I always knew I'd have two kids. It was always my brother and I, growing up together in our house, so that's the kind of family I always wanted. Two kids, a boy and a girl. Except that I'd have my girl first because big brothers were just too mean. When my husband and I first start talking about marriage and children, I told him I wanted two. He said he wanted three, but that seemed like more than I could handle. The world is made up of tables for four. Tickets are offered in family four-packs. Roller coasters sit two people wide. Each parent only has two hands to hold for crossing the street, two legs to share a lap at story time, and two arms to hug and snuggle. Sure, other families made it work for them, but for me, two kids was my limit.
I especially stuck to my two-kid rule when we discovered our surprise second pregnancy with my son, Scottie. I was feeling great, getting back in shape after having my first son, and was not even thinking of having another child yet. Robbie was only ten months old when I took a pregnancy test only to confirm to my body that I wasn't pregnant again so I'd get my period back. After all, I was on the full-dose birth control pill (yes, you read that right. FULL DOSE birth control pill. I guess we know now why they say only 99% effective!), so it was only a matter of days before I'd get it anyway, right? Wrong. Scottie had other plans. Holding true to his personality to this day, my stubborn bull of a little boy wasn't going to let any kind of hormone pill keep him from arriving. After I stopped crying and realized I was going to have a newborn and a 17-month-old, I KNEW that I was going to stop at two children.
Our first year after Scottie was born just convinced me further. I almost didn't make it through those first nine months of having two. Between the severe baby blues (that in hindsight was probably PPD, but I didn't realize it), and juggling the needs of a very young toddler and a newborn who wouldn't sleep, I was more stressed-out and frazzled than I have ever been in my life. We were definitely done having kids. I had even gotten over the fact that I would never have a little girl to dress up in pink and green with ruffles and hair bows. I was fine being a mom to only boys.
It was only after being back in NJ for about a year that things got easier. While I would never have planned to have two kids so close in age, Robbie and Scottie were starting to play together so well that my life got easier. They were each other's best friend and built-in playmate, which let me actually get things done at home. It was shortly after our family trip to Disney with three-year-old Robbie and 18-month-old Scottie that I started to even entertain the idea of having another baby. And I actually wanted another boy! After three years of only boys, I was used to them. Boys were easy and familiar to me now, so the thought of a third boy really sounded plausible. Plus, the pill was taking its toll on me and I was ready to go off the hormones for good. Besides, it's not like it was 100% foolproof for me, as Scottie proved. (No comments about the "fool" in "foolproof" from the peanut gallery, please.)
So, lo and behold, I was actually considering having a third child! That "considering" phase passed very quickly into the "yes, we're pregnant again" phase. I guess it's true that they say you get more fertile after having kids! Fast forward through my pregnancy and the discovery that I would actually get my little girl and I'm faced with a new reality.
I HAVE THREE KIDS!!! AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!
But I have to say that our experience of going from two to three has been so much easier than going from one to two. I even have girlfriends now telling me that I'm making them rethink their steadfast plans and have more kids because we're making a family of five look easy. To them, I say: Never underestimate the power of having family nearby. We were living in Charlotte when Robbie and Scottie were born and had no family to help out. Sure, my parents and my husband's parents came for a week or two, but we were on our own for the most part. Our friends were lifesavers in many ways then, but no one can measure up to the role that family plays. My parents are now only twenty minutes away and I've leaned on them heavily since Allie was born. And the last, and perhaps most important, variable in the equation is the baby's personality. Our baby girl is simply a dream baby. She eats well, she sleeps well, and she rarely cries. I mean seriously, how did we score such an angel baby?
I guess this is just one more example of how little we know for sure as parents. We all go into this parenting gig full of preconceived notions of how life will be and then our reality is nothing like what we had planned. I swore I'd never raise my voice to yell at my kids. I'd read them ten books a day and never let them watch TV. They'd eat home-cooked meals and no junk food. I'd never say, "Because I said so!" And I'd have only two kids, a girl first, then a boy. It seems like, just as I get a good handle on things as a mom, my kids mix it up and the rules change. I managed to get all three kids to nap at the same time? Well, then it must be time for the baby to go through a growth spurt and be awake so I can't fold laundry or prepare dinner as I had planned. Oh well, kids, I guess that means frozen chicken nuggets and french fries for dinner again! (Yeah, that's what happened to my "only home-cooked meals" idea!) I think the biggest impact of having a third child has been my ability to laugh at life. Instead of getting stressed out over plans changing, I'm able to roll with it a bit easier now. And again, it does make life easier when I can pack up all three kids and head over to my parents' house for dinner and bathtime help when a day has gone really badly.
So, despite all of my planning and absolute certainty that I'd only ever have two kids, we are now a family of five. That just means we'll have to squeeze another chair to the table at restaurants, and buy an extra ticket to events. Someone will have to ride the roller coaster twice to sit next to each of our kids (good thing both of us love to ride them!). So far, I've learned that I still have two hands to hold while crossing the street if I wear a baby sling or carrier, and my boys have learned that it's fun for them to hold each other's hands instead of one of mine. Turns out my lap can fit three (so these wider hips from having babies are good for something after all), and my arms can definitely hug all three of them, too. I never thought I'd want more than two kids. But we are now a family of five and are loving it!
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