When Your Husband Gets in the Way

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My life is my kids.  I am with them all day long.  I am the master of researching.  I read parenting books like they’re candy.  I know what mothering camps I belong in, and I am passionate.  I’m the one who goes to the doctors appointments, drives the kids to tae kwon do, and knows what they should be doing for school.  We have routines to our days, and conducting my brood of 6 oftentimes feels like I’m conducting an orchestra that is constantly in tuning mode.

My husband is self-employed, and will often come home for an hour if he has the time.  I can get my highly distractible kid finally down and working on writing his report, when my husband will pop his head in and ask if he can borrow him to mow the lawn for a little bit, to which my son will enthusiastically jump up and run out of the house.  He will sneak them food that he’s snacking on before supper.  It can completely mess up the flow as a child drops their chore and runs to his lap for a story.  We are not always on the same page on a lot of issues, from discipline, bedtimes, or even chores.  He works hard to support our family, writes me love notes, is a godly man, and he is a loving and involved Dad.

But he’s not the “professional” parent.  He has another job.  Oftentimes I discount his opinion because I know he doesn’t understand the “why,” hasn’t done the research, or I assume his opinion isn’t as well thought out or agonized over as mine is.  He’s not with the kids day in and day out like I am.  He doesn’t always see the consequences.

And in the messy, stressed out, rushed moments, I erupt and treat him like he’s stupid.  He’s far from stupid.

Read the rest of the (Knut approved) post over at The Better Mom.

6 Weeks After Baby – The Real Story

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Excuse the bathroom selfie.  I just want you to see my belly.  This was taken at 5 1/2 weeks after giving birth.  Guess what?  I still have a belly.

Dear friends, this is normal.

There are some questions that people ask that invoke doubt right around this time.

Is your baby sleeping through the night yet?

Nope, and in fact, they aren’t supposed to sleep through the night yet.

You’re feeding him again?

Yep.  (Babies actually  go through a big growth spurt around 5 weeks, at least all of mine have, and the constant rooting and hunger is known as “cluster feeding.”  Seriously, you aren’t imagining it.  It’s a thing.)

Do you think your belly will ever go away? 

Sigh.  I do get asked this one.  In fact, I usually get asked this around a week after birth.  That’s the way our culture works.  By 6 weeks, well…people think that I’m just comfortable with looking this way forever.

Yes.  I do think my belly will go away.  Mostly because it always has before, and this is my 6th time around the block. I’ve always bounced back, though each time it seems I bounce back slower.  Oh well.   Granted, I gained much more weight this time, and I got so much bigger and more stretched out this time.  Honestly, though?  Whatever dude.  I just gave birth to a baby.

Most women don’t go back to normal after 2 weeks.  In fact, it’s not healthy to work these muscles for a full 6 weeks, and you can do damage by pushing yourself too much too fast.  I know women who have had to have surgeries 20 years after giving birth on muscles that they damaged by going back to exercising too soon.  Your muscles need to heal before they can grow.

Ladies: of all the times in the world that we need to rest, this is the most important time.  Don’t give that away.  Keep asking for help at 5 weeks.  Let your house be messy if that’s what it takes to rest.  Seriously, it will effect your health for years to come.  Rest.  This is not the time for diet and exercise.  This is the time for rest.

This postpartum time is so ambiguous and not understood by our culture.  As someone who has gone through postpartum depression after some pregnancies, and suffered from hemorrhaging in other births, and have made the mistake of taking on too much too fast, here are some things that others have taught me along the way that are more important than you think.

This is the friend-version of this advice.  I’m no doctor.  But sometimes it’s good to know what questions to ask your doctor/midwife, when appointments get rushed.

1) Keep taking your prenatal.  At the very least take a B complex vitamin.  I remember talking with a friend of mine with 10 kids, and telling her that I wasn’t feeling sad or depressed.  I was just foggy all the time.  She suggested taking a B complex vitamin, as women are often really low on this nutrient after birth.  Within 24 hours I felt significantly better.  I love this prenatal because it has folate instead of folic acid, which for me absorbs so much better, and all the B vitamins I need to stay sane.

2) Be kind to your thyroid.  Your thyroid monitors your hormones.  Pregnancy is a hormonal roller coaster.  It’s common for your thyroid to be tired, so feed it things that make it strong.  Check with your doctor on this one especially, but iodine is something that helps my thyroid settle down, but different people need different approaches.  Keep in mind that so much is currently being learned about our thyroid that you will get vastly different answers from different doctors.  So do a bit of research on your own too.  Iodine (what I take) is found in kelp.  You can take kelp pills, or even eat a sheet of sushi wrap every day.  (You can buy a stack of it at Costco.)  Signs of your thyroid asking for help: the hair shed,  (It’s common for your hair to shed a ton after birth.  It freaked me out the first time that happened to me) mood swings, depression, insomnia, and the inability to lose weight.

3) Ask about belly wrapping.  This is something that my midwife suggested this time, because my stomach muscles got so stretched.  I wore a wrap for much of this postpartum period, and it has been so comfortable, and my muscles feel so much better for it.

4) Eat a lot.  I say this from a perspective of someone who breastfeeds.  I eat so much more now than I did when I was pregnant.  Am I worried about not losing the weight?  Not a bit.  This is not the time to diet if you are breastfeeding.  I lose my milk supply if I’m not eating constantly.  I’m too sleep deprived to count calories.  Seriously.  Eat.

5) Make friends with a chiropractor.  I didn’t know this until my 5th pregnancy, but I remember having some pain in my upper back after Ingrid was born.  People said it was just because I was nursing, but it was getting so bad that I went to a chiropractor for the first time in my life.  After examining me, he said that sometimes the hips twist when they go back into place after birth, causing an uneven foundation for the rest of the back.  This can cause a little “pooch” in the lower belly as the muscles can’t return to their proper place, and it can cause back pain.  I got adjusted, and wouldn’t you know it: my pain disappeared and my belly got significantly smaller, and my exercise felt like it was actually doing something.  With this pregnancy I just planned on going in to make sure everything was fine from the beginning.  Did you know that many chiropractors will adjust your newborn for free when you go in?  They can help with colic, constipation, and fussiness with your baby, and baby adjustments are silent, and a piece of cake.  Bjorn enjoys his like getting a massage.  (Just a fair warning…when any of my babies get adjusted, I’m changing poopy diapers pretty much non-stop for a day or two.)

6) Make a plan that motivates you, for when your rest is over.  I’m actually excited, because I miss the mental boost I would get from exercise.  As someone who deals with anxiety, I’ve realized my brain needs my body to exercise at least as much as the rest of my body needs it.

Remember the end goal is to be healthy.  When you focus on your looks, numbers on a scale, or the size of your waist, you will be tempted to cut corners on your health.  Know that when the goal is health, the journey may take longer.  But doing things the right way, especially with your health, makes all the difference.

All that said, I am really looking forward to getting back in shape.  I can’t wait to feel strong again, and get some energy back.  My usual exercise is working on the elliptical machine at our YMCA, and doing some physical therapy exercises for my back on some equipment there as well.  However, I don’t feel ready for much cardio like that yet, so I’m going to start off with my Wholly Fit DVD.  I’ve used that for a few years, and I find it calming and encouraging, and flexible enough to use when I am in shape and when I’m not.  As a bonus, I feel like I’ve been in a worship service afterwards.  It’s full of so much Scripture that I feel spiritually fed as well.  That’s probably why it’s my favorite.

I’d love to hear what others have learned about taking care of your health after baby?  What helped you?

Confessions of a Homeschool Convert

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Confession

Walking hand in hand on our way to meet our pastor for premarital counseling, my guy and I each carried a little marriage workbook. We had each written under the question: “If you plan on having children, where do you intend to send them to school? Public, private, or homeschool?” the answer:

1st choice: Public school, because we want our kids to not live in a bubble, but help them learn how to live their faith in the real world. 2nd choice: Private Christian school, but only if necessary and our child wasn’t thriving in the public schools. 3rd choice: We are against homeschooling.

3 years earlier, I was in a freshman speech class at Moody Bible Institute, where I gave my first speech: “Why Christians Shouldn’t Homeschool.”

These Days

These days, I’m hungry.  Always.  Hungry.

At 1 week, Bjorn weighed in at 7 lbs, 11 oz, down 3 oz from birth, which is normal.  At 2 weeks, he was up to 9 lbs, 1 oz.  He’s now 3 weeks old, and I don’t have a scale, but he looks and feels bigger every morning.

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I’m just so hungry.  This boy is determined to eat every moment these days.

He’s starting to get little elbow dimples.  It’s adorable.

These days we are doing school.  Even though it’s work, I don’t regret this decision to start early for a moment, even after having a baby.  My kids have had some topsy turvy days the last month or two, and it was wearing on them.  Being shuffled around houses of family, out of routine, with different rules, being entertained constantly…they need some grounding.  They are having so much fun, and have returned to their normal school routine with a big sigh of relief.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are better and more sane when we have routine.

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When I exasperatedly asked Knut a week or two ago, why the kids were hanging on me so much, he responded “They miss you, Gretchen.”  I asked how that could be since I was constantly at home, and they were constantly around.  How can they miss me when I just wanted a break from them.  “You’re here, but you’re not here.” was his response.  As soon as he said it, I knew it was true.  My kids missed hanging out with me, doing our thing.  They behave better when we are doing our thing.  It kind of came down to dealing with them in a thought out, planned, and fun way, or dealing with them in a discipline/punishing/acting out sort of way from them being needy.  I picked the first choice.

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It may sound like a stupid decision, but I know my kids, and I know the limits of my sanity.  People think that homeschooling moms don’t feel the end of summer “man alive, my kids need to be back in school!!” push like other moms do.  We do feel it.  At least, I do.  Even though we are the ones teaching them…they need some focus.  So school it is.

These days I’m watching less t.v. at night, and reading more.  I’ve been on a continual non-fiction path the last few years, and had a lovely dive into some light but lovely fiction when I read Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society recently.  It reminded me how much I love good fiction.  So I started reading some of the kids’ fiction books in preparation for school, and it just wasn’t hitting the spot for me.  But this last week I picked up Hannah Coulter as “anything from Wendell Berry” has been on my reading list for over a year.  I keep hearing his name over and over again in reading circles.

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This book is like a big sigh of beauty.  It’s not too heavy and makes me fall asleep, or too cheaply written either.  It’s good and lovely.  It’s one of those beautiful books where the characters are instantly your friends and you don’t want to read it too fast, because you want to hang out with them for as long as you can, but you don’t want to put it down, because it’s just that good.  So when the kids are in bed, and I should probably be trying to catch up on sleep, I read a few chapters, and feel the beautiful words seep into all my broken cracks of the day.  Oh, this book is lovely.

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Knut is building a woodshed in the back of the house, out of scraps from other projects in the last few years.  We have some scraps of metal siding from when we redid the barn siding, and he found some old poles from the feed lot his dad had when he was a kid.  So that’s what he’s been working on these days around the house.  Next he intends to fix up the foundation of the old summer kitchen, which will be great.  The little kids have loved helping him with that during their free time, and I’m loving them all being outside with him during their free time.

The big kids haven’t been wanting to work outside as much.  One of Knut’s skiing buddies who also goes to our church, loaned the big kids his 3D printer for awhile.  This friend is a former biathlon olympic competitor, and is going to learn how to fly helicopter’s next, and is the prime example of someone who just does things and just keeps learning and being curious.  He seems to bring that out in my kids (and Knut) as well.  David and Knut took a class about 3D printers at the library earlier this summer, so David has some idea of what it can do.  This printer is different than the library’s, though, and Silje and David haven’t actually figured out how to use it yet.  But they’re learning a lot via YouTube and just trial and error about 3D printing and related technology in the meantime, so it’s all good.  When Knut’s is inside from the woodshed project, I’m sure he’ll figure it out for them.  Right now they’re doing what I call “The Edison Technique” and figuring out 1,000 ways something doesn’t work.  I think we just need to have the owner of the printer over so he can show them.

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It’s been very handy to have something to dangle in front of the kids saying, “As soon as you finish your school, you can tinker with the 3D printer.”  I feel like the smartest and most devious homeschooling mom when I dangle learning in front of my kids as bait to get their schoolwork done.