Outnumbered & Loving It
First of all, let me just say that I can’t believe I’m writing this email. You would think this wouldn’t be so much of a THING that I actually have to reach out to one of the most brilliant bloggers and advice-smack-downers ever for advice… but here I am. And I hope you can help.
A bit of background for you- I’m 34, live in England (but I’m from the States) with my amazing husband who is an amazing father to our two amazing daughters: Anna – a 5 year old super laid-back sweetie, and Ingrid- a 1 year old little firecracker (literally, she ZINGs past your face and you can be pretty certain she is going to destroy something). Love them all like crazy. ALSO, there is a little one on the way. I’m just crawling out of the first trimester, this baby was a HUGE surprise, we never really envisaged three kids, but we are thrilled.
And then I googled. And spoke to a couple friends with three (or more) children. Now I am… still thrilled, but also very worried.
First, lets address The Google. Type ‘three kids’ in the search bar, and you are pretty much met with links to various horror stories about how horrible/hard/traumatic it is to have three children (One article actually said “DON’T DO IT”. Seriously). There is even a website dedicated to having three kids, and it ain’t that positive. Some of these articles make it sound like making it through the day with three kids is practically an impossibility (which, I get it. Even with only two, I do know the feeling that some days are BAD. Really, really, BAD). Reading all this negativity made me a little anxious. I mean, maybe they are just exaggerating for effect…. sure, that must be it, right? So then I asked a friend, a VERY close, personal, like-having-my-own-advice-smackdown-anytime-I-need-it kind of friend who has four children of her own, for the truth: Is three kids really that bad? Her answer included phrases like “That’s why my children are so loud. They know it’s the only way to get my attention”, and “Four is actually easier than three”, and my favorite: “I just remember crying at bedtimes, for so long”.
So… that went well.
I cried that night. My husband had gone out after putting the girls to bed (I was serious about him being amazing, he really is). I was alone with my fears…and *maybe* a few pregnancy hormones… and I cried. I cried because, oh my GOD, it really must be that bad. All these people can’t be lying! And I cried because I thought of our eldest, sweet, laid-back Anna who actually had said to me a week before that she would love to have another little sister (which actually did surprise me a bit, because do you not remember that little person who woke you up this morning by playing toddler godzilla to your barbie dreamhouse??)… and now I find out that I AM pregnant, and that apparently means that she will have to fight for our attention, and she just isn’t a fighter (unless it comes to meltdowns, then all bets are off). My heart broke thinking that she could be sidelined indefinitely because of a new sibling. And don’t even get me started about the MIDDLE child. Poor Ing. As of the moment baby 3 was conceived, I pretty much wrote off Ing’s chances of being a recognized individual, and my parenting will be deemed a success if she doesn’t end up a complete sociopath- best case scenario. Middle Child Syndrome. There is an actual SYNDROME. Wait. What?? Shit.
But then I remembered. And a flickeriest bit of hope flickered. YOU!! Amy has three boys! And they are also amazing, and she SEES them individually, they are a normal family (which as a wife and mom, I know doesn’t equal perfect, but means pretty fucking great)! I remembered your blog posts about individual achievements of Noah, Ezra and Ike. You celebrate (and also pull your hair out over) each of your boys, and no one seems to be completely glossed over or ignored, or left to compete like some sort of toddler version of Gladiator for your time and affection. Maybe there is a chance that three is GREAT? That three is… oh my god… EVEN BETTER THAN TWO??
So Amy, no pressure. But please, please tell me that it’s possible. I just want to know that everything is going to be better than okay. That having a family of five is going to rock, and that I am not somehow unintentionally throwing off the balance of our family by having this baby. Because I really think that he/she is going to be amazing too.
Much love and thanks for all your awesome smack-downs and blogs.
It’s going to be okay. It really, really is. It’s also totally okay that you don’t believe that right now, and can’t possibly visualize a world in which it’s going to be okay, because ANXIETYELEVENTY and GOOGLE and FRIENDS EITHER MAKING DUMB JOKES OR OVERLOADING THE SCARED PREGNANT LADY WITH BRUTAL REALITY INSTEAD OF JUST GIVING HER SOME DAMN REASSURANCE. IS THAT REALLY SO HARD, PEOPLE? DO YOU LIKE SCARING FIRST-TIMERS WITH YOUR EPISIOTOMY SCARS TOO? JESUS CHRIST.
Then again, on the other hand, if everybody you talked to went on and on about having three kids or more is completely awesome and every moment is full of life and magic and #soblessed, you’d probably assume they’re all just big liars blowing smoke up your ass.
I am not a big liar — though I am quite fond of the occasional hyperbole for dramatic effect — and I’ve been where you are. (Our third was planned-not-planned, in that we decided to go for number three, but assumed it would take us our usual year or longer to conceive so we’d have some extra time/space. But then I realized I was already pregnant. Oh. Okay then.) So I will do my best to convince you that it’s going to be okay and I want you to do your best to believe me.
Personally, I found the transition from one kid to two much, MUCH more difficult than going from two to three. My husband always gives me the side-eye when I tell people that, but it’s completely true. There were moments early on with two where I worried we’d fundamentally screwed something up, because it just felt HARD. It had nothing to do with Ezra and my love and bond with him, but more the realization that having one kid is just plain easier than having two kids. Duh, right? But true. And you’ve already done that part and made that transition. You’re never going to go back to just having one kid, so you might as well just forge ahead and roll with it.
Naturally, I worried about having three during my entire pregnancy. What had we done? What were we thinking? Having two was crazy and now I was going to look back on THAT as being “easier?” Oh my God.
The minute I met Ike, I was completely filled with a (probably painkillers-and-hormones induced) sense of zen, of mastery, of total “I GOT THIS.” This was very much balanced out with a sense of acceptance that things would be crazy and loud and occasionally chaotic and that I would make mistakes. I would not be perfect. My kids would not be perfect either, and there would be nights when, after bedtime, I would probably reflect back on the day and relive moments that could have been handled better.
And I was okay with that. I’m still okay with that. The idea of NOT having all three of my boys is…well, I mean. I don’t even contemplate that idea. The idea of not having any particular one of them is like thinking about whether or not I should have someone come and suck all the oxygen out of my house. Ridiculous.
I do my best to give everybody individual attention. I do my best to create fun times and memories of all of us together. I do my best to take care of myself, too, and recognize when I’m losing my temper or cool and need a break from their neediness. I try to cut myself some slack, to not put EVERYTHING about their development and personalities on MY SHOULDERS ALONE. I don’t helicopter or micromanage. They have my attention when they need it, they are also being raised to be independent, confident kids for whom constant motherly attention is not some be-all, end-all life force, where I am their only source of emotional support and guidance. They have their dad, their friends and teachers, each other.
There is a LOT of hugging and kissing and tickling and piling. Sometimes there is yelling and fighting and a very grumpy mom, but hopefully not as much as the hugging and kissing and tickling and piling. I do my best to keep that ratio in check every day.
Even if there wasn’t a “publish” button at the end of my blog posts, I think that I would still write about them. I would still work to come up with words to describe and celebrate their completely unique, separate personalities and selves. I would still want to remember their accomplishments — both big and small, monumental and subtle. It’s always a challenge to feel like I’ve gotten it right and truly captured who they are and what a particular moment felt like, but much like the day-to-day challenges of raising three children, it’s worth it. Other moms do this with scrapbooks, journals, baby books, photography.
I love having three. I really, really do. They are good kids and I think I am mostly doing a good job with them. I think your current feelings are very, very normal — your number three still feels like a stranger, a hypothetical, an incoming missile about to detonate. Stop Googling and quizzing people, I’d suggest. Your three will not be like anybody else’s three, anyway. Maybe try yoga or meditation, or write letters to your girls or try to photograph them every day, in whatever non-blurry-zinging moment you can get. Shop around for a really good hands-free baby carrier and promise yourself you won’t feel guilty about having a swing or a bouncy seat in every room for awhile and strapping older kids into strollers, because it’s all about containment at first, until you find your footing and/or the ability to grow extra arms.
This past weekend we went to a kiddie farm/petting zoo place with some friends of ours who just recently had their second baby, so they were in that now-enviable-to-me stage of having a baby in a carrier and only one actual mobile child to chase after. They watched us try to keep track of all three of ours (who of course are now long past any stroller/carrier business and prefer to ping-pong around on their own in three different directions) and were like, “Yep, we’re done. Two is enough.”
I totally understood. And yet you know? IT WAS FINE. IT WAS FUN. You get used to focusing on one kid while keeping another in your peripheral vision and sort of hoping/assuming that Dad has a visual with the third. Ike wanted to see the horses. Noah wanted to find the boats. Ike had to go potty. Noah wanted a juice box. Ezra took off for a maze in the woods that I mostly had to hope had some kind of…wall? Ending? That wasn’t out in the parking lot? (There was a fence. I caught up to him eventually.) And at the end of the day we had all three boys back in the minivan (with juice boxes and snacks — ALWAYS PACK SNACKS. THEY WILL STAY WITH YOU IF THEY SMELL SNACKS.) and we all took turns talking about our favorite thing we saw or did that day. It was great. Highly successful outing.
That story would have sounded like a ring of hell to me at some point pre-Ike, though that is not at all my intention in telling it to you. It’s how it will be someday for you — a little chaotic, a little sloppy, a little boring because yes Ike, horse horse horse horse HORSE — and you will hopefully, similarly come to love and appreciate it, because you just can’t imagine life any other way.