The Third Child Conundrum: Inviting More Mess, Chaos, and Love

by ParentCo. November 01, 2016

toddler holding new born baby

"I just realized­ this is the first summer I will not be either pregnant or breastfeeding since 2011!" I text my friends.
I don’t remember what made me think of it, but it's a groundbreaking revelation for me. Every one of the past four summers I've been growing a baby inside or outside my body, with my body. My daughter is now three-and-a-half, my son is eighteen months. It certainly doesn't feel like it's been four years of this, but it's been four years of this. An amazing four years, a beautiful four years, a privileged four years. But four freakin’ years. This is the first summer, in other words, where I will actually not be sharing my body with a tiny person for the purpose of nourishing their physical bodies. I tell my husband about this revelation as he eats breakfast. "Oh, we can fix that," he quips. I laugh and give him a "deer ­in­ the ­headlights" look. Not what I was getting at, but we've been in negotiations about this recently. Right now, our family looks quite a bit like his own family of origin: older girl and younger boy with about two years in between. My family had three children: myself, my younger sister, and my younger brother. My husband would be fine with stopping here –­ a position he reminds me of every time one of us has to go tend to a crying child in the middle of the night. "Two," he'll say as he crawls back into bed. But he is also so good with our children, especially once they are weaned and we're on equal ground in terms of what each of us can offer for comfort, entertainment, play, and love. I am less certain of where I stand. My mind has quickly forgotten the long nights with a newborn, the time it takes to develop a routine, to coordinate nap schedules, to get out of the house in the morning. I also hear constantly that the adjustment to two is more difficult than the adjustment to three, so perhaps we've already been through the hard part. My body has not forgotten it all. My stomach is a soft pile of doughy skin onto which my son has recently developed a habit of blowing raspberries and erupting into a fit of giggles. It's cute and a little undignified for me all at the same time. A recent severe bout of mastitis initiated the push to wean him. I am rounder, softer, less nimble on all sides. My body holds the scars and the leftovers of two pregnancies. My children have contracted hand, foot, and mouth disease, thankfully what appears to be a mild case of it, but it has kept us quarantined at home for several mornings in a row. Today things seem to be reaching a head as we struggle to find enough to keep them entertained so I can get on task cleaning up a house that is in a constant state of "a hurricane came through here" and has recently been hit with "indoor earthquake" status, too. Nap time cannot come soon enough. Except that it doesn't for my daughter. We read books, I rock her, we sing, I lay down with her, she whines, I threaten time out, I leave and come back when she yells from her bed. I'm so desperate for her to not wake her brother, the child who is currently cooperating with the day's plan for coordinated nap times. It goes on like this far past the point where I should have given up, and eventually my son does wake up and my daughter is tired but still stubborn and I am mad and he is in a cranky post-­nap fog. "Nope," I say to myself as I warm up some milk for my son to drink from a bottle. I can't imagine what this afternoon would look like with a third child. How did my parents do it? I head back to the bedroom where my children are sobbing, hand the milk to my son and tell my daughter to pick out a few books to read. We have to make it through the rest of the day until Daddy gets home, through dinner, and to what will hopefully be an earlier than normal bedtime. Please, dear God, let it be earlier than normal. We are halfway through my daughter's first book choice – appropriately titled "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" – when I glance over at my son on the other side of the room, sitting on the floor. I am tired, hanging on by a thread, but my mama heart still beats large when I see him gently holding his sister’s baby doll, sharing his bottle, drops of milk dribbling down the plastic baby doll chin. It’s making a bit of a mess, but the scene is all love as he gives himself to the tender care of the baby. Love is usually like that, though: messy. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a love story that didn’t involve a good bit of mess and chaos. A third child added into this mix right now sounds a lot like throwing open our arms to welcome in mess and chaos. It also sounds a lot like throwing open our arms to welcome in love. “He’d make a really good big brother,” I think to myself. Three minutes and I’ve gone from “nope” to, “I wonder what it would be like to have another baby” and back and forth once more. Good thing there’s still a lot of summer left.



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