Six Meaningful Ways to Honor Motherhood and Our Children

by Jessica Martin-Weber
this post is made possible by the generous support of Baby Bee Hummingbirds.

@jixxs92 heart hands feet

Parenting is at once a lot of overwhelming work and a precious beautiful joy. The saying, “the years are short, but the days are long”, while cliché, is so true. Each day can be long and quite frankly, full of actual poop. They aren’t always fun. And though they drag, they go by quickly. Amidst the poop, sleep deprivation, stress, and whining, there are cuddles, giggles, dance parties, and heart melting smiles. It’s the best, with moments that can be the worst. Worth every second of the poopy stuff. Though it’s impossible to enjoy every moment of our parenting journeys, there are so many special moments to cherish. I propose that we make memories, commemorate them, celebrate the stages, and create a narrative that keeps it all alive in our hearts. Inspired by the many ideas shared on this post, here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate our mothering journey and the stages of our children. There’s much to honor in our journeys, pregnancy, birth, feeding, play, sleep, and milestones or just the whole journey itself. What you focus on depends on what is the most important and moving for you, there’s no right or wrong way.

Journal
Whether you start it when you find out you’re pregnant or sometime after your baby has made their entrance, a journal to share with them later can be an inexpensive and meaningful way to honor not only their journey through childhood, but your journey as their parent. It doesn’t have to be filled with long profound thoughtful entries, brief, honest looks at that moment can hold a lot of meaning. If a journal is overwhelming, a baby’s first year calendar may feel a little more manageable while still helping you record those special moments. Some days are red letter days, some are green, some are purple, and some are black. Whatever color you use, using a calendar for a baby’s first year or two can be a precious way to look back at all their firsts and big moments in their start to life.

Photographs/video

You may start with documenting your bump growth or it may not occur to you until you see their adorable little face, but pictures are an easy way to celebrate the big moments and the most mundane. In this digital age we can snap as many photos as we like, it’s no big deal to scrap 30 shots if they don’t turn out and that could easily be what it takes to have that one perfect capture that immortalizes the look on your 18 months old face when daddy walks through the door each day. Same with video, smart phones make it easy to forever grab the moment when they first take tentative steps feeling grass under their bare feet and trashing the times when they refuse to put their feet down at all unless of course, that moment is a laugh worth holding on to as well. Saving these files digitally and converting a few into photo books or sharing with friends and family on social media lets you look through them over and over. While it can be fun to create clever staged photos, some of those more candid ones may very well end up being your favorites. Just make sure you don’t end up never being in the photos with them, you’re worth remembering in your different stages too so don’t be too much of a momarazzi and practice the art of a good #selfie and handing the camera off.

Repurpose

That sweet dress can be handed down to future children, future grandchildren, or passed along to friends and with all the clothes a baby will go through, you can’t keep them all. But a few can be repurposed, specially your favorites. A quilt made out of the softest pajamas, several pieces deconstructed into a whole new outfit, a scrap of that little onesie they came home in added to a shadow box, that cute t-shirt from your sister becomes play clothes for a favorite plush animal, or even just displaying that frilly dress as part of a room’s decor. If you’re not personally ready to cut up your baby’s clothing to create something new, there are many incredibly talented work at home moms that take custom orders that can create something special for you.

Mini time capsule

Take the hospital wrist band, a piece of the hospital cap, a snip of the swaddle blanket, the first pair of socks, or any other small memento and put it in a clear class ornament available at craft stores. Write baby’s name and the date for a mini time capsule ornament for a holiday decoration. Or gather similar items and display in a shadow box. An actual time capsule, hidden in the ground or even just under your bed or in the attic, can be added to annually, the contents reviewed together with your child on their birthday.

The talented Katie M. Bergen has a stunning collection of art that honors parenting and families.

The talented Katie M. Berggren has a stunning collection of art that honors parenting and families.

TLB admin, Star, has this tattoo to honor both her daughters and her mothering journey.

TLB admin, Star, has this tattoo to honor both her daughters and her mothering journey.

Art

If you’re artistic, creating your own piece of art that captures the essence of your parenting journey or your child’s spirt can be especially meaningful. It can be a continual work in progress, adding to it over time or it may be a complete work. If storytelling is your talent, a self published story book can capture your own unique narrative. If you’re not comfortable creating your own art, purchased art can be just as meaningful and some artists are happy to create commissioned pieces inspired by your family, you can find some on Etsy, and here are three of my favorites: Katie M. BerggrenKate Hansen, and Claudia Tremblay. Taking commissioned work even further, some may want to honor their parenting journey with ink on their own body. Whether they be symbolic or representative, tattoos can fit both your personality and your journey. I wrote about the meaning of my tattoo here.

Jewelry

A special piece of jewelry, intended specifically to celebrate parenting and/or your child, be it personalized or more general, is such a meaningful expression. Again, you can have one custom made and it can honor your parenting or child(ren) in a more general way (such as birthstone charms) or some specific aspect such as breastfeeding. A breastmilk pendent, created with your own milk, a curl bead the incorporates a lock of your child’s hair, or some other specific area of focus are all possible and unique you can find some at Baby Bee Hummingbirds. A designated necklace, bracelet, or ring, something you wear every day or just for special occasions makes for special conversations in the future. My children love when I wear my mothering necklace, it means a lot to them that being their mother is so beautiful and important to me that I have a special piece of jewelry just about that.

 

 

What would you add to our list of ways to celebrate and honor our children and our own parenting journey?

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Breastfeeding: a Piece of the Larger Puzzle

 by Christie Haskell

image credit: flickr user ned the head

I’m sitting outside, laptop on a picnic table, watching my almost-3 year old daughter run around, play in dirt, draw on the patio with chalk and talking to the neighbor girls through the fence. Little things that seem menial mean so much to her. A robin landing on the ground to eat fallen crabapples fascinates her, and has created a whole interest in birds, of which she can now identify many. Childhood, the large and small parts, is so important for the framework that determines who our kids become as adults.

We let them play in dirt because it’s not harmful, it’s fun, and we know it’s good for their immune systems.

We let them explore as much as we can so they can learn about their environment, but still pull them back before they can do something that would really injure them so they can learn to explore, but safely.

We allow them treats because life is supposed to be about enjoyment, and a popsicle on a hot day is one of those things that makes childhood wonderful, but we also give them healthy meals because it’s important for their bodies to grow strong, their immune systems to function and for their lives.

I think it’s fair to say all of those things are true, yes? But it’s funny to me, because when discussions about certainly parenting choices arise, it’s inevitable that at some point, someone will say something like:

“In fifteen years, if you walked into their classroom, you would have no idea who was breastfed and who wasn’t.”

That’s true, of course. I can’t look around at teens and say, “Yup, nursed. Not nursed. Supplemented for two months.” No way. It’s not like breastfeeding or formula feeding creates purple kids and orange kids. However, it’s the sentiment behind it – that your choices when they’re children don’t matter – that is inherently flawed. Just like the examples I gave above, we know that the things we do for our children whether they’re newborns, toddlers, in elementary school or teenagers has an effect on them in the future. If it didn’t, why would we bother?

Some people eat junk food and stay thin and don’t have vitamin deficiencies, but that’s certainly not something you count on. We are safe to assume that a child is going to be healthier, stronger, grow to a better potential and even do better in school when they have a breakfast of eggs anf fresh fruit than a bowl of Cocoa Puffs every morning, or a dinner of baked eggplant parmesan instead of McDonald’s. In fact, it’s not just safe to assume, it’s kind of common knowledge and no one in their right mind would argue that the child eating unhealthily is better off than the other child, or that it would have no affect on the child’s future health or day-to-day function.

image credit: flickr user clogsilk

So, why when the discussion turns around to breastfeeding, is this truth, that their diet and bodies affect them both at the moment and long-term, suddenly dismissed?

No, I can’t walk into a high school classroom and tell you who is breastfed or who was formula fed or any combination of the two. I would never presume to be able to. However, what is true is that if you broke the children up into groups, of those with illnesses, allergies, those who were overweight or missed school often from weaker immune systems, you’re likely to find some similarities there.

I’m not saying the healthy kids would all be breastfed, not at all. I’m saying that you’re more likely to find that the healthier groups have families who eat healthy, are more active, and yes, ALSO that the children were more likely to be breastfed. I’m sure you’d find some exclusively formula-fed children whose families eat healthy there as well, because we all know it’s not just breastfeeding or just diet or just genetics, but a combination of everything, a bunch of little puzzle pieces that make up the whole picture that is your child.

We accept that there are certain ways to raise children that promote health more than others, and breastfeeding is no exception to that.

No, again, I can’t walk into a classroom and single out the breastfed children, however that may be the puzzle piece that makes the difference between which group of children your child stands in. When you put together a puzzle, you work hard to put every single piece in the right place. You wouldn’t get rid of some of the pieces that are harder to fit, because who knows if that one piece is actually a very important part of the final picture? Children are just the same – we can’t claim on one hand that healthy diets for children create healthy habits and healthy adults, and on the other hand say it doesn’t matter if you breastfeed because no one will be able to tell.

It’s not what people can see from the outside that matters anyway – I also couldn’t walk in and tell you which child has been raised as a homophobe or which one kicks his dog when he’s mad. Each puzzle piece that makes up your child is unique, is important, and deserves your best effort to put in the right spot so the final picture is as healthy, as happy, and as good as you can possibly make it.

 

 Christie Haskell is a writer, coffee addict, and mother to two adorable, hilarious and exhausting  children. She has written for CafeMom’s The Stir, Daily Momtra, Attachment Parenting International and Brio Birth, where she currently now tells other writers what to do as well. She’s a  huge car seat advocate after her own traumatic accident as a teen, and babbles endlessly about babies,  birth, breastfeeding, boycotting (Nestle) and other crunchy things that don’t start with a P.  Find her on Facebook here.
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Up close and personal: Leakies Q & A on family, children, and work

Continuing with answering personal questions from the Leakies from way back in November (it took me a while to get through them!), I share here some of my answers regarding our family lives.  I could answer some but not all out of respect for my family, besides, I can’t imagine anyone really wants to know that much about me!

Photo by Click. Wind. Repeat in Houston, TX

Family, children, work 

Q: How did you and your hubby meet?

I like this story.  We were music majors in college and in the same music group.  I had noticed him and he had noticed me but we had never talked until one night in the music building practice studios.  Our practice rooms were right next to each other and as I struggled through a Bach piece a loud, an impressive display of Rachmaninov was shredding through the paper thin walls blowing me away.  Annoyed I went to see who dared to be better than me.  Just as I was peeking into the tiny window I heard the door to my room click and realized I had left my key in the room and was locked out.  Around that same time my best friend came out of his practice room and we talked about the show off between us, who, as it turned out, was lived on the same floor that my friend was RA for.  He must have sensed something because he interrupted the hot guy at the piano to introduce us.  My friend moved on but the future Piano Man and I talked for hours, he kept me company as I waited to be let back into my practice room.  Within a few weeks he was the student accompanist for my voice lessons and the rest, as they say, was history.

Q: I’d like to know how you afford 6 children. I love the idea of a larger family but I’m stressing about how we’re even gonna be able to have another baby and make a grand total of TWO children right now. Does The Piano Man have a great job or something?

Financially speaking, no, he doesn’t and neither do I though we both love what we do.  But we used to.  Once upon a time we both worked full time and were fairly well paid.  We had less kids then too.  One thing we learned though is that depending on how you live, it can feel like you never have enough.  We have chosen to live simply, a decision that was helped by us both losing our decent paying jobs within a month of each other a few years ago and following the sexual abuse and court case of two of our daughters.  Personally I don’t believe that anyone ever makes enough money to have a family and it’s never a good time, too many things in life are unpredictable and in a flash anyone’s status is subject to change.  Instead, we determined our family size on what felt right for us and then set about making it work.  These days we are very lower middle class and would qualify for all of the aid programs should we choose to utilize them.   Our expectations have changed and we’re pretty creative in figuring out how to afford things, assuming we actually need those things in the first place, which often we don’t.

Q: How old are you and your children?

I am 34 and our girls are 2, 4, 9, 11 and 13.

Q: I was wondering if you are a SAHM plus the blogging and this facebook page or if you have another job as well?

I am a work at home mom for the most part.  I do have another job outside of TLB, most of which I can do from home which gives me a lot of flexibility.  The same is true for The Piano Man.  We work together and love doing so and choose to live with less and having simpler lives to do work we love (in the non-profit sector), are passionate about, can share, and affords us more time with our family.  Having been in the fast paced world of music performance and production environment I sometimes miss that stimulation but I’m much happier finding this more simple balance for our lives.  We have both been the SAHP at some point and find that us both working, flex-scheduling, and equal share of the parental/work responsibilities work best for our marriage and family.

Q: The origin of your daughter’s names and any possible names for Sugarbaby?

All of our girls real names are taken directly from the arts, so far, all from literature.  The 3 eldest are from Shakespeare plays, then we have one from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem “Evangeline,” and our last one comes from Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable.  A few requirements for our names: must work in both French and English (bilingual family, The Piano Man is from France), must not be in the top 1000 recently (or ever if possible), must not know anyone or know of anyone with the name, must have a meaning that we want for our children, and must appeal to both The Piano Man and me.  Sugarbaby names are being tossed around and we think we have one fairly firm.  However, we’re top secret about our names, they will not be revealed until the birth.

So we have:

Ophélia Chantelle- little helper, little song (Shakespeare’s Hamlet)

Lavinia Celeste Bailey- pure beauty of heaven or lady of Rome and heavenly (Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus)

Helena Christelle- light of little Christ (Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream)

Evangeline Claire- clear good news (William Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Evangeline)

Cosette Marguarite Constance- constant flower, song of the victorious people (Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable)

Q: How did you come up with the nicknames for your children?

You can read about that here.

Q: Did you always want a big family our did it just happen that way? Do you or dh come from large families? Was your extended senility always supportive of bf?

I wasn’t sure I wanted children at all.  But then I had Earth Baby when I was 20 and I was then certain I didn’t want more than one.  Ha!  Over time and after getting over the shock of having unplanned #2, obviously that plan changed.  I’m one of three, The Piano Man is one of four.  For the most part, yes, our extended families have been supportive of breastfeeding, with a few exceptions.  However, our nearest relative is 1800 miles away so it doesn’t really effect me if they’re not, we only see them occasionally.

Q: How do your family planning?  Do you just let it happen when it happens?  Use birth control?

We have used a variety of contraceptions over the years.  A couple of our children weren’t planned but very welcomed.  We are done now though, Sugarbaby was a surprise that we’re very grateful for happening outside of our plans.  It’s snip-snip here for us, all done.

Q: How you space children & whether or not the spacing has any impact on their relationships with each other.

Our spacing wasn’t exactly intentional.  We just let it happen how it happened though we thought we were preventing some of them.  The spacing does impact their relationships with each other but I have noticed that they are pretty tight no matter the distance.  Certain things seem easier/harder depending on the spacing and hands down having an almost 5 year gap between babies was the least stressful on me physically.  There are advantageous either way I think.

Q: Have you ever received any negative comments about having so many kids and if so, how do you respond to them?

Yes, we have received a lot of negative comments.  Interestingly enough, we had more with Smunchie than we have with Sugarbaby.  Maybe because they figure we’re aiming for 20 now?  Not sure.

As to how I respond, I usually just ignore it and call the person names in my head.  Or if they are super rude about it I just go for rude right back and bring out the snark.  My favorite is asking them if their mom taught them anything about manners and being rude.  It usually shuts them up.  

Q: How do you make time for all of your children? It seems my 2 keep me busy nonstop.

Time is a strange thing, we only have enough for what we have to have it for.  We all share each other.  My house is usually a disaster because I could choose between cleaning or experiencing life with my kids.  I pick living with the mess and having time with my kids.  We date each other too, all of us.  The girls love having sister dates, mommy dates, daddy dates, etc.  We’re creative about those, it could be cooking together in the kitchen, painting, playing duets on the piano, going for a walk, a trip to get ice cream, etc.  Whatever form it takes, we seek to do it often.  More often than dusting for sure.  Though I count dusting together to be some serious quality time.

Q: How do you mother 5, be pregnant, run a support group and blog… and still have time for everything in between!?!

I don’t clean my house!  Haha!  No, really.  At least not more than the bare minimum.  😉  But again, time tends to be available for what you decide you really need to do.  I am a night owl and I often stay up too late.  It’s worth it to me to be able to squeeze those extras in to my life and having a balance that works for me is critical to my overall wellbeing and health as a mother.  Finding time to nurture myself makes me a better mom and these extras do nourish my soul.

Q: I want to pull my hair out most days with my 2. How do you keep your sanity?

Um… I don’t.  Really, I’ve just learned to redefine much of life: sanity, clean, happy, enough, time, balance…

It gets easier as they get older too.  Difficult in it’s own way (schedules!) but easier in terms of taking care of the kids.  They are more independent, can help, and don’t require as much supervision.  Usually.  It helps that I really love the people I see them becoming.

Q:  Do your kids go to school or do u home school? If so, what do you use to teach them, is it structured?  Also, what is your typical day like?

Yes and yes.  We used to homeschool completely and then a few years ago added in a homeschool program once a week.  This year we went for an entirely different arrangement more customized to each child.  Earth Baby (13) is primarily homeschooled, attending a homeschool university modeled program once a week.  The Piano Man and I work with her on the other days.  The Storyteller (11) and Lolie (9) both attend a local Waldorf initiative school but only 3 days a week which is the perfect set up for our family.  The other 2 days a week they are home we continue with a few subjects we wanted to teach (French, piano, world history, geography, and some math).  Squiggle Bug is only 4 and attends the same Waldorf initiative school 2 days a week.  Our pedagogical approach is relaxed, Waldorf and unschooling inspired.  We use a variety of materials, none of them very structured, all very hands on.  Often we follow our children’s lead as we’ve found what naturally interests or inspires them leads to an insatiable appetite for learning.

Q: I have 4 children and I a sahm and I’m very curious about ways to cut corners but stay healthy. My twin pregnancy put a lot of weight on me and I’d like tips on how to lose weight and exercise with being the stay at home mom of a large family with small children.

Being realistic about our budget and how our budget needed to reflect our priorities has been an important part of this for us.  We don’t have cable, don’t have a new TV (we have a clunky outdated thing), shop at thrift stores for household items and most clothing, and buy almost no prepared, prepackaged food items.  The bulk of our food budget goes to fresh fruits and veggies, we make most of our own bread, and we try to only do whole grains.  We’re not huge meat eaters, only about 1-3 times a week, which helps keep cost down too.  But we’re not the epitome of health, we have our splurges and vices to be sure.  Additionally we have a growing value on human rights and fair labor practices and have made a decision to not consume coffee or chocolate that can’t show that child labor was not used at any point in the production of those products.  This value cuts down a lot of our spending and encourages healthier habits simply because we can’t afford to eat a lot of Fair Trade goods.  Less is more.  For exercise I try to wear my babies as much as possible, go for walks with the kids, and do wii fit while babywearing if possible.

Q: Why is there such a big age difference between your oldest three and your youngest two? How many children do you want, or are you not sure yet? How long did you nurse your oldest ones for? I really enjoy you and your advocacy for breastfeeding. I refer a lot of pregnant/nursing moms to your page.

Because we really thought we were done.  I had serious heart damage during Lolie’s pregnancy and was advised to never do it again.  But my heart felt like we weren’t done and wasn’t ready to take a permanent step.  I got pregnant with Squiggle Bug on birth control and it was a huge shock.  I’ve nursed my babies for 10 months, 4 months, 18 months, 22 months, and 27 months so far.

Q: I am still curious about your everyday. What is grocery shopping, road trips, vacations, one on one time like….. homework time, chores, etc…. how do you/piano man manage to keep 5 children behaving well?? 🙂 how do you deal with conflict? how many do you think you will end up with? What do you think your kids will be when they grow up?

Our everyday is… busy and normal.  Grocery shopping: The Piano Man and I usually go alone or with just a child or 2, the other stays home.  Sometimes we have to take everyone but they love it.  We play games and enlist their help.  Road trips: big ones we have a plan for activities and stops, short ones we kind of wing it pulling from our arsenal of ideas when they get impatient.  Chores: we teach early on that we’re all a part of a community, our family.  Just like we have to be good citizens in our larger community, we have to do our part in our family.  There are consequences when they don’t do their part such as people getting frustrated with them, mommy and daddy doing their chores but not having time to make a good dinner (this one is really motivating), missing out on the special community (aka: family) times, etc.  For the most part it’s not an issue, they seem to understand.  Conflict: I could write a whole book on this.  The short version?  We moderate and help walk them through their conflict.  Behaving: define “behaving.”  We first look at our expectations and make sure they are developmentally appropriate.  Then we look at our parenting to see if we’re provoking our children in any way.  After that we make sure all their needs are being met.  It’s only then that we address their behavior.  In general, they are well behaved children but they are children and as such, act accordingly including “misbehaving” from time to time.  How many will we end up with: I’m thinking 6 at this point.  What will they be when they grow up?  Hopefully confident, educated, kind, caring, free-thinking women.

Q: With 5 (almost 6) children how do you manage space wise in terms of sleeping, storing clothes and toys and just finding space for everyone to do their own thing? I have 4 children in a 3 bed house and we are right at our limits space-wise but I would love more children. Xxx ps( you should be extremely proud of what you have achieved with TLB, there is nothing compares to it and it is a backbone for many women on their breastfeeding journey! 🙂

We live in a tiny house.  An old, tiny house that we rent.  About 1,400 square feet and 3 bedroom, 1 bath.  There isn’t much storage and it’s a constant battle.  I’m ready to move.  The Piano Man made loft style beds with a play platform in the middle to help maximize space.  We try to use the walls as much as possible and we keep things simple in terms of play things.  Lots of cubbies, baskets, bins, shelves, and boxes trying to contain our stuff.  When it gets to be too much, we purge.  We’re always picking up, encouraging each other to put stuff away, and always deciding how much mess we can live with.

Q: How do you grocery shop and prepare healthy meals for so many people? I have a really hard time with meal planning. I think we spend way too much money on groceries for 2 adults and a baby. Any tips would be great.

Well, this is just about lunches but I wrote some about that here.  Otherwise, I do something similar for our regular meals.  We shop primarily on the outside of the store buying whole foods such as produce, whole grains, dairy, etc.  Most everything we make is from scratch.  We have a list that we occasionally update and add to but about 50 of our favorite meals are on there, all price ranges.  Usually we pick a few main meals and that becomes our shopping list plus some staples we like to have on hand.

Q: Like many others I want to know how you manage so many children and $$$? My DH and I seem to have litters, we could easily jump from 2 to 4 to 6, etc. I would love to have more but $$ is an issue

We don’t have a hard and fast budget, largely because it tends to flux.  But we do sit down to create a ball park budget and communicate frequently about where we stand.  We have no debt.  Our van is old and we paid cash for it.  Our rent is low and well under what we could afford.  We don’t have cable and our cell phone service is fairly modest though we use them for work as well so we have more than we would if that weren’t the case.  Much of what we do (i.e. our daughters in dance, the school our girls go to) is bartered.  We don’t have new anything and don’t feel the need to.  We make what we can and we shop at thrift stores over buying brand new most of the time.  When things have taken us by surprise, we’ve decided to sell things to be able to buy the new item or dip into our small savings.  Sometimes we just choose to go without until we figure out how we can afford it.  This has taught us so much, actually.  Given us incredible opportunities to slow down if need be to make things work.  

Most importantly, we rarely stress about money.  We don’t have much but we are well aware that we have so much more than many in this world.  Perspective on what we can and can’t live without help us to focus on our blessings rather than on what we don’t have.

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Up close and personal: Leakies Q & A on Sugarbaby, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

Shortly after I announced this pregnancy I offered to answer questions of Leakies of what they’d like to know about me.  I thought I’d get maybe 10 questions.  More than 100 came in and I got completely overwhelmed.  It’s taken me a while but here, finally, are some of my answers to some of your questions.  I couldn’t answer them all but here’s a sampling related to pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.  You can find more related to family, children, and work; and TLB, personal, and other.

Photoagraphy by Kelli Elizabeth Photography in Houston, TX

New baby, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding

Q: Do you plan on tandem nursing Smunchie and new baby?

 If she’s still breastfeeding at that point, yes.  We’re taking it one day at a time.  Smunchie asks to nurse once in a while but she has essentially weaned and hasn’t actually latched in about a month now.  If she’s still interested when Sugarbaby arrives I will let her try.  We’re taking a wait and see approach.

Q: Can you share your experiences with nursing while pregnant and the early stages if tandem nursing?  How are you breastfeeding while being so sick?

I’ve never been able to tandem as I’ve always had health care providers that insist I wean due to the severity of my Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  This time I refused to wean as I believe the hormones from breastfeeding help a bit with the nausea and vomiting.  It’s not easy for me to breastfeed while pregnant though.  Between the exhaustion, constant burn out feeling, and nipple sensitivity I find breastfeeding to be a challenge.  However, I got so much worse with my HG when I weaned Squiggle Bug during my 7th month with Smunchie.  My midwife insisted I wean because I was still 24 pounds under my prepregnant weight and hadn’t gained more than 2 pounds back in the month before.  Weaning was physically hard on me and emotionally hard on both of us.  This time I’ve decided it’s not worth it and that I wouldn’t be leading Smunchie to wean.  She pretty much did anyway.  It’s different for every woman and for every pregnancy and breastfeeding relationship, this is just where we are this time. 

You can see a video of me breastfeeding Smunchie during this pregnancy in this post where I go a little more in-depth about breastfeeding in pregnancy for me personally.

Q: Would like to hear about tandem nursing and nursing through pregnancy. I am 16 weeks and nursing my 10 month old. We are doing great, but I have never heard anybody say their milk hasn’t dried up at some point.

My milk didn’t dry up during Smunchie’s pregnancy even after Squiggle Bug weaned (around 7 months) but it helped that I was on Reglan to help with the HG.  To be honest, I can’t stand breastfeeding while pregnant.  Between being sick and then the nipple sensitivity I struggle with anxiety while breastfeeding.  It’s hard and I don’t enjoy it.  However, that’s not the case for many women I interact with on a regular basis.  Some women have no problem continuing through pregnancy either emotionally or physically and have plenty of milk.  I can’t speak to tandem nursing personally as I’ve never successfully done so.

Q: Do you get cravings? If so, what?

Not often.  It’s more like I get ideas for food that sound less repulsive than other options.  I try to eat those foods if possible because it’s less likely I’ll throw them up though that happens anyway.  If I’m lucky I’ll stumble upon a “safe food” that I can eat for a few days that I manage to keep down.  But actual cravings?  Not so much.  Unfortunately a lot of what I do eat is not the healthiest options, I try but my midwives, doctors, nurse, husband and I all agree that some food, even junk food, is better than nothing.  This pregnancy I have found the Yummy Earth Organic Lollipops in strawberry to be something that helps and I seem to have a thing for frozen yogurt (even though I threw it up in the mall parking lot today).

Q: Will you find out the sex or wait?

We have found out the sex and I made a video to announce it but lost the entire thing in a massive computer fail.  I haven’t been able to finish redoing it so may just announce at the birth.

Q: Also how do you prep your young children for the coming baby?

At first we focus on getting through the pregnancy, particularly the worst of it (usually to about 7-8 months) but as the pregnancy progresses we talk more and more about the coming baby.  We watch birth videos together (all of my children, including Smunchie, have seen videos of babies being born) and work on setting things up for the new family member together.  My older girls start getting excited about making things for the baby and they’ve all voiced some ideas on names (Squiggle Bug wants Angelina no matter if Sugarbaby is a boy or a girl).  When movement can be felt on the outside I invite them to cuddle with me with their hands on the belly to feel the baby move and they are enjoying this very much this time around.  They hear the heart beat, I show them how to palpate my abdomen to feel the height of the funds and eventually the position of the baby, and they read stories to my belly.  With younger ones we do a lot of doll play with them, change diapers, feed our babies together, and encourage them to babywear their own babies.  We also involve them in the fun parts of getting ready for a baby: announcing the pregnancy, celebrating the coming baby, etc.

Q: Did you notice a temperament change in Smunchie as soon as you got pregnant? I am 16 weeks and I swear my 12 month old knew I was pregnant and started becoming clingy.

Not really but we did with Squiggle Bug.  Squiggle Bug started talking about a new baby when I just suspected I was pregnant but hadn’t confirmed it.  Smunchie seems oblivious.

Q: How do you manage keeping up with the kids all day when you’re extremely ill?  How do you keep doing it, mentally, especially with them so close together, knowing how violently ill you’ll get? Is there a point in your pregnancies where you no longer are ill?

We enlist the help of friends.  Though we haven’t always done this, in fact, in the past I’ve withdrawn from relationships while I’m pregnant because I’ve feared being a burdened and not being believed.  However, this time The Piano Man and I decided that our family deserved better than that.  So I humbled myself and asked for help.  We are incredibly blessed to have a number of people that love spending time with our children and would take turns coming over to help get dinner together, children in bed, pick-up/drop-off girls to dance class, etc.  In the past we coped by filling a cooler with snacks, having a pile of books, a stack of DVDs, a basket of toys, and a box of craft supplies parked by the couch or bed where I would stay.  The house would be trashed but everyone would be safe and entertained.  With homeschooling my big girls would bring their work to me and I’d help them from that spot as well.  It wasn’t ideal but it worked well enough.  As to how I keep doing it, one day at a time.  Sometimes one hour at a time.

There is not a point where I’m no longer ill, but there comes a point when I’m less sick and able to function better.  It’s kind of relative.  After being really bad, it’s not hard to manage being kind of bad.

I also fine a lot of support and information at helpher.org.

Q: How do you prepare your children for your pregnancy symptoms and make sure their needs (emotional as well) are met while dealing with HG? (I’ve had it with both pregnancies and my daughter was a MESS during my pregnancy with my son because I was literally in bed, in the bathroom, or in the hospital for 30 weeks. It’s the biggest reason we won’t have another:( )

When I only had small ones there wasn’t much we could do.  We watched too much TV, they cuddled with me in bed and we read together, friends would help tons, and… we prayed.  The short term affects were nothing compared to the long term payoffs of having siblings.  

With older ones in the picture now it’s a bit different.  We talk about it, we strategize together, we make plans, and we enlist help.  We strive to hold on to as much normalcy as possible but we acknowledge that there will be challenges to that.  We’ve also been demanding about getting adequate care and that has made the biggest difference.

Q: When did your HG kick in during this pregnancy. How does your HG with this pregnancy compare to your previous pregnancies? Did you do anything differently that has made it easier, or are their any circumstances that are making it harder? Have you done anything now or in the past to space your children, or do you just rely on natural child spacing and faith? Do you think the length of time between giving birth has an effect on your HG? Do you think age has an effect on HG? Do you vomit in front of your kids and if so how do you think it affects them? (not trying to be rude, just something I definitely thought about when vomiting in front of my toddler. Do you or have you ever had hyper-salivation with a pregnancy? I didn’t know about this one until this pregnancy, but it definitely upped the disgusting level of HG for us.

I’ve had pitalism in 2 of my pregnancies and it is ridiculously disgusting.  Yes, I’ve thrown up in front of my kids though I hate to and try not to as much as possible.  At first they seem to notice and then it’s like it’s no big deal.  Which is awkward and breaks my heart when they tell others “my mom throws up all the time but it’s ok, I’m used to it.”  Does it affect them?  Probably though when we’ve talked about it they just say that they get scared and want to help but that it’s worth it to get a new baby.  They have expressed concern that they will experience HG and honestly, I’m concerned about that as well.  If they do I will be their biggest advocate.  I felt “off” before I got a positive test, had my first IV at 5 weeks.  This has been my best pregnancy but I don’t know how much of that is because it was easier or because we followed an aggressive protocol that made it so different.  I only lost 16 pounds this time compared to the 26 pounds I lost in my next best pregnancy.

Q:  Birth plans? Births of the other kids, what were they like?

Earth Baby (13) was born in a hospital with The Piano Man as my support person.  In spite of some serious complications (high blood pressure, hemorrhage, and a few other issues) we were able to have a successful vaginal birth without pain medications (I was on bp meds and fluids for dehydration) at 41 weeks and 4 days.

The Storyteller (11) was born at home with a midwife at 37 weeks, an unusually fast labor for a baby sunny side up.  Born in our bed with The Piano Man as my support person.  We had a doula that I ended up asking to leave as she distracted me, a midwife, and a midwife assistant.  It was a very hard but beautiful labor and birth.

Lolie (9) was also born at home at 36 weeks exactly, a new midwife and new city.  She was born after a 36 hour labor into her daddy’s hands, our 3rd baby at on 03.03.03 at 3am.  It was mostly pain-free for me except when I started fighting my body and when the anterior cervical lip that had persisted for 10 hours had to be moved manually.  Ouch.  We had an amazing doula that primarily supported The Piano Man supporting me.

Squiggle Bug (4) was with another midwife at home, 41 weeks and 4 days.  I caught her myself when The Piano Man was supporting me and I had put my hands down instinctively and he couldn’t get out from behind me to help catch and instead just wrapped his arms around me and said “you’ve got this.”  It was a beautiful labor, peaceful.

Smunchie (2) gave me some trouble with positioning at 38 weeks.  Poor thing was asenclitic with a partial facial presentation.  She came out so banged up.  I planned to catch myself this time, I loved the experience with Squiggle Bug and that’s exactly what we did.  I was more experienced and knowledgable with birth having been trained as a midwife myself at this point so I did my own cervical checks (pointless but I had to know) and had incredible support to just do things how I wanted.  That’s exactly what I did.  Born into my hands after a challenging labor due to positioning, it was an exhilarating birth.

Sugarbaby, if all goes well, will be born at home as well.

Q: I have a question that I absolutely don’t want you to take the wrong way. How did you make the decision to keep having children despite having HG? I only had horrible regular morning sickness (had to be controlled by medication, but it was controlled) as well as a set of twins my second time and gestational diabetes. That was enough excitement and we called it quits at the three, lol. I’m not judging your decision at all. Just curious as to how you made it. You’re so much braver than I!

Not braver.  More crazy, possibly.  Every one of us has a different path in life, the choices may appear the same but the reality is with our various circumstances and priorities we can’t imagine making the choices someone else does and we have to just figure out what works for us in our situation.

Sometimes I think that if it weren’t for HG I may not have had 5 kids, largely because I was always hoping “maybe this time it will be different.”  Being a bit of a rebel I got angry at HG and declared I wouldn’t let it determine my family planning.  I just didn’t want it to have that kind of say in our lives.

Most importantly I did a lot of research and found care providers that would be aggressive in early treatment. With a full protocol in place HG tends to be more manageable. Before trying to conceive some women have experienced improvements with cleanses, particularly liver cleanses. Being prepared can help tremendously.

It is hard to parent the child you have while growing a new one with HG. Very hard. Getting a support team around you can make a huge difference in that as well. While it is hard I can tell you with some confidence that when you get through it toddler will forget those rough HG days and enjoy having a younger sibling. In the moment it’s incredibly difficult and I’ve had to deal with a lot of grief about not being the kind of mom I want to be to my children when I’m pregnant but my children having each other has made it so worth it.

Q: Did you and your hubby “Try” for a boy this time? Did you try to time your cycles to get a boy or did you just let nature take it’s course? Thanks! TLB is Awesome – it has helped me in my most crucial hour of need. Mom’s have got to stick together and help each other out and TLB does that wonderfully:) ♥ Thank you!

So glad you’ve found support through TLB!

No, we’ve never tried for a boy.  You can read more about that here.

Q: What is the best thing about all girls? The worst? How will your family handle whatever gender Sugarbaby is? Will having a boy be welcome or turn things upside down?

I’m not sure.  Having 5 girls I’m not entirely sure that I buy into there being major differences between boys and girls, at least not before puberty.  My girls are each so incredibly different from each other.  We are very intentional to not bring cultural expectations into our parenting regarding gender.  As such, if Sugarbaby is a boy we’ll welcome him just as we have our other children and he will be brought up as his sisters have been as our parenting style and choices aren’t based on the sex of our children.

Q: Curious if the new baby played a part in the nightweaning journey?

No but the nighweaning journey likely played a part in the new baby!


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