Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein
"My stomach was so ginormous with my fourth that people would
stop on the street and ask me if my stomach was real."
I have developed a theory. The first child is a change. Having a second child is an adjustment. Having a third child is an addition to the adjustment. Four is a crowd and five is a balagan (modern Hebrew, meaning "chaos" or "fiasco.") Past the balagan part are uncharted waters for me. For those superhero mothers who have passed five, I look up to you very highly.
Having my first child was a most wonderful occasion. I never wanted to let anyone else hold my baby. I wanted her all to myself. She was so perfect with her little nails and chubby arms and legs. Little did I know that I stunk, had blood shot eyes from no sleep, and an exorbitant amount of breast milk that refused to give me any relief. Let me explain a little more. My first daughter was born via an emergency C-section and was then rushed to an out of area hospital with a neonatal ICU. She had to stay there for five days. I was stuck in a hospital 20 miles away from her recovering from my Cesarean. It was pure agony. So I pumped my milk. I pumped every three hours. That's what they told me to do. When I was finally reunited with my baby I was so eager to get her to breastfeed! I was dying from pain. No one thought to tell me that newborns nurse for maybe TWO SECONDS! I had so much milk! I couldn't leave the house from fear of springing a leak. But you have to stop and notice something here. That was my main concern. I didn't have any other children to take care of. I couldn't even think of leaving her in another room unattended while I bathed.
A little while later we were blessed with our second daughter. I was able to have a natural, peaceful birth with her. It was very magical. Then I went home. The magic disappeared. Laundering became my hobby as did wiping spit up with my socks and corralling a very mischievous toddler. I had to figure out how to keep my toddler's already set schedule in place, while trying to figure out how to fit in my new baby's schedule. I also had to figure out how to keep everyone happy and rested. It was quite the adjustment and quite the tiring process. When I think back to those years, I don't remember sleeping a lot.
While I was in my ninth month with my third daughter, we bought a home. I realized the best time to move into a home is when the nesting hormone is in full swing. We were unpacked in about three weeks. I had also made a list of all the aesthetic adjustments our new residence would need, and listed them in order of importance. She was born beautiful and healthy. Another natural, peaceful birth. When I got home I wasn't overwhelmed. She was just an addition to the adjustment. The schedule was set. I fell right into the schedule and so did the baby. Well, kinda. She did have the cranky hour in the evenings. But our new home came with an atrocious powder blue carpet all through the front rooms (this was priority one on the aesthetic list) that I would vacuum every night - she would hear the roar of the vacuum from her crib and fall asleep. If that didn't work, I'd rock her in the laundry room where she'd fall asleep from the hum of the hand-held vacuum still hanging on the wall. The older babies were already sleeping by then. I was okay to spend that vacuum time with her.
My fourth daughter was my biggest baby and the longest and hardest pregnancy and birth. She was due right before the summer, so my kids would be home for the majority of the hard newborn part. My stomach was so ginormous with her that people would stop on the street and ask me if my stomach was real. In my seventh month people would be like, “Any day now huh?” My reply would be, “Sorry buddy, three more months.” Nobody believed I would make it till my due date. When I would waddle through the corridor at my doctors office, everyone would rub my back and tell me I was doing great and was almost there. My birth with her started off peaceful and relaxed, until she got stuck coming out. I always envision her entrance into the world like a kid trying to pull on a shirt that's too small. The kid manages to get part of his face through the hole but gets majorly stuck because he prematurely stuck his shoulder in. His face is squished, looking out, his huge shoulder stuck right in there with it. Needless to say my daughter's face was black and blue and GINORMOUS! The nurse called her a big blueberry. She weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs. 1 oz. Coming home with her has been blacked out from my mind. I assume for my own safety. Our minds are our own safety nets, so I assume it is for good reason. Carrying on.
My fifth child. G-d really made this time worth my while: I had a boy! The excitement of having variety made things so much better. Because my fourth daughter was so ginormous, and no one had a clue that her enormousness was going to happen, they were very strict on how far I could go with this pregnancy. I have a great relationship with my doctor and I was able to keep pushing deadline date. But, I could only push her off so long. I asked her “Why do you want to torture me with an induction?” Her response was, “I am torturing you?” She's great. Needless to say, it wasn't the most natural birth when it comes to how labor came about, but it was not a C-section either. Hey, I did have to keep my relationship with my doctor. Shes my ally when it comes to the whole giving birth thing.
Dealing with all five children is very very hard, especially when I had a newborn. I remember standing in my kitchen when I had only four children and I was on the phone with my sister. I think everyone kept coming over to me to report something. Like they spilled yogurt all over themselves, one sister is coloring on the wall with permanent marker, another sister is flushing too much toilet paper and so on. The point is, it was loud. And my sister said, “How do you handle it?” And I replied “I just laugh.” Some of the complaints are pretty funny. I wouldn't laugh in their face, but I would let out a chuckle here or there. Fast forward to having five children all being loud at the same time. I would call my sister and ask her “How am I going to handle this?” And she would reply, “Just laugh!” And she was right.
Bottom line is: Everything has to do with perception. Yes, I have a bunch of kids close in age. Yes, it is sometimes hard to deal with. Yes, it does feel like a balagan. But, this is the life I chose. These are the children I brought into the world to take care of. Sometimes putting on the rose colored glasses in the morning changes my day. It doesn't necessarily make it easier, but it changes the way I see things. And in changing the way I see things, it changes the way those things are handled. With the rose colored glasses, I envision myself as a construction worker buckling my tool belt before starting a job. I would never go to a job without a tool belt. I have to be prepared for the day ahead of me. That means anything can happen that day. I can't be afraid. And if that means my rose colored glasses make me see things in a comical way, I'll take it.