On having a third child

My mom once told me that after she had my brother — her third child — she started wearing sneakers every day. Her days started early and ended late, and she spent them gardening, hanging laundry on the clothesline, making pickles, sewing, leading Girl Scouts — oh, and taking care of three kids. To make it through the day she needed support. She needed a good shoe.

That’s the kind of anecdote I hear about having a third child. It’s not the sort of anecdote you hear when you’re having your first or second baby. People tell me it’s going to be crazy or hard or wild. Oh, and a lot of fun, too. Did I forget to mention fun? Also, we’ll pray for you.

A lot of people have told me that the hardest transition for their family was from two to three children. For us, one to two was a challenge, but zero to one was the hardest.

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David was a grumpy baby, and a headstrong toddler. And the other day we were playing at Tom’s parents house and he gathered up a bunch of toys, handed them to me and whispered, “Mommy. Go put these in your purse.” After that Tom added a new line item in our budget: Bail money.

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Even though David was a challenge, the transition from zero children to one was hard because of me. I wasn’t even a little bit prepared for the screeching halt and 180 my life would take. I wasn’t prepared for the physical drain of caring for a child, or how my love for that child would expose me to fear and anxiety. I wasn’t prepared for how I would change.

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I don’t think having my third child will be as hard as having my first child, but I do think it’ll be very, very hard.

Even though we both wanted this baby (And we don’t claim that the pregnancy was an “accident”. Ahem. Did you know I don’t believe in “oops” when it comes to pregnancy?) Tom and I are both a little bit petrified. Mary Virginia will be 23 months old with this baby arrives, David was about 21 months when Mary Virginia was born, so we don’t feel like we’ve been able to catch our breath.

This time, we know what’s coming. The discomfort of late pregnancy, childbirth, recovery, and caring for a newborn is no longer uncharted territory. Though each child is different, perhaps the one quality that links all newborns is that they’re very, very demanding.

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Tom and I sometimes joke that behind our backs people are wondering why we think we’re ready for a third child, “Obviously they have no idea what they’re doing, why are they having ANOTHER one?”

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Maybe no one’s saying that, but if they are, they’d be completely right; it’s exactly what I’m thinking. What are we going to do with three babies?

Nearly every day I wonder at my ability to care for three little ones. Like I said, as it is I don’t feel like I have a handle on my household. I often say I need someone to follow me around everywhere to pick up things I’ve dropped and forgotten. It’s a joke, but the true part is that I never feel completely together; I’m always late, forgetting or misplacing something. I’m always making concessions.

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I tell myself that if Mary Virginia would just sleep a bit better, or if David would just obey me one time, or if Tom would just stop making me cut his hair, then I could finally regain my feet. I know that isn’t true, but it’s tempting to blame the fact that at the end of each day I feel wrung out and drop-kicked.

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When I wrote the first draft of this post, it included these two paragraphs:

Paragraph 1 [originally at the top of the post]:

But, really, it’s not the baby I’m worried about. In the past few years I’ve discovered that I really enjoy caring for a newborn and having a sweet cloth-diapered bottomed baby in the house. Beyond caring for a newborn, it’s the daily grind — getting all three into the car, doctors appointments, grocery shopping, making dinner, sneaking away to brush my teeth, juggling the schedules of three different babies.  Those are the things that I actually can’t imagine doing. How will I ever have time to go running again? To tend a garden? To vacuum and do laundry? To make a cake that takes 12 hours? WHEN WILL I HAVE TIME TO BLOG!?

Paragraph 2 [originally at the bottom of the post]:

Here’s the truth about me: I’m ok with a messy house and skipping showers. I’m ok with eating the same boring simple meals for 12 months. I’m ok with vacuuming only occasionally and never getting to the bottom of the laundry pile. I’m ok with that. But I don’t like giving relationships fifty percent. I don’t like how chaos and exhaustion tempts me to impatience with my kids, selfishness with my husband, dismissiveness with my friends.

Those two paragraphs contradict each other. So maybe I’m just unsure about it all. There’s a gamut and it starts somewhere at laundry, spans to exhaustion and ends at being a good mom and wife.

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I suppose I’m asking a lot of questions. How will our family function with three kids? How will I fare as a mom? Can I trust that God will be faithful in the mundane, day-to-day grind?

I know we aren’t the first people to ever have three children, but it still feels like very, very uncharted territory. (Sidenote: my childhood best friend is pregnant with her seventh child and she isn’t whining.)

Parents of multiples, tell me your secrets. Besides supportive shoes, what else do I need to know? And don’t tell me to lower my standards because, believe me, we did that a long time ago.

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20 Comments

  1. Lynsie McD February 25, 2015

    Good post. Going from zero to 1 was super hard for me too! 1-2 wasn’t as bad, 3 became a challenge for me because of the things in your paragraph one. I found getting to the store very Very challenging, also cooking dinner. I also found it harder to get past some of my selfishness and my anxieties because I had less brain power. It just took us a little longer to find our “new normal” that comes with each kid. Way to go for your friend expecting 7! I whine with all my pregnancies and assume I likely will no matter how many The Lord gives us, I experience bad morning sickness with each one and boy is it hard not to whine about feeling like crud 24 hours a day.

    Reply
  2. Nina February 25, 2015

    I’m about to go from 1 to 2, and I’m scared, so I can only imagine how you’re feeling! Sorry, I don’t have any advice for you, and, like you, I already lowered my standards a LOT when it comes to chores/getting stuff done (and that’s just with 1 child). I think parenthood is one of those things you can never prepare ahead for, you just take everything as it comes, and hopefully keep a sense of humor and can laugh with your partner at the end of the day. If you come up with better advice about parenting 3 kids, please share! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Laura K February 25, 2015

    You are singing my song. Same genders, same ages, same trepidation going into mothering 3. I clearly have no advice, but I appreciate your honesty and will learn with you on the journey. Thank you for sharing. Truly.

    Reply
  4. JennyLynn February 25, 2015

    Amanda!! Everything you wrote, even the contradictory things, are so valid. You pretty much voiced everything I am thinking about having 4 so thank you!!

    I will say that going from 2 to 3 was harder for me than going from 0 to 2. Our twins were about the same age difference as Mary Virginia will be from Baby 3 (2 years).

    I think the hardest thing about three kids is being outnumbered on all sides. It’s harder to be okay with my husband leaving for things like going to the grocery store or going to church early to help with Sunday School because the logistics are harder. And when you go to Chick Fil A and one child won’t leave the play area – how do you get them out? You can’t leave them in there while you go buckle the other two in the car and come back for them to carry them kicking and screaming out. So maybe you just don’t go to CFA without extra help.

    I also felt like three came with more of a loss of “balance”. With two, I could kind of keep it together, I was able to train for a marathon, do laundry, and still get stuff done. With three, it’s just harder to find the energy to do all that, not to mention the time. Because, yes, I could workout at 5am or 9:30pm after their bedtime but…sleep is just so much more worth it. I also agree that you do lose the brain power to be concerned about lots of things. And so some things sort of fall off of your plate just by default and that is okay.

    I found myself thinking that the newborn was my favorite (of the three) at some points because her needs were so much more easily met. Feed. Change Diaper. Sleep. For the most part, one of those things would answer 90% of her needs. The other two needed…ATTENTION, FOOD THAT I HAD TO PREPARE, PLAYTIME, HELP REACHING STUFF, etc. They were just more demanding and hard to reason with b/c they didn’t understand that mommy was feeding the baby and couldn’t get up to get their toy or make their lunch right at that moment.

    I realize none of this is super encouraging. But there are lots of great things about having three kids. You do find a new normal. And praise God for the stores that have the shopping carts that accommodate three kids. (Target). And when the youngest gets older, it is fun to see them become a little “unit” – like you can’t imagine them without each other. I feel like the younger ones also grow up faster because they learn from the older ones which is kind of cool and kind of sad. Our third is by far, the sassiest, headstrong, feisty little thing just so she can hold her own with the others. And I like that.

    God will be faithful in the mundane and He will teach you lots of things. Take all the help that you can get and just take it day by day and it will be okay! I also like to remind myself that this is a season and there will be other seasons where I will have time to work out and keep a clean house, and have more quiet time, and I will miss these days and wish I hadn’t stressed out about them so much and just totally embraced the chaos that is life with 3 under 4. So I will just leave you with that 🙂

    Reply
    • Lynsie McD February 25, 2015

      I so agree that the newborn seemed easier with the third. Their needs were easier met and they didn’t sass me about how I met them. Doing those newborn things seemed much easier than dealing with and teaching the older two things like not talking back and being kind to one another and breaking up fights and potty training and cutting molars.

      Reply
  5. Jackie February 25, 2015

    I’m pregnant with my first and am having very similar thoughts. I’m kinda freakin’ out a bit about soooooooo many different things that I know in my heart of hearts won’t matter and it will all work out.
    Praying for you during your transition to you and Tom officially being outnumbered 😉 good luck!

    Reply
  6. vks February 25, 2015

    0 to 1 didn’t unnerve me too much because I knew we had ROOM and TIME to do everything PERFECTLY (or at least the room and time in our lives to work at it so hard it would be just like perfect…).

    I’m pregnant with number 2 now and my first is currently 21 months. We are not (shocker) perfect parents or doing it perfectly, but everyone is clean and fed and our little boy is loved and I think he knows it. 10 months ago even though he was more dependent on us , parenting was still mostly about keeping him alive. 🙂 Lately it’s about teaching him how to be a useful and contributing member of society…yikes. We certainly have not mastered this. And that’s what makes me nervous. Most other things in life require that you master level 1 before moving on to level 2. Not so with children. I’m trying to remind myself that I have permission to not get it right, every time. If I can get my mind to accept this idea, I think it’ll give me the room and time to be ready for #2. 🙂 Good to luck to all us!

    Reply
    • VKS May 19, 2017

      Found your blog again today searching for something about ThredUp and was like, huh, that lady looks familiar. Clicked on this post because I’m now expecting baby #3 and stumbled upon my own comment. Two kids has been a-ok, and I’m feeling much more zen about adding #3. I don’t know how we’ll do it all, but I know now from having two that it gets done, so I don’t need to worry, just let it go. Great post that is standing the test of time. 🙂

      Reply
      • amandakrieger May 20, 2017

        Wow! so cool that you found this again. My #3 is now 2 years old, and I tell people all the time that our transition to our third was the easiest. It’s a transition for sure, but it was the easiest. I was already used to having multiple kids and splitting my time, so I didn’t have to “learn” that the way I did after I had my second. You’re going to do great!

        I was thinking I should update that post 🙂 Here’s the closest thing to an update — http://thekriegers.org/2015/08/i-like-to-call-it-my-daily-grind-because-that-reminds-me-of-coffee/

        Reply
  7. candace February 25, 2015

    I don’t have any parenting advice, but I will tell you this:

    My thieving started when I was about David’s age – taking books from my cousin’s house. And continues to this day with glasses from bars and restaurants.

    Maybe I should make a contribution to David’s bail bond fund? Or just teach him the art of sneaking what you like out of a busy place in your purse?

    Reply
  8. Katherine A. February 25, 2015

    I’m pretty sure I said those exact words sort of in panic mode. “ANOTHER child, but Mary isn’t sleeping well yet … oh no, oh no.” But, I don’t believe in accidents either, so I’m very happy for you!!! Children are great!

    So, full disclosure, I’m dying here with three. It took about three months before the tired sunk in, but, welp, I’m exhausted most of the time. I’m super happy. Wouldn’t change it for the world. But I’m exhausted.

    My best advice so far … tell Tom to scratch the ball budget and add a WEEKLY baby-sitting budget. Seriously, even if you just go out together for an hour and come right back. We’ve never done ‘baby-sitting is essential” before, opting for the “Staying home is just as fun with you here” mentality. But, no. I have to get out of the house, sans car seats / bags / etc.

    I’ll leave the older two with Mark a fair amount and get out with just the baby.

    We say no a ton without any guilt. We skipped church a whole lot this winter (flu season, no thank you) and I’m married to a pastor ….

    Also, there is no talk about the extent of our ice cream / beer budget. I am allowed to eat as much ice cream as I want, at time of day, with no judgment from my husband. Obviously, there are slightly different limits with the beer, but again. The price is never discussed!

    The thing I heard before I had the 3rd is that 3rd is easiest baby, and it’s been 100% true for us. He is so easy, so sweet, so fun. Regardless, he needs help wtih everything and so do the other two, but there is hope there with the birth order thing.

    I love your family so much and am so excited for you, even though it’s super hard, y’all are great and will survive!!!

    (I want a fourth … don’t tell Mark. Hahahaha!!!)

    P.S. On my really bad days, I ALSO think of your friend Jenny with 7 to provide perspective. It helps … some.) 🙂

    Reply
  9. Courtney February 26, 2015

    i am a mom of an almost 3 year old and 6 month old twins. I can tell you this far the only secret is to ask for help. Ask your husband, ask a neighbor, ask a relative. I am terrible at this but people want to help. Both my husband and I teach and being a pumping working mom of twins is hard. We can’t afford the luxuries people have where we live. You have to learn to let certain things go, even things you may not want to. Just for a little while at least. You mentioned the messiness and not showering- these can still be done daily just at a different time like during everyone’s nap. Yes, that eventually happens that they are all down at the same time if you want it to happen. I try to put the babies down first so I get one on one time with my oldest. I would ask a friend to come hold the twins so I could just play with her and have our time. It is at the point now that she will ask “mama, who is coming over today?” Haha. It’s not everyday as my husband and I know we can do this on our own. It’s just nice to sometimes have a third set of hands during the dinner making hour.

    People always told us the first two months will be insane. Yes,they were. Then we were told that by four months things would be better. Better? I think we just adapted to what our kids needed. So things appeared better. Now at 6 months we have our struggles but I wouldn’t change a thing.

    You can do it (and sometimes I think I want a 4th too)

    Reply
  10. elissa February 26, 2015

    First off, oh my WORD, you are such a wonderful writer. I love your posts. You share your thoughts in such a way that is so fun to read. I relate to all you’re saying (and have no advice!). With each of our kids, the hardest was realizing my selfishness… and feeling so needed by everyone every single hour of the 24 hour day. Some days I feel like I can’t breathe. But the older they get, the more we get into a groove, and the happier we find ourselves as a whole. On my part, I also need to realize when I need help and ASK for it. I think having a baby and a toddler is difficult. BUT, every night as we lay in bed, we are thanking God again and again for being able to be their parents, we laugh telling stories about the kids recalling what happened that day, we talk about their personalities and quirks and cannot stop. It’s so fun. It’s so hard. It’s like this huge emotional roller coaster that is scary and stressful but way too fun and full of blessings to get off. We definitely want more…but I would love to see Maddie potty trained and Carter a little older.

    You two are such wonderful parents. Really, God will give you the strength to handle those hard days when you end with un-brushed teeth still in pjs covered with spit up and peanut butter.

    And all of us can’t wait to read all about your adventures (whenever you have time to blog…) even if it’s 5 years from now when you have a little more time on your hands! 🙂

    Reply
  11. Nancy Croker February 26, 2015

    Dear, dear Amanda! A few pieces of advice from someone who did this a long time ago. Mine were more spread out than yours, but my husband traveled and I was often, through the week, both mommy and daddy 24/7. Also, the SPORTS had started, and school. Don’t let anyone tell you those make your life easier.
    1. “Kids in the morning, kids at noon, kids kids kids by the light of the moon”. Repeat this mantra to yourself over and over. It helps manage your expectations.
    2. A third baby is a marvelous excuse to do absolutely nothing else. Nothing.
    3. You get about 5 minutes per day (maybe not all at the same time) to yourself. Use it for YOU.
    4. Learn to pray on the fly. God knows what you are feeling, and wants to commiserate. In fact, I believe He uses the gift of parenting in an outnumbered fashion to give us a small idea of how much He loves us, and how sweet a part of His love His discipline is. You are out of your ability to handle this on your own, and will need a prayer lifeline constantly.
    5. This baby, unlike the first two, will belong to your whole family. Everyone will experience your new little one together, and in some blessedly interesting way, become a team in the effort of care. This bond is what families of neat twosomes miss.
    l three WILL rise up and call you blessed one day. And so you will be 🙂 Promise.

    Reply
  12. Britton February 26, 2015

    I’m praying for a third arm. I will pray for you to have a third arm as well, when I pray for my own..if you wish?!!;). I think we should grow a new arm with each child, but Woh..that means your friend would have seven, and the Dugger mom would have say 20! Ok, so maybe the Lord is answering my prayer by not answering;)
    Onto a more useful thought – I believe with my third child, the Lord has helped me realize that His strength is made perfect in weakness. I can’t do it all. His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. He of course has to remind me of this daily, because with my “mommy brain” I forget.

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  13. Kathy March 2, 2015

    I have two children now 11 and 9 and they are 23 months apart. Going from a couple to baby #1 was a huge change but when baby #2 came along there were routines and family life in place. I had to end my marriage due to ex drinking and cheating constantly so ended up raising a 2 year old and a 4 year old on my own 24/7 by 365 days a year and that has been full on for the past 7 years. My only advice is to get up put some lipstick on, brush your hair (shower optional depending if you can grab 5 mins alone) and get through the day and go to bed. In order words just take one day at a time and you will get through it. Your kids are beautiful and as you say if your friend has 7 she must be able to give you some great tips. Perhaps in-line grocery shopping for the next six months so you don’t have to take them all shopping which is a big effort with 2 let alone 3 so maybe that could help even if you have to pay a delivery fee it will streamline your week and you know it’s not forever but for now. Good luck. Regards Kathy A, Brisbane, Australia

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  14. Sammi March 3, 2015

    I really appreciate your honesty! We have two and are thinking about a 3rd little one. Blessings to you and you family!

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  15. Oh, I think everyone who goes from the number they have to the next are frightened out of their wits. Going from 0-1 was like being hit by an emotional/hormonal wrecking ball and I fell into a pit of anxiety. Until about 6 months in I never wanted another baby because I felt like such a failure. But then, medication hit and I was like, “Yes! Let’s do this!” And now my second is 8 months and I thought it was supposed to get EASIER. Sigh. And we’re done now, biologically anyway.

    The only advice I can offer is take it one day at a time. The nine months of pregnancy are a time of GRACE to get your head around things, then there is manifold GRACE when babe is born. I am learning {so slowly} that God deals with us so gently, it is US that make things harder with all the extra.

    “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah40:11

    Reply
    • amandakrieger March 10, 2015

      thank you for the kind comment!
      i want to encourage YOU that it DOES get easier. my two are 3.5 and 21 months and even though they bicker nonstop, and are at very different places in terms of ability and interests (for example, we went to a playground yesterday that was PERFECT for my son but just too much for my daughter) i can already see how having two is twice the fun 😉
      so stay strong! i think an 8-month old has unique challenges that a newborn doesn’t, and that will continue to be true as your baby grows. but God is good through it all! you’re right…one day at a time 🙂

      Reply
      • Thank you Amanda!I definitely need the encouragement as it has been hard recently – I think my 8 month old has been going through one of those Wonder Week things because ever since yesterday she is HAPPY again – phew. Knowing the Wonder Weeks with my second helped me know why she was fussing at certain times.

        Reply

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