m not worried about that because I’m only 3 days away from being full-term.
  • The other imperfect thing is that Baby is now breech.  He wasn’t on Tuesday, but he definitely was today.  There’s still time for him to turn on his own – obviously, he’s flipped in the last couple of days.  So we’ll keep an eye on it, but eventually, if he stays breech, I’m looking at a c-section or trying to flip him.  My normal OB will make that decision in future weeks.
  • Then they hooked me up to the monitors to track heartbeats.
  • All in all, the appointment took about an hour.

I’m predicting that the baby will be born on June 11th.  For no other reason that my last day of work is next Friday, June 10th.  It’d be good to finish work, then have the baby.  That will be at 38 weeks, so that’s perfect!

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