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First Person Nine ways your life changes when you’re raising five kids

The Globe and Mail

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I am a mother of five. All boys.

I am also a woman. A wife. Teacher. Runner. Friend. But it all becomes irrelevant when one has five sons.

“You have your own hockey team!”

Well, not really. That would require six children. Nor a soccer team, a baseball or, alas, a football team! A basketball team maybe, but who would want that?

“Were you trying for a girl?”

Honestly, that would be irresponsible and, quite frankly, dumb. Chances are, it could be another boy and then what? Hide him in the basement? Sell him on eBay? So, no. We were not.

“Is it because of your faith?”

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I admit, I used to joke that it was all God’s will. I stopped saying that when we conceived son No. 5 by accident. It just wasn’t funny anymore.

I have heard it all. Having many children somehow turns you into public property, where everyone gets a say in your family planning and private life. I finally found an answer to all the questions, suggestions and comments that ends it all immediately and abruptly: “No, we just like having sex a lot – like rabbits.”

Having many children also makes you an instant expert on all things child-related. Uber Mom, Mother-of-the-Year, Super Mom. The fun and energetic mom who wears a cape and can do it all.

“I don’t know how you do it!”

To be honest, neither do I. I just go with the flow, roll with the punches and learn as I go. And along the journey of motherhood, I may have picked up a lesson or two.

Lesson 1: Sharing the news

  • First child: Third week into your pregnancy, you call everyone you know, proclaiming the good news. Everyone is happy and excited for you.
  • Second child: In passing, you nonchalantly mention the fact that you are expecting again. The common response: “Well, it was about time.”
  • Every child after that: You try to hide your pregnancy for as long as you can, knowing damn well that what people will say: “Again? Are you crazy? How could this have happened?”

Lesson 2: Getting ready for childbirth

  • First child: You practise your breathing exercise religiously. Hehe. Haha. Hoho.
  • Second child: You no longer practise, as you know by now that it won’t help anyway.
  • Every child after that: You demand to have an epidural during your eighth month of pregnancy.

Lesson 3: The birth

  • First child: You pack your overnight bag weeks in advance, not forgetting the aroma oil and meditation music. You get sent home twice from the hospital due to false alarms, and when labour finally starts, you suffer for 18 hours until you finally admit defeat and ask for painkillers.
  • Second child: You pack your bag when the contractions start, and call your husband from the hospital to get his butt over there.
  • Every child after that: You don’t bother packing a bag, as you know that you won’t need any of that stuff; they send you home three hours after giving birth – with your baby.

Lesson 4: Bringing baby home

  • First child: You pick up your baby before it even shows any sign of distress.
  • Second child: You pick up your crying baby, as the screaming could wake up the older sibling.
  • Every child after that: You teach your older children how to put the soother back in the baby’s mouth.

Lesson 5: Reclaiming your body

  • First child: Even when still in hospital, you start your Kegel exercises. Elevator up. Elevator down.
  • Second child: You decide, with a heavy heart, not to wear crop tops anymore.
  • Every child after that: You get a belly button piercing and make sure that it can be seen despite several rolls of belly fat.

Lesson 6: Mom and baby activities

  • First child: You sign your child up for baby massage, baby gym, baby swim …
  • Second child: You sign your baby up for baby gym…
  • Every child after that: You take your baby to the supermarket for grocery shopping.

Lesson 7: Life with young children

  • First child: You spend most of the day admiring your child.
  • Second child: You spend most of the day making sure the older sibling does not hit or suffocate the baby.
  • Every child after that: You spend most of the day trying to hide in the basement to smoke a cigarette.

Lesson 8: Leaving the house

  • First child: The first time you leave your child with a babysitter, you call home five times to make sure everything is all right. And even though that’s the case, you decide to come home early anyway.
  • Second child: Before you leave the house, you remember to leave a number for the babysitter where you can be reached in case of an emergency.
  • Every child after that: You drill into your babysitter to call, when – and only when – there is blood.

Lesson 9: The future of your family

  • First child: After a few months of sleepless nights and sore breasts, you think to yourself: This wasn’t so bad. Let’s have another one. This is before your first child begins to walk, but, by then, it’s too late – you are pregnant again.
  • Second child: You convince your husband that having another one can’t be that bad. This is before you discover that society was made for families of four. Mom, dad and two kids. Not three. Or five!
  • Every child after that: You stop counting how many kids you have. After all, it’s all God’s will. This is long before the first tuition payment for university is due.

I am a mother. A mother of five. I am also a woman. A wife. Teacher. Runner. Friend. But most of all, I am a mother of five.

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Gisela Koehl lives in Thornhill, Ont.

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