Five burning questions answered about my large family

I announced the pregnancy (and gender) of my sixth baby this week and received a wonderful response on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Not surprising, since I’m sure my family and friends are used to this by now! Just for fun I thought I would go ahead and get all of the burning questions out of the way, since I’m sure there were a few behind the scenes gasps that I was pregnant yet again. So here we go…

1.       Is your TV broken? Yes, our TV is working just fine. I don’t know why people like to ask this question. I mean, we have been married for 11 years and only have 6 children. If our TV truly wasn’t working and you-know-what was all we ever did, we would probably be rivaling the Duggars by now. Okay, well, maybe not quite that much. But we did space our children out by 2 years at least. Well at least most of them…

Date night 2015

2.       Have you figured out what causes this yet? Yes, we have figured out what causes this. Again, not sure why people still think this question is funny, but I guess it’s that awkward response that everyone feels they must ask when they ask you how many children you have, and you say any number more than 2 or 3. It’s like that awkward moment of MUST.SAY.SOMETHING.FUNNY.NOW. So yes, it’s funny. And yes, we know how it all works. It seems to be working just fine! J

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3.       Are they all yours? Yes, they are all mine. You know, this one just gets me. I mean, what does it mean really? Do you think I run a daycare? Or if I adopted some of them, wouldn’t they still be MINE? So yes, they are all mine. How that happened, really is none of anyone’s business (usually this question gets asked by complete strangers.) But if you do indeed want to know, yes, I gave birth to all five, and soon to be six.

4.       Are you done after this one? No, I don’t know if THIS is the last one. Okay I get it. You think I’m crazy. Maybe I am. But I love my crazy life with my crazy amount of kids and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I did turn 40 this year, so it’s possible this could be my last. But God hasn’t given me a reason to stop yet and so we just keep trucking along. Ask me this again about six months from now! 😉

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5.       I could never have that many kids, how DO you do it? I’m really not quite sure HOW I do it. But somehow I manage. I am blessed that my husband works from home and gets to experience the chaos daily with us! It does help that I can go to the store alone sometimes and have that extra set of hands when I really need help. I also don’t have to threaten with, “Just you wait until your Dad gets home…”

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So there you have it. Just in case you had that urge to ask me any of those questions now that the pregnancy has been announced, you have your answers.

I’m not Super Mom. I’m just a Mom.

In honor of Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I would talk about being a Mother. What a novel idea, right? I won’t spend too much time patting myself on the back for that one! I think a lot of people look at me and my five kids and think, “Wow, she must be Super Mom!” Well I am here to say that I am not.

I am just a Mom. Just like anyone else. Living this crazy life with these wild and crazy kids. Some Moms have one kid, others have ten. I happen to have five and I couldn’t imagine life without any of them.

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I’m a Mom. I gave birth to each of them in very different ways. I went through surgery three times (I have the scars to prove it) and twice had a natural vaginal birth. All very pivotal experiences in my life. Each birth experience shaped me into the human, woman and Mom I am today. As a Mom recovering from surgery, I had a scar that needed to heal. Weeks of pain as I learned how to nurse my newborn. Nursing was a struggle from the start, but I powered through and we made it! After five children, I think I finally got it!

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I’m just a Mom. I wear many hats. Teacher, cook, maid, nurse, friend. I’m all those things and more. Show me a career that wears more hats than I do! I can’t find one.

I’m a Mom. I wipe noses, brush away tears, listen to corny jokes (and somehow manage to laugh!), wipe bottoms and potty train (oh the horror!) I change diapers, nurse my babies (sometimes for years), read, teach, clean up messes all day long. I listen to sad sob stories (sometimes way over dramatic, but try to have sympathy) and sometimes listen to (endure) tantrums and melt downs. I break up fights and discipline (not my favorite part of the job but necessary) and mediate “heated discussions.”

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I’m just a Mom. I teach them Scriptures and take them to church, show them the love of Jesus as best I know how. I teach them how to read on their own and (begrudgingly) teach them math. I read poetry and great literature, take them to the zoo and the symphony. We play at the park and try to enjoy this crazy life together. 

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I’m a Mom. I cook three meals a day (well at least one!) and clean up after their messes. And don’t forget the snacks in between (these kids are always eating!) I do a never ending amount of laundry and sometimes get that put away. It just keeps on coming! I help brush teeth and keep up with Doctor and Dental appointments. There is always something, right? I chauffer to activities. Life is very busy.

I’m just a Mom. I endure crazy bedtime rituals and sometimes have to raise my voice a little to get them to go to sleep (shh, don’t tell.)  I shop for their clothes and make sure they always have shoes to wear. I  get them ready in the mornings and when we do actually have somewhere to go, I somehow manage to get them all out the door with shoes on. That part is tricky. Oh the shoes, they are never where they belong! (So thankful we homeschool, I would never make it to school on time!)

I’m a Mom. I nurse babies to sleep and cuddle them when they are sad. I wear them sometimes just to get things done or maybe because they just need to be held close. I put bandages on scrapes and sometimes put bandages on just because they insist on having one. I kiss booboos and foreheads and comfort when they have had a rough day.

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I’m just a Mom. I get to hear stories that sometimes really are actually funny and make me laugh! I watch my kids have amazing imaginations as they make up stories and play together. I listen to them play and sing beautiful music and watch dance recitals. I listen to their creativity and just revel in how God made each of them amazingly unique.

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I’m a Mom. I have the joy of watching each of these children grow and blossom into amazing human beings. And they grow up way too fast. Sometimes I just wish life would slow down and we could pause this time in life. But other times I can’t wait to see the teenagers and adults they will become and the amazing things they will accomplish in life. Yes, I am a Mom who gets to experience the joy of all these things. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.

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So, Super Mom, I am not. I’m just a Mom. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s okay to mourn your birth story

I have had five different birth stories. I tell each one a little bit different. Are some more joyful than others? Yes! Does that make me love any of my children less? Absolutely not! I think there is this idea that birth is birth and it doesn’t matter how your baby gets here, as long as you have a healthy Mom and baby. Sure, that’s always the goal! But what is wrong with desiring a beautiful birth story? What is wrong with being a little bit sad if that beautiful birth story doesn’t happen the way you had hoped?

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I shared a three-part series on cesarean birth last year that was called Still a beautiful birth. I absolutely stand by all births being beautiful in their own way. Each child comes into this world a little bit differently. Unfortunately, these days, women are having their birth stories determined for them by their providers. I read a comment on Facebook recently where a woman said that her only birth plan was to let her provider tell her what to do because her OB had delivered more babies than she had! I was a little bit surprised by this, but why am I really surprised? Are we just letting care providers railroad us into determining our birth stories? Is this part of the reason why 1 in 3 babies are born by cesarean?

Here are three reasons it is okay to mourn your birth story:

  1. It doesn’t make you love your children any less if their birth story wasn’t up to what you thought it would be. 

         There seems to be this idea that you are a bad Mom or don’t love your children if you are unhappy with how they were born. This is ridiculous! Three of my children were born by cesarean, and I was not happy about it. But I love each of those children with every fiber of my being! I don’t look at my five children and say, “Well the first three are okay, but those VBA3C babies, wow they are the best!” No way. I love them all equally. And my birth stories are part of who I am. It shaped me into the childbirth educator and DOULA I am today. I wouldn’t be who I am today without those stories. But you better believe I was sad about it at the time. Would I change my birth stories no? Mourn it a little? Yes.

    2. It’s your story, not ours.

Don’t let someone try to tell you how you should tell your story! Why do you think so many women are struggling with post-partum depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder after their births? Because they are often holding in their true emotions over the birth story and not processing it the way they should. I highly recommend getting involved in some sort of post-birth support group (like ICAN or a post-partum depression group) to sort through those feelings. If you are local to me, I would be happy to point you in the right direction! Sometimes just saying your story out loud and having someone else validate what you are feeling is all you really need. Don’t suffer through your story in silence! Talk about it. Write your story down. Get help if you need it.

     3. Your expectations were obviously let down.

      Maybe you took a class like Birth Boot Camp and prepared for months for this birth, or carefully selected your care provider and did all the right things to have this amazing birth you so longed for. You went to the chiropractor and ate healthy and exercised. You did everything right! But your expectations for this birth came and went. That has to be really hard! I know, I was there. You are not a failure. Your body is not a lemon. Birth can sometimes just be unexpected. It takes turns that we don’t desire. Our birth plans were dashed because of one thing or another. It’s okay to mourn that! You worked hard for this, but you didn’t fail. You still birthed your baby, one way or another. But it’s okay to be sad about the way it happened.

My hope through this post is to start a dialogue about our birth stories. We shouldn’t be ashamed to share our true feelings. As women and mothers, we need to be supporting one another! Let’s share what we truly feel and work through it together.

How important is the right provider?

There has been a lot of talk in my small little “birthing world” about what is more important: teaching VBAC Mamas to be stronger so they can stand up for themselves in the hospital, or choosing the right provider who will support your VBAC wishes 100%? Hands down, in my opinion, choose the right provider.

Does this mean that VBAC Mamas shouldn’t be strong and shouldn’t be educated? Absolutely not. All of that is important. That is why I think it is so important to take a comprehensive birth education class like Birth Boot Camp! Taking the time week after week to learn about labor techniques and proper exercise and nutrition is such an important thing to do to prepare yourself for birth! But if you go through all that work in preparation and then get down to the wire and don’t have a 100% supportive provider to back up your wishes, you are going to be fighting a constant uphill battle! Any negativity can greatly affect the birth process. That is why I teach my students to surround themselves only with the people who are going to completely support them (whether a VBAC Mama or first time Mama.) The negative people in your life are going to discourage you from the end goal. Why should you have to go into a birth fighting with your provider? How is being strong and educated going to serve you well in the end? I personally would rather be a strong and educated woman, with a supportive team on my side. That team would include my husband, doula, provider and anyone else that I may need along the way during my pregnancy. They all need to be cheering for me! I need their support! I also just heard the question asked recently, “Why is it so hard for VBAC’s to be successful?” This is why: finding the right support is so hard these days!

I am just going to take this moment to talk about how much I absolutely love my OBGYN. I think a lot of people think that the natural birth world is completely against Doctors and hospitals and only encourages women to birth at home or in birthing centers with Midwives. The truth is, there are really awful Doctors out there. But there are also some really awful Midwives out there. Likewise, there are some really amazing Doctors as well as really amazing Midwives! It is so important to know what questions to ask when choosing your provider and also know what you will feel most comfortable with. Some women will only feel comfortable in the hospital because they are afraid of complications arising. If you are most comfortable in the hospital, it is possible to have the birth you desire! You just have to do your research and find the right provider. Some Midwives deliver in hospitals and there truly are some wonderful OBGYN’s out there!

Like my Doctor. I can’t say enough wonderful things about Dr. Cummings. There are not many like him out there. He is one of the most well-known Doctors in our country who supports VBAC’s 100%. I learned recently that for the first time in 30 years of practice, he is cutting back on how many patients he will take on. This means the inevitable, he is working toward retirement. He has been working closely with a couple of his colleagues to pass on the VBAC torch so to speak. Dr. Cummings not only delivers VBAC’s (after as many c-sections as you have had, he will most likely not pass on you) but he is also completely comfortable with twin vaginal and breech vaginal births. He has worked countless hours above and beyond what most Doctors put in, because he knows he needs to be there for these sometimes complicated births. If he isn’t there, who else is going to support these Mamas? Why does he do what he do? Well he says, “I happen to love bringing babies into the world!” I remember sitting in his office when I first consulted with him and hearing him tell me a story about the first time he chose to do a VBAC. He was in his residency and still “learning” so to speak. He was reprimanded for doing the VBAC and even brought before a board to discuss it. He was grilled out about what went into his decision to do the VBAC. Then in the back of the room, the very famous Dr. Pritchard who co-authored “Williams Obstetrics” asked him, “Did you feel this woman presented with the conditions to vaginally birth?” Dr. Cummings said yes. Pritchard then said, “Well then, case closed, move on.” Dr. Cummings told me that it was at that moment that he decided that VBAC was the right choice. He would always give women the opportunity to have a VBAC if they so choose.

One of Dr. Cumming’s most famous lines is this: “I don’t fear lawyers, I fear God.” He lives and breathes this statement. He prays about each decision he makes. I even remember seeing him praying for me in the middle of my delivery! I trust each and every decision he makes, because I know he is trusting God to guide him. After my baby was born, I remember looking up at him with tears in my eyes. I felt such joy and elation that I was finally given the opportunity to birth as I had so desired. This man gave me that opportunity that so many others wouldn’t dare. I thanked him profusely and told him that there was a special place in heaven for him. He just smiled and shrugged and said, “What did I do? You are the one who did it!” He truly is a rare gem.

My hope and prayer is that more Doctors out there will follow his lead. I get that vaginal birth takes more time. VBAC’s even more, because some hospitals place restrictions on the Doctors to stay on the premises at all times while a VBAC Mom is laboring. One of our VBAC supportive Doctors in the area recently had to stop taking VBAC patients because of this stipulation. More hospitals need to start providing evidence based care and stop placing unnecessary restrictions on Doctors and patients.

I am now pregnant with my 5th child and will probably be delivering with Dr. Cummings for the last time next spring before he ends up retiring. I truly can’t thank this man enough for all he has done for me and so many other women in our area.

Dr C

 

Fear not!

The Dallas area was hit pretty hard the other day with tornadoes. It got me thinking about fears. I asked the following question the other day on my Facebook page Inspiring Birth:  What are some of your fears? Some of the answers I received: Drowning, Tidal Waves,  getting into a car accident and not being able to get to my girls, being buried alive, snakes, free falling. I’m sure there are many other fears that were not mentioned. Unfortunately we live in a day and age where fear surrounds us. Some fears may be rational and others maybe a little irrational. Some healthy fears, some not so healthy fears.

If you know me well, you know I have a big fear of tornadoes. 5 years ago, we bought our first home as a couple. My oldest son, Carter was only 18 months old and I had just found out that we were expecting our little Sydney. I am not a born Texan. My husband and I are both from the northeast, so I am new to this whole storm scene. I never experienced tornadoes or even any kind of storm of that magnitude growing up. So I really never feared storms, until that fateful night. I went to bed that night knowing that they were predicting bad storms, but really didn’t think much of it. Around 3:50 a.m. I heard the tornado sirens blowing. This is the first time I had ever woken up to the sound of tornado sirens. I woke up Steve and quickly ran into Carter’s room to get him out of bed. We went into our hallway bathroom, since it is the only enclosed room in the house and sat in the tub. Suddenly the sirens stopped, and there was silence. We looked at each other and wondered if it was just a false alarm. But then suddenly, we heard the wind! I can’t even describe to you in words the fear that entered my body at that moment. We huddled together shaking like a leaf, praying for our lives! I don’t think we have ever prayed so hard as we did at that moment! The wind was so loud and we literally could hear things tearing apart above our heads. We thought at any moment that the roof was going to come down on us, or worse, we would be blown away with the house. It probably only lasted a few minutes, but it seemed like an eternity. This was before either of us had a smart phone, so we had no idea what was on the radar or how long this thing was going to last. After the loud winds finally stopped, we just heard rain and a lot of thunder. I think we stayed in that bathroom a good 30 minutes before we finally went out. We walked out, and the roof was still above our heads… but we didn’t learn until a few hours later when the sun came up, what had happened while we were in that bathroom.

This is what we came out to:

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This is our chimney, as well as some of our roof that had been blown off right above our heads in that little bathroom and landed down in our backyard.

Chimney . .

This is the hole that was left in our roof where our chimney used to be!

Fence

This is our fence that was blown completely down.

Church

Just down the road from us was a church that had the entire brick wall on the side of the church blown away.

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Also down the road you can see that this very large (and heavy!) telephone tower was blown completely down.

So as you can see, we were pretty shaken by this experience! For those of you who were wondering why I watch the weather so obsessively now, this is why! If there is a storm, I am on it. I know when it is coming and where, at all times. I am not kidding! Like I said, some fears can be irrational, and others can be a good thing. I think my fear of storms can go both ways. Because I have a fear of storms, I am on guard at all times. It can be a bad thing in the sense that it can really shake me and cause me to worry way too much… but it can also be a good thing because it keeps me on guard which then keeps me and my family as safe as possible.

So what does this have to do with birth? Women fear birth. Plain and simple. My job as a childbirth educator, is to help women overcome those fears. Through the course of my 10 week Birth Boot Camp class, I teach my students that there are so many variations of “normal” in birth. Let’s face it, in the media, we only see one kind of birth: sheer terror. I mean really, it isn’t good TV to watch a peaceful water birth, now is it? Is fear of birth rational? Maybe, maybe not. I highly recommend watching Ricki Lake’s documentary, “Business of Being Born” to learn more about the history of birth and how birth has changed over the years. When medicine first came on the scene, women were still led to believe that they should fear childbirth and the pain that came with it because of the curse of Eve. Women began giving birth in the hospital with a Doctor because it was the “fashionable” thing to do and wanted every drug available so they wouldn’t have to deal with the pain of childbirth. I love seeing the reactions of my students when I show them birth videos where the woman is not screaming in sheer terror, and just very peacefully and quietly births her baby. It does happen! Birth can be a beautiful process.

I’m sure you have heard the saying before, “Trust your body, trust birth.” Do I believe this? Absolutely. Do I think this can sometimes give a false hope? Yes, sometimes. What happens if something does go wrong? What will that woman who was told to trust her body think? She might think she really is broken. We are not broken! More than half of the c-sections performed today are not a medical emergency! Sometimes things do go wrong though, things out of our control. That is why I think it is good to have a healthy fear of birth.

How do you have a healthy fear of birth? Get educated, plain and simple! This is why I became a childbirth educator. I wanted to help women educate themselves about birth, so they can have a healthy fear of birth instead of the kind of fear that society tries to instill in us, through shows on TV that portray birth as sheer terror or a medical emergency. There are times when things happen, out of our control, when things do go wrong. This should happen less than 10% of all births though! It shouldn’t be the “normal” way to give birth. What does my fear of tornadoes do for me? It helps me to be prepared! I am prepared for any storm to come my way. With a good solid childbirth education class, you can also be prepared for birth. Nothing should surprise you!   My desire is for women to get educated and start taking birth back to a normal state. Let’s not let fear overtake us.