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Having a New Baby Is Hard: the Overflowing Toilet Version

I’ve had six babies, and every time I have a new one, there are days when I feel as if I’m on the verge of a panic attack all the time. It’s a good thing I have a blog that I can go back and read later, or I might mistakenly assume that I feel like this because something is terribly wrong, and not, as it turns out, that life is completely normal for someone with a new baby. Take, for instance, the post I wrote in 2009 about the time I tried to take a shower in a campground with my kindergartner, my toddler, and my three-week-old baby. That was a crazy day, almost as crazy as a day last week, which involved less embarrassment but more “number 2,” so it all evens out. And it’s also proof that they DO grow up. The potty training toddler from the 2009 post grew up to be the big girl who on my recent crazy day ran to tell me that “something is coming out of the toilet!”

The other thing, the really important thing, is that there is good in the craziness. Our small group at church has been talking about how our purpose in life is to glorify God. And I had just been saying to my husband the day before the great day in question that I had realized that I wasn’t just supposed to escape from the panic attack. I was supposed to glorify the Lord in the panic attack.

So I dedicate this post to all the new moms out there who might also be tempted to think that something is terribly wrong in the craziness, and also to myself, just in case a couple of years from now I am blessed with another baby and happen to forget that normal life with a new baby = really, really hard and a really, really good chance to meet the Lord in the storm.

I slept late that morning and heard my kids waking up before I was up and dressed with a hearty breakfast piping hot on the table. Having been a disciplined early riser most of my life, nothing says “failure” more to me than oversleeping. I dragged out of bed and started to get dressed. I made it through weighing myself (UP a pound–life isn’t fair, just sayin’), putting on clothes, and just barely starting on my hair before the pitiful wailing of my toddler began. He’d gotten up and couldn’t find me.

“Huggy. Up!” he said. I picked him up and hugged him and carried him to my bedroom. He pointed to his ear. “Hurt,” he said. He wanted to go on my back in the woven wrap, so as soon as I got my hair up, I went out to get the wrap. The baby was still chipper, but my toddler with the earache came following me down the hall, tears streaming down his red cheeks. I got him up in the wrap, just in time for the baby to get all done being chipper and want to nurse.

In case you’re keeping track, we had not had breakfast yet. Also, some of my big kids, who shall remain nameless, seemed to have forgotten since the day before that they are supposed to start school work in the morning. I’m thankful that I can nag and nurse at the same time. I can also usually make breakfast while nursing, but having the toddler on my back sort of threw off my groove because I was a little off balance. (You gotta lean slightly forward with a toddler on your back, but you gotta lean slightly back to use your hands while nursing.) Plus, I was trying to make whole wheat Belgian waffles with strawberries on top. (Just go ahead and laugh at me right now for trying to make that, but in my defense, I don’t really like cereal.) Anyway, step one is to slice up the strawberries so they can sit and get juicy. And, yeah, it’s hard not to get strawberry juice on the baby if you’re nursing while washing strawberries. I stood briefly at the sink with the two boys wondering what to do. But it didn’t matter because my toddler wanted down from the wrap. I tried to get him out one handed (while nursing) and dumped him unceremoniously on the couch. He was happy for 3.9 seconds before he started crying again that he wanted up. That wasn’t going to work because I couldn’t really hold him while nursing and making breakfast (and nagging!), so I tried to make him a snuggly spot on the rocking chair.

Around this time, the background chorus of “I’m hungry!” started to set in, like mood music at a restaurant. And then the juice started. I thought the toddler with the earache, who had slipped down from the rocking chair and was now getting out plates and saying, “Eat!” might like some orange juice to tide him over while I “whipped up” Belgian waffles, while nursing, and commenting on the older children’s good work on their German as well as nagging. But then, another child saw the toddler’s juice and wanted some. After I’d already put the concentrate away. I got it back out and made more juice. And put the concentrate away. Just in time for someone else to see the second child’s juice. We repeated this again but with a child old enough to make his own juice. Heh. I made him get it himself ’cause I’m mean that way.

The day was off to a stellar start, but we finally did eat breakfast. Around noon. Or a little after. But at least we had food in our stomachs because things were about to get hectic.

First, the toddler, who has started potty training himself (yay!) asked to sit on his froggy potty. The baby was sleeping on my chest in the stretchy wrap, and I was trying to help the five-year-old with her piano lesson, when the toddler came back to ask me to put his diaper back on. I was a bit distracted with using my best negotiation skills to convince the five-year-old that if she could play all four measures individually, it would be EASY to put them all together. And what does a half-naked toddler do while he waits for a diaper? He empties the pencil sharpener everywhere and dances in the shavings and graphite dust, of course! (You thought I was going to say that he went potty on the floor, didn’t you? Ha! When does that ever happen?)

I started cleaning up the pencil mess when one of the bigger kids knocked an entire ream of computer paper all over the floor. And with a roughly 400 square-foot great room, can you guess where the paper wound up? That’s right, in the fifteen square feet that were covered with graphite dust and pencil shavings.

Right after I swept up the pencil shavings and carried the slightly bedraggled paper away (and snuck some chocolate from my secret stash, which had NOTHING to do with emotional eating and also nothing to do with my having been up a pound that morning), the children called me over to the computer to see how the four-year-old was doing on her first attempt at Rosetta Stone. The toddler walked up, and I immediately smelled something. That’s funny, I thought. He can’t be dirty. He’s not wearing a diaper. Right. He’s not wearing a diaper. I dared to look down. There was . . . mess all down his legs. I turned around . . . mess all over the floor by the table, stepped in, and tracked all the way over to the computer.

I picked up the toddler and held him at arms length so he wouldn’t bump the baby still sleeping on my chest and carried him to the bathroom, only to be reminded that one of the older kids had thrown up the other night, and her bedding was still in the bathtub. Unfortunately, the toddler turned on the water. Now I had soaking wet throw-up bedding in the bathtub that I needed to carry at arms’ length while it dripped all the way down the stairs to the laundry room in the basement. I got the toddler in the bathtub, and went to clean up the living room floor (squatting so as not to flip the baby upside down).

It was right around the time that I was throwing away my bag of yuckiness from the floor that my five-year-old came rushing in. “Hurry! Quick! Something is coming out of the toilet, so I ran out and shut the door!” My nine-year-old calmly translated. “The toilet overflowed.”

I went to see. It was spectacular. So. Much. Water. This called for really big rags. I went to get the old rag bedsheets I had just washed, when my five-year-old delivered her next exciting news bulletin. “It’s coming out of the ceiling downstairs!” Sure enough, there it was, pouring out of the access panel in the basement ceiling. One big rag went on the basement floor. One went up in our bathroom. But before I could get all the water sopped up, the nine-year-old came to tell me that she was so sorry (isn’t she a sweetheart?) but the water was coming through the wall into the guest bathroom. I went to see. Oh wow, it really was. Amazing. Right through the wall.

So maybe you’re wondering, on a day like this, where’s the glory? How does getting juice four times and wiping number 2 off the floor glorify the Lord? It does because on this crazy day, He gave me a miracle. You might have noticed that something is missing from this story. Something that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with God. What’s missing is the part where I scream at the kids, discipline in anger, or just break down crying. It isn’t there because it didn’t happen. I know that’s a miracle because I know what kind of mother my flesh is, and it sure isn’t the kind who finds a three-room toilet leak remotely tolerable. But God met me that day and answered a very simple prayer offered up somewhat desperately from the panicked trenches, Help me glorify You.

Sometimes we have to be brought to the end of our emotional strength in order to reach out for the Lord’s grace and find that miraculous ability just to smile and stay calm. And there are many, many, many ways God brings us to the end of ourselves, but here’s the message for me and other moms out there: Having a new baby is certainly one of them. Crazy hard. But a chance to see glory.

20 comments to Having a New Baby Is Hard: the Overflowing Toilet Version

  • Bethany N.

    Well said, Sister.

  • Lauren

    Wonderful article. I have felt your pain (though divided by 3 since I only have two children so far). Great application. Praise the Lord for His work in you that day! Just heard a teaching from Hebrews on Sunday about endurance. The definition the teacher gave was striking…bearing up under trial–and not running from the battle–staying the course. I so need endurance in mothering. Because like you said, it is hard.

  • Nora

    Oh Andrea, I can so relate. I appreciated reading this! Just today my husband said “Maybe we should put the new kitchen flooring in the bathroom as well. That would look really nice to have it all match.” Then we remembered how often the bathroom have overflowed! maybe not. :)

  • Sarah

    Dear Andrea,

    I’m pleased you survived to tell the story! :-) And that you see God working in the middle of it. I think I would have probably broken down and cried. I hope you have an insurance to pay for all this and that you don’t get any mildew in the ceiling boards or elsewhere.

    I just wish you had someone to help you for a few hours every week, either playing with the children or doing some housework. I really admire you coping so well with the Homeschooling. I could not have done this some of my children(although very gifted) had real learning problems. That is where I thank God for his mercy and grace, that he helped us all through this.

    I can understand you making the Belgium waffles as it is nice to be creative and make nice things for your kids to eat.

    It is good that you have the blog: in a few years you will be asking yourself how on earth you ever managed with all those small children. But God gives you the strengh when you need it.

    May He continue to bless you and your family.

  • Semone

    Thank you so much for this post…..I really needed to read this. God is so good and always faithful :)

  • Amanda

    I usually just lurk because my only blog-reading time is when I’m nursing a baby in the wee hours and I’m just not hip or patient enough to thumb type while my eyes roll back in my head. But. You and I seem to be on the same having-kids schedule, my three (so far! hope the Lord sends us more!) within a week or two I think of yours so I too have a nine-weekish-old. All boys. All fun! And I love this story, and the message in it! I feel the same way, just….amazed. Amazed at so many things, good and bad, about how my children are, about how I am, about the LORD and His work in my hour by hour! When people ask “how I’m doing”, I tell them we’re surviving, but that we’re not surviving the way people think of it–ie., barely keeping from starving or living in our own filth! We’re learning to survive, I think, the way the Lord intends us to: moment by moment some times, but I’m learning to find beauty and wonder and blessings and so much God-provided wonder in what could be considered a heinous disaster. So (if I can be so bold as to say it, to consider us kindred spirits!), we do things like dare to make homemade waffles and cut up strawberries while nursing the baby AND cuddling the toddler and then have the audacity to homeschool and help with piano lessons and study German! I love it. I do all of those things, too. I also now have a stack of Greek and Hebrew study books stacked on my kitchen counter, a gift from my Grandmother this week. Because it keeps me on my toes…and the Lord Himself keeps me off of everyone else’s! God bless you!!

  • Kim from Canada

    You really need to put disclaimers at the beginning of posts like this…I almost lost my mouthfull of water out my nose holding back a laugh!

  • Amanda,

    Thank you so much for de-lurking to share those sweet words! It’s great to meet another kindred spirit!

  • Susan

    Andrea,

    As you know from some of my prayer requests, I am at a very different place in my life from you. However, you always encourage me with your honesty and humility.
    Yesterday morning I was thanking God for helping us find a good home for a very difficult puppy. Then our “new to us” car broke down and we learned it will have to have a new engine to ever run again.
    And suddenly I was crying, asking my dear husband why God kept allowing such bad things happen to us. I soon calmed down but remained kind of grumpy.
    Then, in church this morning, it hit. God keeps letting these things happen to me because I need them. He is so kind to keep after me, to make me all that he wants me to be. How miserable I would be if everything went well and I never had a chance to grow in grace.

  • Dorothy

    Uhhhh God doesn’t bring us to the end of ourself. We got there by ourself. God is waiting for us all along the journey. You could have reached out for his grace at any time. Just saying.

  • Oh wow. 5-year-old doing piano lessons?!.. I think now *I’m* beginning to feel the onset of a panic attack (my 4.5-year-old isn’t reading yet) :o)

    What a crazy day. Thank G-d a Crazy Day doesn’t go on for… well, more than a day!

  • Mrs. Anna,

    Don’t worry! My husband’s mother teaches the children piano, and it is VERY laid back. And the five-year-old is DEFINITELY still working on reading!

  • Rachel

    Thanks for sharing! It helps to not only know that other moms are working right along side me in the craziness, but also how it glorifies The Lord! A real blessing!

  • Every one of your posts is precious. I love the way you write, your insights, and your heart to glorify God! I also REMEMBER the terrible days when I read your posts…still with some terror, but mostly with just small shakes of the head and a half-smile that reminds me, as Grandpa used to always say, “This too shall pass.” Love and prayers to you from me!

  • Ashley

    As I bawled this morning over how hard it is with my 4 kids, I prayed for help… I just randomly found your blog, and I have to tell you, your blog made me laugh, renewed and reminded me of why I am here. Thank you and God Bless you!

  • LOL soooo… is it mean that me, Trevvor, and his mom laughed hysterically starting with the pencil shavings and paper ream? Isn’t real life astoundingly hilarious (at least in hind-sight)? Praise God for the peace He gave you during this day, that you were able to “handle it” through the messes. It’s funny to read about it since it was your day, but had I been living it myself, I can only hope and pray I would have relied on God’s grace through it as well!

  • Christy

    Soren threw up all over minutes into a 4 hour flight this past week, and in the midst of thinking how desperately I wanted to escape the awfulness, this post came to mind. Thank you for the encouragement!

  • Christy,

    Aww, thanks for taking the time to tell me. I hope you got everything cleaned up and survived the rest of the flight OK.

  • AndreaM

    Dear Mrs P
    Several of the posts on your blog have been attitude- (and consequently life-) changing for me. That’s why I still check this blog from time to time. I imagine that you are incredibly busy with your very lovely growing family and hence we don’t hear from you much in this season. I pray that all is well and know that your writing continues to bless so many.I hope that you will be able to return to writing in some capacity when the time is right for you and your family as you are such a superb writer and have much spiritual and life wisdom and encouragement to share.

  • AndreaM,

    Thank you so much for your sweet, encouraging words! My blog is on my mind a lot, and I’m praying about what the Lord would have me do about writing again.

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