Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Hardest Number...

The second most asked question that I found myself answering when I was pregnant this last time around was "does it get easier when you have more than one?" 

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.  


  1. The first is the hardest. But the first with special needs is also hard. (my #3 is the real special needs) My #4 was adopted; was quite active and has dyslexia and yet I found it easier than #3 for many reasons including the fact that I'd been through it before and know that things get better. I would also say that with each addition there is a period of craziness; missed appointments; late for Mass etc. We're still hoping to adopt again (a sibling group because I love living dangerously! LOL) And I know the craziness will return until we settle down to our "new normal" So congratulations again on #4 and I know that in time; things will calm down for you! Your kids are awesome BTW!

  2. I found going from zero to one to be the most difficult, too. We have four now and I think it gets easier with each one we add into the mix.

  3. This gives me hope. We had our first kiddo almost eight months ago, and while I love her to pieces, I am worn out. She sleeps pretty well, it isn't that--it's that I'm am extremely introverted, and interacting with anyone for as long as I do with her every day is burning me out.

    That, and keeping up with chores that can't be done while hauling around a 20-pound, squirmy kiddo, but hopefully hiring the neighbor girl as a mother's helper will improve that situation. ;)

    Looking at your posts, I think that as she gets older and more kids come a lot of problems will be solved: she'll have someone else to interact with (as will they), she'll be able to help some with housework and also keep younger ones occupied, and I won't have to be talking and interacting all the time. Thanks for the encouragement!

  4. I just had my 7th and I got asked if it was my first a lot! I hope that means I look youthful for 40 ;)

  5. #2 was my hardest. I think it was because my first two were so close in age and our life circumstances were more difficult during that transition (house on the market). #3 and #4 have been a breeze. When I added #4 it really didn't feel any different - just more laundry. I hope that is the case if we are blessed with more kids.

  6. #2 was definitely the hardest for me. I loved having just one baby. My first baby was fairly easy and she was a fairly laid-back toddler as well. However, she also had some developmental delays so even though #1 and #2 were 32 months apart, developmental my oldest was more lke a 1.5 year old than a 2.5 year old. She wasn't potty-trained, couldn't dress herself, her language skills weren't that great and she was still nursing. Still very much a was just hard. And my 2nd child was definitely more difficult than my first, but not abnormally so. I think it was just that having 2 babies is hard.

  7. You seem to have discovered what women before 1970 seemed to already know: that it gets easier as you have more kids; that a group of them is almost easier to handle than one or two, because you are not their everything; they play with each other, have adventures with each other, and share love and comfort with each other. Mommy and Daddy are not their only playmates and companions, but the "grown-ups," and the oldest siblings become helpers and actually takes responsibility on some level for the others.
    Bonding them together in love is so important. They learn this by your example, meaning, they will love each other because you love each one of them as if they were the only one.
    I'm so glad many women these days are bucking the "two children" trend of recent years, and discovering for themselves the joys of a big family.
    God bless. ~ Bonnie

  8. I have found that each additional child adds more work, in a pretty regular fashion. Four was when I first felt my husband and I simply could not meet all their needs, maintain our home, and cultivate our marriage. It was like - pick two. Unfortunately, neither of us can feel at peace unless the home is neat as a pin. We are both neatniks by nature so letting the house fall apart is not an option.


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