I didn’t plan to have my kids so close together, it just sort of happened. And after my first was born, I couldn’t believe how many times I got asked when I was going to have another. I would politely respond with, “When he is in school” (which was really my plan) while trying to reel in my anger as I wondered why people ask this question. You haven’t even mastered a diaper change and suddenly everyone wants you to be a baby-making machine.
In actuality, I did become a baby-making machine. Having three kids in three years gives off the vibe all you want to do is procreate. People notice and ask you if you are crazy (the same people who were all anxious to have you start cooking another child). While pregnant, I enjoyed responding with, “No, not crazy. My husband and I are just hot for each other all the time,” but after the children were all here, I was more likely to shout out a huge,”Yes! We are crazy!”
Through this experience, I have learned there is beauty and chaos wrapped in having kids with a small age gap. This is what it looks like — the good, the bad, and the “How the hell am I going to handle this?”:
1. You are pregnant for an eternity.
The clothes from your first pregnancy are still in style for your subsequent pregnancies. People don’t even congratulate you anymore. They just look at your swollen belly and say, “Again? You were pregnant the last time I saw you. Is this the same one?” To outsiders, your pregnancies just run together.
2. You become very comfortable with your doctor.
The details of my prior pregnancies were so fresh in my doctor’s mind when I walked into my first prenatal appointment with my third, she said, “Sorry bitch, you already met your quota.” But the good thing was she remembered I didn’t like to get weighed during the third trimester, there were certain tests I didn’t want to take, and I would probably cry every time I saw her.
3. Your body immediately responds when you become pregnant again.
Your body quickly knows what to do because you were just pregnant. Expand here, widen here, blow up here. By my third pregnancy, I was only seven weeks in and people were asking me when I was due. I needed to wear my maternity jeans the day after I took the test. Junior gave me no time to get used to the idea of him entering into our lives before he started to show. It was much less exciting the third time around when people tell you they can see your bump already. Or when they ask you if you are carrying twins.
4. They all nap and go to bed at the same time.
Most days, I could get all my kids to nap together. I would feed them all lunch, and put them all down at the same time every day. Five hours later, I would do the same thing. Things started to feel like Groundhog Day and I got really good at the assembly line system. Putting three kids 3 and under to bed solo is no joke.
5. They all believe in Santa together.
And the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and every other make-believe character who gives parents an infarction because we are trying to keep the magic alive while keeping it a secret too. You don’t worry about the much older one spilling the beans because their age gap is so small. You just hope you remember to move the damn elf every night or else everyone will be pissed.
6. You will have more than one in diapers at a time.
When my youngest was born, my oldest (who just turned 3) still wore diapers at night. The fun part here is you can potty train two at a time. The not so fun part — everything else about having three kids in diapers at once.
7. They go through stages together.
Or they are right behind each other. This can be good and leave you feeling confident because you just experienced it. Or it can be very scary because you are still haunted by the last traumatic experience know as your toddler insisting he can wipe his own bum.
8. You don’t have to wake anyone from their naps to attend an event for the older sibling.
By the time they are old enough to participate in events that don’t interfere with nap time, they have all stopped napping. This is glorious. No waking a sleeping baby, and no missing naps because you couldn’t get a sitter so you could attend the 2 p.m. school play. The downside is they are awake all day.
9. You use them as an excuse to get out of stuff.
“Sorry, I have three little ones. No can do.” Being able to say those words is empowering, and by that I mean I have gotten down on my knees and thanked sweet baby Jesus I didn’t have to come up with an excuse as to why I couldn’t attend something I didn’t want to attend anyway.
10.You learn to multitask.
Nobody can multitask like a mother — nobody. I was often feeding one while playing with another, and getting the little one the binky that fell out of his mouth. You start to do everything with a sense of urgency lest all the things start to pile up.
11. You don’t get out a lot.
The thought of buckling in three kids (or letting them try to buckle themselves, which is way worse), getting out of the car, keeping us all alive in the parking lot, getting through a public place without breaking stuff, then loading everyone and everything into the car, driving home without losing my shit, and unloading everything again left me feeling like I would rather stay home and do laundry. I hate laundry.
12. It is easier to say “screw you” to perfection.
You stop trying to be perfect and do all the things by the book because who has time to read? Or be perfect? Having three or four kids with a small age gap is a daily reminder of what is important: survival. That is all.
13. When one cries, they all cry.
This can send you reaching for ear plugs and wine while humming the lyrics to, “Let it go,” in your head. It is fun for kids to see who can out cry each other. Sibling rivalry starts early, and playing, “Let’s see who can cry the loudest,” is a real thing kids enjoy immensely.
14. They all outgrow the children’s menu at the same time.
And the children’s clothing section. Also, shoes. Things get expensive very fast. Now I am the one crying.
15. You buy them all the same toys.
They are into the same stuff at the same time, and as much as you teach them to share their Legos or Pokemon cards, sometimes it is nice to save your own sanity and buy each child their own stuff. Just don’t forget to put their names on their stuff with a Sharpie because you will never know whose is whose and it will eliminate many epic shitshows.
No matter how you spread the years between your kids, there will always be an upside and a downside. Yes, having three kids close together has left me feeling like a crazed, depleted woman in desperate need of my own special place to escape to — a place where I can rock in a corner while eating frosting out of a jar — but I would not change the rhythm of my family.
If I had to do it over again, I would, and in the exact same way. I would push them all out one after another, fast and furious. I love that they share so many stages together, I love how often I get asked if my two youngest are twins, but most of all, I look at them at least once a day and think if I can do this, I can do anything.