It’s been a whole year since my Summer Surprise arrived. This last year has been challenging, stretching and exhausting. But it’s also been fun, in many ways.
When it all started…
When I found out I was pregnant in the fall of 2016, to say I was shocked was an understatement. My pregnancy was different and somewhat difficult, unlike any of the others. And my labour and delivery was the hardest of all 6 babies. While I did manage to deliver vaginally, we were very close to needing an emergency C-section.
The first few weeks are blurry in my memory. I had to adjust all over again to feedings around the clock, and waking every few hours to care for my infant. There were times I struggled with resenting the whole thing, but the way she looked at me — so trusting — I couldn’t help but fall in love!
It turned out the fogginess was more than just sleep deprivation. When my daughter was just 3 months old, my hair started falling out. Only it wasn’t just in strands, it was in clumps. I would shower, and have to clean the drain, because my hair had clogged it. I started to notice bald patches on my head!
In alarm and worry, I went to my doctor, who ordered blood tests. They revealed that I had “maternal nutrient depletion”, meaning that having 5 children in 10 years (and 6 in 14 years!) along with the stress of those years, had taken their toll on my body. I needed help, more than diet alone could provide.
I was anemic, I was calcium deficient, I needed extras of just about everything. So in addition to my continuing to take my prenatal vitamins, my doctor told me to supplement. She gave me a list of about 14 different things to add in. And it took about 4 weeks, but I did notice a difference.
Sleep deprived and weary…
We fell into a rhythm with feeding and schooling, but it left me feeling sleep deprived and exhausted. Between the older children and the baby, I averaged about 5 hours sleep a night. And that, not all at once.
At the same time, the older children really stepped up. I saw them begin to work together more as a family. I got fewer complaints over chores, and more signs of initiative. Even my 4-now-5 year old stepped into her role as the newest “big sister” and blossomed into a much more independent child, instead of a clingy baby. (I still miss our cuddles though!)
With every new baby comes a new normal. With this newest addition, I found my new normal slower than I had with previous babies. Yet, it came with more systems, more foundational basics. I’d thought I’d been organized before, but the systems I’d had previous to this baby didn’t quite cope with the demands of a 6th child.
Like going from two children to three, going from five children to six is a “level up”. Having three, four or five children is a “small large family”. You can still get away with small family things, and you can borrow from the “large family” tips. Adding in that sixth child takes you out of the “small large family” camp, and places you firmly in the “large family” group.
I didn’t think it would change things this much. But she did. Even though she’s been just an infant, the laundry, the cooking, the clean up, even the ability to go to a store or to the park has changed! It’s just that much more to tip the scales from a “quick trip” to an “expedition”. There’s no such thing as a “quick trip” at all anymore.
As I’d said before, with this baby, I’ve noticed a real difference in my older children. They’ve grown, and not just physically (though they’ve all had significant physical growth spurts too! oy!). One of our biggest challenges has been the amount of time that I’ve had to supervise “at a distance”.
My baby is a social kid. She loves being around people. So much so that feeding her can be challenging when there are people around. So in order to breastfeed her for any length of time (and get her to sleep!) I’ve had to take her to a different room, where it can be darker, quieter and no people. And that meant that for 20 minutes at a time, my older children needed to be occupied and taught to stay quiet and responsible for their own work.
At least once during the day, this has happened during our normal school time. My girls have learned to work independently and not distract each other, even though I’ve not been in the room. And since this is now a regular occurrence, my older children get along better than ever! They are more responsible, more industrious and more accountable.
We’ve learned some new family “catch phrases” this past year. One new phrase is “mind your own business” — not to be rude, but more to pay attention to your own job and not try to do what someone else is supposed to do. That way, if you do what you’re supposed to do, and they do what they’re supposed to do, the job gets done, and there’s less work for mom, and more time (and energy) for fun!
Another new phrase is “ask mom for help.” If you truly cannot do your job, or don’t understand your assignment, I tell my girls, I can’t help you unless you tell me. But if you whine, cry, complain, or use any other language other than simply telling me, I can’t understand you. I encourage my girls to ask me for help, and to do it before they get overwhelmed. (This has been a real struggle for my oldest!)
We’ve grown closer together as a family. The girls have learned new jobs, new ways of doing things, and new attitudes. I’ve been so impressed on how much they’ve worked together. Even my special needs child has stretched her comfort zone in order to try to help — and if you knew her, you’d know just how big a deal that is!
One year down! Many more to go…
My little one is now 1 year old. We celebrated her first birthday with a party with friends. She’s a bright little girl, who calls me “Mama” and is my little shadow now. She’s crawling all over the place, and creeping the furniture, and it won’t be long before she’s walking. She has 5 little teeth in that gorgeous little face, and the sweetest smile that makes even the grumpiest stranger smile back. She turns heads wherever we go, and I’m always stopped by people commenting on how beautiful she is. She loves her cups, her monkeys and her family.
This last year has been so challenging. Like my children, I’ve grown so much as well. And I’m looking forward to seeing where God will lead us next. The future is wide open.