My husband and I always talked about starting a family a few years after we were married so we could truly enjoy the “newlywed” phase. But that was over before it started. I was pregnant on our wedding day. Surprise!
We welcomed our son, Liam, the following spring and we were so in love with our little family. Parenthood suited us.
We knew we always wanted two children, with hopes of having a boy and a girl. Two seemed like a manageable and practical number for us. There were two of us so we could handle them individually , and I have a pair of hands—one for each child to hold. Heck, even carnival rides came in pairs. So, when we welcomed our daughter Emilia, two years later, we felt blessed.
However, I did not feel like our family was complete.
This was odd considering that we had always discussed having two children, and we were very fortunate to have a boy and a girl. What more was there to want?
But a voice inside sparked an internal debate regarding a third child and I couldn’t shake it. I struggled with this internal dialogue for months going over every pro and con that a new addition would bring.
When Emilia was roughly 15 months old, I expressed this desire to my husband. Admittedly, he said that his heart felt full with our two children but he enjoyed the idea of a third. However, he truly had no desire to regress back to the newborn days.
Honestly, I couldn’t blame him. While precious, those early days are rough.. They are filled with sleepless nights and sharing my body for nine months, plus additional time for another round of breastfeeding.
At this point, we were spoiled in parent terms. We were just about out of the diaper phase, both children were consistently sleeping through the night, traveling (even to the grocery store) was a breeze, and financially we were stable.
Even with so much logic urging me to stick with two kids, I could not manage to get the idea of a third out of my head.
I turned to friends and family for opinions and first-hand experience on the topic hoping it would definitively sway me one way or the other. My husband’s grandmother, having raised five children herself, offered that with each additional child, things get easier. And after the second, it makes no difference how many you have. While on the other hand, a dear friend and mom of three, offered that a third will either ‘make or break us’. Yikes! I wasn’t sure which side of the fence we would fall on.
It wasn’t until I heard some words of wisdom from my mother that I found peace. She reminded me that bringing home another baby will be filled with sleepless nights followed by early mornings caring for the older two. That the mess and noise will be amplified times three and I will feel like pulling my hair out. And that there will be days where I feel like everything is a juggling act instead of a well-balanced life.
And just when I thought I had made up my mind, she shared this: she regretted not having a third baby.
My mother explained that she and my father just could not see past the early days with me and my brother. It was draining, mentally and physically, and she felt like another child would break her.
With a tear in her eye, she went on to say, “But no one told me how beautiful the bigger picture is.”
That’s when it dawned on me. We were only looking at our family on a micro-level, grumbling about the day-to-day tantrums, messes and lack of sleep.
I closed my eyes and saw us 10 years out. I saw family vacations hiking through the redwoods and surfing at the beach. I saw a full house with lots of different experiences being shared around the kitchen table. I saw us as a family of five. And I felt at peace for the first time.
In May, we welcomed our third child, Isla Elena.
What seemed so difficult the first two times around felt like second nature with our third.
But, this is parenthood. What we originally deem difficult eventually fades, making way for the next phase. And in our tenure as parents, I am certain that there will be many, many new challenges as our children grow.
My husband and I now greet these difficult times with the mantra, “This too shall pass.” The difficult times are so temporary and pass as quickly as they come, so why not enjoy the ride?
Isla has been in our lives for almost three months now. There are still days where I feel like I’m hanging on by a thread and wonder if I am equipped to be a mother to three, but then I remember those words of wisdom from my mother.
Those words keep me going through the sleep depravity and waves of tantrums, and remind me that I am laying the groundwork for what is to come.
Looking to the future as a family of five and all the adventures we will share warms my heart. And in the meantime, I choose to enjoy these early days no matter how messy and sleepless they may be. I know, together, we will figure it all out as we go.