I’m discovering a few things about being pregnant after 30:
It royally stinks.
Deep, huh? Okay, an elaboration would look like this:
I am soooo tired. I want to hibernate for the next 6 months. And then 6 more for good measure. My tailbone magically hurts and I blame being pregnant. As I chase my wild hellions around the house, I seriously begin to question my sanity. I mean, a mental institution is looking like the best vacation ever right now. I’m sure I cannot vouch for my intentions at 3am when I’m tired, hungry (again!), and dealing with the irish twins’ serial night terrors.
Whining aside, the pregnancy is going really well.
But could we talk about how hard it is to be pregnant with an already ‘large’ family? Because I’m finding that harder than any of the physical symptoms. When you announce your pregnancy, everyone is surprised. The responses range from ‘Oh, wow!’ to ‘Are you sure you know how babies get here?’ Yes, folks, I have no idea where these other kids came from. Please, give me a run-through of sex ed. again! The most demoralizing are the variations of ‘Not again!’ Now, many comments are vaguely supportive but the background seems to be one of (mostly) polite disbelief. The majority of sincere ‘Congratulations!’ I have gotten are from friends in much the same boat as myself. (Hmmm…maybe it’s only sincere because we’re crazy together….)
Desperate for some kind of positive feedback, I have resorted to Walmart cashiers for congratulations. They’re mostly restrained by societal convention: if they think I’m crazy, they do it in their own head. And I get my much-needed support for my life choice.
Yes, life choice. Mostly that terms floats around alternative lifestyles. Well here’s a newsflash about this lifestyle: I choose it. I choose to be a mother of 5 or more children.
This does not mean I’m a saint, a martyr. Believe me, if someone tried to give me a ‘Mother of the Year’ award I would take off running in the other direction. No one knows their flaws and imperfections like the mother of so many children.
But I’m not stupid, crazy, or an idiot either. Much of the negativity I feel seems to focus on the assumption that my husband and I have no idea the difficulties we’re in for. Of course not. After living with family for two years and barely scraping by in our own place, I have no idea the difficulties another mouth and set of arms will bring. Yes, the emotional, physical, and financial toll gets worse with each child. Especially for an ADHD, depressive mother with Fibromyalgia married to an ADHD husband with ADHD children. Believe me, I know the toll. I live with it every day.
What is the point of this cranky, pregnant lady rant? I’m tired of the negativity. This life that I’ve chosen is hard enough; I deal with my own demons every day (not just the ones I birthed). I can’t handle the burden of your disbelief or shock on top of that. I won’t carry it any more. Call it pregnancy hormones, but this stuff keeps me up at night.
Since I need my sleep, here it is:
My Pregnancy Manifesto
I’m pregnant. It’s number 5.
And please mean it.
I am socially inept.
I am uncomfortable in social settings because I just know that I will say or do something stupid. I obsessively analyze recent social encounters to check for said stupid things. And if I did do something stupid, I will anguish over it for the next ten years. True story.
It seems that the place I feel most comfortable is here, writing. It’s a social situation under my control. I can check and double-check what I say. I can even make sure my grammar and punctuation is correct. A decent bonus, I think.
You know what’s funny? I highly doubt it was because I was homeschooled. Because that lasted a year and a half. Then my mom went on bed rest and we ran off and played all day and she sent us back to public school. I didn’t know how good I had it.
Doubtless it’s connected to being a military brat. Moving from place to place ever so often. Having to start over with new friends, classes, cliques, and houses. But we were fairly stable for a military family, not moving every single year. In fact, we stayed a respectable five years in one location. As a child, I cut ties fairly quickly; I looked ahead to starting over. I hoped it would turn out better than the last time.
Maybe it’s because I’m weird. Social awkwardness is comorbid with weirdness right? I enjoyed school. I was good at it. I even liked my teachers. Growing up with brothers I was an odd mix of princess and tomboy (ask me sometime about the imagination game where I was a guerrilla undercover princess). I loved climbing trees and playing outside. I also loved twirly skirts and curling up with a book. But as I grew older I retreated more into books. They were safe and undemanding.
But I think I’m just a socially awkward person. And weird. Definitely still weird. And perhaps I didn’t push myself to grow out of it. The socially awkward part. I love being weird.
And I’m okay with it. Mostly. But I just wanted to let you all know. Because sometime in the future I will do something stupid. I will say something completely random or seem really insensitive. I will forget things like phoning you when I promise. I will read your email and only ever answer you in my head. I will do something to help but it may not be what you need. And it will seem like I don’t care enough to try to be a good friend and not embarrass you in public.
But I do try, every time, to do better. And I am doing less stupid things every time. And when I do do something I will probably realize it 10 minutes later and obsess over it for weeks or years. But I’m learning to let that go too.
In the immortal words of Stan Lee, I strive to ‘Excelsior!’ That’s Latin for doing better.
Thanks for loving me anyways.
P.S. After I wrote this, I read this wonderful article that made me feel immensely better:
Maybe I’m not the crazy one?
Yah, right. Who am I kidding…
Right now I’m listening to Laura’s CD from her violin book. She has been so blessed to have the chance to learn violin. We are so grateful to those helping make this possible. And I think it’s worth every penny for one reason: behavioral changes.
Right now, Laura needs achievements. She needs to see progress. And since we’re holding off on starting school until we move next week, her progress revolves around her violin. As we push, shove, cajole, and threaten to get her to practice, she stores away each evidence of talent and hard work.
Honestly, though, I was nervous about her taking it up. Not that it’s a bad thing, but I remember my younger brother starting violin when I was in 6th grade. While I’m sure he enjoyed it, and has enjoyed the opportunity to fiddle (pun so intended) with one since then, let me tell you: it was painful. If someone tells you that bagpipes sound like tortured cats, don’t believe them. It’s the amateur violinist that sounds like he is running his own feline Gitmo in the other room. I love my brother, but at 11 years old I made sure to stay as far away from his practicing as possible. To my pleasant surprise, Laura was not nearly so screechy. While I admit that my hearing could be a) biased as her mother and b) dulled by years of screaming children, I think she has a talent for this instrument. I love to sit and watch her practice. She sits on the piano bench or cross-legged on the floor (ala Lindsey Stirling) and her fingers move confidently over the fingerboard, the bow smoothly passing over the strings. She’s not perfect but she’s pretty darn good for her age.
Anyways, behavioral changes. Laura has some anger and mood issues we’re constantly working on. Some of it is working out with age, but to anyone who is struggling with a special needs child, I would jump up and down yelling “Get them an instrument!” She is happier, calmer, and more…centered. Again, she’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But she’s better. Part of that is the homeschooling I’m sure. But in a period of two days earlier this year when she participated in two performances of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, I had a perfect child. No, seriously!!! Somehow that public affirmation worked magic.
I love magic.
As I listen to this CD, I think of my little girl learning and growing. I hope she is feeling like she has a place in this world and that she is already doing so much that is good.
I heard somewhere that you were thinking about homeschooling. Don’t bother asking where, we’re like the Mafia, we never tell. But since you’re at least interested, take a seat and listen to my spiel.
As tempting as homeschool sounds, you’re uncertain; suspicious even. What about socialization, grades, keeping up, and the persistent fear that your kid will turn out to be one of those homeschoolers? You know, the weird ones. Oh, and if you have any physical difficulties or chronic diseases, how on earth can you be a full-time mom AND teacher? Do you have a spouse or other family member doubting your ability to do all this?
Not only did my husband (mostly secretly) have these fears, but I did as well. I have a chronic disease and ADHD. I cannot say from day to day what will be accomplished. And some years not much has gotten done, like the year of the baby, then the other baby, then the miscarriages and living with the in-laws. Not complaining, trying to point out that life will mess up every schedule to some degree. Yes, of course it will be hard. Insanely hard. You will have to choose between math homework and piles of laundry or doctor’s appointments and field trips. Many times the chores will go undone. And sometimes the schoolwork will take the backseat. Either way, it will be okay.
When you first go into homeschooling, you’re nervous, almost paralyzed with fear of messing it up. You feel the weight of those twelve years and the immensity of your responsibility. How can you possibly do this? Your child’s entire academic and world success rests on you: a stressed-out, harried, hopefully sane mom or dad.
This is supposed to be calming, right? I guess I’m not doing a very good job. Here’s the key: three things to make this whole wonderfully terrifying and terrifyingly wonderful homeschool thing work.
2. accept that some/many days you’ll be lucky to have these people dressed and fed.
3. always continue to do better.
That’s it, good luck!
Just kidding, here’s the rest.
You’ll mess up. Don’t let the failures define your homeschool. Celebrate those days when you have been an amazing homeschool mom. I mean, seriously, you were awesome! People commented on your wonderful, smart, mature children, the aforementioned children got to see brains at the local college, and even did well on the standardized test. Boo and a ‘Yah!
In response to your concerns: the only thing that will completely allay them is proof, every year that you can see tangible progress in your homeschool. For my husband, the behavioral changes in our daughter (for the better) and her decent score on the CAT exam have him feeling better about this whole subversive lifestyle. Me, I’m not as focused on the numbers. Okay, I lie. I called up my mom the second I found out that I haven’t ruined her grandchildren and did a happy dance over the phone. But the longer I’m going about this, the more I begin to see the vision of homeschooling. My kids are happy. They have an entire world of learning at their feet and appetites whetted to dig in.They are learning to do things in real life, not on a worksheet. They are excited about our plans for our family and look for ways to contribute. I think they are well on their way to catching the same vision. It is so sweet to have them home with you and they learn so much just from going about life at home: helping, cooking, cleaning. They become each other’s friends, mentors, and teachers. And, most importantly to me, each other’s protectors. This is my proof. And I get more every day.
Oh, and they’re not perfect. They will fight. And fight. You will tear your hear out. And you’ll want to invest in straitjackets. But it’s not legal. I checked.
But then you have the moments where they are perfect. Brief beautiful moments when you can see the man or woman they will become and how what you are doing will help them achieve it. Ah, I love it.
Whether you homeschool or not, catch this vision. Create a home that schools, even if it’s not a homeschool.
But, really, homeschool.
Tim has developed a very sweet habit lately. Whenever he has to go anywhere out of the family/play room, he puts up a chubby paw and asks me, in an entirely unintelligible babble, to walk with him. He won’t move until he has our hands tightly clasped and pulls me along with him, excited to do something else. Because, you never know, it might be loads of fun. And, Mom, you’d better be there. Come along, Mom!
We can have so many reasons for not interacting with the kids. Bills lurk on the desk, laundry haunts the basement, the round of meals has to happen every…single…day. Physical conditions and mental diseases hinder and cloud our thoughts. Sometimes you literally can’t move without pain. And sometimes they really like Little Einsteins and Octonauts (and you not-so-secretly like them too) and you’re just glad that for one moment they’re not tearing up the house. Especially when it’s your in-laws’ house.
Recently, I was affected by a particular part of the semi-annual church-wide general conference. Here’s the link so you can go watch all the awesome talks for yourself! It was a talk by the Sister Rosemary Wixom, Primary General President (the person who, with her counselors and the Lord, decides the curriculum and topics for the children 3-11 for the entire LDS church), entitled The Words We Speak. Sister Wixom referenced the phenomenon described by Dr. Neal Halfon, a physician who directs the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities, as “‘parental benign neglect’.” Allow me to let her words tell the story:
The referenced incident involved “an 18-month-old and his parents:
‘Their son seemed happy, active and engaged, clearly enjoying time and pizza with his parents.
… At the end of dinner, Mom got up to run an errand, handing over care to Dad.’
Dad … started reading phone messages while the toddler struggled to get his attention by throwing bits of pizza crust.
Then the dad re-engaged, facing his child and playing with him.
Soon, though, he substituted watching a video on his phone with the toddler until his wife returned.
I’m sure a large number of us cringed hearing this description of an unfortunately very common-place scene in our own homes. Anyone else want to pretend the theme of Conference was not home, families, and children? You see, every Conference has a theme. The sum of the talks, all topics unassigned beforehand, comes together into a central message that the Lord is trying to give us. That’s why Conference is so important: twice a year we are gifted with a message presented by a diverse group of individuals. It’s like taking a picture with 5 different lenses. Same subject, different focuses and interpretations. But always this message is one that requires action, personal change.
To become more like our Savior and our Heavenly Father, we have to do better. Every day. And that can become very wearing. You go to bed and think, ‘Can’t I just have a day where I don’t have to work on anything? Just a little bit of a break?’ And the answer, sweetly whispered through the Holy Ghost, ‘No, dear, I’m afraid that there are no breaks. You need to work hard every day to come join me with your family. I know it’s hard. But, I know it’ll also be loads of fun. And, Mom, you’d better be there. Come along, Mom!’
Nothing teaches better than a sweet child standing at the stairs, holding up his sweet little hand, saying in his own sweet way, “Come along, Mom!”
I realized that I support a very worthwhile charity. I pay library fines dutifully every month. Aren’t I community-conscious? Next time you crack open a book in one of the Central Rappahanock Libraries and inhale that musty ink-perfume, think of me…and that old picture of Max above. I just wanted an excuse to put that up.
Anyways, I want to write this stuff up before I forget, and then I’m off to bed.
Today was a pretty good day. Laura completed her required independent work for the day, although she failed to practice her violin. And we worked through a tantrum to learn borrowing. The trick? Ignoring the fact that she was pitching a fit and narrating to her while I did sample problems. She’s too smart and curious to stay mad when there’s something to be learned, so she perked up and learned quite quickly how to borrow with multiple-digit subtraction.
And on that good note, let me brag about my kiddos a little more.
While I’ve read about the compliments homeschooled kids get, how polite and conversational they are, I didn’t ever expect to get any. Certainly not before they were 16. However, I suppose we’re doing something right because we got several today. One was specifically about Laura. We visited the Optometrist today (more on that in a week) and I had to depend on Laura to watch the ‘Littles’ in the waiting room. (Poor Tim & Jo get lumped under that title, saves time.) Laura wandered around the small space, chatting up the receptionists and our fellow customers. One lady, a teacher, could not compliment her enough when I poked my head out from the exam room. She described her as ‘so very smart’ and noted that she carried on a conversation ‘like an adult’.
As I was signing papers, “Are they this quiet at home?” asked the receptionist. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. No, this is one of those rare days where the stars align, the earth’s rotating backwards, and you turn your head and squint. Voila! Quiet, perfect children! At least for a couple of hours. Then we entered the dreaded Walmart. Oh, well, I need moments like this, no matter how brief, to remind me of how good my kids really are and how much I really do like them.
Other news: new shoes for all thanks to the aforementioned gigantic store of doom, and a yummy dinner. Life’s pretty good right now. Oh, and mom: Yes, I’m still alive. I’ll try to plug in my phone and call you tomorrow. Love you!
My heart is very full tonight. I think there are a lot of reasons for this and, with your patience, I will attempt to voice them.
I think, particularly as a teenager and on, that I have had a difficult time fully trusting the Lord to direct my life. Not because I don’t trust him. I have had a sure knowledge of my Heavenly Father my whole life. This has kept me safe and allowed me to weather some difficult times without being too burned by the results of my own and other’s actions. It must be tied up with pride somewhere. But it’s also a fear of not being in control. Of not knowing what’s next and what I need to do.
It panics me. Not being able to draw up a list that details the next events of the day, week, or year. How am I going to be prepared when I don’t know what’s coming?
But as my life has progressed, the Lord has made his will known pretty strongly. I had planned the college I was going to. The Lord let me know, as sweetly and directly as he ever does, that I was going somewhere else. I was smart enough to follow his direction. Then I was married to my amazing husband. I am starting to think that the Lord wanted to make sure I married him, so he introduced us when I was 12. And now, in our tenth year of marriage, it has just become plain that my trial to overcome in this life is to be able to give up control.
The first test was in trusting the Lord that he had a timetable for our children to come to this earth. So many friends and family find this approach unfathomable. I know that most of their reaction is out of love and concern for us, given that I have fibromyalgia and a bad back. All I can ever say is that, while many are not given this direction, we are. And we have had constant reassurance and proof that He knows when our family needs to grow. However, it is still hard to follow. Again, with the control thing.
We’ve had any number of tests to teach us that He has, really, quite excellent plans for us. Heck, we moved in a month to Idaho from Utah on the prompting of the Spirit. And lived in the town that I now want to retire in. Whenever Matthew has needed a job, no matter how desperate the situation seemed, something has appeared. And in such a way that we know it could only be another blessing from the Lord. After we were married, he was unable to find a job until the day we found out we were pregnant with Laura. That’s part of the test of our faith, it appears. Waiting until the…very…last…moment. It really plays havoc with the nerves.
So, in keeping with the grand lesson of my life (if I get this licked I get translated, right?), I have once again been told by the Spirit to give up the control. This time in homeschooling. I’ve realized that I’ve been driving myself crazy believing that I have to be responsible for every bit of education that my daughter receives. An incident just a couple of days ago allowed the Lord to speak to my heart about what His daughter, both of His daughters, need in this homeschooling.
Laura decided all on her own that her backpack needed organizing. She laid it out on the table and went at it without needing a jot of input from me. She then went from there to independently work on her spelling words. Then she worked on her report about the caves of Lascaux. After which, she ran up to her room to pull out her violin and start practicing. And I sat there wondering, ‘Well, what do I need to be here for?’ It was gratifying. But very humbling.
There is a post I read recently that came at just the right time to synthesize everything I’ve been feeling in my heart. In discussing her awkward, wonderful, and creative daughter, she stated that somethings don’t need to fixed. In fact, some things aren’t broken to begin with.
My daughter has her difficulties. But she’s not broken. She’s her.
I love her.
Now, I need to trust her.
So she can come to trust herself and her Father in Heaven.