Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's a Family Affair

It's a Family Affair
Wendy Trenthem

Come February, we will have three children. Although we do tend to overanalyze things, this was not an easy decision to make. Our boys are currently 7 and 9, and we could be well on our way to the 'tween years without any more diapers, nursing, wakeful nights, preschools, and on and on. We tried to convince ourselves that two children are enough. They certainly cost enough. They are healthy and capable and keep us really busy. But our hearts wouldn't hear of it. So here I am, in my third pregnancy 10 years after my first.

When you announce you are pregnant and you have older children, most people immediately ask if it was a surprise. How silly. We know how this works. It's too hard to explain casually that it's been a heart vs. head struggle for years, whether to have three. Family planning is not like vacation planning. It's more like playing God.

My husband and I both grew up one of three kids, so that might explain our tendency toward three. But I also recently read that sometimes women will have just one more baby to put off being alone, or because they are not sure what to pursue career-wise once they are done with the childbearing years. Fortunately my career and family have meshed well even if I'm not raking in the dough. And please don't tease me that we're just doing this again because we're “trying for a girl.” Children are not collectibles. (But don't tell my boys that. They desperately want a sister.)

I see a couple of major advantages to the large spacing. First off, it's far easier to do it now than when I had a one- and three-year-old. Two in diapers was big work. The three-year-old liked to try to pick the baby up by the head. We were exhausted for about three years. The close spacing is great now, as the brothers are friends and playmates. But three right together would have sent me to the funny farm. So, now that they're older, the boys can really be more involved.

This new baby is really a family affair. Phillip and James have already read It's So Amazing, the “facts of life” book by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley, so they know where babies come from. But to watch their mom go through pregnancy firsthand is a real lesson in the subtle changes that take place over nine months.

They don't like it when I'm tired and ready for bed before they are. Needless to say, it's a lesson in patience, which thankfully gives us an opportunity for this giant change to sink in. They've been to the midwife with us to hear the heartbeat. And we have decided to find out the gender of this baby via ultrasound, mostly for the big brothers' benefit. At the ages of 7 and 9, they are very matter-of-fact about a lot of the biology. I think only our oldest, Phillip, really gets embarrassed about the idea of mom and dad having had sex. It's a bit more abstract for James, the seven-year-old.

We're planning a home birth after two successful natural births in the hospital, but we're still discussing how near the guys need to be during the actual birth. They will definitely be involved and included, but we don't want them to be bored, worried, or made self-conscious by watching mom give birth. I am happy that they will be able to hold their new sibling right away, in the comfort of home. And it won't hurt if they urge their future wives to have a natural birth at home.

The other practical advantages are obvious. Having only one helpless child, with two rather independent and helpful children will be easier. I don't presume to use my sons to take care of the baby, but clearly they will do more to help than be a burden. And the opportunity to help care for an infant and toddler is a great life experience. Not to mention the interesting life this youngest sibling will have, never knowing a world without Legos, Pokemon, and Nintendo Wii.

All that toy crap notwithstanding, this baby will have two excellent teachers who will show him or her how to approach life with gusto and exuberance. They will read their favorite books to baby, sing him/her songs, and show him/her how to have fun without mom and dad (or even at the expense of mom and dad). They will get in trouble, however, for scaring this youngest with stories of monsters under the bed, the way I did with my younger sister.

Yes, we'll have a kindergartener and a high-schooler. Yes, it will be harder to take the fun trips we'd just started taking to explore other cities like Chicago, St. Louis, and Austin. Yes, we'll need another chair to fit around our table for four (we recently solved the car problem with a six-seatbelt microvan). Yes, the big brothers are going to feel jealous (maybe even resentful and angry) and will have to adjust to lots of changes around the house.

Every day will not be a picnic, but it isn't now. Life is about adjusting, accepting change. I hope that with this new baby, and with most everything we do as a family, we will equip our kids for life and all its changes, its ups and downs.

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