Is your nest full? Mine sure is.

  ‘How do you know when you’re done having kids?’, is a common question asked by mothers, even a question I USED to ask.  I read copious articles, said many prayers, asked many wise women, but never really found an answer.  When I had number 4, I was 90% sure I was done, but there was always a part of me that felt heartbroken at the thought of being done. I wondered if this feeling would always remain.  Would I always have this feeling of incompleteness?  

I’m relieved to be able to share that I feel done, I feel complete.  Before I fell pregnant with #5, I was 98% sure I was done, but still grieved the thought. How can a woman simply and peacefully say, ‘I’m done’, without any regret or any uncertainty as many of my friends have been able to do? How can the woman or man make such a permanent choice by undergoing surgery to stop pregnancy from happening? With the phone number for the Urologist on hand ready to go for the snip, I fell pregnant with number 5.  I was in shock. Unlike with the previous pregnancies, it took several months for me to get used to the idea.  Whilst I will always see pregnancy as a blessing, even now with a 3mth old, I have less patience than I used to with things like sleep training.  I also find myself getting excited about further study and job opportunities.  Now when people announce their pregnancies to me, I’m thankful it’s them, not me.  I can so peacefully say now, ‘I’m done’, without any uncertainty or any chance of regret.  I’m so proud to be mother duck of my tribe.  I’m so blessed to be their mother, what a gift, but I also feel a sense of completeness.  I feel excited about the next part of our journey together.  So for me, the answer to, ‘how do you know you’re done?’, is ‘oh, you will know’.  I write this with much peace, no regret, and a whole lot of thankfulness for this peace and my beautiful family.

Climb aboard the food allergy train

   

Part of my day to day navigating life business, I navigate a silly amount of food allergies. Some for me, some for the kids and our baby.  As part of finding gratitude in all things, I have to say I’m thankful that none of these are life threatening.  However, if I slip up and give one particular child foods he shouldn’t have, my own life is threatened. He loses all control and turns into an aggressive, mean beast, and threatens to kill me. Nice!

The most difficult part of dealing with food allergies and kids, is actually breastfeeding a baby with suspected allergies.  The early days are the trickiest when you aren’t sure exactly what is upsetting their system.  You cut out the usual suspects of chocolate, dairy and soy (most of this family can’t handle those foods). The reflux and unsettled behaviour improves, but you can tell something is still upsetting them. They have a particularly bad day and you blame yourself, desperately trying to analyse everything you’ve eaten in the last few days.  This is a rather difficult task when you are so sleep deprived. You are already doing silly things like accidentally reaching for a nappy to put on yourself instead of underwear.  Trying to remember what you ate yesterday is a hard task, as is remembering to write down everything you eat to help you track it. Anyway, I’m over having to analyse what I eat and trying to cut out suspect foods.  I’ve been doing this for 8yrs and it doesn’t get any easier. So far, we are dairy, soy, chocolate, banana and gluten free.  That’s all the good things.  But, oh the guilt you experience when your baby has a flare up and is chocking because they can’t breathe because of their reflux response to whatever you’ve eaten, helps you stick to this silly diet. I’m trying so hard. It’s just hard to see milk that should nourish this little guy’s body, cause pain and discomfort. It’s not fair.  Even if I decided to give him formula, the hypoallergenic one he’d need is about $40 a can. That is just not an option.

So, as I starve because I’m out of food ideas to eat, and plough through the food detective game filled with guilt and sadness to see a little one in pai, I will continue to work on being thankful for our little guy and foods that we can actually eat without pain. Just praying that all milk he drinks will be a blessing to his little body. Who would’ve thought breastmilk would need this kind of prayer?

It takes a village to raise a child: But where has the village gone?

 

46h

I’m constantly amazed at the size of the families here in the Middle East.  I don’t know the average, but I can confidently say each family would have at least 6-8 kids.  At times, I wonder why I feel overwhelmed with four kids, ‘how on earth do they do it?’  As any mum does, these insecurities cause me to observe and compare what our family does differently.

By observing these amazing families, I’ve come up with some thoughts, some of which are making me feel more at peace with my feelings of inadequacy.

Gaps between kids

While working out in the gym, I once met a Jewish mother of ten kids, yes TEN! Once I had regained my breath from what she had just told me, I asked her how she did it.  She quickly went onto explain that she had five close together, then she had a break, then had five more.  She did it this way so the older kids could help out.  Village theory no 1 – a village in amongst the immediate family. 

Families live with each other

It’s very common in the Middle East (well, from what I’ve seen in Jerusalem and Jordan), for families to live in the same apartment building.  My address in Jerusalem was the name of the family whose building I was living in.  I would simply instruct the taxi driver or home delivery person to come to the house of Smith (I’ve changed names obviously to protect the privacy of the family where I lived).  Half the time you can tell when a family have an unmarried child living with them, because there are foundations on the roof ready for an extension to be built for when a son marries and his new wife moves in. There’s an expectation that the family will stay together. I guess you could say families are close in this country, as they all live together and spend a lot of the time in each other’s apartments.  It was inevitable when I’d visit a neighbour, the house was often filled with sisters, sister-in-laws, and cousins, all there having a cuppa, or Grandma had a pile of grandkids playing together at her house.  It is really special and unique, but I guess it would be tough if you couldn’t stand being around your family.  Village theory No.2 – the village lives together.

Families live life together

Families do live together, but they also do life outside the house together.  If you visit the doctor, mum will be there with her daughter.  Visit the shopping center, it’s rare to see a woman on her own.  They support each other taking turns in carrying the baby, they do most things together.  This togetherness starts from birth.  Aunty, Grandma, Uncle, cousins, Grandad, they are ALWAYS there, physically there, feeding baby, pacing with baby.  I used to watch my neighbour, a Grandma, pacing for hours with a baby or standing outside watching the toddler play.  This family is a village. Village theory no.3 – the village does life together EVERYDAY.

This entry is not written by someone who doesn’t feel supported, I absolutely do.  My parents and In-laws are wonderful grandparents and loving aunts and uncles to my kids. But, I did have the wonderful experience of my parents staying with us for the first two weeks of Laila’s life.  It was an amazing blessing and gave me a glimpse of what parenting was like living amongst a village.  It gave me a chance to heal, establish feeding, go on outings leaving baby with a loving grandparent, something I could do last minute with very little organising.  It was amazing and I cried big tears when they had to go.  Having the opportunity to experience this way of bringing up kids and being a family was insightful. It sure does take a village to raise a child.

So my question is, where are the villages in the western world?  Our idea of village involves fences and lives that are seperate to each other.  Our families do our best at making a loving, supportive village, but it is very different to the Middle Eastern village.  Whose village is better? Are you happy with your kind of village? If not, what is needed?  I wonder if incidences of postnatal depression are lower in the Middle East.  Is the western kind of village enough for child rearing? I don’t know if I can even make that call seeing I’m living over the other side of the world, far away from my village.  Think I might be doomed. I’m missing my village!