Much of this functioning with a newborn, toddler, and preschooler comes down to discipline. For me, the key pieces of keeping life sane right now are these:
- Keep the main thing, the main thing.
Do not get wrapped up in things that are not the primary focus of our lives right now. Mounting laundry, shoes in the middle of the floor, and a clutter-free entrance to the house? Not important.
- Accept that I cannot do it all.
This is definitely harder in practice...especially when I am used to balancing a number of different projects at the same time. Jonathan and I sat down for our annual "family year-ahead planning meeting", and went through all of our commitments. We discussed each one, discussed the balance of time, energy, and joy we find in it...and made decisions about what was most important. It wasn't easy, but it was necessary. The key part of it? Finding humility in that there are many people who can serve in the roles we are in...all but the ones of "mom" and "dad" or "husband" and "wife". Those are the ones that only we can fill...and our decisions need to wrap around those.
- Know that right now is a season.
And it will pass. There are sweet treasured moments in right now, along with the challenges. It's often the treasured moments that make the challenges bearable and worth it. A good lesson? If you are attached to a breast pump while feeding your newborn, you might just have to accept that the toddler and preschooler are going to have a water war in the bathroom with the diaper sprayer, and there's nothing you can do to stop it.
The biggest challenge of the recovery from his birth? The fact that preeclampsia has no cure and doesn't go away immediately following the birth. It was the reason I stayed a week in the hospital. It was a huge lesson in the fact that there are things in life that you cannot control, you can only control your reaction to them. The nights were particularly difficult in that I am NOT a night owl and that's when my blood pressure tended to have the biggest swings. I was so grateful to Fr. Raftis who would respond to late night emails and Fr. Wichert who gave both Alexander and me the anointing of the sick the night before he went into the NICU and my health got worse.
With Alexander's challenges in the first few weeks: time in the NICU, thrush from the antibiotics in the NICU, and catching his brothers' colds, I've been pumping and bottle-feeding him breastmilk for 6 weeks instead of nursing. It's not been easy, but it's definitely been worth the time and effort. And we're slowly moving toward nursing instead of pumping, a little each day.
I have made major progress in the things I can control following his birth -- lowering my stress level dramatically (see my key pieces of life above), making healthy, consistent choices in what we eat (no stress-induced fast food since December 3rd-- the only trip to McDonalds was at Thomas's request on his birthday), and working to lose the baby weight (and then some) -- down almost 40 pounds since his birth...without sacrificing the nutrition needed for breastfeeding and chasing the two older brothers.
Each day brings progress in the steps to be off blood pressure medication entirely...as well as finding our new normal in our family. My amazing husband has been patient beyond all human expectations.
What I have been finding is that it's the little steps every day that count right now. Finding the discipline to rest when I'm exhausted, to plan ahead for traveling with three little ones (or even day trips with three little ones), to keeping up with what I can around the house, and most importantly, asking for help when I've needed it. That last one, by far, has been the hardest for me...but the most impactful. Last week, Sandy came down for four days to help with the boys...and it gave me the chance to put Alexander into my 4 day intensive Nursing Boot Camp, and rest. The week before, one of the sweet moms of Thomas's preschool friends offered to take all three boys after a rough night dealing with clogged milk ducts, and it was just what I needed to find the solution to the duct problems. Asking for help wasn't a sign of weakness, but one of finding strength. That was a huge lesson for me. I am so grateful to both of them for forcing me out of my comfort zone.
So for the year, looking ahead, discipline will be key in continuing to heal from Alexander's birth. To make the right decisions regarding my time, to serving those I love with joy, and to soak in every moment of these Wee Skis right where they are at.
This is my life right now. And this is the opening page to our Project Life scrapbook this year. Choosing to make one family album instead of stressing over three individual ones...and being able to track our growth week after week as the year goes on. I am three weeks into this project, and it's given me a little creative downtime, peace, and the chance to relish in the incredible blessings that I've been given in my family.
I couldn't ask for anything more.