Preparing for Baby Number Four!
The other night, my husband and I took our neighbor out to dinner with us. We went to Panera and we were a loud and fun mess. We had an 8-year-old, 7-year-old, 4-year-old and 2-year-old with us and of course my enormous pregnant belly burgeoning out over my jeans. As always, my two-year-old was drawing attention by trying to take off all of his clothes and the other three were joking at the table.
I noticed others were looking at our *large* presence and smiling and then I heard a table of teen girls say, “When I get older, I want a big family like that.” I found myself getting ready to reply, “Oh, these aren’t ALL our kids.” Then I realized, “Wait a second, only one of these isn’t our child and we’re getting ready to have another, which means our family is going to be THIS BIG!”
And now as I am four weeks shy of my due date, I still cannot get over the fact that we are going to be THAT family. The huge one with kids dangling off the parents. And while I may not drive an extended van with a bumper sticker of stick cartoon parents followed by a parade of children, it is likely that in the next few years, a dozen donuts will be the perfect amount to feed our family instead of way too many. And that reality just gets me. 😉
But how do you prepare to become a family of 6? How do you prepare to be welcome a new baby into a big family? That has been a question of mine from the moment I saw a positive pregnancy test for the fourth time. Because I never thought this would be me. I truly thought I was done with three. So it’s been a hard reality to wrap my mind around.
In some ways there is an easy answer. And the answer is this: “You have one at a time.” Because as I know good and well with three, you just figure things out day by day. And I imagine that is exactly how you do four. But the detail-oriented part of me wants to make sense of it all. And here are some of the things that I have wondered about from the beginning. (Feel free to answer any of them if you have four children. 🙂 )
How do I make time to have rich relationships with each one after the baby comes?
How do I balance the number of activities that come with more children?
How do I make sure the baby gets a strong bond with me when I’ll never be able to have the same amount of quality time with him than I did my first? Or second? Or third?
How do I care for a baby while getting three other little people out the door?
How will I be kind enough to raise the older ones when I’m sleep-deprived from an infant?
And here’s one of the most important…where will all of the groceries fit in the cart?
My Best Answer
And here is the answer I have come to for all of my questions after months of pondering:
I will do my best to meet the current needs of the moment and not worry about how perfectly executed my plan is.
You see, when you’re having your first, you have the advantage of focusing on the needs of one little person. Your world is them. Their coos, their cries and their sleep needs are all analyzed and responded to with immediate care. “Are they cold? Are they wet? Are they hungry?” The goal of most parents is to do things by the book. To do them perfectly. And that’s how it’s meant to be. That’s what being a first-time parent is. And that’s beautiful.
But that beautiful reality normally stops at one. Because after you have a second, you already have another little one’s needs to attend to in addition to baby. And by the third, you realize the value of flexibility and spontaneity. And you don’t count on things going just so to survive. You realize that things will never be just so. But they will still be soooo good and full of love. And that’s all that matters.
And that’s the mindset I’m embracing as I get ready to welcome my fourth son into this world. With my first son, everything was about his needs. With my fourth son, I know he will be as loved as my first, but his needs will join a family of needs from day one. And I have to trust, he will be all the better for it.
Preparing for baby number four seems to be less about the physical preparations, like the nursery and clothing, and more about the mental preparation about what adding in a fourth child into a family will realistically look like! These are the reflections I am focusing on.
I am okay that my honeymoon period of focusing on just him will end when I leave the hospital.
I am okay that even though I may have just delivered a baby, I will still want to make sure my mom knows the right way to get my oldest son to football practice or to make sure my husband knows that my second oldest son needs show-and-tell for preschool.
I am okay to know that I will be breastfeeding a baby while simultaneously trying to read a book to a toddler.
I am okay to know that I will likely be up with an infant and have a toddler wanting me to rock them to sleep.
I am aware that when my family tries to help give me a chance to sneak away and rest, my older boys will likely come seek me out.
I am okay to know there will likely be a moment where I have four children crying or whining at once.
I am okay to know that this little guy may be held just as much by his brothers as he is by me.
I am okay for imperfections in the transition. In fact, I expect them.
And I am okay with ALL of the aforementioned realities combined. In fact, I am more than okay with them. I am just as elated for baby number #4’s arrival as I was for my first son!
Because at the end of the day, I may not have all of the answers to knowing how welcoming a new baby into a family will work, but I do know this. I love the idea of someone looking at our crazy and wild crew and saying, “When I grow up, I want to have a big family like that.”
Because I get to be a part of that big family they’re referring to. And I cannot think of a sweeter privilege.
Cheers to 4 Weeks and Counting!