Friday, April 29, 2016

Life With Three Kids

Well this week you could rename my mind “anxiety land” -- I’ve got way too much going on inside, outside, and all around for my sad, weary, and bedraggled heart to take on.
I’m feeling pretty sensitive about it all, so I’m not wanting to blog that stuff. So instead of just disappearing, I’m gonna blog some stuff that I was thinking I’d do (say if life didn’t fall apart.)

I’ve been meaning to do a post for a while now about my take on life with three kids.



 I did two of those posts after I added a second child to my family. (First one here. The update here.)  I thought I’d do that again.

This post (per my norm) is probably too long…yet I’m sure there are lots of things I forgot to say. It may not be written the best -- once again, my mind is a mess this week, so forgive any nonsense --spelling, grammar or logic wise. Here goes nothing ---

So far, every time I’ve had a baby I get somewhat fixated on the wondering over what it might feel like adding yet another. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I pop a baby out after these way-too-long and stressful pregnancies, only to wonder if I could/should do it again -- on instant. Why? Why Lydia? -- take a chill pill. Worry about it later, like when it’s even a possibility or something. Anyway….because I do that…. after I had my second, I asked EVERYONE who had more than two kids “What was the hardest transition in terms of adding kids? (Going from zero to one, one to two, two to three….and so on)”

As I did this I found that the answer was rather spilt -- no real consensus. But basically everyone I asked agreed on those two points:
  • Adding one feels super hard because you’ve never done it before. 
  • Adding two is incredibly hard -- and it might not feel this way all the time, or right away -- but at some point you feel totally out of your league - in a very deep end of a pool where you are treading water with your legs, but not your arms, because each arm is holding a kid. But at the same time -- at least this time you know what you’re doing, so maybe it’s not a big deal, you’ve been this tired and overwhelmed before. And if you find yourself with just one of your kids, while the other one is being taken care of by someone else for a chunk of time, you can’t fathom how you ever were so overwhelmed the first time around.
(I should note: most everyone I asked had their kids close-ish together -- no more than maybe 4 years apart at the most, but usually closer to 2 years apart.)

After that far though, the answers varied. 

Some people would tell me that adding three was the hardest transition of all. While others stuck to the idea that two was the hardest. Some friends told us adding their third was a breeze, nothing like adding two.

People with four kids seemed like, by then it was no biggie at all. And I was even pointed to articles about the concept that parents of four have the least amount of stress. 

Whenever I asked anyone who had 4+ they always said once you add the fourth, adding anymore is like nothing. The stress level does not compound any more at that point no matter how many you add. 

I cannot attest to these answers at all -- I don’t know -- just sharing what I found as I asked.

I found this all very interesting. And I held my breath to see if I would be in the “Two is the hardest transition" or "Three is the hardest” group.


Well here’s what I have found personally.
(And this is just me -- milage will vary.)

Adding the third = piece of cake.

Obviously there are hard things, but generally speaking, I’m already in the trenches of this motherhood thing, so the hard stuff about a baby isn’t changing the hardness level I’m at pre-third kid.

This once again can vary depending on….everything. Who you are, who your first kids are, who your baby is, who you have to help you in your life, what’s going on beside baby world….

I’m lucky in that Baby Bronson is pretty much a dream baby. I mean, I’m sure there are other babies out there that sleep better than him, but he’s by far my best sleeper of my crew. He still wakes up at least two or three times a night, but he goes right back down no problem at all. He’s down without complaint for the night at 6:00 or 7:00pm and doesn’t wake up for the day until about 6:30am. (It used to be 7:00 and I got spoiled and am not so thrilled with the 6:30 business.) He’s always been so easy to get to sleep. Just nurse him and done. When he was younger he’d nurse to sleep, or swing to sleep. For the last maybe 3 months he’s nursed and then just let me lay him down with his blankets in his special way and he will just relax into sleep. 
*Before you hate me -- be aware that my first child never relaxed herself to sleep (still doesn’t actually), she HATED being alone (still does actually) and therefore woke up often to nurse and see me.
And my second child started out a fantastic sleeper and then at about 5 months changed her mind and literally didn’t give me any sleep for about a year out, and then didn’t sleep through the night till she was about two. Those were HARD days.
So the fact that this guy lets me sleep the way he does, and gives me a chance for down time at night since he’s so easy to put down, is a wonderful amazing gift I am super grateful for -- and am very aware of how much that plays into our easy three kid transition.

During the day he’s been a peaceful, yet happy guy, who’s generally content. He makes our transition pretty easy.

Some people argue that younger children are more relaxed because the parent relaxes as they add kids. I can’t disprove that theory in my own life. I know my third is easy and content, and I know I’m way less nervous as a mom. But I also can’t say that’s the main reason he is who he is. Life’s multi-layered like that.

But in that regard here are some things I do differently this time around than I had before:

Inside my head:
--------With baby #1 I googled anything and everything trying to make sure it was ok. Her nose ran today, should I take her to the doctor? Google. Her poop looked different, should I take her to the doctor? Google. She’s just not sleeping the way I thought she would. Google. Is she teething? Google. When should she be doing such and such (crawling and the milestones)? Google. I would read pages and pages and pages, and forums for hours.
If I wasn’t googling, I was taking temperature reads on motherhood via Facebook and blogs. I was so unsure of myself.
With Baby #2 I’m sure I googled a some things, but I was likely googling other stuff like food allergies, as well as stuff with my oldest - still unsure what I was doing with her and her two year old ways. I was still on google a lot.
Baby #3 -- I have googled twice. Once to check what’s the proper protocol for fevers and doctors. In this case I did not look at a single forum -- I just googled “When to take a child to the doctor for a fever” and I read the webMD and Mayo clinic pages and breathed a sigh of relief and went on with my day. The other time was I googled what yeast infection diaper rash looked like. I was unsure about a recent rash, and I just quickly checked for about 3 mins and then calmly decided to add diaper rash cream and corn starch and see what happened in one day, when it turned out to be all better.


Everything else I have done with mothering him has been pure unadulterated instinct. I have not looked at (or pulled any previous mental knowledge from) a single sleep book. I have not wondered how anyone else would do such and such. I just purely feel the need he has, and the need I have,  and make it work between us. And I LOVE it. I wish a million times over I could impart this to my first time mothering self. Back then I did use my instincts for good -- but I didn’t rest in them, I fretted in them. The peace I have this time around is fantastic.

Inside the house:
--------With baby #1 I tried to get everything in the house right for baby. I worked really hard on her nursery. I tried to get baby supplies I would enjoy looking at (all along wishing either I had more money for cuter baby things, or that standard companies would stop making ugly baby things and make lovely stuff accessible for all.)
With baby #2 our house was so small I didn’t have the option to do that. I just set her crib in the room with all our “other” stuff anything that couldn’t fit elsewhere was in the third bedroom. And our baby stuff rotated from the garage to the living room one piece at a time per the stage she was in.
With baby #3 I walked into this situation planning on totally skipping the “nursey” decor and set up and moving straight into what people usually call the “big boy/girl” room makeover that has to happen at some point. Why? Because I knew he (or she, I didn’t know ahead of time) would be sleeping in my room for a long time. The girls each slept in my room for about 5 months when they stopped sleeping well in there. So I was ready for that. Bronson’s actually slept great in our room even still at 9 months. He’s currently sleeping in a pack and play at the foot of our bed and we are all loving it. (I think if I had tried that with the girls it would have been a good fit for them as well -- I just had been too stuck in “how other people do it” mentality to think of it.) So “Bronson’s room” really doesn’t get called “Bronson’s room” much at all and it’s still a pile of mismatched furniture I need to get rid of and clutter.

Clothes:
---- With the girls I had SO MUCH clothing. We were given tons and tons and tons. New and used came to us with great fever. 
Having the general idea that moms love dressing up their babies, I tried to care about using all her outfits and getting her dressed each day. But we honestly never left the house, so it was all kind of silly. Especially since baby clothes just isn’t my shtick.
With #2 I got more realistic about how many clothes to have in our drawers, but I still wasn’t really being me about it -- I was meeting myself halfway and there and still trying to do “normal” as well. 
But with #3 I’ve hit my stride. This isn’t what everyone wants to do. But it works perfect for me. And Bronson is a baby he doesn’t care at all what he wears as long as he’s not too hot. (And FYI this isn’t because he’s a boy -- if ever another baby -- girl or boy I would totally do this again) What I’ve done (after the initial baby stage where we still had lots of baby clothes gifts) is buy one large pack of white onsies in a size he could grow into. When he was probably 5 months old I bought a pack of 9 month sized ones (long sleeve for winter.) And a couple pants (we also had a few given) so we have something like 5 pants in his size. And that’s what he wears. It’s so easy. No thinking, everything matches. I personally think babys are just cute because they are cute -- I don’t need fancy clothes. (Truth be told he has a couple extras outside of that, that we were given, but I use them rarely.) We also have footsie PJs. I’m not picky about if he stays in PJs or sleeps in clothes. I’ve never cared, with the other kids, but I tried to care because I thought I should. I no longer think I should. I just do what works, no guilt.

Baby gear: 
--I’ve significantly toned down the amount of baby things we use. Some of this is only possible because having older kids around actually keeps Bronson happy and occupied. When it’s just mom and baby the extras are helpful.  But here’s a list of the only things I’ve used this time around.
  • (Borrowed) Rock and Play. That was awesome for about 2.5 months -- life changing for being able to set down sleeping baby for once -- and somewhat helpful for about 4 months -- once he didn’t sleep in there, we used it at dinner time so he could hangout while we ate. We gave it back to our friends then.
  • Baby Swing -- full sized. All my kids have been swing-sleep-lovers. The girls liked the swing to rock side to side. Bronson liked front to back. He used his swing when his sleep was a bit ify for about 7 or 8 months.
  • Pack and Play -- that’s basically our crib. (When I was pregnant the first time, I read that some people skip the crib in favor of just a pack and play -- I thought that was a hideous terrible idea. What did I know!?) 
  • We put our crib next to our bed as a “side car” for a bit more room co-sleeping. Essentially that turned into a place for me to put my head, and feel like there was more room. Bronson didn’t often sleep in there, but sometimes. Either way it was nice having it there.
  • Gauzey swaddle blankets. For swaddling, for nursing covers, and tucking into carseat (in the winter I’d put a fleece hoodie on him, then tuck light swaddles around his legs, then drape a heavy baby blanket over his body.) 
  • Excersaucer -- mainly used to corral him when I need to leave the room.
  • High chair -- this time around I was in favor of a actual high chair (the girls used a booster high chair at the table) because I wanted to leave more chairs accessible to guests. (Two of our chairs still have boosters on them.)
  • Baby bathtub. At first I would get in the bathtub with him because I find that easier with small babies. But eventually it was easier to let him sit in his little tub.
  • We have strollers from before, we use those sometimes. Mine single stroller already looks shockingly dated compared to what is now in stores (why did they take so long to make low end ones sleek and nice looking -- borrowing from the high priced designs?) Sigh, oh well. I’ll use my green pokadot one next to the classy black ones. I don’t care. At least I had found a black double stroller off craigslist before.
But that’s pretty much it. I didn’t use any “play mats.”
I didn’t use our bumbo seat. (I got it out, but never used it.) We didn’t get out many baby toys. We just let him play with safe (non-choking-hazard)big kid toys.
 I didn’t use my baby carriers more than a couple times. (He’s not into them much. I’ve found it varies what my kids like. My oldest who hates being alone, even now, was thrilled to live in her carrier. My middle child never ever wanted to be in a carrier, and I now see she’s very independent and a true introvert. This makes me wonder if Bronson is more introverted.) 

I’ve really toned down the whole entire baby-dom aspect of things. Baby’s really don’t need much at all. I think about all the things I registered for the first time around! Phew!





Anyway -- back to life with three being easy:


When I asked my Iowa midwife something about adding kids once (she had 8 kids over a longer span of time) she told me her ideal spacing between kids is 3 years. She said the change in a child between the age of two and three is such a big deal that it drastically changes the dynamic (of adding a baby when your youngest is two than when your youngest is three.) I nodded and thought that was interesting, but wasn’t sure I’d want to space them that far apart. 
Well life turned out to give me a three year spacing for this baby and wow -- do I ever agree with my midwife there. It’s shocking how easy it is to maintain a three year old and baby, compared to two year old and baby! Just night and day. A three year old is a kid, a two year old is basically a mobile baby. And as far as my oldest is concerned -- she was five when Bronson was born -- and she’s been able to actually help in some regards. Which is awesome. I love that I can leave the room for a few minutes and have someone who can come get me if things go south.
 I’m not trying to tell anyone how they should have kids (that’s no where near my business) -- I’m just my own experiences.
That spacing helped they way I feel a lot, I’m sure. But I will say I found life getting easier as my oldest turned four and my (then) youngest turned two -- they became more independent and played well together (instead of needing me to arbitrate their every move in sharing-not-stealing etc) so adding a baby then wouldn’t have drown me, but it would have been harder than what we have now. Right now they girls are fully able to hear my directions and do them even if I’m out of the room nursing the baby to sleep.
They can help me find stuff for the baby when I need it.
They genuinely LOVE being around him and taking care of him and just everything about him. They don’t see him as competition at all. They just adore his presence.
There’s all sorts of stuff is nice about this spacing. (Although I’m sure the same could be said for other spacing as well. This is just where I am.)


For some people adding a third means they need more space in their home or vehicle, but we were already set in both those departments. So that was easy.



In the team-parenting department --

Honestly the horrible-ness of my pregnancy really set us up for success in this department. I was laid waste to so badly that Blake took up the task of bedtime for the girls during pregnancy, and they all enjoy that. Blake reads them bedtime stories and actually really enjoys the stuff they read (he was surprised by how manly the “Little House on the Prairie” series could be. He’s been telling me how much more awesome the rest of the Narnia series is compared to “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”) The girls enjoy getting some daddy time into their day. So when the baby came along, their was no shake up to that routine at all. I appreciate that SO MUCH. I am SO grateful for Blake being so willing to do that part of our day. 

In that same vein is grocery shopping. I couldn’t do it while pregnant. Blake valiantly took that up for me then. And we’ve been doing variations of shopping after bedtime ever since. (Actually He was kind of doing that already once I had two kids. But it’s in FULL swing now.) Sometimes I go now that Bronson will sleep for long chunks of time. Sometimes he goes. We aren’t in a good meal planning phase of life. So our grocery shopping is kinda messy and unplanned. But we are surviving anyway.
I know not everyone has the option to grocery shop like this -- but I am SO grateful for this set up. It makes my stress level inside being a mom much, much lower. 
We had an older couple at our church strike up conversation with us in the complaint style fashion -- they tried relating to us about how hard it is to have three kids. (Theirs are full grown, and moved out, but they were reminiscing.) It was almost painful on my end because every complaint they had, were things we don’t find hard because we are doing them “strangely.” I started feeling like a jerk even responding, and I wasn’t fully responding either.  But you should have seen their eyes when they tried the “grocery shopping with three kids….uuugghh” segment. (This was early on in the conversation, before I realized I needed to tone down my honesty level.) I quickly said, “Oh, well Blake usually runs to the store for me after bedtime, so it’s not been hard for us.” Their eyes almost fell out of their sockets trying to catch their jaws from falling. I could tell she didn’t know what to think, if that was a great thing or a terrible thing, or an impossible thing. She was stunned silent for a while. That clued me into the fact that we are doing things to our own drum beat.
I get that they are from a different generation, and things were a lot different then. But I still think we are more of an outlier inside our peer group. 
Part of me loves that, and part of me hopes I don’t make anyone feel bad for one reason or another. But I can’t not do it for fear of how others will look at it. It’s working SO WELL for us.


Blake and I both have enough parenting under our belts that we just really take all the baby stuff in stride and enjoy it. (I think him more than me. He’s a total baby lover.)
But of all the stressful stuff that’s been a part of my life as of late, the baby really hasn’t added any stress to it. (Other than I’m having a harder time finding time to work on the house -- but that’s babies, and I knew it going into it -- that’s why I worked so hard during my pregnancy even thought I felt like I couldn’t move. I knew I wouldn’t have the option much later.) Actually having Bronson around during these hard times, has been a blessing. Some parts of taking a baby to a funeral are really tricky to handle -- naps and nursing etc. But even still somehow that’s actually a blessing in those moments. I will always remember nursing Bronson off to the side, warm in the sun on a bench, outside as we buried my grandpa -- such a surreal moment, but it was soothing comfort in the moment.  And I will always remember holding Bronson close to my chest in the freezing cold winter air, him in our borrowed snow suit, as we buried my brother. I don’t know if I could have sat there alone, in that cold seat, in that moment. I was so glad to be holding him over my heart.
He has not made my “hard” harder -- he’s been a blessing.




Oh, and one more thing I wanted to mention.
“He” --
I wasn’t sure what I’d feel like if I ever had a boy.


To be ridiculously honest, I was really nervous I wouldn’t be able to love a boy baby. And this is the most pathetic reason, but it’s because as a kids I ONLY wanted girl baby dolls. At once point when I was a kid, they had come out with baby dolls that would surprise you once you bought it with if it was a girl or a boy. I wanted one of those really bad, but I also didn’t want to wind up with a boy. My mom later confessed that she opened the box to check that it was a girl before buying it for me. So I was happily surprised by a girl. I guess I worried that was some kind of deep and abiding issue I had.
But I’m happy to report that it’s not. I couldn’t love Baby Bronson anymore if I tried.  (I constantly look at any one of my kids and think “I love them SO MUCH that this one must be my favorite, because I couldn’t possibly love anything else in the world as much as I love this kid.” And then I panic thinking “Oh no, I have a favorite!” Only this happens pretty much any time I am near any one of my kids. So then I realize it’s not a problem if it applies to each one.) But when I am alone with baby Bronson, nursing him to sleep, or getting him up from a nap, I am certain I couldn’t love anything in the world more than I love him. So the fact that he’s a boy didn’t throw me off there.

As far as boy dynamics go….he’s only 9.5 months old, I’m not sure I have much to go off of yet. But I have noticed a lot of moms talking/typing about how different their sons are from their daughters from the get-go. I gotta be honest, I’m not in that camp. I’m not seeing him as so different. I think this is partially due to the fact I had two girls in a row, and they are quite different from each other (in some ways intensely different than each other (and also in some ways similar)) --- so I know to expect each child to be uniquely themselves, regardless of gender. But also, he just seems like one of my kids. He seems like part of our family. Not like something alien.
I feel like moms are often saying statements about their sons that could have scared me away from wanting a boy. There are a lot of stereotypes. (That’s actually a LARGE reason I wanted to be surprised by the gender this time -- to avoid people spewing gender stereotypes at me while I was full of hormones. People ((strangers in particular)) seem to get demented pleasure out of scaring pregnant women. I loved getting to deny that power to strangers in stores when they asked what I was having, I could tell the ones that were miffed being denied that privilege -- it was great.) Anyway, I’ve taken mental note of the stereotypes I’ve heard about boys over the years, and what I find wonderful is, they often contradict each other. One example: moms have confided in me that their sons are much more wild than their daughters; and other moms have confided in me that their sons were the calm ones, so much easier and laid back, while their daughter did the wild acting out. I love collecting those conflicting one because it proves to me that we are each, just ourselves.

So all that said, I haven’t found Bronson to be ringing, pretty much any, of the  “boys always” bells.
And, I’m not trying to “un-boy” him with this section, 
I’m just sharing it because if I had listened to everyone I would have been too sacred to have a boy -- and so far he’s totally cool. 
That’s what I’m getting at -- he’s great, not scary.
Examples:

  •  He’s only shot pee during a diaper change once. (Stereotypes imply all boys do, is shoot pee.) (But…actually... each of my girls did that on occasion too. In fact... one girl did it quite impressively in the doctors office once -- actually saving us from having to use a catheder because the quick acting nurse caught it -- it was amazing!)
  • His temperament in the womb was by far my most calm baby --- sometimes he scared me being so still so much. (Stereotypes imply boys are totally rough and tumble and constantly moving in there.) ( Actually figured there wasn’t any way he could be a boy since he was so calm, based on the “talk” of boys.)
  • He’s hitting his movement milestones at the same rate his sisters did. (Stereotypes imply boys are more physical.) (And it’s not that he’s slow “for a boy”  or that the girls were overly fast, I think they were all on the average to early-ish end of the milestones.)
  • His energy rate seems to be about what his sisters were, but in his own ebb and flow rythmns. (Stereotypes imply boys are wild.)
  • It’s hard to remember exactly, but I might say he babbles the most of the three -- and his babbles are very word like -- it’s actually kind of impressive. (Stereotypes imply girls are more verbal.)
  • He’s wonderful at obeying when I tell him "no no." I actually can’t get over how well he’s listened and obeyed. He’ll move right away from the outlet when I say from across the room “Bronson, no no, don’t touch the outlet.” (Stereotypes imply boys are strong willed.) (His sisters were not as instinctively willing to obey things like that.)
  • So far he’s done nothing “more adventurous”, more messy, more destructive than his sisters have done at this age -- in terms of exploring the house.  (Stereotypes imply boys just immediately tear your house apart.)
  • He’s eating habits are about the half way point between how each of his sisters ate as babies. (Stereotypes imply boys, even as baby, eat tons more.)
I can’t think of any more stereotypes right now, though I’m sure there is more. And of course many people’s ideas contradict other people’s ideas on what is even “the stereotype” -- so who even knows what to disprove in that regard.

The only thing I can say I did notice that seemed more boyish, is he seemed to immediately (from birth) like it when Blake would rough house him (appropriate to size ratio.) But then again, my girls really do get a kick out of playing that way too. So even there, I don’t feel like it’s screaming SO DIFFERENT.

Like I said, he’s only 9 months old. So there lots of time for me to find out more about him and the life he brings into our home. 
I just think it’s interesting -- mainly because like I said, people had scared me about boys, and so far it’s nothing like that -- I just really like him.




So anyway, that’s my take on three kids (and adding a boy in.)
This post is probably too long and all jumbled up. But that’s my brain right now.
Hopefully this was somewhat interesting. 
I’ll talk to you later.

3 comments:

  1. Love this post! We also just go with the flow to find what works for us and our kids. For us it's crazy early bed times in the evening that people think is weird, but for our bunch we've discovered that there is no point keeping them up once they're tired and they get tired early. Night time grocery runs are the norm in our house too, I really like the solo time out wandering around the super market.

    After three boys we feel like all the boy stereotypes are blown out of the water. Our three boys are all totally different, all equally lovely and not overly 'boyish'.

    We really like three kids and as they are getting older they are only becoming more delightful (as well as testing!).

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  2. Hi Lydia - I just wanted to say hello. I've been following your blog for a while. I think I originally found your pregnancy/maternity clothes posts! We have a really similar mindset, and I find reading about how you handle situations helpful! I have one baby - an 8 month old girl. We're thinking about when to add number 2. I also have reservations about having a son. I really enjoyed reading this and found it reassuring. Many blessings to you and your beautiful family :-)
    Emma

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ruby looks just like my sister as a kid. She's absolutely gorgeous, but then they all are. Hope you're feeling better. Hugs

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