When my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our 3rd child, we were surprised. We had not been planning on having anymore kids after the birth of our son a few years prior. Once we got over the initial shock, we settled in for the inevitable difficult first year that comes with having a newborn.
Here’s what we didn’t realize:
When our son was born, his sister was almost 9 years old. Only one kid was in diapers, only one kid was shoving small objects into their mouth, nose or ears at any given time, and only one kid would be screaming their head off for longer than 2 minutes.
Oh, to go back to those easy days.
Don’t get me wrong - it was definitely a big adjustment to go from one child to two. We had to learn to juggle the needs of both children at the same time. Definitely more complicated than just having one child.
When I was pregnant with #3, we really thought we had this whole “parenting” thing down. It was only 3 years before that we had done the newborn stage with our son, and everything was still fresh in our minds. We weren’t as worried about her getting sick, or getting enough sleep, or as obsessive about writing her bottle times down. We trusted our instincts with the 3rd. We assumed that after 2 kids already, we were pretty much pros.
Dear lord, were we ever wrong.
Okay, so here’s my take: being the parents of 2 kids KIND OF sets up the framework to be able to handle adding more to your brood. HOWEVER, it’s not in the way you think. Or at least not in the way I was thinking…
Bear with me here as I try to pull a coherent thought out of my head with only one cup of coffee in me and 6,000 other thoughts floating around my overloaded brain. Maybe if I make a list that will simplify things?
2. Your kid has a crisis.
3. Throwing a birthday party.
There are SO MANY other things to add to that list, but the infant just started crying, the toddler is waking up for the day, and the older child is calling saying they need you to do something for them immediately. Your lucky partner is off at work, conversing with adults and driving around in their car with the radio on and no screaming in the background. They get a lunch break. You get the half of a granola bar that your child thankfully did not finish eating the day before and you didn’t have enough hands to bring it inside and throw it in the trash.
Don’t get me wrong - I LOVE my 3 kids. They are my world. Literally. My entire world. I wouldn’t change it for anything, but it seriously is crazy. Like bat-sh*t, I couldn’t even make this sh*t up, crazy.
Don’t forget to take your pill!
My husband went back to work this week, and on my first day alone with the 3 kids I totally rocked it. Seriously. By the time Earl came home that night, the house was clean, the kids were bathed, and dinner was in the oven. I was all, "LOOK AT ME! MOMMING ISN'T SO HARD! WOO HOO!!"
And then the next day happened.
Why I decided to try to start potty training my 3 year-old when I have a brand new infant in the house is beyond me. I knew that it was going to be hard, but I also thought that eventually it would get better.
IT DID NOT GET BETTER.
Not only was I cleaning up random puddles of urine all around our house (after stepping in them and soaking a sock each time, of course), I was also trying to calm a fussy baby AND monitor the toddler while he spent 90% of the morning in the bathroom.
I should have known this would all backfire.
After lunch, my son was sitting on his little throne for the millionth time and I thought it was safe for me to run downstairs and throw the laundry from the washer into the dryer so that his baby sister may have some clothes that were not covered in spit up. I was down there for less than 20 seconds when I heard the telltale sound of a toilet flushing.
No. Nonononononoooooooooooo WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?!!!
See, I had left him sitting on his tiny potty that does not involve him having any control over our septic system. But, he can walk, so of course he hopped right off of that mini seat and ran for the real deal when I left the room.
I high-tailed it back upstairs as fast as my neuropathy riddled legs would carry me and crossed my fingers as I entered the bathroom. There was my little cherub, standing next to the toilet with his hand poised over to the handle, ready to try to flush Buzz Lightyear "DOWN THE HOLE! THE HOLE MOWWWMMMM!!"
I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I realized Buzz was still sitting in the bottom of the bowl and I donned my gloves and scooped him out, vowing to never leave my son in the bathroom by himself ever ever EVER again. Crisis averted! I turned around to take "Mr. Buzz Lightyear" to the sink to get a proper wash-down when my son said, "MOW-OM! R-D-D-D-OH" went down the hollllle!!"
Stop. Slowly turn back around to look at child.
(Forced calm voice): "What did you say, Buddy?"
(Mournful toddler voice): "R-D-D-D-OH went down the hooooooole....get R-D-D-D-OH!"
Crisis NOT averted.
R-D-D-D-OH is our son's way of saying R2-D2. It is his favorite toy that he stole from his Auntie's house on Thanksgiving and he hasn't gone a day without playing with him since. Apparently R-D-D-D-OH had been specially chosen for the maiden voyage through our pipes.
I would like to give myself kudos here, as I did NOT scream. (Except for in my own head.) In the beginning of this ordeal, I remained perfectly calm, cool and collected. I did what any sane parent does these days. I Googled things like, "what to do when toddler flushes toy down toilet" and "will toilet be okay when kid flushes toy?" and "how to take apart toilet."
4 hours later....
I had most definitely LOST my cool at this point. The bathroom had tools and kitchen utensils (because I thought a butter knife might work when a flathead screwdriver did not???) and books strewn all about the floor. My 3 year-old was still perched on his little potty, only now he was decked out in my loafers and a plastic headband with a watermelon card stuck to it ("Headbands" for those of you who are not up on the most recent games for children.) His crazy mother was sprawled across the closed toilet lid, frantically trying to get behind it to unscrew the entire contraption from the floor because THIS IS WHAT ONE OF THE WEBSITES SAID I NEED TO DO AND IT TOTALLY SEEMS LIKE SOMETHING I CAN HANDLE TAKING APART AND THEN RE-INSTALLING, RIGHT?!!?!?!
When the toilet ultimately refused to budge from it's spot on the floor (I would be very thankful for this later), I loaded all 3 kids into the minivan for a last-minute trip to Lowe's to get a new toilet snake. Earl was due home from work in an hour and I could NOT tell him that our son had f*ed up our septic system.
Long story cut short, the snake did nothing to help us retrieve the toy.
R-D-D-D-OH was gone for good. (Unless my prayers are eventually answered and he will just show up back in the toilet bowl on his own one day.)
Earl came home to a very different house on day 2 of us being on our own. There was NO dinner cooking in the oven. The children were NOT bathed. The house was most decidely NOT CLEAN.
I am pretty sure when the toddler was the first and only one of us to go to the door to greet him, and he did this without pants on but with the headband and the boat shoes, my husband decided right then and there that he was the chosen parent not to lose their sh*t that night.
Good job, Earl.
Basically my expectations for my parenting dropped from "being Susie Homemaker" to "keeping all three children mostly alive until Dad gets home" over the course of 24 hours.
Self compassion, people. It is necessary for survival!
Keep hanging in there. Each day is a new day!
And then there were 3.
....And Mom and Dad were thrown into a new life where it became a challenge to:
I have no idea when the last time was that I got more than 2 hours of sleep at once. (Also, this has only been achieved because my husband is home on paternity leave for the moment and can juggle all of the children so that I can recharge just enough that I don't lose one of them or fall asleep in the preschool pick-up line.)
We are both exhausted. And happy.
I have spent months and months worrying about having another child. A second daughter. Someone else who will need so many things from me when I am already stretched so thin trying to provide for her siblings. How would it be possible to take care of 3 small people at once??
It is, and I am.
The moment she was born, and they were trying to get her to "pink up" at the little baby station in the c-section room, I realized that it was possible to love 3 human beings exactly the same. It wasn't a matter of slicing the pieces of myself even thinner so that everyone got an even bit of me - when she came into the world, she made everything bigger. There was suddenly more of me to go around. Go figure.
I was in a very, very bad mood up until I was laid out on the table being prepped for the surgery.
I kept thinking to myself, "if anyone else asks me if I am so excited to have another daughter, I am going to punch them in the face." Then I would instantly feel guilty for thinking it. What kind of a mother thinks that about their upcoming child? How could I not already feel completely bonded and attached to her when she was going to be here ANY MINUTE?? When I was pregnant with my first 2 kids, I was over-the-moon excited and was counting down the seconds to their birth. With Emmy, I felt like I would be happy to just keep her in there and cook her for an extra year. Or 10. I didn't feel any of that enthusiasm I had with my previous pregnancies.
I just felt weary.
....And then she was here. And I was in love all over again. I wanted to hold her immediately, but I couldn't. She was having some trouble coming around, so they were huddled around her in the little warmer, rubbing her like the tiny puppy in 101 Dalmations that almost didn't make it. I was terrified. I wanted to do whatever I could to protect her and make her okay. I was feeling all of those "mom feelings" and I had been feeling so bad about not having only 5 minutes earlier.
I had been trying so hard to love this baby, when suddenly it wasn't a challenge at all.
Now we are home, we are healthy, and we are adjusting as quickly as possible. I think of it a lot like juggling. Having one kid is like just tossing a single ball from hand to hand. Having two makes it harder, but still doable. Adding a third suddenly takes a technique and rhythm that has to be learned through practicing.
So, we are practicing. Only it's not practicing, because the 3 balls we are juggling are already depending on us to keep them alive, and fed, and not to forget them at the supermarket.
Still a good metaphor...
I just wanted to put this out there in case there is anybody else who isn't feeling that bond with the child currently growing in their belly.
Don't worry. Don't feel guilty. You are not a horrible mom.
It'll happen and your world will envelop this new human being and it will be like they have always been there.
Until then, rest up.
I have officially declared myself a "creature of the night."
I honestly believe my body was assembled to run on it's own clock. I am WIDE AWAKE at 4am, which is when even the most seasoned 3rd shift workers start to hit a wall. I try to keep to myself and chatter as little as possible so that I don't overload anyone's already sensitive senses at that time of the morning. I just can't sit still, though! I'm constantly pacing around the office looking for new things to do. During the day, it's a struggle to peel my self away from the couch - it literally feels like it's the middle of the night for me.
All of the doctor appointments I've had to schedule lately have been killing any type of schedule I'd managed to get myself on. I've had to try to shift back and forth between sleeping in the morning and the afternoon. Oh, and don't forget my nights off when I sleep at nighttime to try to make up for missing my husband all week! I literally don't have a specific time of day that I can absolutely say I can go to bed.
The good - I'm used to it.
The bad - it's probably wickedly unhealthy...
I always feel terrible when I have to orient someone new to the overnight shift. They're all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the first half of the shift! They have so much confidence about it being easy to make it through the night and blah, blah, blah....then at 3:30 on the nose, they start to look a little pale and sickly. By 4-4:30 they look like they want to abandon ship. I try to keep up with the words of encouragement - "Don't worry - it only took me 6 months to get used to this routine!" (Probably not helpful.) And, "At least now you can go to the liquor store at 9am and not look like a serious boozer - just tell them you worked all night!" (That one usually helps a tad.)
I also try to enforce the whole "we need to be veerrrryyyyy quiet on this shift. If you start a party at 3am by closing the doors too loudly, you'd better be prepared to host it!" I really, truly love my staff I work with. They put up with my shenanigans, and we all work together as a solid team. No matter how the night looks like it's going to turn out, I know we'll make it through it as long as we keep each other motivated.
OOH-RAH! GET SOME!
*Insert obligatory fist pump here*
I put this together for my parents' wedding anniversary last week...my favorite memory from the time they've been together!
I was upstairs studying for school when I heard my stepmother coughing uncontrollably in the bathroom below me. Being a student nurse, I figured I should go check to make sure everything was all right. When I got there, my dad was looking rather frantic, pacing around the kitchen searching for something. He told me that my stepmom was having trouble with her asthma and he needed to find her nebulizer (for those of you not in the medical field, it's a machine that delivers medication to someone having an asthma attack). He said he was going to go out to the garage to continue looking for it and asked if I would please keep an ear out for her to make sure she was okay. I went into their room to check on her while he went to search for the meds. After about 5 minutes, my stepmother's coughing had calmed down enough that I wasn't worried about having to call 911 for her anymore, so I went back to the kitchen to see what my father was up to. I had never seen him look so frazzled! He had the same look on his face that I often get when my kiddo is really sick or gets hurt. He wanted so badly to make her feel better and he was trying the best he could. When I found him, he was standing at the kitchen counter trying to assemble some machine he had gotten from an unlabeled black bag out in the garage. I told him that my stepmom was feeling better and that the attack was subsiding. His relief was evident and it seemed like he was finally able to take a real breath now that the emergency had passed. I finally took a look at what it was he was trying to assemble in front of him, and I'm pretty sure I looked at him with a VERY confused expression on my face. (Also, I was trying not to burst out laughing, as that would have been completely inappropriate given the severity of the situation just a few minutes prior...but it definitely makes me laugh now as I am writing this!) He huffed out a breath and set the plastic pieces he was holding in his hands down on the counter. "Good", he said, "because I can't figure out how to put this thing together!" I looked him straight in the face, eyes full of mirth, and responded, "That's okay, Dad...I don't think my old breast pump would've helped her much in this situation anyway..."
Congratulations to my parents on their 10th anniversary!!
Mother and wife by day, psych RN by night. So many different ways to view life. I try to take everything in and be very slow to judge.