Thursday, March 23, 2017

Family Rules and Rewards (for toddlers)

 **  Please note that our parenting experience extends to a mere three years currently. We are learning how to approach family rules and expectations as we go! These rules and rewards will change as our family changes. The following is merely a sharing of our family's current experience. Perhaps, though, it may be helpful for determining rules and rewards for the toddler ages. **

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     At some point it happens- the need to establish household rules. Household rules are beneficial for the child and the entire family. They, in fact, allow all individuals to thrive. Rules provide guidance to proper behavior in a predictable manner. They aren't arbitrary, nor are they reactive. They establish boundaries and limits that teach a child how to conduct himself in a variety of situations and settings. 
     
     A toddler is experiencing a developmental stage in life in which he desires independence and will explore his limits. He's also wrestling with feeling big emotions but lacking in the ability to communicate or control those emotions. As a parent, it's my responsibility to help him navigate emotions and impulse-control so that he may develop emotional intelligence and maturity as he grows into an adult who will then be a beneficial member of society. 
     
Our "time out" spot in our home. 
     The home and family are mini-societies and practice societies. Jill Savage describes the upbringing setting or time as our "internship" for life in her book *Professionalizing Motherhood. She contends that the lessons learned early in life within the home or relationships therein provide a foundation from which we will work from as adults. Rules within the home establishes a respect for authority and boundaries that exist for a purpose and must be followed, the same as within society. Obedience and respect for authority is learned. Rules also provide lessons in social skills and how to interact well with others. If a child can learn to get along well with his sibling(s), he can get along with anyone. Establishing rules within the home are a part of training a child to become a thoughtful, kind and productive member of society as an adult. 
     
      Establishing rules within the home requires discipline on my part as a parent as well. It's easy to just "go with the flow" and correct as needed. However, this pattern is diffcult for the child to follow. He doesn't clearly understand expectations for his behavior. He only learns of his misdeed through correction. In other words, he acts and then I would react. It appears as though expectations are arbitrary and perhaps subject to my mood/disposition. I can see how eventually the children may begin feeling guilt and shame for being "bad" as a result of constant fussing. Establishing rules in a more proactive and concrete manner provides them a better understanding of the expectation for behavior and allows greater opportunity for success. 
     
      Family rules aren't bad things! They're really quite beneficial!
     
     As our oldest child grew from baby to toddler, we began to see the need for establishing family rules. We determined that around the age of two was an appropriate time to introduce formal rules and consequences. We considered various behaviors that were applicable to the particular stage in development. I didn't want a list of "no...". Instead, I tried to write the desired behaviors and then clarified with specifics to the side. We have a copy of our family rules hung in our "time out corner" in our home, and can easily point to the list and show them which rule was broken during our discussion. 
     
     Below I have a copy of our family rules. 
Click to enlarge. Contact me to receive a copy via email. 

     Our approach typically includes three steps: 1) a reminder of proper behavior 2) a warning of consequence and 3) Time Out mat (following Jo Frost's method). I've learned that it's important to resist the temptation to ask, "Do you want to go to Time Out? Then, don't do ___." This seems to send the message that the child may direct the discipline. Instead, I've tried to train myself to say, "We do ____. If you choose not to, then you will need to sit in Time Out." 

     (There is certainly far more to discipline than mere rules and consequences. This post is intended to focus only the practical "how to" as it applies to our family.)

Rewards
Our jar is kept in our living room to be easily accessible and visible to everyone. 
      Along with rules, we also have a reward system for our children. A reward system is equally important as a rules system. A "reward" can be as simple as a word of praise. Or, it could be a visual reward. It could also be something tangible like a new activity, toy, book, treat or outting. Little ones are learning proper attitudes and behaviors, and it can easily become apparent that they are "bad" if they receive only correction. They really need to be affirmed that they've done well as well! The two systems are necessary for balance. 
   
       A reward system  recognizes and focuses on positive behavior. The creation of some sort of a system allows me to be more cognizant of offering them that recognition. It's easy as a parent to simply expect a certain standard of behavior, and neglect praising and/or rewarding them for it. By having a visible reward system, not only are they motivated to work towards the goal, but I'm more inclined to be prompted to offer them praise or a reward. My mama-heart needs to see the good/positive and offer praise just as much as the children need to receive it. 

     We initially used a sticker chart, but it quickly lost it's appeal. I then chose to use various size pom-poms placed into a jar. The pom-poms are new and exciting to them, which provides sufficient motivation. The various sizes allows the jar to be filled without a predetermined amount. 
  
      Any time we recognize the children having good behavior they receive a pom-pom for their jars. We try to recognize even the smallest act, as even that is important. Once the jar is filled we take the individual out for an ice cream cone, cookie or other special treat with just Mama or just Daddy. It's a simple concept, and yet has been so effective! 

    (Of course, eventually they will need to learn to exhibit proper behavior without a tangible reward, but for the toddler age presently we believe this is an appropriate course of action. His little face lights up with the offering of a pom pom or mention of working towards an ice cream cone reward, and so that's sufficient evidence for me!))   

Recommended Resources: 
Jo Frost's Toddler Rules by Jo Frost
*Time Out Mat
"Caught You Being Good Jar" idea and printable

Note: The "*" indicates the inclusion of an affiliate link. I am personally an affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a compensation for purchases made through the links. (Thank you!)

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Monday, March 13, 2017

February 2017 In Our Home

They fill my heart with so much joy!

Parenting- 
     Now that I'm no longer pregnant, I'm able to see more clearly the toll that was taken on the children. I struggled with exhaustion and tensions were often so high. I was less patient, less teaching, less loving towards the children. Now on the other side, I feel as though it's going to take some time to make up for mistakes (ie yelling and stressing way too much). 
      I need to learn new understandings and approaches regarding parenting and the children's unique personalities. I picked up a few books that may be helpful: *Positive Parenting, *The Strong and Sensitive Boy, and *Raising Your Spirited Child. While I may not agree with or implement every nugget of information or suggestion put forth in parenting books, I do find them very valuable. It's so important to me to be continuously learning and growing in my roles. In order to do that, I need to seek out resources that will teach and encourage me. 

Note: The "*" indicates the inclusion of an affiliate link. I am personally an affiliate with Amazon.com, and as such receive a compensation for purchases made through the links. (Thank you!)

Tot Schooling-
     We've taken a total pause on tiny tot school and tot school while we adjust to a new member of our family and then host extended family for a week. We'll pick it back up when it becomes clearer how our days will look now that we have three little ones. 

He's Here!
     The main event of this month has been the arrival of our newest baby! It was quite the whirlwind and surprising delivery. The next two weeks were spent resting, recovering and adjusting to our new family dynamics. It was absolutely wonderful to have that time. It was also a dream to have gotten that much time with David and with our family all together. Although the days have been rather stressful and chaotic while we figure out a new norm., I'm completely in love with our family of five. I'm so grateful for God seeing fit to grow our family. 

Blogging-
     My goal of publishing one new blog post each week and one social media post each day has collapsed. I thoroughly enjoy this space as my outlet for expression. It would be nice to maintain one personal interest/hobby. However, with the birth of our third child I'm realizing that those goals may not be feasible at this time. There is simply very little opportunity to be attentive to anything beyond caring for the home and children. It won't always be that way, but for now I must acknowledge that it is. I will continue to jot down post ideas and outlines in my notebook with the hopes of they one day becoming blog post. A daily or weekly deadline for publishing posts, however, will simply have to be let go of for now. I'll simply publish what I can, when I can. There are seasons in life, and that's a lesson I'm needing to really grasp presently. 

2017 Garden
   
 The arrival of a new baby is a perfect time to take on a big project, right? We've dreamed about a backyard raised bed garden for many, many years. We made plans and saved up the money to make that dream a reality. David spent one weekend building the frames and filling them with dirt. I used the Farmer's Almanac Vegetable Planner to plan out what we would like to grow. It won't be too long before we have our own delicious vegetables growing in our own backyard (...as long as the children don't pull anything up, that is. haha!)!




Saturday, March 11, 2017

Baby 3 Pregnancy Journal: Birth Story

Huxley Nathaniel R.
Born February 13, 2017
7 lbs. 8oz.
20 3/4 in.
     Our plan for delivery was to attempt another VBAC. We had been informed early in the pregnancy that VBACs were not common where we now live, and if any sign of trouble were to arise that a c-section would be performed. I really wanted to avoid a c-section if at all possible. It's major surgery, and I knew the recovery would be much more difficult for everyone. Ideally, I wanted to go into labor on my own and then continue to the best of my ability without interventions. That goal was unexpectedly accomplished!

     I began to grow nervous that we would encounter the same situation we did with Annelise's birth in that labor just wouldn't initiate or proceed without aid (after all, there was weekly injections to prevent labor). However, they do not induce VBACs here, which would mean a c-section. Like my previous pregnancies, I had no braxton hicks contractions or anything that would indicate imminent labor. (Or, did I? In retrospect, perhaps I just didn't notice it?). I was growing very weary and ready for this baby to be born!

     At my 39 week appointment, my doctor informed me that she would be out of town the day after my due date. This is problematic when you're hoping for a VBAC and your doctor is one of only a few in town who will permit one. If I were to go into labor while she was gone, then there would be a fair chance that the on-call doctor at the hospital would not do a VBAC and I'd automatically go in for a c-section. She suggested that if I wanted to I could go in on my due date to have my water broken in hopes for initiating labor. In favor of giving myself the greatest opportunity for a VBAC delivery, I agreed.
He's my biggest baby yet! 7lb 8oz.!

     In the following days, however, I became so very torn on the idea of intervening. I knew that once we intervened we were committed. I feared a stalled labor and subsequent c-section. I questioned, I talked, I cried over the decision all weekend. I really wanted labor to initiate naturally, and I knew if there would be any shot at labor and delivery with fewer or no interventions, then this would be my chance. I did many of the old wives tales to initiate labor. I took the children on a stroller walk around our neighborhood several times a day. I ate fresh pineapple (which I loved anyways). I held and smelled a friend's baby. I ate spicy food. I was so determined to put forth my best effort even if the idea was silly so that at least when I went in for the scheduled delivery I could at least say I tried.

     Days passed and still no contractions or sign of labor. I then became sure that the scheduled delivery would be my fate. Nonetheless, I decided to call my doctor on Monday (the day before the scheduled delivery) with a list of questions. I then decided to ask for a few more days to initiate labor on my own. We joked about having a panic moment and taking more time, when I'll probably go into labor the next day anyways. Well, little did either of us know that I was already in labor during that phone call!

     About 3am Tuesday (Feb 13) I woke with what I assumed were contractions. A few were somewhat strong, but I was able to go back to sleep by 4am. The following morning I continued to have some pains but nothing that would even cause me to pause. (My indicator of the seriousness of an ailment is the necessity to halt functioning in some capacity). I was set on continuing my plan of going for a walk that morning. There was a potential for rain outside, so I decided to load the children up and go walk around our mall. (I discovered our mall is quite small and can be walked in about 5 minutes, but then again I was power walking with a purpose. haha). Once we finished we headed home for lunch. I was still feeling some slight pains and the occasional ones that were causing me to pause now. David came home and believed we needed to quickly get the children to nap and pack our bags for the hospital. He was worried that this third delivery would go fast (he was right). I had been texting a friend who is very knowledgeable in labor and delivery all morning, and without me saying anything explicit she was soon on her way. (She watched our children while we were at the hospital. She and her family were angels for us!). It turned out to be a very good thing that David and my friend had the foresight that it was labor and we needed to head to the hospital. I was still convinced I wasn't going to go into labor on my own and that I what I was feeling wasn't really contractions.
Meeting their new brother!
 I'm so grateful for each of them! :)

     At the hospital, I was still in denial and believed they were going to send us back home. Turns out, I was already 5cm along and didn't even realize I was in labor. We got transferred to a room, and I immediately requested to be permitted to walk the hallways. After laboring with my second child flat on my back in a bed, I absolutely wanted to take advantage of the ability to move. I genuinely believe that makes the process so much more bearable. I was actually walking, talking, and managing contractions just fine for the majority of the labor. I would breathe or sing through them, and then afterwards return to whatever I was doing. 

     I wasn't opposed to an epidural, but I didn't want to get one to soon and stall labor. Plus, I was managing just find without one so I didn't see the need for one just yet. Then, at around 7-8cm the nurse came in to discuss an epidural in relation to the VBAC. She explained that if an emergency c-section would be needed, then they wouldn't have to put me all the way under since the line would already be in. I agreed that it would be a wise precaution to take. (I'm fully aware of the risks and potentials with delivering VBAC, and they are valid considerations). She also then brought in a "peanut exercise ball" that was designed to simply be placed between the legs to open up the pelvis more. Well, it was effective. About 30-45 minutes later I hit transition. Forget calm singing and breathing through contractions. Forget an epidural even! I was so blindsided by the sudden and severe pain that I screamed with all my might. (I actually had a scratchy throat the next day I had screamed so much). It was quite the experience to fully feel the end contractions and the pushing process. I was hysterical. (And I'm still completely embarrassed by it to this day. Goodness, what a complete loss of self-control! What happens in the delivery room, stays in the delivery room. Right? Let's hope so! haha). 

      They placed him in my arms and I couldn't have cared less about the aftermath of delivery. I was so happy for him to be here. I did have some complications following the birth. I, of course, tore and required stitches. I also had a lot of extra bleeding which they were able to intervene and stop, as well as keep levels monitored through lab draws during the night. Oddly enough, for whatever reason the biggest hurdle was the struggle for consciousness. Every time I sat up I blacked out. I actually passed out when attempting to stand. So, for the rest of the night the nurse came in every thirty minutes or so and gradually elevated my bed. I felt absolutely awful as my head was pounding and dizzy. It was until midmorning the next day that I was able to get up and walk on my own without feeling faint. (I also had a similar experience with Annelise's birth. I suppose it's my body's strange way of responding). 
Tennyson looked at the baby and then looked at me.
Then, completely unprompted he leaned
 over and gave me a kiss. He's such a
sensitive soul. I'm so glad David caught
this moment on camera. I'll always cherish it!

    Fortunately, David was there through the night and held the baby. We had planned for him to return home to be with the older children during the night. However, they were already in bed by the time Huxley was born so there wasn't a point in he going back. I was so very glad he was able to stay. This was a first time, and it meant the world to me. I had wanted someone to stay the night in case I was unable to care for the baby (as was the case it turned out). I had yet to have a baby that didn't have to be immediately sent away to either NICU or nursery. I wanted at least one baby to be able to stay with me, and I'm so glad he did. It was even more special that the one who got to stay with us was David. 

      The very next day were were discharged and released home. It was the most whirlwind delivery I've yet to experience. Only 5 hours from when we arrived to the hospital to when he was born. To top that-- I did it all natural. I went in it thinking that I had already done one c-section delivery, one VBAC induction, so why not just see how far I could get on my own this time. Turn out the answer is all the way. I can now say I've delivered all three ways (and there will never be any judgement from me). 24 hours after his birth we were on our way home. 

     It took about a full week for the blacking out/dizziness issue to resolve. Despite that, this recovery was by far the best yet. With my first child, he was born prematurely via c-section and spend several weeks in the hospital. I didn't have an opportunity to rest and recover. I immediately had to be up and going to be with him each day. With my second child, extended family came to stay beginning the day after she was born. One side of the family came for a couple of days. When they left the other side came for about a week. Once they left, David had to return to work. We spend the initial two weeks- the only time David had off work- tending to extra people in our home. I didn't get to rest and recover. We didn't get to bond and adjust as our own family. That recovery was much longer and harder on me than necessary. 

     This time around, I was firm in wanting the extended family to wait. I wanted the initial two weeks to be all about resting, recovering, adjusting and bonding as a new family of five. I wanted to be able to remain in pajamas if desired, forego hair and makeup if desired, nurse openly to better establish proper breastfeeding habits, not worry as much about the state of the house or people etc. (I certainly didn't want to have to worry about unflattering photos being posted on social media without consent (it has happened. ugh)). Less people to tend to. Less tasks to do. Just an opportunity to focus on resting and relaxing within our family. It was the most restful and joyful time (as much as recovery can be). David cared for the home and older children. I cared for myself and the new baby. We got to enjoy so much time together as a family as well. I honestly attribute the difference in this recovery time to having had two full weeks to focus on our family, rest, and recover. 

     So far, Mr. Huxley seems to be a rather content little guy. He sleeps and eats well (which is a first in our baby experience! haha). Tennyson and Annelise weren't too sure about him at first, but have come around to the idea of a new sibling and enjoy holding him. Managing three children three years old and under all day on my own has been a learning curve. We're all slowly finding our new groove. It's remarkable how quickly it seems as though there have always been three of them. I just adore each of them individually, and am so grateful for our now family of five. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Baby 3 Pregnancy Journal: Conclusion

How Far Along?
     Baby boy arrived one day before his due date. Since there is no "40 week journal," I thought I might write one final entry to capture the entire pregnancy. (A birth story to come later).

Baby Size?
     He's our biggest baby yet, and weighed 7lbs 8oz and was 20 3/4 inches long! He was about a pound heavier than we were expecting. 

Gender? 
    It's a boy! We, of course, would have welcomed either gender. However, we were hoping for a boy. We already had a name we loved picked out. 

Belly? 
     Phew! The baby belly reached epic proportions! I carry babies entirely out in front. Pregnancy isn't even noticeable from any angle but from the front. My baby bellies are like a big, defined ball sitting out in front. The downside of this is that my ab muscles get separated & my skin tears quite a bit. I didn't even know stretch marks could multiply or deepen as much as they did this time! The belly was so big and heavy, in fact, that I had pitting edema (swelling severe enough that an impression is left when the skin is pressed upon) on the underside of my belly. Towards the end, my back ached quite a bit from the weight of having to balance the belly weight. I also was highly uncomfortable regardless of sitting, standing, laying down etc. 

    Despite it all, I did actually enjoy the baby belly. I think baby bellies are absolutely beautiful. Pregnancy is such a special time in life. I cherish carrying another little one. 

Weight Gain? 
     I started out rather underweight at 114lbs. I made up for that though by gaining 33lbs during the pregnancy, which is considered a healthy amount. 

    Weight hasn't bothered me in the past. This time, however, I allowed the careless comments of one individual to influence my perception of self. In retrospect, I wished I had held steady and blocked out these remarks better. So much energy and emotion wasted. 

Sleep? 
     Sleep was a constant battle. Early on I lost sleep from frequent bathroom visits and wild dreaming. I had some of the most vivid and at times disturbing dreams! Yikes! Later, I lost sleep from the inability to get comfortable, despite my excessive use of pillows. By the end, I simply ached and hurt too much to sleep. I frequently desired to sleep but dreaded going to bed at night because I knew rest would be fitful. Functioning well the following day with such little rest each night was a constant struggle. I regrettably didn't hold myself together the next day as often as I needed to have done. 

Symptoms:
     Exhaustion was a main theme throughout this pregnancy. It was very challenging to keep up with everything and everyone while feeling so physically depleted. 

      During the first and second trimesters I would have terrible migraine headaches. My hearing and vision would be extra sensitive. I would even have a portion of my face become numb as though I had had a procedure at the dentist. David would come home when possible and care for the children during these moments. I consulted my MFM (OB specialist) and apparently strong migraines aren't uncommon in pregnancy. It was a new and somewhat frightening one for me though!

    I already mentioned wild, vivid dreams. That was also a new one for me! I don't believe I've ever had such dreams. I don't care for them to ever return, either. 

     Another new symptom was the appearance of vericose veins throughout my legs. There were many moments in which I simply had to sit and prop my legs up to find relief (something that wasn't easy for me to do!). I tried a few different remedies, but ultimately found medical grade compression hose to be the best solution. I felt oh so attractive in those, but they worked. 

     Little rest and hormones produced some wild swinging emotions. I didn't see it at the time (of course), but realize it now. Phew, my poor family. 

Clothing?
     I actually created a "capsule wardrobe" for this pregnancy and loved it! It was so nice to have a pre-coordinated set of clothing that I could feel nice wearing each day. I had just gotten by with as few pieces as possible in the last two pregnancies not wanting to spend too much money. I was so glad I went for it this time! It may be vanity but looking nice does help feeling nice!

     Towards the end of the pregnancy, though, none of my clothes were fitting any longer. Pants would fit everywhere except in the band which wouldn't pull up over the belly. Even tunic tops couldn't cover the belly. I wore the same four pieces for the last couple of weeks. On delivery day, I was down to one baggy pair of pants an extra size larger and one of David's tshirts. I was looking c-u-t-e! haha

Movement? We went for stroller walks as much as possible. Some days I just didn't have the energy to load everyone into the stroller to sweat in the Texas heat. 

     As the due day approached, I put walking into high gear. We went for a stroller walk at least twice a day. One the day it was threatening rain, I loaded everyone up and we went to walk around the mall (this ended up being the day he was born! I walked through contractions but didn't realize they were labor contractions. haha).

Baby Movement? He was my most active baby yet! He had some amazingly powerful kicks and movements. He knew exactly how to find that gap between my abs too. Some of his movements were remarkable to watch. It was so defined it was as though you could see the shape of his little foot from the outside. Such an incredible experience to feel a baby inside!

Food Adversions? I didn't really have any. I enjoyed most foods. 

Food Cravings? Milk and citrus! These seem to be my pregnancy favorites, especially with baby boys. I loved tall glasses of milk and big portions of fresh pineapple!

What I Miss? As I mentioned, I really struggled with exhaustion and managing our home and two other young children. So, I missed being able to do so positively and with enthusiasm. 

What I'm Excited About?
      I was so excited about another little person. As difficult as it can be to manage such young children all day every day, I look at each of my children and am overwhelmed with gratitude to have the privilege of knowing them. We were uncertain as to if we would have additional children, and I'm so glad God saw fit to give us another. I'm looking forward to getting to know this new person as he grows. I'm also excited to see he, Tennyson, and Annelise become friends!

What I'm Nervous About?
      I as very, very nervous about arrangements for Tennyson and Annelise while we were away with the new baby. The children had never had outside care, not even a babysitter. They weren't accustomed to being placed in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people, and I didn't have confidence that they would react well (ie I foresaw one withdrawing and another screaming crying). We needed someone who they could "warm up" to prior to delivery. God answered this prayer in leading a wonderful family to fulfill this role. We gathered with them for weekly playdates and even had the children stay with them without us for several hours one evening. This effort made all the difference because when the time came we were all confident and comfortable. I was so relieved to know they were in good hands and I could focus on delivery, recovery, and bonding with the new baby.

      Another great concern was going through the weekly injections again. This was the second time to receive them (they're awful!), and I just wasn't 100% confident of the necessity. Nonetheless, this is standard protocol in the U.S. for any woman who has had a history of preterm delivery. We complied, but did decide to stop a couple weeks early of the prescribed timeframe (same as we had done with baby #2). Once again, we went all the way to term despite the statistics. By the end, David and I have been convinced the level of monitoring and interventions (including the injections) may not be necessary, and would decidedly refuse the injections and limit the excessive ultrasounds and such if there were to ever be a baby #4. 

     Finally, I was concerned about delivery options. We currently live in an area in which a VBAC is not common, and very few physicians will permit one. A VBAC with induction (like my second delivery) is absolutely not done here. Fortunately, my physician was one that was comfortable with a VBAC. So, the plan was to attempt a second VBAC with the knowledge that it could always become a c-section. I really, really wanted to avoid a c-section though. I knew a major surgery would be very hard on myself and our family. (What would we do for childcare or how would the house be managed if I was out of commission for so long?). Ideally, I wanted to go into labor entirely on my own and do my best through the labor and delivery process. It hadn't been the case yet, but I was still hopeful that this would be my one shot at a limited-interventions or no-interventions labor and delivery. 

How Am I Preparing?
      I had quite the grandiose ideas of preparations. I just didn't get myself or those ideas pulled together though. We did a few freezer meals, but not nearly as many as I had wanted. Fortunately, things worked out anyways. (Not hosting extended family for weeks immediately after delivery helped a lot). We also had individuals from our church bring us a few meals, which was lovely. Freezer meals is a fantastic concept, but the extra time required for the additional prep/cooking just wasn't very feasible. 

      I lagged behind on getting necessary items as well. The week before my due date, I had finally made a trip to the store to pick up extra diapers, some clothes for him and anything else we needed before the big day. Funny how with Annelise I was fully prepared by the end of my second trimester having learned the lesson of not being prepared from my first delivery. You would think that lesson would reapply itself and I would be ready early once again. But, no. I was packing our bags while in labor, even! haha

Other Thoughts?
    I may never forget the moment of finding out we were expecting. Unlike the previous times, we were both completely surprised this time. (Although looking back, I should have known. Nothing is ever so dramatic or so desperate as when filtered through the exaggerated emotions of pregnancy hormones. haha). We really weren't expecting to be expecting a third time. I was excited, but also very nervous. Managing two closely spaced children can be a challenge, but three? When I considered each of my children and who they are, I couldn't wait to meet this next little one. Such a gift! 

      This was by far my most difficult pregnancy. While there were new symptoms that made things more difficult, the biggest struggle was simply keeping up with two young children and being pregnant. (We also moved into our house during the pregnancy!). Logistics of attending weekly appointments throughout the pregnancy also put a strain on us. We didn't have childcare, and so David had to work it out with work to get time away to care for them so that I could attend such frequent appointments. 

      On regard to future children, we said after #2 that we likely wouldn't pursue another biological child. We had been told repeatedly of my high risk status and we knew ourselves how difficult the interventions can be. But, then we were surprised by #3 and so grateful! However, going through everything again to monitor being high risk and prevent prematurity and growth restriction, we said we wouldn't do it again. Then, it became more apparent to us that perhaps all the concerns weren't accurate (because they are merely guesses) and we could, in fact, have a normal pregnancy and baby. Now, we're back to saying "we'll see" in regard to having additional children. That may mean another biological child, or perhaps even adoption in the future. Or, no additional children at all. We'll see. ;)

     Right now, I'm so enjoy this little guy! I'm completely smitten by him. I just look at his little face and snuggle him close, and all the difficulties were well worth it. It's amazing how quickly it seems as though he's always been a part of our family! 
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