Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Now if they'd just invent a magic pill for the exhaustion . . .

It's been three and a half days since I felt it . . . the overpowering nausea that has been the bane of my existence for about seven weeks. I'd like to say it's because I've moved past that stage of pregnancy or that it's because I've discovered some new form of hypnosis that solved the problem, but it's not. For the first time ever, I'm taking Zofran, the anti-nausea miracle pill originally intended for cancer patients. So far, it appears to be working. I haven't had to stop several times during dinner to rush to the bathroom and gag, and it's been strange to change diapers and be around lots of smells without that debilitating sensation of nausea.

Last Friday was my first appointment for this pregnancy. The doctor, after exclaiming, "Oh, you're back!" asked me how I was feeling. I told her the truth: "Awful. I hate pregnancy." She looked surprised, "You? You can't hate pregnancy!"

I get that reaction a lot, and it seems like the more children I have, the more I hear, "Oh, you must have easy pregnancies." or "But you don't get sick, do you." And in some ways, I do have it easy. I've never been hospitalized for dehydration, I've never been anemic, I've never been on bedrest, and I've never delivered a pre-term infant.

But like most women, pregnancy for me is hardly a walk in the park. It's hard to battle morning-sickness at all hours of the day for months at a time. It's hard to put aside a lot of the extras in order to focus on just getting through a challenging time. It's hard to depend more on my husband to do things I'd rather be doing for our family, such as a larger share of the cooking. And that's just the first few months -- those last few aren't exactly my favorite, either.

Recently, MSNBC reported on a story about growing epidemic -- women addicted to pregnancy. The Today show jumped on the trend with a mostly-fluffy and offensive discussion of the subject -- "What would drive women to do something like this?" they asked. The reason psychologists were called in to explain the trend? "More than a quarter of [births in 2007] were to women having their third or fourth child" -- shocking, I know. Practically unbelievable. There must be something wrong with women like that, right?

There is, according to the article. It's called being a "Bumpaholic," and it's an addiction, at least according to the "professionals" they interviewed -- "Having babies isn't addictive in the way that alcohol and narcotics can be. But bumpaholics feel compelled to procreate for many of the same reasons that substance abusers turn to booze or drugs." Women do it, they say, to fill some void in their life or to compensate for a bad childhood. "Women who are obsessed with being pregnant are literally filling an emptiness inside of them, just as alcoholics and drug addicts use substances to fill a psychological void" says one expert, ironically practicing in Beverly Hills, where I'm sure she sees many women who have large families. These women supposedly crave the wonderful, euphoric feeling they get when they are pregnant. And let's not forget all that positive attention from strangers! "The belly-rubbing high hits the pregnant woman as well as the people who surround her. The expectant mother gets an oxytocin blast and rubs her belly as a way of bonding."

Not to worry, the article notes, most couples stop at one or two children. "This is because we can use our higher brain functions to keep those instincts in check, reminding ourselves that children cost money — about $950 a month until they're 18 — and require an extraordinary amount of time and energy."

Reading an article like this, besides making me rather angry, makes me wonder, "Have any of the psuedo-professionals they quote ever BEEN pregnant?" Because there is no way, short of amnesia, that someone would do this just to get a psychological "high." There are plenty of much easier ways to seek attention.

But according to these "experts," I must have some sort of psychological addiction to pregnancy. So I did a quick inventory of all the ways my body and life has changed over the last few months, hoping to figure out which one might be filling up the emptiness inside me:

* My hair has become lifeless and brittle and is coming out by the handful.
* I've been throwing up three or four times a week this month.
* I've spent many hours on the couch, willing myself not to throw up.
* I wake at odd times of the night and have weird, obnoxious dreams.
* I'm exhausted all the time.
* I was finally losing the extra weight from some of those previous baby bumps -- I lost 12 lbs this summer -- but I've had to put that on hold.
* I was improving rapidly with my running, but I've had to cut back to just maintaining what I've gained.
* I know that having more children puts off some of my own educational goals.
* With the twins in kindergarten, I finally felt like I was catching up on many long-awaited projects, but once the morning sickness took hold, I'm back to being hopelessly behind.
* I've had to cut back on a writing project I loved.
* My house, while still acceptable, is not kept as clean as it was a few months ago.
* I've dealt with some negative comments and criticism.

Pregnancy is hard. And being pregnant when you already have a couple of kids (or more) is even harder. The chances for much-needed rest get slimmer, and the demands on the mother are much greater. And as for craving attention, some of these professionals should go out in public with a mother and her five or six "addictions" and see for themselves how many positive comments come her way.

The fact is,being a mother of a large family is largely a thankless task. Your children don't thank you because, well, they're children and they don't really understand the sacrifices entailed in bringing them up. Your husband doesn't usually thank you because he's too busy pulling his own full weight and more. The world doesn't thank you because sadly, raising good children just isn't valued anymore. Go out and make a lot of money, and you're praised to the skies. But stay home and raise thoughtful, compassionate children? There must be something wrong with you. News reporters and psychologists make up fake disorders to describe what fifty years ago would have been considered normal. Perfect strangers question your sanity, ask you about your birth control choices, and make unkind judgments.

So why DO I do this?

First, why is any explanation necessary or demanded? What happened to people having children because they like them and feel like it's a good thing to do? I love what Meagan Francis has to say about it -- "it's become suspicious even to admit that we like kids, much less that we could be reasonably happy raising them. If someone volunteers for a nonprofit or has a large circle of friends, no armchair psychologist would bother to question whether she was trying to "fill a void" with meaningful activity or companionship. It would instead be accepted that creating relationships with other human beings is a normal, natural and human desire. When did it become weird to like children, to want them . . . even more than two?" And I love this article by Rabbi Shmuley, father of nine, who says to his critics, "“As soon as I find something I enjoy as much as my kids I will have a lot of that as well.”

I do enjoy children and I believe that they are gifts from God. Each one is precious and unique, and I feel that I can do no greater work than to raise happy, smart, kind, and compassionate children. It is worth every sacrifice and every inconvenience and yes, even every stare and thinly-veiled attack in the media. It may be a cliche, worthy of a song or two ("I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way . . ."), but I believe that what the world needs now more than ever are good people. And how do people get to be good? By and large, by learning values in a caring environment in their homes.

I'm sure I can (and eventually I probably will) write a much longer, more detailed explanation about why I have a large family, but for now, I state it simply: I believe that children are a gift from God. I enjoy raising them, and I feel I am doing an important work. I believe that children raised in good homes have the power to change the world for the better. I believe that sacrificing on behalf of the next generation is one of the ways we become refined and better human beings. Our own rough, selfish, hedonistic tendencies are worn away as we serve and love our children.

Call me old-fashioned, if you will, but don't ever call me a bumpaholic.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Victory!

This morning, I ran my first 5K race. I'm 12 weeks pregnant and sick as can be, yet I still ran. I'm not fast, as I've said before, but I ran every step of the race. I didn't walk at all, though it was tempting. The first half mile went uphill and a lot of the other runners stopped to walk it. I kept running. It was hard. The next stretch was downhill, and I passed a few spectators I knew.

There were lots of people along the route, waiting for BYU's Homecoming Parade. If I'd thought about it in advance, I would have thought, "eh, I'm not sure I'd want people to watch me run." But I didn't think much about it, and while I was running, I found it so fun to run by crowds and hear them cheer us on. There were a couple of people that picked up my number and cheered just for me -- "Go 30!" they'd say, and I'd grin, "Yeah! Me and this baby!" If I run it next year, I'm going to get me a big shirt that reads, "Mother of 8." A little shameless self-promotion isn't all bad, is it?

There was a gal who ran near me that stopped to walk several times. She kept passing me when she started running again, then I'd pass her when she stopped to walk. The first time I passed her, I told her she was doing great. Then when she passed me, I said, "See? You're doing awesome!" Her pace was pretty much the same as mine, but as you know, I don't claim to be fast. Just consistent. The fact that I'm still running, even though I spend much of the last six weeks either throwing up or feeling like it, is a major accomplishment.

Evidently, I was fast enough that I beat my family, who showed up at the Brick Oven to cheer me on, only to miss seeing me.

I finally finished. My run-walk friend caught up to me as we headed around the track for the last little bit. "Hey," I teased, "You're not allowed to pass me!" "I won't," she assured me, "you've helped me a lot." I did tell her I was joking and she was welcome to run ahead. As we rounded the last corner of the track, I pulled together all the energy I had, and I sprinted the last 100 meters. That felt good.

My time? 37:31.4 Like I said, I'm not fast. According to my race ticket, I came in 20th in my age bracket and my pace was 12:04 min/mi. Not so shabby for a pregnant 31-year-old who before this summer had never run a mile straight.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Q&A: Finding Time to Read and Blog

From Jacki:
I'm curious how you fit time to blog and read?!! And how do you read without falling asleep (not from a boring book, but because you must be tired!)?
At first I was going to answer this question by talking about time management or priorities. We don't have television, for instance, so I don't get sucked in to watching it. I've mostly put aside my design work and sewing and I don't scrapbook very often anymore, leaving more time for reading and blogging.

And I thought about writing about all the things I don't have time for, like keeping my house as clean as I want or organizing the garage or trying new recipes. But then I realized the answer to how I find time to blog and read is simple: It's important to me. And the reason I don't clean out or become a master chef is the opposite: It's not important to me.

I think we all have amazing abilities to fit in what's most important to us. Sometimes we look at another person with a talent different than our own and think, "Well, if I just wasn't so busy . . ." or "How in the world does she find time to do that?" I admire my friends who are always cooking up something new and exciting in their kitchen, for example, and it's tempting to say it's because I'm too busy that I don't do that, but really, it's because I've chosen to focus my efforts on other things. Other friends are amazing with sewing or decorating or celebrating holidays or photography or hosting parties or other wonderful things. Me? I dabble in Photoshop, love to write, and devour books.

Through the years, I have had to give up some of my hobbies or find ways to simplify them. For example, I used to make hardbound books that included scrapbook pages with tons of journaling and all the best pictures. Now, I simply take this blog, my weekly emails, and throw them in a book, adding a few scrapbook pages and lots of the best pictures. The goal of keeping my family history and especially the family stories preserved is met, but it takes less time. I used to sew a lot but I don't anymore. I'm still grateful I have the skills to do it and I hope that somewhere in the distance I might take time for it again, but it's not important enough to me to fit it in now.

Reading is something that's always been as natural as breathing to me, and I do it anytime I have a moment free. I usually have four or five books I'm reading at a time and I tend to leave them around the house. So there's always something close by to read. I read the newspaper after I feed the kids breakfast. If I don't get through it then, I read again after I feed the kids lunch. If I'm still not done, I'll often sit down with a snack after the kids go to bed and finish it then. I know newspapers are a dying breed, and it makes me sad. There's something so satisfying about getting my world, national, and local news every day in print. I hope I never have to change to reading it on the internet.

I try to keep a book or a magazine in my purse so I can steal a few moments to read. I'm a fast reader, and I read the Ensign, National Geographic, Reader's Digest, and the Smithsonian every month as well as mostly non-fiction books. I gave up reading most fiction when my oldest was a baby because I realized I have no self-control when there is a good story involved. I find myself staying up way too late at night to see how something ends or find it's way too easy to read instead of getting the housework done. If I'm reading a fiction book, I almost always finish it within a day or two. With non-fiction, I usually find it easy to put it down after a few pages or a chapter and it doesn't bother me if it takes a month or more to finish.

As for falling asleep, I actually find it hard to sleep unless I read before I go to bed. I try to go to bed around 9:00 so I have time to read the scriptures for a half an hour or so as well as whatever else I'm currently reading. I'll often read for an hour or two before I shut off the light and fall asleep. I enjoy having new ideas and experiences to think about and ponder while I go to sleep. In fact, I think those moments when I settle in and wait for sleep to come are some of my best ones of the day, maybe because I have my thoughts all to myself with only sweet sleep to interrupt.

I really enjoy blogging and I thrive on the opportunity to formulate my thoughts and come up with the right words to express my feelings. Frankly, it's also nice to know I'm interacting with adults -- after talking to kids all day, it's nice to interact in some measure with other mothers.
I get a little thrill knowing that someone's reading my words and it feels wonderful to get comments (insert shameful begging here: I really, really like those comments!).

Most important to me are the times when I've felt like I've been able to be of help and encouragement to others with this blog. It feels great to know that my experiences might lift others.

To find the time for it, I like to hop on the computer for a few minutes here and there during the day, but usually (until morning sickness took over!), I use the time in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed and DH is working to update my blog or read and comment on other people's. I am pretty vigilant about making sure I don't allow the computer to take over my life. I installed TimeTracker on Firefox at the beginning of the year and I keep an eye on how long I'm using the internet, because I know there are lots of other important things I also need to fit into my life.

What are your hobbies and talents? What do you always make time for, no matter how busy you are?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stuck in the Middle of Nowhere


Last week was our fall break, so we celebrated by heading into the desert, Palm Desert, California, to be exact. None of us had ever been there before, which seemed as good a reason as any to hop into Clifford the Big Red Van and head out.

We spent several days at Joshua Tree National Park. I must admit to some prejudice against the desert.After the beautiful fall we’ve had in Utah so far, it was hard to go to a place that was so brown and ugly, and the drive to Joshua seemed to go through some of the scruffiest desert areas around. However, as we drove into the park, my opinion changed. We got there just before sunset and the park was beautiful, with lots of fascinating rock formations and plants. The variety and sheer number of trees was amazing, and the rocks were lovely in the twilight.


The park is known for its rock-climbing rocks, and my kids had to try them all out. Our one-mile hike took hours because they had to stop and scramble over every rock. It was also fun to wave at the REAL rock-climbers climbing up the sheer faces of even larger rock formations.







Wednesday, we tried to visit an old fluorite mine listed in our rockhounding book, but we got a few surprises. Our rockhounding adventure took us five miles off the freeway on a BLM maintained (or not, as the case may be) dirt track that seemed okay when we headed down it. It got worse and worse as the time went on. For a couple of miles, we felt like we were on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, as DH navigated rut after rut and we bounced all around. Harmony didn’t like it at all, but the rest of us found the whole thing funny and we were laughing and laughing as we bumped up and down. Despite all the bumps and ruts, the road seemed pretty navigable and we were five miles into our six mile trip when we hit a rough patch. First, we had to go down and up a narrow gully. DH took some time to walk around and scope out the situation before he figured out a way to get us through it. He did great, with only a minimum of scraping. Fifty yards further down the trail, however, and we saw the road turn into a huge expanse of sand with deep tracks carved in it. I suggested we stop here and hike the rest of the way. DH wanted to try it (this is where he will point out that the only reason we were on this crazy road in the first place was because it was all MY idea). Ten seconds later, we were stuck, with our tires mired in sand. DH and I tried some initial efforts to dig us out but it quickly became apparent this was not going to be a quick and easy rescue effort. I got the kids out and put Harmony in the Baby Bjorn. Joey set right to work helping DH dig out the back tires, while I took all the kids to a wash nearby to hunt for rocks. We actually found some pretty ones, and Michael found several with iron pyrite (fool’s gold) on them.




DH and I had already said silent prayers, and I was about to gather the kids for a group prayer when we heard the sound of two motorcyclists approaching. Two men hopped off and set right to work helping DH and Joey dig out the piles and piles of sand.

It was amazing. This road was completely deserted. We saw no one on the way in, and no one on the way out, but five minutes after we get stuck, there they were, two men with willing hands and not small experience – one was a Baja truck driver and knew a few things about getting stuck, or rather un-stuck. I gathered some brush from nearby to place under the tires when the sand was finally cleared, and they took about twenty minutes to help dig out a track. Two attempts and lots of brush later, we were no longer stuck. The motorcyclists accepted a cold water bottle and were on their way. I heard one comment to the other about how much time they might have lost. The other one said, “Yeah, but I’ve been stuck before and I’m glad we could help out.” We were very thankful for their help and for their timely arrival. We had plenty of water and food and we would probably have eventually gotten ourselves out, but it would have taken us a whole lot longer. We told the kids that this is why we pray every day!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Trophy Mom

Allison brought home some stickers from kindergarten the other day.

"Here, Mommy, you can have one because you're such a good mommy!" I wore it proudly on my shirt.

Thirty minutes later, Allison was in trouble and lost some of her tickets (our discipline system). "You're a MEAN mommy!" she yelled at me, "And now, you have to give the sticker back!"

I Love Fall (Wordless Wednesday)





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