Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life with Four

By Kelly

"So how's it going with four?"

It's a question I get a lot these days, especially from people I know. (Strangers just stop and stare when I'm out with the whole family.) The question can be tinged with curiosity or fear or even incredulity that I survive daily life with four little people.

The answer, I'm happy to report, is that life is good. Four doesn't seem to be much different than three. The biggest adjustment has been introducing an infant into the mix again. Figuring out how to nurse a newborn while getting two children ready for school and keeping a toddler out of trouble – it's like Iron Chef: Mommy Edition. ("Today, the special ingredient is toddler drool! Go!")

My Mom, herself a mother of four, used to tell people that the biggest adjustment is going from two kids to three. "Once you are outnumbered, it doesn't matter anymore," I would hear her say. “After three, you could have ten without batting an eye.”

I have to say: I agree.

I'm sure you've seen the bumper stickers about going from man-to-man to zone defense when you have baby #3. And it's true. Two kids with two parents means most issues can be dealt with in a timely manner. Once the kids outnumber the parents, it's a whole new ballgame. (What do you call four on two? Or even four on one, for those times my husband is traveling? I think that's called a coup.)

That doesn't make it bad. It just means expectations might have to change. Chaos is now a reality. Order and definite naptimes are not.

But love and joy and the wonder of childhood will overflow like the Diaper Genie.

Life is a series of trade-offs.

So for me, four is good. Four is so very good.

How about you? When did you feel the biggest transition in your family – when you added that first baby, when you went from one to two, or when you shifted to zone defense?

Kelly writes about her life as a Mom of four at her personal blog Love Well.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When Mom Gets Tired

By Kelly

Do you remember the post I wrote a few months ago about being tired?

It contained a priceless bit of wisdom from my Mom that says, in a nutshell, when our kids are acting out, consider first that their behavior may stem from the fact that they are tired.

Turns out, the same is true of Moms.

Lately, I feel thin. I feel worn, impatient, shallow, like I have no resources upon which to call. My well is dry. And it’s not just when my husband travels and I’m forced into single parenthood. It’s a weariness that has settled into my soul.

I pondered this last night, as I lay in my daughter’s bed. I was replaying the previous 90 minutes in my mind, and I was shamefaced at my hurried tone and impatient edge. “They are only kids, Kelly,” I chided my inner self. “Why are you so cranky lately?”

And then it hit me – I must be tired.

The recognition poured over me like a flood. The last 12 months have been exhausting. They involved (in no particular order) gestating a human, giving birth to a sweet baby boy, nursing said sweet baby boy, attempting to keep a toddler out of trouble (attempting being the key word), parenting a first grader and fourth grader who are at delightful and intensive stages, supporting my husband as he quit one job and started another (that may necessitate a move for our family next year), and OH YES, writing a blog.

I’m exhausted just writing that. No really. I am.

Plus, I realized this summer took more out of me than I first realized. Making sure the three older kids enjoyed the summer while I balanced the needs of a newborn – well, that was a tightrope walk, my friends. It took a lot of emotional, mental and physical energy.

I am tired.

So maybe I’ll cut myself some slack and go to bed early. I don’t like being tired.

Life is too short.

Kelly blogs at Love Well. When she's not too tired.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


By Kelly

Association is a powerful thing.

This time last September, I was eight weeks pregnant. And I was sick. Oh so very sick. I lived in a film of nausea. I functioned – as a Mom to three, I didn’t have a choice. But I was miserable every minute of every day.

Normally, I love fall. In the Upper Midwest, it’s a season of glory. The scarlet-hued trees, the clear blue skies, the crisp clean air. It’s perfection.

But this year, when the top of the maple trees started to burn with orange, I didn’t feel happy. I felt sick. And when the geese started to honk and fly overhead, I craved some toast. And the thought of spending another Saturday on the soccer field made me want to crawl into my bed and not come out until Christmas.

I assure you, I’m definitely not pregnant right now. What gives?


To this day, I get queasy when I hear the theme music for the Higglytown Heros, because clips of the show were peppered throughout the Playhouse Disney schedule in winter 2003, when I was pregnant with Connor (and toddler Natalie watched a lot of TV while I laid on the couch). I vividly remember the Thanksgiving Day when I found out I was pregnant with Natalie. I felt like I was living in a Tim Burton movie. Even during Teyla’s pregnancy, which was the easiest first trimester of the four, I was disgusted by the heady smell of the lilacs blooming around the house.

Thus, I know – this too shall pass. Next September, my gag reflex won’t be triggered by thoughts of bonfires and hot chocolate. I won’t feel the need to lie down when I see the leaves change.

The association doesn’t last long.


But this?

This lasts forever.

Which is why my strongest association with pregnancy is joy.

Kelly chronicled her final pregnancy here at 5 Minutes for Parenting. You can find her personal ramblings on her blog Love Well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Breastfeeding 101

By Kelly

I was in the zone this morning.

Reading blogs and perusing my local newspaper online, I happened to look down at my four-month-old baby, happily nursing himself to sleep for his morning nap.

And I got such a big burst of joy, I thought my heart would explode.

I love breastfeeding. I love the closeness, the ease, the sweetness, the simplicity. It amazes me that my body can nourish my child. It makes me worship, to be honest.

But I’ll also be honest and say: It isn’t always this perfect.

Kieran is my fourth baby. I’ve nursed all of my children until they were at least one year old. The girls breastfed until they were almost two. (Which means I’ve been pregnant or nursing almost continuously since the year 2000. Good golly, Miss Molly. No wonder this body is tired.)

I feel like I’ve learned a lot along the way about breastfeeding. Permit me today to share a few of my hard-won lessons.

nursingphoto by Stephanie Precourt

Breastfeeding hurts at the beginning.

This is probably the most controversial point I have to make, because many lactation consultants insist breastfeeding should not hurt if it's done correctly.

I beg to differ.

Maybe it’s because my babies have vigorous sucking reflexes. Maybe it’s my genetic make-up. Maybe I’m just a freak. All I know is, the first few weeks of breastfeeding are about as painful as giving birth itself. This is due to the presence of large, open sores that develop about day three and don’t heal until about week three. I get these despite the baby having a perfect latch. (Trust me on this one. I had two lactation consultants and three nurses check Kieran’s latch in May before we left the hospital, and I still had scabs in places where the son don’t shine.)

My best tip for this is to get some gel pads from the hospital – the kind often used on burn victims. They are blissfully cool on traumatized, and they will help your skin heal without scabbing (much). Lanolin and expressed breastmilk are also wonderful healing agents.

It does get better.

If you can persevere through those first few weeks of torture, you will get a gold medal and a million dollars.

Well, not really. But it will get better. Your toes won’t curl each time the baby latches on, you won’t break out in a cold sweat for the first 90 seconds of each nursing session. Somewhere along the way, it will become natural and easy and ohmyword I really love this.

Watch for lumps that are tender to the touch.

This seems obvious, but the first few weeks and months of breastfeeding can be so hectic, I think it's good to state the obvious: If you feel a sore lump in one of your breasts, get thee to the shower and run some warm water on it while doing a gentle massage. And then nurse that baby as often as you can from the affected side.

The goal is to avoid the nemesis of breastfeeding mothers everywhere, the Mastitis Monster. I’ve had mastitis twice, and it is horrible. I shook so violently because of the fever, I was afraid newborn Teyla was going to have shaken baby syndrome. Twenty-four hours of antibiotics later, I was fine. But it was a miserable few days. Don’t mess around with a sore lump.

Letdown hurts.

At least for me.


Invest in a good nursing bra.

I wish someone had told me this years ago. I don’t normally spend a lot of money on underwear because, well, it’s underwear. But a nursing bra isn’t just underwear. It’s your companion, your advisor, your support. Wearing a bra that fits well and is easy to manage is a boon to you and your hungry baby.

Besides, you’re not really saving money if you have to buy six nursing bras over the course of a year because they are so cheap they trash easily. Trust me. I know.

Nursing pads can save you a lot of embarrassment.

Maybe it’s just because I have a bovine gene, but I do not leave the house without a nursing pad the first few months after having a baby. They are important if you want to avoid obvious golf-ball sized wet marks on your chest.

In fact, you might want to wear a pair of nursing pads anytime you’ll be away from your baby for a while. I will never forget a Sunday when my oldest was about 10 months old. We went to church and Sunday school and then my Mom’s for dinner in a whirlwind. It was a great lunch; a fellow teacher at the high school where I worked (a single male, it should be noted) was joining us that day, and he regaled us with stories for hours. It wasn’t until he got up to leave and I heard Natalie getting up from her nap that I realized the front of my (silk) shirt was dripping – literally – with milk.

I am Mommy. Hear me moo.

Don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it work.

I love breastfeeding. But I have many friends – many – who have tried and tried and sacrificed and prayed and tried to breastfeed their babies. And for whatever reason, it just doesn’t work. Maybe their milk supply is too low. Maybe the baby is always fussy and takes forever to nurse. Maybe they get repeated infections.

Whatever it is, I get it. I know they’ve tried. It’s OK. I don’t want them to beat themselves up for making a decision that is best for them and their baby.

Yet they still feel judged and guilty because they didn’t breastfeed their children.

Here’s where I say: That is crazy. Yes, breast is best. But we need to give our fellow Moms some grace here, especially if nursing is (mostly) easy for us. We are not all the same. Show compassion. Extend grace.

Enjoy your baby.

These days of nursing are quickly over, even if you practice extended breastfeeding. Having to stop multiple times each day to nurse a little one can be frustrating or tedious or even boring.

But it isn’t, really. It’s a chance to snuggle and savor that tiny person who just entered your life, to look into their eyes and see eternity. It is special and oh so sweet. Savor every second that you can.

OK fellow breastfeeding Moms. Chime in. What breastfeeding lessons can you pass on? Here's your chance to share your wisdom.

Kelly blogs and nurses -- often, at the same time -- at Love Well.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

They Call Me Mommy -- Most Of The Time

By Kelly

I will never forget the first time it happened.

It was around 7:00 PM on a sunny summer evening. I asked Natalie, then two years old, to call her Daddy inside for dinner. She went to the window, looked out toward the lake and yelled, “Coh-ee! Dinner ready!”

It was as startling as it was funny. Up to that point, she had never called us anything but Mommy and Daddy. We didn’t even know she knew our real names.

But in hindsight, it made sense. Natalie had listened to us call each other Kelly and Corey. She called her baby brother Connor. Why not venture into the adult world of names and call Daddy what everyone else called him?

I was reminded of that episode last week when my current two-year-old, Teyla, started to issue requests to “Keddy.” I took me a few minutes to figure out what she was saying (I have an infant; that’s my excuse), but when I did, I laughed and said, “I’m not Kelly. I’m Mommy.”

“No,” she furrowed her tiny eyebrows at me, hands on her hips. “You Keddy.”

Since then, it’s become a daily routine. She calls me Mommy or Momma most of the time. Then, suddenly, she whips out the new skills and says, “I Te-ya. You Keddy.”

“Kelly is my name,” I counter, “but you call me Mommy.”

“No Mommy. Keddy.” She says firmly and walks away.

It’s an odd thing, now that I think about it. Only parents and grandparents are offered these tender titles that bespeak their life role. We don’t call our siblings Brother and Sister (unless we want to annoy them), and no one outside of rural Kentucky says Cousin John or Cousin Julie.

I don’t care if my kids occasionally call me Kelly (or Keddy), because I know it’s just their way of reaffirming their place in the world.

As long as they always go back to calling me Mommy. Because as much as I like the name Kelly, the title of Mommy is sweeter still.

Mommy, er, Kelly blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Civilize the Savages

By Kelly

My two-year-old was eating a bag of snack mix this morning, courtesy of her Daddy’s flight home from Chicago last night. At one point, I turned around and saw a small, wet pile of something on the floor.

“What is that Teyla?” I said, pointing to the quarter-sized mess.

“Gross!” she said, wrinkling her nose.

I guess she doesn’t appreciate honey sesame sticks.

But instead of politely spitting out "the gross" into a garbage can after it offended her taste buds, she spit it onto the carpet, as if she was a cowboy on the range.

Only this range has wall-to-wall carpeting, which now sports a brown stain of gross near my bed.

It was a reminder to me that parenting is many things – but one of its most basic tenants is to civilize the savages.

We teach our children to say  “Please” and “Thank you.” (And in some parts of the country “Yes Ma’am” and “No sir.”) We explain why we wash our hands before we eat, how to sneeze into a Kleenex or bent arm, why it’s not polite to keep slurping on a straw that is bereft of refreshment.

When our children are young, it’s one of the more tedious parts of parenting. “Say excuse me when you do that.” “Aren’t you forgetting the magic word?” “Look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you.”

But at the heart of it, we aren’t just teaching behavior. We’re teaching consideration.

Emily Post has said, “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”

That is why I helped Teyla get a paper towel this morning and clean up the “gross” and then deposit it in the waste basket. Not just because I don’t want piles of half-eaten sesame sticks on my carpet. Because I want her to realize her own desires need to be seen in light of others.

And by the time I finished this article? She had sorted the sesame sticks from the snack mix bag and set the remainder in a gentle pile on my floor.

There. Much better. We're on our way.

Kelly's six-year-old son happened on the pile five minutes later and ate everything, right off the floor. We work on him next. Read about Kelly's continuing manner adventures at her personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You're Tired

By Kelly

My Mom is a genius.

All my life, she’s had one phrase that covers every childhood problem.

She would simply say, “You’re tired.”

Fighting with a sibling? “You must be tired.”

Cranky the day after a sleepover? “You sound tired.”

Whining about having nothing to wear? “Someone’s tired.”

Broken arm? “You must be tired.”

I’m kidding about that last one. I think.

But sometimes, that’s how it felt. Tiredness was to blame for everything. I wondered if the world would end and my Mom would blame it on exhaustion.

And I hated hearing it, honestly. I hated that she had a calm answer when I wanted a dramatic reaction. I hated that she didn’t seem to care about my life-altering problems. I hated that she acted like she knew me better than I knew myself. (“Like I wouldn’t know if I was tired,” I would snort to my teenage self.)

But now that I’m the parent, I see the genius in that phrase. Because my Mom wasn’t just diagnosing a condition.

She was showing us grace.

She was saying, in essence, “I believe you know how to get along with your siblings and stay kind even after a late-night party and be content with the clothing you have. I believe you can do better than this. Surely, it’s the tiredness that’s making you act this way. You must be tired.”

I understand this now, because I watch my two-year-old after a week of not taking naps, and I see how she melts down when I tell her no, she can’t have marshmallows for breakfast. And I know she can do better than that. I’ve seen her have better reactions.

She must be tired.

And I watch my older son and daughter bicker and pick at each other all day after a weekend of swimming and late night ice cream cones and extra reading time before bed. I know they can treat each other with kindness. This isn’t like them.

They must be tired.

It’s a beautiful thing, really, to believe my children can do better if they just had a little more sleep. It’s a way for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe in them. They just need more rest.

And now, it’s time for me to go to bed. Because tonight, I found myself getting annoyed when my toddler wanted to hold my hand while she was falling asleep.

I must be tired.

Kelly blogs at Love Well, when she's not too tired.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Neighborhood Etiquette 101

By Kelly

When we moved into our little town home complex in the fall of 2007, we didn't have many neighbors. Such is the nature of a new development. In fact, when we took the kids trick-or-treating that Halloween, we discovered Natalie and Connor were the only children in residence at that point. (Pro: We got bags and bags of candy. Con: We got bags and bags of candy.)

But now, the development is finished and full. There are quite a few young families around. Which means, for the first time in their lives, our kids have neighborhood friends.

I'm delighted they have playmates. Yesterday, they spent the better part of the afternoon running around our building, playing tag and riding bikes and having squirt gun wars.

But since our old house was in the country (read: no neighbors), I feel a little out of my element here. What's proper neighborhood etiquette? How much do I need to supervise? Do I get involved when a minor skirmish breaks out? ("That's my toy! I was playing with it!") If my kids are inside someone else's house for more than an hour (an activity which was initially approved by all adults involved), do I need to go check on them to make sure they aren't overstaying their welcome?

The fact that I have a young baby to care for adds to my unease. On one hand, I'm thrilled that Connor and Natalie are having fun -- away from the computer and TV. On the other hand, I feel vaguely guilty that they are off my radar, and I'm not actively involved in what's going on outside.

But maybe that's OK? I don't know.

So far, we've laid out the following rules:
1. You need to share your toys (bikes, squirt guns, sidewalk chalk, etc.).
2. You shouldn't expect or demand that your friends will reciprocate with their toys. It would be nice, but it's their decision.
3. Never go into someone's house without asking Mom or Dad for permission.
4. If your friend wants you to come inside, make sure it's OK with their Mom or Dad.

What else do I need to know, experienced parents? I need "Neighborhood Etiquette for Dummies." Enlighten me.

This post was originally published in June 2008 at Kelly's blog Love Well. But neighborhood etiquette remains an enigma for her. So please - share your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dinner Time

By Kelly

I love summer evenings, when the light lingers like a welcome guest on the porch. The air is on the back side of warm, thick with the smell of lake water and hamburgers and sunscreen. The sounds of children laughing and yelling slowly give way to the buzzing of tree frogs and insects and street lamps starting to shine.

It’s why I have a hard time coming inside, why dinner gets later and later as the summer goes on. I don’t want to interrupt the warm romance of a summer evening with an hour spent in the kitchen.

Lest I give the wrong impression, let me say up front: I love to cook, especially in the summer, when the produce is fresh and appetites are whetted by an afternoon of swimming. Plus, summer is grilling season, which means my husband is suddenly my sous chef. It’s fun to have a partner when it comes to getting food on the table.

But it’s hard for me for me to think about meat marinade when it’s 6:00 PM, much less 4:00. The day still feels young. The sun is still overhead, beckoning me to play water games on the deck. To acknowledge the need for chopped onion is to acknowledge the day almost done.

When our oldest two children were toddlers, it wasn’t uncommon for dinner to be at 8:30 or even 9:00 PM. “We’re so European,” we laughed to ourselves, when the truth is, we just got carried away weeding the garden and discovering baby turtles in the yard and pushing tiny bodies on the swing.

Summer is fleeting, and the magic of a warm evening is a jewel.

We will enjoy eating together as a family in a bit. But right now, I need to be outside more than I need food.

Dinner will wait.

Kelly ate spring-vegetable couscous with chicken for dinner last night at 7:30 PM. You can find her blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


By Kelly

The purple clouds with pink highlights are still visible from my perch on the floor.

The sun sets late in the north this time of year. I always forget. It doesn't feel like 9:30.

But it is. And the two-year-old who didn't nap today is finally - FINALLY! - sleeping behind me. She's laying on top of her quilt, feet on her pillow, arm hanging off the side of the bed. Anything to get closer to momma. I can't remember a time when she fell asleep without rubbing my arm or touching my hair.

Her older sister and brother have also succumbed. I can hear the quiet breathing all around me.

For the first time today, I can hear myself think.

It's a crazy, wonderful, hectic, beautiful, wild life right now. Not only am I still learning to balance being a mother of four, but suddenly I'm doing it with everyone at home all the time.

To be honest, I'm loving the extra time with my children. I need this.

But to be even more honest, it's utterly exhausting.

Which is why I'm sitting in the dusk with my laptop, listening to the quiet.

I think I'll sit here for just a few minutes more.

Because, in the north at this time of year, the sun rises early too.

Kelly is a new mom of four. You can find her blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: The 10th Month

From 5 Minutes for Parentin

By Kelly

This is my last Pregnancy Journal post, friends, because (cue the angels and confetti) I am no longer pregnant. Baby Kieran joined our family on May 7 (birth story is here), and we've been head over heels ever since. I am grateful the editorial staff here at 5 Minutes for Parenting (read: Stephanie, Susan and Janice) graciously gave me a few weeks off so I could stare at the newborn.

But I'm back now, and before I close the chapter on this saga, I feel compelled to mention the hidden month of pregnancy -- the month after the baby arrives.

This postpartum period can be just as bizarre and uncomfortable and messy as the 9.5 months leading up to it.


1. You've had the baby, but you might not look like it. This is especially true the first week after childbirth. My own son looked at me a week after Kieran was born and asked, "You're not having another baby are you? Because your tummy is huge."

2. Nothing fits. Maternity clothes are baggy in all the wrong places. Your normal wardrobe isn't going to see the light of day for another 6-8 months. Which probably means you'll need to go shopping for a few new pieces to get you through the in-between. And there are few things more depressing than going clothes shopping just a few weeks after having a baby. (Note to Old Navy: Install a fun house mirror in one of your dressing rooms and designate it for new or expecting moms. You'll be golden.)

3. You will be in the likeness of Pamela. Breast engorgement strikes all new moms, whether they chose to breastfeed or not. It's intensely uncomfortable and (honestly) just weird. I love nursing, but those first few weeks of my body adjusting itself to the new routine can be brutal. See also: bleeding nipples due to a child with a Dyson-like sucking reflex and gushing milk due to bovine DNA.

4. Your emotions will rise and fall more dramatically than the Himalayas. Even if you don't struggle with the baby blues or postpartum depression, you will have moments in the weeks just after childbirth when you will think it entirely reasonable to kill someone for asking to hold the baby without offering to douse themselves in Purell first. Then, three seconds later, you will cry uncontrollably when that same person says the baby has your eyes.

And then there are a few after-effects I'd throw into the "I'd Almost Forgotten That" file. These might not happen to every postpartum woman, but they always happen to me.

1. Night sweats. About two weeks after I have the baby, I start to wake up every night drenched in sweat. Medical professionals say night sweats are the body's way of shedding excess water that built up during pregnancy. OK. Fine. But it's really cold when you have to get up to feed a newborn every three hours wearing pajamas that could be wrung out over a sink. I suggest wearing cotton fabrics to bed and keeping a fleece blanket nearby. It can help keep the shivering to a minimum while you're feeding the baby, and provide a cushion between you and wet sheets when you're ready to climb back into bed.

2. Hair loss. Most women report that their hair gets extra thick and lustrous during pregnancy. I haven't experienced that, probably because my hair is so thick normally, it has no room to grow. (Although I will say I noticed my hair getting huge at the end of this last pregnancy, but not in a good way. Do you remember that episode of "Friends" where Monica goes to Barbados, and in each recurring shot, her curly hair gets bigger and bigger and bigger because of the humidity? Yeah. I felt a little like that. Only with straight hair. Straight hair that looked oddly triangular on my head from all the volume.) Anyway. Whether you notice a chance in your hair during pregnancy or not, chances are you'll notice a great hair recession shortly after the baby is born. My hair is already falling out in large clumps. Thankfully, this is a good thing for me. As long as I remember to take the hair balls off the shower wall. I haven't had to do that for a while now.

3. After pains. For the uninitiated, these are uterine cramps triggered by breastfeeding. From a medical point of view, they are a good thing, because they help shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size. From my point of view, they hurt like heck, and they get worse with each subsequent baby, so ow-ow-ow. Until Kieran, I didn't know it was possible to nurse and writhe at the same time. Live and learn.

But you know what? It's worth it. Every pain, every sag, every pound, every ache. It is absolutely worth it. There's a reason many women endure the bizarreness and uncomfortableness of pregnancy and childbirth for almost a year -- and then sign up to do it all over again. Because when you look into those bright newborn eyes, you find love.

Have any bits of wisdom or weirdness to add to this discussion of the 10th month? What was your experience? I'd love to hear it in the comments.

Kelly blogs at Love Well and breastfeeds a baby 14 times a day -- and not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: The Calm Before The Storm

From 5 Minutes for Parentin

By Kelly

If all goes according to plan, I am one week away from having a baby.

Of course, I'm aware that life can change in a heartbeat. I know the simple statement above is fraught with potential for disruption.

But in the meantime, I'm going with it.

Having a plan puts my mind at ease. I've done all I can do to ensure that Baby Boy's arrival is stress-free and seamless for our family.

All that's left to do is wait and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of the now. Over the years, I've learned the last few weeks of a pregnancy are particularly sensory for me. Suddenly, the details of daily life are unbearably sweet, and I can't soak them up enough.

I readily agree to another game of Uno! with my six-year-old son, because I know the time is coming when I won't have a free hand.

I savor the moments spent with my eight-year-old daughter when she tells me about the latest Puppy Place book she's reading. When did my firstborn get to be such a beautiful and independent girl?

And my two-year-old. Oh my goodness. The baby who's about to be displaced. She is a jewel, lately, always discovering, always delighted at life. On the days when it's just her and me, I play Little People and read books and let her "hep" me with the laundry until I feel I could die from the sweetness. And then at nap time, I lay down with her in my bed and tuck my arm under her head and hold her so close I can smell the shampoo locked in her curls. She rubs my arm and hums a song and gently falls alseep on my pillow, her body curled toward mine like a sleeping newborn.

I know it's really just the calm before the storm. In seven days (or less), we will transform from a family of five to a family of six and we will celebrate the new little one who is already so treasured.

In the meantime, I will treasure this week, when life is as tangible as the belly I wear and even more precious.

Kelly is 38 weeks pregnant with her fourth and final baby. She is scheduled to be induced next Wednesday, May 12. You can read more about her family at her personal blog, Love Well.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: False Labor

From 5 Minutes for Parentin

By Kelly

I suppose a lot of epiphanies happen in hospital beds.

I had one Monday morning, just as the sun's light warmed the horizon to a glowing tangerine and the birds burst into song to welcome a new day.

And it is this: I know a lot of stories about women going into labor spontaneously -- women who wake up in the middle of the night to time contractions, women who deal with multiple trips to the hospital only to be sent home, women who have their water break right there in the supermarket.

But I never believed it could happen to me.

That sounds crazy, I know. But consider my history. Natalie and Teyla were induced. Scheduled. And while I technically went into labor with Connor by myself, I have a sneaking suspicion it had more to do with my OB visit that day (where she stripped my membranes, click at your own risk) than it did with my body instinctively knowing it was time to deliver a baby.

So imagine my shock when I was woke up 4:00 Monday morning to a cramping uterus. My first instinct was to say, "These can't be real contractions. Go back to sleep You'll be fine."

But I couldn't get comfortable. And as I lay there, staring at the clock, I started to remember the last time I tried to talk myself out of having contractions. It ended with me curled in a fetal position until I had to push. It's not a drama I'm eager to relive.

At 4:30, I did what I never thought I'd do: I woke my husband in the middle of the night and whispered, "I'm hurting. I think I need to go to the hospital."

He woke up immediately, disheveled and concerned. I called Labor and Delivery to make sure my decision was solid. They agreed I should head in. I threw on some clothes, told my bleary-eyed husband I would call him from the road (with three sleeping kids, we didn't see how we could both go) and I set off for the hospital.

The contractions were four minutes apart when I got to L&D. I was dilated to 3 centimeters, which was progress from my OB appointment on Friday, when I was at 2. I got changed into a fetching hospital mumu and settled in to wait.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the contractions got less intense. An hour after I was hooked onto the monitors, they were eight minutes apart. The pain, never horrible, was totally manageable. I warned Corey via text that I might be coming home. I unhooked from the machines and watched the sun rise. My OB stopped by before clinic hours and confirmed that my cervix wasn't changing like they would want to see in order to admit me. And since I was only 36 weeks-5 days at the time, they were understandably reluctant to do something like break my water and help Mother Nature along.

So I found myself driving home at 7:30 Monday morning, the newest member of the False Labor Club.

Lessons learned?

1. As annoying as it can be, I don't regret my decision to head to the hospital. Even my OB agreed that I did the right thing, given my history of lightning quick childbirth.

2. That said, if I woke up to moderately painful contractions today, I would wait longer to see if a true pattern set up before leaving home. It's true that Connor was born just minutes after I got to the hospital. (You can read his story here.) But that was after I labored at home for more than two hours (trying to convince myself the whole time that I wasn't in real labor), and the contractions had gone from cramping to kill-me-now. There has to be a good middle ground between heading to L&D every time I feel a twinge and waiting until I feel the urge to push.

3. When I left for the hospital in the pre-dawn hours Monday morning, I didn't have a hospital bag packed or emergency plans for what we would do with the older kids if I went into labor spontaneously. After all, I wasn't even 37 weeks along, at the time, and we've already scheduled an induction at 39 weeks. What's the rush? Needless to say, I now have a bag packed (which wasn't that hard; I wholeheartedly agree with #9 on Lifenut's fabulous list of pregnancy and baby musings), and I have called all our emergency contacts to alert them to the fact that we might need someone to fill in the gap between when labor starts and when my parents would arrive from Colorado two days later.

4. When it comes to pregnancy, don't get cocky. This might be my fourth baby, but until Monday morning, I had never experienced a painful contraction that didn't end with an infant-in-arms. When it comes to childbirth, anything can happen.

Anything else I should note? Now that I'm aware labor could begin at any moment, I feel strangely inexperienced and vulnerable.

Kelly is now 37 weeks pregnant (cough, full-term, cough) with her fourth baby. When she isn't going to the bathroom (every 20 minutes), she can be found blogging at Love Well and passing time on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: The Name Game

From 5 Minutes for Parentin

By Kelly

I am very pregnant.

Ergo, I am the recipient of all types of random, potentially offensive comments.

“You stomach looks like a torpedo,” said a fellow mom at school last week.
“You’re not due for another four weeks?” said the incredulous cashier at Target.
Or, maybe the best of the lot: “WHOA!” shouted a man as I rounded a corner (belly first) at church on Sunday. “Way to go, Dad!”

Honestly, I’m more amused than insulted by the attention. It’s true that people might want to think before they speak to a woman who is uncomfortable, hormonal and weary. But I know most aren’t trying to be rude. Their internal censors have just been temporarily fried by shock. It happens.

But there is one question that makes me grind my teeth a little, and I get it all the time. It is, simply, “So do you have a name for that baby yet?”

The rational side of me recognizes this is an innocent statement. But the irrational side of me wants to tear my hair out by the fistful (being pregnant, I have plenty to spare) when someone asks it.

Because here’s the deal: My husband and I are horrible at choosing names for our offspring. It’s laborious. A name that I might like is almost guaranteed to be at the top of his Names I Will Never Name My Children Even Under Threat of Torture list, and vice versa. I do not want to discuss it with any one other than my husband, and I most certainly do not want my momentary favorites to be fussed over as if they are dessert choices on the potluck table.

Naming a baby is war, an intense battle that requires strategy and secrecy. Doesn't everyone know that?

This being baby number four for us, my husband and I are experts at the never-ending duel. We know to keep one ace in the hole for when the other person proposes something truly hideous. (Corey’s ace this time is the threat to name the baby Samuel Diego, or Sam Diego for short. I don’t believe we need to name our child after a city, even if it is America’s Finest.) We are grimly amused by baby name web sites. And we both acknowledge the name question will not be settled until we write the final decision on the birth certificate. We might walk into Labor and Delivery with a short list, but our babies are never named until after they are born and I have had at least one shower and a meal.

In the end, we aren't fighting each other so much as we are batting through the haze in pursuit of the perfect name. The one that is acceptable to both of us, the one that has a strong meaning, the one that doesn't sound dorky with our surname.

The one that fits the baby. After all, he's the one who's going to have to live with it for the rest of his life.

Thankfully, Corey and I know it's possible to navigate this mess without becoming enemies. And at this point, we really like the names we chose for our older three children. It's funny how a name, aptly chosen, seems to mold to the child, eventually seeming as natural and fitting as skin.

But for now? No. I don't want to talk about it.

Kelly is currently 36 weeks pregnant with her fourth child and yes, she's a tad cranky. You can also find her blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Front-Heavy

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

My two-year-old walked up and poked me right in the belly.

"Baby, Mommy?" she asked.

I sat, struggling to pull on my jeans, and agreed.

"Yep. That's the baby, honey."

She reached a little higher and poked with both hands.

"More babies, Mommy?"

"Ummm ... no honey."

But her confusion is understandable. I'm so front-heavy these days, I'm lucky I don't tip forward and get stuck to the floor, like some sort of bizarrely drawn cartoon character. Besides the usual growth of the girls, my stomach is nearing watermelon-like proportions.

(There's a picture on my blog today, if you're really that interested. But trust me - it's not for the faint of heart.)

Waddle, waddle.

The funny thing is, I swear that bump is all baby. He is SO STRONG these days. He can wake me up with a well-placed kick to the hip (interior hip, of course), and he can make my abdomen look like a tent set up by a Boy Scout. There are points and angles and, sometimes, origami.

Pregnancy books say the average 35-week-old baby is roughly five pounds, give or take a few. I asked my OB last week to take a guess what he might weight at birth.

She shrugged her shoulders, glanced up from the clipboard and said, "He could be 9 pounds."

Help. Me. Now.

Thankfully, those crazy doctors don't know what they are talking about. Right?

Kelly is 35 weeks pregnant with her fourth baby, a boy who has more muscles than she does at the moment. You can find her blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Fake Contractions

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I almost had my baby in Target yesterday.

My toddler and I made a quick trip to the Big Red Mothership after lunch to pick up a few items. But instead of strolling the aisles in search of body wash, Clementines and diapers, I ended up clinging to the cart handle while my  body endured wave after wave of breath-taking contractions. They were apparently triggered by me participating in the adventurous x-sport known as walking slowly.

I’m sure they were the infamous Braxton-Hicks, because if I stopped moving, the contractions also stopped. But as soon as I started to walk again, I felt the python tighten its grip around my abdomen.

Meanwhile, the baby was trying to tunnel out of my uterus through my belly button.

It took me about 45 minutes to get the 10 or so items I needed.

At the check-out, the woman in front of me gleefully asked, “When are you due?” before I even started to unload my cart.

“Next month,” I grimaced, as another rock-hard contraction forced me to stand still.

“Oh my word, you are so cute!” she enthused.

(I hear that a lot these days.)

“Thank you,” I laughed wryly. “I don’t feel cute. I feel huge and tired and breathless. But I will take all the reassurance I can get.”

Slowly, I unloaded my purchases onto the moving belt. Naturally, I had to take a break after I dared lift anything heavier than a buff puff. Even the box of 84 newborn-sized diapers set off a spasm of tight muscles.

But I am cute. So they say.

And I didn’t have my baby in Target.

Even if the Braxton-Hicks force me to move at the speed of a geriatric turtle.

Maybe it's pregnancy brain, but I don't remember Braxton-Hicks attacking me with such ferocity before. Does anyone else have stories to share of contractions dictating their lifestyle the last few weeks of a pregnancy?

Kelly is 34 weeks pregnant with her fourth baby. When she isn't held in suspended animation by a Braxton-Hicks, she can be found blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Behold a Miracle

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

Lately, my body groans.

It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting or standing or walking or lying down.

My muscles stretch. My back sways. My hips twist. My lungs fight.

I move with the grace of an elephant, the speed of a turtle.

My body groans.

So, if bedtime allows it and I have the energy to complete the task, I fill the bathtub with the hottest water I can stand and I sink in.


I settle deep into the water and watch my swollen abdomen rise majestically out of the waves, like a newly formed island.

I stare, transfixed, as the skin heaves with the movement of the baby inside. A large section of the island rises while another falls. A pointy peninsula appears and then, gradually, is absorbed back to whence it came.

I push gently on one side and see a jerk and a twist.

I pat what I believe is a tiny bottom, that fits perfectly into the cup of my hand.

I cannot believe another human is living inside of me.

It’s beyond comprehension.

My body may groan.

But it groans with miracle.

Kelly is 33 weeks pregnant with her fourth baby. You can find her blogging at Love Well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Opening a Can of (Gummy) Worms

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

If you read between the lines of last week’s Pregnancy Journal post about MILK, ALL THE MILK, I CAN’T GET ENOUGH MOO-JUICE, you might have deduced: Kelly might be drinking a lot of milk, but I bet her sweet tooth is triggering a lot of that milk consumption.

If you came to that conclusion (and a few of you hinted in the comments that you had similar pregnancy issues), then you get a gold star. Go directly to psychology school.

Truth in advertising: It’s not just the milk. It’s the sweets.

This leads me down a rather treacherous road, but in the interest of authenticity, I’m going to explore it anyway.

Is it safe to say I’ve gained a lot of weight this pregnancy?


Is it safe to say that right now, at 32 weeks, I weigh as much as I did when I gave birth to all my other children?


Is it safe to say that rich winter foods and all those darn Christmas cookies and celebrating two birthdays in January with buttercream-frosted cupcakes had anything to do with it?


But understanding does not equal contentment. Intellectually, I can reason away the fact that I gained 20 pounds between the end of December and the end of February. I can make excuses by pointing to my “advanced maternal age” and remembering that this is my fourth pregnancy.

But bottom line? I’m not happy about it. And my body isn’t crazy about it either. My frame isn’t designed to carry this much weight.

On Monday, when I had to take my two-year-old to the doctor for a possible broken wrist, I got winded just standing upright while holding her. I can’t walk a flight of stairs in my house without sounding like I’ve just completed a 45-minute aerobic workout. (And did I mention we live in a 3.5 level townhouse? I pretty much pant like a dog all day.) My back hurts. My gait is slow. I miss phone calls because I can’t move fast enough to answer before voice mail picks up.

I’m pitiful, basically. Pity me.

And I have anywhere between six and eight weeks to go.

This past month, I’ve tried to be more careful about what I eat. I’ve severely limited my access to sweets. I’ve watched my portions. I’ve even started drinking water in place of milk. (I KNOW! I’m going to unbelievable lengths here.)

But I still feel HUGE, and this baby inside of me feels HUGE. He’s incredibly strong. I have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. It will be interesting to see how much weight I’ve gained in the last four weeks.

If it’s another eight to ten pounds, I might have to throw out my remaining dark chocolate almonds with turbinado and sea salt.

On the upside, our milk bill could drop dramatically.

Kelly is pregnant with her fourth child, a boy who apparently enjoys pushing on the interior wall of her hip bone. She blogs at Love Well, and she is thankful she can do that without moving.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Got Milk?

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

A wave of faux shame washed over me as I reached into the milk cooler at Target yesterday. No one around me knew it, but I needed that gallon of 1% the same way an alcoholic needs her vodka. I was almost drooling as I tucked the jug into my big red cart, behind the toilet bowl cleaner and the bananas.

Turns out, I’ve developed quite the milk addiction.

Want proof? That gallon I bought at Target? It was the fourth gallon of milk I bought in the last six days. The previous three gallons are already empty and accusing and lying squished in the bottom of the recycling bin.

It’s common for pregnant women to field the “So what are you craving?” question. Normally, I don’t have much exciting to report.

I did eat approximately 384 cherry Popsicles when I was pregnant with Natalie, my firstborn, but that could be attributed to the hot California summer and a lack of air conditioning as much as hormones. I also develop an abnormal and potentially lethal lust for the McChicken during the first trimester of each pregnancy. But that only lasts as long as the nausea.

So this sudden craving – no, make that passion – for milk caught me by surprise.

I know I can chalk up some of my milk-lust to my love for cereal. I have a bowl of Kashi Go Lean Crunch, topped with berries, every morning for breakfast. (No. Seriously. Every morning.) And it’s not uncommon for me to grab a bowl of Raisin Bran and strawberries or Cheerios with bananas before bed.

But here at 31 weeks, I’m also gulping glasses of milk in-between meals and during my mid-morning slab of peanut butter on toast. Most damning is the fact that each sweet I eat – a chocolate chip cookie, a fun-sized Snickers bar, a Pioneer Woman cinnamon roll – demands that I drink at least 10 ounces of milk to quench the raging thirst. It’s not uncommon for me to need three glasses of moo juice to wash down one slice of pie.

I tell myself it’s not a horrible habit. At least it’s somewhat healthy. (Although I will admit – when I passed the three-gallons-a-week mark, I stopped buying from the local dairy with grass-fed cows. At $3.50 a half gallon, I couldn’t afford my habit.)

I guess my real problem is, I’m not sure which came first: My milk addiction or the sweet tooth fueling it?

So how about you? What’s your most notable pregnancy craving?

Kelly drank two glasses of milk and ate a French breakfast puff while writing this post. You can also find her blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Move Baby Move

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

My OB laughs at me when I tell her this, but I’m pretty confident I’m gestating a baby octopus.

It’s true that the ultrasound technician back in December saw only the normal two arms and two legs of a growing human. But I see no other explanation for all the thrashing, crazy movement inside of me except he has grown an extra appendage or three.

Since this is my fourth pregnancy, I have indentified at least five distinct movements of the babe-in-utero.

The Jab: This is exactly what you’d expect. It’s a fast, hard poke of a foot or a hand or elbow or knee. If directed outward towards my abdomen, it’s possible that other people will see the quick jump of my skin. If directed inwards toward my vital organs, other people will see me react as if someone just punched me in the gut – which they just did, essentially. This is especially fun when the jab scores a direct hit on my bladder.

The Hiccup: This rhythmic movement is usually attributed to actual hiccups, and just like it’s namesake, it is a small tic-tic-tic that is more annoying than painful. But they happen so often that I wonder if some babies don’t just make repetitive small movements that feel like the spasms of hiccups. Hence, the title covers all small movements that are recur regularly.

The Twinkle-Toes: This is a sweet, gentle stretching that feels like tiny bubbles popping against my abdominal wall. I suspect it could be nothing more than the baby curling his toes next to my skin or maybe opening and closing a tiny fist. It’s unnoticeable to the outsider, and it makes me giggle.

The Roll: The most entertaining of movements, this is when the baby performs a bit from Cirque de Soileil in my uterus. It’s a turn, a twist, an acrobatic move. Unlike the jab, the roll is a drawn-out motion, which makes my abdomen heave and swell like the ocean’s surf after a storm. Also great for bouncing off the crumbs that accumlate on the shelf of my belly during a meal.

The Jumping Jack: This is the strangest and most violent of all moves. I have no idea what the baby is actually doing in there, but it feels like Neo is battling Mr. Smith in my uterus. (Or maybe I've just watched "The Matrix" too many times.) The movement begins with a sudden jab of all four (eight?) limbs and then builds to a ferocious punch-kick-roll routine that easily makes my stomach look like something from “Aliens” is about to emerge. As you might expect, I feel this everywhere at once – internally, externally, up and down, side to side. It can literally take my breath away.

I know from experience that these movements will grow less distinct as time passes, simply because the baby octopus will run out of room. But right now, at 30 weeks, he still has lots of space in there. And he’s using it to get grow bigger and stronger and get ready for life with three older siblings. (Good luck, buddy.)

Of course, there are times when gestating an octopus is annoying. It never fails that the baby is most active at night, right when I lay down to go to sleep. ("Must someone ALWAYS be touching Mom?!?" I sigh under my breath.)

But since this is my last baby, I'm trying to store up the visceral memory of each kick, jab and roll. It seems almost impossible now, but having walked this road before, I know -- I will miss this.

Kelly is journaling her fourth and final pregnancy here at 5 Minutes for Parenting. She blogs about her daily life at Love Well.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: The Ultrasound Conundrum

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

Can you help me with a scenario?

See, I have this really good friend who’s pregnant with her fourth baby. For all her other babies, she’s paid to have a second ultrasound, in addition to the ultrasound in the hospital paid for by her insurance.

It was a trend that started with her first baby, when she wanted confirmation that she was truly growing a baby girl. The results were so positive – the paid ultrasound doctor spent 90 minutes answering questions, going over every inch of the baby, taking countless pictures and even making a video of the whole thing – that she determined to do a second ultrasound for every baby forthwith.

Two years later, pregnant with her second baby, she returned to the same clinic to have a second ultrasound. She took home a baby boy – and another 45-minute video tape.

Her third child was born about four years later. By that time, ultrasound technology had advanced to the 3D/4D stage. Curious, she signed up for the new program, and was thrilled to watch baby number three – a girl – smile and brush her face and get the hiccups and yawn in full 3D glory. Once again, she took home countless pictures and a video DVD.

Now, she’s pregnant with her fourth. And to be honest, she’s doesn’t want to shell out $150 for yet another ultrasound video. She and her husband enjoyed the ultrasound at the hospital. They have faith they are having a boy.

But she’s concerned this will necessitate therapy for her fourth child someday, once he realizes his parents didn’t love him enough to make a in-womb video of his uniqueness.

What do you think she should do?

  1. She should focus on the child’s feelings, not her own, and spend the money to have one last ultrasound video made. After all, all the other kids have one. Don’t make the last child be a classic last child who only gets hand-me-downs and leftovers.

  2. She should forgo the video. After all, these things are done mostly for the sake of the parents, not the child. Do you know any child who’s ever pulled out their ultrasound video and said, “Mom, fast-forward to the part where they show you that bubble that’s my developing bladder. I really want to it show my friends.” No. I don't think so.

  3. She should make a copy of one of her other children’s ultrasound tapes and pass it off as the fourth baby in-utero. After all, all ultrasound videos look alike. Who would ever know?

Kelly is 29 weeks pregnant with fourth baby. Amazingly, her "friend is also 29 weeks pregnant with her fourth baby. Kelly blogs at Love Well. Her friend claims she doesn't have a blog, which is why we are sharing her conundrum for her on this forum.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: What Not To Say

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

My husband is a rock during childbirth.

Not only is he great in stressful situations - particularly useful when I started bleeding profusely after the birth of our first daughter; he held the gauze and the light for the midwife while she stitched me back together - but he doesn't leave my side from the moment I enter the hospital to the moment I waddle through our front door.

(I still remember him towering over the L&D nurse in California who told him he couldn't, technically, stay the night with me, as it was against hospital policy to let men stay in the rooms. I believe he might have said something like, "I'd like to see you try and kick me out, little woman." Chuck Norris could have learned a lot from Corey at that moment.)

But I doubt my experience is typical - at least, not to hear my girlfriends tell it. They lean in and pass along stories of horror, in which husbands ask if they can go get a bite to eat during transition or pass out when beholding the placenta or offer helpful suggestions like, "You don't need drugs, honey. Just use all that breathing!"

A few days ago, a blogging friend sent me a copy of a Facebook thread, in which the author - who is days away from being a first-time daddy - asked for help compiling a list of Things Not To Say To Your Wife While She's In Labor. The suggestions, from both men and women, were hysterical.

"Here, babe, can you hold my sandwich?"

"Wait! Don't push! I forgot the camera in the car!"

"This hangnail really hurts. Does it look infected to you, honey?"

"This is taking forever! Do you care if I fire up a movie?"

"Man, that looks like it hurts."

Or my personal favorite:

"That nurse is hot."

How about you? Do you have some words that a L&D Dad should keep to himself? Or maybe you have a personal tale of wisdom to share? Now's your chance.

Kelly is due in May with her fourth child. To be fair, her husband isn't perfect. He once called his wife a moose when he was feeling amorous. You can read more about her family at Love Well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pregnacy Journal: Boxes of Memories

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

Seven boxes of memories are stacked in the spare room right now, waiting for me to shed my coat of melancholy so I can sort through them. It will be a job that requires the emotional detachment worthy of a Vulcan (or Dr. Cox from "Scrubs" ).

Each tub is stuffed to the brim with baby clothes - specifically, baby girl clothes in sizes ranging from newborn to 18 months. Impossibly small fleece outfits adorned with snowflakes and hearts, tiny sundresses bedecked with flowers, little shorts and t-shirts and tank tops that once showed off chubby thighs and arms -- each one is multifaceted jewel in my treasure box of memories.

When we found in December that we will have a boy in May, I immediately said to Corey, "Now I can sort through all the baby girl clothes." Up to this point, I've kept every item of clothing my children have ever worn. I never knew when I might need it again, and I'm anything if not practical.

But now, I no longer have an excuse to hoard. For starters, we live in a small house right now, and we could use the storage space. (Seven tubs of baby girl clothes, I mean, good grief!) Plus, both my sister and my sister-in-law had baby girls this last year, and I plan to give away my favorite outfits to them. It loosens my emotional grip a little to know these sweet clothes will be worn again by my nieces, who are worthy of my offerings.

But I don't pretend this will be easy. When my husband pulled out the tubs this last weekend (since I can no longer bend over enough to fit into our crawl space under the stairs), I remarked that I would probably still have one tub of baby girl clothes to return to storage after The Sorting, because there are some things too precious and too meaningful for me to part with right now.

He smiled, because he knows me. (Even if he can't relate, because he is a Vulcan.)

And funny thing -- he also got out the tub of newborn baby boy clothes for me. I need to go through it and see what we might need for this new little one, especially since he will be born in the opposite season from his big brother.

Somehow, knowing I have one more newborn to clothe and smell and cherish lessens the sting.

Kelly blogs at Love Well. She is currently 27 weeks pregnant with her fourth and final baby.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: For the Love of Pregnancy

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I was talking on the phone to my sister last weekend, lamenting my falling-apart-disease and my advanced maternal age and my weariness with being pregnant in winter. And while she felt for me, she also let loose a deep sigh, and she said, "I would give anything to trade places with you right now. I love being pregnant. I love being in labor. I love having babies. I just love it all."

I laughed, because I know it's true. Emily has wanted to have kids since she was in grade school. She is extremely bossy maternal, and she has an infectious love for all things children. Even now, when she has two of her own, she salivates at the idea of adding more to her brood.

I, on the other hand, came late to the mothering game. I was 28 before I even thought I might want to entertain the idea of starting a family someday. (And even that was mostly the result of friends plying me with stories of the miraculous epidural.) I turned 30 just a few months after Natalie was born. And while it's true that I astonished everyone - including myself - by falling head over heels with parenting, to the point that I had two (almost three) more children in the next eight years, I have never - and I mean never - opined that I love being pregnant.

Pregnancy to me is a mystical means to an end. I'm fascinated by the uniqueness of it. I marvel at the creativity it showcases.

But I also freely admit it's bizarre and uncomfortable and sometimes flat-out exhausting.

Later that same night, after my conversation with Emily, I said to my husband that I wish gestating a baby were more like wearing a backpack. What a relief it would be to be able to take off the precious sack for even two hours and hand it to my husband so I might go get a cup of coffee without huffing and puffing and feeling the baby roll into my bladder and kick against my ribs.

But that's not how the process is designed. Women are the bearers, the creation vessel. We get the glorious with the grinding, the magnificent with the mundane.

Still. I can't say I love it.

How about you? Do you love being pregnant? Or would you be happy to let someone else do the gestating for you if you could still have the baby at the end?

Kelly is 26 weeks pregnant with her fourth child, a baby boy who is sadly nameless. She blogs about her daily life at Love Well.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: I Am Falling Apart

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I am falling apart.

I determined this last week when I heaved my aching, groaning self onto the couch, after a long day of single parenthood to 3.5 kids. (My husband travels a lot for business in the winter months, to unfortunate locales like Florida and Virginia and California. I am not bitter.) My back hurt. My hamstrings throbbed. I couldn’t walk to bed without that characteristic side-to-side gait of pregnant women. And I felt like the baby was perfecting his karate skills on my two bottom ribs.

Technically, I am 25 weeks right now. But I feel so much further along, like I should be counting down the days to my induction.

So last week, I did what we all do when we have vague medical questions: I took my symptoms to Dr. Google.

Thus, I have a diagnosis for “pregnant and falling apart at 25 weeks”: I have symphysis pubic dysfunction.

You can go read the technical definition, but basically, it means the ligaments in my pelvis are as stretched out as old rubber bands, and thanks to pregnancy hormones, they aren’t doing a good job of holding my skeleton together anymore. My alignment is off, you might say, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that my core muscles no longer exist to support my back and hold in my tummy. Instead, they are taking the winter off. Last week, I got a postcard from them; they were in Acapulco.

My other physical complaint right now is the near constant Braxton-Hicks. It’s not unusual for women to experience these so-called “fake contractions” in the second trimester. Medical texts say a little rest should make them fade away.

Problem is, I have a toddler to keep up with. And we live in a three-story townhouse, so I am constantly up and down and up and down and up and down the stairs. Just those two aerobic activities alone make my uterus tense into a restrictive corset that makes normal breathing and movement almost impossible.

Also? My bangs are too long. Do you think I can blame that on the baby?

I don’t mean to complain. In my house, "No Whining" is rule number one. I am acutely aware that many women would give anything to have my aching, falling-apart body – as long as the baby inside came with it. Daily, I remind myself to be thankful for this miracle, even if it does make me huff and puff as I get out of bed.

But the simple fact remains: Pregnancy is physically demanding, especially if you're 38 like me. I’m ready to meet this baby and be done with the gestating already. I want my body back.

Do you think it will be easy to piece me back together in May?

Kelly is 25 weeks pregnant with her fourth baby. In addition to the Pregnancy Journal at 5 Minutes for Parenting, you can find her blogging at Love Well.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: He's Moving! I Swear He Is!

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

The baby boy inside of me moves. A lot. He kicks and jabs and turns and rolls. There are times my abdomen feels like a super-flex garbage bag that can handle the sharpest pokes and prods. There are other times my belly looks like the waves of an ocean storm, heaving and reaching and falling under the guidance from my little resident alien.

Funny thing, though: No one else has ever felt him move. I just can’t seem to get the timing right. Every time – every time – I say to my husband, “Holy cow! This boy is MOVING! Put your hand here,” the movement stops. Or the baby turns in such a way that the kicks are more internal than external.

It’s getting to be comical. My husband felt our other children kick, and he trusts that I really am growing a human and not just gorging on leftover birthday cake. (Although that's true as well.) He always humors me by sitting patiently with his hands on my ever-widening tummy for a few minutes when I insist that this time, this time, it will work. And then, eventually, when no movement is forthcoming, he’ll grin at me and say, “Sure babe. Whatever.” And he'll return to his TV show or his book or his coffee.

And then – inevitably – the baby will kick at the exact spot his father’s hands lingered a minute ago, as if to say, “Ha! Gotcha again!”

Kelly is 24 weeks pregnant with her fourth baby, who appears to be a baby boy intent on destroying his mother's sanity before he's even born. She also blogs at Love Well.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: One More Toddler

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

There are few things as sweet as a two-year-old.

There. I’ve said it.

I know two is an exhausting age. In the last seven days, Teyla has discovered how to make gum out of toilet paper and toilet water, learned to take off her pants and her diaper, decided she doesn’t need an afternoon nap and just yesterday, scattered the contents of a sugar bowl around the kitchen.

But she’s also smiled at me and called me Mah-mee with the most innocent voice and asked to “hep” with everything I’ve done. She keeps me company at all hours and puts her chubby little hand into mine and is totally and utterly delighted at simple things like seeing the moon rise in the evening. She carries her toy phone around the kitchen, talking to Da as she walks, and she cares for her babies by setting them gently in her toy crib and tucking them in with a soft blanket. (Never mind that the baby’s face is under the blanket and her feet are sticking out and she’s not wearing a stitch of clothing. It’s the thought that counts, right?)

I had forgotten how much I love this age.

And I guess, in the end, that’s one of the huge reasons we’re having one more. Because I couldn’t imagine passing up one more chance to enjoy the purity of toddlerhood.

It’s true that the school years have their own joys and struggles. I’m already experiencing them with our older two children.

But when there are no more chubby feet in my future, no more spontaneous hugs around my knees, no more tangled heads and yawning mouths appearing next to my bed in the morning, no more little ones bounding instead of walking, no more cries of “I dee it!” Well. I will be a little sad.

And I will keep a few pairs of fuzzy footsie pajamas in my keepsake box, just so I can smell them and hold them and remember of the sweet simplicity of these days.

Kelly is 23 weeks pregnant with her fourth and final baby. You can experience more sappy mother moments at her personal blog, Love Well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Maternity Wear -- and Not to Wear

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

Today is my birthday.

It is my tradition to wear my favorite outfit on my birthday, something that is fun yet practical, comfortable yet chic.

When I was in the shower this morning, I mentally sorted through my clothes to see what I might don to make today sparkle.

Then I remembered: I’m pregnant. I have about five outfits that both fit and look stylish right now. And I’ve worn them nonstop for the last four weeks. (I did wash the sweater that got cookie dough on it. I think.)

Welcome to the wonderful world of maternity clothes.

To be fair, I know we’ve come a looonnnnggg way in the last decade. When I was pregnant with my first, in 2001, designers were just discovering the maternity market. My pregnancy books (most notably, “The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy”) lamented that the only options for expecting moms were tent-like dresses with sailor collars, flowing, hippie-like dresses covered with Laura Ashley flowers or leggings and your husband’s shirts.

Compared to the days of yore, we are living large in 2010. Not only do we have innumerable choices, but designers and celebrities alike have made maternity wear stylish and hip. Heidi Klum just announced she’s releasing her own line of maternity clothes, and there are whole websites devoted to what pregnant movie stars are wearing.

Still, for mere mortals like myself, maternity dressing can prove a challenge. So because I like lists, here are a few of the best and the worst about maternity wear, according to me.

Best Development – the Bella Band
For the uninitiated, the Bella Band is a super-soft band of stretchy nylon and spandex, designed to hold up your pants and/or cover your bulging belly through the entire course of your pregnancy.

I bought my first Bella Band in 2007, when I was about 34 weeks pregnant with my third baby.

And I haven’t taken it off since. (Not really. But close.) Best invention ever.

Best Style for Cheap – Liz Lange Maternity
Almost all the maternity clothes I’ve bought this time around have been from Target. They are cute, comfortable and – most importantly – inexpensive. I can’t stand paying $45 for a sweater that I know I will only wear for a few months. (More about that in a minute.) The Liz Lange line at Target doesn’t always fit my personal style. But it does preach that you don’t have to look maternal when you’re pregnant. I love that.

Worst Store - Motherhood Maternity
I’ve tried to shop at Motherhood Maternity. I have. And I do like their cloth tummies that allow you to see what you might look like later in pregnancy.

But every time I walk through their doors, I am accosted by their return policy – which is: No matter what, you will never get your money back. Even if the clothing falls apart after its first wash, you will only be offered an exchange or a refund in the form of store credit. And no returns or exchanges at all after 45 days.

I’m sorry, but I have a hard time making up my mind about clothes even when I’m not pregnant. I buy everything I like in the stores, take it home, try it on, think about it for days and then return what I don’t want.

When I’m in the throes of pregnancy hormones? There’s no way I can make the kind of commitment that Motherhood Maternity requires.

Not to mention that Motherhood has some of the most expensive clothing outside of actual designer labels. To be a store that supposedly caters to pregnant women, they do everything they can to ostracize their audience.

Worst Maternity Style – Pregnancy Overalls
Do I really need to say more?

(OK. Maybe one more thing: maternity overall shorts. I mean – really?!?)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, really. Join in, fellow moms. What have you found to be the best and worst about maternity wear?

Kelly didn’t get paid to write any of the reviews above; she just has strong opinions on maternity clothes now that she’s halfway through her fourth pregnancy. She blogs at Love Well.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pregnancy Journal: Halfway

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I’m halfway there.

No. Sorry. Let me rephrase.


Twenty weeks (almost 21) is a milestone for most of us preggos. We are amazed we’ve made it this far, and simultaneously freaked out that we only have 20 weeks (or less) to go. “Do I have diapers? Do I need to register? Have I cleaned my fridge lately? Are my spices alphabetized? How will I get it all done?!?”

This is also the time when the minor aches and pains of late-stage pregnancy start to enter the picture.

(I mostly said that to keep up the illusion for the first-timers. If you’re pregnant with number two or beyond, late-term woes probably kicked in around week 13. It’s part of the pregnancy game. After your first trip around the board, there’s no passing go, no more collecting $200. Instead, you turn the corner from the first trimester and go straight to Heartburn Jail.)

A collection of these physical symptoms might include:

- The inability to lie on your back without feeling like an elephant is sitting on your abdomen. It happens when your enlarged uterus presses on the largest vein taking blood from your legs back to your heart, which can leave you feeling lightheaded, dizzy and nauseous.

- The inability to get out of bed in the morning without groaning and rolling around like a pig in mud. It’s sexy, no?

- Consistent if not constant heartburn. At least Tums have calcium.

- An aching back, due to the utter disappearance of your abdominal muscles.

Or if you’re lucky, you get E. All of the above.

Still, 20 weeks is also a magical time. For 90% of women, morning sickness is gone. Our hair is thick and our skin is radiant. We’re showing. ("Hey world! Check me out! I’m growing a human!") And best of all, that little baby in there is moving and flipping and doing all it can to remind us of its presence.

I read a book last week that painted such a beautiful picture of conception – of the dance between cells and the holy mystery when they merge to form a new life. That new life is woven and spun in joyous darkness; only the One who is forming it can see its spark. And the this and the that slowly becomes a baby, a person, someone with a soul and a purpose and a heart to be loved.

Then they kick. And we, their mothers, feel the thrill of new, but still hidden, life.

I almost feel sorry for men, that they never get to wear a miracle.

Kelly blogs at Love Well. She's expecting her fourth baby - a boy - in May.