A bicycle built for six
I had four kids in four years. No twins. No joke.
Why does someone have four kids in four years? I hadn’t really even planned on having one. Then one day, in my 30’s, my body had a different idea and there I was, pregnant with my first and in big-time panic.
What would happen to Me? My life as I knew it? My freedom? My friends? I went through mourning (yes, this is a bit over the top but it seemed to help me) of my old life, cried a lot, didn’t buy one baby thing, yet deep down, I really did want this baby.
He was 18 days overdue. I should explain that I am a Canadian and was living in Amsterdam at the time with my Dutch husband. Here, a baby can be up to three weeks late before inducing. I had no idea. I had a plan; my sister had come for the birth and there was no baby. It was during these 18 days, however, that I began to really accept that I was having a baby, enjoying his crazy kicking, melting into a slow daily ritual of bike rides (it’s Holland after all), hammock naps, buying food for the day, reading books and talking on the phone with my family who were all so far away. Then on day 18, the doctors decided it was time to induce. Eight hours later he was born and I, in turn, became a Mother.
Then again, again and again.
I was hooked. I’m the oldest of six and was in for the all. My natural instincts kicked in after my first; I had trouble leaving for work during the day and raced home at night, and never mind using a baby sitter — that was out of the question. I breastfed, made his food, let him fall asleep beside me because that was what “he” wanted. Put my pajama shirt in his bed so he could “smell” me if I wasn’t there.
Fast forward to number four.
I couldn’t live without babysitters, falling asleep in her own bed was a pre-requisite, naptime happened from 1-3pm every day, for all of us, no exceptions. Cooking for five while breastfeeding and talking on the phone had become a no-brainer.
But slowly slowly I started to drown in the exhaustion that had become inexplicable to all but a few.
It took a couple of years but I’ve managed to get out of the water. I get out regularly with friends, exercise, leave the kids behind with little, ok — still a lot of guilt, and am starting to understand that a balanced happy mom is a better mom. I have put my high heel shoes back on.
With my high heels came getting back to work. I decided to pick up an idea I had while expecting #3, which was to write a series of booklets for the Busy Woman (all of us) and started with Babies 0-6 months. I had forgotten what those first weeks were like when I was alone at home with my newborn.
I think what surprised me the most was that those weeks weren’t all “roses”. In fact, they weren’t really that great. Yes, I was happy to have a healthy boy and loved him more than I thought possible. But somehow, despite all of the research I had done, I hadn’t expected the “after pains”, the tears, the incredible unexplainable exhaustion, the struggle I would have with breastfeeding, the 24/7 care that my son “demanded” from me. I remember looking outside, watching the world get on with their life, while mine had done a complete 180 and I had no idea what to do.
But I figured it out, as we all do, step by step, with the help of friends, my mom, babycenter.com and some trial and error. My youngest just integrated into the flow of daily life, which was the opposite of what had happened with my first.
Julia has just turned four, which means that I’m entering a new phase and leaving the baby years behind. I’m excited and sad but as I sit here reminiscing about those first weeks, I can’t help but feel a smile spread out across my face. Guess they weren’t that bad after all…