Ah, the days when you are no longer shocked to see those two little pink lines show up!
When you are on your fourth or fifth child (or more, God bless you), you probably feel the initial thrill of finding out you’re pregnant much as you did the first or second time around… “Really?! I can’t believe it!!” But all the subsequent shock and questioning you once had probably doesn’t come. Whereas you once thought, “A second baby? How can I do it when I can’t even figure out the first?!” Now you think something like, “A fifth baby? How will I fit it in our van?” The once turbulent emotions of young motherhood have given way to the quiet and contented happiness of mature motherhood. Congratulations, you’ve made it.
That doesn’t mean that you don’t have any mixed emotions. You might be wondering how many more stretch marks you can add to your body before you need a kimono to step on the beach. You might be afraid how you can gain more weight when you never lost the ten pounds you wanted to after the last one. You might be afraid of how you’re going to pay for another college tuition (or worse, a wedding if it’s a girl!). Or give up your coffee now that you have a teenager. Or any number of things.
I remember being worried with my fourth about supplementing my boys’ wardrobe if we had another boy because most of the clothes had already gone through three lifetimes. And yet I groaned when my friend asked me if I wanted a baby shower. I couldn’t tell if she felt blessed or obligated to throw me one. I hadn’t had one for the third because I felt it would burden people too much (three showers in three years?) And I felt embarrassed to ask for a fourth… who goes to a fourth baby shower for someone? Is that even something people do? I was also worried about how we’d fit at the kitchen table because we didn’t have enough adult chairs for when the child grew up and I didn’t want to buy another one from the furniture store to match!
But the tumult that my first and second baby caused simply wasn’t there. I was a mom, I was experienced, so I was happy. I didn’t have to buy cribs or obsess over what the layette was missing. I didn’t have to worry about what kind of mom I’d be, or if I was able to handle a baby. I felt sure I could handle more diapers, silly socks that get kicked off everywhere, and the annoying scent of spit up milk on my shirt. So when my goofy old neighbor showed up at my door randomly touting the overpopulation crisis, I wasn’t budged. I simply said, “Well, I’m just making up for some couples that aren’t lucky enough to have children. Besides, we recycle!” He didn’t have children so that was food for thought. And I renewed my inner resolve to be more resourceful, so I wasn’t lying.
So the news that you are pregnant may be getting old to some, but that doesn’t mean that the child is any less precious. Not to you, and not to God. And it shouldn’t be for the siblings either. Whereas your husband, other children, parents, in-laws or neighbors might be less joyous about your upcoming arrival, you need to take care and preserve the feeling of preciousness and uniqueness you probably innately carry for that little infant. Don’t let people steal your happiness with the ol’ birth control sass: “The fifth? Don’t you know what causes that type of thing yet?” Whether or not you are ready for the fifth, or planned him/her, just smile and say something serene like, “We know, and we’re so thankful to have this one. I’ve always wanted five.” This usually silences people and they may even look thoughtful after that. Every now and then I’d get a really humbled person who would say something like, “Wow. That’s really amazing. I could have never done that.” It was nice—I think that was their way of offering the olive branch.
You have probably had similar encounters by now if you’ve broken the Two or Three Rule. You should have seen the looks I got when I got big with my fourth pregnancy and I was still touting around three small toddlers (3, 2, and 1)! It simply isn’t fashionable to have more than two children or three at the most in our nation. We are worried about finances, the environment, the psychological health, the opportunities we can give each little individual that comes along. And that is fine. I am not saying we all need to toss our contraception out the window. But it seems to me that just plain FEAR is holding a lot of people in bondage about childbearing. We are so worried that having more than two children is bad for ourselves, bad for our wallets, bad for the nation, the environment, the world… it goes on and on. If that is the case, then I encourage you to get rid of and resist fear. There is no reason to let others pass that along to you just because you have found out you’re pregnant… for the sixth time. Guard your heart carefully, as if your little infant could actually hear what was being said about them, and cultivate whatever precious moments you can about them—whether it is shopping for some new booties, starting an album with their ultrasound in it, or just folding the much-laundered hand-me-downs in nice little rows in the dresser. Go to the spa, get a new mothering book, learn some new recipes, or work a little harder at your job—whatever picks you up and makes you feel good about your mothering.
And don’t let your health go or take your pregnancy for granted just because you’ve been through it three times already. That is such a temptation—you want to keep up the coffee because you need it, indulge in the ice cream because you’re emotionally taxed, and forget any time to yourself because it’s not practical. But the pregnancy with your fourth baby is not worth any less than your pregnancy with the first. It is a new life in there that needs all the nurture everyone else got… perhaps even more. Take the vitamins, eat the good stuff, take some walks, etc. You’re probably ten times busier than you were on your first baby so don’t stress out. Tell your partner to help you so you don’t overtax your muscles or lose too much sleep. Try to get those naps and lift your legs when necessary. If you keep going as if you were on your first pregnancy and had no extra burdens, or you compromise your diet a lot, you will hate yourself later.
And while you’re presenting a pretty face to the world, don’t be afraid to feel any mixed emotions you may have. These are all pretty normal to moms who have large families. Read some blogs or get encouragement from another mother with a large family to get your peace back.
They did it and so can you. They will tell you that the Laundry Demon is real, and so is living in the car. They will tell you that homecooked nutritious meals sometimes need to be replaced with frozen pizza because it automatically feeds eight. But they will also encourage you that adding that fourth, fifth, sixth, or thirteenth child is an amazing feeling. That little infant is a real person, as much as your first, and will bring the same exhilarating feel when you finally deliver him/her. You’ll be breathless, as if you’d never delivered before, and when all is said and done, you’ll look at your family—full of individuals—and wonder how you could have ever imagined your family without each and every one of them.
UPDATE: Fabulous link!!! (For moms with large families)