On Our Path

38 states so far, and to date Glacier National Park in Montana is hands down our favorite.

Of course, the next logical thing is baby #5.  Now baby #5 is quite a story all on her own, suffice it to say she arrived in a matter of 21 minutes after only 1 contraction, in the middle of our bathroom doorway.  To this day she is the only child of ours ever to ride in an ambulance and is absolutely mortified by her birth story.

By this point the new baby thing has worn off for MrTB4M and he goes back to work rather quickly after I am home from the hospital.  I do take a full 12 weeks off this time – which was really probably the beginning of the end of my ER career.  Being home was SO much work and yet so rewarding.  The kids were happy; the house was “cleaner”; MrTB4M got home cooked meals every day (which goes a long way in helping his disposition); and we were happy – I was often exhausted, but we were HAPPY.  When I went back to work it was a struggle – not the job, I could do the job!  The struggle was finding joy in the job.  I no longer felt that the job was rewarding – I was tired of being there when people were diagnosed with horrible diseases; I was tired of putting people together after devastating injuries; I was tired of watching families grieve when loved ones passed away.  I knew that there were plenty of times when what I did made a difference, when people got better, or got the help they needed; but, it wasn’t enough anymore.

I make those statements as if it was a quick and clear revelation.  The reality is that it took a good years before we were both convinced that making a change was the right choice.  So, in 2009 I put in my two-week notice, of course I worked my final holiday and weekend shift to avoid the dreaded “do not rehire” list and Labor Day 2009 was officially my last day in the ER.  I didn’t have a job (officially) and we weren’t ready for one income only.  I had interviewed for a position doing chart reviews but had not heard anything yet.   Technically I was unemployed for the first time since I was 14 years old.  I would have no income, no contribution to the family.  Talk about pressure.

As it turns out unemployment didn’t last long and by mid-October I was gainfully employed.  The catch was I was full time, corporate job – no weekends and no holidays; why didn’t we realize this meant Monday – Friday?  Ugh!!!! This meant kids back in school, child care for little ones, and new routines to learn.  Guess what?  Everyone was unhappy.  The boys didn’t like school and MrTB4M and I were spinning our tires trying to keep up.  By month three we knew it wasn’t working for us.  We would finish the year and then we would make a change.  Ultimately, the boys did not return to school for the following year.  This is where it gets really crazy – remember we both work full time – and we are going to homeschool again?  Yep!  We did.  Our kids went to “night school” for grade school.  We did school in the evenings and on weekends- when we needed to.  I slept less.  We all complained less.  It was working.

Then along comes baby #6 and because J5 made such a quick entry, this was a well-planned event from the beginning.  We knew we would be induced once we got close to the due date.  We had 9 months to get ready and we were – up to a point.  You see, we had outgrown our 7-passenger vehicle (or at least at delivery we would).  Logically, I deliver on Friday; come home on Sunday; and test drive a 12-passenger van on Monday.  That is correct!  MrTB4M comes home mid-morning on Monday with a van for me to test drive, not even 72 hours after delivery and I am tooling around in a very large silver 12 passenger van.  It sure isn’t pretty – but man is it practical!

We have a new baby and a new vehicle.  The kids and I did a ton of school while I was off on maternity leave – and before I knew it I was back at work.  Now this was no fun.  I was gone every day for 9 hours.  This was a brand-new feeling.  In the past, I had always worked either 12-hour shifts (meaning only 3 days per week and NEVER all in a row) or I worked night shifts (meaning nearly everyone slept the entire time I was gone).  This time I was working all day and coming home to do school work or sports practice carpool, or dinner, then be up at night with J6.  As bad as it was being up all night, those were my favorite moments.  It was just he and I (I mean really – no one else wanted to be up all night with the baby, and that was OK).

Now we have definitely become a bit of a spectacle everywhere we go.  Not only is there the big silver van; there are also 6 children that climb out anywhere we go.  You can likely imagine the comments – “are they all yours?” – “YEP!”; “you know what causes that, right?” – “Yep, and obviously we are pretty good at it”; “Did you plan that?” – “Nope, but long ago we figured out that the plan really isn’t ours”; “are you crazy?” – “Most of the time, but we are never bored”; “how do you do it?” – “Some days are better than others.”

Just when we finally get into a groove (or at least what groove you can get into with 6 children), here comes baby #7.  OK, now that was a little of a shock -but, we can do it.  I mean, so what that J6 was just then sleeping well, or that school was really clicking, or work was going ok?  Routine must be over-rated.

AND if the comments above weren’t enough, they were magnified as baby #7 was announced.  Our families had certainly decided several Js ago that we had more than enough.  We rarely saw the grandparents except for holidays or when we asked them to babysit – and then they would have to “talk about it” before committing.  We were so jealous of many friends that had grandparents always willing to help, and even better offering to help before they were asked.  However, jealousy got us nowhere.  It certainly didn’t change anything.  So together we decided that we would do our best to be ambivalent to this.  Easier said than done for sure and there are times we are still facing the demon.

Nevertheless, J7 was coming and like J6 we had a plan for a well-controlled, induced hospital birth.  Only problem was that two weeks before the “plan” I started contracting – enough that we had to go be monitored.  Naturally, my blood pressure was a little high (I mean nothing was going the way I needed it to….I still had things to finish up) and coupled with the contractions our planned arrival date was sped up.  J7 arrived on February 19, 2013.  We took him home on February 21, 2013.  Seems perfectly normal right?  Yep, except for the massive snowstorm blowing through Saint Louis that day.  MrTB4M left our house to pick us up with light flurries; by the time he drove 12 miles to the hospital he had needed to stop twice to deice the windshield and the roads were covered.  I was wheeled out of the hospital (I had been waiting at the door) and into the van (a whopping 5 minutes tops) and we were on our way home.  The highway was a mess – several inches of snow had fallen in less than an hour.  For Saint Louis this was a big deal and a nightmare for the highway department.  Luckily, we made it home without incident.

We should have realized the snowstorm might have been an indicator of things to come.  I do not say this lightly, J7 is by far the most challenging child we have.  He didn’t sleep through the night (or for more than 2 hours at a time) until he was almost 18 months.  He was crabby and cranky and even when he was happy he screamed.  He was adorable, big blue eyes, blond hair – looks like a little elf.  But, his disposition was a challenge.  He is five now and there have been major improvements; however, there are still days when we just can’t even begin to figure him out.

Now, after J7 I didn’t return to work.  Once we knew we were expanding the family we buckled down and paid the house off.  We added to college accounts and we got serious about me staying home.  There were many parts of this that were amazing, and just as many that were horrible.  You see, MrTB4M still worked out of the house, so he was ALWAYS home.  Everything had to be on a rigorous schedule and expectations were beyond my capabilities.  This was a terrible time for us.  I couldn’t measure up to his ideals and he couldn’t understand why not.

I tried to take care of the kids, do the schooling, do the laundry, do the cooking, do the cleaning, go to the grocery store, and keep everyone happy.  Guess what?  There was no way – the laundry fairy never came, the cost of groceries went up and up, kids wanted to do things, and having 9 of us home all the time naturally made messes.  I really felt like being home was what the family needed, but I really needed to feel like MrTB4M recognized what I did, and not what I didn’t do.

Now here is where I give kudos to all those that MrTB4M knows “that can make this work without effort” – I do not know how you do it and I am in awe!  My reality is that I can’t do it.  Long ago I realized that I have limitations, and that no amount of extra effort is going to produce the dream vision.  It took me a long time to accept that and I still struggle on occasion.  This part of the journey is mine – and I owe a lot to all those who profess they have the same struggles (of course, from my view they are doing it all so much better than I – but, I will take their empathy!)  Even more so, I owe a couple of HONEST friends that shared they have housekeepers (no wonder their house is clean) and other family members that pitch in (AH HA!).  My reality is that on most days I do the absolute best I can for the family and I strive to make sure the important things get done.  That means people are taken care of, fed, and well loved; school is done; and the house is cleaned a room at a time (the downside of course is that I don’t even finish all the rooms before the first is a mess again, but life goes on).

Well, that was a struggle.  But, not everything was bad, and before long J#8 was on the way.  Did I mention I was tired? And now pregnant and even more tired.  I was really losing myself and when well meaning (nosy) strangers commented about the size of our family it really was a struggle to be polite.  In fact, one day we needed groceries (remember the grocery fairy didn’t visit us) and it was unfortunately HOT and rainy.  I loaded everyone up and off to the store we went.  The kids were being relatively good (anyone with kids knows what relatively good means – they weren’t screaming at each other; they weren’t fighting; they weren’t running all over; but they weren’t quiet) and here we are a cart of kids/a cart of groceries/ and a few walking along next to the carts.  A very “kind” lady stared at us for several aisles until finally she smiled and said “Oh, my dear are those really all yours?”  It apparently wasn’t a day of tolerance for me because without missing a beat I responded “No, ma’am.  As I drove here I saw these poor kids standing out on street corners and since it was raining I didn’t want to leave them out there.”  Then I turned and quickly got in line.  My kids were in shock – they had never seen me say anything like that to someone, especially a stranger.  In my mind I am thinking, “Are you crazy? Do you really think someone would drag kids to a grocery store in the pouring rain, if they weren’t related?”

October 2014 J8 makes his arrival.  He was stubborn, didn’t like the idea of induction, and refused to position himself well.  This made for a long evening and at several points during the process I nearly asked for some pain medicine (hadn’t had pain medicine since J3 but I was seriously contemplating it here).  When he was born we knew the girls would be temporarily disappointed.  They had desperately wanted a sister, only to get a new little brother.  Between the two of us we decided that the news would be best delivered in person.  So, after the little one and I were settled, MrTB4M went home for a little rest.  The next morning, he loaded everyone up and brought them to meet the new addition.  The entire time not revealing it was a boy.  As expected, there was a momentary period of frustration from J4 and J5, and then it didn’t matter and we could not keep them away from him.  J8 is so much like J1, he is certainly the calm that we needed to settle our family storm.

The excitement of a new baby wore off and we were back into the old routine.  Not necessarily happy, but not miserable either.  Then out of the blue, my old boss messaged MrTB4M asking if I was interested in coming back to work.  In a whirlwind of action, I was heading back to the corporate world, the kids were going back to school, and MrTB4M was happy.  The new merry go round ride didn’t last long before we remembered exactly what didn’t work the last time we tried this.

There were two grade school schedules and two high school schedules to manage.  I was working 4 ten-hour shifts.  So, I leave the house at 5:20 am Tuesday – Friday and return a little after 4 pm.  MrTB4M has to get the kids up and to school.  When I get home, I have to do all the homework, dinner prep, sports practices, and other household “stuff”.  Every week there is a special project or activity that requires extra attention or money; there are “optional” donations – which in reality are not optional because if you don’t donate your child is the one that doesn’t participate in the special event/dress down/snack/recess/etc. There are numerous performances and awards that take place during the day that we miss.  Worst of all, the bright light in our kids’ eyes is dimming.  They are smiling, they are laughing – but the light that used to be so bright with joy, is fading.  Our family is suffering.

Wow!  That is a kick in the gut for sure.  Here we are doing exactly what we thought was best for the kids – and it is hurting us all.

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