The expression “to post-partum like a boss” is used a lot in the Catholic mom blogging sphere, and is used to emphasize the importance of a mother giving herself time to rest and recover from delivering a baby. The physical recovery after birthing a baby is long, lasting many weeks and, for some women, months. When a mom is able to post-partum like a boss, she can take time to recover while caring for her baby. She spends her days and nights sleeping, eating, feeding, changing diapers, and soaking that newborn in. This time does not suddenly come to an end, but she eases slowly from her life of complete devotion to that baby back into the daily routine required of her full vocation. But the initial couple of weeks ideally give her time to recover and fall in love with her new baby.
One of the things I love about the old, traditional liturgical calendar is the season after Epiphany. Instead of jumping back into Ordinary Time two weeks after Christmas, it gives one a longer time to linger with the Mother and Child…
Certain times of year bring back certain memories for me. For example, for many years after our semester in Austria in college, autumn leaves and cooler weather always brought back memories of the Kartuase and the emotional adventure that Europe was for me.
This time of year, late May, planting the gardens, working in the yard bring back my memories of being huge. I was enormously pregnant with a 10 lb baby boy last Memorial Day weekend. I did not know that the baby was a boy or that he was so big, but I was anticipating and waiting on his arrival.
This year is quite different. I have known that I am the mother of a boy for a year now. I have experienced his uniqueness for a year. And I have had so many things I wanted to say about this until I sat down to write and the children became restless.
The girls and I were perusing the blog of last May and the baby and I were pretty huge there together in that last bump shot. Oh, what a difference a year makes.
I am not sure if my experience of mothering T has been different because he is a boy or because he is number 4 or because I am older or because he took on the bad sleep pattern of his eldest sister. But I think that my fears last May of being tried beyond what I had been tried before with a baby were warranted. I felt throughout that pregnancy that this fourth baby was going to be a challenge for me. I wrote last May:
“My motherhood and wifehood is not about being blissful and comfortable day to day, it is about giving myself as a gift to others, so that one day I can have the ultimate human end of eternal happiness with my Creator and Savior. And it is hard. It will never stop being hard, but it is the gift I am called to give.
Our earthly vocation will not always make us happy now, but if we persevere in it, we will be happy forever. It is the same in any vocation, to priesthood, religious life, consecrated single life, and marriage; we will not always be happy.”
And since T was born that has been a reoccurring theme for me. And the truth of it is that I have been happy in my day to day life, despite the sleepless nights, despite the stress of home schooling, despite it all, I have grown. I often feel guilty that I am too happy. I wonder what I have done to deserve the blessings that I have. And the truth of it also is that we do have our daily frustrations, faults, shortness of temper, and the occasional major argument; but we always come back to the happy state of the life we have. I will probably write more on this as the first birthday gets closer, but that is all the time I have for now.
This recent New York Times article about how some babies are easier than others rang true for me this week, but I did not need an article to tell me that. When we had our first baby seven years ago, her different needs changed a lot of my presuppositions about parenting. For example, we never wanted to use a pacifier, but she was so oral we ended up giving her one. Our second baby had different needs, and we did things differently with her. Our third baby could fall asleep unassisted from the time she was a newborn.
Our fourth baby took all my nighttime parenting confidence and threw it out the window. With him I had to give up on all my human efforts to help/make him sleep, and prayed a novena to St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes…
I have been trying to come up with something interesting to say on the blog, and nothing really seems that interesting about life lately. Here we are, two days into Lent, the beginning-middle of of the longest February we have had in years, and the kids are sick. I figured that I might as well do some quick takes even if they are not that interesting.
1. Baby T, or Mr. Tumnus as he is sometimes called, has been doing one of those sleep regression things again. We got a little reprieve after our three week tour of the Midwestern USA and then six teeth decided to come in right when he got the worst cold topped off with an ear infection. The poor baby. When the baby is sick, though, daily life does not change much. He just is a bit sadder and my left shoulder becomes his favorite tissue. But he also sleeps worse at night.
2. When the baby does not sleep well, Mom does not sleep well. It makes sense, but I find myself getting into a sleep deprived funk, where I obsess over every minute of sleep I did not get and every minute that I did get. I make calculations in my head every morning, and declare it will be a good day if my sleep added up to 6 hours total or I got at least one three hour stretch of sleep. I also down my new favorite natural wellness things, like apple cider vinegar and elderberry syrup, hoping that I will somehow not get sick even though I am covered in baby snot. So far, not sick, but ask me tomorrow how I am…
“Mom, is this T’s FIRST Ash Wednesday?” L in the middle of Mass. #ashtag
3. I took the kids to Ash Wednesday Mass, sick baby (had no idea it was more than a cold then) and all, and G’s second piano lesson, courtesy of the lovely Mrs. Coyne. At any rate, it was the first time I took all four kids to Mass without another adult to help. We sat in back and did pretty well.
4. Yesterday, after a bad’s night sleep with T, I decided to bless the children with Lourdes water and call the doctor. Only later did I realize it was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. (The Lourdes water we have, M and I both brought back from Lourdes 10 years ago after our semester abroad.) T and I went into the doctor and got the ear infection diagnosed and now he is on antibiotics (and probiotics). The 24 hour mark is coming up when antibiotics are supposed to be working, and if it weren’t for teething I would have great hopes for tonight and getting better sleep.
5. At any rate, G and F both came down with fevers yesterday afternoon. As M had a talk to go to that evening, the girls got into pjs early, and we sat down to watch some Anne of Green Gables and eat popcorn. I love that they are old enough for me to share that movie with them; it has been my go to sick movie since I was a little girl.
6. Today the sick girls slept in while the sick baby was up at 6am, and rather than doing our normal Chronicles of Narnia radio plays for sick days, I searched my library audiobook app and found The Secret Garden. G has been following along when she has the energy, or just listening when she does not. F has mostly just slept. So, it has been a relaxing day despite sick children. Hopefully, these girls will get over the cold faster than their brother, since they are better at taking it easy than a planking baby who can’t fall asleep without help.
7. On a non-sick note, before the deep cold we have had this week set in, we spent last Sunday in the warm (30s) yard, building our snowman and rolling giant snowballs into a mini sledding hill for the girls. I think M and I had more fun than the girls playing in the snow. One of these days I will wake up and discover that I love winter, but I am not that Minnesotan yet. I will say that one of the things I love about home schooling is not having to leave the house in the winter if I don’t want to…
I’m linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum a few days late for Seven Quick Takes. 1. We have been home for two weeks now, after three weeks on the road. The trip was great we clocked 2200 miles going from Minnesota to Indiana to Michigan to Ohio to Missouri and back home to Minnesota. The girls were great in the car as usual, and T was awesome for his first long trip.
2. The only time he was inconsolable by his favorite music, Dave Brubeck was during the last 4 hours of our trip from the middle of Iowa to home.
M got sick of listening to it, but it was a lot better than other music a baby could be obsessed with. Ask anyone who road in the back seat with the kids. It literally would put a tired T to sleep within five minutes of the music starting. 3. We saw people of all four sides of our extended families, and we loved every daytime minute of it. The girls had lots of fun with cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandparents. The nights were not so great. I discovered that T needs a pitch black room to sleep well. So we went back to bad sleep for the trip. It was made up for by good visiting time with our relatives, many of whom we had not seen since last Christmas. Though by the end we decided that we are done with three week road trips. They will be shorter in the future.
4. It is amazing how three weeks on the road makes daily life at home so much better. I am loving things like sitting in bed reading while the baby sleeps peacefully in his own room. I am loving my quiet afternoons to read, write, waste time online. I even managed to do five school days plus all the housework last week. Not too shabby.
5. We are still celebrating the Christmas season here, the Season after Epiphany to be exact, until Candlemas (Feb. 2). But Sunday was really liturgically strange, because it was Septuagesima sunday, still the season after Epiphany, and at St. Agnes we celebrated the Feast of St. Agnes which was actually last Thursday. Isn’t being Catholic fun?
6. Because no blog post is complete without a picture, and I have not really been taking pictures lately, I am sharing this one from Instagram.
This guy has rolled to his belly, turned, and belly scooted about 5 feet across the floor since I started writing this post. I am realizing that my life is about to be a bit crazier with a mobile little boy. Linking up 7. In case you don’t follow my blog on Facebook, I wanted to share here my newest article for ChurchPOP: 12 Things St. Zelie Martin Taught Me About Sainthood as a Mother
And by the baby, I mean the Newborn King, the Little Lord Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity who became Mary’s little Child.
I always thought that my perfect Advent was the year my second was born on the First Sunday of Advent. My Christmas preparing was all finished, and I just sat with my baby watching everyone else in the daily snow falls we had that December in Buffalo, NY.
I think I was wrong. It was an amazing Advent; relaxed and prayerful, but I wonder if maybe Advent can still be great if it looks a lot more like the weeks leading up to the birth of a baby.
My baby preparations involve several extremely long to do lists: odd jobs around the house, odd jobs in the yard, and BABY prep. And of course there are always the last minute things that you just did not quite get to. Besides that I am supposed to be doing the prelabor exercises: squating, kegels, and relaxation practice for those hard contractions.
I actually do way more to get ready for a baby then I do to get ready for Christmas. The baby list takes months, and for Christmas we do it all in 4 weeks.
Christmas is: cookies, cards, gifts, decorations, some cleaning, and prayer.
Baby is: baby clothes, all the baby gear, hospital planning, hospital packing, relaxation practice,
The year we had our second we stayed at home for Christmas instead of the usual three week tour of the Midwest relatives. People came to us. People took care of us. It made sense for that year and it was perfect for that year.
This year we are traveling for the first time since the birth of our fourth six months ago, and I can’t help but think that maybe this is a more Marian Advent.
Our Lady spent her time waiting for Christ firstly visiting her cousin. Then she went home, got married, and was ready to have her baby in Nazareth, when Caesar decides to have a census.
There she is almost ready to give birth to the Son of God and she has to travel on a donkey 90 miles in cold weather on dangerous trails. When I am 9 months pregnant I can’t handle the pot holes in the road, let alone riding on a donkey.
Do you think Mary said to God, “This is not how things were supposed to go? My Advent needs to be restful so I can pray better!” I imagine not. She being the perfect woman, took it all in stride. Her acceptance of the journey, was part of her continual acceptance of God’s will.
This Advent is already not what I expected. We were going to finish the semester strong with school since we will be taking a three week Christmas break. Instead we had one full school week after Thanksgiving, and then last week I was sick with strep throat, so minimal school. This week the 24 hour stomach bug is making the rounds (so far only the kids).
But we have all been okay. Advent has been manageable because I have been forced to take it easy on myself, M, and on the kids. And we still have been doing our traditions of the Jesse Tree, lights up on St. Lucy’s day (since Lucy means “light”), and the tree up on Gaudete Sunday. We have been having some really beautiful family time through it all.
When we head out on our travels, I hope that we do so united with the Holy Family who were far from home that first Christmas day. (Though I suppose we could say that Bethlehem was their real home, just as our family is traveling back to where we came from.) And if my baby has trouble sleeping on the road, I can just think of baby Jesus waking to the cattle in the stable.
And maybe that is what Advent really should be like, being like Mary and learning to continually accept God’s will whether we are so busy we barely have time to pray or are nursing a newborn on the couch all December. It is accepting God’s will that matters most, and preparing our hearts to receive with joy the Infant King.
I hope that the rest of your Advent is blessed and full of grace!
1. I have not done quick takes in over a month. The thing is, they are not exactly quick to write, but I have about 30 minutes if the baby stays asleep, so I am going to give it a go.
2. A month ago, I was dying of lack of sleep. Seriously. Well, not really, but since then the baby has popped in two teeth, we did a bit of sleep training/letting him learn how to fall asleep without being bounced vigorously (yes, it was that bad). And instead of waking every 90 minutes and taking 40 to get back to sleep, he is we are getting stretches as long as 5 hours, and I am only waking most nights 2 times to nurse him. Guys, it is amazing. I feel like a person again.
3. Now that I am no longer a zombie, I am thinking a lot more clearly. When we finish a school day I can manage a chore or two before lunch rather than just staring off. When we make it to quiet time I am actually able to write things instead of a mindless Facebook experience. And we are getting at least one long nap a day out of the baby, the other one is usually not as good, but still. 4. Someone woke up.
It is tricky to type with a baby on your lap, but I am going to give it a go. Also, here you see my haircut I just got literally an hour ago. I always say two inches and add some layers and I feel like after the layers they have shorn off at least 4 inches.
5. I realized that I was getting boring back when T would not sleep as I was only and always talking about it, so I am going to really try to think of something else to write about, like how G finally got that one math concept down this week that we spent three agonizing days on and I finally asked M to explain it to her and she got it in five minutes. Or how the kids stopped screaming as much, well for like two days. My mom and dad are coming next week. I have not seen them since June, so we are pretty excited to see them. I think they are excited to see this baby who has doubled in weight since they last saw him. Oh, baby again. Sorry.
6. I finished two books in the last week. The first was Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens which was about as Dickensesque as you could want. He has a way of describing grimy, dirty places that just makes me feel icky and gritty and sometimes even nauseated. M suggested that I write about our free system of English laws, but I am not going to. Second book, the letters of Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin (A Call to a Deeper Love). It was soooo good. I am writing something up on it, so look for that soon. But really, just read it yourself, especially if you are married and a mom.
7. This week I started In This House of Brede by Rumor Godden. We found it at Loomes over Labor Day weekend, and it is beautiful so far. I like books that make me a better person, and this seems to be one of them. So were the letters. M this week finished Emma by Jane Austen and has decided that it is one of the most brilliant English language novels ever, and then he started Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.
And that about sums up life lately, baby, homeschooling, books, and writing projects. There are few coming out soon, stay tuned…
Why, oh why, does the devotion I write always happen on the right date? What I mean is that it has to be providential or something. I wrote about needing grace so desperately and even losing myself to grace, especially in overcoming my own weaknesses, and this week I have felt more stripped than ever due to feeling helpless as to how to help my teething baby sleep at night.
T is the sweetest teething baby there ever was. During the day I can’t even tell they are bothering him, unless I pay attention and notice that he is cheerfully stuffing everything into his mouth. Cheerfully, I tell you.
Then we put him to bed and he goes down easily. Then he wakes up, nurses back to sleep, but won’t let us lay him down. He is sound asleep, and we lay him down, and immediately he fusses. So, this is what teething looks like for him: he wants to be held to stay asleep at night.
So, I need the overflowing grace; you know, grace that hits me like a projectile-spitting up baby at 4 in the morning. That kind.
I don’t know how some moms do it all the time: parent for days without their husband or even make it through the night with an infant without their husband home and available for backup.
Some cute kid in Boston in the Summer of 2010.
The Professor went to a conference last weekend, and his wonderful mother cheerfully agreed to fly out from Michigan and help me while he was gone. The great thing about my MIL being here is that she makes not just bedtime and mealtime easier without M, but she makes all day long easier. The kids are happy to play with her, she is happy to give them all of her attention, but she also helps keep them disciplined. She even held baby T more than he normally gets held.
When I picked M up from the airport (30 minutes after dropping off his mother for her return flight), he said, “You know, it sounds like you actually had a good weekend.” And he was right, I think that I did. But I did because I put myself into survival mode, and anything beyond the minimum was a bonus. And we got beyond the minimum after the first day.
My biggest worries when M is gone revolve around sleeping. I worried the whole week leading up to his conference whether I would be able to handle the baby at night without him. I have said this before, but this baby is not the best at nursing right back down at night and often requires means beyond nursing to get to sleep. So, I was imagining being up ALL NIGHT, EVERY NIGHT and not being able to get the baby to sleep. (Keep in mind he has had teething bumps in his mouth getting bigger daily.)
But this was not the case Thursday night. Thursday night, I had no trouble getting T to go back to sleep when he woke up. The trouble was that he woke up every hour. I was such a zombie when he woke, that I did not think: maybe he is waking up because his diaper is full since he has nurse like 6 times already since 7pm or I am cold and maybe I should turn the furnace on and the baby might sleep better.
So, Friday it was the minimum, well even less than the minimum. The minimum required the morning at our twice a month co-op. I left F(normally I fight her to stay in the nursery classroom) at home with Grandma, and spent all of the co-op holding the baby and drinking coffee in the mom’s hangout/discussion part of co-op. In the afternoon I took a nap, and ordered pizza for dinner. I had planned a dinner that takes about 15 minutes to put together, but I could not even do that. That would mean explaining it to my MIL and I had no ability to do so. So, we ordered pizza. That was good.
I started asking people for prayers that T would let me get some sleep that night, and took a few precautionary measures for Friday night. I turned the furnace on so the baby would not get cold, and made a plan to not nurse him if he woke every hour but try walking and bouncing him instead. But he only woke every 2 hours, only requiring nursing, which was great in my book. And I got him back down every time!
Saturday went well. My goals for me were: grocery shopping, running, and showering. And we got them all done around playing with the girls, getting T to nap, and the afternoon quiet times. We went out to our favorite family restaurant for dinner and T slept the whole time there.
Saturday night: I had been reading Bl. Zelie Martin’s letters. In one she talked about how she had her daughter pray to the baby brother who had died in infancy to intercede for the healing of a two week long awful ear infection. The ear was better the next day. So, I thought, why not pray to our little one, JP, and ask for him to intercede for T to sleep comfortably, because I have been attributing bad sleep to teething. Well, we had three longer stretches, including a 3.5 hour one.
Then, Sunday Mass: WE ALL STAYED IN THE PEW! There may have been a lot of whispering from the younger girls, but for the most part, everyone behaved well. Hooray!
In the afternoon, we picked up the Professor, and as we were circling through the passenger pick up, waiting for M to be let off his plane, the girls reflected on how it is “just not the same with Daddy gone.”
And now my survival mode is over; we made it! This morning (thanks to academic schedules M was home most of today), we sat and drank our coffee chatting for about a half an hour before I had to start school. It was so pleasant to have a normal day begin, and I feel about 10x less stressed this week than I did last week, like I might be able to do something beyond home schooling this week.
I realized that the impending conference had been weighing on me, but I also realized that I can do the baby care alone at night if I need to. But it is still really nice at 5:30am when the baby won’t quite settle to be laying in bed, knowing that he will be put back to sleep by his father. What is even nicer is that M has such a good touch with this baby that he resettled him at nap (while I was running) and extended the baby’s nap by two hours. Baby is awake and kicking now, but and awake baby is much easier to blog next to than anyone else around here…
1. In honor of seven years of the seven quick takes link up, I am spending naptime writing them. Kelly, the current quick take host, is asking a question each week in October to be answered each week. I like this a lot, because it is like a free quick take that I do not have to think up, and thinking has not been my strength this week because I have not really been sleeping much.
This week’s question: When did you post your first Seven Quick Takes?
2. So, I have been thinking about blogs and blogging and the wide variety of blogs that there are and stating the obvious. But I realized something important for me about my blog. I love to read blogs that give 7 helpful tips or ways to do such and such in your life, especially from other Catholic bloggers, but my blog is more for me. I am happy to share ideas, but my primary reason for writing is to do something I enjoy. So, welcome to my blog where I talk about things in my life… I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 3. I wanted to post it on Facebook when it happened, but I figured if I did all the kids would wake up. So, will post it now:
Hear ye, hear ye! Let it be known that I, Susanna Spencer, put ALL FOUR KIDS to bed BY MYSELF not one night but TWO NIGHTS in a row.
First night, we did a movie night and stayed up for the Super Blood Moon, and I got T to bed by 8:15pm, F to bed by 8:45, T resettled by 9:15, and then L, G, and I looked at the moon and I put them to bed.
Second night, all the bigger kids to bed by 7:45pm, T to bed by 8:30 (meaning I left the room then).
4. On top of that T has been pushing for an earlier bedtime for a few weeks now. Wednesday night he got really cranky at 6:30 pm. And we were like, really, you want to go to bed already? I was hesitant to do it so early. So, instead I put him in the stroller and let his sister push him around the backyard part of the driveway. And by 7, he was sound asleep. And we were like, um, let’s just put him in the room and see what happens. So, he slept until 7:45pm, at which time, I went in, put him in an overnight diaper, and spent 50 minutes getting him back to sleep. But he stayed asleep until midnightish at which time we got him back to sleep, soooo… Thursday he was ready to go to sleep by 7pm, and I got him down by 7:40pm, but he had to be resettled 10 minutes later by M after which he slept 4 hours straight… It was really strange to have NO KIDS AWAKE from 8pm on… 5. I think I am going to name this “baby sleep edition”, because, that is all I am talking about. T is my first baby who will not nurse right back to sleep everytime. In fact, a lot of the times he wakes, I am not convinced that he actually wants to nurse. Let me backtrack a minute. Until last week, most nights he would sleep nice long stretches of 4-5 hours and wake up once, nurse back down immediately. But on nights he does not sleep 4-5 hour stretches, like, wakes every 1-2 hours, he won’t nurse back down. So, it turns into M rocking and bouncing and soothing him back to sleep.
The last week of nights has been the more frequent wake ups. I blame stomach upsetting antibiotics, two teeth still not coming in, and a lingering cold with congestion. This means we are getting even less sleep than usual. So, now that he is almost 4 months, seems inclined to an earlier bedtime, I am going to sleep train. I am so ready for this. Pray for us. Sleep training here is along the lines of the No Cry Sleep Solution and if that does not work we’ll step it up. 6. Are we the only parents who measure how settled a baby is in Hail Marys? When M resettles T we speak in terms of decades of the rosary. “How many decades did you bounce him for?” “I bounced him a whole decade, and then laid him down and patted him a whole decade. He was still the whole time.” Or yesterday I told my mom, “I patted him for three Hail Marys and he stayed stopped fussing and went right back to sleep.” It is not just a time measure, it is a patience builder, and a prayer that the baby will stay asleep. 7. Finally, check out this carrot we grew. It was supposed to be all white, but half of it grew above ground level and ended up green:
She would not get in the photo below due to a tantrum…