We recently added our 3rd boy in 4 1/2 years to the family. Nowadays, since having 3 children seems to be equivalent to having 100 to most people, the question I get the most is, "So...how is it having THREE?". The answer: a hell of a lot easier than having one or two.
Like most first-time parents, I was a nervous wreck when my first son was a baby. Lacking knowledge or confidence, I relied too heavily on the advice of grandparents (outdated at times), parenting books (too regimented) and the pediatrician (mine didn't even have kids!). As an extreme Type A personality in my pre-baby days, I fretted about developing/sticking to schedules and assimilating the new baby into "my" life - not realizing that my life would become him. Don't get me wrong - I loved him with all my heart, but I worried about things in the beginning like making sure he ate every 3 hours on the dot and not holding him too much so he wouldn't get spoiled. Everything took forever and it took me 2 hours to get out of the house to go anywhere. I followed manuals and advice like they were the law. On the advice of my pediatrician, I (stupidly) Ferberized him at 2 months old. I refused to put him in the Exersaucer a minute before 4 months, since that's what the manual suggested. I made all his baby food, and not a drop of sugar, juice, or anything artificial crossed his lips until the bite of his first birthday cake. When he was 4 months old I remember thinking I would never get my life back. Just around the time that I started to settle in and get comfortable as a parent when he was 7 months old, I found out I was pregnant again.
With baby number two, I was in a baby and toddler-induced fog. I was more confident, for sure, and I moved more quickly. With an energetic 17 month old to entertain, I was out the door and back at playgroups by the time #2 was a week old. But it took a minimum of 5 trips to the car to go anywhere - carrying baby, toddler, diaper bags, strollers, my purse, snacks/drinks, etc. So we we were pretty much limited to one outing a day. Breastfeeding was a miserable failure because I couldn't sit still long enough to feed or find time to pee if I drank the requisite amount of water needed to make it a success. The baby had tummy problems, so he cried for the first 6 months of his life and refused to be consoled by anyone except me. My single biggest concern was getting everyone on a sleep schedule that overlapped enough to allow me a 1 hour break in the afternoon and at least 6 uninterrupted hours at night. This time around, I enjoyed the baby furtively during middle of the night feedings - during the only quiet time we had together. And yet, I was relieved when those middle of the night feedings went away so I could get the sleep I needed to function during our very hectic days. As much as I loved the baby, I celebrated when he turned 18 months old and things started to get easier.
The third time around, I opted for a longer spacing of 3 years between #2 and #3. And I am in heaven. I have never been so glad to be a Baby Buncher, a term my best friend and I coined for having our children less than two years apart. My two oldest function as a unit and keep each other entertained so I can spend endless hours holding, loving, and drinking in the baby. This time around, I hold him around the clock without fear of spoiling him because I know that eventually he will push me away so he can catch up with his brothers. Instead of rushing nursing sessions, I let them drag on for an hour while I smell him, rub his head, and kiss every part of his body. When he has an issue of some sort, instead of rushing to call the doctor or the pediatrician, I trust my own instincts on what worked or didn't work the other two times. Instead of rushing back to playgroups, I've holed up in my house for the past two weeks (and may take another week or two) to just enjoy getting to know the newest member of our family. I let friends bring us dinner. I let my husband play with the big boys. I let laundry and housework pile up guilt-free - I've realized that it will always be there, but these baby moments are so fleeting.
My husband and I have pretty much decided that this will be our last child, so maybe that's why I'm so sentimental this time around. Or who knows - maybe I'm in a honeymoon fantasy land and my bubble will be burst when my newborn "wakes up" (seems like it happened around week 3 with my other boys). Either way, I'll treasure these moments with my third baby forever. It seems I've finally realized what a true blessing and gift it is to be able to bring new life into the world.
Cross posted from Atlanta Parent, where Cara also writes.