Moms Make it Work: Jenny | SAHM to Three, One with Special Needs

Today on the Moms Make it Work series we have Jenny, who was nominated to post by one of my readers/internet friends named Lisa. Lisa emailed me asking if I'd contact Jenny to post, and she said, 'I thought the perspective of a young stay at home mom, now also learning to balance being an advocate for her special needs child, would be a great addition to your series.' And I said, 'HECK YES,' because this is not the first time someone has mentioned moms with kids who have special needs as a 'must find' for our series. Little did I know that Jenny would agree to post her story and that her outlook on parenting and life in general would touch me so much. I first read her post on my phone, after she emailed it to me, and immediately felt inspired. I know you will, too, and I'm so glad Jenny shared this post with us!


Our story:

Chris and I got married on June 18, 2005.  Can't believe how fast 9 years can fly by!  We started "trying" to have a baby after about 1 year of marriage, however we weren't making it our life's work at that point.  Then because of some issues, my doctor suggested using Clomid to help us along.  We still were not in a die hard mode, but doctor at the time was a little pushy and this is the start of why I left that doctor.  Bottom line was I was on Clomid for about 9 months, with no doctor that I later switched to, and am still with, told me he would never have a patient use that for more than 3 months!  Anyway, after we had been trying for a while, we did find a fertility doctor and started IUI's, we did two of those horrible things and I was a rabid monster!  Both were unsuccessful, but I was insane from the hormones and we needed to take a month off.  So we did, and then tried one more time knowing if it didn't work we were going to have to decide if we wanted to do In Vitro.  Well, after the 3rd, when I went to have the US to see if we were ready for insemination, the doctor said the hormones weren't doing their job and the only way I would get pregnant was by In Vitro.  Overwhelming information!  This was right before Christmas.  So we decided to wait, we had a couple trips coming up (one to Disney World:)  and we would decide after that.  So we went on with our lives, smiling to everyone, but crying at home every time I heard of someone else becoming pregnant.  Then I went for my annual on March 5, 2009 and they asked the same question they always ask, "when was your last period?"  I stopped for a minute and said, "I think it was the end of January."  They looked at me like I was crazy, but I was so irregular that I didn't think anything of it.  My doc wanted me to take a test just to check, and so I did and after the exam I was in his office discussing other possibilities that we could check (there wasn't much we hadn't checked at that point) when his nurse walked in with this grin I will never forget and told me I was pregnant!  I could not believe it!!!!! We were pregnant and all on our own.  I cried so hard, I must have looked mad, it was uncontrollable elation, but it was an absolute ugly cry:)  I rushed home to tell my husband, who just happened to stay late at work planning our next trip to DC (which we never went on:), but when he finally got home it was the best moment ever!  He was confused, as he always is when I tell him I'm pregnant:), but we were just so happy!  It was also my dad's birthday, so it was great surprising my dad and my mom that same day:)  We then told the rest of our immediate family, and after the 12 week mark shared it with the world!  We had Ava on October 27, 2009.  She was perfect!

After Ava turned 1, we decided to try for baby #2, but figured it would probably take a long time...wrong!  We got pregnant immediately with our Jovi!  She is our firecracker!  And since she has been in the womb she has had attitude:)  At 20 weeks we were told she may have Trisomy 18 or Trisomy 21, because they thought they saw a choroid plexus cyst on her brain, they thought her kidney's weren't functioning right, and maybe some thickness to her neck.  So after a week of being terrified and crying a lot we went to the Perinatologist and had a 2 hour US where they told us our baby was perfect, and nothing was wrong...thanks a lot original US and Nurse Practitioner who will remain nameless, but I will NEVER see again!  Then at about week 28 they thought I was going into pre-term labor.  I had to stay overnight in the hospital and be monitored.  Guess what...nothing!  She had to be induced on July 27, 2011.  She came into this world screaming and they said "wow! she is loud!"  She still is:)  And we love everything about our sassy Jo-Jo! 

Chris and I learned pretty quickly in our marriage not to plan for things, we use the old saying "if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans."  But we were sure we wanted another baby.  We were just positive we would have 3 girls, and even though most people thought we were just trying for that boy, we really just wanted our 3rd baby!  I hated puking for 17-20 weeks (and I did, with each one, not nausea, but straight puking multiple times a day for 17-20 weeks!!!) but I loved being pregnant and feeling the baby kicking, and all that stuff.  So we had a busy year coming up in 2013.  We had a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and were rounding out the year of 2012.  We had decided to build a new house out in O'Fallon, we had decided I was going to take some time off of work (I was a teacher), my husband ended up switching his job to a new company, and so we figured why not add to the crazy of 2013:)  So around December 2012 we started trying for baby #3.  We were unsuccessful for a month, and then month #2 bam!  pregnant again!  We were excited, but almost immediately we had an issue.  I started bleeding and it was a Sunday (of course), I called the exchange and the doc didn't seem to worried.  He said to come into the office in the morning, which I did and everything was fine.  Besides that, easy sailing through that pregnancy (besides the 17 weeks of puking, but by baby #3 I was used to it).  We found out at 20 weeks we were having a boy and that everything looked great.  At 30 weeks we had a 3D US and although he kept hiding we eventually got a good shot of his chubby cheeks and sweet face.  So when October 23, 2013 came and I just knew I was having our baby boy that day, we had no reason to believe anything was wrong, or that this delivery would be any different than our other 2 easy deliveries (I had Ava in a 4 hour delivery, and Jovi was induced but still only took 6 hours).  So I got to the hospital at 5pm and Pierce Wayne was born at 8:23pm.  He won!  Fastest and easiest delivery...and then our world was rocked!  During delivery they said the Umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck, but they weren't worried, got it unwound from him and he was pink...then he turned blue.  I didn't really see it, I think I was in la-la land.  But they took him to the table and were giving him Oxygen, he was breathing, but just needed some assistance with his O2 levels.  They got it under control and weighed him and then brought him to me.  Apparently at some point my doctor and one of the nurses left the room...again, I didn't notice it.  When they handed him to me, I said "he looks just like Jovi!"  Then I looked up...

My bed was surrounded by my delivery nurse (who I swear was sent to me from God!), my doctor, and my husband and a NICU nurse.  I really thought they were going to tell me he wouldn't make it.  Even though he was perfect and in my arms.  The NICU nurse said "we think he has Down syndrome."  My immediate reaction was "PUT HIM BACK!"  Isn't that crazy!?!  I really wanted to travel back in time, to when my son was in my tummy and I didn't have to deal with whatever the heck was going on in this moment.  It was so quiet.  I just remember it being so quiet!  Then they started talking about how adults with Down syndrome can lead independent lives, and blah blah blah.  I felt like I was just hit by a truck.  I still didn't see it!  Finally they left the room!  They had to take Pierce to the special care nursery to keep him on Oxygen, so Chris and I just had a moment.  Then they took me down to see him and I still couldn't see it! 

So he had to stay in the hospital for a week.  We were there with him for 3 nights...then leaving the hospital without your baby is the worst!  But I was back and forth between home and the hospital a lot since I was nursing.  Then on Sunday October 27 (Ava's 4th birthday) we got confirmation that he had Trisomy 21.  This form of Down syndrome is just is not genetic.  It is nothing we did, it is just how Pierce was made.  The hardest part was we had a NICU doctor tell us that she didn't think he had the markers.  Imagine hearing that and trying not to hang your hopes on it, and then getting the results that he indeed had Down syndrome.  At the time I was crying so hard that I looked like I had been punched in the face.  I loved him so much, but I was so scared as to what his life and our life would be like from that point on.  How did I tell everyone?  What did I need to do?  Luckily I had amazing support in our family and close friends and our Special Care Nursery nurses (and don't forget about my delivery nurse, who still keeps in contact with us and even came to Pierce's baptism!).  I learned a lot in a week.  And the most important thing I learned is that Pierce is not different than any other baby.  He needed love, to be nursed, and to sleep:)  And he was a pro at all of those:)  When we brought him home he was already sleeping 4 hour stretches through the night and eating every 3 hours during the day!!!!!  That only got better, and now as a 7 month old he sleeps 10 hours at night, a 45 min morning nap, and a 2 1/2 hour afternoon nap!  Eat your hearts out:)  In Pierce's short 7 months here he has touched more lives than I can count.  He is such a blessing and his smile is infectious.  My daughters are in love with him and Ava already says "I will always protect you, Pierce!"  Which melts my heart:)  We have a neighborhood full of kids who love him, and hug him and every milestone that Pierce hits, which so far have all been in the typical range (PS it is "typical" not "normal" I found that out in the first week too:).  My children mean the world to me and I would do anything for them.  I feel like I have learned some "secrets of life" from having Pierce that some people won't learn in their whole life.  I also am learning that being connected to someone who has Down syndrome puts you in this "club" of people that cannot stop telling me about the joys that I will have in my life because of Pierce, and how I can't even imagine that joy right now!  People stop me at grocery stores, church, playgrounds, everywhere!  I really feel like I am being approached about a secret club and although I still have days that I get scared, I know now that I cannot predict the future for any of my children.  There is no need to worry about it, just focus on this moment and what we have to accomplish today:) 

Also, Pierce is 7 months old and sitting unassisted, eating anything we give him (except raspberries, "too tart mom!!!"), babbling, and smiling like crazy!!

Before I was a mom I was a teacher.  I taught for 9 years.  I taught 2nd and 3rd grade as a classroom teacher, and then I became a reading specialist.  I was at the elementary level for 2 years and then middle school reading for 1.  Now I stay home with my 3 children, and have days where I miss work, but would never want to miss the moments I get at home...even when my 4 year old and 2 year old are fighting like they are teenagers:)'s somewhat impressive, and somewhat scary as to what it may be like when they are teenagers:)  Best friends one minute, screaming the next:)  I hear this is how sisters that are really close in age deal with things:)

I love being home, and let me tell you.  I am so happy for my situations.  Now, because I have 3 children, can be thankful for the years that my husband and I dealt with infertility (which in our case was just impatience).  Even on a day where everything is going wrong and I feel like my head is going to fly off my head, I take a deep breath and remember that feeling of not having kids and wanting them so badly.  There are so many people out there dealing with true infertility and it is so insulting to them when mom's complain about anything that has to do with having kids.  I try to think of this even when it is just me at home.  I know I am beyond blessed, and even when times get tough I try and take a deep breath:)

In the next 5-10 years I "plan" (remember my thoughts on planning:), to stay home until all the kids are in school, as long as we can financially do that, and then I would like to return to teaching.  I have an ideal job for having children in school.  So I would like to take advantage of that (and maybe attempt to use my Bachelor or Master's degrees that I earned:).  However, I think my husband remembers the stress and exhaustion I felt as a teacher, even prior to having kids, and how I sometimes stretch myself too thin, and if it were up to him I think he would say he'd prefer for me to stay home or do something besides teaching:)

I think everyone has a unique situation, but for ours I think it helps me to somewhat have a schedule.  Not maybe as strict as I thought I would, but breakfast is never earlier than 8am (which helps with kids actually sleeping in:), lunch is at noon, nap at 1:30 (quiet time for my 4 year old), only watch TV for 20 min. in the morning, 20 min after nap and 30 min before bed.  Sometimes less, when they are sick more:).  We also have certain times for snacks, to avoid constant asking of snacks:) 

(Pierce visiting my Grandpa's grave, my mom's maiden name is Pierce)

As for "Mommy Guilt."  Our generation has this worst than any previous mommy's out there.  We have people constantly showing us what they did from Pinterest, or what all natural food they are eating, or how perfect their child is on Facebook.  But I try to always think of FB as a scrapbook for people, it's like someone showing you their child's baby book.  They aren't going to write a story about their child doing anything bad, they just want to remember the good!  Even knowing this, I still have moments where I wonder if I am doing enough for my kids.  Could I do more?  Are they doing everything they are supposed to at this age?  Will they love me:)?  Etc.  I think my favorite saying right now is "take a deep breath."  I say it to my kids a lot and I say it to myself daily:)  Bottom line is, we have to just do what is best for our family.  If that is a day of watching movies because you just can't bring yourself to do anything else, then do it.  If that means ordering out because you just don't feel like eating another crock-pot recipe, then do it!  We have to love ourselves and our children enough to know that we are doing what is right!  Easier said then done sometimes:)

(I also think it is important to carve out special time with individual kids, like a "mommy/ Ava date" or just taking the girls somewhere).

After I had Ava I stayed home from work for 4 1/2 months with her, and I felt terribly guilty leaving her to go back to work, even if it was only for 10 weeks until summer break!  I had a close friend tell me it is not about the quantity of time you spend with your children but the quality.  I lived by that the whole time I was a working mother.  Honestly sometimes I think I was a better mommy when I worked, because when I was home my focus was 100% on the kids.  They have a hard time understanding that mommy does need to do a load of laundry here and there, and sometimes I have to cook dinner:).  Then there is the guilt of staying home.  "Am I doing what is right for my kids?"  "Will they not know how to socialize with other children?"  I still question this a year later after making the decision to stay home.  We make every effort to play with our neighborhood kids, Ava goes to preschool and takes dance, Jovi will take dance in the Fall, and we go to parks, the library, Target:) etc.  all the time.  Where they are social with adults and other children.  Again, just make it work for you!  Just know that if you have to work, or you decide to stay home that your children will be okay either way.  They will benefit from different things in different situations. 

For meals in my family, these are difficult.  Right now my girls live off of carrots, cucumbers, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple (this is a new one).  Half the time they eat lunch meat turkey because they just don't like meat.  My oldest likes grilled chicken, and now my 2 year old is loving green beans from Bandanas, very specific I know.  I basically cook for my husband and me and they eat fruits and veggies and some type of "kid food."  I know many people are against how I do things, but I don't want food or meal time to be a negative time.  It still is sometimes, but I don't want to fight over food.  We told my oldest daughter when she turns 5 she will have to start trying whatever mommy and daddy make, and she is actually excited about it:)  Like that will make her a big girl.  Let's hope it happens!

I try to only grocery shop every 2 weeks, but because my girls like fruit so much we usually have to do a fruit and milk stop in between.  I used to like grocery shopping, but I don't know where they expect me to put my groceries with 3 kids, who are so awesome at the store!  Seriously, one place that I usually get through without any arguments:)  I know I got lucky there.  I wish they made a cart that, not only had the 2 bonus seats up front, like Target, but also had an extra place for the car seat, since now we aren't supposed to put the car seats on top of the cart, where they latch on.  Sometimes it is just easiest to grocery shop in the evening after my husband is home from work, and usually it is just Jovi and me, she loves to grocery shop:)

(PS I think it is super important to have quality time with your spouse...although my husband probably would read this and say "whaaaaa???" as the above pic was the first time I had been away from my kids for more than one night.  But it is good for your kids and for your marriage.  And we definitely are lucky to have my parents on call for date nights frequently:). 

Finally, keeping my house clean??  That is not happening for the next 18-22 years:)  We live in our home and that is quite apparent by the toys and sometimes even a little dust, yikes!  Bottom line is, our house is "clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy."  My mom reminds me of that all the time when I am freaking out about how dirty my house is.  I will be honest...when I worked we had a cleaning lady, and it was glorious, but I can keep my house clean enough by cleaning during naptime.  I obviously have to vacuum when they are awake, but they play while I do that, and then I do the bathrooms/ dusting/ etc. while they nap/ have quiet time.  I am a pack rat and wish I could get rid of things easier, but I can't, so we have a lot of toy storage throughout our house.  Cubicles in the toy room and our upstairs family room.  Baskets in our sun room and on the end tables and couch table in our family room.  Basically, lots of baskets:)  Disguise the toy boxes:)  It helps to keep the clutter away!

Overall, I am very happy with my life.  As for the curve ball thrown at us when Pierce was born, we will take it one day at a time.  I am truly blessed with an amazing support system and faith in God, and I just know we will be okay!  So far he is kicking butt and,  most importantly, healthy!  He is a typical baby who just happens to have Down syndrome, and we will deal with whatever we have to deal with as it comes...just as every parent does with every child. 

{Thank you, Jenny! Find the rest of the MMIW series here}


  1. What a wonderful post - it all brought tears to my eyes! I agree with so many of your philosophies: Try not to fight over dinner - though I'm usually trying to get my 4 yo to eat his fruits and veggies! - and forget about the dust bunnies. That quote: "clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy," is GREAT. I'm going to hang that up on my wall!

    What a great, full, happy life - thanks for sharing it!

  2. What a sweet, beautiful family. Enjoyed your post! How crazy that it took so long to get pregnant at first, but then once your body did it once - boom, boom, boom!

    Totally agree that you have to remind yourself that everyone else's life on FB, IG, etc. is just the highlights and that everyone is experiencing the same frustrations/annoying moments/messes just like you are - we all just choose not to share those things too often! And despite all that, life is still beautiful - messy house and all. ;)

  3. Loved this post so much, thank you for sharing how you make it work and some of the insights you've gained having a special needs child!

  4. Great post! Such an interesting perspective to go from having trouble getting pregnant, to having three beautiful kids! I think I could do a lot better remembering how lucky I am to have these little people in my life.

  5. Great insights. I'm on the clomid track for baby #2. I need to make a sign with the "clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy"

  6. One of my favorite posts! Thank you for your honesty!! Your children are just beautiful and I love (and will use) "our house is clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy."

  7. What a great post! Such a beautiful family and inspiring outlook on life and parenting :) Thank you so much for sharing, Jenny!

  8. One of the best from the series! Loved it! Thanks for sharing!


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