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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.