Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Six Months Postpartum

Sweet Thomas is six months old today and a whopping 21.5 pounds--about four and a half pounds heavier than my first four babies at this age!

Daddy holding Thomas

Mostly for my own personal recollection, I feel an urge to take a verbal 'snapshot' of what my life looks like six months postpartum--knowing that if there is ever another baby in our lives, my life won't look the same anyway because I will have older kids in the mix.

For me, taking note of what life is like right now is to remind myself how little and small it is, not that I'm conquering the world right now. One problem I see in myself and among other mothers of large families is having a fuzzy memory: I look back with rose-colored glasses and think it's 'so easy' having a baby, then am shocked when I'm in the midst of it: not easy at all, no matter how many times one has raised a baby.

In short: My life at six months out is modest, but gaining a nice rhythm, and can be sweetly peaceful as long as I continually stop myself from taking on too much.

How is the Baby Doing?

On the cusp of six months old, Thomas is very happy and I can still plump him down to play with toys. However, he is on brink of crawling, which will change entirely all my tricks and tactics for how I get stuff done.

So close to crawling

Thomas' sleep has gone through some nice phases of being predictable, but he now sleeps fairly at random, which is what I've experienced with all my other babies, due to my mothering, I am sure. Life is happening: I don't have time to go nurse down the baby for 20 minutes necessarily if he is tired in the middle of school time, and leaving four little kids unsupervised that long leads to chaos from which it is hard to come back and settle down to school. So, at times like that, I'll simply put the baby on my back, where he falls asleep, but sleeps only 45 minutes. If I'm not going to cry it out, then the price I pay is less predictability, but the benefits I get are many.

Thankfully, Thomas' overnight sleep is great--according to my standards, which expect a baby this age to be waking throughout the night to nurse.

But how is my sleep? Not enough from start to finish and by about nine o'clock, sometimes my words are actually incoherent. I am currently, once again, evaluating my tasks to see what I can cut in order to increase my average sleep.

Besides sleep, the baby is nursing exclusively and what else is there to report about, really?


A snapshot of our weekday routine looks like this, plus or minus half an hour:

6:00  Awake for the day, all the children wake over the next hour. Goals: holy reading, catechism, kitchen chores, breakfast, children help clean up kitchen, get dressed, make beds.

9:00  School time for 2-1/2 hours

11:30  Recess, outside if possible

12:00  Lunch, children help clean up kitchen

1:00  Quiet Time: Joseph napping or dropping his nap, Margaret in her room, John and Mary reading literature and doing music practice (piano).

2:00  Too soon, people are out of Quiet Time: I need to extend this!

3:00  I have a goal of taking a family walk at this time, about two miles. Often children continue playing outside after we get home.

4:00  I cook dinner while children watch TV.

5:30  Dinner served. Following dinner, children help clean up kitchen, Mary practices violin, kids might have assigned reading to finish up, Chris will pray rosary with the two oldest children while I occupy the littles, etc.

6:30  Begin bedtime routine, all kids going to sleep within the next two hours.

Even I, who live this life, look at my routine and think it looks so peaceful, orderly, and expansive: like it must mean I have time to sit down, get off my feet (ever), read a few pages of a book, or rest my head on the pillow in the afternoon. I am mystified that I'm working like crazy all day, don't read, don't rest, and struggle terribly to get in my Bible study or rosary: basically I feel like a chicken with my head cut off.

There is a time warp the more kids one has, I believe: I might set aside one hour for lunch, which should be plenty for cooking, serving, and cleaning up, but that's not on Kid Time. Kid Time means there has to be time for tantrums, numerous sibling fights, repeated discipline, the baby needing to nurse, the baby having a poopy diaper blow-out, the utility repair man showing up, a 'critical' phone call coming in, cleaning up an entire box of cereal with a child dumps on the floor, etc. Suddenly an hour isn't nearly enough for lunch and Mama finds herself cleaning up the kitchen three hours later, wondering what happened.

Out and About Activities?

We're involved in few extracurricular activities right now because I cannot handle more. I take our older children to music lessons on Thursdays (leaving the littles with a babysitter), all the children and I go to CCE on Friday mornings, and our family goes to Mass on Sundays: that's it.

I find that I really need to be mostly home-based in order for the home to run smoothly. Despite that children couldn't verbalize it, I can see everybody disturbed and ruffled when the only consistency is the mess, dirty clothes piling in the hampers, and lack of meals on the table.


This chore gets its own category. At six months out, with a baby I can happily set down or in another's arms, I cook--from a recipe using various ingredients--only two or sometimes three times per week. Two or three times weekly seems like such a big success to me given what much of the last year looked like! Other nights involve what I more properly call 'preparing food,' such as baking frozen chicken patties to serve as sandwiches with a side of potato salad from the grocery store deli and sliced apples. Most weeks still involve one night of outright frozen pizza, and about once per week, my husband relieves me with restaurant food.

I remind myself regularly: I am a homeschool teacher, not a gourmet cook.


I consider schooling to be going very well, but that is according to standards I continually check to make sure they are modest enough (and my husband would argue that they are not modest enough).

During school time
I gather everyone under my supervision and I teach school to the older two from about 9:00 to 11:30. School starts within a half an hour plus or minus of 9:00, and ends quite regularly at 11:30 so the children can have recess--not as a reward, but to get out manic, squirrelly behavior before lunch and Quiet Time.

Both older children are getting through during the mornings: math, spelling, grammar, CCE memory work (and a presentation every other week), music theory, holy reading and catechism, and history reading, plus John has also taken on composition.

I try to anchor other subjects elsewhere in our schedule, not in formal school. I have recently moved the children reading their assigned literature from bedtime (where too often it was getting missed) to Quiet Time and with a thirty-minute timer ticking. The children currently do their music instrument practice during the afternoon, often during Quiet Time. If I'm doing a read-aloud for history, I just carry it around the house and grab moments whenever I can, like if we sit down to share hot cocoa, out comes my read-aloud!

Studying Michelangelo's paintings and biography over tea

I recently felt strong and eager enough to stretch myself, so to speak, by purchasing a composer study and an art study from Simply Charlotte Mason. However, my plan is to teach these as a whole-family activity and very slowly. Because we're home most afternoons, I can try to have a lovely tea about once per week in the afternoon: even if all that means is brewing a pot of tea and eating some cinnamon toast! During the tea, I can rotate between our reading poetry (a 'poetry tea'), or studying our artist, our studying our composer. These Simply Charlotte Mason kits are very simple and come with everything one needs in one little slip pocket.

It is currently winter, but a summertime version of having a tea could be iced tea with summer snacks, or Popsicles on the deck.

I can't afford to carve out more formal academic time, but I can sneak in whole-family learning under the guise of living our lives.

Mama's Health?

As I've heard from many mothers of large, homeschooled families, having the fifth or sixth baby marks a watershed moment when Mama's health begins to suffer in ways that can no longer be ignored until she learns to make it a priority: sleep, nutrition and weight management, exercise and body strengthening, and prayer (peace of mine). I am working on so many aspects of my health, investing our family time and money into the goal, but there is daily tension in making my health a priority over so many other demands. I'm the only one who causes this tension: Chris would say that if my health isn't getting enough time devoted to it, just pause basically everything else until it does. He's very generous that way, but I am overwhelmed with a need to meet everyone else's needs first: thus, my daily tension.

So, that's us at six months out! I think maybe it takes a good year to start to feel normal and confident again, at least in my experience and that of a number of ladies who have confided in me.

This is quite the journey!


  1. "Chris would say that if my health isn't getting enough time devoted to it, just pause basically everything else until it does. He's very generous that way, but I am overwhelmed with a need to meet everyone else's needs first: thus, my daily tension."

    This is a frequent tension in our home too, with me being the cause...and my husband, like Chris, most always remind me to make myself a priority, but I feel the same need to meed everyone else's needs first. But then I find myself getting shamefully resentful. It's a tough cycle to break. And I only have three littles!

  2. Great post! Thank you for providing a "window" into your daily life. I'm always curious, since as you know, I am also the mother of 5 and our children are nearly identical ages. My difference is that I'm not homeschooling, so most days I'm only home with the 2 1/2 year old and the baby. What I've found is that with baby #5 I think I've finally really found my "comfort zone" when it comes for caring for a baby...when I'm alone with the baby, I do great...even waking up multiple times a night seems like less of a burden now...but the minute another child or 2 (or 4) are thrown into the mix, I immediately become overwhelmed. I too am finding that I need to SLOW DOWN, take on less, and yes, my physical health had been suffering for some time, but pregnancy number 5 really took it's toll to that point at nearly 33 years old my health is suffering to the point where my pregnancies have gone from very low risk to very high risk (mainly due to blood pressure). I'm really trying to learn to be good to myself, to take it easy, and to pace myself...so thanks for writing this! I've already "cut corners" with this baby, and I'm not even feeling guilty about it (i.e. bottle feeding breastmilk, when necessary, etc).