Thoughts for Tuesday

Last night was a very real night in the life of a mother who sleeps right next to her baby, makes no efforts whatsoever to help her to sleep independently.

It was ten-something, and I had been curled downstairs on the couch reading my book for quite some time. I tip-toed up the stairs and slid silently under the smooth sheets, curling myself next to my sleeping Maeve.

She was fast asleep. She did not stir as I arranged myself on my pillow and pulled the comforter around me. I could have drifted off right there.

But she was so tempting. She smelled so sweet, and her little, warm hand was splayed out next to her, just within reach. I had to hold it. I held it gently, then wrapped her hand in mine, feeling how tiny it was. I cupped her hand in my two hands, and rested my eyes and breath, as if to sleep.

She stirred, and cried out a little, which was just fine with me, because I really wanted to snuggle all of her. I turned her towards me to nurse. As she fell back into a deep sleep, I lay with my face resting on her silky hair. Her feet were tucked between my thighs, and her belly was cuddled right up to me. I felt almost drunk with the beauty of this. I have to admit, there is nothing that I love more than sleeping with my baby. The intimacy of having this tiny person in my bed, in my arms, tucked into me while she sleeps, never ceases to amaze me. And while it is happening, I know it is just this little while. That one day she will move out on me. That one day she will tell me she hates me.

But now, I am everything. Everything. Maeve has spent almost every moment of her life in very close proximity to me. She depends on me for food, for sleep, for comfort. There is no equal. There is no almost-equal. I am it. I am everything.

This is what I was thinking as I held her in the dark, falling asleep with her tight against my chest. I staggered mentally at the privilege of this, to be someone’s everything. I felt so intensely happy.

I began to fall asleep.

And then, she woke up and began to fuss. So I repositioned her, rewrapped her in her blanket, nursed her some more.

I began to fall asleep.

And then, she woke up and began to fuss. I sat up this time, bounced her on the side of the bed, laid her softly in her own spot.

Repeat the past four lines from approximately 11 PM until 5 AM in 10 minute intervals.

Sleeping with my baby wasn’t feeling so cozy anymore. Finally at 5 I handed her to Greg, who put her in the Ergo, went downstairs, and brewed himself some coffee. I fell asleep, actually, completely, and had one hour and 45 minutes of solid-as-a-rock sleep. I admit I did mutter a few curse words under my breath a few times during the night.

Today there were two new teeth breaking through. Maybe that’s why she was up all night, and maybe it’s not. But we’ll try again tonight. If I actually get some sleep, I can dream of long nights in my future spent quietly fast-asleep between silky sheets, alone, without interruption. But this, now, is my only chance to have her there with me, and I’m not giving it up any time soon.

(and I’ll try not to complain about being tired, either)


Make it.

If I'm not running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I really do like to be creative and make things. That being said, lately the projects have been few and far between, but yesterday late-night I had to pull out the scissors and felt bag for my mental health. I won't insult you with a tutorial, as this is SO easy that you can figure it out on your own, but I'll post some photos of the very cute hair clip I made for Fiona in about 4 minutes before I fell asleep.

The one thing I will say is a comment about the felt I use. I have shopped around quite a bit over the years trying to find the best balance between the astronomical cost of fabulous wool felt and the really stellar qualities of fabulous wool felt. Projects are so much cleaner and precise when you use high-quality felt, and I've found that the best felt I can buy can be found at Magic Cabin. Try not to keel over when you see the prices. I am very careful to waste nothing with felt. Look at the size of the heart in the centre of the hair clip, and picture that as a tiny, seemingly useless scrap from a bigger project. A little goes a long way, and with an investment in some good felt your projects are endless, particularly if you have daughters.

So, find four minutes for yourself, and make something. It doesn't have to be a felt hair clip. It could be chocolate milk. But enjoy yourself.


Sunday, Week Two

We'll call it week two, just to make me feel better. My ambition with this place to write is to leave a trail that I can follow to document my whirlwind life as it unfolds. Last week, not so much. This week, perhaps better.

I am so calm right now. Perhaps it's because next Saturday is already xxx'd off in the calendar: work day. The children will be going to their Grandparents, three miles away. All of them. We have never done anything like this before in our history of parenting. After breakfast Fiona, Liam and Aoife will be shuttled over there, and after her morning nap, before her afternoon nap, Maeve will join them. Greg and I will have an entire day to do... everything.

I said to Greg just last night, two children is really quite sensible. It's a sensible number. (note: I never did strive to be sensible). When we had two children, somebody could play with the children, care for them, feed them, take care of naps, or bedtime, and the other person could do other things: work, dishes, cooking, and the like. Sometimes the other person could do something like read, or watch television, or write a blog. Now we have double that, so if one person is caring for two children, the other person is caring for the other two. Because of the widely disparate ages of our children, and the very, very different activities they are involved in, our life is a necessary whirlwind of divide and conquer.

There is never a spare moment. The baby must be carried and cared for at all times, the two year old must be followed and carefully watched at all times, and the two older children have vastly different interests and are equally desperate for attention. It is very, very constant. Dinner and bedtime takes from approximately 4:30 PM until 8:30 PM, two adults on deck, non stop. If one of us is out, add one hour. Could we streamline this a bit? YES. Do we want to? NO. Our children are coddled, snuggled, soothed. They are loved to the nines, nibbled, nestled, carefully bathed, laughed with. We tell them stories, read them stories, sing them songs. The evening ritual is rich and full, it is long and exhausting, and in not long from now they will be going upstairs after dinner and closing their doors to do homework, and I will have the rest of my life to read or write or cook.

I am in this up to my neck. I make a lot of work for myself, and I'm still happy. There are occasional nights where I think, something has got to give. But then the next night, as I'm holding my sleeping MaeMae next to my heart, looking down at her long lashes lying on her fat little cheek, I realize that these nights may seem long now, but I will be yearning for the intimacy of these sweet moments only a few years from now.

I had this very vivid dream last night. Dreaming is rare for me these days, as my sleep is light and frequently interrupted. This dream was so real, and brought me right back to the beginning of my mothering, when I met my baby girl Charlotte and against my strongest will fell head over heels in love with her as she lay lifeless in my arms. It was such a terrifying thing to do, to realize the magnitude of what I had lost, and to love her anyway. What a risk I took to embrace that huge loss, and to let it shape me.

I wish that had never happened to Charlotte, and to me. But I love what it has done to me as a mother. I love that it allows me to go up two, or three, or four times to walk Maeve back to sleep and still breathe deep, calm breaths while I am doing it. I love that I can find peace in just the breathing child in my arms, even when my life and my agenda have been sorely interrupted.

I know there will be time for all of the things I want to do later. This, now, is the only now there is. My babies are growing up before my eyes. They are four beautiful little individuals and I want to know them and to cherish them as best I can. I want to kiss their beautiful, pouty lips as many times as I can before they turn away from me, eager to find their own independence in this great world. I want to hold them while they sleep as long as I can before they close their doors, seeking privacy. This now is so beautiful.


It's been the sick house here in the past week. Nothing awful, just one stomach bug and a few runny noses. We've been so lucky with illnesses in our family. I realized as I was sucking out Maeve's nose with the little blue bulb syringe that they give you at the hospital that it's the first time I've ever actually used the thing, and it's eight months into the fourth child. That means I've had some pretty healthy babies.

I really do believe that I give my kids a super jump start by nursing them for so long. I've been wondering a lot lately about how it was that Americans who nurse their babies decided on this arbitrary thing that you wean a baby around a year, thus making anything past that seem out of the range of normal. To me, it seems absolutely normal. I've done some poking around in the research by evolutionary biologists, and by all best estimates based on what they see with other primate species (based on dentition, height, weight, etc) biologists estimate that human beings in prehistoric times probably would have weaned somewhere between 5 and 7 years. Now, that being said, I can say for certain I would never send a nursling off to kindergarten, but it does make me wonder why the norm for weaning became so very young.

I notice that many people who wean their children around the year mark, or earlier, really equate nursing with feeding. Obviously milk is a food for a baby, but I see nursing as much more than food. It's my baby's biggest comfort, it's something that helps them sleep, it's a great boost for their immune system. Even for a little gal like Maeve, I've stopped long ago thinking of nursing as a feed. It's something we do to be cozy. I love to be cozy with her, and I can't imagine why I would try to make her stop nursing before she was ready to stop.

I am, however, curious to see how it will pan out as Fiona gets older. Aoife, who was still nursing whenever she could get her hands on me at the age of two, completely self weaned a few months before her third birthday. I never would have believed it possible, but she just became less interested, and would forget more often to ask, and gradually her nursing sessions were less fulfilling as my milk supply waned. But Fiona will always have a steady supply of milk because her sister will be still nursing for nourishment, and with the two of them going at once my supply is huge. I'm starting to encourage Fiona to think of nursing as something we do at home to be cozy, but we could be in that phase for a while.

It's not something I'll worry about. It will evolve as the girls grow older and I'll adapt to suit my comfort level and their needs. I'm so grateful that I'm able to nurse my children and produce a lot of milk. I don't take that for granted and I'm thankful every day to be able to share this experience with them.


Go, Liam!

This amazing thing happened to me this morning.

It was a gorgeous, crisp, absolutely freezing winter morning. Greg tapped me on the shoulder when it was still dark, and I rolled over in bed and nursed Maeve, who was still sleeping, for about 10 minutes as the purple light crept over the snow covered tree branches outside my window. She was so warm, and I stroked her little soft head as I listened to her contented gulping as she filled her tiny tummy in our warm, soft bed. Then I sneaked out of bed, and down the stairs, toasted myself a bagel and lathered it with honey, poured coffee into a travel mug and got into the car with Liam to drive to...


Yippee!!!!!!!!!!! I am a HOCKEY MOM. I am so excited about this I can hardly even type these words. Suddenly I feel as if I've moved into this whole new realm of being a parent of an older child. Liam has played hockey for a few years, but his program was pretty laid back and they didn't play other teams. This year, he joined a league where part of the play is just scrimmages with each other but on Sundays they go to a city about half an hour away to play other teams. As this made for about a three hour outing, and Maeve wasn't eating much in the way of solids, I had avoided taking the trip for the first 6 weeks. Between Greg and his Dad they pretty much had things under control, I figured. And I even almost looked at it as a chore, I admit, that I'd have to drive him down the highway to the CITY to do this.

I was forgetting what "this" is.

THIS is a super fun sport, and my son is great at it! Watching him play almost made me cry. Bringing him into this huge arena, finding the locker room, helping him into his skates and onto the ice, and then watching him play from real stands just made my heart melt into a puddle on the cold concrete riser. I kept seeing him as a tiny, tow headed toddler boy running after a ball shouting, "Go Niam! Go Niam!" and cheering himself on.

Suddenly the drudgery of what I know is going to be years of hauling my son around at all hours of the early dawn to play hockey turned into an opportunity. This was a date with my son, it was peaceful time with me sitting in a chair on the stands feeling proud of him do something that he loves. It was chatting to the other parents while the kids played. It was hearing other dads comment about my son's great pass and thoughtful words to another player.

The truth is, I love everything that I do with my kids.

Now the only question is, who gets to take him next weekend?



A perfectly clear, sunny day with snow on the ground. It's beautiful. The house is almost tidy, and the girls are both asleep.
Did you hear that?
Both asleep. This happens rarely, and when it does I am so incredibly efficient that sometimes I even sneak in a chance to do something self-indulgent, like writing. Amazing.

But I'm not going to write about afternoons now, I'm going to write about mornings. Winter mornings. The mornings where not only do four children have to be dressed, fed, brushed (teeth and hair) and ushered towards the door, but where they also need coats, hats, mittens AND shoes. And backpacks and lunches for two of them. Oh yeah, and snowpants in the backpack, and the homework in there too, and also the extra shoes on PE days so they can run around.
In theory, I do most of this the night before: the backpacks stashed with all the essentials, the piles of outerwear spread out in the kitchen and dining room so each child can find his/her pile and begin to get dressed. The lunches and snacks are always ready in the fridge the night before. Ideally, at about ten to eight I'll call to the kids that it's time to get ready. They'll have dressed themselves, and remembered to brush their teeth, and we'll calmly get dressed and will be out getting into the car by 8, with plenty of time to get to school, wander in, and putter around the classrooms before school starts at half past.
But on mornings like this one, where we all get up at 7 AM, I just can't make it happen without getting frantic. I see it coming, and I try to stave off my rising pulse and matching tone of voice, but it happens whenever we start to run late, and I disappoint myself each time it happens. I have this goal for myself to be calm and patient about everything. I realize this is a high expectation to have when I have four small children, but everything feels so much nicer if you can remain calm. I also believe my children deserve my patience because they are children, and as long as they are doing what I am asking them to do they deserve to have the time to do it. It's my job to get them started so that I can be patient with them.
So I always try to plan ahead, but when it comes down to it I have this terrible habit of wanting to let the children be as lazy as possible for as long as possible before school. As a result, I'm not great at getting my children to move efficiently through their morning my until it's the very last minute and we are almost late. I refuse to be late to school, this means that suddenly I am rushing them, and I'm suddenly very, very frantic. Often, the one I am rushing the most is myself, because when we start to get all crazy together in the kitchen, throwing on coats and mittens and slinging lunch bags, and it's 7:58, Liam and Aoife will suddenly get very quiet and quick and dress themselves. They'll be ready to head out the door and I look around and I have myself and Fiona and Maeve to take care of and I'm just not as fast as I'd like to be.
I feel as if my learning curve just isn't very good on this.
I wish I could be better about mornings. Instead, I just find myself fantasizing about living in Southern California or something where I'd never have to worry about mittens or boots and could just say to them, as I do in the fall and spring, "Time for teeth and shoes!" and that would be the end of it. Instead, I know that it's probably time for teeth, shoes, coats, snowpants, hats, mittens, and trudging through the snow to the freezing cold car, but I repeatedly push against the clock, thinking, I'll just let them have two more minutes to play....
I want the lazy life, where my children move at their own pace. I've raised them to be good, solid putterers: they can mosey around the house quietly for hours, they love to stay in their PJs all day and never drive anywhere in the car. I love to be the mother who doesn't have to nag or hurry her kids. But at the same time I've chosen a life that does include school, which starts at 8:30, and I won't let us be late.
There was a period of time, before I became pregnant with Fiona, where I would get up at 5:30 every day so that I could have an hour to myself before the kids woke up. I'm picturing that this will some day again be my salvation: an hour to myself, a head start on the day where I can meet every single one of my own needs before any of the other four wakes. Then when they start to arise (and they'll be older, too...) I'll be taken care of and we can peacefully negotiate our morning with ease.
Someday, when I sleep at night again, this will be my plan.
For now, I'll just shoot to wake up by 6:30 in the morning, no later, so that we don't end up with too little time for what we've got to do.



I got angry tonight at Maeve. After it was over, she finally fell asleep in my arms, and I gazed down at her. She was lying with her head thrown back, and her tiny, delicate neck was resting in the crook of my elbow. Her body was wrapped, cocoon-like, in her swaddling blanket. Her little head was so dark, so fuzzy, and her long, long eyelashes lay perfectly straight on her smooth, alabaster cheek.
I felt a surge of love and monumental guilt and horror, that only ten minutes earlier, I had plunked her down in the middle of a blanket, literally thrown a collection of toys (which included a lemon squeezer, a beer coolie, a hair ribbon, and a rubber shoe) into her lap, and sulked onto a nearby couch, feeling sorry for myself. At that moment it had been 8:35, and of the preceding hour and 34 minutes Maeve had spent 49 of them asleep in my arms, unwilling to let go of my nipple, while I paced around the darkened bedroom.
Perhaps it's her newly growing teeth. More likely, it's the fact that I've let her nurse to sleep every time she's fallen asleep in her entire life and I walk around while she nurses to knock her out a little faster. Sometimes my own methods come around and kick me in the ass. Like when we're on vacation, which we are right now, and she's feeling a little out of sorts and just thinks to herself it might be best to do all the sleeping she can on a walking, nursing mother. And that's when I think longingly of all the mothers I know who have the good sense to train their babies like bears in the circus to fall asleep in their little beds all on their own.
I am not one of those mothers, and usually my coddling methods do work, to a degree. My children do have routines, and bedtimes, and the babies do sleep, even though they are allowed to be completely dependent on me to do so. But there are nights, like tonight, where I pace around, unable to complete the bedtime, growling: You did this to yourself, you did this to yourself.
At these moments, it seems I am forgetting the precious little life in my arms, and the fleeting moments I have left to pace with only 16 pounds of her in my arms. This is why I haven't sleep trained her, it's why I don't want to. She's my little pumpkin pie, my snugglebunny, the littlest person I have right now. She's a baby who was programmed and made to be completely dependent on me, and I've let her stay this way because I think it's the best way I can be a mother. I love holding her, and coddling her to sleep on most nights. I figure as long as the nights where things are working for us outnumber the ones where I'm dropping f-bombs under my breath, we're doing okay.
So as I laid her gently down onto the bed we share, I kissed her silken cheek and murmured words of apology into her little seashell ear. I hadn't meant to feel angry towards her. It isn't her fault. But I am a human being like any other, and the best I can do is to admit my mistake and apologize. In a little while I'll go in and join her, I'll wrap myself around her tiny being and pull the covers up over both of us. Hopefully we'll sleep together soundly for a few hours before she stirs to nurse, or maybe it will be a matter of minutes. But I've had my moment for tonight, and gratitude has returned to put my in my place.



Maeve has cut a tooth. It's at that stage where it almost looks as if her gum has opened to allow the tooth to come through, I can see it's pearly edge but can't yet feel the sharpness with my finger. Maeve, my newest born baby, is having her last toothless days. Her huge, empty grin will soon be replaced by little white fenceposts and before my eyes, as they all have, my Maeve is going to turn from baby into a little wee girl.
Even as I see her here before me, this baby who can hardly stay seated anymore, lunging for everything in sight and trying to worm her way across the floor on her belly, I can still hardly admit the truth that a year from now she'll be a walking, talking girl-child and I won't have a baby in arms anymore. For over nine years, I have been defined by babies: pregnancy, loss, infancy, fertility, infertility, a caesarean, VBACs, sleepless nights, morning sickness, slings, moby wraps, naps, diapers, and more drippy, insane love than I can put a name to. There is nothing like the love for a baby, a love where you can wrap yourself physically around the child, kiss her open mouth while she laughs, bury your face in soft folds of belly and armpit and there are nothing but sweet smells and addictive laughter. Addictive. This is what babies are for me, but my baby is growing up as I type this, and this could be the last chapter.
I've tried very hard not to think of Maeve as my last baby, because this is an unspoken probable-truth between Greg and I. Neither of us has the courage to fully, completely admit that our family will be defined by four walking, talking children, that my body will most likely finish its days of procreation after growing five perfect babies. But the way we parent is intense: right now we parent four as if we had two, trying to give each child her own time for a quiet, lengthy bedtime, coddling each with help for every request, even when it's something he could easily do on his own. I love to pour the sugar on, and I want to be able to continue to do this. I want to be the yes-mommy, who says yes to every reasonable request and never has to use the needs of siblings as a reason to say no.
As of now, I can still do that. If there were more....
So it is with bittersweet smiles and a touch of melancholy that I welcome the arrival of this tooth, and honestly do look forward to the next month when my wee Maeve will start to crawl around our house and begin to move into her own free will. I try to imagine the things that we will be able to do when she is napping less and regularly, when she and Fiona are less babylike and more childlike. I know that amazing adventures will be in store for the four children they will be together for many years.
It will take a steeling of self to accept this move, this onward march out of babyhood, but I know from experience that the rewards of a child growing into herself are tremendous, and I do look forward to all my littlest daughter has to offer.


For a while, I never had a place to be a normal mother. It is clear that I am not a normal mother in relation to the modern, privileged America I live in. Certainly in other parts of the world, and in other times, I would have been considered lucky: four of my five children are living. But here, now, I am different. Having lost a child my parenting was, at first, dominated by what wasn't there. Everything I did, every decision I made, was colored by my loss more than my gain. I felt the space every minute of every day.
It's hard for me to admit that things are different now, but they are. It has been eight years and eight months since I gave birth to my first daughter, Charlotte, who died during her birth. It was only eleven months later that my first and only son Liam was born and I was still reeling from the blow of his sister's loss. I parented him fiercely and defiantly, and I still do. Three more little girls followed Liam. Aoife was born twenty-three months after him, Fiona three years and eight months after that, and 18 months later Maeve made her entry.
My life is now a whirlwind of living, breathing needs. The mothering that grew from a void made by a tragic loss has become habit now. Although much of what I do does grow out of what I do not have, it has simply become who I am and how I live. I don't always see it as the tree that grew from the roots Charlotte gave me, because every day is so full that I don't always have time to take a step back and reflect.
And so I'm creating this new place where I can be that mother, one whose very foundation was built while it was crumbling beneath me, but has somehow grown strong in the years that have passed. I want to be able to write about being that mother of those who lived, knowing confidently that by embracing myself as an active, delighted mother of four living children has to be something that I have a place to celebrate.