Six Weeks as a Family of Five

I’ve popped onto the blog sporadically over the past six weeks, but mostly I gave myself this time as a maternity leave. For these past six-and-a-half weeks, I took off time from my job, I paused or greatly reduced my volunteer commitments, and I cut back on my time spent on the Simplify the Chaos blog and social media. In other words, I actually simplified the chaos of life and reduced my days to one major purpose: adjusting myself and my family to life as a family of five.

It’s been wonderful to have this time off, but I’m feeling ready to ease back into more things, including this blog. Last week I shared a Day in our Life and that gave a pretty accurate look into our life right now, but today I thought I’d give more of an overview of the past six weeks. Fair warning: this is a mammoth post! Since ultimately, this blog serves as a type of journal for myself and the things I want to remember in the future, I decided to just accept the length. Grab a coffee, get comfy, and settle in!

Photo Credit: Natalie Joy Photography

I shared Ollie’s birth story here – I had a scheduled c-section that went according to plan and spent the next 2.5 days recovering in the hospital. We had a great hospital stay but were ready to get home and settle in. I felt such contentment in the first few weeks of his life – knowing he is our last baby made me want to just savor everything as much as I could.

Thanks to having lots of help from Justin and our two sets of parents, I was able to spend the mornings sleeping in (after being up in the night) and snuggling with Ollie. We have a rocking recliner set up next to the bassinet in our room and I spent many mornings just sitting there with him; I often wouldn’t emerge from our room until like 9 am or so. I have specific memories of just feeling so content and happy – I’d finish breastfeeding and just gently rock with skin-to-skin snuggles as the warm morning light filtered in through the nearby windows. Truly some of the most fulfilling memories of early motherhood I have and I’m extremely grateful!

Mr. Ollie

Ollie is a super sweet baby. I personally think he’s a pretty chill newborn – there is obviously still a certain level of crying and fussing that we expected, but overall he has been content and easy going.

From day one, he has been a good sleeper. Even in the hospital he was snuggly and hardly ever cried. He started giving us long stretches of sleep at like, 10 days old, and has been pretty consistent ever since. Of course we’ve had some rough nights where he’s up more often, but I’m typically only getting up 1-2 times a night with him which has been a wonderful surprise.

As a third-born child, we needed him to kind of just slide into the family and go with the flow. He started tagging along to swimming lessons and daddy’s softball games and various errands in his very first week of life and has been an absolute trooper from the beginning.

He almost always falls asleep in the car seat as he is shuttled around to preschool drop-off/pick-up, gymnastics, church, grocery shopping, and other events. He takes it all in stride and has been a sweet little tagalong.

Around the house, he naps fairly well if I put him down, but I also like to carry him around in my Solly baby wrap. Sometimes he naps, other times he squirms, but I do love wearing him around as I get things done around the house. I love this picture Vi took of us swinging on the porch swing with him in the wrap. ❤

One area we’re struggling in a bit is with breastfeeding, but I’ve been working with a lactation consultant and I’m confident we will get to a good place with this as well. I’m grateful that Ollie takes a bottle well, which allows Justin to help with feeding when he’s home. It’s been quite the journey and while I am not quite ready to go into details with this, I anticipate sharing more about our feeding journey at some point in the future.

Sibling Love

The two older kids have been truly amazing with this transition. I expected tantrums and regressions, I expected jealousy and sibling rivalry, I expected the initial excitement/novelty of a baby to wear off and they’d be over it and ready to send him back to the belly . . . I mentally prepared myself for struggles and a hard transition but none of that happened. The kids have been smitten since they first met Ollie. Just look at the first moment they saw him:

Initially, they both wanted to hold him all the time. After a few days, LJ’s interest in holding him kind of faded but Vi still was really into it. Then after a couple weeks, she stopped asking for it quite as much too.

Now, they ask to hold him every once in a while, and particularly like to practice holding him while standing up (with close adult supervision), but mostly they just want to love on him. First thing in the morning, they come into my room and head straight to his bassinet to check him out. Throughout the days, they want to know what he’s doing and where he is and if it’s at all possible, they want to be touching him in some way.

They love to be close to him. They’re constantly wanting to hug him and kiss him or touch his little hands or feet. I often have to remind them to give him space, especially when he’s trying to nap and they’re trying to bombard him with love. Whether he’s snuggled in his bassinet or tucked in the car seat or breastfeeding on the couch, they are not short on affection for him!

When Vi was born, LJ was only 21 months old. He was practically a baby himself: mostly nonverbal, in diapers, needing help and supervision for almost every task and heavily dependent on me. This time, the kids are older and more capable and actually helpful! They will bring me my Haaka when I’m breastfeeding. They can grab me a diaper/wipes/burp cloth/whatever I need from another room. If Ollie starts fussing, they’ll pop his pacifier back in. They can complete simple tasks like getting their own water and filling it up or grabbing a snack without needing my help. Obviously, they still have their own needs for my help too but it’s just so nice to have older kids who can be somewhat independent and helpful in this newborn stage.

They also like to bring him toys to tuck around him while he’s sleeping or breastfeeding – so sweet! Now I’ll be honest, while I’m so glad the kids love him and have adjusted well, there have been some major challenges to moving to three kids and we’ve had our fair share of struggles and learning curves. I’m planning a blog post that details more on the transition for us going from 2 to 3 kids and will share more there, but just know it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows.

Our Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and we have been SO grateful for ours. I don’t share any of the following to brag, and I know we are lucky to live near some family and have other family willing to travel. I just want to be honest and give credit where credit is due: this transition time would absolutely have looked different had we not had the generous support of many people and we are incredibly thankful.

I’ve already shared how multiple friends came through in watching the big two when we unexpectedly had to change childcare plans right before giving birth to Ollie. We also had invaluable help from both sets of our parents who came to stay with us (mine for 8 days, then Justin’s for 10) and provide help with meals, cleaning, diaper changes, allowing me to nap (!!!), and especially taking care of the older two kids. (I actually think that is part of the reason the kids did so well with the transition – even once Ollie was home, there were enough adults around to give them plenty of focused love and attention.) I really appreciated having extra hands around so I could focus my energies the first few weeks on recovery, breastfeeding, and bonding with Ollie.

We also had many friends offer to bring us meals, and a meal train was set up to begin after our parents all left. It has been SUCH a gift to have the mental load of figuring out meals to feed our family taken away, especially on the days where it feels like I just move from child to child taking care of needs and don’t have time to think about much else! These sweet people in our lives are not only bringing delicious food, but also just this incredible feeling of love and support and we’re so so grateful.

My Recovery

I think this has been my best physical postpartum recovery yet. Once I left the hospital, I stopped taking my heavy pain medication and then at about a week postpartum, I stopped needing to even take Ibuprofen. I wasn’t trying to be superwoman; I truly felt good and didn’t feel the need for medication. I hesitate to even share this because I know not everyone’s experience is the same and truly, MY OWN experience hasn’t been the same each time. Recovery after LJ’s birth was ROUGH and I was in a ton of pain for a while, so I’m very grateful this time was better.

I think there are probably a lot of factors that helped this time around: lots of help so I wasn’t needing to overexert myself, getting up and active early on by taking gentle walks pushing Ollie’s bassinet down the hospital halls, and also, I think my body kind of remembered this process and what to do. I also gave myself grace to listen to my body – if I felt good, I did more and if I felt tired, I took it easy. Again, this was only possible because I had help from others in the first few weeks. Once all the grandparents left and Justin went back to work (he saved his days off for after they went home), I was almost a month postpartum and had recovered enough to be able to keep up with the kids well. Since we had slashed ALL unnecessary commitments and preschool hadn’t started yet, I had time to slowly adjust to a 3-on-1 dynamic during the days. And when Justin isn’t working and is home, he’s super involved with taking the older two kids so I have time with Ollie, or has even taken all three for periods of time so I can rest or get things done. It all helps!

Now at six weeks, I’m going to start easing back into gentle exercise for my body and scar massage at my incision site. I feel good and ready to do more!

Mentally, I’ve had periods of ups and downs. I’ve been overcome with gratitude, love, and contentment AND I’ve also been overwhelmed and stressed and frustrated. I’m trying my best to remind myself that the roller coaster of emotions and hormone shifts is so normal, but there have definitely been tough moments.

I know this is likely my longest post to date so I’m going to wrap it up, but I do want to give a little shout out to two other major things that happened in the last six weeks:

Vi’s 3rd Birthday!

Our sweet Vi turned 3 years old in August and we had her birthday party 10 days after Ollie was born. We invited our family and I had a few simple decorations: our usual Happy Birthday banner, two large balloons, and a princess cake. I picked up an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen and they just so happened to have one with Disney princess rings on top – it was absolutely perfect for our princess-loving girl! I added a ton of fun sprinkles and three big candles on top and she was absolutely thrilled.

Vi is so much fun to surprise – she is easy to please and gets excited for everything. She is just as joyful getting a ring pop as she is getting a big present and it was a blast to see her eyes light up and hear her delighted squeals with each gift. I especially enjoyed that LJ wanted to get her a little gift (he picked out nail polish for her!) and he was genuinely excited for her to open presents and feel celebrated.

We loved celebrating our girl! She is sweet and spunky and adventurous and wild and just the most fun three-year-old I know.

Preschool Began

LJ and Vi both started preschool a couple weeks ago! We were all ready to start some sort of routine and the start of the year has gone so well.

They both love their teachers and are making new friends and I’m grateful to have some one-on-one time with Ollie in the mornings while they’re at school.

WHEW!! If you’ve stuck around this long, I’m impressed. It’s hard to squeeze in such a monumental six weeks of life into a blog post, but I’m glad to have all this documented to look back on someday. The days are long but the years really are so short. Ollie already has lost his newborn baby look and things change in what seem like the blink of an eye. This six weeks has been full of ups, downs, love, support, challenges, triumphs, and so much gratitude. I am thankful for this life and this family of five and want to savor every stage as best I can.

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