My 3rd Baby Was The Easiest Of Them All
We just had our third child after an almost six-year gap, and the questions that I get all the time from people are “how is it going back to diapers after being free for so long?” And “how is this baby different from the others?” There’s definitely a difference between baby #3 and babies #1 and 2.
Some of the differences I can attribute to us, our situation in life going from our early thirties to almost our forties. We’re older and wiser, a lot more stable, we have a little more money, a lot more house and a huge network of parent friends and family around us now. When we had our first two children, we were in a tiny apartment, both working hard to get to where we are now.
One story I like to tell is that my son (baby #2) slept in an alcove in our hallway for the first two years of his life while we house hunted. I attribute the fact that he didn’t sleep through the night until he was two to this unfortunate sleeping arrangement. When we finally moved to a house and settled into our new life with a community of parents of young children, found a church, and got into the rhythm of life with little kids, we felt ready for another go at another baby. This time when it wouldn’t be such a shock to our lives the way the first two were.
Having our first child was completely life-changing. I knew from when I was a little girl that I wanted to have children so the earth shaking wasn’t unwelcome, just surprising. Because no matter how prepared you think you are, how many stories you hear and books you read, the reality is just different from what you’re expecting. It was surprising to not be able to leave the house for three hours while this tiny little person napped. Every single day.
It was a surprise to be at the pediatrician all the time, for everything … even the tiniest things that, in retrospect, you wonder why you were worried about. It was a surprise to go to work and be called about something that was going on with your child and you realize that only you can make it better or fix it so you have to leave. It was a surprise to realize how much you could love someone who didn’t even exist months earlier. A shockingly fierce, all-encompassing love. A love so strong that you find yourself crying when your child gets injured or sick because the pain they feel is nothing compared to the pain in your heart watching them hurt.
And then along came number two. I thought I knew everything because I’d done it all before. Except that I hadn’t, and I didn’t, and that was its own unique challenge. First, you try everything that worked with the first one because, well, it worked … except with this new baby, it doesn’t. And then you wonder what’s wrong with you … or with him. The second is also a challenge because you’re busier and you can’t focus the way you did before. It’s not just getting him down for a nap, it’s getting him down for a nap while your first is napping so they nap at the same time. And it’s not just potty training, it’s potty training a boy instead of a girl. Do you have them stand or sit? Even the potty seat choice is different!
This is why the first child slept through the night at six weeks, but second didn’t until two years. And the first child is a great eater, who devours everything put in front of her, while the second is still picking at chicken nuggets every single night. Nothing is ever the same and while both your kids have the same parents and you try a lot of the same things, they end up being their own unique little person and that is okay!
But after all that, we stopped in our tracks. Two was enough for us. We were really happy with our family unit and worked hard to get to that point. If anyone asked (and they did all the time!), we were done. I couldn’t imagine going back to the sleepless nights of the newborn stage. It was so much work just raising two little kids to be good people.
But it started creeping in … slowly, like when I dropped them both off at preschool and was alone in my car, missing their cute faces. Or when they would do something that was so heartbreakingly cute, something they said or drew or sang, and I realized how quickly the years were flying by. Or when they outgrew the toddler bed, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or when they got on the school bus to kindergarten and you realize that everyone’s favorite saying, “The days are long but the years are short,” is true.
So we decided to have a third. After a painful and heartbreaking miscarriage (my third miscarriage, a story for another day), we wound up with a healthy pregnancy and gave birth in November of 2018. Our third baby is a dream. Here’s why he is the easiest and I don’t mind going back to diapers.
Beyond knowing what to expect, already having a community, a church, and two little helpers, I think he feeds off the family energy which is busy and chaotic and happy. He’s constantly entertained by his two older siblings. I’m okay with putting him down — because I have to — and I learned the tricks the first two times around.
This time, I learned how to cook with him in his bouncy seat. Not because I was hungry, but because the kids needed food and I had to. While it’s easy to overlook yourself, you can’t overlook the other kids, and that makes me a better mom. I also put him in the car to get where I needed to go mostly because I have to. Food shopping, activities, doctors and dentist appointments for three. Sorry baby, we’re on the go! I also learned where and how to take “me” time when it mattered — by putting him in the bouncy seat when my husband showered so I could go work out in the mornings. Never before in this chaotic life did it matter so much to have a short 30 minutes to myself every couple of days.
I actually haven’t had to rush him to the pediatrician because I recognized things I saw the first two times around that didn’t scare me this time. (Eczema, birth marks, rashes, stomach aches.) I didn’t wait to start sleep training, because sleep was critical to me functioning in a family of five, and he started sleeping through the night around the two-month mark with a little help from Marc Weissbluth’s Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
And I didn’t feel the need to rush anything else. In fact, I cherished all the times he fell asleep in my arms, only wanted me to hold him, wanted to nurse for 30 minutes at a time, because I know from firsthand experience that these precious moments are fleeting. I enjoy my rocking chair in his nursery because I know it won’t be a nursery forever. Soon it will be a big boy’s room — covered in Star Wars or Pokémon or whatever he’s into. But for now, it’s just sweet little elephants and lullabies.
The third is far and away my easiest, and I enjoy it the most because I know how quickly they grow and everything changes. Every child is unique and I know not everyone has this experience. I’m jealous of the moms who had the ability not to be completely overwhelmed the first time around and managed to savor that — I wasn’t one of them. For me, the third baby has completed the picture.
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