I heart big families. Which is good because I have five kids.
When we welcomed our third, people were like “whoa!”, our fourth “don’t you have three already?” and our 5th “you know what causes this, right?” I (obviously) know the answers to all of these questions, but welcoming another baby is not hard for our family. What was hard was when we went from one baby to two babies. Babies three, four and five were a piece of cake compared to growing from a family of three to a family of four.
Although we were super excited to be having another baby, it felt like a betrayal in some ways. We had been a little family of three for 24 months. I KNEW how much I adored our little boy, and the thought of loving someone else as much as I loved him was impossible. (I think every first time mom feels this way). I mean sure I would love her, but as much? That’s a big request.
I was blessed to stay at home with our little boy, Cohen, from the beginning. And we had our routines down. We went to Kindermusik class, the zoo and story times. We napped together, had lunch dates with daddy, were together all the time, and I loved it! His schedule was THE schedule and we all ensued properly. The thought of someone else having a schedule too was worrisome. The thought of two in diapers, two naps that they could.not.miss. pretty much took out all social activities for the foreseeable future.
The thoughts alone were exhausting, so how was I going to be able to actually live it?
I know that some say it’s going from a zone defense to man on man, with each parent getting a kid to care for. But the reality of it was that I was the one home with them most of the time, (the hubs worked full time, was getting his masters degree at night and building our house on the weekends). I would have to somehow figure out how to make the three of us work. And I did…eventually. But not after many tears, doubts and a whole lot of trial and error. Here’s what I learned and how it has helped in continually growing our family as each child joined us.
Take the pressure off – This was from so many aspects of our lives – but the biggest area being me and my supermom persona. During the preparation for baby number 2, we caught ourselves wanting to make HIM grow up. I did not want to have two in diapers or two baby beds. It wasn’t HIS decision to have another baby, so why were we making HIM grow up quicker to alleviate our stress? He was not ready to be potty trained, so we decided early on in the pregnancy to not put added pressures on HIM for OUR decision. We were confident that he would not go to college not potty trained, so we had some time. This ended up being a great lesson as we continued to grow our family. Don’t make the little kids grow up just because another baby is coming. Let them be little. It might not be ideal to have to change lots of diapers in one day, but if that is our biggest problem, we’re blessed! As for me, I had to let it all go. I had to accept that it was going to be harder to get out the door, that all the activities that I felt were so crucial to the kids’ development was not in how many things we made it to, but what we did together.
Get them involved – When we were pregnant with our first, my husband and I made our baby a bear at Build-A-Bear as a welcome gift. Before we welcomed baby number 2, we had our son go and make a bear with us, and then HE brought it to the hospital as a gift to the new addition. We also had a present from the new baby waiting for him at the hospital, so they were friends from the get go! We had also bought Cohen a doll so he would have a “baby” to take care of while mom took care of baby. He had his own little bottles and diapers and he loved “parenting” it. The hardest time was during feeding time. I breastfed, and it seemed like EVERYTIME I sat down and got situated, he would need something. I soon realized that it wasn’t a “something”, but that he simply needed but me. We decided to get him a tub of toys and activities that HE HAD NEVER SEEN AND WOULD LOVE. The key was he only got it while I nursed and when I was done, the tub went away.
Play with them – Leave the frivolous stuff and just play. For so long it was just you and your baby, go back to those times. Get a sitter for kid dates, we still do this, 5 kids later. Take the time for them. My daughter had really bad acid reflux, so I usually watched her like a hawk. But when she was comfortable, before I put Cohen down for his nap, we would play, even if it was for just 5 minutes.
Let go of the nap schedule – GASP, yep I said it. LET IT GO! Am I telling you to give up naps all together, heck no! Here’s the thing though, trying to plan everything around 10 and 2, works….when you have one child. When you have two, things happen. When you have more, more things happen. You have school drop off and pick up, activities, doctor appointments, playdates, preschool. I tried to get everything in around my daughter’s nap schedule…and then my son’s… and then there wasn’t much time to do anything else. So I decided we would do the stuff we needed to do. When we made it home, sometime mid-morning, I would lay Cohen down for his nap and then nurse the baby to sleep. The baby would soon learn to adjust nap time to when big brother napped, and pretty soon they were always on the same nap schedule. Future babies would follow our “non-schedule”, and all my kids would learn to nap at the same time – yes, all 5 of them!
You have enough love – you may not think you do, but when they place baby number 2 in your arms, your heart expands and she finds her own little place. And you will love her for all that she is in her own little personhood, and you’ll wonder how you ever made it this long with out her.