I have a "blessing baby" as I like to call her. My husband endearingly calls her an "oops baby." My mom calls her a gift. But the reality is that although she most definitely is a blessing and a gift, she also was a complete and total unexpected surprise.
When I found out I was pregnant, our oldest was seven and our middle was nine. We were done. In total cruise control. Life was simple and easy. Finding out I was pregnant at 42 years old was the shock of all shocks.
Don't get me wrong, we felt very fortunate. We were excited. We knew it would be fun to go through all the sweet stages again. And we had lots of room to love one more. But we were still shocked nonetheless.
When we told friends and family, and even complete strangers, we were met with the same response every single time—this time will be SO EASY. They said things like, "It's your third baby, you're a pro," and, "You have built in helpers. This will be a breeze." Every. Single. Time.
I bought into that myth. Hook, line, and sinker. How hard could it be? We had been there twice before. Our kids were so excited and couldn't wait to help.
And then came the arrival of my third baby. And it wasn't like they said. It wasn't like we thought.
It was nothing close to easy and if 'breeze' is the equivalent of hurricane force winds, then yes, she was a breeze.
To me, the newborn stage can be pretty rough. There is no way around it. Whether it is your first, your fifth, or your 10th. The baby does not sleep through the night. The baby cries and it's not always easy to console them. The baby needs to be held and bathed and changed and rocked continuously.
Newborns are non-stop. They need you—a lot of you.
In some small ways my oldest two were able to help. My daughter could get me a onesie when the baby pooped all over the one she was wearing. My son could run out to the car to get the pack of diapers I had left there. They could hold the baby for a moment while I ran to the bathroom. But beyond that, there wasn't much they could do at ages eight and 10.
They couldn't get up with her in the middle of the night. They couldn't calm her during her fussy time. They couldn't watch her while I ran to the grocery store. Heck, they couldn't even properly change a diaper!
Yes, they could care for themselves, which made that part easier. They could dress themselves, wipe themselves, bathe themselves, feed themselves, even get themselves to school. This was absent when my middle child was a newborn and my oldest was 19 months. So, yes, their physical care was easier, but the emotional piece? That has been one thousand times harder than my first go round.
You see, they are old enough to remember when Mama gave them all her attention. When Mama was the room mom. When Mama NEVER missed any of their activities. They remember when Mama read to them every night and never missed tucking them in. When Mama helped with homework. When Mama watched every Christmas special with them.
Since Baby #3's arrival, Mama only watched approximately three innings of her son's entire Fall Baseball Season and Mama has yet to watch her daughter's gymnastic practices. Mama has only been in to volunteer at the school one day for approximately 30 minutes. Mama can barely keep her eyes open during family movie night, which have been few and far between. And Mama is just now starting, three months into this whole baby thing, to be able to tuck each older kid in at night.
My middle child has cried over these changes on multiple occasions. And it breaks my heart into a million pieces. Because I know I need to be there for the baby, but I want to be back with my older kids in the worst way. The hurt in their eyes when I say "I can't help you right now because the baby needs me" is worse than any hardship I have ever experienced.
What gets me through is my children's resilience. They have written stories about how hard they know this is on ME. They will hug me tight and tell me what a great mother I am. They will accept any little bit I can give them as if it is the world. And they love our precious little baby more than I could have ever imagined they would. They find such joy in her, and that's what fills me up these days. Those are the things that keep me going and make me realize that I am actually doing alright.
I know this too shall pass. And I tell them that. Again and again and again. We remind each other. I know that very, very soon we will find a new rhythm and the baby will find her schedule and the world will return to a place where Mama can attempt to do it all. But for right now, it is hard. Beautiful, of course, but definitely hard.
Motherhood will always present us with emotional struggles, won't it? But it is the greatest thing I have ever done or ever will do. The love we are creating out of the struggle is making us an even stronger unit. I can feel it. The trials help us savor the smallest moments even more so.
And ultimately, we are blessed beyond measure to have the gift of our precious "oops baby" in our family. Life sure works in mysterious ways, and I am honored that my daughter is part of our story.