Was it an accident? How will you cope? Are you happy? But you already have one of each!
These were just some of the reactions we heard when my husband and I first broke the news to family and friends about our third pregnancy. And these reactions filled me with doubt. Had we made the right decision? Had I lost my mind?
Taking the plunge and going from two to three was for me a completely emotional decision. Which, as people who know me well would attest to, was totally out of character. I am that annoying sensible, conventional and practical person. The one who sleeps early. The one who meets every deadline. The one who saves more than she spends. The one who stops at two drinks (well, nearly always!).
As a result, I had always aspired to a future with two children. So when my husband raised the idea of a third, I thought he was completely and utterly mad. We had already created our perfect family and were blessed with one of each. Why would we even contemplate something so crazy?
One more mouth to feed, one more brain to educate; could we really afford it? Most cars could only fit two car seats, and I definitely didn’t want to be driving a van. Would I be able to work and juggle three kids? How would my helper cope? Would we need another helper? Would we have space in our home for another helper? Holidays with three? Hotel rooms? Wait – flying with three?! What about sleep? Could I cope with night time wake ups again? And my body… I was JUST back to my pre-baby weight. Getting pregnant again? Were we seriously even having this conversation?
Rationally, there was absolutely nothing in favour of having a third child. But something deep in my heart did not let me shut down the idea. The idea of having a bigger family – more love, more happiness, more noise, more laughter, more insanity, more adventures – filled me with excitement. I decided to ignore my rational thought process and just go for it. I listened to my heart, and I ignored my head. If we didn’t have a third, I might always wonder what it would have been like. And I didn’t want to spend my life wondering.
My youngest is now three and a half, and it feels like we are just emerging from the trenches of the early years. Though life continues to be hectic, crazy and loud, it is also jam-packed full of love. We now have not one unit, but three. That is pretty complicated if you really think about it: three tricky emotional territories, three possible grudges, and three possible prank wars.
But now that all three are slightly more independent, I feel as if I can finally breathe again (well, in between wiping number twos, that is). As I reflect on how I’ve grown and changed through having a third, a few things come to mind:
I hesitated to have a third because my definition of normal was based on what I was surrounded by. Everyone around me had two children. I now see that it was limiting my thinking and perceptions. Now I make every effort to surround myself with diversity and difference – to push my own thinking and frame of reference.
I accept being disorganized. I’m OK with the fact that I don’t know who needs a PE kit and who needs school shoes packed in their bag most days. I’m OK with the fact that my little one licked the bottom of his shoe while I was busy reading with his older brother. I’m OK with the fact that I turned up early to a birthday party by mistake. One week early, that is. My disorganization has actually made my kids more independent. They keep me in check.
I’ve dropped the obsession around perfection, and am learning to be good enough. Don’t get me wrong. I am a hardcore perfectionist, and this is not easy for me. But it’s a necessary journey I need to be on. Good enough to me means focusing on what matters. Bonds. Connections. Interactions. It could be as simple as a conversation with my eldest about the tough day she had in school, crazy dancing to Pharell with my middle child, or playing a game of dinosaur top trumps with my youngest. Moments make my memories.
I have shifted the narrative in my head.
Human beings have an amazing ability to adapt and grow and rise to a challenge. Most of the time, what stops us is not the task itself, but what we tell ourselves. I look to my grandmother as my greatest inspiration: she raised eight children in Africa single-handedly after my grandfather passed away. The word ‘can’t’ was not an option for her. And it shouldn’t be for me either. There were definitely moments of anxiety for all of us before our littlest arrived. But once he did, we embraced the challenge. We found the space and time to do more: we became more efficient, we prioritized. My husband took charge of the older two; my eldest stepped up into her new role as Mummy’s Chief of Staff; my helper re-jigged her responsibilities to focus on only the important stuff at home. And I concentrated on bonding, recovering, and sleep training.
As I reflect back I have come to realise that there are some decisions that are impossible to rationalize. To me, having a third kid is one of them. Sometimes you just have to go with your heart.