Mom of Ten: My Very Own List of Stats

The other night my husband and I were out on a date. My teens, who were babysitting, called to inform us that the two year old was throwing up. Yikes. So, we drove as quickly as we could to get home. As we were driving I told my husband I would hold the baby when we got home if he would clean up the throw-up. I then apologetically explained that nowadays, if people even talked about throwing up I would start feeling queasy. I could no longer handle throw-up… I thought about this for a minute…I didn’t use to be that way. Nobody likes throw-up, but I used to be able to handle it ok. What had changed? Oh yeah. I remember. Ten pregnancies, four to five months of extreme morning sickness per pregnancy. That equals, after I did the math, Three Years of Throwing Up. Three Years. Good grief. No wonder I can’t handle throw up anymore. I have a very good reason. I am justified in my squeamishness.

This train of thought led me to think about some other statistics.

 

I have been pregnant for 90 months or 7 ½ years.

 

Seven and half years guys. No wonder my body is a little out of whack. I have reasons!

 

I have gone to an estimate of 140 prenatal visits.

 

That is probably a low estimate as some of my later pregnancies were considered high-risk and I had extra appointments. Plus extra appointments for dealing with the morning sickness. It’s no wonder I don’t blink an eye when people jab my arm for blood or when strange doctors expect me to carry on an intelligent conversation with them while I sit on a cold table with nothing but a piece of flimsy paper covering my body.

 

I have spent 12 years and counting nursing a baby.

 

Nursing bras are a way of life. While I don’t flaunt myself in public, I also don’t mess around too much with cover-up blankets, and I’m not really thinking about what your opinion of me is while I nurse in public. I have nursed in an unheated car in the middle of winter in Alaska, I have nursed on a canoe, somehow managing to keep all life vests on. I have nursed while hiking. I have nursed while camping. I have nursed in sickness and in health. I feel pretty privileged that I’ve been able to have that experience with my babies.

 

Going on an average of 5 diapers a day, a low estimate, my husband and I have changed around 49,275 diapers.

 

Ok. This one makes me feel bad. I don’t use cloth diapers. I’m not a tree hugger, but I don’t want to be irresponsible either. That number feels irresponsible. In my defense, we were living in a bush Alaska with our first baby where you have to buy your water and it’s pretty expensive, we couldn’t afford the extra water bill. Second baby was while we were in Chile and all I had was a simple agitator washer and I had to hang all my clothes up to dry. I couldn’t even keep up with our regular clothes, let alone cloth diapers. Our third baby, we were living in a camper and then a rental house and I went to the laundromat. Somewhere around baby five or six, I hesitantly suggested cloth diapers to my husband. He was very skeptical of my ability to wash poopy cloth diapers. He said, I know you, you would just throw them away. He’s right of course. Remember that three years of throwing up? It also made me very reluctant to deal with any stinky, yucky, messes. I am hoping to potty train my youngest this summer and then, NO MORE DIAPERS!!!!! We will have a party when that happens.

 

I have been buckling kids in and out of car seats for over 18 years.

 

Car seats are my best friend and my worst enemy. They keep my child contained and they give me sense of security. Yay. But Oh, it’s a pain in the butt when your baby falls asleep in their car seat and you have to remove them from the car without waking them up (this takes great talent which I don’t have, even with 18 years of practice). And then there’s just the annoyance of always having to twist around in your seat to unbuckle them or climb around to a backseat to help them buckle up. No fun. I’ve still got many years to go before we pass this stage. Sigh.

 

Going on the average, I have taken children to at least 151 Well-Child Checkups.

 

I am blessed that we have an awesome pediatrician. We have been seeing the same doctor for 15 years, and she’s had the same nurse helping her for those entire 15 years. She’s an older lady who has six children of her own, nursed her kids well past the Fashionable One Year Mark, has a grown-up daughter who is a homeopathic doctor so she knows all about alternative medicine ideas, and she’s open to having discussions with me about vaccines. Honestly, in a weird way, I consider her my friend. She cares about my kids and has given me good advice over the years, even been a sounding board when we’ve gone through some particularly rough periods with one of our kids. So, I have come to not mind those appointments so much.

 

Last but not least..

 

We have owned 6 cribs.

 

Cribs should last forever. After all, how much harm can a baby do to a bed? None in fact. The problem lies in the older toddlers and school age children who always seem to gravitate to the crib as some awesome playing place. Let’s pretend it’s a cage and we’re wild animals locked up! Let’s pretend it’s our spaceship! Let’s pretend it’s a trampoline! Yeah. Despite all my efforts, warnings, punishments, etc, an older child always does something to the crib. We have moved our youngest out of his crib just recently. I am officially done with cribs. Woohoo. Anyone want some well-used crib sheets? I can’t give away the last crib because…it’s broken.

I didn’t even get in to how many pounds of fruit I buy a week (around 55 pounds) or how much meat I buy a week (around 20 pounds). Or how many socks our family owns (who knows, maybe a couple hundred?).

I’m glad we have a large family. It’s fun. Life is never dull and I am surrounded by cuteness, mischievousness, curiosity, drama, and comedic relief. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but I’m glad for this unexpected role I ended up with. Mom of ten. That’s me.

 

 

 

Morning Sickness and the Presence of God

Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  This is the official term for really bad morning sickness or “excessive vomiting during pregnancy”. I have 10 children (plus 2 miscarriages, equal a grand total of 12 children). Every single one of my pregnancies found me throwing up for several months. The first pregnancy the nausea didn’t stop till I was 20 weeks. Through each pregnancy that time period got a little bit shorter, but the shortest duration was still 15 weeks. Each pregnancy I averaged about a 20 pound weight loss at the beginning and usually had at least 2 trips to the ER for severe dehydration. I took a variety of medicine, but through trial and error, discovered that all but one gave me the wonderful side effects of severe panic attacks. My intense dislike of panic attacks meant I would choose vomiting over anxiety. I finally settled on taking Zofran which was very expensive and really just kept the edge off enough that I could stay alive. I know that sounds melodramatic, but that’s what it felt like.

This is what severe morning sickness is like. It’s your body saying to you, if you drink something, I’m going to make you throw up, if you eat something, I’m going to make you throw up, if you walk around at all, I’m going to make you throw up. So what do you do?  Well, I eventually worked out a strategy. Get up, go throw up, quickly take a Zofran with a tiny bit of water, sit very still. Eat something high starch and very salty (the last several pregnancies I settled on Velveeta mac and cheese), take another sip of water, and then lay very very still. Don’t move. No interactions with people. My goal was to not throw up for at least 3 hours so that my body could at least digest some of the food. About 3 hours later, I would repeat the process, except maybe this time eat a little bit of melon or eat some frozen pomegranate juice. (I had a really weird diet, only a handful of things sounded doable, and it was always random. Later when I would start to feel a bit better and get some appetite back, I would always crave green beans and boiled potatoes. Weird.) I counted up the my daily calories once and I averaged somewhere between 600-900 calories a day, depending on what kind of day I was having. The hardest part was being constantly dehydrated. I kept a glass of ice water by my bed but could only manage a sip here and there, anything more made me throw up. I would lay in my bed and dream about water. I usually day dreamed about being up in the mountains at the river, jumping into the icy coldness, hearing the sound of bubbling water. I would think about waterfalls, and picturesque lakes. I craved water. Sometimes I would go and get a little stool and just sit in the shower, letting the water rush over me, hoping that my skin would absorb some of the water and make me feel better.

I did this 10 times. (The 2 pregnancies where I miscarried, I had no morning sickness. Which made me change my perspective as I started recognizing morning sickness as a sign of a healthy pregnancy.) I am sure you are wondering why I did this so many times. Well, very early in our marriage my husband and I decided that we wanted God to determine our family size. I was willing to commit to this method one child at a time. After each pregnancy, I would think there was No Way in Hell I would ever do that to myself again, but when it came time to discuss birth control, I never felt comfortable. I still felt like this was something I was supposed to do. I loved my children. I loved having a large family. Really, my only problem with lots of pregnancies was the morning sickness. I do think that we have the exact right number of children for us. I am going to base this on the fact that when we finally decided that we were done, I had no regrets, no second thoughts, no ambiguity. I knew we were done. I hadn’t felt that peace beforehand.

During my times of morning sickness I would worry about my family. I think for the first couple pregnancies I felt guilty, like I was somehow failing my husband and children because I wasn’t up and taking care of things. After a while, common sense kicked in and I stopped feeling guilty. It takes two to get pregnant and my husband knew that I was going to get sick, so he could now deal with the consequences and take care of the family while I laid in bed for a couple months. And, he rose to the occasion. No children were lost, no one starved to death, the house didn’t burn down. Everyone learned to appreciate mom a bit more.

Being in bed for months on end does something to you though. I usually had one of two responses when I got sick. I either got really depressed or I got really angry. Depressed because there was no end in sight. I knew I wanted more children which meant I would have to go through this again. Anger because why on earth would God give me the kind of body that hates pregnancy, but at the same time give me a desire to have lots of children? Each time I had to do a lot of soul searching, a lot of talks with God, and as I started feeling better, I had to give myself a lot of grace to just recover from the whole thing.

My last pregnancy was different. I found myself just feeling resigned. Ok. I’ve got to do this. I’m going to read a bunch of good books, I’m going to watch TV shows, I’m going to distract myself as much as possible and endure.

During this time God gave me the most interesting gift I’ve ever had. The nausea had reached the point of no return and I ran to the bathroom, knelt in front of the toilet and started throwing up. Suddenly God spoke to me. Very clearly. He said, “Am I still worthy of praise?” My first response was, “What? Now? You’re talking to me now?” and then, as I continued to throw up, I thought back to him, since talking was not an option, “Yes, you are worthy of praise. Even now. I give you praise.” And suddenly I felt God’s presence heavy on me and now I was crying and sobbing. The sickness finally passed. I got up, cleaned up, staggered back to my bed. I lay there feeling a bit confused.  I had just gone through a holy moment. A very unexpected, out of the box holy moment. I must say I did not expect God’s presence to show up while I was kneeling in front of a toilet. God had just let me participate in that thing called “a sacrifice of praise”. Praising God when things aren’t going well, when you’re not feeling blessed, when life kind of sucks. I call this a gift from God because I can tell you that in my own strength I never would have thought about praising God while I was throwing up. Never. It was a gift because he got my attention, he gave me an opportunity to offer him a sacrifice of praise, and I think it’s one of the most holy moments I have ever had in my life. Because He is Worthy. He is Worthy of our Praise. No matter what is happening in your life, he is Worthy. And when we praise him it actually strengthens us, because we step into his presence for a moment.  We experience his Love and Peace and Goodness, and in my experience, that’s what I need to make it through this life.