"First, I want to tell you that I absolutely love your blog. I have one too, and we have a number of similarities (started a million years ago, professional woman, obscenely cute kids :) ). I am, however, about a foot shorter than you and much less gifted at barre! There is something about your writing that I just love. It is so exuberant, glass-half-full, and brings out all of the happy things about life.
I wanted to ask how you decided to have a 3rd child, and whether there was any fear/ambivalence there. I am at a crossroads with a 2 year old and 4 year old. I am a very practical person and am having trouble deciding whether to go for #3. My heart wants it. My head feels like “ahhhh everything will be too crazy and I will never feel in control again”. My husband and I are both physicians; I work full time but fairly ‘regular’ hours (8:30 - 5 plus commute); he works more. We have an amazing nanny. I know we COULD do it, but I also know I will probably feel overwhelmed for quite some time. I also don’t loooove the baby stages, but everything after 2 I pretty much adore.
Was it a no-brainer for you? Or did you have any hesitation? To me the way you write about Cora it sounds like it has been maybe 2% stress and 98% joy — is that true? I found going from 1 kid to 2 kids much less of a big deal than 0 to 1. What did you think about 2 to 3?"
Well Shu, first of all, thank you! And second, I have been thinking quite a lot about this very post so thank you for giving me a reason to write it. Before we got pregnant with Cora, I would occasionally google "Should I have a third baby?". Obviously, this is an absurd thing to ask the interwebs. Your personal mix of wants, experiences, resources, children, etc. are far too unique for google to handle. But as I carefully picked my way through the results, mentally arguing with anonymous anyones who told me to stop at 2 and accepting as truth those who said to go for it, I found my answer anyway. And though everyone's circumstances were different from mine, I enjoyed the stories from those with three, reassuring me that having a third would not tip the family into madness and everything was going to be fine.
And of course it has been so much more than that. Throughout today I would draft portions of this post in my head and I ended up crying every single time. Cora is the best thing decision we've ever made for our whole family. And since I'm now actively crying again (literally James just looked over at me and asked what's wrong), I will admit upfront that I can't give you a rational or unbiased answer. I am unabashedly pro-third-child. I understand that not everyone wants that many kids (or any at all!), and I would never try to convince anyone away from what they want or think is right for them. But if you are on the fence, if your heart is there but your brain is not, if you are truly asking me for my opinion, all I can say is DO IT. The rewards-- the glorious joyful laughter and love-filled chaos you bring to your house is so wonderful I can't believe we ever thought we didn't need it.
But, oh I had my doubts. We too were at a crossroads. There was plenty of fear. We'd had one easy baby and one baby who was so hard we both suffered from PTSD when we found out we were unintentionally pregnant with baby #2 and didn't talk about the fact we were pregnant- even to each other- for days while we processed going through all of that again. We loved having big kids. Landon and Claire were best friends. Claire was already potty trained. She was in a big girl bed! We'd given away ALL of our baby stuff when we moved to Fort Worth. We had a 3 bedroom house. James was unemployed. I'd just taken a significant pay cut. I didn't have a paid maternity leave. We were done with all the baby gear and schedules and hassles. We boldly left the house whenever we wanted without snacks, strollers, or diaper bags. I worried that having a third might interfere with Landon and Claire's tight relationship. It made my stomach hurt to think of being tired again, of getting up at 2 and 3 a.m., of not being in control of my own sleep schedule. I felt like James and I got a ton of time alone together and didn't want to lose any of it. I knew the world was built for groups of 4 and we love to travel and eat out and now we'd be an odd number that doesn't fit into anything. We were just FINALLY about to finish one kid's daycare career and get the $1,000/month raise when he started school in the fall. Our days were easy and calm and it made absolutely no sense to have another baby.
But. We both kept talking about it. We kept asking the other if they were sure we were done, as if we wanted the other to say "no, I'm not, let's go for it" I kept asking google to tell me my future. We constantly added the phrase "well, if we have another baby..." to all conversations about the future. Clearly, our heart was there. And quite frankly I don't think we ever got our heads totally on board. Having a third kid (or any kids) isn't a particularly rational thing to do. If we were being practical we would absolutely have stopped at 2. But, the heart. We wanted a big family. We're fairly isolated from mine and completely cut off from James's. We adore our little family life. We both simply wanted more- more for us, more for our kids, just more of all the things we love every day about having them.
And so we did the "let's toss out the birth control and 'just see'" thing. And after one month of not "just seeing" a positive pregnancy test I was 80% heartbroken and 20% feeling like we'd dodged a bullet, and I knew then I wanted that bullet. We got serious about the task at hand and two months later, I was pregnant and I was ELATED. Sure it didn't make sense, sure all the things I wrote above were still true, but we were having a BABY! None of that mattered anymore- it was happening, so let's focus on the positive stuff.
And oh my god, there is SO much positive. In all my "oh we don't want to go back the baby phase" musings, I didn't realize that we wouldn't be. We're still in the big kid phase. We still had a 6.5 and 3.5 year old who were super fun and funny and interactive. We still built our schedule around them and their interests and activities. We went on four vacations and eight road trips in Cora's first year. She went skiing at Keystone, hiking at Palo Duro Canyon, partying at a wedding in Austin, and sledding and hiking at Steamboat Springs. These were all planned because we have big kids and we LOVE traveling them. So we just piled Cora in the car too and it was great! We never would have taken vacations like that with one baby- it's a hassle and baby Landon wouldn't have gotten anything out of it, but big kid Landon and big kid Claire were the focus of the trip and tiny baby Cora was a smiley +1 who seemed to thoroughly enjoy being along for the ride. Her first year was truly one of the best of my whole life, in no small part because we were always out and about and just having so much fun with our crew. I never felt like we didn't do something just because we had a baby, and while Cora won't remember any of those trips, I have wonderful memories of her at each one.
Another thing I didn't understand until we had Cora was that having big kids gives you such a beautiful perspective on the process of childhood. I also did not love the baby phase, but in Cora's bad baby moments (she had acid reflux, and there was that period where she hated the car seat and all baby entertaniment devices with a fiery pasion), you had this implicit understanding of how temporary all those struggles are- and you had two big kids to entertain and distract you. (The same is true for the tough toddler ones.) Your whole world isn't your crying baby, and rather than having multiple children add to the stress of the moment, I found it divided it. And in the happy moments- and there were SO many happy moments- the hard won knowledge of how fast everything goes helped me to cherish the day-to-day in a way I hadn't yet mastered with Landon and Claire. I loved Cora's babyhood in a way I couldn't before and when I sigh over how big she's getting now, it comforts me to know with certainty that we squeezed all the joy out of those early days that we could.
In response to all my practical concerns: we still have 3 bedrooms; the big kids shared a room until 6 months ago and now the girls share. It works great- they love being roomies and it's only made them closer. Adding five more years of daycare kind of sucks, but it's what it is- I don't ever look at Cora and begrudge that check. We haven't had to deal with the table of five issue yet because she still sits in a high chair on the corner of our table for four. But again, the idea now that I would ever look at her and begrudge that extra potential wait time in a restaurant is absurd. Plus, we live in Fort Worth, so no one waits for tables at restaurants anyway. Personal resource-wise: time, attention, patience- I just haven't felt like having a third is a strain. The vast majority of the time the kids are playing in their pack and the number of them is irrelevant; more just means everyone is busy and has someone to play with. And when one of them is off- fussy, tired, upset, etc.- you just focus on that one, same as before.
I know that not everyone is the same, but we found going from 0 to 1 to be incredibly difficult. And not just because our first baby was difficult. Adjusting your life from being two fancy free adults (albeit fancy free adults who are in law school and investment banking) to having the responsibility of a baby 24/7 with no sleep, no breaks, and no control over our lives or sleep was just an extreme shock for both of us. It was really, really hard. Going from 1 to 2 was nothing. We'd made the adjustment- we are people with kids and our lives are ruled by nap schedules and early wake up calls, throwing another into that routine just wasn't a big deal. Adding Cora was even less of one. I can't think of one time I thought having three was harder than two because it just isn't. It helps that our kids are spread out- when Cora was a baby they were almost 7 and 4; they could do most things themselves and we were pretty established in our daily routine of a family with young children. To the extent I see challenges ahead, it's more when they're older when we have three competing schedules of events or practices or games, but I'm sure we'll figure that out when we get to it.
The last thing I'll add on this list of "what I didn't realize until we went for it" was how very much our third baby would bring to us. It has been extraordinary to watch our older two love their baby sister so much. Rather than burden them with another sibling to further divide James and my time and energy, they were given a gift of another playmate, another person to love, a person who would idolize and love them back FIERCELY. They are her idols and she screams and races across the room for hugs ("HUGS!!") every time they walk in the door after being away.
I missed Claire's hug, but you get the idea; this is every. single. day.
So to answer your original question, having a third baby was not a no brainer. I had concerns, worries, and a long list of reasons not to do it, But just the fact that I kept thinking about it-- that those reasons were never enough to put the question to rest in my mind, told me that we wanted another regardless of all the reasons not to. And for us, the sheer joy of having a baby in the house again- of watching my older kids love their new sibling, of them celebrating her every milestone like she's the first baby to every smile or take a step-- that has so vastly outshone anything she might be taking away. The time, money, and patience I worried about aren't reduced by a third- there's times any of those things are affected for sure, but she also GIVES. And James and I have more to give in return. The joy in seeing my crew of three laughing, playing, and running around the house and yard isn't something I can describe. I love that they're a pack. Love that they outnumber us. Love that they have each other and will continue to beyond the time they'll have James and me.
When I was in my indecisive phase I emailed the only friend I knew with three kids and asked her if we should have another. I felt silly as soon as I pressed send- her life is quite different from mine and what was she going to say? no, it's a terrible idea? But she responded with a short and perfect: "We can't imagine our life without our #3- by far the best decision we've made for our family." And that's what I've tried to explain through WAY too many words above- expanding our family has been wonderful for our whole family. It didn't take anything away from anyone, it just made everything more. And for what it's worth, I just asked James what he would say if someone asked him if they should have a third baby and he replied, "Of course." and went back to work. So, there's that version too.