Having another baby helped me get to know my children all over again.
We have three children. It’s such a strange state — we are sort of brave because that’s a step beyond the obligatory two, officially a large family, but not a really large family. We don’t shock people, but we are noticeable and tolerated. The friendly people congratulate, but some have suggested that “now you really should be careful.”
For my husband (the middle one of three children) a 2+3 family was an obvious and natural choice. I was closer to repeating a familiar pattern from my home, meaning a safe and easier-to-control two kids.
Catholic Myths About Big Families
That’s right, a boy and a girl, with a small difference in age, that was the optimal plan, I thought. Three makes a crowd, a small crowd, but still a crowd. And now, as a mother of three, I can’t imagine a better setup for our family (I don’t know how it would be with a four ;-).
The first: Waiting
The first child is a total revolution. Leaving the hospital, you are in shock that they even let you leave with this tiny baby (which came missing a manual) without any oversight or help. Six months go by fast, but there is constant stress — does the baby eat, sleep, or play enough and is the red rash a viral infection, a heat rash or an allergy? You closely track the monthly achievements and the vaccination schedule. You can’t wait till the baby starts to sleep through the night, eat soups, sit, walk, talk, and you are also waiting for the first time you can leave home without the baby, return to your pre-pregnancy figure, and for free time for yourself and uninterrupted sleep.
The second: Surprise
The second one is pretty routine, but you are still so busy with the older demanding your attention that you don’t even realize it. Reality does not cease to amaze you — since you have a baby and a toddler, you can’t believe how you thought that one baby was so much work.
At the same time, there is surprisingly little that changes after the second birth and the saying that the family must adapt to the first child, but the second child must adapt to the family rings surprisingly true. With shock, you realize that your second child is suddenly two years old and is not so little anymore. Seeing more and more proof of how different two children of the same parents can be is another source of constant amazement.
The third: Celebration
With the third child, you have the experience, the knowledge, and the intuition. All this gives you inner peace, which is a source of great strength for you.
This inner peace allows you to sail easily through the first year of the third child’s life and to experience motherhood more consciously. By now you know that even the wildest child will eventually sleep through the night and you also know that before you know it, he will stop clinging to you and will run off to play with his bike.
That is why you experience being with a small baby, inhaling that incredible baby smell, cuddling him, watching him grow and develop, and melting over the toothless grin, so much stronger than before. You feel that this time is so fleeting, and your motherhood becomes a celebration of the moment.
The two older children can play by themselves for a long time, even though they occasionally argue and fight, and the third one follows them like a little duckling. Paradoxically, it is easier to manage this larger group, because the little one is far more time-consuming if he doesn’t have the entertainment in the form of observing his older siblings.
Maternity leave is a wonderful thing. It allowed me to keep my older children at home rather than in preschool, to spend time with them as well as the baby, which would not have been possible had I not had the third child. This one year changed me so much. I feel as if I got to know my children all over again, my eyes and my heart opened up to them anew.
How not to run the motherhood marathon
My thinking changed with the coming of another child. One or two children still gave me the feeling that when they grow up a little, my normal life from before I was a mother would return. The third birth takes away those illusions, and a good example of that is the fact that now when crossing the street, you have fewer hands than children. It is like jumping into a deep pool, or maybe like throwing yourself into the arms of motherhood, and those turn out to be rather nice, warm and soft, like a mother’s.
Recently I heard a statement that every new child brings a special gift, a blessing, for his family. For example, a child brought renewed love to a couple in a burnt-out marriage. They compared the way they felt to the first time they fell in love.
For me, the gift brought by my third daughter is falling out of the rhythm of a beaten career path and looking at my work in a fresh, unconventional way, which resulted in a parenting leave and a more flexible, rewarding professional opportunity. Above all, it is a huge blessing to have all my children home with me. Without a doubt, every child changes the reality and brings something new to the family. Sometimes it is worth to be brave and find out what that is.
This article was originally published in the Polish edition of Aleteia.