The most common question, which I still hear almost 100% of the time whenever I run into the store with James while Paul and the kids wait in the car, is "So, this is your first?" which is usually followed by a shocked look when I say "Oh no, he's our fourth!" But that's not the subject of this post, so I'll focus back on the second most common question.
It was posed to me in the back of a plane by a flight attendant and comes up in various forms while I'm waiting for Sadie at her various activities. It comes up when people ask her about how she likes having a younger sibling and she launches into the entire history of our family and how old each person is and usually ends quite proudly by talking about how she is the biggest sister and the "babies" are four, almost-two and 'zero'.
Of course (as always) I can only answer from my personal experience. I've heard a lot of people say that three is the hardest number. A few have told me that four is.
My personal experience however, was that one was the hardest adjustment for me to make, and was by far the hardest number to juggle. Each time we welcome a new baby, and once in a while in between, Paul will look at me with a slightly haunted expression and say "do you remember that first week? I think we slept like five hours altogether..." and I'll nod and remember how jealous I was when he went back to work that first month because he had overnight shifts where he was "only" carrying for a house full of court-ordered teenage boys and they at least slept a little more than our newborn.
Nothing has compared to those first... eighteen months. She was our refluxy, colicky, ear-infection prone baby that once nursed for seven consecutive hours (shrieking when I tried to stop her), and who woke to eat every hour for the first eighteen months of her life. In hindsight, and after watching Patch before we figured out his dairy allergy I would say that she likely already had her wheat allergy and that that was a big part of the problem.
At the time though, I thought that she was just how babies were. I'd never changed a diaper before she was born and for all the books I had read I had no practical knowledge of babies.
Three babies later I can now say "not all babies are like that." Mae was our easy baby. I had to fight her to wake up to eat the first night after she was born, and quite a few nights after that. Newborns can't sleep through the night, I tried to tell her, but she didn't listen. Maybe it was her low registration of all things sensory already coming through even then (I did call the pediatrician in and tell him something was wrong, she slept too much, while he looked at me like I was insane), but she was the easiest of babies.
When I was pregnant with Patch I worried quite a bit over "what kind of a baby he would be." I'd grown to like my sleep. Would he take after his biggest sister and stay up all night, screaming if he was put down for a moment?
Instead he followed in Mae's footsteps. He became more fussy at two months, but this time I followed my instincts and insisted on tests until we discovered his allergy and he quickly went back to being the happy, relaxed baby he'd been when we came home from the hospital.
Enter James. He isn't our easiest baby. He might be a little more fussy than Patch even. I'm already beginning to suspect allergies and possibly reflux (although I imagine there's a good chance that will go away if an allergy is found and eliminated). But he's still a hundred times easier than Sadie was at this point. I'm not sure if that's because we're used to having babies and all that entails (I think that's a little piece of it) or if he's just easier in general, but either way, there it is. I slept eight hours last night, which was more than I was sleeping before he was born, so I really can't complain.
Of course, I guess the question has less to do with individual babies and more to do with how it all fits together now that we have four. Maybe the biggest part of it seeming easier is that all three kids get along and have built in playmates. At least that's how it has worked out so far. And you can already see them eyeing the latest as potential playmate #4 (Patch comes to the door of the kitchen and calls for "Buddy" to come and play... he'll be disappointed for a bit longer I'm afraid...).
When Sadie was tiny her go to playmate were the grown ups in the house and let's face it, it can be hard to keep up with the amount of energy most two year olds are blessed with. These days their first choice of playmate is each other. And they actually enjoy playing together.
Two days ago as I was putting James down in his bassinet I saw all three of them racing back and forth through the living room together at a full sprint. Sometimes they dance or hold hands and spin. There's usually a lot of action and laughter and their volume can be a bit too loud, but it's also sort of wonderful.
Their main expectation for me these days, other than food and other basics, is no longer rough and tumble play, but snuggles. While I'm nursing James it's not unusual for me to have two or three kids cuddled as close as they can be (and almost always at least one). I'm just not as much fun as their brother and sisters, but I am a nice soft lap to snuggle up against. They've got it figured out.
And Sadie has become quite the little helper. When the other three fall asleep she helps pick up toys and then cuddles with me on the couch where she has a treat and we watch a movie she's picked out. Sometimes James is with us in his wrap and sometimes he's passed out in his bassinet.
I guess my answer to the question for our family is that it has gotten easier. The hardest part, I found, were those first months where the shift in focus went from inward to outward (and from sleep to none at all). When Sadie was tiny I couldn't have imagined four of her, even though we were hoping for a large family. I wondered how moms with more than one did it... not realizing that my one was in many ways more work than the four I have now are, even with special needs thrown in.