This week, our oldest son turned 12! I can hardly believe that it has been twelve years since Mark and I were snuggled up in bed marveling over our new baby boy! Lann is an amazing big brother, a helpful, responsible son, and a creative, imaginative, sensitive kid. He loves Minecraft, computer games in general, and making gaming videos for YouTube.
We had his birthday party earlier this month, so his actual birthday was pretty low-key (minus me scrambling to catch up with backlogged work from being away and poor Tanner being a crying, stumbling around, stressed out little mess from the same). We put up his nice new birthday trampoline and went out to dinner and had cake with my parents.Twelve years ago this is what I was doing…
…I felt very internally focused and yet still aware of the people around me, though I wasn’t talking to them much and spent a lot of time with my eyes closed. They kept commenting to me and to each other about how calm and focused I was being and how “in control” I appeared. I don’t think I was really showing how intense and back-to-back these contractions were for me. I also started to have lots of internal pressure feelings during contractions when I was on my hands and knees.
On Sunday night, Alaina, Tanner, and I got back home from Kansas after five days away. Gaea Goddess Gathering was an experience, as always. Vending was a rewarding experience with lots of lovely connections woven, but many other elements felt like something we survived! It is quite physically taxing to be there–not enough food, water, or sleep, too much climbing up seventy steps up a steep hillside while breastfeeding + babywearing! And, weather extremes this year—90+ degrees, then rain and wind, then cool. I couldn’t have done it without my mom, who helped me way more than I should have expected her to. It was also fun to spend so much time with my sister-in-law and my little nephew (she also helped me a lot!)
The other day I told my husband that it is interesting to me how I was “maxed out” when I only had one little baby. And, now I have four and I’m still maxed out (but that first little baby is now a twelve-year-old who helps take care of the other babies, so in some sense it is easier to have more kids than less kids!). I also told my mom what the midwife for my second baby told me: one kid takes all of your time, so a second one can’t possibly take any more.
There are a lot of things that are easier about having an older kid and some things that are harder:
And, I no longer smell like piss. So, there’s that.
Sure things have gotten easier in ways. I can leave the house now without small humans attached to me. I sleep for stretches longer than three hours. And I haven’t been vomited on in at least a few months. But in some ways, it’s so very much harder. (Plus they aren’t as cute and easy to forgive anymore.)
What this article doesn’t address is the complexities of having both big kids and little kids at the same time. That is what feels hardest right now and I think it may get harder before it gets easier. Time always feels shorter than I dream of it feeling.
When I was nursing infant Lann, a moment with my then-teenage brother still stands out to me: he walked in while I was nursing Lann to sleep at my parents’ house and said, “oh, he’s having nursies.” The normality of “nursies” to a teenage boy is important (and now that teenage boy is in his twenties and has a breastfed baby boy of his own). I’m surprised to realize that Lann will remember more about me nursing Tanner than Tanner ever will.
What did they learn from those experiences? Well, hopefully, they learned that human bodies are just that, bodies. We respect them and we revere them and we don’t shame them. Because they don’t deserve any of that.
This is where the change starts. With my kids and your kids and the kids who see us feeding our babies without embarrassment. Things become normalized one act a time.
I’ve given my kids the opportunity to see something I hope will serve them in their lives. My son’s partners will never have to be concerned that they won’t be supported. My daughters will know the normalcy that is child birthing and feeding and rearing.
Thinking about the swift passage of time from that tender, new mother and soft, fresh baby of twelve years ago to the boy whose head is now past my shoulder and who records tutorial videos, reads about the solar system, totes his little brother on his hip, and fixes breakfast for everyone, I feel oddly comforted by the information that some cells from each of my kids, might be with me forever:
The new study suggests that women almost always acquire fetal cells each time they are pregnant. They have been detected as early as seven weeks into a pregnancy. In later years, the cells may disappear, but sometimes, the cells settle in for a lifetime. In a 2012 study, Dr. Nelson and her colleagues examined the brains of 59 deceased older women and found Y chromosomes in 63 percent of them. (Many studies on fetal microchimerism focus on the cells left behind by sons, because they are easier to distinguish from the cells of their mother.) Experts now believe that microchimerism is far from rare. “Most of us think that it’s very common, if not universal,” Dr. Nelson said. But it remains quite mysterious.
Fetal cells are frequently found in breast tissue, even in milk, for instance. The researchers argue that children might thrive more if their fetal cells drove up milk production.
Mothers also nurture their babies with body heat. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, acts like a thermostat, and fetal cells in the thyroid gland in theory could cause mothers to generate more heat than they would otherwise.