Inching Toward Insanity: A Fourth Child On the Way
My husband and I found out we were expecting our fourth child a couple of months ago and were absolutely thrilled. Of course the excitement is always followed by fear when you’re preparing for a new venture like this, but I truly can’t wait for this new little person to be born.
There was a bit of a drizzle on my parade as my news spread and the comments we heard were not all congratulatory. Some of these included, “Did y’all do this on purpose?” and “How many are you going to have, TWELVE?” The less than flattering term “baby factory” has also been used more than once.
I’ve discovered from my friends who have already hit the family-of-6 mark that this is typical when you jump from your third child to your fourth. Assuming stability in your relationship and finances, your first child brings out congratulations and baby showers. Your second child means you’re all set with your all-American family of four. Your third is an understandable accident or, if the first two are the same sex, the third can also be seen as an attempt at that boy or girl to complete your litter. Once you reach four, you’ve officially lost your mind and perhaps need a sex-ed review.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand the concern. Anyone who’s seen me at the grocery or church with my seven-, five-, and two-year-old will surely balk at my growing belly. I’m sure they will think, as I often do, “She can barely handle the three she has – what makes her think she should contribute more to this chaos???”
In fact, I felt those same doubts when we had our second and our third. My husband and I both admit that the absolute lowest point in our marriage happened after the birth of our second daughter. At that point, his hours at work were incredibly long and I was home with a 17-month old and a newborn baby. He was swamped, I was exhausted, and there was no relief anywhere for either of us.
However, life is full of roller coasters, and I would not trade my Annie or the beautiful relationship she has with her big sister for anything in the world. Without the lows, we would not appreciate the highs.
The bottom line is that deliberately try not to family planning a short-sighted process. There are times when my husband and I agree that another child seems beyond comprehension – maybe debts are high or sanity is low. After we had Annie, it was a couple of years before I felt that our family was ready for a new addition (although I’d like to hope that my husband and I would celebrate any new life that comes our way even if we are not quite “ready”).
Although I’ve never been in a sorority, I think of pregnancy and life with a newborn as “rush week.” There will be several months of nausea, followed by a few more months of chasing three kids behind one huge belly, and finally the baby is born and I won’t sleep for half a year. After that, at least based on previous pregnancies, my life settles down and I have this wonderful new person in my life. And what I wouldn’t trade for the world is the sibling relationships my children have with one another. I’ll only be raising them for 18 or so years, but they will have each other forever.
I love the way my girls play together – they are best friends. They share a room, a bunk bed, and a wardrobe, and spend most of their spare time playing out each others’ imaginations. Their relationship is truly awesome. And their love for their little brother is endless.
Today I watched as my oldest read her school book to her brother and sister. She has also managed to convince her brother to call her “princess.” And my favorite these days is the joy in my son’s eyes when my second daughter invites him to play (which happens daily). They could play together for hours and when they aren’t entertaining one another, he is usually wandering around the house calling her name (although it sounds more like “Ernie” than “Annie”).
I’m not trying to portray our family as all rainbows and unicorns – they fight daily, they make huge messes, and in public they like to run away from me in three different directions. My point is that I can regularly see them deepening their relationships with one another, and learning from those relationships.
They’re learning to sacrifice, to share, to pitch in and help. They’re learning that they can’t have everything they want. This is not because I’m such a great parent. After all, I’m not the one teaching these lessons. They are learning from one another. I just get to sit back, enjoy the show, and occasionally make them hug and apologize.