We are coming up on two weeks of being parents to five precious girls. The transition from four to five has been smooth so far. Our baby, Lara Penelope, has been restful and healthy, nursing well and sleeping often. While it is certainly a lot of work to care for a newborn and maintain a somewhat healthy schedule for our family, it has been a labor of joy.
It is easy to imagine that when a fifth baby comes along, the joy and sweetness of bonding with might be less keen because it has been done so many times before and there are so many other demands of your time and affection. Yet I have found the love still crashes powerfully over the heart. The time together with our newest baby and our other girls is even sweeter because there is less anxiety.
Before my first daughter was born, we did so much reading and discussing and dreaming about what it would be like to love and care for our own child. It was a completely unknown experience and when the reality set in there still were so many questions and worries. I had been a nanny for three years before we had Lily, but I still felt anxious and fearful and overwhelmed at times by the emotions, the physical changes, and her complete dependency on our ability to care for her.
Our second daughter, Lucy, came three years later. Everything started out well, with less stress and anxiety, until her pediatrician told me she was not growing well and I needed to find a way to put more weight on her. The fear that set in was overwhelming. I felt like a bad mother and I had no idea how to make her gain weight. She nursed constantly but spit up much of her food. I asked the doctor if I should eliminate certain foods a from my diet. No, he said, that was not the problem. She needed to start supplementing with formula and possibly switch completely over. I did not want to stop nursing, she was only four months old. I had nursed Lily for almost two years and I hoped to do the same with Lucy.
Thankfully, I found a new pediatrician. She looked over Lucy’s growth charts and told me she was growing at a proper and constant rate, her curve was just just well below most babies her age. The situation wasn’t dire, but I should consider an elimination diet to see if something was upsetting her and causing her to spit up so much. Within a week we found that any form of milk or milk protein caused Lucy to spit up much of her meals and to fuss and have difficulty digesting. I switched to goat’s milk in my coffee and we all began to thrive again and put the stress behind us.
When Leanora, our third daughter, came home our house was in perfect order before she arrived. I had stocked up on paper plates and easy to prepare meals. We stayed home as much as possible and even now the first months of Leanora’s life are some of my best memories with my daughters and my husband. We felt confident in our abilities as parents and had learned how fast the early days of babyhood fly by and so we committed ourselves to enjoy it and thank God even when it wasn’t easy.
Of course, just because you may have had babies before, doesn’t mean you are free from all stress or fears or unforeseen difficulties and circumstances. Lola, our fourth daughter, was a challenge because the house we were buying at the time and were supposed to have been moved into well before her arrival, had a fire while we were under contract.
We ended up bringing Lola home to live in my mom’s partially-finished garage. It was full of boxes, patio furniture, one large bed for all of us, and lots of spiders. It was a stressful two weeks of trying to keep the tiny living area comfortable and cozy. We did not have any of our baby things (we had sent our boxes and furniture away in a POD and wouldn’t see it again until it was delivered to the new house). Topping off the stress of the living situation, her umbilical cord became infected. Her doctor didn’t see it as cause for alarm but I was sure she was going to have some kind of serious trouble from it and I was afraid to sleep until the cord fell off and all was healed properly.
And now with number five, the fears of not knowing what to do, that I am not nursing right, not changing diapers or dressing her correctly, not scheduling her sleep and feeding times, and all the other usual questions and worries are laid to rest. I know when baby is thriving, I know how to nurture her, and I can relax and revel in the joy of sweet baby cuddles, soft baby burps, messy diaper fails, soiled baby blankets and clothes, and the smell of breast milk on my clothes and hair. I know how fast it will go by and I want to take hold of every moment and tuck the memories away. I am thankful to be in a home, with new and old baby clothes clean and folded in her little dresser, diapers on the nightstand, and lanolin in the pocket of my nursing pillow. My body is sore and healing and I am thankful for it all. Bringing home baby is a magical time.