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Life Lately: Cooking for Nine and a New Baby on the Way

Updated: Feb 7

My first-trimester nausea passed just in time for a new challenge: becoming a household of nine.



Have you ever been through a time so difficult, so demanding, you can feel yourself growing? That’s exactly how the last several months have been for me: a bit painful, but beautiful.


Like a warm, herbed skillet of eggs, fresh out of the oven—it looks heavenly, but you know you might've dropped a few eggshells in it, and you only hope no one minds too much.

With the news of our fourth baby arriving this spring, I was hit with a wave of emotions, along with all-day sickness. A new pregnancy—not to mention, the thought of a new baby—always fills me with an unsettling mixture of excitement and terror. Even more so this time, after my fourth miscarriage a few months earlier. Add to that all the nausea, puking and I-feel-like-I-could-be-dying fatigue of the first trimester, and I wasn’t convinced we’d made the right decision to grow our family.


Little did I know then that our family would soon be growing in a very different way.


Of course, I didn’t want to lose another baby, nausea or no. And so on I pressed, subsisting on cold cereal, letting my kids watch way more Story Bots than was probably good for them, and waiting as patiently as I could for the months of sickness to pass.


Then, just as I was feeling a little better, more suffering came in the form of my sixth kidney stone, followed by a week of stomach flu for the whole family.


Suffering Well


I believe my first reaction was something along the lines of “seriously?” Doubled-over in pain, still sore from my kidney stone, with puke on every floor of our house, I remember thinking that this was just too unfair, and pregnant women should have a pass from this sort of torture.


Alas, no one has a pass from suffering—least of all, pregnant women.


In fact, I realized, that’s exactly what I signed up for. The question isn’t whether I’ll suffer, only, will I suffer it well?


If you receive my Simple Greetings, you might remember how I wrote about this. (Sign up here to join my weekly mailing.) This idea of “suffering well” stayed with me through the months of misery. I came to see how this pain could make me more humble, patient and resilient.


Now, there have been plenty of trying times in my life when I’ve chosen to feel wronged and resentful, but this time, I decided to see how I could make peace with it. It wasn’t easy, and I certainly wasn’t perfect at it. I found it takes a sort of “mind over body” strength, to feel calm when every other part of you feels that something is very, very wrong—like when every person in your family is sick and you can barely move, or you haven't eaten anything but bran flakes for days and you're worried for the baby growing inside of you. As moms, we've all been there.


But to me, suffering well didn't necessarily mean suffering less, although having patience certainly helped. It meant trying to be gentle with my kids and Ben no matter how awful I felt, learning to work through my fears and frustration rather than taking them out on others, and being humble and grateful enough to ask for the help I needed, rather than feeling sorry for myself.


There was one very damaging belief I had to let go of, and that was that Ben didn’t value me except for intimacy. It would be too embarrassing to admit, because it’s so far from the truth, if I didn’t know that so many other women indulge in the same self-deception. Maybe you can relate? I used it as an excuse to keep my distance whenever I was hurting, but the truth was, it was hurting both of us. I can’t tell you how freeing it was to finally let go of that fear and embrace a deeper intimacy of mind, body and soul.


All this to say, I’ve had some pretty bitter growing pains lately. But I think God allowed me to feel how weak I could be, so that He could show me how strong He could make me. That became perfectly clear when we found out our two nieces and nephew—ages 14, 11 and 9—would be coming to live with us (more on that in a moment).


The last few months have called for much more patience, energy and mental strength than I've ever had to muster on my own, and so I know that could only come from God.


12 Reliefs for My First Trimester Nausea


I remember the first time I experienced the nausea of early pregnancy with my son Cal. That cruel misery—starving without being able to eat anything—felt so unbearable, I couldn’t believe so many women had been through it. I scoured the Internet and asked everyone I knew how to end the nausea, or at least ease it. But they all told me there wasn’t much to be done except wait for it to be over.

I didn’t want to hear it then, but now I know how wise they were. I’ve learned for myself that the best way to get over any sort of suffering is to be willing to go through it. Here are 12 practices that helped me make the best of things through my early pregnancy nausea:


Disclaimer: Some links in this post are affiliate links for products I personally enjoy and recommend. I may earn a small commission if you choose to try them for yourself. I hope this can be the sort of helpful guide that I wish I'd had years ago!


1. Nature: Even though I couldn’t go for walks much, as I love to do in the fall, I still found ways to enjoy the outdoors. I could sit and watch the leaves change through the window, enjoy the sunshine from my favorite spot on the sofa, and even lay on a blanket under a tree and read to my kids on warm days. We gathered a few colorful leaves to place on our bookcase, too.


Photo by Kaity Clem


Photo by Adrianne Shelton


Photo by Hannah Mann


2. Free play for my kids: I’m a big believer in unstructured playtime, and so I was happy to let my kids entertain themselves (and sometimes argue), while I kept watch from the sofa. Finding the right toys—in the right amount—to spark their creativity has been life-changing. Their favorites sources of fun are Legos (this set is truly everything, and we've bought used blocks in bulk on Craigslist, too), animals (we love our real-life set and favorite plushies: this dog, cat and bunny from Meri Meri), costumes (our daily essentials here, here and here, and I adore Meri Meri's beautiful, well-made options here), modeling clay, books, (our list here), blanket-fort-building (any old bedsheet and chair will do, and we like to add our starry twinkle lights for extra magic), and riding their balance bikes around our cul-de-sac.

3. Relaxed screen-time: Typically, we aim to keep screens off during the week, or at least under an hour each day. But on my worst days, my will-power was nonexistent, and so we ended up watching whatever they wanted. It helped to have a few rules in place to keep from watching all day (for instance, no screens until rooms are picked up—I love this rule, because they end up playing anyway!). The trick, though, was to relax, let go of guilt and enjoy a looser routine—along with a few of my favorite childhood movies.

4. Reading: Most days I could manage to read at least a little from picture books, chapter books or the scriptures. We loved Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Halloween, and I almost forgot how sick I felt, getting lost in Gone With the Wind and The Scarlet Letter again. We’ve built our own library of books and magazines (mostly used from thrift stores and Amazon—again our list here), so we always have something to read when we’re too sick to go out.



Photos by Hannah Mann

5. A restful mindset: With little ones at home, there are always snacks to make, lost shoes to find, and some little sadness to soothe away. I could easily feel stressed about it, but I found a restful mindset went a long way. That meant mentally letting some things go while I was laying down (like dishes, basic hygiene...you know), and relaxing into whatever work I needed to get up and do.


6. Core-strengthening exercises: No expectant mother wants back pain on top of nausea. At this point in my last pregnancy, it was crippling. But working through the MUTU program for my diastastis recti over the last year (very slowly and inconsistently, I might add), I’ve had almost no back pain, and I feel stronger overall. The exercises are so simple, I do them in my bathrobe.

7. Cozy clothes: My friend (a mom of five, bless her) said the other day what a difference she felt when she dressed herself first thing every morning, even on her worst days. I wasn’t the best at this, but I agree. Putting on something fresh always made me feel halfway human again, almost like when I was working full-time. I've been shopping the maternity section on ThredUp almost daily, stocking up on second-hand jeans and cozy sweaters. The best part: I've never had to leave the house. (Use my referral link to get $10 off your first order here.)

8. Simple food, water and vitamins: If I could go back and do it all over again, I would’ve stocked up on simple food and freezer meals before the nausea hit. The best meals we had were when my friend brought over a big batch of soup and we ate off it for days, and when my mom, all the way across the country, ordered us dinner from my favorite restaurant. (Bless you both!) I kept up on vitamins the best I could with these easy Garden of Life chewables, followed by lots of ice water, and this Whole Family calcium-magnesium powder mixed into a bit of orange juice (which eliminated my night-time leg cramps completely). I also take this Mother's DHA from Carlson—it's only one capsule a day, and I've had not one "fishy burp" from it ever!

9. Learning something new: My confinement to the sofa actually gave me precious time to practice a few new skills, like blogging and hand-lettering. I even went to a photography workshop, in spite of feeling pretty miserable (You can't tell in the photos, can you? Or that I have the slightest baby bump?), but it was exactly what I needed: getting out of the house and outside of myself.



Photos by Hannah Mann



10. Simple pleasures: Whenever I felt up to it, little things like tidying up the family room, taking a shower, or keeping in touch with family and friends helped break up the blur of never-ending nausea. I keep a list of 10 simple ways to make any day a good one, and most of them I could do no matter how sick I felt.

11. Asking for help: That perfect storm of nausea, passing a kidney stone and stomach flu taught me lifelong lesson in humility. It’s easier to feel sorry for myself and make myself into a martyr, rather than swallow my self-pity and simply ask for help. When I finally did though, my friends rushed in, and I learned what it means to be there for each other.


12. True partnership: I learned to ask Ben for help too, without feeling guilty, and without resenting him or expecting him to do things differently. What helped was keeping in mind that we’re in this together, and so I wanted to give him my best. I couldn’t always share the work, but I could show him I was glad to be with him, let him give the help I asked for in his own way (even if it wasn’t the way I’d do it, or even the way I asked), and look for ways to relieve my own suffering, rather than always relying on him.


The truth is, some days were better than others. The best relief was simply accepting this, and choosing to be peaceful in spite of the misery. I might not have felt physical relief, but the emotional relief was real.


Cooking and Caring for a Household of Nine



First trimester aside, the energy I’ve had since is nothing short of miraculous.


I’d only just begun to feel better when my brother-in-law and his three beautiful kids arrived here from Japan the week of Thanksgiving. It’s truly a gift from God that I’ve been able to help care for our new household of nine, along with a dog and two cats, all while carrying this baby.


They've certainly had it hardest, moving here with the military after several deployments, and my brother-in-law a single dad for now. (It's a long story, and not one for this blog.) Lucky for us, we all get along, and our kids are having the best time together. It would be easy to let our emotions get the better of us, and sometimes they do, but all in all, there’s been very little drama. I only hope our home has given them a place to rest while they settle into their new assignment and decide where to go from here.


That said, it’s been an adjustment for all. It’s at least twice the cooking and laundry as before, three times the groceries—we can easily polish off 30 eggs in one breakfast, with the inevitable eggshell or two!—and what feels like ten times the shoes and coats littering the house. Everyone helps, but it’s an immense and exhausting amount of work. Those first few weeks, our home was an explosion of suitcases, with vast piles of belongings that needed sorting. There were clothes to wash and find places for, beds to make, compromises to come to, schools to register for, and late nights to talk things over.


At times, the chaos was almost comical. I wondered if I was secretly on camera when our car was totaled, their cat peed on the bed for the fifteenth time and my two-year-old refused to fall asleep without an hour-long tantrum every night. I’m happy to say that we’ve finally eased into a routine that’s a little more effortless, and we’re getting by pretty well with two cars between our two families. (Update! We just bought a used but roomy Honda Pilot, and I’m thanking my lucky stars to finally have four-wheel-drive for the first time in fifteen years here in Idaho.)


I’ve also been asked quite a bit how we’ve made room for everyone. For those who are curious, it’s actually worked out nicely: we had a bunk bed in Cal’s room that the boys now share. We moved Rosie’s crib into our room, and found this sweet little bunk bed in white at half-price (with these floral duvet covers, sigh!) for my niece and Lu to share. The girls love to play dolls and dress-up in their new room, while the boys play robots and Legos in theirs. We gave Lu’s room with its queen bed (which doubled as our guest room before) to my teenage niece, and converted our downstairs office into a bedroom for my brother-in-law.


Granted, there’s not much in the way of personal space with so many people around (try finding a place to take a phone call, oi!), but everyone seems to be happy enough with the arrangements. In fact, it’s been so much fun to have a full house and family to laugh with again, which we’ve missed since we moved to Boise almost seven years ago. The holidays were especially magical, with their excitement and all the baking, crafting, gifting and gingerbread-house-building that went on here.



No question, this has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, and I’ve never been busier than I am now, but it’s also been one of the most beautiful experiences, too.


I’m learning to love getting up early, cooking for a crowd, chauffeuring kids, monitoring screen time, and even helping with homework and bedtime—all of which would shock my earlier self. I think it’s because I’m choosing to; I honestly feel no sense of obligation. I’m growing more patient too, losing my red-haired temper a little at a time, as layers of pride and selfishness slowly shed away. I’m trying to confide in Ben and lighten his load, rather than complain or criticize as I might’ve in the past, and it’s brought us closer together than ever before.


I’m also humbled, watching people I love go through so much pain, trying my best to be there for them and say the right things, when I’m so ridiculously imperfect. Truly, I’ve had to come to terms with how awkward and annoying I can be, and still keep on trying. (So please, don’t try to praise me. Not a bit.) And sometimes, hardest of all, I’m watching my own dreams change with an uncertain future.


But I’ve felt a beautiful sense of peace, letting go and turning to God, especially in those quiet moments in my room and walks by the river that I reserve for myself.


In some ways, life is better than ever. Then there are hard days—days I’m not even sure I’m up to this. And I think there always will be, whatever I face. That's when suffering well comes in. I have so much life to enjoy—a new baby to love, too!—and that’s just what I’m going to do, eggshells and all.


Here's to more good days,








P.S. Moms with large families (or any moms!), do you have any tips for me on feeding a crowd or keeping the messes in check? I'd love to hear! Leave a comment or email me at jenny@thegooddaymom.com.


Disclaimer: Some links in this post are affiliate links for products I personally enjoy and recommend. I may earn a small commission if you choose to try them for yourself. I hope this can be the sort of helpful guide that I wish I'd had years ago!


Photos in this post are by me unless otherwise credited, and all are protected by copyright.

HI, I'M JENNY

I love hot breakfasts, steaming cups of chamomile tea, stacks of books, slow walks, and being home with my three very spirited kids (often a little neighbor or three, too!)

 

The truth is, for the longest time—even after years of infertility—I felt I just wasn’t cut out for motherhood. Was it ever going to be anything but overwhelming? I never imagined I could enjoy it the way I do now, but I've realized that they way we think has everything to do with the peace and happiness we create. Here I write about my struggles, hard-won lessons, and finding contentment in it all. I’m so glad you’re here!

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