‘Do my friends even love me anymore?’ She misses her old teachers, the blue door she once entered, and me as just her mommy.’: Mom details candid reality of homeschooling while raising newborn

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“Growing up, all I wanted to become was a mother. But the journey for me to get there was different than most.

I had fallen in love with a girl named Keri, she happened to be my neighbor and friend, but later would become so much more. We were married in September 2015, just three months after the US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states.

We were so excited to start our family, so to the fertility doctor we went. I was so ready; my dreams of becoming a mother were about to come true. Or so I thought. It was a long road – three IUI’s, a round of IVF with two failed implantations, then another round of IVF with one implantation and SUCCESS. We were blessed with our firstborn, a daughter named Chloe. I quit my advertising job the day before I was supposed to return to work and became a stay-at-home mother. I just could not bear the thought of leaving her. In fact, I was the one having separation anxiety, not Chloe. Chloe became our world, and we wanted to give her the world in return.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille
Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

A sibling was next, and that road was a much harder one. We had three frozen embryos leftover from our last round of IVF, giving us three chances to get pregnant with our second child. My first two implantations both resulted in miscarriages, leaving us with just one more embryo. One last chance of Chloe having a direct sibling, same male sperm donor with my egg. Unfortunately, the doctor called me with the bad news – it was a complete fail, I failed. I failed as a wife and a mother. I fell to the ground in hysterics; I could not control my emotions, I was a mess. Chloe ran over to me, not understanding why I was so sad, but knew something was not right, so she gave me a hug and a kiss. I had to be strong for her, she could not see me like that. So, I collected my feelings and thoughts, storing them away for later.

Keri and I thought our journey was over, but we were soon mistaken. The sperm bank had two vials left of the same donor we used for our daughter – Cha-ching! They were purchased on the spot. As mine and Keri’s only stipulation for having a second was, Chloe and the baby would share the exact same genes. And so, it began again, two failed IUI’s that resulted in a sit-down meeting with our fertility doctor. We were told the only way we would be able to get pregnant was to do IVF again. I had already put my body and mind through so much over the past two years, the news to have to do IVF again seemed so unfair.  The drugs, the shots, the emotions while taking care of Chloe was going to be a challenge – but all worth it, right?

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

The outcome of the IVF was not what we had expected: three embryos, which is not ideal. The doctor had implanted the ‘best looking’ of the embryos inside me, while we waited on the results of the genetic testing of the other two. About a week or so later, we got a call saying the two embryos came back defected. My heart shattered. How was this possible? How was this happening to me? Then I fell into a spiral…people all around me seemed to be pregnant or getting pregnant. To everyone else, it seemed to come to easily, whereas I felt like I sold my soul to the devil just to be disappointed. I was a complete mess. Keri had taken me into her arms and reminded me we have a perfect girl and perfect family already. She reminded me to be grateful for what we do have. That was just what I needed. In my heart, I felt the journey was over. A few days later the fertility doctor called. I heard the doctor and nurses shouting, ‘CONGRATS!’ Waittttttt, whatttttt?! Keri and I had ourselves a miracle. The embryo they had implanted without genetic testing actually worked! It was all worth it! Chloe was officially going to become a big sister! Our baby boy was due in March 2020.

Keri, Chloe, and I announced the addition to our growing family in September of 2019. My pregnancy was considered high risk due to IVF, so to me that just meant extra doctors appointments at the OBGYN and baby growth scans at our delivery hospital. At this point in time, Chloe was in preschool, two’s program part time, and taking dance class at the same studio I danced at when I was a little girl. She also had weekly playdates with her friends and was my greatest little helper. We would do everything together; go to the grocery store, coffee dates, shop at the mall, and she would come to all my doctor’s appointments. She loved seeing the pictures of her baby brother in my belly, but she also loved the lollipops the nurses always gave her. We had a great routine going, we always kept busy. As her whole world was about to change.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

It was March 6th. I was 37 weeks pregnant, and Keri and I went to the hospital for our routine bi-weekly growth scan. We had dropped Chloe off at my parent’s house to make things easier, kissed her as we always do, and told her we would be back in a little bit. The ultrasound technician began scanning my belly, taking way more pictures than normal. I saw Keri give me a look, and I tried not to panic. The doctor came into the room, and said, ‘Check in upstairs, you are having this baby today.’ Commence the flood gates. I was not crying because I was upset, I was super excited for our baby to arrive. I just was not expecting the baby so soon. I was not ready, I thought I had some more time. Nothing was packed for the hospital, our car seat was not installed, and I thought I would have a few more precious moments for just Chloe and me.

It turns out the fluid in my amniotic sac was running on empty, and the baby needed to get out as soon as possible. The time was now. We checked in upstairs to the labor and delivery unit. The hospital was eerie with the start of Covid-19 spreading across the US. There was more security and checkpoints than normal, but no rules had really changed except one. No visitors under the age of 18 were allowed in the hospital. Unfortunately, this meant Chloe could not visit us and her new baby brother once he was born. I was being induced, and the pain of that is no joke. It was not happening fast enough, so besides the balloon in my cervix and the IV of Pitocin, I had to lay with a giant physio roll exercise ball between my legs. Comfort was out the window, and the pain began to get too intense. The epidural was now in, but did not seem to be working the way I remembered with my first. The anesthesiologist had to come back and adjust, then I just felt a deep sigh of relief, as the pain had become manageable. It was time to push. Ten minutes later, the last piece to our family’s puzzle was here, our handsome boy Dylan. It was now time to go home, back to our normal everyday life.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille
Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

Then about two weeks after Dylan was born, Covid-19 quarantine started…

This is an extraordinary time in this nation’s history. It will go down in the history books as one of those moments of true crisis and confusion and chaos. – Governor Cuomo, March 17th

We were officially on lockdown and confined to our house. Family and friends did not get to meet our newest addition and adjusting to this new way of life was a real struggle, especially postpartum. Normal was just not a thing anymore. Social distancing and masks were now a thing. As parents, we made the decision to pull Chloe from all her activities; school, dance, basically everything. With Dylan being a newborn and not having an established immune system, and all the unknowns of the rapid spreading virus, we did not want to take any chances. A close friend of mine, whose daughter is Chloe’s best friend, told me about a Mommy and Me Preschool program she was doing. You buy the program online and can teach your child in the comfort of your own home. I was sold, especially knowing we would have each other to lean on if and when needed. It felt like the right and the safest choice for our family during these times.

I had to make the best of this new situation for our daughter, so I transformed our dining room into a preschool classroom. I wanted Chloe to get excited about her new learning space, which includes a kid’s table/desk, an easel, wall-to-wall educational posters, a craft/supply cart, yoga mat, and wall space to hang all her school projects.  She felt so special, another room in the house just for her. I felt her having this separate learning space would help her focus as well.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille
Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

School was now in session, and it was way more work than I ever imagined. The homeschooling program has weekly themes (i.e.: fall, pumpkins, shapes, community helpers) and the program is 40 weeks long. Each day of the week has a different syllabus. Math, literacy, and art are included every day, as well as a song and book of the day. Throughout the week there are other lessons like dramatic play, cooking, sensory, science experiments, and gross motor skills. Supplies are not included in the program, but they give you a list of weekly supplies to buy. I tried to save time and purchased everything for the whole year in advance.

Saving time? Time? What is that? That was the issue, finding the time during the day to teach my daughter while juggling the baby. Dylan was a baby who hated sleep, always needed to be held, and refused the bottle and pacifier. So, I was constantly holding and nursing him. There were days I was trying to teach Chloe while rocking Dylan in my arms as he was screaming, or days I would nurse him in one arm while teaching Chloe with the other. Some days I would lay him down for a nap, grab Chloe, just to get 15 minutes of teaching done before the crying began again. It was a struggle. I was exhausted, mentally and physically. Days were long, but so were the nights as Dylan was still waking up four times a night. I wanted to give up, it was too much, but I knew I couldn’t. My daughter was giving her best, so I had to also.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

I adjusted my routine. Instead of nightly prepping, every Sunday after the kids go to bed, I spend 2-3 hours prepping the upcoming week. Monthly, I also decorate the classroom accordingly, just like in a real school, based on holidays or seasons. Dylan started napping better once food was added into his diet at six months. The plan moving forward was every Monday-Friday during his morning nap, Chloe and I would do our homeschooling. If the nap does not happen, Dylan joins us in homeschool – he might be a bit calmer, but he certainly is not quieter. Those days we just make the best of it.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille
Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

Some days are still rougher than others. Chloe will ask about her old school, she vividly remembers the blue door in which she entered. She asks of her old teachers and the playground. Mostly she asks where her friends are and will mention their names. She has even asked if her friends love her anymore because she does not see them. There are times in which Chloe wants nothing to do with me being her teacher, she will keep hugging me saying mommy, and just wants to play with me or cuddle with me. Chloe will also run out of the classroom into another room in the house to get away if she gets frustrated, gets an answer wrong, or is having a bad day. Sometimes I can’t even handle the situation. Sometimes I get frustrated. Sometimes I want to cry from feeling overwhelmed. And sometimes I wonder if we made the right decision as parents to keep her home.

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

I do not think I will ever be able to answer that question. Some nights it haunts me, but what I do know is Chloe is extremely bright, and her knowledge is exceeding a typical three-year old’s. Also, when Chloe uses her knowledge taught in homeschool, she makes me super proud because I know I am the one who taught it to her. Most importantly, when I tuck Chloe in bed at night and she says she never wants me to leave and she loves me so much, I know I have done something right. I will never get these days back, and as crazy, exhausting, challenging, and emotional as they might be, they are all worth it.”

Courtesy of Jenna Robitaille

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jenna Robitaille of NY. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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