What have I learned from three weeks of having a fourth child to juggle?
I’ve had a few people ask what’s different about bringing home our fourth baby. Is it easy or is it hard? What I wonder is how to properly answer such questions. It is what it is. It’s different for us than it would be for others and our story is our own, but, here are a few things…
1. You really can do nearly everything with one hand. No, really, washing bottles, disciplining toddlers, going pee, wiping a toddler, reading to little kids, cooking, scrubbing a toilet…pretty much anything.
2. All babies are different. I’ve had four babies. Each had a very different pregnancy, birth and newborn phase. Each one is so different than the last. I anticipate my fourth perfect sweet baby will be no different. At three weeks old, he’s already so much his own being.
3. You just do it. Everything. When people say they couldn’t do it, that’s ridiculous, yes, you can. Lack of sleep, figuring out food, keeping the family in clean clothing, bed time, breastfeeding while chasing other kids, life. You just do it.
4. The housework seems to be a priority in the little snippets of time when my hands aren’t full of baby or helping little people. The matchbox car I’d usually step over gets picked up. The dish on the counter gets loaded into the dishwasher. The laundry gets swapped from the washer to the dryer and then quickly folded. Why is it easier now? It’s not, but I realized, ain’t nobody got time for this. There will be no chunk of time for tidying. No laundry day. It just must be done whenever possible. It’s simply not going to get done if not for bit by bit.
5. I love my husband more. Maybe not more but for sure with more depth. Birthing another human with him by my side, coaching and breathing and encouraging me…watching him jump in and delivery our baby, yet again, there’s something so primally appealing about that. This man sees all of what my body goes through to grow, birth and feed these tiny people and he loves me. That there makes him a keeper.
6. Babies are addicting. I’m totally sure that we’re done having babies. Kinda. Seriously, I’m 100% positive that my egg makers can be disconnected and then I smell this perfect being. He’s downy hair tickles my nose. I count his itty bitty toes and I know that my uterus may mutiny if I deny it another occupant. Some people say men think with their genitals. I can say that I may be guilty of thinking with my ovaries. Four is really enough though, probably.
7. People think I’m awesome. I mean that in a totally humble way. Example: I keep being asked if I’m ok and told that I look way too relaxed. I think having a lot of kids, especially all young ones, kind of gives you a get out of anything card. People no longer expect me to be on time or to wear make up or even to wear real pants. No one at co-op preschool asks me to sign up for anything. And they practically high five me for showing up. Not that it’s not commendable to even leave the house after not sleeping and dealing with a circus of monkeys I birthed myself. It is but I’m not the only mom with more than three little ones.
8. Sleep deprivation is subjective. What is actual sleep deprivation. I have had fewer than ten full nights of sleep in the last five years. So, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal to wake up a few more times. Let me tell you, I was wrong. I’m running on a mere few hours of sleep for the last four weeks and I can tell my sanity is unraveling. I only thought I was sleep deprived before. Now, 5 hours of sleep would be a dream.
9. Pro status isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. When I was in the hospital and a partner of my OB rounded on me for discharge, he said, ‘Well, with 4 kids you’ve reached pro status so you know all this…’ I don’t remember what else he said because I was busy being proud of myself and then wondering what I already knew. Pro status may or may not be a thing but it doesn’t make it any less tiring or scary or unspecial to bring home a new baby. It doesn’t make the cramping and bleeding and nursing and sleepless nights and hormones any less real. It just makes it more familiar. And it reminds me that it’s not forever; it’s fleeting.
10. I am desperately aware of how short the newborn, infant and little stage is. I sit just a little longer. I smell him one more time before putting him down. I am patient when I used to be frantic. I see him changing and growing every day, and though my heart aches with the permanence of the forward momentum, I know that life just moves into another phase.