A growing family, ahh, what a fun topic we have today. If you’re new around here, welcome to the Real Talk Real Mom series where a group of mamas from around the country ALL write on the same topic each month. We took about a year off, but brought the series back last month. I LOVE being a part of the series; reading different perspectives and trials and joys and triumphs, all from fellow mamas, helps to make me feel less isolated, and helps to open my eyes. I’m not the only one, my struggles aren’t the only struggles. We’re all in this together, and to simply be reminded of that has been encouraging. Read on for my thoughts on going from one kid to two (and from two to three)! You can read ALL the mamas’ thoughts on growing their families at the bottom of this post, along with a list of the Real Talk Real Moms topics I’ve contributed to thus far.
Also, I want to preface all my thoughts with this one: I know that deciding to grow your family (or not to) is a deeply personal decision. And my heart is with the mamas who’ve lost babies, the mamas who haven’t been able to have babies, the mamas who’ve chosen not to have babies, and the mamas who haven’t been able to add more than one to their family. What you’ll read below is just my story, my struggles, my limited perspective. Please don’t take it as any more than that. Much love!!
The million dollar question. To be completely honest, the answer is “no!” We’ve never been very good at planning when or if to add to our family. All of our pregnancies were “unexpected” in the sense that we never had that “let’s try for a kid” or “let’s try for another kid” conversation. Yes, we know how babies are made. I could talk about different birth control methods, but that’s not the purpose of today’s post. For a variety of reasons, we’ve gone from zero to one, one to two (they’re 1 1/2 years apart), and then two to three (they’re almost 3 years apart). We’ve been surprised by the positive pregnancy test every. single. time. And to be very candid, I’ve struggled to accept it every time, because I wasn’t ready, it was too soon, because of the pregnancy discomfort and nausea, because “what will people say/think?”, because I just got used to having 1 (and then 2), because of tremendous guilt that I wasn’t more excited, etc. You name it, it was probably a reason I struggled to accept my pregnancies.
But eventually with lots of prayer and trudging on, I did accept them all (and lost one sweet little babe at 9 weeks a year before I conceived Jojo), and after the initial shock and sickness, eagerly anticipated the addition(s) to our family. Our children have been such an incredible blessing. We’ve grown so much, learned so much, and changed so much as parents. Every day we’re stretched and challenged and full of doubt and questions. But that just helps us to rely on Christ and acknowledge our shortcomings and ask for help. It was not in our plan (or lack of plan) to have 3 kids, but I’m so thankful for them all!
When adding to your family, flexibility is key. Things are going to change all the time; all sorts of life-shifts have been necessary with each addition to our family. With Zoe, our first, I’d never experienced pregnancy before, so everything surrounding pregnancy, labor, and delivery (including the emergency c-section) was a complete shock. Then, you have this helpless newborn baby you have to somehow keep alive. The responsibility was overwhelmingly paralyzing at times, and then you’d be reminded with a cry or a dirty diaper that you have to keep on keeping on.
Although our lives were forever changed with this little baby, I felt like I still had a degree of independence, only it was with a baby tagging along. We were pretty flexible – she could sleep anywhere (and sleep she did!) and she came with me anywhere I wanted until she was weaned at 12 months – and she was simply my constant companion. For any work projects, I’d bring along a sitter who’d watch Zoe unless I was nursing. It was awesome.
When Naomi (and then Jojo) were added to the family, some things were familiar (“oh, I know what this feeling is: I’M IN LABOR” or that’s a hungry baby cry), it added some complexity, obviously. Gone were the days of quickly scooping up baby Zoe and running out for a day of errands. Enter conflicting nap schedules, loss of ease when leaving the house (buckling 3 kids into carseats takes a good 5-10 minutes), never-ending diapers and hungry mouths to feed. And alone time virtually disappears (unless you wake up a few hours before they wake up or stay up a few hours after they’re in bed). With one, it’s relatively easy to catch a few ZZZs while they sleep or play quietly. But when you add more to the mix, it takes a few months (or more) with each new addition to find a new rhythm. And then someone gets off, and you have to find a new groove (just like the Emperor). With two, you still have two hands. With three, it’s much more difficult to walk through a parking lot with a newborn carseat and two little ones who still need their hands held. But it’s possible. You just have to learn a few tricks, like go through the drive through and bring a stroller along for the newborn. Then you train your older kids to hold onto the stroller, and you can push the stroller with one hand and hold your coffee in the other…see, normalcy will eventually return.
There are so many wonderful things that come with the blessing of more than one child. I think my favorite thing to do with each addition is watch how the older child(ren) learn to interact with a newborn. It’s precious. We’ve always had baby dolls on hand for the older ones to mimic whatever mommy and daddy are doing with the newborn: changing diapers, getting dressed, feeding, etc. They so carefully and lovingly take care of those baby dolls, it’s heartwarming to watch. And then when they actually get to hold and interact more closely with the newborn. WORTH IT.
When they’re a little older, they start to entertain each other and you start to get back a little freedom. And you learn tricks to earn back a little freedom, too. They learn how to play together and be more independent. Yes, Naomi and Zoe have their [many] moments of fighting and not getting along. But they are truly best friends and fiercely love each other. And now Jojo is finally old enough to play with them. We’re firmly (and sadly) out of the baby stage; he’s walking and talking (mostly) and playing outside with them. Again, WORTH IT.
Another super encouraging thought if you’re considering (or are doubting your ability to) adding to your family: you don’t have to relearn everything all over again. Yes, all kids are different. But you’ve done it once (or twice). You know what a hungry baby sounds like, you know how to get a baby to latch (or you know how to make a bottle in .5 seconds), you know what very little sleep feels like (and you survived); you’re basically a seasoned pro. I feel like with each addition, I’ve had less anxiety around all things BABY and have had more time and ability to enjoy the baby stage more and more, and actually be in the moment.
It’s all worth it! Currently, our kids are 5 1/2, 4, and 18 months. We’ve survived thus far, and are BOUND to enter many more highs and lows over the next 10 (20, 30, 40?) years. There have been and still will be struggles and times of very little sleep (like, ZERO SLEEP). So many tears, so many feelings of failure.
But the joys and the reminder that “this too shall pass” and finding a support system are all such beautiful encouragements.
My biggest tip is be willing to train your children. Train them to sleep. Train them to sit still on a blanket and read books in the bathroom while you take a shower. Train them to eat the food you put before them. No, my kids don’t eat all the food put before them, but we’re working on it. And pro tip: this tiny Cuisinar Stick Hand Blender will do WONDERS in getting your kids to eat food like soup and salad. Simply blend until smooth and they’ll eat what they formerly (like 5 seconds earlier) rejected.
Kids need to be guided, to be shown what they should do, how they ought to behave. So figuring out systems that will work for you and your children is KEY! Kids are capable of much more than we give them credit for. Realizing this and tapping into it early on is crucial if you’re going to survive (and thrive) with more than one child.
My last thought: hiring a babysitter (or swapping childcare with a friend or sending the kids to grandma’s) might be the best thing you can do. Even if it’s just to go grocery shopping for an hour, or to get your nails done, or to meet a friend for coffee. And, for those days you don’t have childcare and are going insane, make yourself GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH YOUR KIDS. Take them for a walk. Go to the library. Plan a play date. The more you do it, the easier it will become. I promise!
What’s your story? We’d love to hear it!
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