Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Can I Survive Being a Mom to More than One?

Still a year away from sleeping through the night...
I've heard a lot of people say that having three kids is the absolute hardest number and that it gets easier from there.  I've heard it from everyone from the mechanic that fixed our car when I was pregnant with Sadie to quite a few bloggers, so a lot of people do seem to experience three as the most difficult number to juggle.

But for me the magic number that had me completely and utterly overwhelmed was 1.  Nothing has ever come close to that life jarring switch from zero to one.

I remember those first eighteen months (yes, eighteen!) through a blurry haze of exhaustion.  I stumbled through them hardly sleeping, wondering how on earth I would ever have more than one because really?  Really?  Was I just expected not to sleep for more than sixty minutes for the next couple decades of my life?  Was this just how it was?

No sleep... for a long, long time.
In hindsight there are many, many things I would do differently.  I thought that babies were fussy and spit up a lot and my doctor agreed and seemed to think that never sleeping was perfectly normal.  I guess our doctor now thinks the same thing, since they're always shocked when I refer to Patrick as an easy baby because babies aren't easy.  Ever.  At least that's what I heard at those early appointments with him.

But the truth is that Sadie is the baby that I measure all other baby difficulties from and no one has come close to matching her in terms of sleepless discomfort.  When she was a month old she nursed for seven consecutive hours, screaming in rage every time I tried to put her down.  She was still waking every hour to nurse at eighteen months old.  By then we were co-sleeping so I was finally getting some rest, but still... it was exhausting.

Having had Maggie and Patrick and seen babies with reflux and allergies I can say that I'm fairly certain that Sadie had both and that that was the reason for those first long months.  Since removing dairy from our lives and seeing changes in the girls, I'm actually pretty sure that both our girls have the same allergy as their brother, and that it's just better for milk to stay outside the door of our house.  But I was a first time mom who'd never even changed a diaper before and I didn't know enough to know that the fussiness was more than an average baby's would be.

Save me, Mom!
She's making me dance!
And that is one thing that does come with experience.  I trust my instincts much more these days.  I know when somethings wrong.  When I pushed for Patrick's allergy testing everyone from nurses to doctors repeatedly said: "So this is your first?" after I'd tell them his symptoms.  What does that have to do with him breaking out in hives and throwing up and crying for hours I would think to myself.  The question was asked in a skeptical sort of way that dismissed the possibility of anything being wrong.  "He's actually my third." I'd say and they'd look surprised, because the statement seemed to be an attempt to dismiss my worries as anything other than first baby jitters.

Even with my assertions that something was wrong, it took two doctor's appointments talking about allergies to get referred for testing and the referral was given with a comment about how "we don't even really know if the proteins that he'd be allergic to can be passed through our milk.  A lot of doctors believe they can't."

Well, I would think to myself, since I've seen him break out in hives every time he nurses, I'd like to say that reality has shown me that it can.  Interestingly enough, through the use of my senses (and common sense) I've deduced that I don't need a double blind study to tell me that it's possible.  I've seen it happen.  You don't have to believe me, but please give me that referral slip, so I can talk to someone who specializes in this (and by the way, the allergist didn't seem at all skeptical that it could happen because he frequently sees babies who do have allergies).  Please.

Although I can't guarantee that
your easiest baby won't grow up
to be your wildest toddler...
As a result of those tests, and the steps we've taken to eliminate allergens, Patrick is as laid back as Maggie was (my baby that had me panicked because she was such a good sleeper at three days old).  Any exposure to milk and the nightmare that were the sleepless nights of 2008-2010 return with a vengeance.

And while I certainly have my hands full with three, in a literal sort of way (I don't have enough hands to hold on to everyone as we make our way through the parking lot!), it doesn't even vaguely compare to those first months (all eighteen of them...).  It's not unusual in the house for everyone to sleep through the night.  And I didn't even have to wait decades for it to happen.

Recently I read a post by a mom with one who was struggling with sleepless nights and wondering how she'd ever do it.  I read the words and saw my own experience in them (right down to allergies that she was certain of that her doctor didn't believe) and wanted to hug her.  It does get easier, I wrote. Trust your gut.  Find a doctor that will run those tests.  Because if it is allergies, identifying them can truly be life changing.

And if you're like me, one just might be the hardest number to survive.  Barely surviving that first baby doesn't mean it will be as impossibly hard with each subsequent one.  It actually can get easier.  And you'll know what you're doing.  While I can't peer into the future (although I do imagine there are plenty of sleepless nights out there waiting for me to catch up to them) I can be sure of one thing... I'm far more prepared to trust that little nagging voice that tells me when something isn't quite right, and to advocate for answers rather than blindly accepting answers from someone who's likely tired and busy and who doesn't actually know my child and won't likely see what I'm seeing after spending five minutes with him.

So hang in there.  I know it doesn't feel like it sometimes, but those sleepless nights will come to an end and it really will be worth it.  


  1. I had a very hard time adjusting to two babies. My 2nd wasn't difficult, I think I just thought I could do everything I did with one baby. Eventually I relaxed a lot and things got a lot easier. Adjusting to having 3 has been pretty easy by comparison.

  2. Two was the hardest number of children for me. By far! I think also because my second child had colic and was really high needs..and I had a toddler and a baby, so that was super hard.

    And, I've never actually had a sleepless night with any of my kids. Not they were good sleepers or anything, but because we co-slept from Day One ,so as long I was in bed sleeping with my babies (or nursing them and I can sleep nurse) they were fine. I've only actually been "up" with my kids in the middle of the night a very few times (ie. sickness, etc)

  3. I'm with you on 1 being the hardest. I worried that going from 1-2 was going to be hard and within a week of bringing home our second daughter I felt like I had a handle on everything. Then when I was pregnant with our third daughter I had so many people tell me it was so hard to go from 2 to 3. It was a total cake walk for me and I suspect when the time comes for us to go from 3 to 4 kids it will be just as easy. Once you know what you're doing I think adding more children just gets easier.

  4. You are doing a fine job. It does get easier after three, never fear!
    Also, I would like to tell you that I have read your entire blog and a couple of others. (Love your blog) After 36 years of being married to a Catholic I have decided to join the Catholic church. I start RCIA classes this month. Thanks for the insiration!

  5. One, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 were the hardest for me...lol. Each season in life has it's own set of challenges and it's not always about the baby. I've had "easy" babies during very difficult times. I've had super fussy babies during times of peace and confidence. My first was so hard because he screamed 20 hours a day and vomited for the other 4. I had a fractured tailbone from labor and I was still learning the ropes as a new wife. Then it was very hard for me juggling 3 small children because my husband worked nights and I got very little sleep and few showers. It is hard for me now that I have older children to help... because I have so many more needing my attention and energy. Crosses come and they go to be replaced by other ones. But graces come, too... the exact ones we need at the exact time. Thank God! :)

  6. Donna, you're comment totally made my day! How exciting (and welcome!)!

  7. I think for me part of the reason #1 was so hard was we didn't co-sleep for the first seven months of Sadie's life. So I was literally up every hour, nursing for about forty five minutes, for seven months. I think that's also why, for me, everything else we've encountered has been easier (co-sleeping being a big part of that). We've had other trials... but I face them so much better when I've had just a teensy bit more sleep! I guess that's the one thing I really learned about myself from baby #1!

  8. I think for me part of the reason #1 was so hard was we didn't co-sleep for the first seven months of Sadie's life. So I was literally up every hour, nursing for about forty five minutes, for seven months. I think that's also why, for me, everything else we've encountered has been easier (co-sleeping being a big part of that). We've had other trials... but I face them so much better when I've had just a teensy bit more sleep! I guess that's the one thing I really learned about myself from baby #1!

  9. 2 was my hardest. After that #3 was a piece of cake. We just added #4 and it really doesn't feel any different, just life with even more laundry to do. I haven't slept in seven straight years, so that just feels normal now.


I love comments and I read every single comment that comes in (and I try to respond when the little ones aren't distracting me to the point that it's impossible!). Please show kindness to each other and our family in the comment box. After all, we're all real people on the other side of the screen!