Growing Pains – By Cassie Vanderwall

Note: this blog is part 3 in a series. Read the previous posts: The Pregnancy and From Zero to Quints.

Your life changes when you become a parent. There’s no doubt about it.

Those changes don’t stop at childbirth; at each stage, the child grows and the parent adapts.

At conception, I grew in my passion, responsibility, and intent to protect my unborn children. I saw a new side of myself – the Mama Bear.

I was keenly aware of the needs of the “fruit of my womb.”

Nothing was going to stop me from fighting for their lives.

The Love of a Parent

At birth, I grew in love, and all that encompasses this word: sacrifice, friendship, and intimacy. I never knew this type of love; the love of a parent for their children. It is this love that grounds all future growth and is the “why” for each and every day.

In infancy, my managerial capabilities were tested; could I pump, feed, bathe, cuddle, console, play, and nurture five infants every day? We did, but not alone, and thus I grew in humility.

I had to fight my pride to welcome and rely on the help of others. To this day, our family is living proof that it takes a village.

In toddlerhood, the challenges shifted to be more mental and psychological than physical. Yes, it can be tiresome to chase around five 2-year-olds, but it is more challenging to teach and coach them through their new emotions, experiences, and misunderstandings.

It is in this stage that I took Daniel Tiger’s advice: “when you feel like you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” Between this mantra and my many parenting mishaps, I believe I have learned the value of remaining calm during chaos and calamity.

Unfortunately, knowledge does not always easily translate into skill.

A True Joy

Today, we are in the preschool era. Age 3 is so very different than age 2.

At 3, children move with ease, can articulate what they are thinking, and have a basic understanding of the world they witness day in and day out. They are still naive to everything outside of their four walls, but that presents caregivers with a priceless opportunity.

Preschoolers are hungry to devour the knowledge of this world – the what, when, where, why, and how. It is a true joy to help a youngster navigate a new experience that you know they will remember with smiles in their heart.

I won’t deny there are the threenager-moments and mood swings; the “holes” in their oatmeal, the zipper that won’t budge, when they wanted triangles instead of rectangles, or even when all of the bubbles in the bathtub have come and gone. These little things make the littles steam.

It is in these moments that I pray I can remain calm and that my peace will transcend their anguish. These times are preparing me for their true teenage years.


At the end of every day, I lie in bed reviewing the day – as I’m sure they do – recalling my good choices and my bad choices.

I try to remind myself of the elementary lesson that bad choices don’t make you a bad person, or a bad parent for that matter.

We are all under construction, works in progress. We build, refine, and polish each other every moment of every day, and in each stage of life.

About the Author

Cassie is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and certified personal trainer. She works as a clinical dietitian at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, and is also the program manager for the dietetic internship. She received her bachelor’s degree from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her master’s degree from Rush University Medical Center, and is pursuing her doctorate at Rush University. She has also received certificates in weight management, motivational interviewing, and bio-informatics. Cassie loves to equip and empower people to achieve their nutrition and wellness goals.

At home, she is mom to quintuplets. Her five miracles were born at 29 weeks and 1 day at Banner Desert Medical Center in 2013. Since she and her husband, Frank, learned of their pregnancy, each day has been an adventure. Follow their adventures, milestones, and life lessons at Bump 2 Bab[y]ies.