Growing up I wanted to have 4 kids. I'm pretty sure my sister also wanted 4 kids. As well as we got along and as close as we were, we always thought it would be “fun” to have more siblings and at least one brother. My mother always said two kids was enough, but we didn't believe her.
Then I got married and had my own kids. After having two I finally understood why my parents always said two was enough. For me and my husband it would have made sense to stop at two. We had one child of each sex, both were happy and healthy, they got along well and were close enough in age to be best friends. While out, I could handle both kids with no problem, and when out as a family each adult was responsible for one child. To borrow a sports term we had “man to man” coverage. (More than 2 and you need a “zone” defense.) As my kids got older I was finally able to count on 4-5 nights of uninterrupted sleep. Potty training was complete and my kids could mostly help themselves. Throw in a few hours each day of preschool and I had my life back! It was different from life before kids, but my days were mostly mine again. I did errands by myself. I had breakfast with friends. I could go shopping without deflecting 20 requests for toys.
Then I saw all these pregnant women. Mothers with kids the same ages as mine carrying little babies around with them. They were happy, looked great and embraced having a third. Some even talked about having a fourth. At first it didn't affect me. As time went on though I had more and more thoughts of having another baby. I had my doubts too. What about all my free time? What about all that lost sleep? With every challenge came a convincer. I'd get my free time back-eventually. Lost sleep is really only for a few weeks and any parent will tell you that you never really sleep like you did before having kids again. I survived potty training twice-I could do it again. Even the baby weight comes off. People have “third” children for many reasons. For some it's to balance the first two kids of the same sex. For others, it's always been part of the plan. For probably more than we know it happens by accident. For my friend Erika, it was a third child or a dog. She went for the baby.
For me and my husband, it was a little of everything that led to our third baby. Early on I saw the differences this new baby made in my life. As a woman of “advanced maternal age” I was subjected to tests I hadn't taken with my first two children. The downside: I had to give up hours of what precious “alone” time I had left to myself. The upside: I had a very cool level II 3-D ultrasound that I had only heard about. I could see at only 15 weeks pregnant this little baby looked just like my two older children. Interestingly enough, having been through most of this twice before and with the advancement of technology, this time I sent my husband a text message telling him everything looked great and by the way, we were having a boy. This never would have happened with our first two children. With our third, it was all part of a much more relaxed pregnancy. I was beginning to see the benefits of experience. We were going to be fine- we had done this all before. And truth be told, all I really wanted was a healthy baby. I had heard enough stories over the years from friends (and friends of friends) who had not been as fortunate as I to have smooth and easy deliveries and healthy babies.
For the first time in 3 pregnancies I wasn't rushing delivery and baby arrival. I savored every moment I had to spend time with my two older children and to focus on them without worrying about an infant. We took day trips to the beach and to the Crayola factory. We took family trips to
Summer turned to fall and school started. I again was able to appreciate aspects of my day and more importantly our community and circle of friends in a way I hadn't before. The result- if a doctor's appointment ran late, I could have a friend pick up a child from school. Someone who we knew and trusted and more importantly, someone with whom my children would be comfortable. While some friends were enamored with my pregnancy, some were also intimidated or even scared- especially the husbands. Regardless, all were willing to help.
Finally, as my pregnancy was giving way to the arrival of a baby, I realized one of the biggest advantages to having baby #3. Having had two very different labor and delivery experiences previously, I was prepared for anything and either scenario to take place. I was so tuned in to my body that I knew the early contractions for what they were and was prepared for arrival, as well as making sure my house, kids, and food supply were ready for me to not be around for two days. On the day of our 3rd child's arrival, my husband was at a birthday party with our two older children. I noticed that the baby wasn't moving. Different from the first time this happened, I did not panic. I sent a text message to my husband with the news and said I'd call the doctor when he got home from the party. He suggested calling then and told me it was almost time for cake and he'd be home in 45 minutes. So I called the doctor and packed my bag for the hospital. Thankfully, my mom was here and prepared to stay with our 2 older children. My husband got home from the party (after cake) and I made him a sandwich and told him to take his time getting ready to go to the hospital. We kissed the kids good bye, grabbed the camera and my bag. There was only excitement in the air. No fear or nervous anxiety. We were ready to have a baby and all the joy and happiness that come with a new infant in the house. What we didn't anticipate was how the absence of the anxiety would make such a positive impact on our growing family. We were already used to having more than one child so that adjustment was not an issue, instead there was a calmness that came with welcoming a baby.
The beauty of having a third child is that you don't experience the panic, loneliness, and cluelessness that you do with a first or the overwhelming mayhem that you do with the second. The result is that I have been telling all my friends that I think everyone should have a third child. While I haven't convinced anyone yet, I can see some people's wheels spinning while in others I see sheer panic. With my friends who already have three, we talk about the possibility of a fourth.
The most significant difference between the first two children and the third is experience and that is really only part of it. There is also comfort in expectations and the reality of having an infant around. As a result one is able to truly appreciate a baby for what it is. You find happiness in a cute sneeze rather than panic over a cold or potential allergy. There is comfort knowing that for the first 6 months your baby is immobile rather than rushing the crawling and walking stage. We have the pleasure of experiencing the joy of all those “firsts” without the concern of whether or not a friend's child is either “ahead of” or “behind” ours in development.
The thing I appreciate the most about having a baby with two slightly older children is that I am not isolated the way I was with my first and to some extent my second. I love the fact that I have to leave the house every day. I find pleasure in talking with other moms at school as well as the peace of nap time. Don't get me wrong, I love pajama days too, but I don't feel housebound the way I did with our first. At the same time if there is a sick child, I just know that I am home for the day and that's all there is to it. I also know that tomorrow will be “back to normal.” For the most part, even with a baby in tow I feel like I still have a life it just involves having company. The baby loves it too. He gets all the attention at school during pick up. All of this results in the true joy of having a baby without the overshadowing loneliness of a major life change.
So when considering whether or not to have a third child one needs to think past the lack of sleep, extra weight, loss of free time and changing of diapers. There's so much more, and once you see the child who was your first baby go off to first grade, you really are able to slow sown and appreciate the new baby. Yes, it's more work. Yes, there's more laundry. In my opinion it's all worth it to see that first smile, watch those first steps, and hear that first word- even if it's not “mama.”