How do you know when your family is complete?

August, 2019

As I write this blog post, I can begin by tell you that I don’t have an easy answer to this question. It’s one that I have struggled with, and searched for, on a daily basis for a long time.

Family Planning 101

The decision to have children seems to me very black and white for a lot of people. Most people have very strong feelings about this. Either they always knew they wanted a family or they always knew they never wanted children. For me though, I honestly think looking back it was a bit of a grey zone. 

When I was younger, I always thought I would end up married and with kids. It just seemed like the obvious ‘happy ending’ we’re all taught is the acceptable norm we should hope to achieve.  I also knew that if I did end up having a family, I wanted a big one. You know the chaos of the family on Home alone? The big family that comes home for Christmas in the Family Stone? That’s what I wanted.

As I passed through my twenties I was a bit of a serial monogamist. I had a handful of kind, smart, fun and caring boyfriends. But to be honest, deep down I never really saw myself marrying or starting a family with any one of them. 

I graduated from medical school at the age of 30 and moved west to start my residency. If you’ve read some of my earlier posts you’ll know the details of this journey. I’ll give you the Coles notes version here. As I got into my thirties and broke up with yet another kind, smart, fun and caring boyfriend that just wasn’t the right fit for me, I began thinking that having a family wasn’t in the cards for me. 

I wasn’t sad about this. I had just begin to think it wasn’t going to happen and the universe had set out a different path for me. I was going to become an OBGYN. My plan was to do my fellowship in Perinataology (high risk pregnancies) then travel overseas and do fistula repair surgeries; help women safely bring their babies into the world and help heal their bodies when nature didn’t always follow the easiest course. 

How it all Began….

Then Hagen, my husband, and I started to date and everything changed. And not so long after we moved in together, I became unexpectedly pregnant with our first child. To be honest, I was beyond thrilled. I was 34 at the time and was starting to worry that maybe, if we did decide that we wanted a family, my body wouldn’t be up for the challenge. But I was sure wrong. 

Nov 10, 2013

Henry arrived on his due date, after three long days of prodromal labour and a three hour second stage. We were so in love and I knew I wanted more. I remember saying to someone literally hours after he was born I’d do it all again. Right then. The love is so worth it. 

So it turns out we’re not so good at family planning…..

We knew we wanted more children, and wanted them RELATIVELY close together. We thought we’d start ‘trying’ when Henry was about a year old. Though in those dark, sleep deprived early days of the fourth trimester when postpartum anxiety overcame me I would have told you I could never go through it again. 

Then when Henry was four months old, when I was exclusively breastfeeding, when my periods had not yet returned and when we were using condoms VERY reliably, I woke up feeling nauseous. That’s weird, I thought. And for some random reason I decided to do a pregnancy test. You can imaging my surprise/delight/horror when it was positive. 

I had a four month old baby. I had JUST gotten my anxiety under control. And now I’m pregnant? You have got to be kidding me. But we knew we wanted more children, and at this point I was 35 so it still felt like a blessing. 

Nine months later we welcomed darling Johann into the world. For any of you out there who have more than one child, you’ll know what I mean when I say the second baby is SO much easier. You’re more relaxed, and as a result they’re more relaxed. Yes, it was chaotic with a 14 month old and a newborn but we embraced our community, we asked for help and accepted any that came our way. 

Jan 7, 2015

When Johann was just under two years old, and Henry just shy of three and a half, I started feeling the urge for another baby. Hagen wanted a big family too, but it had been a chaotic few years. We went back and forth for a while trying to decide if a third was right for us. Finally we settled on this: we’d give it 6 months. I was 38 years old, turning 39 that coming November. If I got pregnant in the next 6 months, it was meant to be. If not, we’d call our family complete.  

Low and behold, despite my ‘advanced maternal age’ of 38 I became pregnant just three months after we started trying and after a relatively easy and healthy pregnancy we welcomed our darling Wilhelm into the world just three days after my 39th birthday. 

Nov 25, 2017

Our boys are now 5 and 1/2, 4 and 1/2 and 21 months. And I have to say, honestly and truthfully, they bring more joy to both Hagen and I daily than I could have ever imagined. And it just gets better. As they get older, they’re becoming friends. They’re funny. They’re smart. They’re adventurous. They bring out the best in both Hagen and I. 

But they’re not babies….and despite what common sense, and my medical knowledge tells me, my heart wants another! I went from not being much of a baby person to LOVING babies. As a maternity physician I see newborns all the time, heck I even deliver babies. You’d think I’d get my fill that way! But truth be told, I’d love another squishy newborn of my own. I’d love to breastfeed another newborn, and swaddle it, and rock it and help nurture it into another incredible Kluge baby. 

Let’s get one thing straight…

And let’s just get one thing straight. If we were to have another child it would NOT be because we were ‘trying for a girl’. Would I love a girl? Of course I would. Do I wish I had a girl? No way.

Because I love each and every one of my children beyond words. They are three of the coolest, sweetest, funnest and unique people I could have ever imagined creating. They boys come with me for pedicures, they love snuggling, reading books, hot tubbing, mountain biking, Motorhead and Taylor Swift! If i had a girl, it means one of these incredible boys wouldn’t be in the world and that would be a true shame.

let’s get back to the point. Another baby.

I know that babies grow up, and it wouldn’t just be a baby but another child. And I’d love another child too. I love our kids. They’re all so different and incredible in their own way. 

The common sense in me tells me I should be grateful with three uncomplicated pregnancies, relatively uncomplicated deliveries and three healthy and happy children.

The medical part of me worries about my advance maternal age, the increased risk of miscarriage, the increased risk of antepartum complications like high blood pressure, pre-eclapmsia, placenta previa. And then there are the risks of chromosomal abnormalities that we know increase with advancing maternal age. 

Then there’s my body. I’m just now starting to feel like myself again after almost 5 straight years of pregnancy and breastfeeding. I’m a runner, finally getting back into distance trail running. I’ve started to travel more, and even a few times without kids! 

And then there’s my career. I’ve started a practice, I’m involved in medical leadership, and truly love what I do. Do I really want to put all of that on hold? 

So where does this leave me?

As you can probably tell, this post is not going to end with some practical strategies for you to help figure out when your family is complete, because I clearly don’t have the answers. 

I guess I wanted to write this to share with you the struggles that I have regularly about my family size. Lots of my friends have known their families are complete from early on. And I’m happy for those people. I wasn’t one of them. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with my decision.

Our family is complete. Would I love another newborn? Another adorable baby to snuggle, nurse and nurture from infancy to toddlerhood and beyond? Heck yes. But for us, we’ve decided that the medical risks associated with my age, the costs associated with another child, the fact that we’d DEFINITELY have to buy a bigger house, the fact that I’d have to put my career on hold, again, and that my body would need to take another year or longer to heal; all of this combined has led us to decide that our family is complete.

I’ve given away or sold our newborn items. As Wil outgrows his clothes, toys, and shoes they’re taken to consignment shops or handed down to friends. Sure, there’s a part of me that’s mourning the fourth child we won’t have, but the bigger part of me is focused on enjoying the beautiful three children we do have and making sure to savour ever last minute of Wil’s babyhood before I blink and he’s off to school.

xo,

Sarah

Busy is a four letter word

Photo credit: http://www.doctormomx4.com/?p=564

I don’t know when it became a habit…but for as long as I can remember (and definitely at least since I’ve been a mom) when people ask how I am my response is often “Good. Busy but good.” And I feel like these days it’s EVERYONE’s response. Don’t get me wrong, I know you’re busy. I’m busy. We’re all busy. But maybe that’s not such a good thing.

When did busy become a status symbol?

Busy has become a status symbol. “Busy” is code for “important”. But personally I don’t think it’s all it’s cracked up to be.

Being busy means you aren’t present in the moment. You focus on all that lies ahead of you; the emails in your inbox, your never-ending to do list, the laundry that needs to get done; the dishwasher that needs emptying; the toys that need sorting….

Being busy, as a woman and Mom, I tend to put everyone else first. So instead of following through with my personal training appointment I cancel because we need groceries; instead of going to a yoga class, I end up cleaning the kitchen; instead of going for a run I end up catching up on my office paperwork (yes, as physicians we have a TON of paperwork).

When I’m busy, I tend to get easily overwhelmed. All tasks seem important and I can get so caught up in thinking about how much I need to do that I actually get nothing done. Can anyone else relate to that?

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle, which basically states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your time, is something that really resonates with me. When I am really focused, no matter how busy I am, I get stuff done. Why? Because I can actually just use a small amount of time in my busy day to get down to business and get ‘er done. Although often used as a business tool, I think it is a great strategy for every day life. If you can find out what actions you need to take and what habits you need to build for that 20% of time, you’ll be able to be productive but still have time for yourself, for your family, for what moves you.

Know what else I hate about being busy? I tend to ignore the things that are important to me in favour for the things that society tells us are important. Instead of spending quality time reading with my kids I focus on tackling my to do list; instead of getting out for a long run I decide instead it’s finally time to sort through the recycling in the basement.

So how do we overcome the cult of busy?

How do we stop the habit of being busy?

How do we slow down?

Get your MEDITATION on

This is something that I’m working on daily. I’m **trying** to build meditation into my daily routine. I honestly believe if we want to slow down and appreciate the small things it starts with meditation. Slowing down your mind, and learning to take control of your thoughts instead of letting them control you.

Get comfortable saying NO

If you’re anything like me, you’re a people pleaser. And I honestly do get a lot of joy and satisfaction from helping other people whether it’s saying yes to covering a colleague’s call shift at the hospital, saying yes to a leadership position at work, saying yes to every invitation for drinks, dinner, etc.

My lovely therapist, who I have not spent nearly enough time with lately, who helps me with MANY things in life taught me a really good and simple tool to get better with this.

Everytime someone asks you to do something, pause, take a breath and ask yourself ‘How will this benefit me and my family?’. If the answer is obvious, than maybe yes is the right answer for you. If it’s not that clear…maybe it’s time to practice saying NO!

stop with the OVER-SCHEDULING

How many of you are guilty of this? Signing your kids up for swimming and soccer and art class and piano lesson and gymanstics and not leaving a minute for them (or you) to just be.

How about we all just slow down a bit? Maybe just start with the swimming lessons this fall. Then do skating this winter. And instead of filling your weekends with classes and play-dates and to-do lists, just see where they take you.

leave the SCREENS behind

This is something we are definitely working on in our family. And don’t get me wrong…our kids watch TV, they’re allowed to use tablets when we travel, and hubbie and I obviously use our phones and laptops for work.

But do we REALLY need our phones with us all the time? I’m a big social media user but am trying to get better at having times where I just leave my phone and just BE, with my kids, with my husband, with myself.

I’m not perfect, and I don’t have the solution to this but a few ideas that I’ve come across include not using phones during mealtimes (this seems being obvious to me..), having regular phone free time, no phones in bedrooms, phone free vacations (camping!!!) etc.

Some of these may be unrealistic for you (as a physicians who do call we need our phones in our rooms at night) but maybe sit down and set some priorities to give your self some time off the grid.

get OUTSIDE

As I finish up this blog post, I’m sitting in a cottage on the North Shore of Prince Edward Island. The past two evenings after dinner we’ve hopped onto our bikes and peddled just a few minutes down the road to enjoy ending our days on the beach, complete with the most beautiful sunsets you can imagine. When we eventually stumble back to the cottage wet, sand covered and ready for bath time everyone is exhausted, but in the best way possible.

When we spend time outside it’s like we are doing what our bodies were built to do. Run. Splash. Move. Too often we spend most of our days inside and our bodies (and minds) take a hit.

For me the more time I spend outside the clearer my head feels. It’s easier to remember what my priorities are and where I need to focus my time. Then when Monday hits and we’re back at whatever it is we spend our weeks doing, the idea is we can still reach back to the state we were in and remind ourselves what’s important so we can say YES when it’s right and NO when we need to.

Where does this leave us?

So I don’t know about you, but whenever I read a blog post, watch a webinar, attend a lecture I’m always looking for the tangible, take home points.

If I’m going to be completely honest, I do a LOT of scrolling. I like the executive summary over the full version. So if you’re like me and you actually have only skimmed this post and are scrolling down to find the bottom line and grasp some tangible take home points this is the sweet spot for you.

HOMEWORK

Here’s what I challenge us (yes us, I’m guilty of using the b-word more often than I’d like to admit). Let’s UN-BUSY ourselves. So where do we start?

Daily Meditation.

Let’s do it ladies (and gents). If I can commit to this ANYONE can. Honestly my mind moves at one trillion thoughts a second. so how can we do this? Let’s start with an app and a guided meditation – there’s no shame in that. And work our way up to that zen state we all aspire to achieve…. You can choose whatever one you want..I’m vibeing on the Breath app (which I think has changed names) as well as Buddify and Headspace.

Say NO

Do it now. Like right now, out loud. Who cares if you’re reading this in a coffee shop, on the couch next to your partner, at work. Just say no. Why? It feels good. And it also takes practice.

PLAN your week…and make sure you schedule in your personal time

This may seem mundane..but planning makes a huge difference. Sit down, and schedule out your time. The most important thing you can do is schedule in time for yourself…and stick to it. And like my girl crush/personal development idol Rachel Hollis says, like you wouldn’t break a date with your dentist, your boss….you can’t break a date with yourself. So go ahead, sit down on Sunday night and plan out your week and schedule in your ‘you’ time every.single.day. Even if all you can fit in is 20 minutes of running or a 10 minute meditation write.it.down.

say NO to TV

OK…so I am a huge #bachechelornation fan but I’m going out on a limb and saying this. If you weeks are as crazy as mine…maybe saving your PVR’d sessions of Bachelor in Paradise is best left for some weekend indulgence and your week nights can be better spent. I know. I KNOW. But seriously folks, if we want to make headway we need to made sacrifices.

So put your phone down when you come home. Put the kids to bed. Take your fur baby for a walk. Clean the kitchen. Get your ‘to do list’ tackled. Then read a book. Meditate. Take a bath. Drink some tea. Go to bed.

If you’re a social media addict…set a timer on your device (they’re literally already on your device..you just need to set them up). Once the time is up. DING DONG you’re done.

Use social media for work? For your side gig? Use one of the MANY planning apps available so you’re not frantically posting (ahem…) minutes before your shut your eyes for the night.

get outside

Just do it. Leave the dirty dishes in the sink and head to the park after dinner. Have an impromptu picnic dinner at the beach one night this week. Spend Saturday morning exploring the woods instead of doing errands.

Honestly, it’s easy to find ways to spend time outside. It’s actually following through thats hard.

Who’s up for the challenge?

Let’s do it.

Let’s meditate daily.

Let’s say no.

Let’s play.

Let’s turn off the tv.

Let’s get outside.

Ready to make some positive change? I know I am….

xo

Sarah

Need a little inspiration for your meal plan this week?

I try to be organized and sit down each weekend to do a meal plan (and order our groceries online for delivery to make healthy meal prep as easy as possible). We also try to eat as many plant based meals as possible, which can be a challenge with two working parents and three little ones.

Fortunately, this amazing recipe for SPICY RED PASTA WITH LENTILS by one of my favourite vegan food bloggers The Minimalist Baker is easy, super healthy and a huge hit in our household!!

Two plates of our Spicy Red Pasta with Lentils and GF Pasta for a plant-based dinner

Happy meal planning!

xo,

Sarah

I went on a Mom-cation….

momcation – n.) 1. a break from one’s motherly duties

…and it was FREAKING FANTASTIC.

IMG_3536

For those who don’t know, I’m just back from almost a whole week away from my husband and boys in Nashville, Tennessee. If you had told me a year ago I’d be able to leave my three tiny boys (ages 17 months, 4 and 5) for a whole week I think I would have told you to shut the front door.

I had pretty intense PP anxiety when my oldest, Henry, was born.  It was still there with both Johann and Wil, but to a lesser degree. The first time I left Henry was when Johann was born (in my defence they’re only 14 months apart).  I had surgery when Johann was 3 months old. My surgeon wanted me to stay overnight to rest but I checked myself out of the hospital basically from PAR.  With Wil, my third, I distinctly remember shortly after we brought him home from the hospital I could barely take a shower or nap without him by my side.

So how did I go from being a crazy anxious Mama Bear barely able to leave my babes for a shower to being able to take a whole week away from them? A supportive, enabling partner; encouraging friends; insight into burnout and helping hands at home.

 

I’ll admit…I was a tad anxious leading up to the day of departure. I think it was likely a blessing that I had to leave for the airport the same time of the usual chaos of getting the kids organized and out the door as there wasn’t time for long drawn out good-byes. Though I was missing my family, the airport was a lot smoother then it is travelling with three kids. No strollers. No car seats. Just me and my carry-on luggage.

I brought lots to keep me distracted and busy and the flights were a breeze compared to all our recent travel that involves wrangling and entertaining busy toddler brains. Despite enjoying a peaceful flight and the opportunity to watch a movie uninterrupted I was still feeling a bit lonely…until I saw my pink-haired BFFs waiting for me at the Toronto airport.

Together at last…..

We hadn’t seen each other in person since my wedding almost 6 years ago!!! It was a long overdue reunion and we fell back into conversation as if we had seen each other last week.

From then on, though I missed my family but I was truly able to embrace my time away. We spent the week catching up, making plans for the future (three words: National Marketing Director), getting inspired by the Neora Get Real conference, exploring Nashville and generally getting stoked on life. When I got back to Victoria I was soooo excited to see my guys. I felt like I had my batteries re-charged and able to be a more patient mother, supportive partner and inspired to make positive change to incorporate to maintain self-care and balance each and every day.

The funny thing about the timing of this vacation too is that literally a bunch of news articles just came out about how mom-cations are recommended. Apparently there is an amazingly awesome researcher, Dr. Nava R. Silton, who has recently been speaking about the importance of mom-cations.

She talks about how stressful motherhood can be (yep), overwhelming (agree) and full of demands (100%). She also talks about Mom Guilt (which I feel needs a whole blog post on its own…) and has been cited saying “it’s very important for kids to see that balance that ideally needs to be achieved in a family situation”.

Preach, Dr. Silton. Preach.

So Mamas….get out your planner and book yourself a little mom-cation today. I’ve already got my next one in the books…who wants to join me?

xo,

Sarah